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By Robert Half May 29, 2019 at 8:00am

For most companies, cloud computing is now a critical aspect of the technology stack. Whether it’s part of a hybrid solution or a full-fledged migration to hosted services, the cloud has become a cornerstone of digital life.

It’s a big move from traditional enterprise infrastructures, where on-premise servers handled most tasks and stored all the data. Because this changeover has been so sudden and all-encompassing, it has left many businesses with a skills gap they’re now struggling to fill with professionals with cloud experience, including the role of cloud engineer. 

Across the country, this demand has created a large number of cloud engineer jobs and cloud-related positions. In our recent Jobs and AI Anxiety report, 72 percent of the managers surveyed said they’re already using the cloud, and an additional 23 percent plan to make the switch in the next three to five years. And according to the latest State of U.S. Tech Hiring research, three of the top five positions were related to distributed systems: cloud security, cloud architecture and cloud engineer.

Learning how to be a cloud engineer could be a smart move for people in traditional IT roles. But job seekers have to be willing to learn these new skills even if it means pursuing training on their own.

Getting started as a cloud engineer

Moving from a traditional IT specialty to a cloud-based system requires a mindset change. Often, this is the biggest hurdle for tech professionals because there are some fundamental differences. For example, there’s more focus on automating infrastructure in the cloud, and it can be a big change not logging into a server and doing everything manually. 

To prepare for the move, consider these four areas to focus on:

  • Cloud platforms — Many of the major platform providers offer free resources to give IT professionals a chance to practice. And practice you must. Make sure to try out more than one. The top ones today are Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform. Many companies are starting to explore the use of multi-cloud environments as a way to manage fault tolerance, so knowledge of several platforms is a bonus. 
  • APIs and web services — APIs (application programming interfaces) and web services are key to fundamental cloud architecture, so you’ll need to understand how they integrate with your company’s systems. You may also be required to build your own APIs or maintain those offered by your firm. There are a number of online courses about creating a RESTful API, which will give you an insight into both sides of the process. 
  • Software configuration management (SCM) — SCM becomes more important than ever in a cloud-based environment. A cloud engineer should be familiar with some of the most common SCM tools, including Chef, Puppet and Ansible. 
  • Agile development — If you’re not already Agile trained, get to know this methodology. The Scrum pillars of transparency, inspection and adaptation make Agile an ideal approach to the fluid and fast-moving world of cloud computing. Sites like Scrum Alliance and Agile Alliance will help you get started.

Cloud engineer salary

Because this is a relatively new job title, there’s not much data about cloud engineer salary ranges. Looking at related jobs listed above and similar engineering roles in IT, a good estimate for a national median salary would be around $100,000 to $140,000. A cloud computing analyst, who designs, tests and deploys infrastructure for an existing cloud platform, can expect a starting salary of $98,250, according to the latest Salary Guide.

Traditional IT roles that can translate to cloud careers

What types of traditional IT positions are now “morphing” into cloud jobs in many organizations? Below are just three examples, along with details about core job responsibilities and starting compensation from the Robert Half Technology Salary Guide. To tailor the national average salary figures listed below and in the guide, use the local variances included in the guide.

Systems engineer

Systems engineers need in-depth technical knowledge of an employer’s software and hardware, as well as advanced analytical, troubleshooting and design skills. Employers generally prefer candidates with at least five years of experience working with the hardware and software systems used by the company, as well as a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience.

Typical duties include:

  • Developing, maintaining and supporting technical infrastructure, hardware and system software components
  • Performing installation, maintenance and support of system software and hardware and user support
  • Configuring, debugging and supporting multiple infrastructure platforms
  • Performing high-level root-cause analysis for service interruption recovery and creating preventive measures

The starting national average midpoint salary for a systems engineer is $106,000.

For a career as a cloud engineer, in-demand skills that can increase starting compensation include cloud-relevant abilities such as virtualization and Linux/Unix administration.

Because many organizations are only now making their first foray into the cloud, they need access to skilled IT talent that can help solve problems and innovate along their journey.

The systems administrator role is changing dramatically because the cloud is commoditizing IT. For example, many systems administrators now need to learn programming languages like Python in order to interact with a cloud vendor’s APIs.

Network/cloud engineer

Network engineers must be detail-oriented and have in-depth knowledge of networking hardware and software. Typical job requirements are a bachelor’s degree in computer science or electrical engineering, and five or more years of experience in areas such as network design and implementation, security, and server and network infrastructure.

Typical duties include:

  • Engineering enterprise data, voice and video networks
  • Establishing and operating network test facilities
  • Maintaining a secure transfer of data to multiple locations via internal and external networks
  • Working with vendors, clients, carriers and technical staff on network implementation, optimization and ongoing management
  • Providing high-level support and technical expertise in networking technology

The starting national average salary midpoint for a network/cloud engineer is $112,000.

How do you build a career as a cloud networking engineer? In-demand skills that can increase starting compensation for this role include cloud-relevant abilities such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) administration.

Networking in the cloud is very different from traditional networking. While a traditional network engineer needs to know everything about firewalls, switches, routers and other specific network components, cloud networking engineers focus more on network design, as most cloud providers offer networking as a service. Cloud engineers who specialize in networking might also be responsible for auditing the way that rules are applied in a cloud environment.

Database administrator

Database administrators need a strong technical foundation in database structure, configuration, installation and practice. Knowledge and experience in major relational database languages and applications, such as Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle and IBM DB2, are typically required. Effective database administrators must have keen attention to detail, a strong customer service orientation and the ability to work as part of a team.

Typical duties include:

  • Managing, monitoring and maintaining company databases
  • Making requested changes, updates and modifications to database structure and data
  • Ensuring database integrity, stability and system availability
  • Maintaining database backup and recovery infrastructure

The starting national average salary midpoint for a database administrator is $100,250.

To find a cloud engineer job specializing in databases, start by integrating in-demand skills that can increase starting compensation for this role. These include cloud-relevant abilities in the Hadoop framework and Oracle databases.

With most cloud services, you don’t need to focus on setting up the database server. Database backup and recovery may also no longer be relevant to your domain. However, you may still need to do things like set up tablespaces, optimize queries, and evaluate and execute table structure changes.

Here are some other hot cloud jobs to consider:

  • Cloud architect
  • Cloud systems engineer
  • Cloud developer
  • Cloud security consultant
  • Cloud support specialist
  • Cloud applications engineer
  • Cloud computing specialist
  • DevOps cloud architect

Cloud engineers are problem solvers

Because some organizations are only now making their first foray into the cloud, they need skilled IT talent who can help solve problems and innovate as the company makes its journey. That’s why it’s essential for candidates vying for cloud jobs to be able to demonstrate that they’re capable of providing that type of support — even if their professional experience is deeply rooted in traditional IT.

For example, take something that’s very cookie-cutter in the on-premises world — setting up a LAMP stack (open source web platform), for example — and think about how you’d approach it in a cloud environment. Then use available tools to actually do it so you know that it works.

Cloud services will continue expanding and evolving, creating both new challenges and new opportunities. To be a successful cloud engineer, you need to combine a willingness to learn with a dogged determination to make things work. 

Find a cloud engineer job

Skilled cloud professionals are in demand across the United States. See our open jobs.
 

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