A site reliability engineer (SRE) bridges the gap between IT operations and software development. They understand coding and the overall task of keeping the system operating.
The SRE role originated to give software developers input into how teams deploy and maintain software and to improve it to increase reliability and performance. Before SREs, the software development team would write the code and then turn it over to the IT department to deploy and maintain.
An SRE is an excellent career choice for those who like working with cutting-edge technologies and care about keeping systems running smoothly. Salaries are competitive, and statisticians expect site reliability engineer jobs to proliferate over the next few years. Here’s a guide to how to become a site reliability engineer.
What is a Site Reliability Engineer?
A site reliability engineer uses DevOps principles to help produce new software features and resolve issues. They ensure that a website or application performs well and is scalable. They are often responsible for the full tech stack, from customer-facing software to hardware infrastructure. They write codes to automate system maintenance tasks, troubleshoot problems, and help in emergencies.
What are the Responsibilities of Site Reliability Engineers?
SRES have several responsibilities that vary slightly depending on the organization. They usually spend about half their time on routine IT maintenance tasks and the rest on development. Typical duties are:
- Build software for DevOps, ITOps, and support teams, especially software that automates everyday tasks
- Test new software, fix bugs and resolve other issues related to the new software
- Document processes across DevOps and ITOps
- Respond to reported incidents
- Conduct post-incident reviews, analyze incidents, and determine how to prevent them in the future
- Monitor software continually
- Administer software deployments
- Assist with capacity planning
What Education Do You Need to Become an SRE?
Experience in software development and IT operations is critical to becoming a site reliability engineer. Most have bachelor’s degrees in computer science, IT, or engineering. About 27 percent of SREs have a master’s degree. Certifications, such as the SRE Foundation Certification and the American Society for Quality (ASQ) Reliability Engineer Certification, also are essential for an SRE career. Many companies will provide in-house training or mentoring to help SRES become familiar with their tech stack.
What Businesses Hire Site Reliability Engineers?
Businesses of all sizes across many industries hire SRES. Top large companies include Google, Oracle, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and IBM. SRES can find jobs at:
- Financial services institutions
- Technology companies
- Computer support companies
- Large retailers
- Engineering firms
- Software firms
What Skills Do You Need to Become An SRE?
An essential aspect of becoming a site reliability engineer is having the right mix of hard and soft skills. Hard skills are technical skills that are specific to the job. Soft skills are interpersonal and can relate to many jobs.
To be effective, an SRE needs excellent communication and presentation skills. They also need to solve problems creatively and manage their time effectively. They need to collaborate with others and work well as part of a team. They also need flexibility, particularly the willingness to scrap processes that don’t work in favor of new ones that work better. And they need to update and grow their skill set constantly.
An SRE needs strong knowledge of IT. They must also be an expert coder in at least one coding language, such as Python, Go, or Java. They must know about continuous integration and delivery pipelines, including CI/CD tools. They must also understand monitoring tools like Pingdom, Prometheus, Solarwinds, Zabbix, and Zoho. They need robust data analysis and data management skills and deep knowledge of databases. They should understand cloud-based applications and how distributed computing works. Finally, they need to understand the major operating systems such as Linux, macOS, and Windows.
Career Path of a Site Reliability Engineer
A site reliability engineer job is an excellent career. The average salary of an SRE in the United States is $154,000 annually, according to Indeed.
A person can become an SRE by taking several different routes. They can begin as technology generalists, then develop additional networking or distributed systems skills. Or, they can start with specialties in these critical fields and broaden their backgrounds. Many SRES began their careers as software engineers or developers, IT support specialists, or systems administrators.
SRES also can advance further in their careers. They can advance to lead SRE or SRE manager roles or to other senior IT or software development positions. They can also specialize in particular areas.
Why Are Site Reliability Engineers Important?
SRES provide significant benefits to their employers and the DevOps team. Among them are:
- Improving the development life cycle by holding post-incident reviews
- Helping the team respond to issues by documenting problems and resolutions.
- Supporting escalation issues.
- Providing documentation to the customer support team to help them respond to issues.
- Working with DevOps to stabilize production systems.
Work With a Respected DevOps Partner
An SRE has a significant responsibility, and an excellent SRE is a vital DevOps team member. Working with a DevOps partner can make an SRE’s job easier and increase the SRE’s value to their company. A good DevOps partner also helps the SRE’s performance to shine.
As a perfect partner, Armory is an integral factor in how to become a site reliability engineer. Learn how SREs can use the full suite of Armory products for different uses here.