Delving into DevOps with instructor Ward Viaene

wardRounding out our Q&A series with tech instructors, today we’re introducing you to Ward Viaene, who teaches “Learn Devops: Continuously Deliver Better Software.” It’s one of three courses available from Ward in the Udemy marketplace. Read on for Ward’s thoughts on getting into DevOps and what professionals in the field need to know.

How long have you been working in DevOps?
I started my career as a very technical system engineer 10 years ago and slowly progressed into a more general IT specialist focussing on DevOps, cloud, and distributed computing. The term DevOps has only been used for a few years, and people practicing it can be from any background. I come from an operations background but have taken many roles in companies to be able understand the needs of different teams and departments.

How did you become a DevOps expert and what advice do you have for those starting out?
The idea of DevOps is to foster a culture where dev and ops collaborate to work smarter and more efficiently, reduce the delivery cycle, and deliver better software. I became more and more involved in the full process of delivering software; I was not just doing development (dev) or operations (ops). By understanding the full lifecycle, getting involved with different teams, and finding ways to optimize software delivery, you can become a DevOps expert.

Are there any traits that seem to set people up for success as DevOps engineers?
A less technical, more business-oriented approach really helps in this field. At minimum, you need to understand what happens in software development and operations (often system and network administration) — the fundamentals of how software is written, is maintained, and runs on servers and in the cloud. To stand out, you have to understand the whole development lifecycle: how software is delivered, who’s involved, and what role everyone plays.

What’s the hardest part of learning DevOps? Any advice for getting past this?
It’s difficult to get different teams to work together. Companies are not set up this way, and traditionally, the development and operations teams barely communicate with each other. The hardest part is not implementing a new tool; it’s working together to optimize your work and then implementing tools to make this happen.

What are the main things someone needs to know about DevOps to get a job in the field? What, if anything, do they need to be learning outside your course?
This is not the kind of job where you can just sit behind your desk and work on something in isolation. You need to be able to communicate effectively with your colleagues around the organization.

To convince a hiring manager you’re right for the job, you need to show how your technology capabilities will translate into value for the company. An example: Is the company using a cloud service, such as Amazon AWS, but is everything set up manually so nothing can be reproduced? A DevOps approach might be to automate the way cloud is used, make the environment more flexible, and, in the long run, reduce costs. Showing how your contributions would deliver these benefits is the best way to establish yourself in the DevOps field.

Where do you see DevOps growing in the next 1-5 years? What will professionals need to do to stay marketable in this field?
One of the drivers for adoption of DevOps is definitely cloud technology. The cloud enables companies to be much more flexible, which translates into adoption of DevOps methods to achieve better delivery of software. DevOps professionals will need to know all the offerings of the major cloud providers to be able to implement the correct technologies and not waste time doing something like managing your own database when the cloud provider already offers it as a service.

Distributed computing and big data are growing in adoption, and DevOps professionals will need to learn about that too. Developers will write applications to handle big data, which need to be deployed and maintained the same way as normal applications. Currently that’s a challenge, and there aren’t a lot of people out there with the full skill set.