Reliability at Palantir: Meet the teams

Palantir
Palantir
Sep 23 · 8 min read

Palantir works across dozens of countries, industries, and languages; and for us, scaling means building reliable software, processes, and operations that evolve with our customers. Our Site Reliability Operations (SRO) and Product Reliability Operations (PRO) analysts make sure that we’re dependably executing our mission of solving the world’s toughest problems. As hiring managers, we want to give you the fullest picture of what it’s like to have either of these roles at Palantir — and what better way than to hear from the analysts themselves? Read on to hear from our talented team about what makes these roles unique at Palantir.

So, what do they do?

SROs make strategies realities.

Since the early days, the SRO team has become a force for relentless organization, efficiency, and prioritization across most of our customer deployments and internal teams. Whether acting as execution partners, driving internal operations, or helping to manage projects in product development, our SROs focus on operationalizing the teams around them.

The team’s name originated from its work alongside Site Reliability Engineers (SREs). While SREs were responsible for the performance and stability of our hardware stacks, SROs took the lead on providing reliable communication for our day-to-day points of contact, collaborating with customers’ project management offices and tracking our teams’ efforts. SROs have become Palantir’s version of project managers, making sure that everyone is aligned, unblocked, and set up for success.

PROs drive solutions.

As information flows between Product and Business teams at Palantir — whether it’s feedback, feature requests, enhancements, or bugs — PROs ensure we have the systems in place to keep it organized and discoverable. PROs direct help to where it’s needed most, define and analyze the performance of our product teams, enable them to make data-driven decisions, and ensure that our product development teams are prepared to meet the highest standards.

PROs drive Palantir’s product support function, with a strategic focus on collecting and synthesizing signal for product leads on what is or isn’t working. Palantir’s long relied on Product Reliability Engineers to work alongside Software Developers to provide 24/7/365 support and guidance to our forward deployed teams as they use our products in the field. We created the PRO role to oversee, curate, and streamline the day-to-day operations of these workflows.

What does the day-to-day look like?

Mary (SRO, Washington DC)
“I run Resourcing Operations for our USG business, which is responsible for allocating our forward deployed personnel across our customer accounts. Having context about what’s going on across the business is critically important to making decisions: understanding the strategy at each of our projects, how our people are performing, and what composition of skill sets a team needs to crush the work in front of us.”

Carlene (SRO, London)
“I’m currently deployed as the SRO on a global commercial project, meaning I spend half my time onsite meeting with customer leadership and project stakeholders. The rest of my time is split between working in partnership with internal project leadership to determine project strategy and how to execute against it; synthesizing customer requirements for product enhancements; and meeting with SROs on other projects to leverage synergies between our teams. I also usually find time to do a yoga class and take a coffee-break stroll for some fresh air.”

Tim (PRO, Palo Alto)
“PROs wear many different hats and have lots of independent responsibility. I spend a substantial amount of time collaborating with engineers to design, implement, and improve internal software and infrastructure that supports hundreds of teams at Palantir. I manage a number of process and infrastructure projects, in addition to my operational, elbow grease sort of work: triaging tickets and ensuring product issues are appropriately labeled. Also, one day a week I’m the first to respond to new product emergencies, making sure they’re resolved quickly and that we see the product improve from the lessons learned.”

What skills are important to your role?

Carlene (SRO, London)
“The SRO’s core mandate is to do whatever is needed to make the team as successful as possible, and spot potential failures before they happen. The secondary mandate is to share the learning from this experience across other projects and teams. In order to do this effectively, SROs need to be vigilant, humble, open-minded, and have a strong bias for action. We both set and enable the pace of our team, which means knowing how and when to speed things up, but also acknowledging when there can be value in pulling back the throttle. Customer interaction is another important part of this role, so being comfortable in challenging stakeholder environments is key.”

Mary (SRO, Washington DC)
“Creative problem solving, strong interpersonal skills, and adaptability. The person who did this role before me said ‘resourcing is a puzzle where the board is spinning and the pieces can fight back.’ Teams will make requests for people, but it is rare that you have the exact right person at the right time. You need to be able to figure out ways to creatively give the team what they need to be successful. There is never going to be a perfect plan, but finding ways to get to the most optimal solution is both exciting and challenging.”

Matt (SRO, Palo Alto)
Empathy and humility go a long way as an SRO. Our teams are filled with very talented people — technically and strategically — and often they can be very opinionated! Empathy and humility help me understand why they believe what they do, and enable me to get my team oriented toward working on the best solution more quickly with less conflict.”

