Whether it’s coding and scripting, process re-engineering or team building, DevOps engineers apply a variety of skills to bridging systems operations and development. Their goal is to create a stable infrastructure and, ultimately, get new code into production. “It’s also about understanding business priorities, strategies and metrics,” says Mitesh Mehta, business head of the Technology Competency unit for Collabera, a Morristown, N.J., technology staffing and services company.
To do that, DevOps engineers need to keep abreast of modern software engineering techniques. So when it comes to an interview, Mehta says you should be prepared to weave those types of skills into your answers. Be warned: You’re sure to face scenario-based questions.
While collaboration is a cornerstone of DevOps, professionals in the role have to be more than simple team players, says Tracy Cashman, senior vice president and partner in IT search at WinterWyman’s Waltham, Mass., office. DevOps engineers have to be master negotiators, fostering collaboration and trust even when the going gets tough and walls go up between software development and IT operations.
Cashman says DevOps engineers are better described as bridge builders. When she talks to job candidates, she looks for people who can effectively describe how they’ve spanned teams and helped their company put out the best continuous releases possible.
Both Mehta and Cashman say that adaptability, communication skills and curiosity are among the top things they look for in DevOps engineers.
Here are some questions they say you’re sure to be asked.
Explain your understanding and expertise on both the software development side and the technical operations side of an organization you’ve worked for in the past.
- What Most People Say: “The DevOps role entailed working in a silo, doing just infrastructure automation or release management by pushing development and the ops team.”
- What You Should Say: “DevOps engineers almost always work in a 24/7 business critical online environment. I was adaptable to on-call duties and able to take up real-time, live-system responsibility. I successfully automated processes to support continuous software deployments. I have experience with public/private clouds, tools like Chef or Puppet, scripting and automation with tools like Python and PHP, and a background in Agile.”
- Why You Should Say It: Display a flexible mindset. Know the latest and greatest software engineering techniques and explain how you’ll use those tools and skills to solve problems the interviewer throws your way. It’s also important to express a passion and curiosity to learn something new and a willingness to tackle new challenges. It’s all about a willingness to adapt.
Discuss your experience building bridges between IT Ops, QA and development.
- What Most People Say: “I’ve found that people in IT Ops, QA and development are constantly at each other’s throats. That’s why organizations need people like me, to diagnose the problem and prevent projects from stagnating.”
- What You Should Say: “DevOps is all about effective communication and collaboration. I’ve been able to deal with production issues from the development and operations sides, effectively straddling the two worlds. I’m less interested in finding blame or playing the hero than I am with ensuring that all of the moving parts come together.”
- Why You Should Say It: It’s smart to avoid sounding too judgmental or inflexible. Make sure your point of view isn’t too deeply rooted in one side or the other—development or operations. You don’t want to give the impression that you’re a lone wolf who can’t work collaboratively, and who seems to want to take too much of the credit. Show that you can think objectively while not pointing fingers. Show eagerness to employ all available collaboration techniques to effectively communicate between teams.
What’s your career objective in your role as a DevOps engineer?
- What Most People Say: “I have a desire to move into development. That’s my eventual career goal.”
- What You Should Say: “My passion is breaking down the barriers and building and improving processes, so that the engineering and operations teams work better and smarter. That’s why I love DevOps. It’s an opportunity to be involved in the entire delivery system from start to finish.”
- Why You Should Say It: No employer wants to hire someone whose only goal is to move quickly into another role, or who lacks energy and enthusiasm for the job under discussion. Your passion and excitement will show your potential employer that you’re a great fit for DevOps. These are important soft skills that are at the heart of the DevOps engineer, and they lay the groundwork for future moves.
What testing is necessary to insure a new service is ready for production?
- What Most People Say: “I think testing is really a responsibility of the QA department. Developers really need to be focused on writing code.”
- What You Should Say: “DevOps is all about continuous testing throughout the process, starting with development through to production. Everyone shares the testing responsibility. This ensures that developers are delivering code that doesn’t have any errors and is of high quality, and it also helps everyone leverage their time most effectively.”
- Why You Should Say It: It’s important to communicate to your interviewer that you understand how DevOps’ approach benefits the entire process holistically, and that you don’t think in terms of conventional silos.
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