DevOps and the T-Shape expert

Last year I attended and internal meeting with our UX team and while talking to the team, we touched on a very interesting question:

How do you define a “great DevOps engineer”?

If you ask five different people, I am sure you would get at least six different answers 🙂

So, without trying to “answer” the question but still covering parts of it, let’s try to look at what DevOps actually is and means. 

The conversation on the meeting started with a colleague asking for some support around “DevOps” tasks that were needed to perform certain activities around release activities. I pushed back on him, pointing out that for me, everyone should have a little bit of “DevOps” knowledge – but re-defining these “DevOps” tasks as being “Automation Tasks”.

I very much enjoyed the conversation, and it reminded me of something that I’ve leared during my DevOps master certification in 2019:

A “great DevOps engineer” has a T-shaped skills profile.

So what does that mean?

A “T-shaped skills profile” is easily explained: Think about the “old” traditional way of combining an engineering team, you had “Analysts”, “Programmers” (Developers), “Test Engineers”, “Web Designer”, “System Engineer” (build automation, scripting, etc.).

In that case, you had the problem that you hit the “bottle neck” with certain skills during different phases of the project, e.g. the “Test Engineers” needed to work vey long hours right before the next release of your piece of software. That was obviously bad for the overall outcome of the team.

However, if you manage to compose your team with people that have a very broad knowledge base for different skills and a small amount of skills where they are experts, your team becomes more efficient because you can support each other in these “clunchy situations”, e.g. “developers” can pick up a bit of “QA work” right before the release date.

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So, what does this mean for you?

  1. Be aware of your “expert” skills
  2. Practices the skills, where your team is “weak” at, to become better at it and broaden your teams capabilities

Why do we need teams that consist of “T-shape-skilled” engineers?

Because in the “DevOps culture”, its all about “collaboration” – and that is easier, if every team member understands what the “expert” is talking about, at least high level.

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