DevOps Institute

[E9] Upskilling 2020: Key Takeaways for the DevOps Human with Eveline Oehrlich


Jayne Groll and Eveline Oehrlich, DevOps Institute’s Chief Research Analyst, discuss and share ideas about some of the key takeaways from the 2020 Upskilling Report.

The lightly edited transcript can be found below.

You’re listening to The Humans of DevOps Podcast, a podcast focused on advancing the humans of DevOps through skills, knowledge, ideas and learning, or the SKIL framework. Here’s your host, DevOps Institute CEO, Jayne Groll.

Jayne Groll:
Hi everyone, this is Jayne Groll, CEO of the DevOps Institute, and I’m delighted to be here for another episode of The Humans of the DevOps Podcast with my good friend and DevOps Institutes chief research analyst, Eveline Oehrlich. Hi, Eveline.

Eveline Oehrlich:
Hello, Jayne.

Jayne Groll:
Eveline, as you know, in recent weeks we’ve had some exciting news at DevOps Institute with the release of the 2020 Upskilling Enterprise DevOps Skills Report. A project that you and I kind of conceived about two years ago with the 2019 Report, and now being able to have year-over-year data is really fantastic.

And before we kind of get into the details of that, if you’re listening and you were one of the respondents either in 2019 and hopefully again in 2020, thank you. Because the data that we’ve been able to collect from this global research project is so fantastic and so useful and so deep that we’re really hoping that The Humans of DevOps will process the data for themselves personally and for their organizations. And also use it as a bit of a roadmap as you are moving away from being an individual specialist to what we’re now coining as a hybrid DevOps human. Again, thank you if you were one of the respondents. And at the end of the podcast, we’ll share information on how you can download the report.

Eveline, you’ve been really kind of living with this data for a while, doing the analysis of the data we collected from the project and then building the report. What’s different? Do you feel a different spirit this year than last year?

Eveline Oehrlich:
Yes, I do, Jayne. It’s a great starting point here. Yes, the spirit really is in the shift from a pure, I want to say, functional technical skill focus to a human skill focus. Meaning that the respondents are saying that we really, really need to bring human skills or sometimes called soft skills, which I highly advise against because there’s nothing soft about soft skills. We found that that particular human skill is very, very important to most people who have responded and in line with all the different roles, meaning the C-level, the management level are thinking that human skills are very, very important. So I think that’s one, I’ll talk a little bit more in depth on this later on.

The other thing, which was a surprise but pleasing and also disappointing at the same time, if that makes sense, is that upskilling is a challenge still for organizations in terms of what programs they have. We found that 38% still don’t have an upskilling program, a formal upskilling program in their organizations, which is disappointing. 31% have a upskilling program and then 20% are currently working on one, which is beautiful. So the beautiful news is that there are organizations working on upskilling, putting programs together.

And you see examples out there, Amazon, AWS programs out there. Google has announced a lot of upskilling. Federal Express has initiated their own university and there’s many, many examples. That’s the second part. The third part just from a high level is that people are still having a challenge in the DevOps journey. We were suspecting, and everybody always talks about, “Well, the biggest challenge is getting automation going.” Or some people say, “Well, the biggest challenge is culture.” Well surprise, the challenges are in equal parts, the same across people, process and technology. So people really have challenges with how do we shape our culture, what human skills do we need to develop, how do we collaborate, how do we communicate, number one.

Number two, 34% said, “We have challenges in processes, we don’t understand how to do release optimization. We don’t know how to do leverage, change management. We don’t know et cetera, et cetera.” So there comes some of the changes I’ll talk in a little bit about around processes and frameworks.

And then a third of the respondents said we also have technology challenges. Of course, we do because cloud is growing. We’ve got a whole bunch of new technologies coming in our lives, AI, chatbots, serverless, quantum computing. Name a few or don’t name a few. They’re all here, and these are challenges. So 52% said that again from last year, two points, up that the DevOps journey is still very, very difficult. I think that those are the two key things I wanted to point out to begin with.

Jayne Groll:
You know what’s really interesting is that I think when we look at data like this and the difficulty of the journey, it’s because it isn’t a single journey, right? DevOps, or however you want to define it, is really big. It’s IT, right? It is the equivalent of kind of a modern digital approach to IT, and therefore it’s going to cross over into what are the different frameworks you have in use right now? Are you doing agile software development? Are you doing ITIL? Are you starting to add more continuous delivery pipelines? What about your people? How do we adapt to a new way of working, a new way of thinking and a new way of collaborating?

So for those that kind of want to pigeonhole DevOps into a single thing and define it in a kind of single lens, I think the data really shows us that it is a broad view of how do we move to sort of the next decade, the next generation of IT. I always say, we have to update our humans as frequently and with the same intention as we update our software.

