10 Automation and scripting Interview Questions and Answers for site reliability engineers

flat art illustration of a site reliability engineer

1. What inspired you to become an SRE, and why did you choose to specialize in automation and scripting?

As a computer science graduate, I've always been fascinated by the idea of developing and maintaining software systems. During my early career days, I worked in a software development team where I observed the challenges of managing and scaling applications. It was then that I realized the importance of Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) in ensuring the smooth operation of applications, especially in a distributed environment.

Furthermore, I noticed that the manual processes for deploying, testing, and monitoring applications were highly error-prone, time-consuming, and not scalable. As a result, I started to explore automation and scripting languages to streamline these processes, thereby reducing the number of hours spent on repetitive tasks and increasing efficiency.

For instance, at my previous job, I implemented a deployment automation script that accelerated the deployment of a web application by 50%. Moreover, I created a test automation framework that reduced our manual testing time from 40 hours to 2 hours, allowing us to deploy changes to production much faster.

Through these experiences, I realized that automation and scripting played a critical role in improving the reliability, scalability, and efficiency of systems. As a result, I decided to specialize in these areas, building a strong foundation of knowledge in scripting languages such as Python, Bash, and Ruby, and automation tools such as Ansible, Terraform, and Puppet.

In summary, my passion for ensuring the smooth operation of software applications and the benefits of automation and scripting in improving efficiency, scalability, and reducing errors have been the driving forces behind my decision to become an SRE, specializing in automation and scripting.

2. Can you discuss your experience with automation tools and scripting languages such as Terraform, Ansible, Python, and Bash?

During my prior role at XYZ Company, I was responsible for automating our infrastructure provisioning process using Terraform and Ansible. I created reusable Terraform modules to deploy our infrastructure across multiple regions and made use of Ansible scripts to configure our servers with the required software packages and configurations. As a result of these efforts, server provisioning time decreased by 80%, and deployment errors were reduced by 90%. Additionally, I utilized Python and Bash scripting to automate our CI/CD pipeline, resulting in a 50% reduction in the time it took to release new features.

  • I have more than 3 years of experience working with Terraform and Ansible to automate cloud infrastructure
  • Developed a suite of Ansible scripts to configure servers with a range of software packages and configurations
  • Reduced server provisioning time by 80% and deployment errors by 90%
  • Created reusable Terraform modules that can be used to deploy infrastructure across multiple regions
  • Automated CI/CD pipeline, reducing the time it took to release new features by 50%

Overall, my extensive experience with automation tools and scripting languages such as Terraform, Ansible, Python and Bash has allowed me to minimize errors, optimize deployment times, and streamline infrastructure operations for my previous employer. I am confident that my skills will be applicable in any remote position that requires such expertise.

3. Can you walk me through how you would troubleshoot and solve a critical incident?

When it comes to troubleshooting and solving a critical incident, there are several key steps that I would take. First, I would gather as much information as possible about the incident including its scope and impact. Next, I would evaluate the data to determine the root cause of the problem. Once I have identified the cause, I would develop a plan to fix it and communicate that plan to all stakeholders involved. For instance, in my previous job, I faced a critical incident where our web application was facing continuous 500 server error. We noticed customers were not able to access our application and it results in a loss of business. Therefore, we built an Incident Response team, including developers, quality assurance, and technical support team. To troubleshoot the issue, we started by investigating our logs to identify any errors in our codes. After analyzing the logs, we concluded that the root cause of the problem was a deployment issue that resulted in incorrect configurations in our server. We then worked on releasing a new code version that resolved all the incorrect configurations. To ensure that we never encountered such issue again, we conducted a post-incident review and identified ways to improve our deployment process. We started using Automation pipelines that help us in quick deployment and also ensure safe releases. As a result of this incident, we were able to implement these improvements which resulted in better application stability and improved customer satisfaction. Overall, my process of troubleshooting and resolving critical incidents is thorough, results oriented, and collaborative. I am committed to delivering the best possible outcomes for my team and users while ensuring that our systems are always up and running smoothly.

4. How do you manage and prioritize your tasks in a high-pressure environment with multiple competing priorities?

When working in a high-pressure environment with multiple competing priorities, managing and prioritizing tasks becomes essential for success. Here are the steps I take to manage and prioritize tasks in such an environment:

  1. First, I identify all the tasks that need to be done and create a list. I try to categorize the tasks based on urgency and importance.
  2. Next, I analyze each task and estimate the time required to complete them.
  3. Then, I create a priority matrix using the Eisenhower Matrix to identify the most important and urgent tasks.
  4. Based on the priority matrix, I start working on the most important and urgent tasks first. This helps me to ensure that I am addressing the most critical needs of the organization.
  5. I also ensure that I have set realistic deadlines for each task, which helps me to stay focused and manage my time effectively.
  6. I use project management tools such as Trello to keep track of progress and ensure that I am on track to meet deadlines.
  7. Lastly, I communicate regularly with my team and stakeholders to ensure that everyone is aware of my progress and any potential delays.

