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A day in the life of an SRE | Sebastian Vietz
Today, we have Sebastian Vietz from Compass Digital sharing his SRE story. I came across Sebastian’s post on LinkedIn a few weeks back that he will be coming to SRECon and connected with him. Meeting him in person and seeing his enthusiasm and energy about observability and reliability engineering was a pleasure and inspiration at the same time. Sebastian says he lives and breathes Reliability Engineering, and I can confirm that it is indeed true!
Let’s get started.
Sebastian, please introduce yourself to our audience.
Hello, my name is Sebastian. I would describe myself as an Enabler of People, a Reliability Engineering Advocate, and most recently, I have been given the nickname "CNO - Chief Naming Officer". I like languages and appreciate how they can add as well as obfuscate context. I love solving problems, and I would consider myself a generalist who, when needed, can dive really deep into a variety of topics.
What is your work setup like? Are you a dual monitor / single monitor person? Which are the tools you cannot do without for day-to-day productivity?
My remote/home office built has been 15 years in the making. I am very conscious of the strain put on our bodies and minds by our profession. I need comfort and efficiency to work well. 3 screens plus a laptop. Split keyboard. A penguin mouse on either side of my keys. A stand-up desk and the most comfortable Herman Miller chair I could find for my height and build. I live in Slack, use sticky pads, and love real whiteboards. I love to draw down my ideas, thoughts, and understandings.
Here is a sneak peek of my setup.
What does your typical day look like? Do you start with a dashboard and end with a dashboard? Any typical routine that you follow?
My day starts with family, breakfast, reading, getting my son to school and my wife to all sorts of places, and then focus time - catch up on Slack, Emails, and other small stuff I can get out of the way before my first team touch point.
Meetings, too, may, at times, unfortunately. I keep my late afternoons blocked for more focus time. That's when I do stuff. Ideate, draw, document, configure, and test. I love Fridays when there is no incident to attend to; this is when I read, research, and play. I end my days with more reading and a workout.
Which are your go-to tools for debugging an incident?
Whatever Observability tool is available, plus conversations with affected stakeholders, customers and the experience they report, and the context they provide.
Any memorable incident you helped/tracked/fixed?
Memorable. I still remember my first major one related to a Websphere deployment manager that stopped working quietly and corrupted an entire file system in the process. Took down a financial service site for several hrs because failover wasn't working either. I think I pulled a 36 hr shift before being ordered to go home. I wouldn't say I liked going home without the incident being mitigated.
What do you miss in the current observability landscape that will help you in your work as an SRE?
Too much default data - noise.
Too much irrelevant data - more noise.
Too little data specifically chosen to answer important questions related to one most critical customer journeys and experiences.
Too many O11y tools that look, feel, and work the same.
Still not enough correlated telemetry.
Not enough explored use cases for O11y data.
How many dashboards do you track over a day?
None. I made the mistake too many times, creating elaborate dashboards for myself and others, just to find out that neither they nor I use them when it matters most.
I take well-thought-out alerts and preconfigured data searches over dashboards any day of the week.
What do you want from other team members from engineering that will help you in your job?
Their eyes, minds, and time. Their willingness to learn and adopt.
Their appreciation for well-articulated O11y data. Their courage to contribute, ask questions, face uncomfortable truths, be willing to let go of old habits, and highlight organizational challenges and pitfalls so we can all get better together.
Have the tenets of an SRE seeped into your day-to-day life?
I live and breathe Reliability Engineering so yes.
If you were not an SRE, what would you be doing?
I would be a woodworker.
Do you have any suggestions for us questions that we can ask fellow SREs?
Do you know why you SRE?
What could you stop doing? What should you be doing instead?
How much do you know about your company’s customers and what they care about?
Your last customer interaction was when?
When did you last say, "No with a but ..."?
Wow, these questions made me think!
Which books, blogs, Reddit, or communities do you refer to learn and keep yourself updated about o11y/SRE?
I read copious amounts of content. I prefer a variety of sources. My interests are plenty, and the perspectives I seek are various. Sorry for the vague answer. /r/SRE and /r/DEVOPS on Reddit.
Books I have an entire library, with no favorite.
Sources - LinkedIn articles, Medium articles, StackExchange articles, recently only I finally joined Twitter and Mastodon for even more connection and content.
How did you become an SRE? 😎
I got pushed into it. I didn't appreciate that. I gave in and made it my passion and niche.
Readers - If you want to feature on the SRE Stories or nominate someone, please submit this form. You don’t have to have the SRE title to share your story. Let’s learn from each other 😊