| 5 min read
If you ask any hiring manager today what the most important factor in building a team is, most will say culture. Indeed, culture has been shown by multiple studies over the past few years to be a critical factor in every decision-making process in the tech industry; whether these be the result of complaints from team members, in aide of improving the organisations’ inclusivity and diversity ratios, or simply because it was found necessary – culture-driven changes can be seen everywhere.
So, why is this relevant when it comes to hiring in the world of DevOps?
Firstly, you have to consider the state of the DevOps market today. According to LinkedIn, 2018 saw DevOps Engineer become the most recruited for job title, with on average, around 8 jobs advertised per DevOps Engineer in London. With this level of competition, every employer looking to hire these high demand, low supply specialists, need to have a well thought out strategy to attract and retain such in demand talent pools.
As you may imagine, when these companies are then also faced with the struggle of hiring teams en-masse, and ensuring a culture fit along the way, these difficulties are even further compounded. Indeed, we’ve found that candidates and clients alike all maintain that organisational issues - such as culture, leadership and a shortage of skills in-house – are all more likely to cause problems when it comes to hiring and employment than external factors.
Here at Third Republic, we recognise these issues; and we’ve seen them come up time and time again in several of the hiring projects we’re currently working on. Our clients span numerous industries, including e-commerce, financial services, private and public sector consultancies, video streaming agencies, and gambling and gaming companies, and the one thing they all have in common is the aim to grow of build a DevOps team of like-minded engineers.
To gain further understanding on how organisations can beat the fundamental difficulties of hiring today, we harnessed the power of our network and posed them the question:
How do you overcome the difficulties of finding the right candidates to fit into the culture of your business?
Freddie Quek, VP of Software Engineering at Solera, agreed that the biggest issue with finding the right candidate comes from internal factors. Indeed, he maintained that, as a hiring manager, you need to focus on the mindset of your internal personal and put and emphasis on modifying this and allowing for change; not dissimilar to the principles of DevOps itself! He also suggested that businesses need to bring in people externally (new engineering leaders and DevOps engineers), in order to catalyse the change internally. He then went on to say that organisations need to bear in mind that the DevOps team is there to complement and support the wider engineering team, and therefore it is fundamental to keep the bigger picture in mind throughout the hiring process.
In comparison, Patrick Hyland from Front Five – a DevOps consultancy in London – felt that there is a mixture of both internal and external factors that contribute to the difficulties a number of organisations face when building a DevOps team. Although he fundamentally contends that you need to keep your eye on the bigger picture - suggesting that the most important factor to success is ensuring that you acquire the right skills, people and viewpoint in order to compliment the changes you’re looking to implement. Therefore, in order to succeed in your hiring plans, you should set out a strategy, knowing what you want to achieve long term, and finding people that fit into those plans.
Paul Traynor, on the other hand, believes that the biggest challenge is finding people externally to bring ‘real world skills’ to the internal workforce. He suggests that the best DevOps Engineers are those with ‘scars’ – those who have done something previously and have picked up the right way not to do this, and who can then bring their experience internally to your business. Indeed, he argued that sometimes these ‘scars’ are actually more beneficial than the likes of certifications and qualifications. Therefore, when building a team, you should consider the ratio of experienced to non-experienced hires, making choices which minimise the risk of unforeseen complications.
The Input of Agencies
So, with their input in mind, we embarked on a conversation about how businesses can rely on third parties to help bridge that talent acquisition and culture gap. Overall, we found that the main priorities of hiring managers were finding people who really fit into their organisations. Indeed, they mostly agreed that in the case of finding talent, it needs to be a priority to work with people who understand their organisational culture.
However, Freddie Quek stated that this is the exact reason why relationship building is so important – so, he maintains relationships with agencies by taking time to have conversations and the odd lunch here and there. However, he mentioned that he recognises that the PSL is linked very closely to HR and so, sometimes, when neither seem to find the right talent for the role, he looks to his personal connections and people he has built relationships with.
Paul Traynor put it simply, maintaining that
Some agencies tend to work on numbers, but for most organisations it’s about finding one that gives you the personal touch and builds a long-lasting relationship.”
On the flip side however, Patrick Hyland said that he sees the potential for how beneficial a PSL can be, but only as long as organisations ensure that they’re kept up to date, and don’t rule out new additions. His thoughts were that a PSL is a way of ensuring that have a strong relationship with all of your suppliers, whilst also ensuring they “provide an innovative value add beyond 'bums on seats' and which complement your overall delivery strategy.”
John Addis agrees, saying that PSL’s could be very useful if used in a targeted manner. Where internal teams suffer, is they have to focus on every vacancy company wide – whereas if you can delegate specific roles to your PSL teams, they can spend time understanding the whole scope of the vacancy, and invest the time needed to find the most suitable candidate. A luxury many internal teams sadly don’t have.
Overall, what this shows is that, when faced with hiring in the DevOps space, there are a multitude of factors you should consider, prior to starting your search. Therefore, without developing some form of a strategy to model your hiring around, you could end up getting lost in a matrix of recruitment, and in over your head.
The insights we heard suggests that at the forefront of your expansion plans, you should consider whether you’re hiring to help improve and support current processes, or to catalyse a change. Also, it is key to consider the impact you’re hoping your hire will have on your internal culture – do you want someone to fit into it, or do you want someone to help change it? If you define this, you can then start to follow your strategic vision as you begin your search.
However, you shouldn’t rule out the idea of candidate driven hiring completely – if you are presented with a candidate who would help you get to where you want to be in the next 12-18 months, but you weren’t planning to hire for another 6 – if you have to option to move quicker then why wait? These professionals are in such high demand that opportunities shouldn’t be missed.
On the topic of agencies, something else to consider is whether you want to keep your current PSL or look to update it. As we’ve seen from aforementioned thoughts, use of agencies can be incredibly beneficial – but it has to be with a company that will invest time into building a relationship, and finding out about your organisation, to the point where they know exactly what you’re looking for, and how every person they speak to will fit into your organisation, both culturally and technically. Unless you work with a company like this, your worst nightmare of sieving through 100s of sent CVs weekly, could just become a reality – possibly without the end result of a hire!