During a famous scene in the movie, The Graduate, a family friend pulls Dustin Hoffman’s character aside and gives him some sage career advice for the 1960s: “Plastics.”
A modern version of that scene would sub out plastics for the cloud.
According to David Linthicum, 10% of computing workloads will be in the cloud by 2019. That means your IT skills will be in great demand if you can help companies migrate their applications to the cloud.
Forecasting the job prospects of any market can be a tricky business. I have a close friend who spent a lot of time and money returning to school to become an x-ray technician. The job market looked promising at the time he began his studies. Advances in machine learning happened to quickly that it changed his job prospects. It turns out that computers excel at searching for small changes to patient charts. Today, he spends more time operating imaging machines than examing charts. He still has a good job, but it’s not what he’d hoped to do with his certification in hand.
I believe it’s safe to say that the cloud will be with us for many years. The challenge is knowing what skills will be in most demand once you complete your degree or certification. That’s what I’d like to discuss today. With a new year upon us, I know many of you will be looking to improve and expand your IT skills. I’ve done some research on what cloud skills will be in demand in 2017, and I’ll like to share them with you.
Specific vs. General Cloud Skills
It’s wise to consider if you’d be better off learning basic skills around a topic such as machine learning or focus on a specific vendor’s platform like Amazon Web Services. While there’s no guarantee, I’d still place my money on Amazon being a major cloud player over the next decade or two so learning a skill specific to Amazon’s platform may be a good move. Just understand that by focusing on a specific application or platform, you’re placing all your eggs in one basket.
Take another skill such as cloud security, and you might be better off learning the fundamentals rather than going deep into one product that may or may not be the market leader by the time you earn your certification. You’ll have to decide if going with a broader skillset is more beneficial than becoming an expert at a single product such as Amazon’s CloudWatch.
One thing to keep in mind is that the cloud is still in its infancy. I expect a lot to change over the next five years. It wasn’t that long ago that many people figured the best days of Microsoft were behind it. Amazon and its AWS were running away with the cloud business for a number of years. Yet Microsoft changed CEOs and has been on a tear lately with Azure. So while Google, Amazon and Microsoft are today’s leaders in the cloud, expect new entrants to join the fray over time. That means new products will emerge and skills around those products will be in demand.
Let’s take a look at some specific skills.
Cloud Computing Jobs In Security
“If you want a job in 5 years, study computer science. If you want a job forever, study computer security.”
That’s a tweet from Box CEO, Aaron Levie, that caught my attention a while back. His point is well taken because security is the top concern for companies looking to move their operations to the cloud. If you can resolve their security concerns, you will find success. Security in the cloud is complex and many compliance needs must be addressed before companies move forward. This is especially true for those in positions in healthcare and finance where regulations are tightly monitored.
No matter the platform or product, companies will need security experts in IT and software development. I performed a search at Indeed for cloud security positions at Amazon and found over 400 current job listings. With major cloud service providers snatching up talent, it’s easy to predict that security experts will be in hot demand for the foreseeable future.
Just because data is in the cloud, it doesn’t mean it is 100% safe. Issues like human error, data corruption, or even ransomware attacks can affect public or private clouds. In addition to cloud security, cloud backups, compliance and cloud data management are also useful skills to have.
Pay Range: $110,000 to $130,000
This is one of the more general positions on the list because it covers both cloud operations and management. As companies prepare to move their applications to the cloud they need experts to guide them through the process. And as they migrate applications to the cloud, they will also be transitioning to a DevOps tool set. Companies will place a high value on those employees who can help them make smooth transitions in both areas.
This is a good area for IT managers to consider because many of their current skills are transferable. In addition to the technical skills, this position needs someone who is an expert at leadership, teaching and communication. Moving applications to the cloud often means migrating off applications that users have used for more than a decade such as legacy email or financial products. While the cloud might sound exciting to you, it can bring apprehension to those who will be asked to learn cloud-based software and services that will be foreign to them.
Pay Range: $90,000 to $120,000
Machine Learning Engineer/Researcher
This skillset is in high demand as companies use machine learning to understand the data they are collecting. Machine learning engineers focus their efforts on building machines that can sift through and make sense of petabytes of data. At Uber each day drivers send loads of data to the cloud where machines can analyze it. The problem Uber has is that the amount of data generated from millions of daily trips can overwhelm all but the most powerful machines. That’s where machine learning steps in to manage and analyze all that data.
IoT is driving machine learning as thousands of sensors create data that companies use to react in real time. When I attended Supercomputing 2016 last month, many companies were searching for machine learning engineers. I talked to one employee at NVIDIA who told me that PayPal was using machine learning to spot money laundering activity. I imagine every credit card company is also using machine learning to prevent fraudulent charges by using machines to examine millions of transactions to spot the anomalies.
From autonomous cars to cancer research, machine learning is set to take off in 2017.
Pay Range: $90,000 to $125,000
Data Integration Engineer
Most people think of this job as moving large chunks of data from one server to another. But as more applications and their data are moved to the cloud, this position become more about moving small amounts of data from sensors to back-end storage systems. You might also batch data that’s being moved from an operational database to a target database so that it can be analyzed. This position requires competency in ETL (extract, transform, and load) tools and technology.
The key here is that companies are collecting more data than ever before, and they are collecting it from more sources. And with IoT, the number of sources will explode. But the data isn’t valuable unless machines and analysts can process it. Collecting, securing and putting the data into tools is where the data integration engineer comes in.
Pay Range: $80,000 to $110,000
It’s an exciting time to be in IT. Yet, I can’t think of a time where there’s been more pressure on IT to learn new skills. The migration to the cloud brings with it new opportunities for those with the right skills to make it happen. I’ve focused my article more general skills around a specific area of the cloud instead of platform such as OpenStack or Apache Kafka. I believe that’s a safer approach.
Business Insider put together a list of cloud computing jobs with high salaries that focus on specific products or platforms. You’ll notice many of them are built around AWS which isn’t surprising given its share of cloud business. Amazon has been on a hiring spree for a few years now and they show little sign of letting up.