As businesses are using cloud technologies to transform at a rapid pace, many recognize that their organization needs cloud expertise in order to achieve their goals. Yet research shows that 90 percent of IT decision-makers report cloud skills shortages in their workforce (Global Knowledge, 2018 IT Skills and Salary Report, 2018). Professionals with cloud architecture expertise in how to best plan, design, develop, migrate, and operate applications in the cloud are in high demand.
Early in my career at Amazon Web Services (AWS) I was one of the company’s (and industry’s) first Cloud Solutions Architects. Use of the cloud has grown considerably since then, as have the number of services and features available to cloud builders. Now I lead certification and education programs where we offer individuals and organizations the training and skills validation to confidently implement cloud initiatives. The role of cloud architect is in high demand—and will continue to present endless opportunities for business growth and innovation.
What are the key skills required to be a successful cloud architect? Read on to learn the top skills that employers look for—and professionals can build—to capitalize on the momentum and business potential of the cloud today.
But first… what does a cloud architect do?
Cloud architects are responsible for managing an organization’s cloud computing architecture. They have in-depth knowledge of the architectural principles and services used to develop technical cloud strategy, assist with cloud migration efforts, review workload architectures, and provide guidance on how to address high-risk issues. To do this, cloud architects need a mix of business, technical, and people skills, as well as an understanding of the always-evolving technical training that may benefit their team.
What skills are most important for a cloud architect?
Flexibility and eagerness to learn
A cloud architect must be able to work in a wide variety of scenarios and be open to learning the unique requirements of each project. No two projects or customers will be the same, so continuously learning and a willingness to experiment can help both beginning and seasoned cloud architects provide the best guidance to their organization. An early start to any day might begin with researching new services and features and tuning into trusted blogs and discussion boards. With a curious mindset, cloud architects can be better equipped to seek out new approaches to problem solving.
Cloud architecture professionals must possess strong time management skills. Their days are varied and can include customer meetings to discuss problems and needs, as well as designing architectural frameworks for those needs. There is no typical day: they could be in meetings, traveling to onsite meetings with a customer, writing scripts, working on migrations, keeping up with new features via online trainings, or troubleshooting. As such, cloud architects are mindful to plan their days, prioritize their time on tasks, and understand how to maximize small pockets of time.
Communication skills and business acumen
There are many stakeholders and participants along the cloud journey, from those who pay the bill, to the security team, to the technical team, to those helping to make decisions about cloud vendors. Cloud architects are encouraged to ask for a seat at the decision-making table, and be prepared to communicate their design to any stakeholder. Successful cloud architects know how to communicate to audiences with little or no technical knowledge, while aligning their recommendations to business imperatives and the bottom-line.
Many times, the cloud architect will be the person who stakeholders turn to for guidance for problems they are facing. The ability to provide firm, clear perspective with confidence provides both reassurance that the business is in good hands, but also that the cloud solutions you’ve recommended are secure, resilient, cost-efficient, and managed with operational excellence. Decisiveness does not necessarily mean dominant or overriding. Cloud architects can provide guidance from a calm, leading place of domain authority.
Industry Technical Credentials
Of course, a cloud architect must also possess the necessary technical skills to serve as the foundation for cloud architecture planning and management, including basic programming, software development and continuous integration, continuous deployment (CICD), database, networking and security skills, modern application architecture skills, and more.
Additionally, cloud architects can attain an industry-recognized certification, such as the new AWS Certified Solutions Architect–Associate certification, which validates the ability to design and deploy well-architected solutions on AWS that meet customer requirements.
Over the last ten years, I have seen cloud computing evolve from a relatively unknown technology to a leading driver of business results. While the technology has grown and changed significantly, most skills needed to succeed in its use have remained largely constant. By committing to understand how to use cloud to its full potential—and empowering the professionals who make that possible—we can make the most of the tremendous opportunity cloud creates for businesses and employees to thrive.
Kevin Kelly is Director of Certification and Education Programs at Amazon Web Services (AWS), where he leads global education programs and the AWS Certification team, managing the development and delivery of AWS Certifications for foundational cloud knowledge, and roles such as developers, architects, and cloud operations, and in technical topics such as Machine Learning, Security, and Alexa skill-building.