How to Become a Site Reliability Engineer
Do you want to further your career in the dynamic and exciting field of information technology (IT)? Do you have an interest in software development and systems operations? Becoming a site reliability engineer (SRE) might be a perfect fit!
What is an SRE?
An SRE is a senior IT role that strives for automation over manual labour in all aspects of systems development, operations and maintenance. Why? As we continue to digitise our world and all of its known information, our need for reliable and fast IT systems to generate, code and store all of this information reliably is increased. So, who is becoming responsible for these large scale systems and their reliability? Cue the SREs.
Google created the role of the SRE to aid cohesion between systems operations and software development. To ensure excellent availability, performance, capacity and minimal latency across all its sites, Google needed generalist experts ready to solve the unsolvable. As more businesses turn to online operations, expanding with the endless possibilities granted by the web, so too has the demand for SREs.
An SRE has a vast knowledge of software development, the operations and administration of large scale systems, and excellent coding skills. Their aim, above all else, is to continually improve the reliability and scalability of a business’ computer systems. Melding the knowledge and expertise of a software engineer with the tasks of systems operations enhances the design and development of these large scale computer systems.
The Reality of Becoming an SRE
The role of a SRE is very flexible. Within every business comes a different set of issues, responsibilities and opportunities for development. The primary responsibilities of a SRE include:
The reality of becoming an SRE involves the ability to be flexible, persistent and resilient. Often, unforeseen and unfamiliar issues will arise within such large and complex systems – no problem is the same.
Do these open-ended questions interest you? Then, ask yourself these:
If your answers to the above questions were more ‘yeses’ than ‘nos,’ progressing your IT career into an SRE role should be a priority!
Training to Become an SRE
SREs are expert generalists in the field of IT, meaning they are adept at a broad range of IT-specific skills, including in-depth knowledge of computer systems, operation systems and database administration. Due to the expertise required by SREs, most people (but not all) who advance into this role have previously worked as software engineers or systems analysts.
If you’re currently working in IT and are looking to progress your career into an exciting new direction, upskilling in specific IT skills will improve your chances of landing an SRE role. Acquiring micro-credentials in these areas will aid in affirming your capability for an SRE role.
SREs need well-developed skills in several areas, including:
Although there is no ‘SRE’ specific degree, there are multiple education and training opportunities for those of you who want to expand your IT knowledge and skill set. By investing in further education, you’ll develop the confidence to tackle the broad range of responsibilities that an SRE experiences daily. Not to mention, it looks great on the CV and in an interview!
Interviewing for an SRE Role
Four tips on what to focus on while pitching or interviewing for an SRE Role.
Make it clear you know what the role is
Demonstrate your full understanding of what an SRE is – their responsibilities, required knowledge and skills. Make it personal to the business you’re applying for – do your research! Are they currently trialling a new system? What coding language do they prefer?
Draw attention to the skills you have outside of your current IT role
Your employer is aware of your previous roles and their required skills within the IT sector. However, if you’ve completed internships, further education, or projects within other IT specialties – draw attention to it! These additional experiences display your capability across a broader range of sub-disciplines – remember, an SRE is an expert generalist.
Let them know you work well independently
As an SRE you’ll work with a number of IT specialists, or maybe even a team of SREs if the company is large enough. However, an SRE role is predominantly an autonomous one. Most of the work is independent, so your ability to self-direct and self-motivate is integral.
Focus on how you ensure reliability in what you build or operate
SREs are all about the reliability of their systems (I mean… it’s in the name, right?). When talking about past projects you’ve worked on, mention how you tried to improve the reliability of what you built or operated. If you’ve never consciously considered this factor in your work, suggest ways in which you could have improved upon or factored in the reliability of the product.