Developing the necessary skills to be a successful site reliability engineer


Developing the necessary skills to be a successful site reliability engineer 1

Site reliability engineering is a growing career that is in demand across the United States. According to Zippia, nearly 7,000 professionals are site reliability engineers and they make good money, taking home six figures every year. The biggest employers for these professionals are start-ups, and you will find them in many companies, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The relative newness of the profession means that many have never heard of a site reliability engineer and are not aware of what they do.

If you have an interest in computers and software, enjoy coding and debugging programs and are good at troubleshooting, this is a career you should consider.

What is a site reliability engineer and what do they do? They are professionals who are in charge of running complex software systems. By enrolling in a software engineering program, such as the one offered by Baylor University, site reliability engineers are trained in software development and operations, bridging the gap between the two to ensure that complex systems run as they should. Baylor’s online master’s in computer science allows students to study from anywhere at any time, providing a flexible option for those with ongoing commitments.

What is a site reliability engineer and what do they do?

Every time a server crashes, there is someone at the other end to bring it back up. Many times, this person is an IT manager or an IT technician, but in some of the biggest companies, the person who monitors servers and makes sure they are running as they should is a site reliability engineer.

As the profession is relatively new, the role of a site engineer is yet to be strictly defined, but they are typically required to:

  • Conduct system maintenance to ensure minimum downtime, and implement measures to make sure that they run optimally.
  • Identify areas for improvement within complex IT systems.
  • Reduce latency by monitoring response times and eliminate bottlenecks in the system.
  • Handle outages and respond to issues that affect users and the usability of systems.
  • Identify and solve problems before they can affect users.
  • Minimize system risk and ensure stability within IT systems.
  • Identify system capacity and ensure that servers can handle the expected traffic.

What skills does one need to become a site reliability engineer?

There are certain skills you should develop if you want to become a site reliability engineer. You may have the necessary training, but without the right skills, you will struggle to succeed in your job.

As you contemplate whether or not this is a career that you would be interested in, think about how you can acquire these skills if you do not already possess them.

Best practice

If you want to be successful in this profession, you must have a good understanding of industry best practices.

You must read widely and engage with others in your profession to determine the recommended way to handle system problems, minimize risk and ensure that there is little or no downtime.

A good understanding of programming languages

Almost every problem you solve will have something to do with computer code.

Computer code can be written in a variety of languages, and if you hope to debug systems you should know the different languages and how they work.

You should also be familiar with how the different languages work together.

Familiarity with operations management

How do the various systems in a business or a company come together and where does each fall within operations? What is the product and how does the IT system fit in?

What are the needs of the various players within the business, and what do they need from you in their day-to-day roles?

Operations is a broad area, and each business is unique. That said, you should understand what the topic is about and what role it plays in your job as a site reliability engineer.

Troubleshooting expertise

Most of your time will be spent diagnosing and fixing IT issues and you need to know how to find solutions for them. If a server goes down, for example, what is the likely reason?

Troubleshooting requires an open and inquisitive mind, and it also needs someone who is not afraid to pry to find out the root cause of problems.

Problem-solving skills

After you identify a problem, you need to be able to fix it. This is a technical role that requires training. No doubt your university courses will come in handy, but you must also do a lot of reading to find out how different problems are handled.

You will occasionally encounter new problems that you have no idea how to fix. When that happens, you should be prepared to find solutions using your existing knowledge.

How fast you can solve problems will affect your career. If you are good at it, there is a good chance that you will rise through the ranks quickly.

Excellent communication skills

There is a common misconception that IT professionals don’t interact with others. This may be true for some IT jobs, but a site reliability engineer needs to be a good communicator who talks to various stakeholders to find out how they can solve their problems.

You need to have excellent listening skills as that is how you learn what users are looking for. You should also know how to communicate clearly so that when you develop solutions you can explain them to users who are not IT experts.

Documentation skills

What happens if a problem arises when you are not at work? Can operations continue without you?

To make sure that there is continuity, you will need to document various problems and their solutions and make sure that the documentation is available to the right people.


Site reliability engineering may be a new career, but those who pursue appropriate training are employed by some of the biggest companies in America. You need to obtain the right qualifications to become a site reliability engineer, and you also need to develop the right skills to help you succeed in your role.