Anne (PRO, London)
“As a PRO I need to be able to synthesize technical and contextual information very quickly. I have to understand the technical architecture of both of Palantir’s Gotham and Foundry platforms and understand which teams are responsible for each service — we have hundreds! I take into account information about the business team and their current priorities to ensure that every issue gets triaged to the right team or individual to start driving the issue to resolution.”

Tze (PRO, London)
“A lot of PRO projects require collaboration across many teams at Palantir. To drive improvements you need to be able to build and maintain relationships across these teams, and effectively communicate needs and goals concisely. You need to be willing to learn a lot fast, to learn about Palantir’s software products and our internal tools, and be creative in how to use them to scale Palantir operations.”

What do you like most about your role?

Carlene (SRO, London)
“What I find incredibly motivating is that you’re trusted with the responsibility of figuring out the right ways to make your project and your team as successful as possible, restricted only by your creativity and the set of resources available to you at any point in time. I love the variety of my day-to-day. An SRO does whatever it takes to push a project forward: from ordering pizza for a hungry team burning the midnight oil, to mocking up prototypes for a product enhancement, to presenting a project roll-out plan to C-level customer stakeholders. While this may sound intimidating, in practice you have the support of your implementation team on the ground, and you’re also part of a network of SROs working across different types of projects that you can reach out to, learn from, and collaborate with.”

Mary (SRO, Washington DC)
“You get to work with people from different roles across the company, and you get exposure to the amazing work that our people are doing out in the field every day. You engage with developers, software engineers, deployment strategists, and team leads to ensure that their teams are set up for success. The people who work at Palantir are incredibly talented, and knowing you’re enabling them is hugely rewarding.”

Nick (PRO, Palo Alto)
“It sounds cliche, but the people. Palantir is full of some of the brightest and most welcoming people in the world. On a more role-specific basis, I love the blend of technical, operational, and strategic thinking. You’ll never be bored as a PRO — the role engages the full self.”

Tim (PRO, Palo Alto)
“PROs are a big central group that all works together on shared problems — but in a sense, we’re all pretty independent on our own projects. There’s a lot of freedom to take a need that the team has and run with solving it. The opportunity to make an impact on the efficiency of operations of essentially all engineers at Palantir is very motivating.”

Anne (PRO, London)
“What I love about Palantir most is the people; there are people from all over the world and everyone is so passionate about what they do. As a PRO you’re uniquely positioned to work closely with a wide range of people from both our business development and product development teams. And there is no better bond than a shared few hours on a challenging product emergency!

What’s the coolest or most unusual thing you’ve done in your role?

Carlene (SRO, London)
“I had an interesting experience recently when an implementation required meeting our customer stakeholders in 3 European countries in 3 days to enable our team to meet an ambitious roll-out schedule. While pretty intense, it did mean our team enjoyed a whistle-stop tour of our customer’s European offices, not to mention croissants for breakfast in France one day, Roman pizza the next, and Schnitzel for supper in Germany all before heading home!”

Tim (PRO, Palo Alto)
“Helping to solve a high-priority objective for one of our humanitarian-focused deployments is one of those things that instills pride in the work I do.”

Tze (PRO, London)
“Shortly after I joined, I was asked to build a workflow to help the Product Reliability organization distribute and coordinate dev tasks to track infrastructure change compliance across Palantir. I ended up using a new feature recently developed in the Foundry platform. In addition to being able to streamline a process that had been cumbersome and prone to errors, I enjoyed building the solution using Palantir’s own products, honing my coding skills and understanding of the platform in the process.”

Final Thoughts

The team says it best: working as a PRO or SRO can be a uniquely challenging and rewarding experience. If you can picture yourself taking on this work, we hope this post helps you pick the role that’s right for you. While there are certainly overlapping skillsets between the two roles, there are also important differences:

SROs are primarily focused on client-facing work in a project management capacity. SROs also work on internal projects across our Product, Business, and Internal teams, where we use many of the same tools and approaches we use with clients (and almost everyone starts on a deployment!).

PROs, on the other hand, have fewer reasons to work directly with clients, but are deeply embedded in our software development cycle. PROs also have the opportunity to work with Palantir’s products on a daily basis and have a structured path to technical growth through the PRE role.

Moreover, Palantirians in these roles frequently collaborate with each other: because SROs are often with clients onsite, PROs often advise SROs on the best way to address their customers’ needs from our Product Development team. PROs also collaborate with SROs to design and roll out infrastructure to increase information and metrics sharing between the Product and Business teams.

If you’re unsure which role to apply for, keep in mind that moving between the two roles during the application process is straightforward, and our Recruiting team will help you find the role that’s the best fit for you. We’re excited to grow our team; and we hope to hear from you soon! If you’re interested, apply today!

Cheers,

Sam and Berkeley

Authors

Sam C., Berkeley H.

Palantir Blog

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