The question I get asked most often 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 explosion of pandemic-driven cloud computing deployments and businesses that moved too fast to the cloud created a perfect storm. Most enterprises now realize they must fix many architectural and implementation mistakes, as well as keep pace with the rapid growth of multicloud and more complex cloud computing systems.
For many enterprises, the ROI for cloud computing is nowhere to be found. Instead, complexity continues to drive up costs and risks. Both need to be mitigated with sound planning and good architecture. The rush to the cloud and the cloud skills shortage that soon followed resulted in many cloud jobs being filled by less-than-qualified candidates. It’s still happening. Be aware that many enterprises hire new staff to fix what others broke.
Assuming you’re all-in with cloud computing and are willing to learn new things, here are some opportunities that will pay the most and provide the greatest opportunities for advancements.
This one is obvious. The demand for good cloud architecture exploded the demand for good cloud architects. Disclaimer: I’m biased, having been an architect for enterprises, products, and clouds for the past 30 years. I view this as a great career path that can lead to many other leadership opportunities.
There is no certification you’ll need, albeit many job descriptions require brand-specific cloud architecture certifications, which I view as an indication that the company doesn’t understand what a cloud architect does. A cloud architect should understand a wide variety of technologies, not just a single brand. Moreover, they need to understand legacy, cloud, edge, and other emerging architecture patterns 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 technology across all cloud brands, and they don’t show up on day one with an underlying bias toward any technology. Training normally happens on the job by working on many projects as a technical leader and then moving into the architect role. There’s a wide variety of “How To Be a Cloud Architect” courses and books available (including several that I created). Find your most productive learning path.
Cloud operations engineer
There is a huge need for cloud operations engineers in the cloud computing industry right now. Most enterprises are hitting an operational complexity wall, and complexity won’t be solved anytime soon with technology. Enterprises need talent to tackle the problem, and cloud operations engineers will have their hands full keeping things up and running.
A cloud operations engineer can either be a standalone role, meaning it just focuses on cloud operations (cloudops), or it can be the ops part of devops. Either way, the duties are similar when it comes to operations. However, one requires a greater understanding of development, testing, and deployment.
The general definition of this role is all over the place. The core idea is that a professional cloud operations engineer needs to be good at operating public clouds in single or multicloud deployments. Again, this means having a wide range of skills that includes performance engineering, observability, AIops, application- and data-level monitoring, security operations, etc. This engineering role is so broad that you’ll likely get assigned to just a few of these tasks so you can correctly execute them.
Like the cloud architect role, training is more on the job than anything. There are operations certifications, but they are typically specific to a cloud brand. The focus should be on a wider array of technologies—cloud and non-cloud—and a fundamental idea of what it takes to effectively operate all systems.
Cloud security engineer
Enterprises can’t afford to lowball this position. It’s a cloud security engineer’s responsibility to design, implement, update, and/or operate a security system that will keep a 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 multifactor authentication.
You need the core talent to design, deploy, and operate a cloud security solution that is leveraged systemically throughout a single or multicloud deployment. As I recently covered, 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 a ton of security certifications and courses related to each single 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 hiring websites to avoid making 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 dislike. Another career path may not pay as well but could be much more fulfilling and sustainable. If your passion is golf, don’t sign on with a football team just to get a bigger paycheck. You and your team deserve better. After all, this is about finding the right gig that checks a lot of the right boxes for you. Love your work and you’ll never work another day in your life.
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