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Debating the "DevOps" Job Title - In the Workplace and the Job Market

03.08.2012
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You've probably seen the growing number of job postings for "DevOps engineer", "DevOps manager", "DevOps Ninja" (Not really), or my personal favorite "a DevOps".  

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Skip to the funny, snarky comments plz


On the one hand, some devs and operations folk could potentially use this buzzword to their advantage by putting "DevOps Engineer" on their LinkedIn account for example.  In fact, several of the commenters on this discussion said they'd done exactly that, and the recruiter queries were on them like bears on honey.  (just don't lie about what you can do...)

Lying on your Resume

(Comic strip courtesy: Dilbert)


Spike Morelli supports the usage of the DevOps qualifier in job titles and talks about this more in his blog post: "Why having "DevOps in a Job Title Makes Sense"  And if it gives you a better chance of getting a job, more power to you!  But just be careful about what the expectations are for the job.

On the other hand, most practitioners of the DevOps philosophy will tell you that it's a term about culture and automation, not a position description.  Matthias Marschall outlines this well in his article: "DevOps is NOT a Job Description"

So, starting from there,  here were some other great points that people brought up on the DevOps Google Group:

First, we have John Vincent, who brings up a very good point about how organizations are actually misusing these "DevOps" teams:

Let me paint for you an entirely real scenario that I 
experienced personally.
Devops Team was created (of which I was a part). Our responsibility 
was to do all the "devops"-y things we all talk about. The SPECIFIC 
reason that the team had to be created was due to political isses 
around titles and departments and whatnot.
What was the end result?

Bitching from the "operations" team that "devops" broke something. 

Bitching from the "development" team that "devops" broke something.

--John Vincent (aka lusis)

Jez Humble, the author of Continuous Delivery, also had seen this happen at large companies.  Essentially, people tried to solve the problem of breaking down two silos by creating a third silo in the middle instead:

As someone once said to me, "why would you try to solve a silo problem
by creating a new silo?"

I think that in certain situations - especially where there are 
political issues in play - creating a "devops team" can be a good 
tactical move. Unfortunately the kind of organizations where this is 
true are the ones least likely to actually ever achieve the goals of 
devops culture (rapid, incremental software delivery, resilient 
systems, useful data etc.)

--Jez Humble

DevOps silo

And certainly, no one in the group believed that this situation was in line with the mainstream DevOps philosophy:

If you created a "DevOps" team but kept separate "operations" and
"development" teams... then you're doing it wrong. :-)

--Jan Schaumann

It's true though, that it's hard for a large company to get the real "DevOps" change that they want, because it's about changing the culture and getting a lot of moving parts to work together.  DevOps is a lot easier when it's just a few people managing their infrastructure with puppet and there's no development team at all:

It's unrealistic and naive to think that an existing company of any size can mash two teams up like that at the drop of a hat. Let's not even consider the fact that the person managing operations may be grossly unqualified to manage developers. But you're proving my point. The reason devops isn't a title, team or 
department is that it doesn't just apply to devops. It's about 
aligning ALL of IT with the business - not just development as agile 
promised.

--John Vincent



Also, this…

Diluting DevOps into "it means everyone collaborates with everyone" or "it's IT aligning with the business" is counterproductive.

--Ernest Mueller

I think Gareth Rushgrove and Spike Morelli made a good point for people who are worried that DevOps-washing will lead to more situations like John's

Job titles are all about marketing.
Either you're marketing to your colleagues (and maybe other people at 
work), or you're marketing to the rest of the world (probably for some 
nefarious reason like finding a job or being noticed by the internet).

So having different "job titles" for different audiences can make 
sense. If you're a company then having a third "job title" that you 
use in adverts might be handy too.
I definitely change what my "job title" is in different contexts at 
work depending on who I want to listen to me most at the time.

--Gareth Rushgrove

I've spoken to several individuals who in their outward facing communications broadcast their devops affiliation in their job title while internally to their organisation they treat the subject differently, either that being just dissemination under that term or avoiding the term altogether and focusing on the principles. I'm one of those individuals and personally I'd love the help of this community to understand if and why that approach will eventually lead to troubles.

--Spike Morelli

The thing to remember is - be wary of companies that look like they're just going to throw the word "DevOps" around and consider the problem solved.  We've seen this kind of laziness time and time again with other buzzwords like "Agile".  You don't necessarily have to hire a "DevOp" to make DevOps happen.

Just make sure that you're not going to end up in a situation like John Vincent's.  DevOps may be a lightning rod for recruiters, but it could also become a lightning rod of criticism if you're in a dysfunctional organization.

And now, a review of the more fun comments :)

Gonna put Herperations Derpgineer on my next set of bix cards...
-Scott Smith

Any recruiter buzz for "Hired Goon?" :)
-Glenn Brown

If Object Oriented Manager exists, then so does DevOps Manager.
- Radu Brumariu

Devops is ponies.  Maybe rainbows too.
-Chad Woolley

For the record, I still think devops is the greatest thing since nutella.
-John Vincent