How To Become A Cloud Architect?
How do you get to a senior level Cloud Architect position with no experience in cloud computing? The right combination of IT certifications and an advanced degree can substantially speed up the career path to your ideal role in cloud computing.
What a cloud architect do?
Cloud architecture is a relatively new discipline, with its roots in software development. Today’s cloud architect plans and designs cloud environments and typically provides guidance throughout the life of a development or deployment project. A cloud architect must understand the concepts and moving parts involved in continuous integration and continuous delivery, and provide expertise on infrastructure and build-and-release to development teams.
But cloud architects do much more than design systems or IT environments. They must also take ownership of such systems or environments throughout their entire life cycles. Architects get involved with initial requirements analysis and see things through all the way to retirement and replacement much further down the road.
On the business side, cloud architects seek to understand what kind of functionality is needed, what it’s supposed to do, what kinds of competitive advantages it might deliver and so on. From the technology side, cloud architects decide what kinds of systems might be needed, which vendors to do business with, how to integrate pieces and parts from different suppliers, which APIs and standards to adopt. It’s a big job.
Skills required to become a cloud architect
Cloud architects must possess and/or develop a sizable collection of skills. Surprisingly, this is one role where soft skills play a crucial role alongside technical skills. Here’s a short laundry list of the kind of things that a cloud architect should know or be able to do to excel in this field:
- Strong general background in enterprise computing: Ideally, this means one or more degrees in computer science, MIS, informatics or something similar, with a good working understanding of how enterprises use information technology for a wide range of purposes and applications.
- Strong technical skills in enterprise computing: Cloud architects must understand the building blocks of IT. These include client systems and applications, networking, infrastructure, data centers, programming languages, web tools and technologies, databases and Big Data, ERP and more. In fact, cloud architects are usually expert in one or more of these technology areas or disciplines. But their expertise is intended to create a vision of what is needed and how it might be put together, not necessarily to get involved in construction or maintenance work.
In the literature, this is sometimes described as a “T-shaped skill profile.” Broad but shallow skills apply to most technical areas (the vertical bar in the “T”) with one or more sets of deep skills and knowledge in one or two technical areas (the top of the “T”).
- Excellent soft skills in several areas, including:
- Communication: Communicate clearly, directly and persuasively in writing and in person. Cloud architects must also be able to run meetings and manage all kinds of people, from C-level executives to managers and technical experts plus end users or customers.
- Leadership: Cloud architects need strong, effective leadership skills because they must convince different groups and stakeholders to believe in a vision and a blueprint for how a cloud environment works within their organizations.
- Asking the right questions: Arguably, the most important skill is a combination of analytical skill and insatiable curiosity. Cloud architects must ask the right questions and listen carefully to the answers (even if they think they know those answers in advance). Designing the right system or solution means understanding and formulating what users and stakeholders really want, in a way that provides proper performance, security and integrity.
- Planning and organizing: Architects must possess strong planning and organizing skills because they must make and manage plans of action for projects that can take years to complete.
- Strategy/business sense: Cloud architects must understand what is really important to a business or organization and focus on technologies and solutions most likely to provide competitive advantages or to improve productivity or profitability. Thus, they must understand business strategy and prioritize accordingly.