What is a platform engineer?
Platform engineering is a term you may have started to hear within software circles. From the context, there’s a good chance you’re beginning to understand something about this emerging approach, but what is this role and could it be suitable for your skillset?
This is a very popular IT job role for employers at the moment, but one that may often be hard to fill because it requires a high level of technical knowledge and experience, which can be difficult to find in an area continuing to struggle with a skills shortage.
Therefore, individuals who do possess these qualities may find now is the perfect time to look for a new job as a platform engineer in a security cleared role.
What is the role of a platform engineer?
Platform engineering is a relatively recent addition to the world of IT, if not necessarily a new discipline. It's an area that's boomed in popularity over the last few years as trends such as cloud, automation and continuous development drive many software projects. Therefore, people with the skills to enable these technologies and processes will be in high demand.
The reason platform engineers are so highly sought after is their main purpose is to accelerate the delivery of applications. This enables organisations to see the production of business value at a much quicker pace, reaping the benefits of their investment sooner. By automating specific infrastructure operations developer productivity can be greatly increased.
As end-users tend to be non-experts, platform engineering has emerged as a discipline to reduce the friction between them and the backing services they rely on. Modern software architectures are now more complicated than ever, with the gap between developers and operators growing. Forward-thinking companies are already starting to bridge that gap with platform engineers.
What does platform engineering mean?
The job of a platform engineer can vary depending on the needs of the individual business, and there's no strictly defined outline of the term. However, in general, platform engineering can be thought of as creating a bridge between software and hardware to remove obstacles and ensure applications and services operate as effectively as possible.
To achieve this, platform engineers are involved throughout the software development life cycle. They may manage and maintain applications, run diagnostic tests to verify hardware design, oversee the configuration of software, document and optimise workflows and act as a central point of contact for hardware and software engineering teams.
Platform engineers are typically responsible for ensuring the integrity of cloud platform infrastructure, while also working with other business units to manage software development projects. In essence, they build the critical systems that other development teams can then use as a basis for their own work.
The goals of a platform engineer
Organisations looking to hire platform engineers are likely to have the following goals for anyone taking on the role:
- Facilitate a frictionless experience
- Enable developers to produce software efficiently
- Improve developer productivity
- Reduce the cognitive load on individual team members
- Integrate with the development team’s workflow
What’s the difference between platform engineering and DevOps?
While platform engineering and DevOps are related, the two disciplines aren’t the same. Platform engineering’s job is to optimise the essential infrastructure, ensuring development processes are both efficient and secure. On the other hand, DevOps uses tools to connect development and operations, promoting a culture of symbiotic integration and delivery.
How do you become a platform engineer?
In order to be successful when applying for these roles, you'll need to demonstrate a wide range of skills and experience. Many job descriptions will ask for a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a relevant technical field, such as computer science, software engineering or information technology.
Although a higher level of education may be beneficial, it's often not a requirement. According to The Manifest, around two-thirds of platform engineers hold a bachelor's degree, with 27 per cent possessing a masters and five per cent a doctoral-level qualification.
Platform engineering roles are also some of the most sensitive areas of an IT team. Professionals will be expected to work with highly confidential data and be responsible for building critical systems.
As such, being able to demonstrate a high level of personal integrity is also vital when applying for these jobs, especially if you're looking for a role in sectors such as government, defence, communications or aerospace, where you will need to obtain a security clearance.
What are the skills required for platform engineers?
Many platform engineer jobs will require a wide range of skills across software development, coding, data science, cloud and hardware. It's a very technical role, so a strong understanding of IT infrastructure will be essential to success. A good knowledge of at least some of the following will be highly beneficial:
- Infrastructure as Code
- Big Data
In addition to these hard skills, 'soft skills' such as verbal and written communication are essential for success in these roles. Platform engineers will be required to work closely with professionals from other teams such as software engineer and data scientists, as well as draft clear workflows for projects.
Finding the best platform engineer jobs
Platform engineering is a fast-growing part of the IT landscape, and as such, employers are always competing for the best talent. This means professionals with the right skills, experience and personal qualities stand well-placed to find an exciting, challenging position in this field.
How do you find platform engineer jobs in the United Kingdom?
The best way to find a platform engineering job is to sign up with a specialised job board. As well as browsing the latest positions from some of the UK's biggest employers, you can let recruiters come to you by uploading your CV to highlight your unique skills.
In addition, dedicated jobs fairs may be especially useful for people seeking security cleared roles in this sector. IT jobs working with sensitive data often require a security clearance, so being able to meet with employers face-to-face can help you make a good impression, as well as learn first-hand what qualities recruiters are looking for.
Which places are popular for platform engineer jobs?
London and the south-east of England are the most popular locations for platform engineering jobs, with the majority of vacancies advertised in these areas. However, places such as Leeds and Manchester are also hubs for these roles.
Many jobs, however, now offer some form of hybrid or remote working, so you may not be confined to a specific location. Most job boards let you browse based on office or home working and there are often options available with flexible working benefits.
What is the average salary for a platform engineer?
Because of the importance of their role, platform engineers are often among the UK's most highly-paid IT workers. While exact figures may vary depending on specific responsibilities, typical salaries for platform engineers are in the range of £60,000 to £70,000. Even entry-level roles in this field can see starting salaries of between £45,000 and £50,000, while a senior platform engineer can expect to see annual pay upwards of £80,000.
Where can you find security cleared platform engineer jobs?
While platform engineering jobs are in high demand across all sectors, professionals may find there are especially lucrative and exciting opportunities available in high-profile areas such as government, defence, finance or telecommunications.
A common factor across these industries is they will need to build highly secure systems and cloud applications as they will be working with some of the country's most sensitive and confidential data. As such, they will be looking for professionals with the highest standards of integrity who are able to pass tough security clearance vetting processes before they are offered a position.
If you think you've got what it takes to become security cleared, you may find the doors open to a range of exciting, exclusive roles in platform engineering or other essential IT positions.