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06 Oct 2015

While few in numbers, the role of DevOps remains the most lucrative at early stage startups. DevOps engineers, by definition, are the jack of all trades of the engineering team - typically they are responsible for streamlining and facilitating the intersection between automation, deployment, operations, and site reliability at scale.

At early stage startups, the DevOps will often be writing code and handling infrastructure. Since the role of DevOps can have different expectations per organization, individual roles can require a different balance of programming, system administration, and automation tool skills. The rapidly changing skills required by most DevOps roles also make it a great way to get into an early stage startup. The most in-demand technologies have only been around a few years, or in some cases, a few months.

Ansible Leads DevOps Skill Growth

Early stage startups are increasingly looking to DevOps engineers to find infrastructure automation tools that will reduce the complexity around deploying sophisticated, durable, scalable, cloud-based applications. David Mytton, CEO of Server Density which provides infrastructure monitoring, noted "only the smallest of deployments don't use any automation, and even then it’s a wise choice to spend the time to set it up in anticipation of growth or even just to make management easier." Familiarity with deployment scripting frameworks like Chef and Puppet, platform services such as Heroku, automation servers like Jenkins, containerization technology like Docker, as well as familiarity with cloud services themselves like Amazon Web Services are all in high demand.

While monitoring the job landscape for DevOps, we at JobSignal have noticed the beginnings of an early trend - while still only representing a fraction of total openings, Ansible has shown impressive and durable growth in demand over the last 12 months.

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Ansible is a capable deployment automation tool that is similar to Chef and Puppet. Its use offers a company several key advantages, including a very simple syntax, an emphasis on security, tight integration with other cloud tools, and the ability to orchestrate clusters of different services. Relatively easy to learn, Ansible is a great candidate for your next DevOps skill to learn.

"Tools like Chef and Puppet are well established, particularly in enterprise environments, however we are seeing an increasing number of deployments using Ansible and Salt Stack," Mytton added. "These tools have the advantage of being very lightweight and feel a lot more modern. They don’t have all the features but the critical things are there, and developers are picking them up because of that simplicity and easy of use."

Ansible's growth over the last several months compares favorably with established options. Chef's demand, for example, has leveled off over the last 6 months, as appears to even be entering a decline. In July the total openings seeking experience with Ansible passed Chef for the first time, while Puppet remains slightly ahead in absolute terms.

DevOps Highest Compensated Tech Role

If you haven't considered a career in DevOps, now might be a good time to start paying attention. DevOps jobs consistently rank as the most highly compensated among the different roles we track, a trend that we do not see changing in the near term as scalability and infrastructure return on investment continue to be a critical need for startups of every stage.

Business Role Salaries

The average salary for a DevOps role at an early stage start up has exceeded $110,000 in three of the last six months, typically earning at least $10,000 more than a developer role and even more than a frontend developer role.

Bay Area Attracts Huge Premium

As with most technical roles, salaries for DevOps roles are especially high in the San Francisco, Bay area where salary growth is also more marked.

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Openings in this locale have begun approaching $150,000 for early stage startups, approximately $30,000 - $50,000 more than DevOps roles elsewhere and $10,000 - $30,000 more than New York. The Bay Area's sky high cost of living will surely eat away at that advantage though.

Additional Resources

Startup Job Trends