The rise of cloud computing has increased the demand for IT practitioners with exceptional cloud skills. The use of remote cloud solutions like video-conferencing, Google Docs and media streaming is becoming crucial for almost everyone.
It’s had a particularly dramatic rise in the world of business. In 2021, 38% of small to mid-sized businesses spent $1.2 million on cloud technology. But by 2022, this has increased to 53%. Looking at future growth projections, the shift to cloud computing is only becoming more prominent. And digital transformation activities have amplified the need for strong cloud computing skills and expertise.
In a 2022 survey, lack of expertise was identified as the second highest priority challenge (with security first and managing cloud spending third). The survey also revealed that an expertise deficit is the biggest challenge for organizations starting their cloud journey.
Cloud computing thus offers many career opportunities. So which skills will help a professional stand out in cloud computing?
This article picks seven must-have skills that will help you succeed in your cloud computing career.
Cloud service platform and architecture skills
First of all, you will need to know what are the available public cloud service providers. The main ones are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Microsoft Azure. These allow customers to purchase CPU, bandwidth or storage, all on a flexible, on-demand basis.
To stand out and be successful as a cloud professional, you need expertise in at least one of these providers. Initially, it may be worth focusing on getting to know one deeply (rather than having superficial knowledge in more). However, ultimately you will have more options if you gain expertise and experience across a range of providers.
It's not just about knowing how to use them, but to be a great cloud professional, you also need to offer IT leadership or guidance to businesses. That requires differentiating evaluatively between the available options. What are the advantages or disadvantages of each service for a given organization? How do their cost structures vary?
You also require a good understanding of cloud architecture to do this effectively. Can you advocate the pros and cons of particular configurations of public and private clouds? In what scenarios is it better for an organization to use multiple rather than one cloud? Knowledge of such issues will increase your potential opportunities.
Cloud deployment and migration
As cloud usage grows, experts are needed to support organizations making the transition. Likewise, many organizations have already started using the cloud but are now looking to optimize or reconfigure their usage. Doing this can be complicated and pose challenges.
There’s no risk-free magic switch for migrating to the cloud. Organizations need to minimize downtime as this can impede operations and damage productivity. At the same time, they need to protect any data they’re moving, some of which will be highly sensitive. Thus cloud professionals with expertise in deployment and migration are in great demand.
A staggering 2.5 quintillion bytes of data gets created every day. Most of this is accumulating in unstructured cloud-based platforms.
Careful engineering can harness that data for a myriad of benefits. Whether analyzing customer data or usage data, it gives organizations substantial strategic insights and can be harnessed to deliver sophisticated, data-driven customer experiences and operational advantages.
Database management skills for the cloud are thus in great demand. Businesses need expertise in storing, managing, and accessing their data; doing so is essential if they are to utilize it and optimize its value. Professionals with database querying skills are likely to find many cloud-based opportunities.
The most common database language to master is SQL. However, experience with additional languages such as Redis, MongoDB and Hadoop will confer greater versatility.
DevOps is an approach to software development and evolution that uses collaboration and automation to deliver agility and speed. Its use has become standard, and most SaaS businesses have adopted DevOps (to some extent).
DevOps is especially prominent and relevant in the world of cloud computing. Many of the tools that best support the DevOps approach are themselves cloud-based. A secure understanding of DevOps and CI/CD cloud services can thus be crucial for some cloud roles. For example, many will require expertise in using cloud-based automation tools to improve development workflows.
Machine learning and AI
Artificial intelligence (AI) is another area growing as cloud usage expands. The cloud can deliver the computing power and infrastructure needed to allow businesses to enhance their use of AI. Cloud-powered AI can now support many business operations, ranging from automating security procedures in DevOps to real-time customer support insights.
But machine learning (ML) and AI are complex and require well-trained staff. Many businesses are keen to harness their data to offer more personalized customer service, but the expertise in deep learning and neural nets needed to do so is hard to come by.
In 2020, a LinkedIn report identified the role of Artificial Intelligence Specialist as the number one emerging job. And it continues to be a significant growth area. For example, the Machine Learning as a Service (MLaaS) sector is expected to experience a compound annual growth rate of 43% into 2024.
Demand for AI and ML expertise will remain high for the foreseeable future, so building your skills in this area will undoubtedly expand your opportunities.
Cloud computing involves moving data and workflows from internal IT structures to external ones. The cybersecurity implications of doing this need to be carefully managed. At the same time, new cybersecurity threats to cloud services are constantly emerging. The notorious SolarWinds breach of 2020 is just one example. It saw hackers insert malware into the company’s CI/CD pipeline which then got sent out to over 18,000 customers.
Cybersecurity for the cloud is thus of monumental importance for businesses. Therefore, possessing the expertise to help organizations secure their cloud operations will substantially increase your attractiveness.
Business skills and leadership
Whether it’s a call center enterprise or an ecommerce store many organizations require staff who can safely guide them as they expand their cloud footprint. They need people who can advise how to proceed and communicate effectively the benefits of doing so. Can you contribute leadership to help determine the direction to take? Can you help guide the process? And can you advocate for taking that path?
Championing a cloud strategy, and educating and enthusing the wider team, will increase your stock. Effective advocacy and communication will take you far. Perhaps you could participate in the business’s Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) or propose they establish one.
More tactical leadership will also be valued. With many services for businesses that are now cloud-based, organizations want employees who understand the benefits and challenges of these tools. For instance, a company may be reviewing its enterprise communication services, and they want someone who can advise them on the various cloud solutions available.
At the same time, businesses need help understanding the financial implications of cloud-based computing. For example, what is the return on investment (ROI) for cloud investments? Showing you can support a business with these sorts of questions helps you demonstrate that you are competent and you can help the team achieve its business goals.
And that may mean advising against the cloud option sometimes. You need to be able to help organizations get the best from cloud technology, not rush headlong into it uncritically. Just as traditional and digital marketing channels can still work together, the same may be true of cloud versus native computing.
It also helps to have a solid grounding in metrics and analytics. For example, can you collect and evaluate data to evaluate the effectiveness of cloud activities?
These are just a handful of skills required to succeed in cloud computing; however, there are many more to master. For example, cloud job adverts often mention good programming skills (see the chart above).
Working in the cloud should be a never-ending learning journey. The technologies will keep evolving, and new ones will appear, so it’s vital to stay abreast of these changes.
Stay informed of the latest developments in cloud-based software such as project management software, CRMs or auto attendants. By doing so you ensure you are consistently able to deliver the best possible advice to suit an organization’s needs.
If you have the business and communication skills to help businesses respond positively to these changes. Can you position yourself as a champion for good cloud practice? Someone who will bring value every day? That may be advising on momentous strategic decisions one moment, and then recommending an electronic signature app to a colleague the next.
Plenty of employment options are out there for skilled cloud professionals. And, if you fancy something different, perhaps a side hustle, you could always become an affiliate, writing blogs and reviews to share your cloud expertise with a broader audience - and making money in the process.
Stay curious and look for training opportunities. The public cloud service providers offer accredited courses: these are good places to start when building your career. But do not stop there as a wide range of other training is available. And, of course, independent research and learning are always an option.