You’ve earned the certs, toiled in the server rooms, and spent more than your fair share on-call. You’re a well seasoned networking admin now, but after five or 10 years, you’re thinking it might be time to shake things up a bit.
It’s true what you’ve heard — the cloud is a great place to be and can lead to a great career pivot. At first, it may seem like an intimidating shift though, even for an experienced admin. You’re used to getting our hands on the hardware, not being so dependant on someone else to run the servers.
Spend a little time kicking the tires of any cloud service, though, and you’ll see the huge advantages of cloud computing. New servers and databases go live in minutes. Redundancy from coast to coast. No more patching and, if well architectured, no more late nights working an outage. The difference can be monumental.
Not surprisingly, the market for cloud pros keeps getting hotter. By one report, there are more than 50,000 open cloud computing jobs in the U.S. And cloud pros are earning a median $146,000 salary. Let’s dig into how your networking admin skills can lead to a successful career pivot to the cloud.
1. Cloud Certify Yourself
First things first, you’ll want to get certified. We know, we just sold you on how well your existing skills can serve you. But you still have to get your feet wet a bit with some cloud-specific training. This leads to one pivotal question, which platform do you start with?
There are three clear leaders: AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. All three offer similar core services like virtual machines, databases, networking and security models, and serverless code execution.
AWS is a clear leader in the market with a three times share over its closest competitor, Azure, which naturally leads to the greatest demand for certified AWS experts. An AWS cert such as the Solutions Architect Associate will serve you well, providing both foundational knowledge and market credibility.
Azure on the other hand still holds its own, particularly with companies that have long been Microsoft shops. We’ve discussed it here before, but it’s worth saying that the hybrid integrations Azure allows between on-prem and cloud are pretty rad. And though they play second fiddle to AWS, Azure still boasts some impressive numbers, with 100+% yearly growth and 57% of Fortune 500 companies as customers. As for certs, there’s changes coming soon so read up before you study for a test that’s soon to be retired.
Finally, there’s Google Cloud Platform. Kind of the red-headed step child of the Cloud Big Three, GCP is a perfectly capable and competitive platform. They just don’t get the same level of street cred as AWS and Azure. Check out the Associate Cloud Engineer cert to get trained up.
2. Reinforce Your Security Skills
As a seasoned pro, you already understand the importance of network security. Maybe you already have a security-specific certification or two under your belt. Good thing, because security is as big of a concern, if not bigger, with the cloud than with on-prem. In a nutshell, the cloud presents a bigger attack surface area.
The good news is that cloud security concepts are similar enough to get your arms around, there’s just a few new nuggets you’ll need to know. AWS, for example, pushes hard the importance of their shared responsibility model. Basically, they take care for the security and availability of the hardware and data centers. However, you are responsible for locking down the applications you build and services you deploy. It doesn’t take much effort to find examples of how NOT to do AWS security.
For training, there are security-specific certs for each platform. Make sure to check them out for AWS, Azure, and GCP — and up your InfoSec skills to the cloud.
3. Pick up a Programming Language
Many cloud platforms use programming languages, either for serverless services, like AWS Lambda, or the programmatic deployment of services. Coding chops are valuable for taking full advantage of cloud services. In fact, AWS recommends proficiency in at least one programming language to sit for its AWS Certified Developer – Associate Certification exam,
The good news is that every cloud platform supports multiple programming languages. If you need to add programming to your skill set, start with something easy to learn — and also widely used. We recommend Python, ourselves. Make the transition to cloud admin easier on yourself by adding some coding chops.
4. Add Some DevOps Tools to your Skill Set
Parallel to coding is learning some DevOps skills, an area that’s become pretty much attached to building in the cloud. If you want a successful cloud career, you’ll need to understand the DevOps mindset and learn some new tools.
DevOps is a lot of things to a lot of people, but there’s one common denominator — continuous integration (CI). Traditionally software changes and updates were tedious and done with trepidation as the last thing any dev wants is to break production.
With CI, changes happen daily (sometimes hourly). Revisions are vigorously tested with automation, and deployed into production seamlessly to end users. Tools like Chef and Ansible are essential for deploying and updating your infrastructure. That’s why they’re essential for your DevOps toolbox.
5. Get Familiar with Agile Methodology
Right along with DevOps comes Agile. We all know that project management and IT go hand in hand — and nothing is hotter right now in PM than Agile. This makes Agile an essential skill for your cloud toolbox.
There are several key reasons the cloud and Agile go hand-in-hand. Using Agile methodology enables organizations to communicate on a high-level what they want to accomplish with cloud projects and services. Agile also allows for organizations to respond quicker to changing demands. At the same time, it reduces the demand for change control or fixed scopes.
Training up as a Scrum Master will set you up very well, especially to grow into management roles of teams of cloud ninjas. Being Agile is important to success working in cloud-based environments.
This may not be a comprehensive list of everything you’ll need to translate your on-prem veteran skills to become a cloud superhero. There might be other areas to address such as DBA or virtualization skills. But hopefully we’ve laid out enough of a starting point for you to identify and address your knowledge gaps.
The good news: you’ve made it this far so you understand the need to keep leveling up. The cloud’s here to stay, so it will remain a safe career investment for a long time to come.