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SRE, for site reliability engineer or site reliability engineering, is a relatively new position that combines software engineering with IT systems management. In fact, it’s so new that in the 2019 SRE Report from monitoring vendor Catchpoint, 64% of SREs surveyed said that their companies had been employing SREs for three years or less.
If you’re not exactly sure what an SRE does, you’re not alone. In a nutshell, you can think of an SRE as being a systems administrator on steroids. While a systems administrator might be responsible for deploying, monitoring and management dozens or hundreds of servers, SREs keep watch over thousands or tens of thousands of systems. It’s their job to maintain the reliability customers expect while helping their organizations continue to scale.
The only really effective way to manage so many servers at once is to write software that does most of the work for you. So SREs spend a good bit of time writing scripts and using automation tools.
They also spend a lot of time on incident management. In the Catchpoint SRE survey, almost half (49%) said that they had worked on resolving an incident within the last week. When your favorite Web service goes down, an SRE is probably taking the blame and working to fix it — and that can be a tremendously stressful position.
On the other hand, that stress comes with some definite rewards. According to Hired, SREs earn an average salary of $126,000 per year, and salaries can be even higher in cities with a lot of demand for SREs. The job board reported that the cities with the highest demand for SREs include the following:
So what qualifications do you need to land one of these lucrative positions? Most companies are looking for someone with a bachelor’s degree in computer science or an equivalent level of expertise. They would love to have someone with previous SRE experience, but since the field is relatively new, it can be hard to find those people, particularly for junior-level positions. If you’re currently working as a developer, software engineer, systems administrator, or DevOps engineer, you could probably land an SRE job if you first do some work to fill in any gaps on your current skills list.
What follows are nine steps for moving from your current IT role to a job as a site reliability engineer.
Cynthia Harvey is a freelance writer and editor based in the Detroit area. She has been covering the technology industry for more than fifteen years. View Full Bio
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