The question I get asked the most besides “What is cloud computing?” is “What career path should I take in cloud computing?” I get it Like almost everyone in the world, you know that the cloud job market is on fire right now. You want to strike while the iron is hot.
The pandemic-driven explosion of cloud computing deployments and businesses moving too quickly to the cloud created a perfect storm. Most enterprises now realize that they need to fix many bugs in architecture and implementation, as well as keep pace with the rapid growth of multi-cloud and more complex cloud computing systems.
For many businesses, ROI for cloud computing is nowhere to be found. Instead, complexity continues to increase costs and risks. Both should be mitigated with good planning and good architecture. The push for the cloud and the cloud skills shortage that soon followed led to many cloud jobs being filled by less qualified candidates. It still happens. Keep in mind that many businesses hire new staff to fix what others have broken.
Assuming you’re all into cloud computing and ready to learn new things, here are some opportunities that will pay the most and provide the greatest opportunities for advancement.
That’s obvious. The demand for good cloud architecture has exploded the demand for good cloud architects. Disclaimer: I am biased as I have been an enterprise, product and cloud architect for the past 30 years. I see this as a great career path that can lead to many other leadership opportunities.
There’s no certification you’ll need, although many job descriptions require brand-specific cloud architecture certifications, which I think is an indication that the company doesn’t understand what a cloud architect does. A cloud architect must understand a wide variety of technologies, not just one brand. Additionally, they must understand legacy, cloud, edge, and other emerging architectural models and technologies.
Most of the better architects come from development and have worked on a wide range of platforms. They also have a deep understanding of cloud technologies across all cloud brands and don’t show up on day one with a core bias towards any one technology. Training usually happens on the job, working on many projects as a technical lead and then transitioning into an architect role. There are a wide variety of “How to be a Cloud Architect” courses and books (including several that I created). Find your most productive learning path.
Cloud Operations Engineer
There is currently a huge need for cloud operations engineers in the cloud computing industry. Most businesses are facing a wall of operational complexity, and that complexity won’t be solved by technology anytime soon. Enterprises need talent to handle the problem, and cloud operations engineers will have their hands full to keep things running.
A cloud operations engineer can be a stand-alone role, meaning it focuses only on cloud operations (cloudops), or it can be the operations part of devops. Either way, the duties are similar when it comes to operations. However, one requires a better understanding of development, testing and deployment.
The general definition of this role is all over the place. The main idea is that a professional cloud operations engineer should be good at managing public clouds in single or multi-cloud deployments. Again, this means having a broad skill set that includes performance engineering, observability, AIops, application and data level monitoring, security operations, etc. This engineering role is so broad that you will probably only be assigned to a few of these tasks to be able to get them right.
Like a cloud architect role, learning is more on the job than anything else. There are certificates for operations, but they are usually specific to a cloud brand. The focus should be on a broader range of technologies – cloud and non-cloud – and a fundamental idea of what is needed to effectively manage all systems.
Cloud Security Engineer
Businesses cannot afford to downplay this position. A cloud security engineer’s responsibility is to design, implement, update and/or manage a security system that will keep the company out of the news. You must have a deep understanding of cloud computing security, as well as security in general, from network security to data and storage security, from identity management to multi-factor authentication.
You need the core talent to design, implement and manage a cloud security solution that is used systemically across a single or multi-cloud deployment. As I mentioned recently, cloud computing security incidents are on the rise, and many of them can be traced back to human error, which usually means poor cloud security engineering.
Again, there are many security certifications and courses associated with each individual cloud brand. You’ll need to understand how each cloud brand provides the best security, as well as how to design and implement cross-cloud security to solve more holistic problems.
These are three great roles to target in a hot cloud market. Look for a company that cares about you and your career. Some do. Some, not so much. Do your homework. Read the rental websites to avoid a time-consuming mistake.
Also, be honest with yourself about what you want most from a career. Some people pursue cloud skills for the big paycheck and have little interest in the job itself. It’s not much fun to show up every day to a job you don’t like. Another career may not pay as well, but it can be much more fulfilling and sustainable. If golf is your passion, don’t sign up for a football team just to get a bigger paycheck. You and your team deserve better. At the end of the day, it’s all about finding the right gig that checks a lot of the right boxes for you. Love your job and you’ll never work a day in your life.
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