The Stack Archive News Article

Getting smart about cloud skills

Thu 27 Apr 2017 | James Cowe

Cloud skills

James Cowe, director of AWS strategy and architecture at Rackspace, discusses how cloud and evolving requirements are driving demand for new skill sets…

The advent of cloud has brought with it an increase in the pace of innovation. This has changed the way skill sets need to be obtained, extended and maintained by businesses. Where typically an application or technology could have been deployed in a business and stayed static for three to five years, we now see cloud technologies continuously changing on a daily basis.

Major innovations in cloud happen frequently throughout a year and as a result, IT professionals, whether they’re architects, developers, or even C-suite leaders, are on a continual learning curve to keep up. This has made those able to do so valuable, with each new skill set acquired becoming highly sought after in the market. This drives a competitive culture across businesses to retain and attract skilled staff.

Segment demands

Cloud has become one of the most sought after areas for skills, specifically those relating to Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, and more recently Google Cloud. Taking a step back from infrastructure generalists, big data, analytics and security are the next dominant areas where businesses are searching for IT skill sets.

Failure to prepare, plan and address the ever-widening skills gap in technology will be a burden for businesses.

Looking to the future, there will also be an uplift in skills around machine learning and artificial intelligence, especially following recent releases from the likes of AWS. While there’s always a demand for DevOps as well as cloud migration and transformation skills, these now feel almost like a prerequisite for being considered a specialist of any sort in cloud these days.

Readying your strategy

There are really three main strategies a business can take to prepare for the inevitable evolution of cloud. They can develop and train existing staff in new technologies and work to retain them; look to hire in professionals with existing skills, but be prepared to pay for them; or businesses can engage with a third party to leverage their skills and experience.

In the latter case, the training and retention of skilled staff then becomes another company’s challenge. This allows the business to focus on just that – the business, rather than trying to become an expert IT recruiter. All three strategies have upsides and downsides, and some organisations may choose a blended model. For instance, by engaging with a managed service provider or consultancy, whilst training and developing staff internally.

Failure to prepare, plan and address the ever-widening skills gap in technology will be a burden for businesses. It will ultimately lead to being out-paced, out-innovated, and ultimately to a point of being ousted out of market by competitors who do embrace change and innovation.

Solid and fair compensation is important, but money is not the only thing that will encourage someone to join a business

An obvious example being the demise of Blockbuster in the face of the onslaught of Netflix’s technologically advanced offering. In this day and age, there are really no industries left that won’t feel the disruptive force of technology. The only way to handle such disruption is to embrace it and ensure the skill sets are available to do so.

Attracting new talent

Businesses need to make sure they provide access and opportunities to leverage the very skills their employees have been hired for. Too many organisations hire great AWS engineers and architects who then stall their AWS programmes for month or years at a time. This won’t help key talent to keep up with the dynamic cloud landscape and in turn, allow the business to innovate.

It’s also important to help employees to see the ‘why’ of what they are working on. It’s all too easy to get lost in the technology, developing and building just for technology’s sake. From experience, highly skilled, highly motivated individuals want to know the overall mission they are contributing to. To retain and attract new talent in the technology sector, businesses need to offer the bigger picture.

Obviously, making sure talented employees feel valued and rewarded is key. However, this doesn’t mean businesses can just default to paying above market-rate salaries. Solid and fair compensation is important, but money is not the only thing that will encourage someone to join a business.

Other benefits, like the ability to work flexibly, which is made possible with the cloud, and clear recognition for the value employees are contributing to the business are important factors as well.

The cloud computing model of service-based computing has impacted skill set development, skill set trading and skill set management from ground zero – now is the time to get smart about cloud skills.

Experts featured:

James Cowe

Director, AWS Srategy and Architecture | Rackspace


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