How to be an in-demand cloud geek

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CRN published one of those slideshow articles revealing

Spoiler alert: Cloud engineers are in the most demand, earning an average annual salary of $118,000. Of course, “cloud engineer” could mean many different things in many different organizations. Let’s just say it’s someone who knows a lot about cloud computing and is also a hands-on problem solver.

The great thing about cloud computing is it has been in demand for the last 8 to 10 years, depending on what aspect of cloud computing you wanted to specialize in. As the demand rose, so did the number of those in and outside of IT who sought a cloud computing career path. I’ve seen teachers, cops, social workers, stay-at-home-parents, and those on very different career paths pivot to cloud computing, and most have done well.

To that end, I have some very general but very pragmatic advice about managing your career in the cloud. Let’s examine a short list:

Get on-the-job training. You can certainly sit through in-person or online courses on cloud computing and be able to talk the talk, but you still need real-world training to walk the walk. Of course, the core complaint is, “You can’t get a cloud job without experience, and you can get experience without a job.”

Partially true. My best advice is to work with a training company, college, or university that supports placement. Those who are willing to get certified in AWS, Microsoft, or Google will find someone to hire them, even at a lower-than-average wage. Make sure the company that gives you your first chance also has some sort of training path and quick career advancement. You’ll find that the ones that care for their valued employees provide both. However, it’s still on you to impress your employer.

Be a self-learner. Cloud computing, both at the platform and service levels, changes each year, so you need to have the skills to keep up. Hundreds of new cloud services are released each year from the big three, and it’s on you to understand how they are applied, if they are applied, and how they will work and play well with existing applications and data stores. 

You’ll need to look for ways to monitor the changes in the market, the cloud providers, and the hundreds of related third-party technologies, and understand how all these work together. I spend at least 10 hours a week reviewing cloud news, looking at emerging products, etc., and I’ve found no shortcuts here.

Find mentors. Look around work, look around family, look around your school, and see if anybody is willing to advise and assist you in moving your cloud career along. Most of those who are advanced in their own cloud careers are fine with providing advice to others. Likely, they are also looking for good recruits, so it’s a win-win for both of you.

Mentors are good for a few reasons: First, they provide networking and job leads where you’ll get an insider track on the best gigs. Second, they will likely go to bat for you when needed, such as providing a reference.

If cloud computing is the right career path for you, you have my full support. That said, it’s up to you to make things work. If you’re looking to coast, this is not the career for you. If you’re willing to work—like all other careers—you’ll find that success, riches, and happiness are a foregone conclusion in the cloud.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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