What does a DevOps engineer do?

DevOps engineers play an integral role in fusing project functions and resources with the product lifecycle. Individuals who work as DevOps engineers are hands-on at all levels of development, including planning, building, testing, deployment, and support. DevOps engineers focus on automation and unification processes, often playing a lead role in combining code, application maintenance, and application management.

Because of this, DevOps engineers strike a balance between technical and managerial roles. DevOps engineers are typically hired as part of a team, so they must be able to work independently and collaboratively. Similarly, they will also be expected to work closely with other engineering teams across the organization to understand their needs and how their experience can be improved through building a streamlined development process.

At the heart of this job role is having a deep understanding of and a drive to improve developer experience within the organization. So, DevOps engineers need to have a strong knowledge not only of development life cycles, but also of DevOps as a methodology and philosophy, software design and development principles, and reducing cognitive load through abstraction.

Typical responsibilities for DevOps engineers include building, testing, and managing development tools and infrastructure, particularly internal platforms that simplify and allow for self-service within the development pipeline. They will be expected to continuously work on improving these software tools based on stakeholder needs and feedback, whether that’s received from engineers or stakeholders elsewhere in the organization.

DevOps engineers are also responsible for monitoring the development pipeline and compiling reports, typically using metrics like mean time to recovery (MTTR), change failure rate, and deployment frequency to analyze how efficient the development pipeline is. Using this information, engineers in this role will work to optimize release cycles by removing roadblocks, introducing new software, and developing new software or IT infrastructure to speed up release rates.

Finally, DevOps engineers will also be responsible for maintaining the security of internal platforms, tools, and processes, always being mindful of how automation, infrastructure design, and release schedules can present security risks within the development environment.

Required skills are usually:

DevOps engineers will need the following:

  • A degree in a technical or STEM-related field, with a score of at least 2.1
  • A deep understanding of DevOps culture, philosophy, practices, and tools
  • Previous experience as a DevOps engineer or a similar software engineering role
  • Experience working with infrastructure
  • Knowledge of the fundamentals of application development and delivery
  • Proficiency with Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) to efficiently build and test changes, add to repositories, and deploy updates
  • Familiarity with DevSecOps to account for and address software vulnerabilities
  • Understanding of programming languages, typically Ruby or Python
  • Proficiency in configuring and managing databases
  • Experience with DevOps tools like Git, Kubernetes, Puppet Enterprise, etc

While the following aren’t always required, they can help your resume stand out to recruiters and employers: 

  • A Master’s degree in a technical or STEM-related field
  • Certifications in DevOps and/or Agile
  • Certifications in specific technologies like AWS or Azure cloud services
  • Experience developing applications for large corporations
  • Experience in handling customer experience within software development
  • Experience with software testing

DevOps engineers will also need to thrive working in a team-based, collaborative environment, and have great communication skills they can put to use when working with other engineering teams.