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Four options to pursue a career in cloud computing

The IT job market is flooded with cloud computing jobs as the technology becomes more widespread. Explore four common career paths and how to prepare for an interview.

In recent years, many IT pros have shaken the cobwebs off their resumes and fine-tuned their skills to pursue a career in cloud computing.

The cloud industry continues to grow at a quick rate. The public cloud services market alone will grow 18% in 2017 to total $246.8 billion, up from $209.2 billion in 2016, according to Gartner. Organizations of all sizes continue to migrate to cloud to take advantage of new services and technologies. But they need people who have the right cloud skills to fit their business needs.

Want a career in cloud computing, but not sure where to start? The first step is to look at some popular cloud roles and understand what employers expect from them. Then, learn what you need on your resume, how to get the experience and how to answer some of the tough questions employers ask during an interview.

Here's an overview of some common careers in cloud computing, and the skills they entail:

Cloud administrator

Enterprises need a person to configure a cloud deployment and perform management and monitoring duties. That person is a cloud administer. A strong foundation of knowledge, through education and certifications, can prepare you for this career in cloud computing -- but be sure your skills are current.

A large chunk of an administrator's job is cloud infrastructure management, so employers will ask about your cloud management experience, as well as tools and platforms you are familiar with. Learn core cloud platforms, monitoring tools and configuration management systems, such as Ansible and Zenoss. Interviewers want you to demonstrate how you use these tools to solve problems and improve user experience, so provide real-world examples.

Enterprises continue to embrace public and hybrid cloud models. Be prepared to talk about merging workloads to public cloud and its benefits.

DevOps skills

Interviewers might ask about DevOps tools, especially as more enterprises pursue this model. It benefits cloud administrators to have experience with DevOps-related tools likes Jenkins and Chef Server. If you have direct coding expertise, which is required by some enterprises, mention the languages you are familiar with, such as Java, C/C++ or C#.

Cloud architect

Cloud architects think about the big picture: they oversee a cloud computing strategy, including adoption plans, application design and management. Because of the ever-changing cloud technologies, a cloud architect must be up to date on current trends to keep environments running efficiently.

Enterprises want their architect to future-proof their systems. Think long term about where an organization's cloud strategy should be in three or more years. The better roadmap you can craft, the better prepared an enterprise will be.

Application portability across cloud platforms is a big issue with enterprises, so container experience is likely to come up during the interview. Cloud architects need to know the capabilities of containers and how they will fit into a cloud strategy.

In addition, open source platforms, such as OpenStack, are popular choices for companies that want a more customized cloud. Look into vendor, as well as vendor-neutral, certifications to work toward this career in cloud computing.

Cloud security manager

Security is always a top concern for enterprises, and the role of cloud security managers is to keep a cloud deployment safe. Be prepared for a challenging interview. Formal training and certifications, such as Certified Information Systems Security Professional, are important aspects of your resume. While a solid educational foundation is important, employers want to hear how you have used these skills in the real world.

There's a lot involved to pursue a security career in cloud computing. You have to prove your abilities to design, execute and maintain a cloud security strategy for various cloud infrastructures. Threats and risks to cloud systems change from day to day, so the manager must constantly monitor the environment. Track cloud security trends and master different tools and processes, such as encryption, access control and multifactor authentication.

Managers must have great communication skills to set policies with employees across the organization, as well as knowledge of governance and compliance standards, such as PCI DSS.

Future-proof your cloud skills

It is never too late to learn new skills, sharpen ones you already have or find a new career in cloud computing. The cloud landscape continues to change, so interviewers want candidates with skills relevant to not only what they practice now, but what they will pursue in the future.

Cloud vendor-specific experience, containers and machine learning are three skills that can help future-proof your resume.

Cloud application developers

The way enterprises develop and deploy software continues to change with the evolution of cloud computing. Because of those changes, enterprises want more from cloud application developers; they want developers to also take on roles commonly associated with architects, engineers, analysts and technicians. Still, candidates need to provide an educational background in programming -- be sure to review what languages your potential employer uses and add those to your repertoire.

Gain hands-on development experience for major cloud platforms, such as Amazon Web Services, Google and Azure. With the dawn of multicloud, familiarity with various platforms and interoperability between them will play in your favor.

Employers need to make sure you are the right fit for their enterprise, so they will ask about your development process. The more management and development tools you have used, the more interviewers can assess if you are able to transition to their tool set.

Stress the importance of automation, especially when dealing with DevOps, continuous integration and continuous delivery. Agile models are popular in enterprises, so experience with these models, and the ability to collaborate between different department and roles, is a big benefit.

Next Steps

A complete guide to build a cloud career

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New cloud roles continue to emerge

This was last published in April 2017

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