Looking out...
Nick Davies
Nick Davies People Lead

Our Thinking Thu 29th June, 2017

Beyond DevOps: Looking for DevOps/Operability Engineers

In the last post in our ‘Beyond DevOps’ series, our CEO Thomas explained why Equal Experts now treats DevOps as a conversation starter.

That includes the People team, which I am a part of. As a People Lead I look out for talented people who might be interested in joining the EE network, so I’d like to talk about some of the challenges we’ve faced when looking for DevOps engineers – and how we’re starting to focus on operability instead.

Battling DevOps

Over the past 5 years there’s been huge demand across the IT industry for DevOps engineers, DevOps teams, and DevOps everything. Many people have responded to this by adding DevOps to the dreaded bunch of keywords on their CV, and it’s made DevOps recruitment very difficult.

The diagram below shows the DevOps recruitment process we’ve been following until now (not exhaustively – just our general guidelines):

Previous hiring process
Using this process, we’ve connected with DevOps people who are experienced in operating complex production systems, and it’s been great to have them join the EE network. However, we’ve also experienced two major problems:

  1. Too many search results: our online searches are frontloaded with the “DevOps” keyword plus additional keywords such as “infrastructure as code”, so there’s always a lot of potential candidates with those buzzwords to wade through.
  2. Too slow to find a mismatch: our first look at a candidate’s abilities comes during the pair coding test, so we often don’t find a mismatch between Equal Experts and a candidate until the candidate comes into the office.

These problems have caused us to burn a lot of time. So to find the right candidates with the requisite experience and skills, we’re changing the way we work. That starts with understanding what we’re actually looking for.

What we’re looking for

Our ethos is to recruit the best technologists in their field – and avoid becoming lost in keywords, tools, frameworks, libraries, etc. It’s not about delving into the world of LinkedIn, StackOverflow, and GitHub profiles. It’s about looking for people who can work in a team to deliver innovative solutions for hard problems.

Dan’s earlier post on the value of operability highlights that we’ve been using DevOps as a proxy for important skills we’ve not put a name to before. We’re looking for people who write unit tests for their infrastructure scripts, create telemetry platforms that are easy to use, and collaborate with developers on resilient architectures. We’re looking for people who can build and operate production systems at scale, and help clients understand how operational requirements contribute to their business problems.

In short, we’re looking for operability engineers – but we need to respect the market, at least for now. So we’ll be looking for DevOps/Operability Engineers from here on.

Looking for DevOps/Operability Engineers

Dan’s post described how clients often equate DevOps with Infrastructure As Code. He also listed Requirements, Telemetry, Deployment Health, Shared On-Call, and Post-Mortems as other essential characteristics of operability.

This gives us a pathway to shift our recruitment process from DevOps towards operability. In future, we’ll be approaching it as follows:

New hiring process

This highlights several changes we’re going to make in our recruitment process:

  1. When we look for candidates, we’re going to look beyond keywords such as “DevOps” and “Infrastructure as Code”. That means looking for skills such as “Monitoring” and “Alerting” with tools such as Prometheus and PagerDuty
  2. When we talk with candidates, we’re going to home in on how they’ve collaborated on production systems in the past. We’re big believers in collaboration, and candidates that have worked with developers, testers, and business people to deliver operational requirements will stand out.
  3. When we test candidates, we’re going to add an unattended coding test. This will help us to concentrate on candidates experienced in coding infrastructure, telemetry, etc.

This means going against the grain. Right now the IT industry is all about DevOps, but we’re far more interested in finding good candidates experienced in modern operability practices.

As usual, the EE network of organisational expertise and shared experiences will be enormously helpful to us. We’ll be able to work with our Associates to look for candidates by referral. And we’ll stay in touch with any candidates who are unsuccessful or under contract elsewhere; we’re looking to build a community for the long term.

Our mission is to make Equal Experts the first place the best operability engineers come to when looking for something new. It’s going to take time – but I think this approach is a big step in the right direction.

This is the fourth article in our multi-author series “Everyone Does Continuous Delivery”, which aims to explore DevOps and Continuous Delivery – and how they affect our culture and work. Keep an eye on the blog or follow us on Twitter for the latest updates.

Part 1: DevOps as a Constraint
Part 2: The value of Operability
Part 3: DevOps is just a conversation starter
Part 4: Looking for DevOps/Operability Engineers (you are here!)