Job titles are important because they describe what we do, which shapes our identity and guides our activity. It’s important that job titles are rational and make sense. If they don’t, it causes confusion and stress for individuals, teams and organizations.

This is why I have a problem with using the term “DevOps” in job titles. This is becoming more and more prevalent in our industry, mainly for self- promotional and recruiting reasons. DevOps is hot… and therefore marketable.

Calling yourself or somebody else a “DevOps Engineer,” a “DevOps System Administrator” or a “DevOps Tester” reflects a fundamental misunderstanding about DevOps. This confusion is contributing to a lot of project/program frustrations and failures that are hurting teams and companies, sidetracking careers and creating backlash for recruiters.

Here are the three best reasons I can think of not to put DevOps in a job title, ever:

One: DevOps is more methodological than merely technological.

Using “DevOps” in job titles is misleading and causes problems because DevOps is not a job function, a role, a skill or even a technology. If I had to try to pigeonhole it, I’d say that DevOps is probably closer to a methodology than to a pre-defined set of technologies and/or skills. There’s no such thing as a “DevOps Engineer,” for the same reason there are no “Agile Engineers” or “Waterfall Engineers.” Even if you’ve done both development and operations types of work, you’re not a “DevOps.”

DevOps is about changing the way an organization functions. It’s a new and improved way for software teams to work together that views the “software- making” infrastructure as code or product. How can you be a DevOps Engineer when everybody involved in making software needs to be a “DevOps Engineer” on some level in organizations that are looking to implement DevOps?

Two: DevOps requires a mindset, not just a skill set.

DevOps is a collaborative mindset that an entire “software-making” organization- coders, operations staff, QA, etc.-may be trying to follow. This mindset ideally will be supported by a technology framework and related processes; these are also part of DevOps.

Three: DevOps is a puzzle, not a picture.

DevOps looks different for every organization. It’s best viewed as a puzzle. The people a company employs, the roles they play, and the technology and best- practice processes they put in place to facilitate collaboration, automation, agility, and analytics are the pieces of the puzzle.

What’s been happening in our industry is that organizations are under pressure to “get DevOps” and they’re hiring “DevOps people” with “DevOps skills” and implementing “DevOps technology”… But they’re not actually changing their approach or their culture. They’re not putting the puzzle pieces together to create the puzzle that is DevOps.

Here’s my bottom-line point: If someone asks, “Are you a DevOps engineer,” please frame your response something like this: “Yes, in the sense that I have worked in successful DevOps environments and can help others in an organization succeed in making the shift to DevOps. My job role is ‘Senior Software Engineer’.”

What is DevOps? It’s developers understanding infrastructure and ops people understanding code. It’s working together, not just sitting in proximity to one another as you focus on your own little silo exclusively. For many teams, it’s treating infrastructure and code the same way.

DevOps takes resilience, dedication, camaraderie, a sense of humor, strong communication skills and a focus on learning and supporting the needs and roles of other team members. It’s not something you install on a server or learn from reading blog posts and writing code on your laptop.

As the DevOps buzz intensifies, it’s becoming more and more important that people who are part of the DevOps puzzle in their organizations come to fully understand DevOps, so that DevOps initiatives can succeed. Don’t trivialize the revolutionary culture shift that DevOps represents by treating it like just another buzzword.

Here are links to a couple more blog posts on this topic:

To talk over job titles you might want to use when seeking to hire people who have contributed to successful DevOps cultures, or even just to brainstorm about how to create a DevOps culture in your company, reach out to us. We understand DevOps.