From our workplaces to our gaming consoles, the cloud is everywhere. While technologists like to joke that the cloud is little more than “just somebody else’s machine,” it’s still the backbone of our increasingly interconnected world. As a result of that, understanding how to build out and maintain the cloud is increasingly important if you want a job in the technology sector.
If you want to get technical about it, Microsoft, which commands a large chunk of the enterprise cloud space, defines cloud computing as “the delivery of computing services—including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence—over the Internet.”
Cloud computing touches just about every corner of the tech industry, as well as job titles like software engineer, web developer, IT project manager, and business intelligence architect. With all that in mind, how can you get into cloud computing? Should you pay for cloud-related training? We spoke to tech experts to find out exactly why you should (or shouldn’t) get into the cloud.
What is cloud?
Let’s go beyond that quick-and-easy definition from Microsoft: if you want to work with the cloud in a professional context, chances are good you’ll need to learn a handful of public cloud platforms. These platforms, which include Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, allow tech professionals to manage cloud-based storage, compute, and other features (such as data analytics). Here are some of the more popular ones:
Amazon Web Services (AWS): Long the market leader in cloud, AWS has seen its features proliferate over the past few years, from analytics and machine learning to compliance and database. These dozens of products mean that tech pros can tailor AWS to their organization’s specific needs. Education and training programs such as AWS Academy and AWS re/Start.
Microsoft Azure: Microsoft’s cloud platform holds a significant chunk of the overall cloud market. Microsoft has its own Azure training courses that offer several paths to mastery for tech professionals. If you’re interested in working with cloud, and your potential employers are Microsoft-centric shops, chances are good you’ll need to know how Azure works.
Google Cloud Platform: Google Cloud Platform shares top-level similarities with AWS and Azure, offering cloud-based storage and compute to any tech pro or company that can pay for it. Google offers a variety of training options depending on your specialization, including paths for data engineers, machine learning specialists, data analysts, cloud developers, and more.
There are other clouds out there, some of which are run by prominent tech companies such as Oracle. Fortunately, virtually every company with a cloud also offers training and documentation for it; if you’re a self-directed learner, you can pick up quite a bit on your own. If you’re the type who needs guided instruction, massive online learning platforms such as Udemy and Coursera often offer classes in the various aspects of cloud.
Is cloud easy or hard to learn?
As he broke down on Dice’s ‘Tech Connects’ podcast, Kevin Kelly, Director of Cloud Career Training Programs at Amazon Web Services (which include the education and training programs AWS Academy and AWS re/Start), believes cloud mastery hinges on the following concepts:
Yes, it’s a lot to learn. And yes, it will take you quite a bit of time and resources to truly master the cloud. However, if you’ve spent any time working in tech, you’ve likely interacted with several cloud platforms already—you have a foundation for further learning.
How much does cloud computing training cost?
Quimby Melton, co-founder and CEO at Confection, tells Dice: “There’s a lot of demand for cloud computing credentials, but it shouldn’t be hard to find an effective training program that costs under $5,000. Unlike traditional academic degree programs, web and cloud-computing certifications are skills-based. This means what you learn is far more important than the credential you hold. There’s no need to overspend. Find a program whose graduates have successfully entered the roles you’d like to occupy. That’s a good signal the program gives enrollees the skills they need to succeed.”
Pavel Shukhman, CEO at Reliza, emphasizes the plethora of options: “There is really no standard for pricing. Some courses with certificates can cost several hundred dollars each. It’s also possible to get discounts at sites like Udemy where courses can be much less than $100. I would budget $1000 - this should cover training for basic skills with certificates.”
Are there free options for cloud computing training?
“It is possible to start for free by auditing courses without certificates on platforms like Coursera,” Shukhman says. Keep in mind that the major cloud platforms, such as AWS and Azure, also offer lots of training and documentation for free—but getting the most out of these materials depends on your ability to self-learn. Guided instruction often comes with a set fee.
Amy Rutt, founder and president of Ciracom, reminds us “free” is not always better—but can be additive to more traditional training: “I think it’s very challenging to train on free tools. It’s a good start, but training in lab-based environments is really so much more helpful to what you will face in your work environment. Complimenting your lab-based training with free tools and trainings is a good path to take, though.”
Melton notes that self-training is a key way for technologists to round out their skills: “I’d say most technologists are 25 percent trained and 75 percent self-taught. Teaching yourself through trial and error and self-directed research is a viable, inexpensive option for anyone looking to work in cloud computing.”
“There are many free options for training,” says Nisha Talagala, CEO and co-founder of AIClub. “It is hard to say how good they are—it depends on the objective and the content. The free content typically requires students to be self-motivated to seek out the options and determine how to sequence the available resources to build competence. I have had engineers train themselves by reading cloud documentation. It is easier to learn from free resources if you have a very specific task to do and you are trying to figure out how to do it. If you are looking for a structured way to build competence before, for example, starting a project or looking for a job, a paid course is likely to be better.”
How can I get into cloud computing without experience?
Rutt says: “This is very hard to do but can be done. It’s best to provide the hiring manager a view of your desires to learn, and this can be done by taking classes and showing just plain old initiative for your career.”
Melton advises you display some curiosity about cloud computing to help you round out your skillset and be more attractive to hiring managers and recruiters: “Boot up your computer. Try things, Read a lot, on- and off-line. Address specific challenges as they present themselves to you. Fill knowledge gaps piece by piece. After a few months of doing this, you’ll be well on your way.”
It’s critical that you have a portfolio of projects and a healthy online presence. Like any other tech discipline, cloud computing requires that you prove your skillset and knowledge. This becomes particularly true if you’re not getting a degree from an accredited university.
What qualifications do I need to get a job in cloud computing?
Talagala gives Dice valuable insight on what he looks for when hiring:
- Do they have experience working with the cloud provider I am using?
- Do they know specific products within that cloud provider? For example, in AWS, do they know S3, Cloudwatch, Sagemaker, Lambda, EC2, and so on?
- Have they built projects using this cloud platform and its tools? Any descriptions of the projects, such as blogs, GitHub repositories, etc. are helpful.
- Do they have the ability to learn new tools? Cloud vendors release many tools and tools updates every year. Engineers need to demonstrate the ability to keep their skills current.
“Grit,” Rutt adds. “Attention to detail and excellent communication skills help, too. It’s important to know that in technology careers, you will need to be able to take ideas and turn them into products. Being able to translate technical requirements for the various departments such as marketing, sales, and finance, is critical.”
“For cloud computing, it’s complicated,” Shukhman adds. “The most in-demand skills now are Terraform, Kubernetes, and experience with at least one major cloud (AWS, Azure or GCP). The problem with cloud computing is that it is very fragmented in terms of technologies. So, it is impossible for anyone to know even a quarter of the existing tools. Therefore, what we value the most there is ability to navigate the spectrum quickly. In cloud computing, we value general understanding of required components and ability to learn tools quickly.”
Like any role in tech, how you learn cloud computing skills is not as important as showing you know how to apply your knowledge. To become attractive to hiring managers, displaying your skillset for stacks they use is critical. A good option is to look through cloud computing job posts to find what companies in your area use, and begin upskilling in those areas. With a little hard work and discipline, you’ll be upskilled—and employed—in no time.