Why site reliability engineers face more security incidents and higher stress levels

Incident resolution remains a major part of the site reliability engineer (SRE) role, as cybersecurity events increasingly cause outages, operational overload, delivery slowdowns, and notification fatigue, according to a Monday report from Catchpoint.

The SRE role is still evolving, the report noted: Of the 188 professionals in the field surveyed, 64% said that their role or team had been in existence for only three years or less.

SREs were named the no. 2 most promising job in America for 2019, after data scientists, according to a recent LinkedIn report. These professionals have a median base salary of $200,000, and saw 72% growth in job postings over the past year, that report found.

SEE: Incident response policy (Tech Pro Research)

LinkedIn currently lists more than 2,000 US job openings for SREs, double the number as a of year ago, the Catchpoint report found.

When it comes to incident response, nearly half (49%) of SREs said they had worked on a security event in the past week, while another 49% said they had worked on outages that lasted longer than a day in their career, according to the report.

These incidents cause increased stress levels that could lead to burnout and turnover, the report found: 67% of SREs who said they feel stress after each incident also said they do not believe their company cares about their well-being.

Nearly 60% of SREs said their job responsibilities involve excessive amounts of manual, repetitive tasks, the report found. Only 38% said they have used automation to reduce these tasks.

"While stress is part of an SRE's job, the survey shows incidents have been normalized and many organizations are not addressing the impact," Nithyanand Mehta, vice president of professional services at Catchpoint, said in a press release. "Combine this with the 48 percent who said their company hasn't defined service level objectives for essential services, and a question emerges: Is the SRE role evolving proactively based on business needs and employee satisfaction, or is it becoming reactive and contributing to IT's high turnover rate?"

The majority of security incidents are related to "massive changes made under duress to meet deadlines," the report found. Stress levels likely won't be reduced until better processes are put in place for these professionals, including improved communication around incidents, the report noted.

"The role of the SRE is critical in an era where the digital experience is directly connected to business outcomes," Mehdi Daoudi, CEO and co-founder of Catchpoint, said in a release. "My biggest takeaway: If most SREs are spending excessive time in repetitive tasks, this does not leave enough room for the key components of a true SRE team - capacity planning; and improving the performance, availability and resiliency of the systems, applications and services for which they are responsible."

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