A Day in the Life of a DevOps Engineer
In the past five years, DevOps adoption has almost doubled. In fact, 74 percent of companies now use DevOps in some form. As a growing number of organizations seek to implement DevOps practices, the need for qualified DevOps engineers is soaring. But what exactly does a DevOps engineer do, and what skills are required to succeed in this in-demand role?
In this article, we’ll explore what a typical DevOps engineer’s day looks like, their main tasks and responsibilities, and how these specialists can help companies achieve their business goals.
What is a DevOps Engineer?
The term DevOps is short for development operations and describes a software development culture or philosophy. It may encompass many roles.
A DevOps engineer can come from several IT backgrounds and focuses on making the development process more organized and predictable. Thanks to automation and unification of processes, delivery happens on time and with fewer bugs and other issues. DevOps addresses these issues and serves as a more efficient liaison between the development and operations teams.
It’s important to note that DevOps is not the name of one profession. Instead, DevOps refers to a culture that includes several positions, each of which plays a role in product development.
- Build Engineers are in charge of building the code. They pull up dependencies and parse conflicts in the code.
- Release Engineers deliver code from development to production. They monitor which branch will go to testing and decide which build will go to production.
- Automation Engineers are in charge of automatic builds when pushing to Git, running tests, deploying to staging, and production.
In small companies, all these roles could be filled by one DevOps engineer who is responsible for the automating, building and delivering of code from the developer to production.
What are a DevOps Engineers’ Main Responsibilities?
A DevOps engineer’s list of responsibilities depends on their qualifications and experience level.
- Junior: Junior DevOps engineers install and deploy automation tools, monitor code quality, and collaborate with other team members to ensure releases happen on time.
- Mid-level: More experienced specialists can understand the system’s performance. For example, they can install an automation tool and explain what’s happening inside the system. Mid-level DevOps engineers can orchestrate and debug even complex software products, write advanced automation scripts in reduced time, and predict what impact one changing part of the software might have on another.
- Senior: Senior DevOps engineers have the deepest skills and knowledge. They also have enough experience to coordinate teams of DevOps engineers and lead projects. Senior DevOps engineers also understand how to translate technical requirements to business language and vice versa, and therefore are effective at negotiating with clients and stakeholders.
A DevOps Engineer’s Typical Day
Aside from those main responsibilities, a DevOps engineer’s typical day may look something like this:
- Check Slack for urgent messages. In the morning, DevOps Engineers usually go to Slack (or another chat tool) to check for urgent tasks. For example, if the CI/CD pipeline failed to execute correctly, it would be their priority to fix it.
- Work on the automation backlog. The backlog contains a prioritized list of actions aimed at supporting the project’s infrastructure. Keeping it in order helps to define the scope and keep an eye on priorities.
- Meet with the team to discuss continuous improvement. DevOps engineers are the main advocates of continuous improvement inside the company. They’re expected to guide teammates in using CI/CD tools, help them deal with legacy issues, and develop a more agile way of thinking about development.
- Work on documentation. DevOps methodology isn’t heavy on documentation, but engineers still need to keep a record of what they work with daily such as infrastructure configuration or server information. So, they and their colleagues will always be able to find necessary information.
- Manage infrastructure. A company’s software development often involves different languages and uses various technology stacks and virtualization layers. This mash-up of technologies can complicate testing automation, code delivery, and code rollback in case of errors. A DevOps engineer must orchestrate infrastructure components and implement automation tools without causing the whole system to collapse.
- Monitor and troubleshoot. DevOps engineers monitor project health and keep track of everything happening in all system parts during the software lifecycle. So, if a failure occurs, the company will know about it before the customers. Then, DevOps engineers can try to resolve problems themselves or create a plan of action and coordinate the appropriate team.
- Attend an external meeting. Meetings can help ensure the DevOps engineer understands the client’s needs.
- Have some fun. Exploration and self-development are fun if you love your job. Many companies invest in DevOps development via courses, conferences, and books. DevOps can often dedicate about 10 percent of their time learning something new that helps their professional development.
