My job: DevOps engineer
We at Cybernews Academy spoke to a Development Operations (DevOps) expert, Ozie Iyamabo, about his experience as a DevOps Engineer, what qualifications he needed for the job, and how he broke into the DevOps world. We wanted to explore how you could pursue a career in DevOps and the tools, skills, and qualifications you need to succeed in this field.
What is a DevOps Engineer?
In simple terms, a DevOps engineer is a person who employs techniques, practices, and tools that aid in the production of high-quality applications that we use daily. DevOps engineers also focus heavily on the software development lifecycle and work as a bridge between software development and IT operations teams. They undertake various tasks, which include but aren’t limited to coding, deployment, maintenance, and updating software.
How are DevOps engineers unique?
Our expert says DevOps is a cultural and technical movement emphasizing collaboration between the software development and IT operations teams. “We are the bridge between the software development and IT operations teams.” The development team may want to introduce new characteristics into an application or system in the industry. In contrast, the operations team wants to ensure the stability of this application or system. Development Operations engineers bridge this gap between the two groups. Ozie continued by explaining that the primary goal of DevOps engineers is to shorten the software development lifecycle while improving deployment frequency.
Software development life cycle
One area that Development Operations Engineers explore is the software development life cycle. This lifecycle is a “systematic process of planning, creating, testing, deploying, and maintaining software applications or a system.” This is simply the process that developers, operations teams, and DevOps engineers go through when creating, deploying, and maintaining software and applications like Instagram or other apps used by the public.
Ozie explained that the primary purpose of the software development life cycle is to produce high-quality software that meets or exceeds the customer's expectations while being delivered on time and by a set of criteria.
Here are the different phases that the software or application goes through before being released to the public:
- Planning Phase - this is the initial phase where experts analyze whether this project is possible. Once decided, the team goes ahead with gathering the requirements needed for this project to take place.
- System Design Phase - this is based on the requirements gathered in the planning phase. This phase is the blueprint for the software system, where you outline the software architecture, data structure, interfaces, and modules.
- Implementation Phase - this is the phase where the actual coding takes. This phase is where the code for the software is written, and developers use this design specification to build the software. The implementation phase is usually the longest in the process.
- Testing Phase - this is where the completed software undergoes rigorous testing against a specific set of requirements.
- Deployment Phase - once this software has been tested, it must be deployed– this delivers the final product to the customer.
- Maintenance Phase - DevOps Engineers and other team members maintain the software by checking for bugs, resolving customer issues, managing changes, and monitoring the performance, security, and experience. This phase ensures that the product is up-to-date and constantly improving.
DevOps at university
The first commonality between those who pursue a career in DevOps is a mutual love for technology. Like our expert, Ozie has always been fond of technology and wanted to see where this tech would take him. This DevOps engineer explained that he studied at Coventry University, where he studied Business Information Technology. This academic experience allowed him to understand the fundamentals of IT and the synergy between business and technology. Despite some websites stating that you don’t need a formal education to start a career in DevOps, our expert explains that having a bachelor’s degree in computer science and information technology is essential for understanding the fundamentals of DevOps engineering. “Most DevOps engineer positions require at least a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, Information Technology, Engineering, or any other related field.”
Here are a few of the best degrees to look at if you are thinking of becoming a DevOps engineer:
- Computer science - this degree provides strong fundamentals in programming, algorithms, and software development. These are essential skills required for a career in DevOps.
- Software design - this degree focuses on the foundations of coding, architectural knowledge, and problem-solving skills. These are vital components of DevOps engineering as they are crucial for automating processes and cultivating collaboration between development and operations teams.
- Software engineering - this degree focuses primarily on the fundamentals and techniques for designing, developing, testing, and maintaining software. These are core aspects of DevOps engineering.
- Information technology - IT degrees detail a vast range of topics relating to the management and implementation of IT solutions. This includes, but isn’t limited to, networking, databases, and systems administration. These are critical competencies needed for a job in DevOps engineering.
If you want to ensure that you are up to date with all the latest and have the skills necessary to break into the industry, consider taking a master’s in DevOps or DevOps and Cloud Computing. While a master’s is a great route, you should consider getting a certification. Ozie says other related certifications may validate a candidate's skills and expertise in specific tools and practices. “Some certifications include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure DevOps Solutions certification,” and many more.
Journey of a DevOps Engineer
Meet Ozie Iyamabo, a Development Operations (DevOps) and Cloud Engineer with eight years of professional experience. This expert described his professional development as he transitioned through various stages of his DevOps career. Ozie described working for multiple companies and gaining invaluable skills along the way. “My journey started in a company called Skip the Dishes,” a Canadian online food delivery service. “I developed cloud infrastructure management and cost optimization skills at Skip the Dishes.” From there, “I worked as a cloud engineer at Levven, where I got to lead a team, improve their system reliability, optimize cost, and manage cloud migration and security.” Ozie expressed that these experiences helped him develop an appreciation for leading and nurturing a team while cultivating complex problem-solving skills.
Day in the life of a DevOps Engineer
The day in the life of a DevOps Engineer consists of various tasks that ensure that all systems and applications are running as they should. These may include system log reviews, code reviews, application updates, operational tax, and deployment frequency.
“My job includes the daily routine, tax, and responsibilities. I review systems logs for applications. For example, I respond to an alert to ensure optimal performance. “DevOps engineers make sure there is no downtime, no lag, and an application doesn’t have any errors. We always want to ensure the application or system runs appropriately.” This procedure on the backend involves reviewing logs to ensure the application performs optimally.
