Developer

Seven signs you may not be cut out to lead a DevOps team

Leading your organization's DevOps team could be the perfect role for you--but the job entails some challenges you should know about before you tackle the job. Here are a few concerns to keep in mind.

Yay! After all your hoping and praying, your organization has finally decided to take a DevOps approach to application delivery. But it's not all smooth sailing from there.

One of your higher-ups pointed to you and said, "Yes, you should lead the DevOps team."

While the prospect of being in charge of a large team may be tempting, it involves a lot of patience, cross-departmental collaboration, and more strategic thinking than you might normally do in your current role. You'll also have to inspire and motivate people in new ways.

In short, leading a DevOps team isn't for everyone. Here are some signs you may not be the right person to lead a DevOps team. If these factors don't apply to you and you're still game, we've got some helpful resources at the end of the article.

Check out this free ebook for a look at other IT job roles to help you decide if they're a good fit for you.

1. You expect to reap benefits right away

DevOps requires a complete mindset shift: Benefits don't happen overnight. After a few weeks, if you don't see results, you might think you've failed and that DevOps should be abandoned immediately.

However, that's not how DevOps works. It takes time to get into the rhythm of DevOps. For example you must first find the processes to be automated, then automate them. It's a journey, not a destination, and one that will continue for a long time as you test and refine your release methodology. Often, it will take more than a few weeks to get it right and see benefits from the implementation.

SEE: How to build a successful career as a DevOps engineer (free TechRepublic PDF)

2. You have no idea where the organization is headed

Organizational strategy is critical to successful application delivery - if you're developing and delivering blindly, you may not be in line with what the organization needs.

As a member of the team, someone will tell you what you need to do, and it will likely dovetail with the organization's needs. But as a leader, it's up to you to discern the organization's strategy. DevOps team leaders need to have a clear vision of where the organization is going strategically and where it will be in five years. You also need to be in on the planning meetings and be ready to contribute, because your team is now a critical component of that strategy.

3. You're a lone wolf

DevOps requires collaborating, not just with your own team but across multiple teams: development, infrastructure, operations, security, testing, product, and related departments. You also need to know the business user needs, which requires even more collaboration as your team gets ready for release.

In addition, delegation will be a large part of your role. You may need to create sub-teams of subject matter experts and delegate duties in a larger organization. You won't be head down in code anymore; you'll be driving the teams that make it happen.

SEE: Research: DevOps adoption rates, associated hiring and retraining, and outcomes after implementation (Tech Pro Research)

4. Inspirational communication isn't your strong point

Sure, you can articulate what you're doing. You're great at keeping your team updated on your progress, and you collaborate well. But collaboration as a DevOps team leader goes even further.

In DevOps, you need to inspire and motivate your team, especially at the beginning when you're still getting your sea legs. When things don't go as expected, or when the environment becomes uncertain, you need to be the person holding everyone together.

SEE: Quick glossary: DevOps (Tech Pro Research)

5. You don't like to mentor

In addition to collaboration and inspirational communication, part of your job as a DevOps team leader is to mentor and sponsor individuals, as well as to give senior individuals the time and opportunity to mentor new staff.

It's tempting to pull back and say that mentorship creates bottlenecks and to let senior team members loose on projects so that no time is wasted. However, if you're doing DevOps right, you'll be able to take the time to encourage mentorship and to support new team members yourself. This not only boosts morale but also fosters new ways of thinking about problems and solving them, since new team members may have different ideas they're otherwise reluctant to voice.

SEE: 10 critical skills that every DevOps engineer needs for success (TechRepublic)

6. Continuing education isn't your thing

We don't have to tell you how rapidly technology changes. In DevOps, building your knowledge and skills, as well as the knowledge and skills of your team, adds value to the organization as a whole and increases employee happiness.

A good DevOps team leader encourages professional development and leads by example. This could include being on the lookout for continuing education opportunities or conferences that will boost your team's knowledge—and not necessarily just technology knowledge—as you'll be leading a cross-functional team. Or it could include hosting brown-bag lunches, the aforementioned mentorship opportunities, and sharing what you've found as you search for answers to problems.

7. You're not good at praising others

You appreciate your team, but if you're not good at praising them for a job well done, it won't matter. In addition to acknowledging individual contributions, goal achievements, and improvements in the quality of work, you will need to acknowledge your team as a whole.

This requirement for a DevOps team leader ties directly into inspirational communication but takes it a step farther. If you can identify where the individuals on your team are the most successful and let them know their hard work has been noticed, you can improve morale - which in turn will lead to more problem-solving and will incentivize your team to continue their hard work.

Summary

Leading a DevOps team can be an exciting opportunity. But it also comes with a host of challenges, including the need to motivate, collaborate across departments, and be a part of the organization's strategy. Ultimately, a DevOps team leader needs to be the glue that holds the cross-functional teams together and champions the initiative even when it seems like results are a long time coming. After reviewing these seven items, if you're still are enthusiastic about leading your organization's DevOps team, it could be a fulfilling pursuit.

Does being a DevOps team leader seem right for you? These resources can help

Your take

Have you been tasked with heading up a team of DevOps engineers? What advice can you share with fellow TechRepublic members?



About Christine Parizo

Christine Parizo is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology who cut her teeth in B2B technology journalism in the days when a tablet was something you'd attach to a clipboard. She now puts her head in the cloud to analyze and write...

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