Eveline Oehrlich:
Absolutely. And if we look at the frameworks, so the question we asked, which disciplines or frameworks does your organization primarily apply within your IT environment? And again, organizations had the chance to select more than one, of course, right? We found some very interesting things compared to last year. We found, for example, the agile had grown quite a bit, the agile framework. DevOps had grown also very much. It’s now at 74%. But the most amazing and very beautiful thing was that the SRE, the adoption of SRE, had grown from 10% to almost 16% including other things such as value stream management, which we didn’t have on the plate last year. This is almost 19% are actually deploying that are leveraging that design thinking. And of course ITIL v4, v3 are still there in ITSM. So it is really a nice hybrid conversion of the variety of these frameworks which really brings people together.

And that, Jayne, was for me the first time in my analyst career or in my 30 years of IT, I feel like that there is almost like a revolution of people coming together to do distinct, they’re needing to do for outside customer. And that I think is the beauty is we need it in the digital transformation. We need to think about who we are serving, not what we’re doing. The what is secondary. But why are we here? What is it we need to do it? What we need to do and why we need to do it is because we need customer experience improvements.

And it doesn’t matter if I’m Delta Airlines, Federal Express, you know the mom-and-pop shop around the corner, Target, Amazon. Everybody wants to keep customers happy because people are doing, consuming, traveling. Whatever they’re doing, they want to do it with happy customers and have happy and good engagements with the people and the companies they’re working with. When I saw these frameworks all coming together that was like, “Wow, this is fantastic.”

Jayne Groll:
But that’s a very human approach, right? So frameworks are critical thinking, right? So frameworks give us some type of structure in the way that we work and when we start to see more alignment between the different frameworks and the different methodologies and even the different tools, right? Interoperability is a really key term these days where we always talk about our tools being interoperable, but now we want our people and our processes to be interoperable as well. And I think that really reflects on the data that we’re seeing, that organizations are now trying to align their processes and their automation and their vocabulary in order to be able to create kind of a one us, right? And that’s part of value stream management.

The other thing that you mentioned I think is really interesting because when we talk about customer experience and how important that is, there is an empathy aspect of it. And I know last year, empathy showed up as a human skill, a very important human skill along with customer experience. How did empathy show up this year?

Eveline Oehrlich:
Actually, it moved up in points. It’s number six in human skills this year and I think it was eight last year. Another one which is related to that, Jayne, is collaboration incorporation in the human skills we always had as the number one. It was last year; and ever since I have adopted and been in DevOps ever since the beginning of it, that was a very important one because it’s part of the whole journey, right?

But what has changed this year? Interpersonal skills moved up into the numbers two human skills and then problem solving. Last year, it was problem solving and then interpersonal skills. So interpersonal skills really having, as you say, this just capability to understand how do I actually interact with others. It’s not about how do I use Slack channel and how do I actually incorporate in a broader team, but who am I as a person? How do I relate to those who are around me and how do I serve my business as part of that to actually share and bring the advances to the organization I’m at? And that was also very beautiful to me seeing that.

Another one which was interesting to see is that leadership skills actually moved up as well. So there is to some extent, I think, management… And we used to talk about that when I was at Forester. My good friend Rob Stroud, bless him, and I used to laugh about that. We used to say, when we asked the leaders about the state of DevOps, they gives thumbs up and they’re all like, “Yeah, we’re doing really, really great. Our company’s really doing it. We’re at top.”

And when we asked the individuals they’re all like, “Well, it’s not looking so great.” And the leaders wanted to, of course, reflect upon themselves that they were taking charge of a new way of delivering software and a new way of working. And they didn’t have, and did sometimes not give up, leadership to the team at the team level and the individuals to drive forward with new things. Reducing waste and new ways of doing things, that is shifting as well. So individuals are saying, “Hey, leadership.” And management is saying, “Leadership is important as well so that I can actually step up to the plate and have my skills and interpersonal, problem solving, collaboration, sharing and knowledge and then lead a team or lead myself, without an official title, to the next step of the journey.”

Jayne Groll:
What’s fascinating about that is self-regulation. It’s kind of self-regulation with governance. You look at agile software development, self-regulating system, right, where the team gets the work and how they accomplish it is up to them as long as they self-organize. Then you look at kind of CI/CD and downstream activities like security and testing and certainly release automation and that sort of self-regulating. And then you look at cyber liability engineering kind of just pre and post-production, which also advocates for self-regulation. And if you’re going to be self-regulating as an individual or as a team, you have to have the leadership, right? You have to be a personal leader, and I think the data’s showing that as well.

