DevOps ≠ Millennials

Jason Man 18th May 2017

Millennials have changed the workplace – there’s no doubt about it. A few years ago, a client visit meant putting on my best-looking suit and tie. Today, we’re typically seeing IT teams dressed in t-shirts and jeans; set to the backdrop of table tennis tables, sofas and beers on tap.

But, alongside this shift from a traditional to a more modern mind-set, a misconception has emerged that, DevOps = Millennials. I read my fair share of IT and Technology blogs, and have been shocked recently to read some of the connections being drawn between the two.

I don’t disagree that millennials are a great fit for a DevOps culture. I do think it’s very dangerous and limiting to think they’re the generation driving change. First, it poorly represents all other (read: older) generations as not having a place in our IT world. Second, it’s fundamentally wrong to trust your organisation might succeed at DevOps because of one generation; it needs to be driven by business needs and people that care.  I’m going to tackle some of the biggest myths that I’ve read – but first, let’s understand where the overarching misconception has come from.

DevOps = Millennials. Where has this come from?

The millennials were born between the early 1980s to mid-1990s – so anyone you know currently aged between around 20 and 35. They’re the generation currently climbing the ranks in our businesses and the ones predicted to dominate 50% of them by 2020. They’re known for being sheltered, entitled and narcissistic – but equally confident, team-oriented, tolerant and achieving (Strauss and Howe; Twenge). They’re also tech-savvy, having grown up surrounded by technology, but suffer from resulting short attention-spans.

These characteristics come into play in the working environment – where the millennial typically prioritises collaboration, team-based projects and job satisfaction (which they associate with unstructured flows of information, flat hierarchies, strong connectivity to supervisors and immediate feedback). Working together in a connected, tech-driven world is their key to driving innovation – and getting things done quickly.

It’s easy to see how the above might be associated with the nurturing and empowering DevOps culture. In short, everything that DevOps stands for – the fact that it encourages collaboration and information sharing – is everything that a millennial would look for in a company. But, whilst DevOps might be a great fit, and a huge selling point for millennials, this doesn’t mean they’re the only key to its success.

Tackling the DevOps = Millennials myths

Myth 1: The IT industry should be focusing on the millennial generation for insight and inspiration. (Source)

False. My problem isn’t (only) because I’m teetering on the fine line between millennial and non-millennial, but that some of the best IT leaders I’ve known are in fact non-millennials.

DevOps is embraced and driven by workers of all ages. It was in fact a bunch of Baby Boomers that birthed the concept of Agile, which sets the foundations for DevOps.

Older generations might not have grown around tech, but they’ve watched its emergence and change in the workplace, so they bring both experience and business knowledge to the IT industry. In my experience, that the lessons they’ve learned through previous transformations are often vital in making transformations a success – so insights gleaned from them are equally powerful when it comes to inspiring a workforce.

Myth 2: If you start integrating millennials, your organisation will naturally shift to a more DevOps way of operating. (Source)

False. DevOps is driven by the needs of an organisation to compete.

It is lead to success by creative, innovative people with the ability to adapt. Such skills – we might call them soft skills – can neither be taught, nor belong to one generation or age group.

In a DevOps transformation, one of the biggest challenges is getting people on board. As much as we want to sometimes, you really can’t train people to care about solving problems, when they characteristically don’t.  So, one of the keys to success is hiring people that care about what they’re doing. What it comes down to isn’t the quality of a millennial – but the quality of a person.

Myth 3: When looking for the best talent during a DevOps transformation, businesses should look to hire millennials. (Source)

False. When you’re looking for the best talent during a DevOps transformation, businesses should look to hire based on soft skills.

Choose your employees for who they are, and the values they stand for – not their generation stereotype. The IT skills shortage is widespread enough without limiting recruitment to one generation!

We at ECS Digital strongly believe this and during our own hiring process we look at the characteristics of a person rather than their technical ability, which is the easy part to pick up.

Millennials are a great fit for DevOps, but they’re not the only fit.

Enjoyed this? You can read more from Jason, here.

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