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“DevOps engineer” is really just a title used to hire sysadmins?

pavanbelagatti profile image Pavan Belagatti ・1 min read

Companies are now rebranding their outdated sys admins as "DevOps Engineers" as a quick way to make shareholders happy.

What are your thoughts?

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david_j_eddy profile image
David J Eddy

I hate this practice. I applied for, and was hired as a 'SRE' (a 'DevOps' type role) at a company. I should have realized what had happened when my team lead said 'things you are saying are scaring people'. One of the principle mindsets is the willingness to fail, learn, apply guard-rails. They really wanted a network operations person. They had zero to no tolerance for anything less than perfect. The dept. lead went around acting like no-one on his team made mistakes and came down hard when anything was not perfect.

Sorry for the rant but I hate it when a concept is co-opted and bastardized into something is was never meant to be.

/rant

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pavanbelagatti profile image
Pavan Belagatti Author

I understand. I think even organizations don't understand this concept clearly yet, that's the reason they say they are hiring DevOps peeps, but a lot of times, for them, DevOps means you are a Jenkins / code building engineer.

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niorad profile image
Antonio Radovcic

I thought DevOps was the word for Sysadmins taking care of Deployments etc.

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gtb3nw profile image
GTB3NW

That's exactly the kind of confusion which makes it understandable that recruiters and HR are bad at labelling the role.

It's a near impossible task to get anyone to agree on the word, but the few things which I've generally seen as accepted are:

  • It's often given as a job title, when it's actually more of a set of practices
  • It's a hybrid role between developer and sysadmin
  • The developer part is more often understanding of development, best practices and building of tooling <- This is the most controversial bit, but I feel this bit or more is required to really be "devops". It has to be a bit further than "able to write bash/python", but it doesn't have to be a full blown developer. I personally find the sysadmin side is more critical for devops and just having an understanding of best practices in development to steer the development teams in the right direction is enough to cross the threshold from sysadmin or developer.
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niorad profile image
Antonio Radovcic

Thanks!
I have to admit a little ignorance to this field, since in my daily job I'm hardly in touch with deployment, hosting etc., and for my personal projects, Heroku or FTP is usually fine.

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gtb3nw profile image
GTB3NW

Hey, don't worry about it! I don't equate blissful ignorance to being willfully ignorant. If I could offer any advice to you, it would be to learn a few sysadmin skills. Before my (Cue irony) devops title I was a sysadmin working in the hosting industry and supporting customers. The developers that benefited from us most were the ones who had a few sysadmin skills but wanted support to get further with those. I'm talking understanding of permissions and system resources, webserver configuration, nothing too crazy! 99% of the time they are able to get work done quicker, with less friction and run into less issues. If they were an agency we'd also refer them to customers looking for new developers.

Being able to find logs and debug with system tools is also a bonus!

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pavanbelagatti profile image
Pavan Belagatti Author

And you missed IaC.

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leppercameron profile image
Cameron Lepper

My last job started hiring for a DevOps Engineer as I was leaving. It sounded to me like they were after a Sys Admin and not a DevOps Engineer. I've found that, predominantly in non-tech organisations, people are misusing the term DevOps, and falsely believe it's synonymous with Sys Admin. Despite the obvious parallels and overlap, DevOps culture and process extends way beyond just the configuration and upkeep of any ecosystem. I think the scope of DevOps is greater than that of a SysAdmin role, but unfortunately I do agree that many places are rebranding their SysAdmin role as DevOps because it sounds like they're 'keeping up with the times'.

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david_j_eddy profile image
David J Eddy

Preach it!

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Jon Bristow

In my experience, anything with “ops” in the title will have Ops work be the overwhelming majority of the work.

As a ProdDev person, writing scripts is not even close to what my passion for development demands. DevOps centered orgs seem to rarely be interested in investing in building real tools, much less proper requirements gathering and modern project management.

Sure, I bet there are unicorns out there, but for now I’m trying to get back to pure development. With the advent of serverless native services, the amount of operations I need to worry about is shrinking. (Also, CRUD work is getting less and less justifiable as being worthy of dev time, so there are fewer pure coding positions these days.)

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pavanbelagatti profile image
Pavan Belagatti Author

I saw in one Reddit discussion a senior guy saying 'DevOps is infra as code, so it’s devs solving ops problems. What's your view on that.

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kayis profile image
K

Yes, companies hire DevOps because it's new and fresh.

But DevOps means you Development and Operations in one person.

The core assumption is that deployments work better if the people who wrote the code are also the administrators of that code.

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garzo profile image
Dave MG

This has been my frustrating experience, yes. Even more frustrating was learning once in those environments how so many people in them worked and operated like the future of the company depended on how much they could simultaneously hire Site Reliability Engineers and cargo cult everything from deployments to credentials/env stores and actually get anything done.

Now I wouldn't say I've become jaded or cynical, but only a jaded and cynical person would say what I'm about to: Unless you are getting hired to be operator 1/patient zero for a organization starting right out of the gates and can implement the three ways of DevOps from the start, you're in for a rough or hilarious time. Or both.

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jeikabu

A while back I had the converse problem. Opened a pair of positions for "devops engineer" and... a bunch of sys admins applied. Go figure.

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pavanbelagatti profile image