DevOps Institute Certification Spotlight with Jack Maher

Professional certifications are a reflection of the in-demand skills needed to break into a new career field. DevOps Institute helps IT professionals advance their skills, knowledge, ideas and learning through role-based certifications. These industry-recognized certification programs focus on modern competencies and job requirements necessary for today’s organizations that are implementing DevOps.

The individual we are spotlighting below is recognized as a “DevOps Certified” professional who holds accredited DevOps Institute certifications. This “Human of DevOps” actively advances and supports DevOps patterns and practices to strengthen the collective human ‘know-how’ within the DevOps community and help DevOps transformation succeed at their organization.

This week, we are excited to spotlight DevOps Certified Professional, Jack Maher, a digital transformation evangelist. Jack holds DevOps Foundation, DevOps Leader, DevSecOps Engineering and Site Reliability Engineering Foundation certifications.

Below, we asked Jack a few questions about his chosen certifications, preferred learning methods and how he’s leveraged his certification knowledge.

As a digital transformation evangelist, Jack’s mission is to build an open community of digital transformation professionals and stakeholders to share journeys along common paths. He is also co-organizer of the DevOpsDays Columbus conference and the monthly DevOps Columbus Meetup group. Jack started in technology as a developer, and has also worked as an analyst, architect, leader, and has a passion for security (information, operational, and physical). Jack is co-author of ‘Standing On Shoulders: A Leader’s Guide to Digital Transformation,’ founder of DeterministicProcessDesign.com and a design thinking enthusiast. 

(You can connect with Jack directly on Twitter at @jack_maher or via LinkedIn).

Q: Why do you think certifications are important for DevOps professionals?

I think certifications are important for several reasons. The most important reason is to have a solid foundation of concepts and principals, including an understanding of “why.” Many professionals are proficient with the “what” of DevOps, but are limited by incomplete understanding of the full range of implications and opportunities because they don’t know what they don’t know. 

Secondly, certifications represent a personal and professional commitment to their performance that is demonstrated by the investment made to become certified, and the attainment of that goal.  

Additionally, certifications facilitate identification of professionals who share common vocabulary, concepts, and standard practice awareness enabling rich communications based on a solid and shared foundation.

Q: What drove you to get certified in each of your chosen domains?

For me these certifications (and by the way, I’m not done yet) represent a different piece or perspective of a rich ecosystem, and each represents a part of my interests and experience base.  DevOps Foundation was a big step for me in adopting industry standard terminology and significantly improved my ability to succinctly communicate core principles. Prior to that my language and vocabulary reflected the organizational roles and language that we had developed internally in our application of DevOps practices. It also “connected quite a few dots” that I knew were related, but wasn’t clear on how or why. 

As a leader and a consultant to leaders, I also needed to be crisp on helping them understand the perspective needed to successfully resource, plan, and support their organizations.  Security, including cyber, operational, and physical have been a passion, beginning with my experience in the US Army. So an opportunity to quickly get up to date on contemporary information security practices that significantly improve on the core concepts attracted me like a moth to a flame. While it doesn’t make me an information security professional, it does enable me to have a better conversation with and understand how I can support better.   

Finally, the SRE certification became a pathway to formalizing and better understanding the broader perspective of concepts and nuances that were outside of my personal experience in this extremely valuable role in today’s organizations. My experience was somewhat limited, so it reinforced lessons I had learned the hard way and filled in the gaps that existed for me personally.

Q: What are your preferred learning methods (i.e. DIY, in-class training, online, etc.)? 

All of the above, seriously. I find significant benefits in all of these approaches, especially when you can align them in a way that best aligns with your interests, known blind spots or weak areas.  

An initial DIY is a great way to start a map for your unconscious incompetence in that you don’t know what you don’t know yet. So a book or other DIY opportunities that might focus or even redirect on what is of the best role for you, like:

 “I thought I was a DevOps enthusiast, but upon further review I’m super interested in DevSecOps, or Site Reliability Engineering.” 

This enables me to be more directed in appropriate training, skill development, etc. to forward that objective, if I have an awareness.

A little bit of research along with your sense of value, including speed to value is important to understand. So, for a lot of folks online training is the right approach, especially in a COVID-19 world. That has been a core part of our offering from day one, but there’s a learning curve for both trainers and participants. Having the opportunity to hear the questions of others, ask questions of our own, and general dynamics of instructor lead either on-site or increasingly on-line is the choice for their cost/effort/benefit analysis. It is a fast on-ramp to both current state of the art and credibility in high demand roles.

And there are new dynamics that further blur some of the lines and accentuate others, like needing to be in the same place together to do what they do, e.g. in a specific or isolated location. Things like literal hands-on workshops can be very challenging to do well in a distributed environment. For an in-house or persistent team, an on-site or instructor led approach is the most expedient and quickest means to be doing what they want to do, especially when they anticipate this as a core element of a necessary component of really being a digital organization. 

Q: Give an example of a time that your certification knowledge has been valuable.

Earlier today in a conversation with a DevSecOps leader and before that with a software vendor of an open source software management tool. For me, it is every day, every class and every client. Today my up-to-date awareness of specific challenges and opportunities enabled us to be immediately productive which significantly reduced the time to value for all of us. It drove a conversation to the next steps very quickly because we quickly confirmed with a few sentences a common understanding of the current state, so we could focus on possible future states.

Industry certifications assure organizational leadership of a level of professionalism with verifiable credibility. Industry certifications also help practitioners with specifically applicable and actionable insights in the short term, along with the more important full picture.  

The certifications have filled in gaps in my direct experience, updated practices where I was out-of-date, and ensured that I have a thorough understanding of the concepts enough to be able to explain it relatively simply and in application versus just theory. 

By understanding more than just “what we’re doing and how we’re currently doing it,” with the more important “why” that helps navigate the ongoing journey with purpose to fully conscious competence.  As a direct result I can better explain and share the concepts by being crisp and more clear in clarifying a classroom or coaching setting, and in discussion with practitioners and leaders for direct application.  
Interested in becoming a DevOps Certified Professional? Certifications are an option for all DevOps professionals looking to obtain knowledge and advance their careers. Learn more about DevOps Institute’s certification options that will help you upskill here.

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