The lack of skilled IT workers is hurting the deployment of emerging technology, according to a new survey from Gartner. In areas from cloud to cybersecurity, this crisis is expected to last for years to come.
Whether organizations hire outside talent or explore training options for existing personnel, more diversity in skills are in demand for DevOps engineers and management of cloud resources, according to Knack and Amazon Web Services.
Leroy Ware, CEO of Knack, a job board for tech roles, says it is time for engineers to break out of their comfort zones and pick up forward-looking skills that are in demand.
According to Knack, there is great interest in the hiring market for DevOps engineers with well-rounded skills that include full-stack engineering, virtualization, containers, and virtual machines to meet demand for efficient development and deployment.
“All companies that are doing serious software development these days are looking for engineers that have broader and broader skillsets,” Ware says.
This is a change, he says, from 10 to 15 years ago when many engineering teams were made of professions with highly specialized backgrounds.
“You might have a product designer or a UI designer, and then a front-end developer who did slice ups, HTML, and CSS,” Ware says. Then there would be a back-end developer for API work. “It wasn’t even called DevOps back then.”
During that time, it was not uncommon for an IT operations person who would be responsible for figuring out how to deploy an application on the server, he says. That deployment would call for manual input, Ware says, such as using a terminal to plug into a server and setting up load balancers.
Current demands show a need to break away from the siloing of skills and embrace being a generalist with broader skillsets, he says.
For example, web developers may be expected to know little bit of front end and back end. Engineers might be called upon for general problem solving, architecture, and high-level thinking about the entire application instead of working on one tiny piece, Ware says. “That’s the trend throughout the entire engineering space right now.”
DevOps engineers tend to be among the most experienced people on teams, he says, having grown from either operations or engineering and have witnessed more than other personnel.
“Before the CDK . . . there was a lot of work that went into trying to define all your infrastructure using software definitions.” The CDK supports multiple programming languages, Ware says, and increases access to DevOps by making engineers capable of both building applications as well as describing how they should be deployed.
Picking up a certification for work with cloud resources can also help build up a career in DevOps, he says, especially as technology evolves. “People who have very specialized skillsets are going to have a harder and harder time,” Ware says.
Leadership within organizations seems keen on wanting tech talent with certified skills. In a report commissioned by AWS and conducted by Enterprise Strategy Group, 97% of surveyed IT decision makers with organizations that employ AWS certified staff indicated that having such professionals onboard offers their companies better competitive positioning for the next three to five years.
Some of the benefits the IT decision makers indicated came from certifications include increased productivity, elevated innovation, and recruitment and retention of cloud-focused personnel.
Kevin Kelly, director of certification and education programs with AWS, says individuals who pursue certification want to build up their credibility with the platform while organizations naturally use certification to better identify skilled tech talent.
AWS certification, he says, is divided into four tiers: foundational, associate, professional, and specialty certifications for specific topic areas.
The program is ungated, which allows individuals to pursue the type of certification they believe they are prepared for. Kelly says many people start with the cloud practitioner certification, which validates an understanding of what the cloud is and the advantages it can bring to scalability, performance, and security. “It also tests some knowledge on implementing a cost-effective solution on a cloud environment,” he says.
The different tiers of certification validate increasingly complex knowledge. The professional-level certification is aimed at such roles as DevOps engineers, developers, SysOps administrators, and solutions architects, Kelly says. This tier can validate if the professional can build very complex systems while using many services together, he says.
Training courses exist to help prepare certification applicants for their exams, but Kelly says that practical knowledge plays a significant role.
“Nothing replaces production deployment experience,” he says. The prep courses can help to cover services an engineer might not use every day on the job but needs to be aware of for the exam.
When organizations encourage employees to pursue such certification, which may include covering fees for training, Kelly says it can help address the shortage of skilled talent that continues to loom large in the market.
“The cloud IT skills gap is on their mind,” he says. Training for certification can be a way to address that demand, Kelly says, by bulking up the ranks of professionals with needed skills instead of cannibalizing the hiring market.
“Trading talent, from one company to another, and driving the cost of that talent up, isn’t going to scale,” he says.