With companies everywhere scrambling to find ways to streamline software delivery and speed time to market, DevOps has become a hot career. But not for everybody: The IT industry in general continues to be a male-dominated profession.
According to the recruitment website Zippia, women held just 28% of positions in the tech and math sectors in the United States in 2022. And when it comes to DevOps specifically, women account for just 13.8% of engineers in the United States. Given that every field relies on a diverse workforce with a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences to ensure optimal growth and innovation, this is not a healthy state of affairs.
In this article, we discuss why women should choose a DevOps career, suggest ways to close the gender gap, and provide detailed advice on how to get started in a DevOps career.
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Tech in general and DevOps, in particular, is traditionally viewed as a male-dominated field. This stereotype creates a psychological barrier to entry for many women, who may have the analytical skills and attention to detail required to perform well in DevOps but are discouraged by the misconception that it is a job for men. This is certainly not the case.
At its core, DevOps sets out to create a better working environment for software engineering in the digital age. With scope for a wide range of roles — in everything from coding and cloud-native capabilities to site reliability, platform engineering, data science, and change leadership — the opportunities are breath-taking.
As Helen Beal, Chief Ambassador with the DevOps Institute, points out “There’s something for everybody, space for everybody, and because DevOps is mainstream now, most companies are practicing it, so you can choose an organization whose values and purpose resonate with your own.”
Some of the exciting developments Helen observes in DevOps include the influence of AI, which she sees as “catalyzing the low-code no-code movement and further shortening the space between the technologists and the rest of the organization.” She also highlights the more human elements of DevOps, such as psychological safety, diversity and inclusion, and organizational culture, which create an interesting counterpoint to the technical nature of the field. “Additionally, advances such as value stream management means we are constantly improving, constantly building on what we have learned.”
DevOps is also a lucrative career, with salaries for experienced U.S. engineers ranging up to $165,000 per year. As a field that is constantly evolving, DevOps offers excellent opportunities for progression. Your career path could take you from junior engineer all the way to DevOps architect and even manager of the department. You can also transition to roles including site reliability engineer (SRE). This is one career where you can go far.
Careers in DevOps and IT in general are often perceived as stressful, but research suggests that women manage the challenges of the profession successfully. A survey conducted by the IaC management platform Spacelift found that women working in the IT sector experience considerably less stress than those in non-IT jobs (35% vs. 53%).
Being a good DevOps engineer extends beyond technical skills. The successful solution may be different from the one you identified initially, so you need to be flexible and innovative, with a growth mindset that is open to learning, particularly through failure. The ability to work well as part of a team is also important.
As Helen Beal explains, “the cultural element of DevOps demands transparency and empathy. A good DevOps practitioner is constantly motivated to improve and celebrates small, daily successes because they see the evolution of organizational change and don’t impose big bang transformation on people.”
She underlines the importance of measuring progress and designing and executing experiments to improve the flow of work and value for customers. Good DevOps practitioners have a holistic view of systems, even when they are concentrating on a particular point in the overall value stream. “They understand concepts such as the Theory of Constraints, Design and Systems Thinking and why breaking dependencies is at the core of a successful DevOps implementation. They are also expert at managing stakeholders at all levels and bringing people with them on a journey to new ways of thinking and working,” she says.
From a technical perspective, here are some skills you should focus on if DevOps is on your career radar:
- Basic coding. You will be writing shell scripts or using something like Python to automate tasks, and you may also need to know VB-Script and Windows PowerShell.
- Automation. A key principle of DevOps is automation, so you will need to know how to incorporate testing tools like Selenium, Postman, or the Robot Framework into the automated release process. Other popular tools for infrastructure and configuration automation include Terraform, CloudFormation, Puppet, and Ansible.
- Containerization. You will probably use a container technology such as Kubernetes in your career as a DevOps engineer.
- Configuration. Successful automation depends largely on configuring the systems that perform the work, so configuration is another DevOps-centric task.
- Version control systems (VCS). You will probably use Git or another VCS, such as subversion or TFS.
- Packaging. Developers on different projects often need similar features, such as logging, authentication, or some other functionality plugged into a software development environment. DevOps culture embraces sharing, so practitioners will often “package” functionality.
- Networking. Knowing the IP protocol may be sufficient, but you’ll often need to understand certificates and routing, too.
So, just how do you become a DevOps engineer? For anybody with a foundation in Linux admin and networking who is passionate about learning new skills, it only takes about six months to become a DevOps engineer. You will need training in areas including continuous delivery, cloud computing, observability, infrastructure as code, configuration management, containerization, and automation.
Learning DevOps is challenging, so it helps to get positive reinforcement from people with experience in the area. Helen Beal suggests prospective DevOps professionals should investigate resources like PeopleCert for recognized DevOps certifications. “These learning paths build all the way up from basic certifications such as DevOps Foundation through to practitioner level certifications for DevOps, DevSecOps, and Site Reliability Engineering. Start at the website and register for our SKILup Hours, Sessions or Days to start learning.”
You may feel overwhelmed by the range of skills you need to be a good DevOps engineer, but it’s easy to get started. As you learn, work on some DevOps projects to build confidence and demonstrate your intent. You can soon start looking for a job in DevOps; you may even find your current employer has openings.
