Launch into a Cloud Computing Career Path

Career Path in Cloud Computing
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Cloud Computing Overview

Thinking about moving into a cloud computing career path? Let’s start with the basics.

Cloud computing didn’t emerge until right around 2000 when Salesforce released their first cloud-based sales and marketing software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution. They were a pioneer in this space and have continued to bring innovations to cloud technologies.

Over the past couple decades, there has been explosive growth of new cloud platforms and start-up companies bringing their own products to market. This included expansion into providing hosted infrastructure (IaaS), databases (DBaaS), and platforms (PaaS) as a services. 

Ultimately, these vendor-hosted solutions reduce the overhead and cost historically associated with on-premise infrastructure.

This is when cloud job titles such as Cloud Developers, Engineers, and Architects started to emerge. 

These cloud computing roles provide planning, analysis, design, implementation, and administrative support for the various types of cloud services. This can include initial environment setup, configuration of modules, building integrations with other applications, and ongoing administrative functions.

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Cloud Career Outlook & Salary

VERY POSITIVE (HIGH RATE OF GROWTH)

Adoption of cloud computing is only expected to grow as it gets cheaper, more secure, and easier to deploy. The rate of grow has been incredible in recent years for cloud computing jobs. 

According to Indeed, one of the largest job search websites, between 2016-2018 there was an increase of 101% in job posting related to cloud jobs. The number of openings continues to increase year-over-year as companies search for talent to help modernize there technology landscape.

When it comes to salary, this will of course depend on your level of experience and training. The average pay for a cloud computing professional is between $68-144K, according to data from PayScale. This is well above the national average and is pretty high compared to other jobs in IT.

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Top Paying Cloud Computing Skills

There are countless vendors that offer a somewhat different solution to address a business need. Without question, the largest and most widely used cloud technologies are:

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the most widely used cloud platform today. They have a full stack of solutions from infrastructure, databases, and development platforms.
  • Microsoft Azure has picked up steam as a cloud platform and is starting to outpace Amazon in some areas. Lots of companies are using Azure to build relatively cheap, highly flexible solutions to run their business.
  • Google Cloud Platform is another technology that is gaining ground on AWS. Google offers a wide range of cloud based solutions to meet just about every business need, which is driving up adoption.

However, there is a large market of hundreds of other companies that offer cloud products. This includes names like Salesforce, Workday, Red Hat, Adobe, IBM, VMWare, and many smaller companies targeting specific business functions or niches.

If you are looking for a starting point for developing cloud computing technical skills, you should consider which “as-a-service” (infrastructure, data, software, etc.) you are most interested in. Think about the types of technology you have experience working with and you find exciting. 

Also, most of the companies above have some online training or free product trials – so get your hands dirty!

Regardless of which cloud technology you pursue, there are core soft skills you should work on to be effective.

  • Flexibility: Cloud technologies are constantly changing and you need to be quick to adjusting to each major release the vendors push out.
  • Constant Learner: With a rapid pace of change, you need to keep up with all of the functionality that is being delivered in each release. What have they added, removed, or changed that my company may need to react to?
  • Detail Oriented: While most cloud technologies focus on configuration vs. coding, you'll need to pay close attention to what changes are being made. The click of button could wipe out entire environments or datasets.
  • Critical-Thinker: Shifting businesses to the cloud requires a different mentality and architecture than on-premise solutions. You'll need to think about user experience changes, how data gets to and from the cloud, and what will be needed to support the solution on-going.
  • Security Oriented: Companies are getting more comfortable with the idea of hosting their data in "private" clouds. However, you always need to have a "Security First" mindset with any changes being introduced to cloud technologies since hackers are persistent.

Finally, there are several key skills and foundational experience that employers continue to expect from cloud engineer professionals. These skills demonstrate your ability to work in dynamic cloud environments.

  • Multi-Cloud: The vast majority of companies use more than one type and provider of cloud technology. This can be a mix of different software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud vendors to meet specific business needs, such Workday for human resources (HR) and Salesforce for marketing and customer service.
  • Cloud Integration: Since most companies have multiple cloud vendors, there is frequently a need to integrate data between those cloud solutions. This is often accomplished through digital APIs which enable the connection of internal systems and other hosted applications to cloud solutions.
  • System Administration: While this skill may not be specific to cloud applications, you will need to understand the basics of how to administer cloud systems. This includes configuring settings to support business processing, setting user permissions, loading data, and activating components offered by the cloud vendor.
  • Agile (Scrum) Development: With the shift to more flexible cloud technologies, companies are also changing how they deliver projects and technical tasks. Gone are the days of the Waterfall delivery methodology. Business leaders now expect technology to be delivered with agility and rapid speed to market. As a result, you should develop skills focused on Scrum and Extreme Programming (XP) software development methods.
  • Development & Operations (DevOps): Since cloud technologies are different than historical on-premise systems, it's important to understand how the transition from development to ongoing operational support is done. In most cases, IT support staff will now be maintaining configurations within the cloud solution instead of fixing code / programming defects.
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Journey Down a Potential Cloud Career Path

Career Path - New Grad

During college, you should focus on majors in a technical field. This can include information systems, data management, computer science, or cybersecurity. 

Making a career change? Ideally you have some level of technical experience. This isn’t required to land a cloud job, but having basic technical skills will get you more interviews. If you don’t have experience, consider online training to develop essential IT knowledge.

