Upskill Your Team to Address the Cloud, Kubernetes Skills Gap

By Flux7 Labs
June 5, 2019

Upskill Your Team Kubernetes Cloud Skills Gap This article originally appeared on Forbes

According to CareerBuilder’s Mid Year Job Forecast, 63% of U.S. employers planned to hire full-time, permanent workers in the second half of 2018. This growing demand coupled with low unemployment is driving a real talent shortage. The technology field, in particular, is experiencing acute pain when it comes to finding skilled talent. Indeed, more than five million IT jobs are expected to be added globally by 2027, reports BusinessInsider.

Of these five million jobs, the two most requested tech skills according to research by DICE are for Kubernetes and Terraform with the company also finding that DevOps Engineer has quickly moved up the ranks of the top paid IT careers. As companies invest in IT modernization with approaches like Agile and DevOps and technologies like cloud computing and containers, skills to support these initiatives are in increasing demand.

The problem is not set to get better in the near or mid-term with many companies reporting that it’s taking longer to find candidates with the right technology and business skills for driving digital innovation. A survey by OpsRamp found that 94% of HR departments take at least 30 days to fill an empty position and 25% report taking 90 days or more. With internal pressures for innovation that won’t wait out a protracted hiring process, I encourage leaders to look internally, using two key levers to help grow innovation.

Upskill Your Team

One way to work around a skills gap within the organization is to upskill the team. Rather than hiring a new headcount that is already difficult to find, a solution is to train your existing team. (Or a few members of the team who can in turn train others.) While there are a variety of training options — from classroom training to virtual classes and more — at Flux7, our experience has shown that hands-on training works best for technical skills like Terraform or Kubernetes. 

Specifically, a successful model consists of the following:

  • Find a coach that can work hand-in-hand with your team
  • Identify a small but impactful project for the coach and team to work on together with the goal of having the coach train the team along the way
  • Start the project with the coach taking the initial lead sharing what they are doing, why and how with your team shadowing
  • Slowly transition over the course of the project to the coach assigning tasks to your team, with your employees ultimately leading tasks and checking in with the coach as needed.

In this way, teams are able to learn in a practical, hands-on manner, taking ownership of the environment as they learn and grow — all while having access to an expert who can guide, correct and reinforce learning.

In addition to gaining much-needed skills in-house, upskilling your existing team has retention benefits. In a survey of tech professionals by DICE, 71% said that training and education are important to them, yet only 40% currently have company-paid training and education. Underscoring the importance of training to technologists, 45% who are satisfied with their job receive training; conversely, only 28% of those who are dissatisfied with their job receive training.

Grow Productivity with Automation

In addition to upskilling your team, automation is important to continue to expand your capacity. Approaches like DevOps embrace the use automation to create continuous integration and delivery, in the process reducing handoffs and speeding time to market. In addition, the use of automation can keep employees from working on tactical, repeatable tasks and instead focused on strategic, business-impacting work.

Let me give you an example. I recently had the opportunity to work with a large semiconductor company who sought to bolster its team’s cloud, container and Kubernetes talents in order to support a new AWS initiative. Working hands-on in the cloud to automate its pipelines and other processes, the company was able to streamline tasks that formerly took days to mere minutes.

In addition to working elbow-to-elbow with a cloud coach on the project, the company also initiated weekly knowledge transfer sessions to the team to ensure everyone had received the same level of training and was ready for the next week’s work. At the end of the project, the team was ready to train others in the organization and felt confident that they were building better products faster as their time was focused less on tactical work and more on making a strategic impact. Another benefit to the team — and company as a whole — is that by taking a cross-functional DevOps approach, employees felt that communication improved making their work more enjoyable.

In a recent poll of over 70,000 developers, HackerRank found that salary wasn’t the lead driver of what they look for in a job. Rather, the most important factors for developers, across all job levels and functions, was the opportunity for professional growth and the opportunity to work on interesting problems. The application of automation not only increases developer productivity and code throughput but provides the space to work on interesting projects that leads to greater job satisfaction and retention.

With competition growing for employees skilled in Kubernetes, Terraform, DevOps and more, growing your own is an increasingly attractive approach. UC Berkeley found that the average cost to hire a new professional employee may be as high as $7,000 (while replacement costs can be as great as 2.5x salary) not to mention lost opportunity costs as organizations place projects on hold as they vie to find skilled talent. Upskilling employees, combined with greater automation, can increase code throughput and get more projects to market faster, maximizing near-term opportunity. Just as importantly, presenting employees with new skills and the opportunity to work on interesting work has proven to increase job satisfaction and retention.

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