From buzzword to essential practice, DevOps grew significantly in popularity in a short time. As the discipline gradually established its crucial value to business growth, the demand for DevOps and SRE professionals escalated. Today, from startups to high-profile companies, every business needs to implement DevOps practices, making DevOps/SRE professionals the most sought-after talent in the tech arena.
Hiring and retaining top SREs is crucial and challenging for all companies, not just startups, simply because top candidates are well-compensated and therefore in a position to choose. They need compelling offers to make a move. According to the Harrison Clarke 2021 DevOps/SRE Compensation Survey report, over 60% of surveyed engineers ranked their total compensation above market average, while 35% of respondents have an annual base salary range of $180,000 to $219,999.
Plus, in the DevOps/SRE arena, as opposed to other fields in the tech world, there is no all-encompassing definition of the role. Because DevOps describes a methodology, a different approach to software development, it is scalable and adaptable to every company’s unique requirements.
Therefore, defining who is the right fit for an organization is often difficult, especially for startups where roles usually overlap. For example, how much “dev” work should the future hire do, and how much “ops?” What about expertise with the specific product or management skills? Effective SRE hiring starts with knowing what your company needs.
DevOps may be a significant investment upfront, but the long-term benefits are highly desirable. Plus, its popularity is expanding among non-tech companies, making the competition for top talent fierce. And it’s not just startups vs. big companies, but high-profile companies among themselves.
If Google can spend $3.5 million to retain an engineer when Facebook tried to onboard them, can startups ever win the war for top talent?
The DevOps market is essentially candidate-driven mainly because the best SREs are already employed in comfortable positions and are not actively looking for new opportunities. However, with the right hiring strategy, even startups and fast-growing companies can attract the top candidates.
Make hiring a business strategy
As opposed to high-profile companies, smaller organizations usually don’t have an HR department, much less a hiring strategy. An urgency to scale may lead to increased frustration and costs when using traditional channels and methods to hire engineers.
On the one hand, having engineering managers lead the hiring process is advantageous compared to recruiting via an internal HR structure because the hiring manager will understand the technical requirements for the role. However, on the other hand, they may not have experience in talent acquisition. Because innovation and growth are crucial for a startup’s success, knowing where to find and how to attract the perfect fit for the company fast becomes a top priority.
Show SREs you are the company they want to work for
Tech giants are usually well-oiled machines; they have the time and resources to undergo a complex and lengthy hiring process. Plus, big companies have better-defined roles than startups and usually focus on hard skills.
Conversely, the hiring process in a startup is generally faster and more relaxed, focusing on culture and motivation rather than technical skills. However, this is a challenge, as the company culture and SRE teams are early development. That first infrastructure hire is crucial to the company’s growth and subsequent successful hires. Startups need to look for principal SREs who will build their DevOps culture - and they are the hardest to get.
Luckily, top-rated Site Reliability engineers are generally more interested in job opportunities that provide higher purpose and meaningful work rather than more money. So, when you don’t have a big name or reputation to stand on, you must put forward your company’s vision and product.
Attracting and retaining top engineers in a highly competitive market such as DevOps may seem impossible for smaller or fast-growing businesses. However, it’s important to remember that even big names in the industry sometimes lose the talent war.
When compensation packages in the DevOps world are generally high, expert Site Reliability engineers prize meaningful work before money. As a startup, you don’t just sell a better-paid position but the chance to make a difference in the tech world (and beyond).