Working in the Cloud: Taking a Fresh Look at Today’s Jobs

On your organization’s journey to the cloud, having people with the right skills, framework and perspective to maximize your cloud technology is crucial.  Whether you are looking to recruit new talent or striving to help support the continued advancement of those already staffing your IT operation, it’s a good time to take a fresh look at today’s jobs related to cloud services.

I was part of a team at EMC that recently did just that and would like to pass along what we found about these evolving IT roles.

We realized that there is a need for more information on IT jobs and how they have been transformed by the larger industry trends of cloud, big data, social and mobile technologies.  Together with my colleague Chhavi Gupta, an EMC engineer, we began researching jobs in the cloud last summer for a paper on the subject. We recently presented our findings at a national engineering conference hosted by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) in Baltimore, Maryland.

Jobs in the Cloud (Click to Enlarge)

I have to admit, my inspiration for doing the study was partly self-focused. I wanted to become more familiar with cloud technology, current trends, what is important to EMC, and what’s important to EMC’s customers. I wanted to become more fluent in EMC’s cloud technology as well. What I learned in those areas through researching this paper helps me do my job better, since I am part of the process for developing new technology solutions within EMC IT.

We decided the best way to research cloud technology jobs was to interview people at EMC who were doing them. We talked to six professionals in key cloud technology roles:

–        An R&D Principal Engineer in the CTO Office of VMware

–        A Developer with Cloud Management Platform Team

–        A Consultant-level Cloud Architect and Principal Application Architect in the Platform Strategy & Engineering Group

–        A Chief Database Architect in Cloud Platforms & Services Group

–        An Advisory Technical Education Consultant in Data Science

In each case, we captured their educational background, the skills they use, their day-to-day actions, their insights about future trends in the field and their advice to be successful. Some of our subjects also recommended professional affiliations or potential career paths.

We also included observations about each subject’s personality, which we considered important, since there is greater emphasis today on communication skills and collaboration within IT and with our client community, which requires personal along with professional skills.

While our interviewees’ skills, educational background and career options varied considerably, they offered some pretty striking common messages about working in the cloud and in today’s IT industry in general.

It’s not just about skill sets

A major theme they shared was that the actual technical skill set of a cloud professional is only part of what they need to do their jobs well. They also need the right framework—namely an environment in which they can be far more agile and responsive to customers’ needs. I heard that over and over again from the people we spoke with.

To achieve such agility, cloud professionals need to see the larger perspective on what they do. They can’t just focus on the specific application they are developing or the database they are working on. Almost every person we spoke with said they also needed to be familiar with adjacent technologies in the “technology stack” in order to be effective and agile in their roles.

In other words, if you’re a database person, you should have an understanding of the operating system as well as the storage tier. With jobs in the cloud growing and expanding, there is increasing overlap in areas of technology and a cloud professional needs to be more of a jack of all trades.

In the same vein, cloud professionals also need to understand the bigger picture of how their project relates to other projects going on in IT. One development activity might intersect or relate to another development activity in a parallel project. Knowing how one effort influences another or whether they have any shared components is part of the larger perspective that IT professionals now need to have.

Cloud professionals also noted their need to keep current with trends and developments in their field by connecting with others in their area of expertise and by working with fresh talent. For example, the R&D Principal Engineer we talked with had a PhD and years of experience in her field but stressed the importance of bringing in employees fresh out of college to infuse the ideas and innovation occurring on college campuses.

Nurturing jobs in the cloud

Our insights about careers in cloud technology certainly drew a lot of attention from job seekers at the SWE event, but it is up to corporate IT organizations to create an environment that will foster these professionals. At EMC, we have the innovative products and services to accelerate the journey to cloud computing, helping IT departments to store, manage, protect and analyze their most valuable asset–information. We are also committed to being the place where cloud professionals want to work.

Here are some of the things your organization should be doing to attract, support and retain cloud technology professionals:

–        Give employees the bandwidth to explore: A lot of the folks we spoke with are tinkerers by nature who like to try out different technologies at home and at work. Be encouraging, because that kind of exploration is very valuable. It motivates, expands their thought processes and problem solving skills, and encourages discussion and collaboration.

–        Help employees stay connected: Whether your staff is new or highly experienced, encourage them to participate in professional meet ups and other networking forums. People we interviewed singled out the less formal, more local user groups focused on their particular areas of technology as an important resource.

–        Continue to evolve toward a service model for your IT operation: Cloud technology is part of IT’s transition from the traditional operations model that is budget-driven to IT as a Service, which is more focused on responding to customers’ needs.

–        Take a fresh look at your talent pool: Are you offering the right training? Do you have the appropriate job definitions? Are you moving forward with technology and education to keep your environment current?

The cloud is changing the way IT operates, both in the public and private segment. Make sure your organization not only embraces the technology to be agile and responsive to customer needs, but also does what it takes to attract and keep the talent to truly deliver in this new IT world.  The cloud-savvy employee already knows what works well for them in the new IT world… Do you?

About the Author: Phyllis Doig