Must-Have Skills to Become an Awesome DevOps Engineer in 2023

Wondering what it takes to become a kickass DevOps engineer who can drive digital transformation through cutting edge technical expertise combined with stellar people skills?

You‘ve come to the right place! By the end of this 2800+ words comprehensive guide, you will have complete clarity on the must-have skills modern DevOps engineers require to thrive and advance their careers.

Let‘s get started, shall we?

Why DevOps Skills Are Critical Today

Before diving into the specific skills, it‘s important to level-set on why DevOps has become such a strategic imperative. Four driving factors:

Need for Speed – In the digital economy, rapid delivery of software innovations is key to delight customers and beat competition. Faster time-to-market requires faster build-test-release cycles.

Deployment Velocity – Agile, cloud and automation has increased deployment frequency from months to days or hours. Frequent production changes need mature practices.

Infrastructure Complexity – Hybrid multi-cloud environments with containers, microservices and orchestration has exploded infrastructure complexity with interdependencies.

Need for Collaboration – Development, QA, InfoSec and Operations teams have historically worked in silos. DevOps brings these diverse disciplines together leveraging practices like "shifting left" and shared ownership.

These market realities have put the spotlight firmly on the DevOps Engineer role that straddles across domains from code to cloud and beyond.

The DevOps engineer skills spectrum spans both technical hard skills as well as soft people-focused skills. Let‘s explore them in detail:

Critical Soft Skills

While technical skills are mandatory, studies show that people and communication capabilities are most critical for DevOps engineers.

Why are soft skills so invaluable?

DevOps engineers engage daily with diverse stakeholders like developers, testers, product owners, InfoSec and Ops teams. They play the conduit translating business needs into technical implementations.

"We implemented robust infrastructure monitoring not to collect metrics but to improve customer experience."

They must collaborate seamlessly with empathy, clarity and tact to enable organizational agility.

Here are 3 vital soft skills every DevOps engineer must cultivate:

1. Effective Communication

  • Translating technology complexities into easy to understand language
  • Listening attentively to grasp context and concerns
  • Articulating proposed solutions and tradeoffs for consensus

2. Change Management

  • Influencing teams positively towards new practices and tools
  • Overcoming resistance by showcasing benefits realized

3. Collaborative Mindset

  • Developing close partnerships across functions
  • Co-owning success metrics and responsibilities
  • Commitment to continuous improvement

"Improving reliability is not just an engineering concern but a customer satisfaction priority."

Soft skills maturity determines the efficiency and stability delivered by DevOps. Technical expertise alone does not suffice.

Ben, a DevOps architect at ReliableCloud shares:

“Early in my career, I focused extensively on technical mastery of tools and coding languages. However, over the years, I realized minds can always be changed but hearts take longer. Honing ‘people skills‘ has enabled me to gain allies rather than overwhelm others with my intensity.”

Core Technical Capabilities

While soft skills provide the foundation, concrete technical hands-on skills bring the architecture to life.

DevOps spans a vast technology landscape filled with modern paradigms and acronyms. Here‘s an overview of must-have technical capabilities:

Cloud & Infrastructure

  • Infra automation tools like Terraform, Ansible
  • Public cloud platforms such as AWS, Azure and GCP
  • Containerization with Docker and Kubernetes
  • Infrastructure as code principles

CI/CD

  • Build/release tools like Jenkins, CircleCI
  • Automated testing frameworks like Selenium
  • Provisioning cloud sandboxes on demand

Monitoring & Observability

  • Metrics collection and correlation using Datadog, Splunk etc.
  • Log analysis and activity tracing capabilities
  • Automated threshold based alerting

SecOps & Compliance

  • Static code analysis for security risks
  • Pen testing and vulnerability management
  • Secrets management solutions like HashiCorp Vault
  • Regulatory compliance frameworks

With rampant cloud adoption and infra complexity, mastering these technologies is non-negotiable.

Picking up new services and tools quickly is also key as innovations keep emerging. Whether keeping current via online courses, conferences or self-learning, ongoing education is a must.

"I devote 10% of my time constantly exploring new technologies even if not immediately applicable so I can be better prepared for future needs", remarks Aditi, a DevOps architect at AgileSoft.

Here is a handy checklist to assess your technical skill gaps and improve expertise:

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Fig 1. Core Technical Skills Assessment Checklist

Now that we‘ve covered the foundation of soft and technical skills, let‘s delve into specialized capabilities modern DevOps demands:

Automation Chops

Infrastructure management manually is unsustainable. Scripting and coding prowess is vital for DevOps engineers to automate provisioning, deployments, testing and validation.

Whether it is improving recovery from failures or reducing repetitive manual tasks, automation is at the heart of DevOps roles.

Here are 3 facets to build world-class automation skills:

1. Varied Experience

  • Master at least one standard IaC tool like Terraform
  • Exposure to popular CI/CD pipelines like Jenkins
  • Learn a configuration management framework like Ansible
  • Backend coding in Python or similar languages

2. Engineering Mindset

Well structured, modular and reusable code requires software engineering rigor.

  • Break problems into components
  • Modularize and parameterize重复代码
  • Apply security principles like least privilege

3. Testing Focus

Automated testing across unit, integration and end to end validates changes continuously.

  • Own quality early by coaching teams on test driven development
  • Guide test automation strategy aligned to maturity, risks and priorities

"We mandate developers perform manual testing before opening code for automation. This grounds quality ownership.", notes Neha, SDET Lead at DevOpsWizards

Security Knowhow

With clouds, containers and automation expanding infrastructure access exponentially, securing systems has become paramount for DevOps.

