For most companies, cloud computing is now a critical aspect of their 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 business.

Migrating to the cloud is a big move away from traditional enterprise infrastructure, where on-premises servers handle most tasks and store all the data. For many companies, this changeover has been sudden and all-encompassing, and it has left many businesses with a cloud skills gap to address in their IT organization. And that is also why professionals with cloud experience, including cloud engineers, are in high demand.

According to IT senior managers in a recent Robert Half survey, cloud expertise, including computing, security and architecture, is the topmost in-demand skill set. Learning how to be a cloud engineer could be a smart move for people in traditional IT roles, 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 shift for many IT pros. 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, especially top platforms such as 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 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. Online courses about creating a RESTful API can 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 haven’t already, get to know the Agile 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 can help you start your Agile journey.

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:

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 for a systems engineer include:

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

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.

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 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

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 effectively 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

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 migrates to the cloud. That’s why candidates vying for cloud jobs must 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, such as setting up a LAMP stack (open source web platform), and think about how you’d approach it in a cloud environment. Then, use available tools to actually do it, so that you know it works.

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

Research the cloud engineer salary

So, what type of cloud engineer salary could you earn? The latest Robert Half Salary Guide provides insight. The guide lists a range of average starting salaries for the cloud engineer role, as well as many other IT positions.

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