If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Site reliability engineer: How I got my job and where I'm going

A college student discovers her passion for software engineering at a hackathon. She gains experience through Google Summer of Code and a Google internship. Despite initial doubts, she finds mentorship at a startup through Andreessen Horowitz's talent pool. She considers specializing or remaining a generalist in her field.

Want to join the conversation?

  • blobby green style avatar for user campbellh706
    What exactly are the educational requirements to become a software engineer?
    (4 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • mr pink red style avatar for user Kai Burghardt
      As of 2022 software engineer is an unregulated profession in all jurisdictions. There are no legal requirements to become a software engineer. You are not required to produce any fancy educational degree (like you would need e. g. in medical professions).

      Having said that employers frequently expect some vocational qualifications in computer science. There is wide range of asked qualifications levels. For a position as a software engineerfor a university research project you might even require a doctoral degree (the “highest” available degree). Other times a mere high school diploma with proven knowledge in the used technologies is sufficient.

      In general a bachelor’s degree in computer science is a good starting point though. There is also a philosophy that in order to be a good programmer you need to have a sound understanding of the things you are programming. For example some meteorology IT solutions company would consider hiring a trained physicist as a software engineer because she is better trained in understanding the physical processes and thus could be a better programmer.

      Historically mathematicians were hired as software engineers, because in many locations there were no dedicated computer science programs, i. e. there just were not any software engineer specialists.
      (4 votes)

Video transcript

In my senior year of college, I went to my first hackathon, and I'd been doing programming contests for fun before that, but I hadn't really realized that I could actually do something with this, right? So at the hackathon, I didn't get anything to work, but I was trying to make an app, and I was seeing all these people around me, making apps, making websites, making robots, and so, I kept going to hackathons, and I decided, in my head, that if I didn't get into med school, maybe this would be a good backup plan. If you want a job in software engineering, you have to have projects on your resume outside of school, and a hackathon is the best way to do that. In one weekend, you have a project on your resume, it might not be working all the way, but people aren't necessarily looking for that, they just want to see that you have enough passion, that you're going to work on things outside of your school, and also that you are curious and passionate enough about the field. I went to my first hackathon in senior year, and I thought it was so cool, so I kept going to more and more hackathons. And after that, I did Google Summer of Code, the summer after I graduated, and the summer before my master's degree, and so that's ... Google Summer of Code is this program where they give you, I think, $5,500 to work on an open source project that's not associated with Google. So, it's just a stipend, and it's to encourage open-source development. I worked for a lab in Toronto. It was the Bader Lab, and they were working on this software called MedSavant for doctors at SickKids Hospital to use. So, a lot of the children that come into the hospital are sick with genetic diseases and they get it young. And, so, the doctors will get sequencing ... Genetic sequencing information from them and then use the software to try to figure out what could be causing the sickness. After Google Summer of Code, one of my mentors actually worked part-time at Google and then did his masters degree part-time at the lab I was working on and so he referred me for a Google internship. So, the summer after that, I did a Google internship in New York and I was on the site reliability engineering team for Persistent Disk. The summer that I was interning at Google, I went to a hackathon that was here and it was the Major League Hacking Season Finale. And Andreessen Horowitz, the company, was there recruiting for their talent pool. So, somebody referred me to Andreessen Horowitz talent pool and I got in and they ... So, they started connecting me to all these startups and Pinterest was one of them and that's how I got my job here. Coming out of college, I felt really insecure about my technical ability because I had this biochemistry degree and a bioinformatics masters degree, which was mostly kind of a do-it-yourself programming thing. And so, it was really important for me to find a job that had really good mentorship. So, actually, when Andreessen Horowitz called me up and they said, "Reese, do you want to work for a startup?" I said, "No." I said, "I want to find a place with mentorship and I feel like startups don't have that." But they found me a place that fit me anyways, and that worked out well. Site reliability engineering is kind of a new type of role. I think it was developed by Google and they wrote a textbook about it. So, I get a lot of different advice about where to go with my career. Some people are saying that I should specialize, I should pick either databases or traffic, or something else and I should specialize and be really good at that. Other people say that it's okay to just kind of be a generalist and be really good at debugging any kind of problem, and I guess there's also sort of the managerial path, but I'm not sure I want to go down that way.