The role of site reliability engineer (SRE) is critical to any DevOps company culture. SREs focus on performance and reliability at scale, which is essential for any application. As the world becomes more digital and reliance on applications grows, a site reliability engineer is a must-have for any organization that develops digital assets. Whether you are building a DevOps team from the ground up or expanding, there are key skill sets to seek out for site reliability engineers.
Finding the Site Reliability Engineers with the Right Skill Sets is Hard
SREs are in high demand, and it’s not just traditional technology companies that want them. Any business that delivers digital products for their customers has a stake in ensuring reliability, stability, and incremental improvements.
According to a research report, 33 percent of IT execs said SRE/DevOps is the most important skill for organizations. That same study found that 87 percent of those leaders say finding these professionals is at least somewhat difficult.
It is definitely the right call to add SREs to your organization—but it will take some effort. To make sure you build a team that will meet your organization’s SRE needs, you need to define the specific skills that will drive the most value for your organization.
Site Reliability Engineers Are Often Liaisons Between Development and Operations
In the DevOps world, development teams and operations teams ideally work collaboratively to be maximally effective and continually improve the product. However, these teams have different perspectives and motivations.
An SRE can bridge the gap between these two groups, bringing them together. In addition to creating balance by supporting each group evenly, an SRE can be pivotal in ensuring everyone is on the same page and working toward the ultimate goal of better-performing and more reliable products.
What Skills Should Great Site Reliability Engineers Possess?
Beyond being a liaison, SREs should have diverse skills and be ready to handle unique challenges. Here are some of the most critical skillsets to seek out when hiring SREs.
Love of Change
SREs must embrace change. Organizations must continuously release new applications in order to remain competitive and address user needs. A good SRE will be a champion for change within their DevOps culture.
An SRE is always investigating reliability or performance issues, leveraging many tools to automate scanning and monitoring. When errors persist, they need to have a curious mindset to dig deeper into root causes. To do this well, they have to intimately understand the organization's software stack, people, and processes. This good detective work leads to a more proactive approach than constantly reacting to issues.
SREs’ use of automation is critical in their everyday work. With automation tools, they can scale easily and work faster and more efficiently to eliminate as much manual work as possible. They should be able to apply automation to those repetitive tasks so they can spend most of their time doing more high-value work and improving the product. Experience with automation tools should be a priority for your SRE candidates.
Fluency in the Language of Business
Technical language and business language often sound as though they are from different alphabets. Technical professionals may not always understand business value, and business people aren’t technical experts.
An SRE can act as a translator, taking business requirements and turning them into technical implementations. They will have a role in serving the company's business side, relaying to these parties how technological advances meet their requirements. When looking for an SRE, be sure they can hold their own when it comes to the business side of your company.
An Analytical Mindset
SREs are also responsible for analyzing metrics around availability, mean time failures, and mean time to repair and develop new key performance indicators (KPIs) when necessary. Because of these needs, SREs must be analytical by nature. They should be able to analyze these metrics and continue to monitor them so that they prompt better decision-making.
Comprehensive Tech Skills
Finally, your SRE needs to be well-rounded in tech skills. Along with coding and automation acumen, SREs should have strong knowledge of operating systems, networks, virtualization, and CI/CD pipeline tools. There’s no substitute for this level of expertise.
Site Reliability Engineers Are a Hybrid of Technical and Soft Skills
The skillsets just reviewed are a mix of both technical and soft skills. Technical aptitude is necessary, but so are communication and collaboration. The best SREs are able to live comfortably in both worlds.
High Demand for Site Reliability Engineers Continues
SREs are in high demand, and they are almost always passive candidates, not looking to make a move. Although it is difficult to find the perfect SRE for your team, it’s not impossible. You simply need a strong strategy and help from a professional recruiting agency that specializes in the field. Find out more about SRE demand and other DevOps news by reading our e-book, Secrets Revealed: What Emerging Tech Companies Are Looking for in DevOps/SRE Roles.