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What is a Cloud Engineer and How Do You Become One?

What is a Cloud Engineer and How Do You Become One?

Cloud computing has transformed how businesses operate and manage their IT resources and infrastructure. As more organisations embrace cloud technologies to scale their operations, save costs on physical hardware and devices, and streamline their workflows, the demand for skilled cloud professionals has skyrocketed. 

 

Among these very ‘in-demand’ roles are cloud engineers and cloud architects, who play integral roles in designing, implementing, and maintaining business cloud solutions. Over the years, S-SA Digital has proven capable of filling a broad range of tech vacancies on behalf of our clients requiring the best talent. Those with cloud computing experience and skills are no different. 

 

To help you understand the career path and benefits that a fruitful career as a cloud engineer or architect can offer you, our technical recruitment experts have compiled this short guide for you.

Understanding the Role of a Cloud Engineer or Architect

A cloud engineer or architect is an IT professional responsible for overseeing an organisation’s cloud computing strategy.

Their primary responsibilities include:

Designing, planning and maintaining cloud infrastructure, applications and architecture

  • Migrating existing systems and infrastructure to and within the cloud across a range of cloud providers and third parties
  • Ensuring cloud solutions align with business objectives, security requirements, and compliance standards
  • Optimising the architecture for application development, data management, and identity and access management (IAM)
  • Monitoring and troubleshooting cloud environments for performance, scalability, and availability
  • Collaborating with cross-functional teams, such as developers, DevOps, and security professionals

Cloud engineers may be solely responsible for overseeing the top-level deployment and adoption of cloud resources for an organisation, or one of several engineers as part of a wider, cross-departmental team. The size and scale of the hiring organisation will influence the complexity of their cloud infrastructure, and by extension, the candidates’ expected roles. 

For example, if the organisation has already implemented third-party vulnerability management or MDR (managed detection and response) solutions following recent industry-wide recommendations, this will make cloud adoption trickier. 

Regardless of the hiring company’s existing resources, cloud architects require a combination of technical and non-technical skills to be successful in their applications.

Key Skills Required for a Cloud Engineer or Architect

Technical Skills

  • Proficiency in cloud platforms (e.g., Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform)
  • Experience in how to provision virtual machines (VMs) 
  • Knowledge of server-side programming languages (e.g., Python, Java, C#)
  • Understanding of enterprise operating systems (OS) like Windows, Linux, Solaris, and Ubuntu
  • The premise of big data architecture and design principles
  • Understanding of networking concepts (e.g., TCP/IP, SSL, DNS)
  • Expertise in cloud security best practices like threat detection, risk mitigation and encryption
  • Familiarity with infrastructure as code (IaC) practices and automation tools
  • Knowledge of cloud service models (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS)
  • Real-world proficiency using a range of back-end and front-end platforms

Soft Skills

  • Problem-solving and analytical skills
  • Strong communication and collaboration skills
  • Project management and leadership skills
  • Flexibility and adaptability 
  • A continuous learning mindset
  • The ability to demonstrate solid thought leadership
  • Financial and change management skills

Cloud architects and engineers will likely have different expectations and responsibilities for each organisation that they enquire with, but the above list is indicative of what most roles will involve to some degree. 

Educational Requirements and Certifications

While there is no one-size-fits-all route to becoming a cloud architect or engineer, most employers prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, mathematics, IT, cyber security, or a related field, with some organisations even stipulating a master’s degree as a minimum education requirement. Practical, on-the-job experience and real-world knowledge also carry significant weight.

The industry is rapidly evolving thanks to the emergence of new technologies and risk factors, which is why cloud specialists are in high demand. Therefore, starting in roles such as DevOps or systems engineering can also earn you a route into a career as a cloud architect or engineer. 

Obtaining vendor-specific and vendor-neutral cloud certifications can also significantly enhance your credibility for an architect or engineer vacancy. Some popular certifications include (but are not limited to):

  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect
  • Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect Expert
  • Google Cloud Professional Cloud Architect
  • IBM Cloud Advanced Architect v2
  • Certified Cloud Architect (Arcitura)
  • CompTIA Cloud+

While obtaining the above certifications will not guarantee you a role, they can validate your skills and expertise in specific facets of cloud security, architecture optimisation, program proficiency, and design skills, to name just a few. It’s alarming to know that - based on recent data from Oxford College AC - 60% of employers report an increase in the need for advanced digital skills, illustrating concerns with an ever-pervasive skills gap across the industry. Therefore, experience, education, accreditations, and skills will all prove instrumental in getting your foot in the door.

Career Path and Salary Expectations

There is no defined transition route to a cloud engineer career, but you would usually begin with an entry-level role such as a network engineer, systems administrator, or DevOps engineer. As you gain expertise and experience, progressing to mid-level roles like cloud infrastructure engineer or cloud specialist becomes more feasible, before potentially advancing to senior cloud solutions architect roles. 

Cloud technologies rapidly evolve, requiring architects to continuously adapt to new tools, trends, and best practices. While salaries vary, cloud architects with 2-4 years of experience can typically expect £65,000 to £112,000 per year, and cloud engineers with similar experience around £40,000 to £70,000 annually, according to a top-level summary on Glassdoor.

Naturally, the more experienced and skilled you become in a given role, the more lucrative you can expect your career in this space. Each organisation will value you differently depending on your job function, expertise and skill set, so don’t rest on these laurels alone.

Giving Yourself the Best Advantage as a Candidate

As the industry and associated technologies continue to evolve, engineers and architects will find themselves in the best possible position if they leverage new trends, tools, and insights to enhance their expertise. Continuous learning and improvement are vital if trying to progress in this competitive industry, and they can often open doors to new avenues and opportunities.

Even if you’re not where you want to be as a cloud architect or engineer yet, consider the following to help you get your foot in the door:

  • Attending industry events, conferences, and workshops
  • Participating in online courses and training programs
  • Engaging with online communities and forums
  • Obtaining additional certifications 
  • Shadowing colleagues from time to time
  • Building a portfolio of relevant experience
  • Enrolling in mentorship schemes through your current employer

A cloud engineer or architect is vital in helping organisations discover the full range of benefits of cloud computing. With the right level of real-world experience, a blend of technical and soft skills, and a commitment to continuous learning, you can earn your stripes in an exciting, fulfilling, and enriching career within the dynamic field of the cloud. 

Partnering with S-SA Digital’s recruitment specialists will also be an essential stop along your journey. We are driven to help you secure the right role for you, taking the time to match you with the organisations that share your values, culture, and aspirations. Speak to one of our experts today to see how we can help you.

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