In a business landscape increasingly steered by DevOps methodologies, the adage "Everybody wants it, nobody values it" gains particular resonance when discussing talent retention. This is because business goals are misaligned with specific technology goals.

The temptation for organizations to prioritize short-term revenue goals over long-term talent investment is an age-old dilemma. However, in a DevOps-driven culture, this mindset can have far-reaching consequences, stymieing innovation and impeding sustainable growth.

Join me as we dive in to some of the whats and hows you can use to retain top DevOps talent in your modern business!

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Aligning Technological Challenges with Career Goals

The essence of top talent in the DevOps space lies not just in their technical skills but also in their enthusiasm for solving intricate technological problems. When managerial focus shifts solely toward business KPIs, it risks alienating these talented individuals. Unlike traditional business professionals, DevOps engineers and experts thrive on challenges that stretch their technical acumen, not merely tasks that contribute to the bottom line.

To retain top DevOps talent, organizations need to be willing to raise their people to the same level as their customers. When talented people work for an organization and they are not valued by the organization they work for, they will undoubtedly move on to greener pastures. Organizations need to shift their perspective from pushing down initiative that are focused on its own sustainability to initiatives that are more broadly beneficial to everyone by abstracting business focused initiative away from their individual contributors.

▶ Example

Business Goal: Grow revenue by 50% this year!

Abstracted Goal: Sponsor hackathons looking for new innovative ideas to spur interest in the market!

In my experience, trusting top performers to deliver has more long lasting sustainability than trying to micro-manage top performers into fulfilling the circumstantial manufactured needs of a business. This inversion of the relationship between employee and business is very uncomfortable for many people, but I would encourage any skeptics to give this a measured trial run. You will be surprised about how people will react when given the freedom to do the right thing.

▶ Key Insight

While a business exists for 2 reasons, to solve problems and generate revenue, normally an engineers goals do not align completely with the idea that generating revenue is a core goal. This is because their passion lies in the craft of building beautiful well run technology that solves problems.

For example, when a business needs to make a choice between shipping poorly built technology to realize revenue on their books vs taking a bit more time to polish the hard edges, DevOps engineers will always choose to polish the hard edges for a bit longer before shipping (a long term view).

In the same vein, if a business does make the decision to ship technology before it is ready for various reasons, they need to make sure that time and space is made for engineers to continue to hone and improve the already shipped technology or you will pile up technical debt. That debt if never payed down will be the top reason talent leaves your company.

A Multi-Faceted Approach to Talent Retention

To prevent attrition and foster a culture that values its top-tier talent, businesses need to take a multi-faceted approach. This involves not just competitive salaries and perks, but also a deep investment in professional development and continuous learning. Creating an environment that promotes skill growth, such as through cross-team projects or open-source contributions, can play a pivotal role in retaining talented DevOps professionals.

Lifelong Learning as a Core DevOps Principle

DevOps, at its heart, is about breaking down silos between operations and development, advocating for automation, continuous integration, and a culture of continuous improvement. Therefore, it's almost paradoxical to ignore the principle of ongoing learning when it comes to talent management. DevOps professionals are naturally inclined toward innovation and problem-solving; offering them avenues for skill enhancement aligns perfectly with their intrinsic motivations.

Training Programs Tailored for DevOps Roles

Traditional training programs may not suffice in addressing the unique needs and challenges of DevOps roles. Programs designed specifically for DevOps skill sets—be it in cloud computing, container orchestration, or cybersecurity—can greatly elevate a team's performance. Investing in certifications like AWS Certified DevOps Engineer, Docker Certified Associate, or Certified Kubernetes Administrator can provide not only skill validation but also a sense of achievement and job satisfaction.

Upskilling for Adaptability

DevOps environments are highly dynamic, often requiring professionals to don multiple hats. From coding to configuration management and from monitoring to rapid deployment, a DevOps professional is expected to navigate various domains. Skill development programs should, therefore, be comprehensive and agile, equipping staff with a range of skills that enable them to adapt to diverse project needs.

Peer-to-Peer Learning and Mentorship

One of the most effective ways to cultivate skill development is through peer-to-peer learning and mentorship programs. By encouraging knowledge sharing among team members, businesses can create a synergistic work environment. Veteran DevOps engineers mentoring newcomers can expedite the onboarding process, enriching the team's collective skill set. This mentorship can be particularly valuable for transitioning employees who may be proficient in either development or operations but not both.

Aligning Skill Development with Career Progression

An often-overlooked aspect of training is its alignment with career progression paths. Development plans should not only focus on immediate project requirements but also consider the long-term career goals of the employees. This ensures that training is not just a checkbox exercise but a step toward fulfilling more significant career aspirations, thereby contributing to both job satisfaction and talent retention.

Employee Engagement and Autonomy

Another factor that significantly contributes to talent retention in DevOps is a sense of ownership and autonomy. Unlike temporary technology "lean-tos" that are poorly conceived and inadequately maintained, projects that offer depth and significance attract top talent. These professionals want to be involved in initiatives that are transformative and impactful. Providing avenues for them to influence project outcomes or even partake in decision-making processes can dramatically improve employee engagement.

▶ Example

My management style is pretty simple overall. I believe that a vast majority of people who are in the DevOps space get into it because they love solving challenging technology not because it was the next logical step in their career.

What do I mean by "Solving challenging technology problems"? When I say solve I am say simply this:

Technology problems have lots of hard edges around them that can easily take a system down. DevOps engineers and architects love to fully solve those problems through automation and testing so they are forever a non-issue for the systems they are responsible for. They do not love being a low quality technology meat grinder that sometimes gets to work on cool technology problems.

Due to that, I more often than not take the approach of simply listening and empowering my teams rather than providing strict direction for delivery. This gives everyone a sense of ownership over they thing they love to do instead of working for some corpo who is out of touch.

The result of this is, customers and internal business partners get higher quality products that are far less error prone and order of magnitude less costly than other solutions available in the market.

Modernization versus Sustainability

While business modernization is undoubtedly crucial, it shouldn't come at the expense of sustainability. A hastily assembled DevOps initiative replete with half-baked projects and underfunded teams will not suffice. Top talent looks for stability and foresight in an organization—a roadmap that promises a sequence of compelling challenges and opportunities for innovation. If all your company offers is a reactive approach to technological solutions, even the most lucrative financial incentives won't suffice in retaining exceptional DevOps personnel.

Organizational Culture and Communication

An often-underestimated facet of talent retention is organizational culture. Open communication, cross-functional collaboration, and a shared vision are some of the elements that can transform an ordinary DevOps team into an extraordinary one. Companies that incorporate these values into their work culture will not only retain their top DevOps talent but also attract like-minded professionals to join their mission.


Organizations that understand the value of harmonizing business objectives with the technological passion of their DevOps talent stand a better chance at long-term success. The focus should not just be on meeting business metrics but also on cultivating an environment that allows top talent to flourish. Balancing business acumen with technological innovation is the secret sauce to retaining invaluable DevOps talent in today's hyper-competitive market.