The cloud computing market continues to grow, and cloud computing jobs are getting more lucrative. But what the exactly is a “cloud job” and what does it take to win one?
Executives from IT staffing firms and career sites recently spoke with CompTIA about what cloud skills and knowledge are currently in-demand from employers.
Cloud Still Picking Up Steam
Cloud jobs represent the fastest-growing skills on IT jobs site Dice.com, reports Dice President Shravan Goli. “Cloud jobs were at an all-time high in August with more than 5,000 postings on Dice.com only on any given day—up 32 percent from August 2012,” Goli said.
Ninety percent of all companies surveyed for CompTIA’s 2013 Fourth Annual Trends in Cloud Computing report use some sort of cloud computing (up from 80% in 2012).
And cloud computing jobs paid $96,000 last year, up 4 percent from 2011, according to Dice’s salary survey. In comparison, the salary found that the average salary for technology professionals is $85,000 a year in 2012.
Varying Job Titles
Cloud job roles span a wide variety of IT sectors, including cloud network infrastructure, data storage and use, applications scaling, and operation/maintenance of cloud-based solutions. The roles have yet to standardize, so unusual titles are commonplace, said Robert Half Technology Senior Executive Director John Reed.
Jobs more frequently posted by employers include Amazon web services systems engineer, SaaS (software as a service) developers, and cloud security engineers, said Reed. “Other roles might not even have cloud in the title, such as Full Stack Open Source Developer or DevOps. You have to dig a little bit to really determine it’s a cloud-based job or there are cloud aspects to it.”
Demand for programmers at all points of Big Data technologies and usage continues to grow year-over-year, says Dice’s Goli. This includes jobs for programmers skilled in scripting languages such as Hadoop and Python, and data management languages such as SQL.
Dice’s Goli also emphasized the rising importance of DevOps, which he considers an evolution of traditional infrastructure roles such as systems admin or network admin. “It’s a new field, a hybrid that sits between development and operations as a new way to work in a cloud-based environment.”
DevOps professionals are “not easy to find,” says Modis Senior Vice President Dan Pollock. “They’re very coveted by the companies who do have them.”
The demands are very high for folks with previous experience, says Pollock. “So these folks are making $140,000 to $160,000 as DevOps engineers, or Linux DevOps engineers—higher for storage architects with a ton of cloud experience.”
New Roles Evolving
Companies will frequently hire consultants or contractors to help plan and execute a transition to cloud, and once the transition is complete, create an administrative system to maintain the new cloud environment. “That team looks different than the team who helps them make the move,” said Pollock.
One other driver for cloud jobs: Security—from the data center to the mobile app. “Whether you own your own servers or use a cloud-based solution, you have to have answers for security either way,” said Pollock. “Security is more of a hot-button in the cloud because of the perceived risk.”
While new roles are coming onto the market, there’s plenty of room for existing roles to evolve to add cloud skills, IT staffing firms say.
“Some companies can’t afford someone with five years of extensive cloud experience,” said Pollock. “But instead could take and train a solid system admin with five to eight years experience, and transition them into running or maintaining the new cloud environment.”
Other companies simply can’t find the cloud skills and experience they need, so they invest in people on their IT team to build the skills in-house. “We’re starting to see more competency in the marketplace, but it’s still early,” says Reed.
Each company has custom requirements for cloud roles and its own standards for vetting applicants, but RHI’s Reed said, “Normally clients are looking for some combination of knowing how to develop or script in an open source language, Unix or Linux, and a bachelor’s degree.”
“I could give you a laundry list of more than 200 skills that we’ve seen requested over time, but skills with Amazon Web Services, Ruby on Rails, MongoDB, NoSQL or SaaS experience come up more often,” he added.
At Dice, Goli says, “We want these professionals to have knowledge of Big Data platforms, experience in open source Linux and some of the scripting languages used on the operations side.”
According to Pollock, employers using Modis are looking for cloud job candidates with:
- Strong system admin experience
- Strong virtualization and strong storage experience
- Experience working with IaaS, SaaS or PaaS technologies and tools
- Strong network architecture design and implementation
- Experience with cloud solutions and platform software such as IBM Personal Communication, VMware, NetApp, or Citrix, PeopleSoft Financials or Oracle E-Business Suite
For cloud roles especially, employers place an increasing premium on technology professionals with soft skills: Excellent communication, trouble-shooting and problem-solving skills, plus a solid understanding of the way business operates.
“If you can bring the complete package of soft and technology skills, you are going to be in a great position as a candidate to get these plumb jobs,” said Reed. “This is not only specific to cloud, but absolutely a very strong trend seen across the board of the last 12 months.”
Although employers tend to want professionals with six to 10 years of experience, Goli says, “Cloud is newer technology and employers are being more relaxed with experience and instead really focused on: Does this person have the ability to learn and the related experience in storage technologies, virtualization technologies, or dealing with big data applications or cloud-based services.”
Adds Goli: “It’s about having adjacent skills, some experience and the ability to learn as you go.”
One way IT professionals can show employers they have cloud knowledge is by earning the new CompTIA Cloud+ certification exam, scheduled to be available Oct. 1.
The exam objectives cover virtualization, cloud concepts and models, infrastructure, resource management, security, systems management and business continuity.
"The CompTIA Cloud+ certification recognizes that an IT professional has a well-rounded, vendor-neutral understanding of the technologies supporting cloud solutions and will make that individual more valuable to employers,” said Nathan Savolskis, System Engineer with MacAulay-Brown, Inc., who helped create the exam. “Cloud+ will set them ahead of their peers as more companies adopt cloud solutions and scrutinize the size of their IT staff."