DevOps engineers also work to collaborate on code reviews, which involves “writing a piece of code that has not been taken into production. This code is not transcribed to an update, so DevOps updates it, ensuring there are no bugs and the application is always running as it should. This code review makes sure that there are no errors.”
DevOps engineers also deploy updates and patch fixes during off-peak hours to minimize disruptions. “We usually want to deploy these updates when the application is unused. We take into account the geographical location based on time zone. For example, if there is an update in Europe, we want to ensure that this will happen when most of the population is asleep, so there are no interruptions to the service.”
Ozie told Cybernews Academy that DevOps engineers must balance deployment and operational tax. In this context, operational tax is the amount of money spent on tools and multiple toolchains needed to increase the delivery speed of the software. Balancing the amount paid while deploying software as efficiently as possible is crucial for DevOps engineers. “We spend money coding and automation while also checking system maintenance and operational concerns.”
Deployment frequency is an essential facet of the work done by DevOps engineers. “The primary focus of DevOps engineers is to shorten the software development cycle and improve deployment frequency.” Deployment frequency is the method of improving how updates are being deployed. “The frequency of updates is important as there may be bugs in the system which can pose security risks. So, if there's a lag and you're not deploying updates frequently, the application will have vulnerabilities.” Above all, DevOps aims to ensure high standards of software quality.
Continuous integration and deployment
DevOps plays a pivotal role in modern businesses through continuous integration and deployment. “Continuous integration and deployment allow businesses to release new features, updates, and fixes more rapidly.” Ozie gave an ingenious description of what continuous integration and deployment look like. “Imagine you have a big box of colorful LEGO bricks and want to build a castle with them. Whenever you add a new LEGO piece to your castle, double-check it and ensure everything fits nicely and no pieces look out of place. If a piece is off, you fix it immediately. This way, your castle is always strong and looks good. This is what continuous integration looks like. Continuous deployment is where you show the castle to your friends and family whenever you add a new piece. Instead of waiting until it’s finished, you let them see it and play with it after every small change.”
Importance of DevOps
DevOps plays a vital role in building and maintaining high-quality software the customer values. Companies want to add new application features and updates as they react to quick market changes, customer needs, or demands. The DevOps team facilitates this as they “bridge the traditional gap between the development team, software engineers, and the operation teams. This collaboration ensures that both teams are aligned on the expected outcome, leading to more efficient software production and deployment.” DevOps engineers also ensure the end user's safety (that’s you.) “We ensure that security is integrated into the software development lifecycle. Security checks and compliance monitoring occur to ensure the application is secure and there's no data breach.” By data breach, Ozie means that all your data isn’t being exploited.
Tools and practices
DevOps engineers employ various tools and practices for application development and operations. Specific tools and techniques are essential when breaking into the DevOps world. Ozie mentioned that various online services can help you develop the tools you need to become a DevOps engineer. “ GitHub, BitBucket, or GitLab are tools to learn continuous integration and deployment.” DevOps engineers have automation tools and practices to ensure that code is continuously tested. “This continuous testing leads to early bug and issue detection.” You must also understand containerization and the tools used in this process. According to IBM, containerization is the process of “packaging software code with just the operating system libraries and dependencies required to run the code to create a single, lightweight, executable code called a container.” Developers can then manufacture and deploy apps more efficiently while ensuring security. For this practice, you will need knowledge of Docker, container registries, and container orchestration tools like Kubernetes or ECS (elastic container service.) Ozie mentions having technical skills with cloud platforms such as AWS, Google Cloud Platform, and IBM Cloud is essential to a DevOps engineer. One of the leading practices a DevOps engineer should have is scripting and programming. “Script languages like Bash, Python, Ruby, or Pearl are imperative when working as a DevOps engineer.”
What employers value
Employers value real-time, hands-on experience when hiring potential DevOps engineers. “Whether that’s internships or personal projects, demonstrating real-time, real-world application of DevOps practices can be more valuable than just theoretical knowledge alone.” Anyone who wants to break into DevOps engineering should have a foundational understanding of the software development processes. “This includes knowledge of the software development lifecycle, system detector networking, and security. He also mentioned the importance of cultural fit. “DevOps is as much about the culture as the tools.” Understanding and embracing the principles of collaboration, feedback, automation, and continuous improvement is essential in the DevOps industry.
The DevOps landscape involves continuous development, collaboration, teamwork, technical skill, and continual improvement. If you plan to become a DevOps engineer, Ozie has provided some valuable guidelines for those wishing to pursue a career in this field.
- Start with educational learning - pursue a computer science or information technology degree, as a formal education provides a foolproof foundation for professional development. Utilize online learning platforms that will help you develop critical tools and practices.
- Seek hands-on experience - those who want to pursue this path will need to engage in personal projects that help them understand tools and develop the skills required for a career in DevOps. Apply for internships and other opportunities that will help you get hands-on experience in the industry.
- Networking - attend meet-ups or local workshop conferences. This way, you will learn from professionals and make valuable connections. Building an online presence is also beneficial when networking on platforms such as LinkedIn. Turn to an online community or forum related to DevOps and engage in discussions, ask questions, and share your knowledge.
- Get certified - consider getting a certification. Ozie mentioned some popular providers like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
- Stay updated - Ozie expressed the need for continual development and learning as the technological landscape changes rapidly. Read books and articles, listen to podcasts, and stay updated with the latest developments.