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Release Train Engineer: Salary, Job Description & Responsibilities

As the tech industry continues to advance, new roles are developing. One of the key roles in the popular Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is the release train engineer (RTE). This article details the required education and skills and salary info for a release train engineer.

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What Is a Release Train Engineer?

A release train engineer (RTE) is a leader and instructor for the Agile release train (ART). The ART is a team of solutions specialists that deliver and operate the value stream. The RTE is responsible for carrying out the ART processes, helping the teams deliver value, manage risk, communicate with stakeholders and initiate improvement. The RTE is the conductor of the 'train'.

Educational Requirements Bachelor's degree or equivalent experience; certification
Job Skills Agile (Lean-Agile frameworks, Scaled Agile Framework), product development, project management, leadership, communication, critical-thinking
Median Salary (May 2018)* $88,740 (for all computer systems analysts)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)** 9% (for all computer systems analysts)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A bachelor's degree is required by some companies but most accept equivalent work experience instead. Certifications are almost always required. The SAFe release train engineer credential is the only certification designed specifically for an RTE. The program ensures that certificate holders have the knowledge to manage Agile release trains in organizations of all sizes. There are also many relevant certifications that an RTE may want to hold. SAFe offers Advanced ScrumMaster (ASM), Scaled Agilist (SA), and SAFe Program Consultant; Project Management Institute offers Agile Certified Professional; Scrum Alliance offers Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Certified Scrum Professional (CSP), Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), and Agile Engineering with optional Certified Scrum Developer (CSD).

Required Skills

An RTE will need a solid comprehension of Lean-Agile frameworks, Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Agile budgeting, and Agile metrics. RTEs should have an expansive understanding of not only Agile, but also product development and specific knowledge of the organization's industry. An RTE will want to have project management experience, where management in organization, time, budgeting, and scheduling will be sharpened.

The RTE will need many non-technical skills, as well. They must possess all aspects of leadership: confidence in honest communication and the courage to say 'no' to upper management in order to prevent overburdening the team's workload; the ability to lead the team by example and be willing to roll up their sleeves when needed; and the knowledge to act as a mentor in helping the team understand Agile principles and practices. An RTE needs to be a great communicator, delivering messages and presentations to the team and management in an honest and transparent manner. Critical-thinking skills are also a must, as an RTE needs to quickly analyze a situation and coordinate the team to find a solution.

Career Outlook and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median salary in May 2018 for all computer systems analysts was $88,740. The BLS also reports that employment for all computer systems analysts is estimated to grow 9% over the 2016-2026 decade, which is the average rate compared to all occupations. SAFe is one of the more favored Agile scaling frameworks and the release train engineer plays a key role. As long as SAFe remains in demand, RTEs will as well.

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