- Double-check that they have taken care of everything urgent before signing off.
A DevOps Engineer’s Typical Weekly Tasks
In addition to their daily responsibilities, DevOps engineers often perform the following tasks weekly:
Understanding Customer Requirements
DevOps engineer might seem like a deeply technical role, and it is. However, a large part of this role is to ensure that the product fits the customer’s needs. DevOps engineers often communicate with clients and stakeholders. They collect and analyze the requirements and convert them into transparent KPIs for development and operations teams.
Continuous integration (CI) automatically merges code into a central repository, then tools automatically build, test, and run the code. CI helps quickly find and correct errors to improve the product’s quality.
Continuous delivery (CD) methods develop software in short cycles. All changes such as new configurations or bug fixes go into a test and then—safely and consistently—to production.
CI and CD are software development best practices. DevOps engineers select and deploy appropriate CI/CD tools and monitor the pipeline, striving for continuous improvement.
Integrating new tools
DevOps in practice is always a combination of various tools that work best for the particular team. It’s usually necessary to combine several tools to understand what suits them. A DevOps engineer doesn’t adopt new tools that automate CI/CD, testing, and deployment every day, but they still do this regularly.
Resolving Urgent and Unusual Incidents
In addition to everyday and weekly tasks, DevOps teams must always be ready to resolve incidents. Incidents can happen at any time and influence any part of the system. Sometimes, they require complex and urgent troubleshooting.
For example, if an e-commerce website collapses from too much traffic during Black Friday, the company simply cannot afford to wait until the next day to fix the problem. DevOps engineers will be called on to diagnose and resolve this incident, getting the website back up and running and ready to serve the customers.
What Skills Do DevOps Engineers Need?
Due to the profession’s specific skill requirements, becoming a DevOps engineer is not easy. It requires broad technical knowledge, multi-tool experience, and excellent soft skills.
Generally speaking, a DevOps engineer:
- Manages software product pipeline automation
- Acts as a link between the development and administration departments
- Improves task execution by implementing DevOps software tools
Based on the areas of activity, DevOps engineers use the following tools in practice:
- Continuous development and integration tools
- Tools for managing architecture as code
- Cloud architecture solutions
- Tools for system monitoring and debugging
- Software for containerization and orchestration
Moreover, a DevOps engineer must know Linux administration, have good Python, Ruby, Go, or other language programming skills, and be able to work with Git. Bash scripting is also a valuable DevOps skill.
In addition to strong technical skills, a DevOps engineer must also have soft skills, such as customer orientation, emotional intelligence, calmness in stressful situations, and presentation skills.
How Do DevOps Engineers Contribute to a Company’s Success?
Companies hire DevOps engineers to support their development and maintenance teams.
Without proper support, bugs and technical errors tend to arise. This can often lead to wonky updates and customer dissatisfaction—and this will reflect on the company’s bottom line.
Companies and startups typically want their products to enter the market quickly. They are interested in spending as little time as possible on creating the initial infrastructure, code, and, in general, minimum viable product (MVP) to enter the market. Having a DevOps engineer on the team increases organizational efficiency. And because automation reduces manual work, it also minimizes potential errors.
Because a day in the life of a DevOps engineer varies, DevOps engineers must have a diverse skillset. Not only do they need technical expertise, but they also need the ability to make decisions and collaborate.
Some days are more people-oriented. DevOps engineers will spend their time collecting customer requirements and reaching out to stakeholders, developers, or the operations team. Other days are more technical—especially if a release is coming up. On these days, DevOps engineers will instead spend time setting up for the automated build, testing, and deployment.
DevOps is about constantly improving and re-evaluating. By the end of each day, no matter the focus, DevOps must analyze their workflow and plan for the next day.
DevOps engineers often rely on tools such as the xMatters service reliability platform. xMatters enables workflow automation, helps respond to incidents, and provides actionable insights for DevOps engineers to boost productivity. Learn more about how xMatters can help your organization’s DevOps practices by scheduling a demo today.