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Kaye Alvarado for Developers @ Asurion

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How DevOps Soft Skills are Gained when Playing MOBA

From time to time, I would get a message from someone in LinkedIn who has read my post about transitioning from a developer to a DevOps career. Their questions are mostly similar -- how to start, what skills to learn, and references on how to learn those.

Before I left my previous developer job, people were asking me if I'm sure I want to make the job switch. I didn't know much about what DevOps is or how it is different from software development, but I had an idea it would involve some automation work. I thought it would still require some dev (which I already know), then some Ops (what is Ops anyway, it's just keeping the operation running, that should be easy right?). So why are they asking me this like I made a very bold move?

The difference is what I later found out, as I went into the role. I became like a fresh college graduate all of a sudden, as all my years and learning as a developer had to be forgotten. Honestly, I was only able to use about 10 percent of the technology that I knew.

Now, how does these thoughts all relate to playing MOBA? 😅

Echo vs Blacklist International GAME 5 M4 World Championship | Blacklist International vs Echo<br>

An important emphasis I was writing about in my things-to-learn article, was soft skills, and how it is equally important to be successful in a DevOps career.

You can always be the rockstar developer or the MVP of your team delivering features and code consistently and efficiently, but without the soft skills, you will not progress that far in your career.

I was watching the semi-finals of a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) competition in Indonesia called M4 where we have two Philippine delegates: Blacklist International and Echo competing in the game called Mobile Legends. I've always been impressed with the team's performance, that after watching a game, I would stay to listen to the game analysts to hear their thoughts on "what worked". They explain decisions one-by-one and how each player executed a game play. It struck me, as I was watching this: these players have the skills relevant to a DevOps career!

I played this game myself way before I went into the DevOps career and probably picked up some of these skills while playing, which added to my success in DevOps! If you haven't read my previous post, nor know about this game, here is a run-through of those skills, and how they relate from the game to the DevOps career:

1. Team Work

Mobile Legends is a 5v5 player game. There are multiple roles to take: marksman, fighter, tank, support, assassin, and others. They can be coordinated and utilized to deal the best offense or defense based on their strengths. Ideally, tank and support members take the most damage and protect the marksman. The marksman deals the most damage, but is not too "tanky" and is very low in defense, thus needs the support from their teammates.

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In DevOps, there are Engineers who work on projects that require some research. Some would focus on support, so as not to distract those working on features. Each Engineer can also switch roles, they can work on support one minute, the next day, they will be tasked with doing releases. Most DevOps Engineers would have a team they work with, each member is equally important, and having the ability to adapt quickly to your team's pace is a great skill to have.

2. Project Management and Communication Skills

This has got to be the most basic skill of playing a team player game. A team needs a captain, and each team needs to communicate with each other to discuss their dynamic strategy while the game runs.

In DevOps, your work requires having to speak with multiple teams, aligning people, ensuring every person relevant to a project is available at the time when they are needed. There are times when you have to talk to business, external vendors and explain things in a non-technical manner. Even talking with your own team is relevant, as you need to communicate when you need help or assistance.

3. Calm under Pressure

It always amazes me how the players can be so stoic while playing. The crowd watching the live games are always so reactive to what is happening, especially when a player gets killed and has to reset their hero back to the home base. I guess the players has to always remain calm, even with a death, as the game outcome can always turn around based on the succeeding executions of strategy.

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In DevOps, incident management is part of your job, and you can be called to an actual production issue, with all eyes on you. It would require you to listen about the problem brief, fix it right then, or manage the situation providing the results of your investigation. All these in a tight deadline as you are expected to bring production back up in the least amount of time. Yes, learning how to manage pressure is definitely something to do.

4. Learning Mindset

A championship game in MOBA is usually a set of 3 or 5 games. Each game runs for about 10 to 45 minutes depending on how equally matched the opponents are. For every set won, teams have a chance to reflect on the results of the previous match, and adjust their game play in the succeeding games. Having a learning mindset, to say the least, is one big key to success.

Now, in DevOps, you manage and use multiple tools. Each tool and technology in general is evolving everyday. Being in this career, requires that you are always up to speed with the latest in technology, most especially if it involves securing your applications, or addressing vulnerabilities. Learning...never...stops.

5. Domain Knowledge and Confidence

Sometimes, when it seems that a team is losing, it will take just one brave team member to take a risk, and execute, to turn the game around. Similarly in DevOps, gone are the days when you have a senior developer or a quality analyst watching over your work. Take ownership with everything you do, and that includes delivering quality work (just "confidence" without "quality" won't cut it. I guess this would have to be true in Development teams as well.

There's a lot more to write on how to be successful in DevOps, but I'm glad to share that even enjoying your hobbies like playing Mobile Legends, can help you gain these much needed skills (Who knew? 😂). Enjoy watching this game that hailed Blacklist International as the first group to go to the championship match of M4:

Photo and Video Credits: esportsvid

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