Land your first job: When searching for internships or entry-level jobs, search the job boards (Glassdoor, LinkedIn Jobs, etc.) to see if the company is hiring cloud developers, analysts, engineers, or architects. You can often find good paying entry-level jobs with cloud companies to help them build, deploy, sell, or maintain platforms for customers.

Launch your career: Your first few years should be about developing a broad knowledge base for the cloud technology. Staying curious is critical. Shadow and meet with as many cloud practitioners as possible to understand how cloud solutions are designed and built. 

Think about and explore how cloud technologies integrate with other systems, flexibility they offer vs. on-premise solutions, common deployment and adoption challenges, and how cloud technology benefits the business.

Common Job Titles: Cloud Engineer, Developer, Systems Analyst, or Administrator

Get trained and certified: If you don’t consider yourself a life-long learner, work on changing that mindset. You should consistently be learning and attending training to build your knowledge. 

This is also a great time to select a specialization and earn a cloud technology certification to compliment your expertise. A cloud certification opens the door to many new career opportunities.

Established Career

Explore new career opportunities: Now that you’ve built a solid foundation of cloud skills, new doors will begin to open to allow your career to grow even further. You should start searching for new positions inside and outside of your current employer. If you have some work experience, training, and a certification in a cloud technology – the job market will be full of great opportunities for you!

This may also be the right time to completely change your career if you find you’re no longer interested in the technology. It’s never too late to try something new and find a career your passionate about.

Common Job Titles: Senior Cloud Engineer, Developer, Systems Analyst, Administrator, or Architect / Consultant

Manager and Specialist

Take charge: At this point in your career, you’re the go-to person for all things related to the cloud technology. You have a deep knowledge of the cloud platform, business users, and all of the integrated systems your company uses. 

This puts you in a position to lead the IT teams supporting the cloud technology. Of course, at this point you’ll need to build people management skills to compliment your deep technical expertise.

Climb the ladder: By demonstrating your ability to lead cloud projects and teams, this sets you up for a leadership role. Seek opportunities to coach and mentor team members that may be less experienced than you. 

After all, your success is ultimately connected to the team’s success!

Common Job Titles: Cloud Product or Project Manager, Specialist, or Senior Consultant

Becoming an expert and thought leader: Once you reach a certain level of experience and skills, you can position yourself for a leadership role due to your expertise. While training and certifications can get you part of the way there, you need to also demonstrate an ability to guide cloud projects, teams, and solutions.

This includes ensuring your team has the resources and appropriate attention from you to be successful.

Leader and Expert

A servant and humble leader: You should consistently be meeting with your team and other IT and business leaders to take a pulse on how the team is performing. Without that feedback, it becomes difficult to understand what actions need to be taken.

Are cloud engineer resources skilled enough for the work? Do they require guidance or course correction? Are they happy with their role and responsibilities on the team or do they need a change?

These are a few questions to help inform how best to support each individual on your team.

Also, it’s important to remind yourself that you don’t know everything about the cloud technologies you working with – regardless of your years of experience. Be open to the ideas being shared by others around you. They often bring a different and fresh perspective on the technology that can bring innovation and improvements.

Common Job Titles: Senior Manager, Director, Vice President, or CIO / CTO of Cloud Technologies or Innovation

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Recommended Cloud Training & Certifications

We’ve covered this topic in great detail in our Ultimate Guide to Cloud Certification. In short, building expertise on platforms with the greatest market share and adoption will likely be in your best interest.

This includes leading cloud computing companies such as:

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Salesforce Sales, Marketing, or Service Clouds
  • IBM Cloud
  • Red Hat OpenShift 

These companies have well oiled product, sales, and marketing teams that will continue to increase their customer base. The likelihood of finding and eventually landing a job with a company using those technologies is considerably higher. 

One caveat, you should do your research first before selecting a specialty or certification to pursue. Especially if you have a particular company or industry in mind, explore what cloud technologies are commonly used by the majority of employers.

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Who's Hiring Cloud Engineers

It might be easier to answer the question – who isn’t hiring cloud practitioners?

The rate of adoption for cloud computing over recent years has been incredible. Industries that were once against hosting their data externally (Finance, Healthcare, etc.) are now going all-in with the move to the cloud. 

You can often find Cloud Engineer or Administrator positions on job boards in nearly every industry and decent size city. If you’re in a rural location or just want to work from home, look for cloud sales or technical support positions that allow for 100% remote work.

When it comes to the top companies hiring cloud professionals, cloud vendors and consulting firms have typically been the largest employers. This includes names like Amazon, Oracle, Salesforce, Deloitte, Accenture, PwC, and many others.

They are constantly looking for skilled talent to join their teams to help them implement and mature their cloud products and services. Fair warning, these big names generally have big expectations and often long hours expected from their employees. Don’t let this scare you – the professional growth and opportunities these companies offer is unmatched.

Top Cities for a Cloud Computing Career

According to a Gartner report, the top cities for cloud engineers are:

  1. Washington D.C.
  2. San Francisco, CA
  3. New York, NY
  4. San Jose, CA
  5. Chicago, IL
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Learn more

Conclusion

If you select a career path in cloud computing, you’ll be on the fast track for a successful and long lasting career. The exponential growth cloud technology has seen in recent years isn’t showing signs of slowing down any time soon.

With the right training and certifications, you can land a job in just about any industry. A majority of companies have started running part of their business in the cloud and some have even moved almost all of it to the cloud.

The career path for cloud engineers is one that will continue to provide new job opportunities well into the future.

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