How To Build A Successful Career As Cloud Engineer

Demand for talented and experienced cloud professionals has been escalating, as more and more organizations are moving their workloads to the cloud. This article provides an overview of what the job entails, the various types of cloud-related positions, necessary skills and programming language knowledge, salary and market considerations, and information on interview preparation and training resources.

How To Build A Successful Career As Cloud Engineer. Image: ShutterStock
How To Build A Successful Career As Cloud Engineer. Image: ShutterStock

Introduction

Cloud engineers—professionals responsible for assessing a business’s infrastructure and migrating different functions to a cloud-based system—are in high demand, as more companies move critical business processes and applications to public, private, and hybrid cloud infrastructures. These professionals build, maintain, and link to cloud services, with a mix of technical skills, business knowledge, and experience with at least one of the major cloud providers: Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.

To help those interested in the field better understand how to break into a career in cloud engineering, we compiled the most important details and resources.

Why is there an increased demand for cloud engineers?

Named one of the most in-demand tech jobs of 2019, cloud engineers are highly sought after due to a large number of organizations moving business functions to the cloud. Some 68% of enterprise IT departments are now using public cloud infrastructure, according to a NetEnrich report. And a SolarWinds report indicated that more than half of tech pros say that the cloud and hybrid IT underlie their organization’s most important IT strategy today since nearly all organizations are moving some workloads to the cloud.

“As companies move away from an on-premises infrastructure model to a cloud-first approach when upgrading or designing new environments, the need to hire technologists with cloud experience has increased dramatically,” Paul Wallenberg, senior unit manager of technology services at the staffing and recruiting firm LaSalle Network, told TechRepublic.

As such, between 2015 and 2018, job searches for roles related to cloud computing—including cloud infrastructure, cloud security, cloud architect, and cloud engineer—rose nearly 108%, according to an Indeed report. Employer interest for candidates with cloud computing skills rose 33%.

But even with high job seeker interest in these roles, employer demand outpaces the number of qualified candidates available. Searches for the terms cloud computing and cloud engineer have risen 141% in the past two years.

What does a cloud engineer do?

Cloud engineers are responsible for assessing the existing infrastructure of a business and researching solutions for moving different functions (like database storage) to a cloud-based system, according to our premium sister site, Tech Pro Research. This person then migrates the function to the new system and maintains it.

Cloud engineers require technical abilities to perform the migration and must be able to negotiate terms with vendors, ensure the security of the data, and implement best practices throughout the process. These professionals also communicate progress to senior management and work closely with IT teams to integrate existing structures into cloud-based systems.

What are some cloud engineer job roles?

Cloud engineers can take a number of career paths. Here are the 15 most in-demand roles in the field that list cloud-related skills in their description, according to Indeed:

  • Software engineer
  • Senior software engineer
  • Software architect
  • Development operations engineer
  • Full-stack developer
  • Cloud engineer
  • Data engineer
  • Java developer
  • System engineer
  • Data scientist
  • Systems administrator
  • Senior Java developer
  • .NET developer
  • Front-end developer
  • Back-end developer

What programming languages and other skills are best to learn to become a cloud engineer?

Cloud engineers typically have at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science or information technology. Those in the field often have years of software development experience, working with a variety of programming languages, such as Java, AngularJS, C++, and Python. Cloud engineers also often know a number of tech tools and platforms, including SQL, Kubernetes, Spark, Hadoop, Scala, Kafka, and Redshift, according to Cloud Academy. Other useful skills are DevOps, Docker, and Linux.

Cybersecurity skills are highly useful for cloud engineers, too, as 40% of IT professionals report stalling their cloud migrations due to a shortage of security expertise, according to a McAfee report.

What is the average cloud engineer salary?

Cloud engineer was one of the highest-paying tech jobs of 2018. Data from Glassdoor indicates that cloud engineers have a median base salary of $96,449. The average salary of cloud engineers in the US at the time of this publication was $118,586, according to Indeed.

What are the hottest markets for cloud engineer jobs?

Gartner TalentNeuron says that the five US metro areas with the most open cloud computing jobs for 2019 are:

  • Washington DC, Arlington-Alexandria, VA
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
  • Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL

What are typical cloud engineer interview questions?

Applicants for cloud engineer jobs can expect various types of interview questions, including those addressing their prior experience with cloud platforms and technologies, security issues, and collaborating with other teams.

Cloud engineers can also expect to be asked:

  • What kind of projects have you been involved in where you implemented specific solutions to the cloud?
  • What types of security issues have you’ve confronted or encountered in regard to cloud implementation?
  • What kind of relationships have you formed with cloud service providers?
  • What web development tools are you most proficient in? What are your favorites to use and why?
  • Can you provide an example of how you worked with other members of an IT team to solve a particular obstacle to cloud-based solutions?

Where can I find resources for a career in cloud engineering?

There are many paths to a career as a cloud engineer. While there are a few specific cloud computing degree programs, a background in computer science or IT is often required.

There are also a number of cloud certifications from vendors that can demonstrate your skillset with those vendors, including:

  • AWS certifications for those in cloud practitioner, architect, developer, and operations roles, along with specialty certifications for other technical areas
  • Microsoft certifications such as MCSE: Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert and MCSD: Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer
  • Google Cloud Platform certifications such as Associate Cloud Engineer, Professional Cloud Architect, Professional Cloud Developer, Professional Cloud Network Engineer, and Professional Cloud Security Engineer
  • Cisco certifications, including CCNA Cloud and CCNP Cloud
  • Vendor-neutral options include the CompTIA Cloud Essentials certification and the Cloud Security Alliance’s Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK).

A good place to start gaining cloud computing skills is by learning a programming language such as Java, C++, or Python. You may also want to look into developing a broader set of skills in networking, virtualization, and storage through your current company.

By Alison DeNisco Rayome, TechRepublic