The 2016 Cloud Professional: What to Look For

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There is very clear growth around the modern data center and cloud ecosystems. We’re seeing utilization go up and we’re seeing even more business use-cases around cloud deployment. Consider this – global spending on IaaS is expected to reach almost US$16.5 billion in 2015, an increase of 32.8 percent from 2014, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2014 to 2019 forecast at 29.1 percent, according to Gartner’s latest forecast. Furthermore, Cisco recently said that by 2019, 86 percent of workloads will be processed by cloud data centers.

All of this translates to a growing need around cloud, virtualization, and data center professionals. In fact, experienced cloud and data center personnel are harder to find – especially those that can speak the language of business. Trends indicate that organizations are looking for professionals who can help them scale and become truly agile in today’s fast-paced market.

It’s a competitive market and it’s not always easy to find the right people. According to the latest State of the Data Center Survey responses, managers have had challenges filling the following top three roles:

  1. Data Center Facility Technicians, Engineers, and Operators: 42 percent
  2. IT Systems and/or Applications Personnel: 20 percent
  3. Network and Telecommunications Personnel: 19 percent

Furthermore, 69 percent of respondents indicated that they’ve had to increase investment in data center IT and facility personnel within the past three years. And, 71 percent said that they will have to increase investment in data center IT and facilities professionals over the next three years.

All of this translates to more career opportunities and growth within the data center and cloud spaces. Organizations are looking for diverse skillsets where data center and cloud professionals can impact more of the actual business process. One very interesting question that was asked in the State of the Data Center Survey revolved around the actual skill set that data center and IT operations managers are actually looking for. Responses include:

  • Automation & cloud
  • Cisco UCS capabilities
  • DCIM experience
  • Skills around load-balancing and unified communications
  • Network engineering

The latest job trends from Indeed.com show cloud positions are in demand and growing in popularity.

So, with all of this in mind – how do you find the right kind of cloud and data center professional? What should you be looking for and how can you train your own people to become cloud leaders? Here are some big consideration points around the 2016 cloud professional.

  • They can see and discuss the big picture. Cloud and data center architecture can be a complex realm of technologies, teams, business leaders, applications, and users. Professionals are now tasked with understanding business challenges and seeing where new kinds of cloud technologies can make positive impacts. However, real differentiators are the ones that can see broader impacts of a technology. How will a cloud component impact a company’s competitive stance 3 years from now? Does a certain strategy fit in with the overall business use-case? Even if you’re a storage architect – understanding how your part of the data center scales out into cloud is critical. Which apps are impacted? How will the network change? Are there areas of optimization that you can take advantage of? Seeing the big picture oftentimes means taking off engineering blinders and really thinking like a cloud architect. You can still be a specialist in a certain area of cloud and data center design – but as soon as you can see how other technologies fit into an IT and business solution (and you can discuss this easily), you become much more valuable to the entire organization.
  • They are technologists and business professionals. Business leadership want people who can speak their language. This doesn’t mean understanding accounting or economics. Today’s decision-makers are quickly becoming millennials who require important, fast, bits of information to make critical decisions. If you’re an IT person who can quickly correlate your technology to overall business strategy and value – you’re an extremely important asset. Being a technology and business leader means deeply understanding your technological ecosystem and the specific impacts on the business. How does a tool impact user access? Does a certain feature validate an ROI analysis? Does it make sense to deploy a new data center component if it’s not really proving a good time to value? Are you able to define a good competitive advantage around a cloud platform? Today, there is an unbreakable connection between business and IT. Those who can help strengthen and hold that bond will come out on top.
  • They can be specialists but must not get lost in their own world. If you’re looking to progress in the cloud and data center world – know how to grow outside of your own comfort zone. Engineers can become picky and even blindly loyal to certain types of technologies. This doesn’t mean the technology is necessarily bad. But, what if the business has evolved and your platform is no longer a good fit? Will you still be fiercely loyal or will you be ready to evolve? Being a specialist in today’s modern data center and cloud environment not only means knowing your technology well but also deeply understanding the competition. If your business evolves and you get stuck hugging a platform which no longer fits you might be in a bad spot. However, specialists who can quickly define use-cases, understand the fit of a certain platform, and help the business evolve their strategy will always be greatly valued.
  • They’re always ready to learn and evolve. If you believe that cloud, automation, and new data center technologies are here to replace your job you might be looking at all of this from the wrong perspective. Next-generation IT professionals don’t see cloud as a threat. Rather, they see it as a direct enabler for their organizations, and their jobs. The human element will always be important for any cloud and data center deployment. People make the cloud work; and skilled IT professionals are still required to operate a data center ecosystem. Remember, the home of the cloud is still a very “physical” environment. Cloud and data center professionals aren’t afraid of change and evolution. They’re ready to take on new technologies and are excited to see how this will positively impact users, their space of the data center, and the overall business.

As you read all of that; did you notice a trend? We didn’t really discuss anything overtly technical. This is because one of the biggest trending job qualifications does revolve around the understanding of the business and a cloud professional’s ability to communicate. Too often we’re handed absolutely brilliant engineers who aren’t really able to explain why their technology makes a difference. The next step for these professionals is to help understand cloud value and get their business genuinely excited about a new kind of platform. Being technically savvy and know your specific area of expertise will always be critical. Still, the next step for a cloud professional is to be able to articulate technologies and help numerous different teams use these tools effectively. These are the kinds of next-generation cloud professionals who not only progress in their careers – they also make direct, positive, impacts to the entire industry.

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