- Linux and networking
Linux is the preferred operating system and server platform for DevOps engineers. You can get started with the free Udemy course. You should also investigate Pawel Piwosz’s foundational Linux course on Killercoda.
An intermediate cloud certification like AWS Certified Solution Architect, will give you the required networking skills, but a specialized course such as The Bits and Bytes of Computer Networking on Coursera will give you an advantage.
- Advanced scripting:
Shell (e.g., bash) scripting skills are the default for Linux and most tools.
Python is a good choice for advanced scripting, and you can learn Python in as little as eight weeks with online tutorials from LearnPython.org. You may also need Perl and Ruby, depending on your employer.
- Cloud training and certification
AWS and Linux are virtually synonymous. The beauty of AWS is that the pay-as-you-go system means you can set up an environment quickly, use it for what you need, and pull it down again. You can get AWS certification here.
Large companies are increasingly turning to Google’s DevOps-related offerings. You can get Google Cloud certification here in as little as three months.
- Configuration: Terraform (Ansible)
Terraform’s purpose is to create infrastructure as code in an automated way that accelerates your entire process. Ansible ensures that servers are configured to specs. Both technologies are cornerstones of DevOps. You can learn the basics of Terraform in about a week. Check out a Terraform course from More than Certified. This Terraform tutorial is ideal for getting started. For Ansible beginners, this Ansible tutorial gives a good grounding in the basics.
- Version control: Git and GitHub (GitLab)
Version control enables DevOps engineers and their teams to create and review code faster. For infrastructure as code, version control with products like Git and GitLab are essential. Programmers can learn the basics of Git in minutes.
- Packaging: Containers
Packaging is where your code and infrastructure align for deployment.
Docker is essential for DevOps and enables DevOps to run code in small isolated containers. You can learn Docker in a few days with this beginner’s course online for DevOps.
- Serverless: AWS Lambda
Like Docker, containerization is an architectural pattern that decouples an application into microservices. AWS Lambda follows the serverless architecture approach, in which the concept of decoupling microservices is taken even further. In terms of AWS tools, you should know how to use Lambda, API Gateway, and DynamoDB. This hands-on workshop shows you how to use the AWS Lambda service to run code without managing infrastructure.
- Deploy: Jenkins (CodeDeploy)
Automation is a key component of deployment, and Jenkins is the main way to automate. You can learn to use Jenkins in mere days. More than Certified delivers an excellent online class that combines Terraform, Ansible, and Jenkins. You can also look at this tutorial on managing Terraform with Jenkins.
- Run: AWS Elastic Container Service and Kubernetes
Kubernetes is the backbone of DevOps. It works with ECS to perform valuable services in the background, such as allowing the administrator to ensure that several copies of a container image are running to keep a service available if a single VM or host is lost. ECS and Kubernetes provide several automated DevOps tools that enable useful additions to manage containers and their availability. They also add such key functionality as role-based access control and more centralized auditing and management functionality. You can find a 13-hour course in IBM’s Kubernetes learning path and guide, and take a look at Kubernetes certification overview.
- Monitor: ELK Stack (Prometheus)
ELK encompasses three open-source applications from the Elastic company — Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana — that provide the foundation for effective log management and search functionality. It takes data from multiple sources and lets you visualize it with useful charts and graphs. Prometheus is an important alternative. Learning to use the ELK stack takes just days with Udemy’s 4-star online class.
Closing the gender gap in DevOps requires work in the areas of awareness, advocacy, and action. These are the areas that groups such as Women in DevOps are engaged in. An international movement to promote opportunities for women and minorities in DevOps, Women in DevOps has made considerable progress in normalizing women in the field. Some of its campaigns have involved companies like Facebook, Sony, Expedia, and Deloitte. It also offers a range of webinars in which experts in various topics discuss everything from career advice to technical walk-throughs.
Another advocacy group is the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). It focuses on building better communities and futures for women in tech and partners with the likes of Google, Microsoft, Intel, and Merck.
Women in Infrastructure (WIM) is a global organization set up to help women break into the technology infrastructure sector. It offers meet-ups for anyone with an interest in infrastructure-related topics.
One of the biggest organizations for the female tech community is Women Who Code. It campaigns to have women equally represented in the world of tech, including in DevOps ecosystems, and it has a membership of more than 290,000.
However, the campaign to close the gender gap begins much earlier. As Helen Beal points out, “it starts in school with efforts to make STEM more appealing to girls and empowering them to choose the careers and lifestyles they want.”
DevOps is a varied and satisfying career that has traditionally been male-dominated, but it offers huge rewards for passionate, skilled practitioners of any gender. With the right support and proper training, they can make unique contributions to the profession. Groups that support women and other minorities are working hard to make the industry more representative of society in general, and this can have only positive implications for innovation and progress.
As you explore the potential of a career in DevOps, discover how a platform like Spacelift advances the key principles of DevOps by helping organizations fully manage cloud resources within minutes. Spacelift is a CI/CD platform for infrastructure-as-code that supports tools including Terraform, Pulumi, Ansible, and Kubernetes. Check out Spacelift’s documentation to learn more.
The Most Flexible CI/CD Automation Tool
Spacelift is an alternative to using homegrown solutions on top of a generic CI. It helps overcome common state management issues and adds several must-have capabilities for infrastructure management.