Using this approach, I have been able to manage competing priorities and complete tasks on time. In my previous role, I was assigned to revamp the company's website, which was a critical project with a tight deadline. By using these techniques, I was able to prioritize my tasks and complete the project two weeks ahead of the deadline without any errors or quality issues.

5. What strategies do you use to maintain service availability and reliability?

Ensuring service availability and reliability is essential for any company that wants to keep its customers happy. Here are some of the strategies that I use:

  1. Proactive monitoring: I proactively monitor all systems and applications to detect and fix issues before they impact customers. This approach has helped me reduce downtime by 50% compared to previous years.
  2. Automated testing: I use automated testing tools to identify and fix any issues in the code before it goes into production. For instance, by using Selenium, I was able to reduce the number of bugs in our code by 40%.
  3. Disaster recovery planning: I create detailed disaster recovery plans that include backup and restore procedures, data replication, and redundancy. By doing this, I ensured that our service was back online within 15 minutes after a hardware failure last year.
  4. Load balancing: I use load balancing techniques to distribute traffic across multiple servers to avoid overloading any one of them. This helped me reduce response time by 30%.
  5. Regular system updates: I regularly update all software and systems to ensure they are secure and up to date. This helped me prevent cyber attacks and reduced security incidents by 60% compared to the previous year.

By implementing these strategies, I have been able to maintain service availability and reliability at a high level, which resulted in increased customer satisfaction and retention rates.

6. Can you discuss your familiarity with cloud technologies such as AWS or Azure?

Yes, I can discuss my familiarity with cloud technologies such as AWS or Azure. In my previous job, I was responsible for migrating our company's infrastructure to AWS. I implemented various AWS services such as EC2, S3, and RDS to host our application and database. In addition, I created automation scripts using AWS CLI to deploy updates to our application servers, saving us hours of manual labor every week.

As for Azure, I used it to deploy and manage a .NET web application using Azure App Services. I also utilized Azure DevOps for continuous integration and continuous deployment, which resulted in a 50% reduction in deployment time.

Moreover, I am experienced with infrastructure as code tools such as Terraform and CloudFormation. In a recent project, I used Terraform to deploy infrastructure on Azure, resulting in a 30% decrease in infrastructure costs compared to manual provisioning.

  1. Implemented various AWS services like EC2, S3, and RDS for hosting application and database
  2. Created automation scripts using AWS CLI to deploy updates to application servers, saving hours of manual labor every week
  3. Deployed and managed a .NET web application using Azure App Services and utilized Azure DevOps for continuous integration and continuous deployment, resulting in a 50% reduction in deployment time
  4. Experienced with infrastructure as code tools like Terraform and CloudFormation
  5. Used Terraform for deploying infrastructure on Azure, resulting in a 30% decrease in infrastructure costs compared to manual provisioning

7. What is your experience with CI/CD pipelines and how have you implemented automation in these workflows?

Throughout my career, I have worked extensively with CI/CD pipelines and have implemented automation in these workflows in a number of projects. In my previous role at Company XYZ, I implemented a CI/CD pipeline utilizing Jenkins, Docker, and Kubernetes which reduced the time needed for deploying code to production from 45 minutes to just 5 minutes.

At the beginning of the project, the deployment process for new code releases was extremely manual and time-consuming. The team had to individually push code to AWS EC2 instances, and this process was prone to errors and inconsistencies. Recognizing the need for automation, I researched and implemented a CI/CD workflow that would streamline the process and reduce the chances of human errors.

The new workflow involved automating the builds and deployments using Jenkins, Docker, and Kubernetes. We also created a testing environment that would automatically spin up during the build phase, allowing us to test the code before it was deployed to production. This resulted in a more reliable deployment process, faster release times, and fewer incidents in production.

  1. The deployment process time reduced from 45 minutes to just 5 minutes.
  2. The release frequency increased by 75%.
  3. The team experienced 95% less deployment errors after the implementation of the CI/CD pipeline.

Overall, my experience with CI/CD pipelines and automation have allowed me to streamline workflows and improve the reliability of code deployment. I believe that this experience would be a valuable asset to your team at Remote Rocketship.

8. How do you approach monitoring and alerting in a large-scale production environment?

At my current role as a Senior DevOps Engineer, my approach to monitoring and alerting in our large-scale production environment is focused on proactive investigation, root cause analysis, and immediate remediation for any anomalies.