The other interesting thing about, I think, just the report as a whole is that you go to these conferences and you listen to case studies and you read about all the amazing things that some of these organizations have done, but most organizations are at or near the beginning, right? They know they need to transform. And whether you’re a very complex organization or you’re a newer, smaller organization, even like DevOps Institute, everybody knows they need to kind of keep pace with what’s happening. Technology has changed society globally and locally. And so when we start to look at these trends year over year, I think that hopefully it does serve as a little bit of a way point in terms of how organizations need to acquire, groom, upskill their humans and what direction they should take.

Eveline Oehrlich:
Yep, agree. Absolutely. If we look at, you mentioned CI/CD tool chain, which belongs of course into the technical skills, there were a couple of surprises as well. And the one was the CI/CD the tool chain skills, I dropped in this year in this category first time, but didn’t have that last year. Because from a tool perspective, and I watched that market very closely, there’s more of these, almost, I want to call them end-to-end tools which are showing up in these platforms, DevOps platform sometimes called. But anyway, that CI/CD tool chain was almost 70% the top must-have skill in the technical area and there’s many other things.

One other thing which I found quite interesting was the experience with performance tuning and monitoring moved up significantly from last year as well. And again, as an analyst, I’ve been watching application performance management, AIOps and all of that. And as I’m an IT operations professional, to me, finally that people are seeing the value in really doing performance management is beautiful. That for me was very, very nice.

And coupling that with the top one, understanding of process flow and analysis skill in the process and framework section was also beautiful. So I think there is a shift towards finally… And again as an analyst, I’ve been talking about this for years, but it’s finally ending up in [inaudible 00:15:20] enterprise. We need to understand the process, we need to analyze, we need to move out of our reaction and become proactive towards predictive. And there are organizations which are there, but the minority really is predictive and I think that becomes very important as well.

Jayne Groll:
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you because I think you’ve given us all a little bit of an appetizer of what’s in the report. The data is so deep. And again, as I said it earlier on, we couldn’t do it without the individual input from the thousands of people that responded to it. We certainly couldn’t do it without your expert analysis and really identifying what the trends are. And from DevOps Institute’s perspective, you and I met just about almost two years ago and said, “Hey, we have an idea. You want to do this.” And so for DevOps Institute, this is part of our SKIL framework, Skills, Knowledge, Ideas, and Learning, where we equip the humans in DevOps with a holistic learning needs as part of a global member association, so thank you.

For those of you who are listening, the report is available for download. It’s free. And so go to Download the report, share it with your colleagues, share it with your HR departments. Really internalize how this affects you as a DevOps professional who’s going to move from a T-shape to an E-shape. And I’ll let Eveline kind of take us home on the E-shape. But someone who’s going to need to kind of move away from being a specialist and being more of a hybrid where you have a wealth of different skills and a deep competency as well.

So you use it to internalize your own personal skills journey. Use it to justify upskilling programs within your enterprise as an advocacy. And certainly, hopefully, as we start to look at these year-over-year trends, the skills gap will be a little smaller. So Eveline, do you want to end and tease us a little bit about E-shaping so that when somebody reads the report they’ll understand that. Last year we talked a lot about T and this year we’re talking a lot about E.

Eveline Oehrlich:
Yes, certainly love to. So the T-shape with the breadth of knowledge, broad knowledge, and the specialists underneath it, which makes the T, when I looked at the research and the data of course coming back, that is still very important. But E means we actually need to figure out a few other things. E-shaping means we have to bring together our human skills and the process framework skills as the T augmented with automation, functional skills and technical skills on the vertical side.

But also the further you are along in the journey, the more experience, the more exploration and execution you have. And that E of exploration, experience and execution coupled with the vertical skills and the human skills and the process really makes a very nice E-shaped human, or sometimes also I call them hybrid DevOps engineers, who depending on the vertical, depending on the state of the organization, sometimes it’s project, sometimes it’s enterprise, sometimes it’s in healthcare of course. Whatever vertical you’re in, you can actually build out your E-shape so that you can adopt all of these different things on an ongoing base, continue these on forward. And I think that is going to be quite interesting. Hopefully you can read that.

If you have questions or you have burps as I sometimes call it, reach out to me. You can find me on Twitter or somewhere else on social media. I’m certainly happy to discuss and connect.

Jayne Groll:
Good. Thank you for that. And if you want to learn more about your own personal E-shape journey, then I encourage you to download the Upskilling Enterprise DevOps Skills Report for 2020 now available on

Eveline, thanks again. Thanks for spending some time with me today. As always, we always have good opportunity for conversation. Thanks for all the really great work you do for the community, certainly on behalf of DevOps Institute as well. And for those of you listening, happy upskilling.

Eveline Oehrlich:
Thank you.


Thanks for listening to this episode of The Humans of DevOps Podcast. Don’t forget to join our global community to get access to even more great resources like this. Until next time, remember, you are part of something bigger than yourself. You belong.

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