Growing Your Cloud Engineering Capabilities

Companies need cloud engineers, but the mix of cloud engineer duties and a tight job market will force many organizations to be creative when it comes to meeting their cloud engineering needs.

Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data

February 12, 2024

4 Min Read
Head in the cloud concept
Brain light via Alamy Stock

Do you have all the cloud engineers you need? Companies are moving tech to the cloud, which means that the development of IT infrastructure skills in Linux, applications and containers, app deployment, security, data management, and cloud toolsets also must grow.

Collectively, the aspirational position of cloud engineer belongs to someone who understands how to work with all these components. But do you have this superstar on staff?

The Robert Half 2024 Technology Jobs Survey lists cloud engineers as a high demand area for companies. Base salaries for “beginners” are in the six figures, and often start at or exceed $133,000. The investment doesn’t necessarily stop there either, considering that Google, AWS, Microsoft, and other cloud providers each have their own sets of tools and methodologies. Your company might be using multiple clouds for which the engineer must have equal adeptness.

That makes it important for companies to determine exactly what their cloud engineer positions need to look like.

Some cloud engineers come from a network background. Their main mission is to use cloud-based tools to tune clouds for throughput, security, and performance. They ensure that cloud-to-cloud communications run smoothly and securely.

Then there are cloud engineers who specialize in architecture. They define how multiple clouds and on-premises IT assets must engage to achieve optimal performance.

In other cases, cloud engineers work with the applications group. They have a thorough knowledge of a variety of programming languages. These individuals know how clouds work, how applications need to be structured and integrated to work well on clouds. Plus, they know how to troubleshoot and maintain application performance.

Finally, there are cloud engineers who conduct negotiations with cloud vendors for contracts and SLAs. They develop cloud budgets, verify cloud architectural direction, and make presentations to the board, the CIO and top management.

In short, the cloud engineer position is so broad and diverse that it’s virtually impossible fill with a single person.

What, then, is the approach?

Determine what your primary cloud engineering focus is. Most enterprises begin their cloud engineer journey by pulling someone in from the networking group. Or they hire on the outside looking for someone who can master cloud configuration, security, and performance tools so cloud performance and governance can match what the enterprise itself uses.

However, there is just as strong a need for someone who can architect the deployment and activities of multiple clouds, assuring that all these clouds orchestrate with each other and with on premises IT. This isn’t an easy task because many user departments have signed up for cloud services on their own, without thinking about how these different clouds will work with other IT assets. 

Assess your in-house skills and possibilities. You never know in advance how long it will take you to hire a cloud engineer from the outside. Meanwhile, your cloud engineering needs continue staring at you.

This is when it makes sense to assess your internal talent in the networking, database, operations, and applications groups. Is there someone who already has most of the skills you are looking for, someone who would be eager for a new position or a promotion, who can pick up the extra skills needed, and who could fit the role you need.

This is a great opportunity to invest in your own staff and to help your employees build their careers and their earning power.

Jumping into the employment market. If your cloud engineering tasks are extremely diverse and you can’t cover them all internally, it’s time to develop a job description and reach out to the IT job market.

In this case, it’s important to offer competitive salary and benefits, describe your company’s working environment, and also the specific skills that you desire of candidates. The more you can pinpoint exactly what you need, the greater the possibility that you will find someone who is well suited for the task. Without using too many words, it’s also important to “tell your own story” in these employment ads. Avoid copying someone else’s pitch.

Strategize for the future. Perhaps all you need today is a cloud engineer who can correctly configure, secure and optimize your clouds. But what about the future? Will you need skills in cloud architecture? Or application deployment? Or governance and contract administration?

A skills forecast for cloud engineering should be part of your IT development roadmap, as it can favorably position you to grow these skills internally or to hire for them.

Build a team. Establishing a cloud engineering team within IT is a great idea because there is such a range of cloud engineering skills that come from almost every department in IT. This cloud engineering team can work together and feed off each other as they create holistic strategies for cloud that meet your business needs.

About the Author(s)

Mary E. Shacklett

President of Transworld Data

Mary E. Shacklett is an internationally recognized technology commentator and President of Transworld Data, a marketing and technology services firm. Prior to founding her own company, she was Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturer in the semiconductor industry.

Mary has business experience in Europe, Japan, and the Pacific Rim. She has a BS degree from the University of Wisconsin and an MA from the University of Southern California, where she taught for several years. She is listed in Who's Who Worldwide and in Who's Who in the Computer Industry.

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