Here are 5 aspects DevOps engineers must partner closely with security teams on:

1. Build Hardening

  • Static code analysis to detect flaws
  • Secure coding practices enablement
  • Open source vulnerabilities monitoring

2. Infrastructure Hardening

  • Access controls via IAM policies and permissions
  • Data protection through encryption mechanisms
  • Infrastructure as code security validation

3. Monitoring & Response

  • Visibility through API calls monitoring, user access logging etc.
  • Alerting correlated events indicative of attacks
  • Simulation of various breach scenarios

4. Compliance Reporting

  • Enable audit trails tracking for regulatory needs
  • Support assessments against standards like SOC2

5. Education & Reviews

  • Conduct DevSecOps training for development teams
  • Mandate security reviews within SDLC gates

With partnerships between security and DevOps teams maturing, over 50% organizations now have a dedicated SecOps practice.

Infusing security early in the infrastructure and app delivery lifecycle is key for risk mitigation.

As Aditi, DevOps architect at SecureCloud says:

"We no longer throw code over the wall for security to analyze as an afterthought. We partner early on threat modeling so controls get baked into the pipeline."

Testing Acumen

To enable rapid iterations, test automation expertise is non-negotiable.

With reliable automated testing guardrails in place, development teams can deliver features faster confidently.

Let‘s look at 3 aspects of creating a mature testing culture:

1. Automation Framework Ownership

  • Architect framework supporting variety of testing needs
  • Enable self-service access to simulate conditions quickly

2. Embedded Testing Discipline

  • Guide testing strategy based on functionality risk
  • Standardize test data requirements gathering

3. Quality Governance

  • Analyze test coverage and escape defects
  • Fine tune test suites balancing rigor and pace

As Nagaraj, Test Automation lead suggests:

"We actively spot weaknesses in test practices through code reviews. Test discipline is as important as functional correctness."

Release Management Excellence

To accelerate deployments, DevOps oversees the entire software delivery pipeline – building, testing, deploying and releasing rapidly without hitches.

This requires bringing sophisticated release management capabilities:

1. Environment Management

  • Provision layered environments matching prod realistically
  • Automate environment refresh off production copies

2. Validation & Rollbacks

  • Standardize validation criteria across environments
  • Autopilot rollback configurations when issues emerge

3. Zero Downtime Upgrades

  • Multiphase canary deployments to subsample users
  • Feature toggle controls to dial functionality

4. Incident Response

  • Diagnose and patch faulty versions rapidly
  • Test deployment failure scenarios continuously

As Murali, Release Manager at HighSpeedDelivery explains:

"We perform micro-deployments multiple times a day. Code branches go into production the same day rigorous end-to-end checks complete."

This caliber of release excellence needs stellar DevOps oversight on the entire delivery value stream.

Cultural Leadership

The tremendous technology shift towards cloud native infrastructure and high velocity needs changed mindsets and willingness to experiment.

DevOps engineers must provide vision and direction to influence people and processes through transformation leadership skills like:

1. Evangelize Benefits

  • Showcase productivity improvements and risk reduction
  • Publicly recognize initial adopter teams

2. Catalyze Experimentation

  • Seed success with tool pilot groups before organization-wide rollout
  • Encourage measured failure as precursor for learning

3. Upskill Gradually

  • Deconstruct skills gap into surmountable milestones
  • Multi-modal training catering to various learning needs

4. Spotlight Wins

  • Quantify benefits realized backed by data
  • Enlist executive sponsors to amplify messaging

As Priya, DevOps Lead at WindCloud puts it:

“My biggest achievement last year was fostering affinity towards blameless post mortems through patience and persistence. It is transforming transparency.”

Influencing people and processes gradually through small gains sets change in motion.

Business Alignment

While juggling various technical complexities, DevOps engineers must keep business outcomes as the north star rather than get fixated on technical purity.

Here are 3 ways to hone sharp business acumen:

1. User Empathy

  • Gather consumer insights to feel their pain points
  • Design technical experiences mapping to user workflows

2. Revenue Impact Awareness

  • Recognize revenue critical services demanding maximum uptime
  • Benchmark capabilities against competition

3. Budget Sensitivity

  • Evaluate open source alternatives to commercial tools
  • Right size investments delivering optimal value

Anirudh, DevOps Lead at RetailCloud explains:

"Beyond core infrastructure costs, we proactively discover savings. 20% yearly cloud budget reduction through reserved instance strategies, automation, resource optimization."

Keeping the big picture context on how technology decisions influence business success differentiates effective DevOps leaders.

Key Takeaways

We‘ve covered vast ground examining must-have DevOps skills both technical and non-technical.

Here are the key takeaways:

  • Soft skills like communication and collaboration are vital to influence diverse stakeholders
  • Technical breadth and depth across cloud, containers, CI/CD etc. is mandatory
  • Automation expertise spanning infra-as-code to testing is non-negotiable
  • Security considerations must get baked early into everything DevOps oversees
  • Testing rigor and automation provides guardrails for velocity
  • Release management excellence brings scalability and uptime
  • Cultural leadership and advocacy slowly but surely transforms
  • Business alignment ensures technology advances revenue interests

That was certainly an extensive look at upskilling into specialized as well as well-rounded DevOps engineers!

Hope this detailed guide provided you clarity and conviction. Now you‘re all geared up to start leveling up your skills, aren‘t you?

As next steps, I recommend exploring the following adjacent topics:

DevOps Certifications Landscape – Assessing credentials like CKA, AWS DevOps Pro, Azure DevOps etc.

Hot Job Opportunities – Evaluating entry level to senior DevOps openings across industries

Career Growth Trajectory – Planning progression pathway to architecture and management roles

Go further your DevOps career aspirations leveraging the nine must-have skills we discussed today. Sky is the limit for transforming technology and business together!

Over to you now…which capability resonated most or needs your focus currently?

Look forward to hearing your perspectives and experiences taking your DevOps skills to the next level.