How to go from System engineer to DevOps engineer?

How to go from System Engineer to DevOps Engineer?

June 04, 2021 - Geert Storme

Though developers usually get all the credit, our increasingly digital world would be nothing without the system engineers who work tirelessly to make sure our applications keep running and the developers actually have a working environment to build applications on.

But the times, they are-a changin! Business demands faster updates, faster releases and faster response times. And even the software itself is evolving: from monolithic applications deployed on a server to multi- or hybrid-cloud microservices.

It’s clear IT operations need to evolve with the times, but a lot of organisations are simply not ready on an organisational level. Operations and Development are often physically separated and know little of each other’s field of work, making meeting the modern demands of IT operations almost impossible.

This is why many system engineers are making the switch to become DevOps engineers. As the name implies, DevOps aims to bring Development and Operations closer together to tackle the challenges of the modern IT landscape.

To learn more about this transition, we talked to Geert Storme, a senior system engineer with over three decades (!) of experience who recently made the switch to work as a DevOps engineer at FlowFactor. 

The Switch

“Over the past decades I’ve seen how software has evolved from monolithic applications on a single server to complex container-based setups,” Geert begins, “but at the same time business keeps expecting faster release cycles and issue resolution times.” 

Geert quickly noticed that the traditional barrier between Development and Operations was the main culprit preventing him from meeting the ever rising expectations of the business team: “Take for instance logging & monitoring. In monolithic applications you simply needed to monitor the physical system and the external interface without needing in-depth knowledge of the internal workings of the underlying application. But in today’s microservice architecture it is almost impossible to debug an issue without knowing exactly how these microservices work together.”

Geert noticed that more and more ‘DevOps’ tools were being introduced without implementing the necessary culture changes to use them properly. “That’s when I decided I wanted to work for an organization that actually embraced these culture changes instead of fighting me every step of the way,” Geert mentions, “and that’s when I got in contact with FlowFactor. Given the fact that they get hired by organisations to implement a DevOps culture really made it a perfect fit for me.”

A Natural Evolution

“Even though I already call myself a DevOps engineer, I still feel like there is still much to learn,” Geert says, “but at the same time I really feel the transition from system to DevOps engineer is a natural evolution. Even though I’m still learning the ins and outs of new technologies like Terraform and Kubernetes, often from much younger colleagues, many of my core skills are still useful today” 

When asked about tips & tricks for making the transition, Geert had quite a few to share:

  • Know that there is a lot of excellent documentation for free online. Most of the popular DevOps tools are open-source, and the internet is full of excellent guides & tutorials.
  • Start by learning about Docker and Kubernetes. Kubernetes has an excellent tutorial helping you set-up a local cluster on your device. Getting hands-on experience is really the best learning resource.
  • Know that DevOps Engineer is a very broad title with a lot of room for growth based on your personal interests. For example, Geert is now learning about AIOps, which uses Artificial Intelligence to automate certain DevOps tasks.
  • The Cloud is an essential part of many modern IT-infrastructures, so learning to work with one or more platforms like Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS or Google Cloud is absolutely crucial.

As a final tip, Geert mentions: “and finally, find yourself an organisation that is willing to listen to their IT departments. None of the above really matters if your organisation isn’t willing to make the necessary organisational changes”

Does Geert’s story sound familiar to you? Are you experiencing increasing demands from your business while facing pushback when it comes to necessary culture changes? Why not get in touch with us at FlowFactor? FlowFactor offers Devops-as-a-service, meaning you will work with and learn from an entire team of DevOps engineers. We are always looking for people with experience, and thanks to our focus on education and our many interesting clients and projects you will be calling yourself a DevOps engineer in no time!

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