  1. Automated Monitoring: We employ automated monitoring tools that continuously collect data and send alerts in case of deviations in performance and system parameters. These tools monitor infrastructure, applications, and end-user activities. I focus on creating comprehensive dashboards for quick identification of issues, trend analysis, and capacity planning.
  2. Thresholds: We configure and enforce alert thresholds that are particular to specific metrics. I work with the team to set appropriate threshold values that indicate a critical issue without potentially creating unnecessary alerts. For instance, CPU usage of a backend server in one of our web applications needs a different threshold than a CPU usage of a service server that runs three-four different services simultaneously.
  3. Escalation: I ensure that our alerting system escalates alerts to the right team member or team in the automated and manual systems. For critical alerts, we have automated immediate alerting via SMS and direct phone calls. For other alerts, we notify individual teams to start taking the necessary corrective measure.
  4. Anomalies Root Cause Analysis: I carry out a root cause analysis of each anomaly that was alerted and identified in my team's monitoring system. In some cases, this can be a critical issue that can only arise from multiple dependencies within the system. Hence, quick resolution based on intelligent identification of the problem components and RCA is key.
  5. Performance Baseline: Lastly, I set up performance baselines with trend analysis tools to identify long-term systems performance patterns. It helps with spotting changes in latency, requests-per-second patterns, and other metric behaviors in our web application and infrastructure components. My team's function enables us to identify these issue patterns, diagnose performance degradation and correct them on time, resulting in a better understanding of users’ needs.

As a result of this approach, we have currently reduced the issue resolution time by 30%, while alerts for critical issues reduced by 50% because problems are identified early on in the production environment, and in turn significantly increases end-user experiences.

9. Can you describe a project or task related to automation that you led or contributed to and what the outcome was?

During my previous position as a software engineer at XYZ Corporation, I led a project to automate their software testing process. The current method of testing was manual and took a lot of time, which tied up resources and slowed down the delivery of updates to clients. The project goal was to create an automated process that would drastically reduce the amount of time required for testing and ensure that bugs were caught early on in the development process.

  1. First, I conducted a thorough analysis of the current testing process to identify bottlenecks and areas for improvement.
  2. Next, I researched and evaluated different tools and technologies that could be used for automation.
  3. After selecting the appropriate tools, I collaborated with the testing team to create test scripts, which were then integrated into the existing testing framework.
  4. Finally, I ran several automated tests and analyzed the results to ensure accuracy and identify any issues that required further attention.

The outcome of this project was remarkable. The automated testing process reduced testing time by 70%, allowing the development team to roll out updates and fixes much faster. Additionally, we were able to catch more bugs earlier in the development process, saving time and resources. As a result, our clients reported a higher level of satisfaction with the software's performance and expedited updates. Overall, this project not only achieved its goal but also increased efficiency and productivity while improving the product for the end-users.

10. Can you describe a time where you detected a performance issue before it became a problem and what steps did you take to prevent it?

During my time working as a DevOps Engineer at XYZ Company, I noticed that our web application was experiencing slower response times than usual. Through analysis, I discovered that the root cause was a memory leak in the application code that was causing the application to consume more memory than necessary. If left unresolved, this issue could have caused a major impact on the application performance and caused crashes.

  1. The first step I took was to thoroughly investigate and evaluate the problem. I pinpointed the source of the issue to the use of an object that was not being garbage collected after processing so I worked on a patch to address it.
  2. I created a script to monitor the application's memory usage over time, so that I could detect any similar issues that would arise in the future. The script would automatically alert me if it detected any issues related to this memory leak, and I would be notified immediately.
  3. I also proactively spoke to other members of the team to spread awareness about this issue and share best practices on how to avoid similar issues from happening again in the future.
  4. After implementing these changes, we saw a significant improvement in the performance of the application. The response times were reduced by half and we were able to handle more requests without causing any issues related to memory allocation. This resulted in an increase in customer satisfaction and a better overall user experience.

Through my proactive approach, I was able to identify and address the performance issue before it became a major problem for our customers. As a result, I was able to prevent any potential impact on the business and improve the overall performance of our web application.

Conclusion

Congratulations on completing this helpful guide on automation and scripting interview questions and answers in 2023! If you are preparing to apply for a job in this field, there are a few next steps that you should take to increase your chances of success. First and foremost, don't forget to write a compelling cover letter that highlights your skills and experience. Check out our guide on writing a cover letter for site reliability engineers for helpful tips and tricks. Another important step is to prepare an impressive resume that showcases your qualifications. Our guide on writing a resume for site reliability engineers can help you create a standout CV. And finally, if you're ready to start your search for a new job, head over to our remote job board for DevOps and production engineering roles. With a variety of exciting opportunities available for remote site reliability engineers, you're sure to find your dream job on Remote Rocketship.

Don't forget to use our resources to your advantage and best of luck in your job search!

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