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Post by Rich Moy on Oct 26, 2017, 12:00:00 PM

There’s some debate over the job description for a Site Reliability Engineer (or SRE). Are they mainly responsible for building servers? Do they write a lot of code? Who does their work impact most?

Fortunately, the person responsible for creating the role has the answer. “Fundamentally, it’s what happens when you ask a software engineer to design an operations function,” says Ben Treynor, VP of Engineering at Google. In addition to automating processes like server configurations, they ensure that websites are fast and (more importantly) available.

SREs work hard to provide a best-in-class web experience for your customer base—and they’re in high demand. Let’s explore how you can stand out to top candidates when you need to hire an SRE.

Know Where They Spend Their Free Time

Developers don’t spend a lot of time on popular social networking sites, and SREs are no exception. So what types of sites do they turn to when they’re looking to commiserate with their peers?

Forums such as The Cisco Learning Network, Spiceworks, and AnandTech are popular resources for Site Reliability Engineers  to hone their skills and share knowledge. Additionally, the Server Fault and Network Engineering communities on Stack Overflow are two of their most trusted online resources.

These sites can be valuable tools to help you hire an SRE if you’re willing to ask questions, instead of starting threads about your open jobs. When you show an interest in what they’re working on today, SREs will be more open to considering your job opportunities in the future.

Understand Their Biggest Challenges at Work

As a tech recruiter, you don’t need to know all the ins-and-outs of what an SRE does. But when you’re writing a recruiting email or having an in-person conversation, even a basic understanding of what they’re responsible for can help you engage with them on a deeper level.

Here are a few of the most significant challenges that Site Reliability Engineers tackle at work:

  • Creating and maintaining documentation. Every minute your service is down, your company risks losing money. To resolve issues as quickly as possible, SREs create what’s known as a runbook. A runbook provides instructions of what to perform or check when something goes wrong with a service.
  • Optimizing multiple layers of a tech stack. Andrew Fong, Director of Engineering at Dropbox, says that Site Reliability Engineering is exciting and challenging because you’re not just rooted in writing code. He adds, “You’re worried about data center deployment and design. You’re worrying about network engineering. You’re worrying about other layers of the stack that you don’t necessarily get to touch as much on the software engineering side.”
  • Selecting and adopting new technologies. The impact of Site Reliability Engineers is felt across your entire organization. As a result, they need to strategically consider existing processes and personnel before choosing new technologies to implement.

Know What They Look for in New Jobs

When it comes to job evaluation criteria, there are a few things that all tech candidates want. But it’s also important to understand what else makes a job stand out to an SRE candidate. Mark Henderson, a Site Reliability Engineer at Stack Overflow, spoke to us about some of the things he looks for in new job opportunities.

  • Organizations that are open to change. Henderson says that one of the best things about being an SRE is the flexibility to explore new technologies. He adds, “Working with a solid, well-known core stack is fine. But if I get the impression that a company is resistant to change, then I know that there are going to be a lot of uphill battles.”
  • Mutual respect between developers and operations. “An SRE relies on the trust of the developers, and works a lot better if the developers trust the SREs,” Henderson tells us. “Without that trust relationship, life as an SRE can be difficult.”
  • Realistic expectations about on-call shifts. Henderson tells us that most SREs expect to do on-call shifts at some point. But he also says that his pager shouldn’t be ringing every single night. “I don’t expect everything to be perfect,” he says, “But I would hope that things are mostly under control—and that there are also developer counterparts who are also on-call."

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