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What are the most important skills for cloud engineers?

3 Jun 2021

With the acceleration of cloud computing, what skills do businesses need to have in place?

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Migrating to the cloud has become an important step for many businesses. Whatever cloud-based strategy they choose to adopt, businesses will need a whole host of cloud professionals with the right skills to ensure their strategy is a success.

Earlier this week, Hays’ Steve Weston gave us his advice on how companies can hunt for the best cloud professionals, along with an overview of some of the skills he deemed most important.

For cloud engineers who want to know more about the most sought-after skills, we spoke to several top employers about what they’re looking for specifically.

Experience developing new platforms

Accenture Ireland’s head of technology, David Kirwan, said the cloud engineers of 2021 should have experience in developing new platforms and services end to end, taking responsibility not only for the design of the solution but also for its successful operation in production.

“Worldwide demand for cloud expertise has skyrocketed over the last year, and the companies who are moving fastest and deriving the most value tend to be those where cloud knowledge is embedded across the business,” he said.

Equally, KPMG’s director of technology consulting, Richard Franck, said the company doesn’t just look for core technical skills but how a person uses them. He said that desired skills include: “The ability to keep up with developments in the area, willingness to try new methods, a drive to automate everything, flexibility to work across both agile and waterfall teams, and a product mindset.”

Knowledge of several technologies

Unsurprisingly, employers are seeking a range of specific technical skills in their cloud engineers.

Dun & Bradstreet’s senior manager of engineering, Hareesh Singaraju, said: “Some of these highly demanding technical skills include the Unix/Linux operating system, programming languages such as Java and Python, database skills, API and web services.”

Kirwan said Accenture’s top cloud engineers focus on automation, APIs and containers and leveraging lightweight architectures using tools such as Kubernetes, Docker, Ansible and serverless tech.

Meanwhile, Karl Heery, head of technology at the Aon Centre for Innovation and Analytics (ACIA), said the strongest skill needs are in the areas of container orchestration frameworks, PaaS standardisation and hardening, GitLab and Azure DevOps, to name a few.

Fidelity Investments’ Juan Flores, a chapter leader in cloud infrastructure and experience, added that skills in data science, machine learning and AI will continue to be important for cloud engineers.

“Learning about machine learning workflows, including neural networks, statistical pattern recognition, deep learning, anomaly detection, are great examples of concepts we need to be on top of.”

Experience with cloud service providers

Another major benefit for cloud engineers is having knowledge and experience with several cloud service providers.

Dun & Bradstreet’s Singaraju said he expects cloud engineers to have expertise of how cloud service providers work, such as AWS, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud, and have a thorough understanding on their service offerings relating to computing, storage, networking, security, analytics and more.

Workhuman’s cloud infrastructure manager, Des Kenny, added: “We look for people with AWS experience, clear understanding of infrastructure as code principles, source code control and how infrastructure fits into the modern software development life cycle.”

Green software engineering experience

With a move towards more sustainable ways of working in the tech world, Fidelity Investments’ Flores also highlighted the green software engineering movement as an important focus for cloud engineers.

“Newer application architectures — such as serverless computing or functions-as-a-service (FaaS) — enable more control over capacity and by extension, energy consumption. And since they bill by execution time, it compels programmers to improve their codes’ efficiency,” he said.

The ability to work cross-functionally

Another major trend is that many cloud development teams no longer work independently.

Liberty IT technical architect Craig McCarter said cloud engineers today need to work with architectures that comprise a host of interconnected components. “Engineers must be able to reason about [these] logically, understanding the nuances of each interaction and how those will affect the overall behaviour of their system during processing,” he said.

ACIA’s Heery added that cloud engineering has shifted from localised efforts to centralised factory models, where engineers are deployed in cross-functional teams.

“This brings with it the need for new skills, as cloud engineers need to work up and down the stack, enabling the delivery and operation of end-to-end applications, rather than just deploying infrastructure-as-a-service agnostic of the application on top,” he said.

Cloud security skills

Finally, KPMG’s director of cybersecurity and cloud security, Diarmuid Curtin, said the ability to translate cyber, business and regulatory requirements into effective cloud security controls is at the heart of a successful transition to the cloud.

“Engineers focusing on cloud security need to have hands-on technical skills and experience across multi-cloud platforms and third-party products,” he said.

“Foundational cloud controls such as multifactor authentication, data classification and protection matter; but so too do segmentation, hardening and of course, enabling secure development and deployment to cloud services through DevSecOps.”

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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