14 Top Skills Required for DevOps in 2024

In rich countries, the average salary of a skilled DevOps engineer is well over $100.000/year. Why are companies willing to pay so much? First of all, these employees bring a lot of value to these companies - they help them deliver higher quality software faster and sometimes at lower costs. But there's another slightly more hidden reason: people who know how to implement DevOps procedures are somewhat rare.

Most jobs require employees to know one particular subject. They need to do one thing and do it well. However, employees responsible for DevOps have to be skilled at many things. They need to know a very wide range of subjects, such as Linux server administration, cloud services, containers, automation tools, monitoring tools, and many other things.

If you're starting out, you might wonder: "Do I have what it takes to become good at DevOps?". So, let's try to answer this question. Let's see what skills you need to be a good fit for this job. We'll break this down into two categories. First, we'll explore skills in the "human" category, so to speak, internal human qualities required for this job. Then, we'll look at the required technical knowledge.

DevOps Engineers' Responsibilities

The main activity in DevOps is building software production lines. We must take the raw material (code written by our developers) and turn it into a software product we can deliver to our users and customers.

Code goes through many automated steps before becoming a finished application or software service. And if we're responsible for that process, we need to imagine all of the required automated steps and then implement them.

Top Skills Required for DevOps in 2023

To successfully accomplish the responsibility stated above, you need the following skills:

  1. Ability to plan and think ahead. You need to figure out a system that flows well from one step to the next, something that goes from step A to B to C to D, all the way to Z, as smoothly as possible. This means we need to keep the whole thing in perspective even while we're focused on automating, let's say, step C. While we're working on C, we need to be aware of how to make this as compatible as possible with steps A and B before it, but also with step D and step E that come after it.
  2. Ability to assemble a system. Think about how houses are built, brick by brick, or how we can build a toy car from small LEGO pieces. DevOps processes work the same way. We can have a large system that automatically builds applications and delivers them to customers. But this large system is made out of interconnected small pieces: a small program here, a small server there, some cloud service, and so on.
  3. Ability to analyze and find the best compromises. The developers will want certain things. The people managing the company's cloud infrastructure and servers will want other things. And it will be up to you to find a way to make both teams reasonably happy and choose solutions that work well for everyone.
  4. Have good communication skills. Since we're the bridge between Dev and Ops, Developers, and Operations teams, we need to have some pretty good communication skills. It can be pretty tough to explain what requirements we have, what problems, what solutions, and the plans in a way that won't be misinterpreted. With clearer explanations, we'll get faster results, and teams will collaborate much better, leading to much smoother experiences for everyone.
  5. Ability to learn as you work: DevOps is always changing and evolving, so we'll constantly have to learn new stuff to keep up with the best tools and best practices in the industry. This means we need to be the curious types who love to learn new things.
  6. Ability to solve problems: Finally, a rather important skill is to be good at detective work. We'll sometimes need to debug things that suddenly stop working for mysterious reasons. We have to be able to look at the evidence and investigate, step-by-step, what went wrong, where, and why. This requires some good observation skills, attention to detail, and a mind that is naturally good at solving puzzles.

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Technical Skills Required

Now, let's jump to the other skills, the technical skills required to be a DevOps engineer.

  1. Since we are first dealing with application code that developers write, we'll need to have a basic understanding of programming languages and how algorithms work.
  2. Next, our developers constantly modify this code. This means that something needs to keep track of all of these changes. This is the job of source code management tools such as Git, GitHub, and GitLab. So, we'll need to have a good understanding of how these tools work and should be used.
  3. We need to know how to manage Linux servers and cloud infrastructure. When dealing with cloud services, Amazon's AWS and Microsoft Azure are the most widely used today.
  4. Sometimes, we'll have a lot of components in our infrastructure. It's hard to manage so many manually. It's also prone to human errors. So, it's common practice to use tools that automate launching and configuring complicated infrastructure. For example, we have tools like Terraform, Chef, Puppet, and Ansible to do this for us.
  5. Our developers write code constantly. And this needs to be repeatedly transformed into usable applications, tested, packaged, and then delivered to users. So we'll need to be very good at using CI/CD - Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery tools. This is often the central part of our job. Jenkins is the most popular choice at the moment to implement CI/CD, although many other solutions are also available. GitLab can also be used for CI/CD.
  6. Nowadays, to ensure that applications run the same way in different environments, they are placed in containers. So we'll need to know how to use containers. The most popular tool for containers is Docker.
  7. If our company chooses to use a microservice model, where many small services run in many small containers, we'll need to learn how to use container orchestration tools such as Kubernetes. This is basically a tool that lets us declare what kind of containers we want to run, how many, how they should be configured and distributed to various servers, and so on. So we need to know how to declare these things to Kubernetes, which then takes care of the rest, automatically creating the structure we want and ensuring that it continues to work correctly.
  8. Applications, servers, and services always malfunction at one point or another. To catch these problems as soon as possible, we need to know how to use tools to continuously monitor our apps and infrastructure. So we might have to learn tools like Elasticsearch, Kibana, LogStash, or anything else that helps us continuously collect logs, review past events, and get alerts in case anything malfunctions.

This is not a complete list of skills required to be good at this job. Some companies will require certain things from you; others will require entirely different things. But, generally speaking, these skills will often be the most useful for someone in this field.

And don't worry too much about the many alternative tools that exist in this DevOps space. For example, one company might use Amazon's AWS for cloud services; another might use Microsoft Azure. One company uses GitLab; another uses GitHub.

It might seem like a lot of work: every time we switch companies, we need to learn and adapt to a different set of tools. However, as soon as we learn how to use one cloud service or one CI/CD tool, it's very easy to adjust to some alternatives. Even though the tools are different, they still do the same job, so the core principles remain the same.

It's like using Chrome and Firefox. These applications are slightly different, but if we know how to use Chrome, it will be very easy to jump to Firefox. The way they're used to browsing the web is virtually the same. We just have some subtle differences here and there, but it's easy to adjust. The same applies to DevOps tools.

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