Main image of article Ready, Set, Cloud: Launching Yourself into a Cloud Career

Imagine a skill that can accelerate career and earning potential. Imagine training for that skill is readily available. What would keep people from taking advantage of it?

Today that skill is the ability to work in the cloud, and there is a dramatic gap between those who have and those who don’t have cloud skills. The global shortage of cloud-skilled talent has more than doubled since 2016, according to Global Knowledge, and today 76 percent of IT decision-makers report their organizations suffer from IT skills gaps. Across 12 countries, 174 million people in today’s workforce—almost one in five—will need digital skills training to meet their organization’s needs in the next year alone.

That need isn’t confined to traditional tech roles, because today, almost every part of an enterprise needs cloud skills. Recent research by Gartner found that 40 percent of the job postings in the U.S. that require digital skills are for non-IT roles. About one-fifth of those postings are in marketing and public relations, sales and business development, finance and accounting functions. Fortunately, for individuals in these roles, or for those who may be at a crossroads in their job search, cloud training is readily available today.

So what’s holding people back? Some of the common answers are time, money and knowing where to start. Let’s take a look at how real people have taken on each of those obstacles.

Barriers, Real and Imagined

Time: For some, time will always be a barrier to progress. However, adding in-demand cloud skills does not have to take a lot of time. Online, self-directed training courses can be as short as 15 to 30 minutes each, and people can set their own pace as they work through them—stopping and starting again as needed. That’s what Rola Dali, an experienced medical researcher, did during the COVID pandemic when she charted a new course in software development for a real estate research company.

Rola considered her cloud learning a personal test—in her words, “To prove to myself that I was still the same focused high-achiever I had known myself to be”—so she set herself what she called the “four in four challenge” to earn four AWS cloud certifications in four months. When her two young kids went to bed, she tuned out the day’s distractions and studied. Today, as a senior developer, she says she puts that knowledge to use every day.

Money: There are plenty of free or low-cost cloud training courses and programs out there, geared toward people with different technical backgrounds (including none). Where there are costs, employers may help. Many courses are offered by cloud providers themselves, and it often makes sense to look for ones designed by the provider you’ll use in the new role you’re aiming for. Courses also let people earn digital badges or industry certifications that showcase their achievements to prospective employers.

Manikanta Gona was working as a software tester in 2020 when he saw an online post about a technical apprenticeship program. Within a year, he was in a new role as a cloud consultant apprentice and had earned his AWS Certified Solutions Architect—Associate certification. “I quickly realized that certifications not only build my expertise and confidence, but they’re recognized industry-wide,” he said. “They’ll increase the depth and breadth of my cloud knowledge—a true investment in my future.” Benefits like that that have inspired Manikanta to earn three more cloud certifications—and he says he plans to earn all 11 that the program makes available.

Where to Start: This barrier to training is less tangible, but can be just as daunting. An AWS study found that 70 percent of employers and workers have limited knowledge of the digital and cloud training options that are available. That can be especially true for people who have change thrust upon them without warning. Antonio O’Donnell was an established hotel management professional when his position was eliminated due to COVID slowdowns in the travel industry. He saw the potential in cloud, but had no technical background and didn’t know what his first move should be.

Looking to a cloud provider for foundational training programs designed its own experts proved to be the start that unlocked Antonio’s new career. He found a free, comprehensive cloud skills training program called AWS re/Start that offered not only a path to gaining multiple cloud certifications, but also a way to forge personal connections in the cloud industry. Today he’s a cloud enablement consultant.

A Worthwhile Journey

Stories like Rola’s, Manikanta’s and Antonio’s are instructive. Each of them faced a potential barrier to learning cloud skills, and each found a way forward that has resulted in dramatic new career potential.

Because so many online cloud learning resources are low- or no-cost, self-directed, and aimed at different levels of technical proficiency, stories like theirs are becoming more commonplace. Employers are noticing the results. Organizations have learned to value cloud and other certifications, in roles both in and out of IT. Research by the Enterprise Strategy Group shows that the vast majority of organizations say employing certified staff members makes them more productive, competitive, secure, and creative.

Whether the motivation is a sudden need, a planned career change, or a long-term drive for personal enrichment, cloud learning is more relevant, rewarding and available than most people realize. It’s human nature to find first steps difficult, but this can be one well worth taking.

Kevin Kelly is Director of Cloud Career Training Programs at Amazon Web Services (AWS), helping to prepare diverse learners to pursue in-demand cloud roles.