The job is called "Site Reliability Engineer" (SRE), for which Google is the most famous. At Google, there are two kinds of SREs. Sysadmin-SREs (SA-SRE) work more on the systems administration side of things: automating SA tasks, making them scale. Software Engineer SREs (SWE-SRE) have to understand things broad and deep, to debug and modify complex multiple-service architectures with many moving parts. They also communicate with regular software engineers (SWE), or as an SWE-SRE friend at Google says, "mostly consult with product teams to make sure 200 million people can use their crap at once. I think it's a pretty good deal actually ... regular SWEs have to write features and ship products, all an SWE-SRE has to do is make them faster and more scalable."
Basically, most software engineers, even those of considerable skill and talent, don't necessarily understand how their code contributes to the larger system, or how it interacts with real-life concerns like network bandwidth and disk I/O. I'm unusual that way, and I gravitate toward that responsibility anyway, but I can never put all my energy into it because something else has always been my primary responsibility. (Less true at my last job, broken as the place was.) So this will be the first time that "chasing down problems and fixing stuff" will actually be my job description.
I originally wanted to apply for a regular SWE position, but they worked pretty hard (I pressed them) to convince me this was a good role for me, and it seemed reasonable and fun, so I decided to go for it. They mostly program in Ruby, which is my new favorite language, with a couple other languages tossed in. My boss, who seems to grin from ear to ear as a matter of course, was clearly extra-ecstatic when I ran into him on the way out from signing the offer. He said he already has a task picked out for me, once I'm settled. I asked what it was, and it does look pretty exciting: a central job queue that is performing poorly and mysteriously in numerous ways.
The company I'm not working for, MV-1, kind of...I think "panicked" is not too strong a word. I had a rant all written up, but having gotten it out of my system, it's not that important. I think they were a little confused and it didn't bring out the best in them as a team.
It is interesting that MV-1 kept talking about what an opportunity I was passing up. That's true, it was a good opportunity (though I'm not sure now what opportunity it was). Ooyala is also a good opportunity, and I would necessarily be passing up one or the other, and never without a certain amount of regret or wondering or second-guessing.
And yet, I'm really, really excited to start working.
Did I mention I'm excited to start work? I'm excited to start work, stuff that's new and hard and yet right up my alley. And I get to commute on the train! And work with technology that interests me!
I'm also setting up my grad school application. And I can't stop thinking about how reasonable the mortgage payment would be on those duplexes just south of downtown. And I'll be getting a sailing certification so we can follow through on the promise to bring J sailing.
This might be a busier year than originally planned.