How to make the jump from Software Engineering to DevOps

6 mins

Are you a Software Engineer looking to shift your career path into DevOps? It’s not always e...

Are you a Software Engineer looking to shift your career path into DevOps? It’s not always easy to transition into a new specialism, but with the right guidance and resources, it’s possible. Plus, DevOps is a fantastic career to get into right now - demand’s higher than ever.

In 2019, the size of the DevOps market exceeded $4 billion and is projected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of over 20% between 2020 and 2026.

As confirms, “If you have prior experience working as a software developer, systems engineer, systems administrator, network operations engineer, or database administrator, then you already have the broad insights and useful experience for your future role as a DevOps engineer.” And if you’re keen to make a big impact and build out an organisation’s infrastructure from scratch (mostly for start-ups), a software engineering background will be a significant advantage.

Ready to get the ball rolling? Here’s our advice on making the move, either internally or externally, from Software Engineering to DevOps - and being successful in finding your new role.

What is DevOps?

First things first, what is DevOps? The term ‘DevOps’ is widely used but can mean different things in different companies. Essentially, it’s an approach or a mindset to software development that combines both IT operations and software development.  

The goal of DevOps is to enable the fast delivery of products, quicker time to market, and frequent deployments. This means that teams must have automated processes for everything from server provisioning and configuration management to deployment automation and monitoring.

For this process to happen efficiently, knowledge of several technologies is recommended such as Infrastructure as Code (Terraform, Cloudformation, Pulumi), Linux/Unix, databases, programming languages like Python and Golang, container technology like Kubernetes and Docker, version control systems (Git) and cloud infrastructure (AWS, Azure, GCP).


Why make the transition from Software Engineering to DevOps?

Well, for starters, DevOps engineers are currently highly sought after. Not only will you be future proofing your career by learning DevOps skills, but you’ll be also making a real impact on those you work for.

DevOps is constantly evolving, so there’ll always be new technologies and methodologies to learn. And because it’s a niche skill set, your earning potential could be higher. In fact, DevOps engineers can earn around 25-35% more than software engineers with the same experience.

SoftwareONE DevOps Engineer and guest lecturer at Telerik Academy Upskill DevOps, Ivaylo Vrabchev, explains: “For me, it [DevOps] was a natural next step. I'm not one to do the same thing over and over again. Therefore, after reaching a goal, I always set a new one. For me, goals are always guided by one simple rule - understanding how something works from end to end… I started learning more about the DevOps methodology and used all I’ve known for every client and each challenge I had to face.”

If you’re looking for an additional challenge that’ll take your career to the next level, DevOps is definitely a great route to consider.


Getting started with DevOps

The first step in making a move into DevOps is understanding what it takes to be successful. This includes both technical skills such as scripting/programming languages as well as soft skills such as communication, problem-solving abilities, and collaboration with other departments (e.g. Operations).

Understanding the differences between software engineering processes and those of a DevOps approach will help as well. Traditional software engineering processes can restrict the ability for teams to respond quickly but taking a leaner DevOps methodology helps maintain agility across platforms and projects. Also being aware of tech trends such as microservices architecture or configuration automation are important for adapting new techniques when necessary.

But asides formal courses and (online) research to improve your skills, don’t forget to reach out to your contacts. If you already work in technology, chances are you already have a network of people to ask questions to. Quiz those already experienced in DevOps to build up your understanding of how they built their careers, so you can follow suit. You may even be able to seek mentorship from someone who can help you in your transition.


Becoming hands-on 

Next step? Gain some hands-on experience by configuring various tools used in the DevOps workflow. Think source control systems (GitHub/GitLab), cloud orchestration tools (AWS CloudFormation/Terraform), container solutions (Docker/Kubernetes), etc. which will provide the foundation for further learning and exploration within the field. A robust understanding of these components will help build confidence in developing solutions around them, while also providing opportunities to hone existing skill sets related towards that specific technology stack.

So, if you were interested in working with Amazon Web Services, familiarise yourself with services related specifically towards it: AWS Lambda or DynamoDB, for instance, and build experience accordingly through hands-on exercises and tutorials. Open-source communities like StackOverflow & Github often include lots of resources on their respective topics, allowing users greater contextual insight on complex topics quickly and easily. And, without the need for any previous specialist expertise.


Immerse yourself 

Finally, the secret to successfully entering a new area of expertise is to become familiar with current trends and technologies. Subscribe to industry newsletters and updates, and follow experts and influencers on social media.

Or why not try participating in various online communities focused on DevOps topics? It’s a really useful way to build knowledge, and these kinds of groups tend to host regular webinars and workshops that provide budding DevOps professionals with access to valuable insights, directly delivered by industry leaders and influencers. You’ll also connect with other DevOps professionals from across the world. What a fantastic way to explore core concepts quickly and without needing prior experience!


Getting a DevOps-focused CV

As you expand your DevOps knowledge with all the above activities, don’t forget to keep track of all you’ve achieved. In addition to your existing valuable Software Engineering experience, highlight any transferable Software Engineering skills on your CV/resume and list any new DevOps-specific skills you have learnt on there too.

Because DevOps practitioners are highly sought after, we currently find that high levels of experience aren’t always a prerequisite for a role. If you can demonstrate your knowledge (often in practical online tests at interview stage), it’s sometimes enough proof for employers that you can handle the role.


Ready to take the leap? We know trying something outside your current area of expertise can seem daunting, but DevOps specialists continue to be in high demand. With the pace of change in today’s tech space, this isn’t likely to drop any time soon. And DevOps is an exciting and very much sought after career for those looking to make the transition. 

At Apollo, we’re living and breathing the dynamic world of tech and are working with professionals like you to find their dream role. If you would like to speak to us about advancing your career, and moving into a new specialism, get in touch to see how we could help. 

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