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Top 5 DevOps Interview Questions

Dan Holloran February 22, 2019

DevOps Collaboration
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The DevOps movement gains more traction every day. And, as more organizations break down the walls between IT operations and software engineers, more people are becoming DevOps engineers and architects. The lines between SysAdmins and software developers are becoming fuzzy and the ability to write code and maintain IT infrastructure is becoming the new norm. DevOps-centric organizations are leveraging infrastructure as code (IaC) to build flexibility, speed and reliability into the services they develop.

So, when you step into an interview for a DevOps role, you’ll be asked questions designed to figure out if you’re malleable enough to learn new skills and programming languages – and take on a number of new responsibilities (like being on-call). Studying up on these top DevOps questions and answers will help you nail the interview and lock down the job.

Let’s dive into the questions and a little bit more background on what DevOps hiring managers are looking for:

What are DevOps interviewers looking for?

When you’re applying to a DevOps job, the hiring managers are probing to see if you’re a quick-learning, flexible engineer. For our DevOps Hiring Guide, we spoke with our team’s Engineering Manager, Dan Hopkins, to better understand what interviewers are looking for when hiring.

When managers are hiring a DevOps-focused team, they’re typically looking for t-shaped people who are highly skilled in one technical area but have a wide breadth of knowledge in other areas. They’re also looking for polyglot programmers who can quickly pick up different programming languages and understand the full application and infrastructure stack. But, more than anything, a DevOps interviewer wants to see these three things during a DevOps interview:

  • Interviewee shows buy-in to your team and culture
  • Interviewee shows buy-in to your product
  • Interviewee should show technical excellence

Try to show your technical prowess while demonstrating the openness and ability necessary to take on new projects and learn new things in a DevOps environment. Now, let’s look at the specific top 5 DevOps interview questions and answers you can expect from hiring managers.

Why DevOps Matters

The best DevOps interview questions and answers

Many of the top DevOps interview questions are around balancing the responsibilities of infrastructure upkeep with agile application and software development. What are some of the tools people use in DevOps? What are some shared beliefs between a number of successful DevOps teams?

Q1: What makes DevOps different from the Agile methodology?

While the Agile methodology is focused on the seamless, rapid development of new software and services, DevOps is also concerned with the deployment, maintenance and reliability of these services. Basically, DevOps is a way to tighten the relationship between development and IT operations to improve the speed and resilience of the applications and infrastructure your team builds. And, another key difference between DevOps and Agile is that many Agile principles can be executed in a staging or test environment whereas a number of DevOps tasks like monitoring and deployment require developers to work in production.

Q2: Explain what continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) and infrastructure as code (IaC) means to you

This question could likely be split into two separate questions but we thought it important to include answers to both of these topics. CI/CD and IaC are different subjects, but both apply to one thing – deploying reliable software faster. But, let’s start with CI/CD:

Continuous integration is an aspect of the Agile software development principles referring to the way developers commit code to a shared repository several times a day. This way, disparate development teams can simultaneously build features and services. Then, continuous delivery builds upon the principles of continuous integration in order to allow developers to automate and improve their ability to release new services faster. Combined with continuous testing, CI/CD practices build a streamlined system for constantly building and deploying reliable software.

Infrastructure as code refers to the idea that IT infrastructure should be programmable and can be approached like any other type of code. Traditional manual configurations and other custom scripts are becoming less reliable as infrastructure becomes more customizable and agile. IaC allows teams to make fast, easy changes to software and the underlying infrastructure – all while helping teams maintain up-to-date infrastructure documentation. Leveraging IaC solutions such as AWS, GCP or Azure can allow DevOps teams to move faster and make changes without slowing development.

Configuration management is an integral part of DevOps because it allows teams to maintain records of development builds, track historical deployment data and simplify troubleshooting. Keeping track of this information is especially important in a world of CI/CD where teams are creating multiple software builds, deployments, revisions and versions on a daily basis.

Don’t forget to mention any specific experience with tools like Puppet, Ansible, SaltStack and Chef which are common DevOps industry tools for configuration management. It’s probably worth making a side note that tools don’t inherently create DevOps success, but the way you plan on using them within your team can be helpful.

Q4: What are some common DevOps misconceptions you’ve heard?

Luckily for you, we’ve already written about many common DevOps misconceptions. But, doing your research to understand a number of shared beliefs in the DevOps industry can be extremely helpful when you walk into an interview. Firstly, DevOps isn’t a specific role or a tool – DevOps is an approach to IT operations and software development that focuses on collaboration, transparency and continuous improvement.

You should also point out to an interviewer that DevOps isn’t a specific process that can be applied to every team. DevOps is customizable to any team – large or small – and allows for constant growth and improvement of people, processes and tooling.

Q5: What excites you about the way DevOps has gained prominence over the last few years?

The idea of taking accountability for the services you build and learning more about the way your code functions in production should be exciting to you. As DevOps adoption continues to increase, we’re hearing more about the way top-class engineering teams like Netflix or Amazon are using DevOps to scale and build robust software. Joining a DevOps-focused organization should be exciting because it allows a lot of room for experimentation and growth – both personally and professionally.

Blending the best of software development and IT operations with DevOps

DevOps is a way to take the best parts of software development and combine them with techniques for maintaining these services in production. A DevOps culture deepens exposure for everyone to development and production – improving visibility and collaboration throughout the entire software delivery and incident management lifecycles. Leverage these DevOps interview questions and answers to go into your next interview, impress the hiring manager and join the awesome DevOps community.

Learn more in our recent eBook, Why DevOps Matters, and see how teams are building a culture of collaboration and transparency to deliver reliable software faster.

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