What’s an Automation Engineer?

Automation is a hot topic these days, and the demand for automation engineers is also on the rise. In fact, a recent CodingDojo survey included automation engineering in their list of hottest tech jobs of 2022. In this article, we’ll look at skills and duties related to this relatively new role within IT.

What’s IT Automation?

Generally, automation involves “the use of technology to perform tasks with reduced human assistance,” says Red Hat. “Any industry that encounters repetitive tasks can use automation, but automation is more prevalent in the industries of manufacturing, robotics, and automotives, as well as in the world of technology — in IT systems and business decision software.”

“Automation has been a cornerstone of the manufacturing industry for decades,” explains Sarah White, but now companies are automating IT and software processes as well. 
 
Specifically, Red Hat says, “IT automation, sometimes referred to as infrastructure automation, is the use of software to create repeatable instructions and processes to replace or reduce human interaction with IT systems.” In terms of software, automation can help improve efficiency and solve workflow challenges.

What Does an Automation Engineer Do?

Basically, automation engineers are responsible for identifying, designing, and implementing processes that could benefit from the automation of specific tasks. In theory, says Red Hat, “if it's an IT task, some level of automation can be applied to that task.” 

Thus, automation can be applied to many areas including:

  • Infrastructure 
  • Network automation 
  • Cloud provisioning
  • Application deployment
  • Configuration management

 
“Automation capabilities and applications can extend further into specific technologies, like containers, to methodologies, like DevOps, and into broader areas, such as cloud, edge computing, security, testing, and monitoring/alerting,” Red Hat says. IT automation is also often applied to service automation and QA testing.

Skills and Responsibilities

As an automation engineer, says White, you might be expected to: 

  • Identify opportunities for automation within software processes.
  • Collaborate with others to understand how automation can improve workflow.
  • Gather requirements from clients, customers, or users to develop automation solutions.
  • Identify and implement applications and databases relevant to automation.
  • Design and execute QA tests using scripts that automatically test functionality.
  • Identify bugs and quality issues in development, service, or business processes.

This senior-level role typically requires a strong background in software engineering and a keen understanding of the systems to be automated. Chad Ferman says the minimal viable skills include:

  • Scripting 
  • Source-code management 
  • Kubernetes
  • Security
  • Testing
  • Observability
  • Monitoring
  • Network awareness

Indeed adds the following as key skills for automation engineers:

  • APIs
  • Agile
  • Analysis skills
  • CI/CD
  • Communication skills
  • DevOps

“Understanding how systems talk to each other to provide business value is a sought-after skill in all industries,” says Ferman, “and if you are a person who likes to create repeatable processes that work autonomously, then this is the job for you.”

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