Careers explored: Cloud engineer

The term ‘the cloud’ is a commonly used buzzword in tech which describes a place where your data or work is located. Obviously, it is not situated in the sky and instead it refers to a huge network of servers which are accessed via the internet.

Still confused? Microsoft explains it best and describes the cloud as “A vast network of remote servers around the globe which are hooked together and meant to operate as a single ecosystem.

These servers are designed to either store and manage data, run applications, or deliver content or a service such as streaming videos, web email, office productivity software or social media. Instead of accessing files and data from a local or personal computer, you are accessing them online from any internetcapable device — the information will be available anywhere you go and anytime you need it.”

At the moment the tech industry is thriving, with the government reporting that in 2021 the UK tech sector achieved its best year ever and this was even happening in cities outside of London. Cambridge achieved top spot as the leading regional tech city and Manchester came in second place. Incredibly, the number of tech-based jobs in Manchester shot up by 164.6% last year.

As use of the cloud increases, so are job opportunities, with the most popular being a cloud engineer.

A cloud engineer is an IT professional who is responsible for the technological duties associated with cloud computing.

The role can often be more specific for example, a cloud architect focuses on designing cloud solutions for organisations or a cloud developer looks after coding for the cloud, or you could be responsible for the administration side of things which includes working with different cloud networks.

The role requires a great deal of technical knowledge and skill working with both computer hardware and software. Many individuals within the industry will have an A-level or BTEC in computer science or IT, and then go on to university and study a degree in computer science or a related field like software engineering.

Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) offers a BSc Hons computer science course. The three-year programme, or four years if you opt to pursue a placement year, will provide students with the required academic and theoretical skills for this particular field, plus advanced practical skills relating to the theory, practice, tools and applications of contemporary software technologies. Students will also secure an understanding of architectures, frameworks and strategies for building software computer systems.

Alternatively, Edge Hill University delivers a BSc Hons Computer Engineering course which is ideal for those who have an interest in robotics, AI (artificial intelligence) or automation. The course helps students develop a range of skills whilst gaining a thorough understanding of computer engineering from microprocessors to operating systems.

Your degree may include some level of programming, but it is also important that you learn some programming languages yourself, for example Python, JavaScript and C++. Being able to programme confidently is key in this role.

In your free time, you may also want to study for some cloud-based qualifications. Boasting relevant certificates will prove to future employers you have the required understanding and knowledge for cloud related positions.

Google Cloud training is a free online course designed to give you exclusive badges that demonstrate your skills for your CV. You can also participate in live training sessions with Google experts who will lead hands-on labs and test your skills with quizzes and games.

In 2020, a Google Cloud certification impact report found that of the 1,789 individuals surveyed, 87% of Google Cloud certified individuals felt they are more confident about their cloud skills.

For some individuals they have entered the industry with a non-related degree. Sophie Cosgrove, cloud engineer at AND Digital, studied psychology at university, however, soon realised that particular field wasn’t for her. Working part-time as a maths and English tutor, Sophie enjoyed solving maths problems and so she researched jobs where she might be able to utilise this passion.

She said: “I was seeing a lot of requirements for Python (programming language) knowledge and decided to take a look into it. I found that the logic was quite similar to some aspects of the maths equations I was doing, and I enjoyed the problem-solving aspect of it. I managed to get a role as a consultant with a firm that offered a three month bootcamp which taught me Python, DevOps and Cloud.”

When COVID-19 struck, Sophie and other fellow trainees were sadly let go.

She added: “Thankfully though, I was soon approached by a recruiter for AND who told me about an upcoming cloud engineer role which would begin with an academy where we would learn how to provision cloud infrastructure on AWS (Amazon Web Services) using DevOps principles.

“I went forward for the role and was delighted (and relieved) to hear that I had been successful. Since then I have never looked back, I’m happy to have finally found a career that I’m passionate about after feeling so lost finishing university.”

But what does the role of a cloud engineer look like day-to-day? In a very general way, cloud engineers will work with businesses to assess and examine its IT infrastructure and will look at ways in which it can be streamlined by moving certain elements to the cloud. But of course, there is much more to it than that!

You will work with private, public and hybrid cloud systems, and so it is vital that you keep up-to-date with latest developments in cloud computing and software.

Responsibilities could include:

• Working with technical teams to design and implement cloud systems

• Planning cloud infrastructure and designing cloud-based software solutions

• Solving any problems that might arise within the cloud

• Designing and adapting web services to operate within the cloud

• Liaising with clients and explaining IT and cloud computing strategies in simple terms

The average starting salary for a cloud engineer is around £25,000 per year (depending on location) and over time once you start gaining the right experience and expertise for more senior positions, you could expect to achieve upwards of £60,000 per annum.

Working as a cloud engineer can be a challenging and rewarding experience. Sophie offers some helpful advice to those thinking of pursuing a career in this evolving industry. Firstly, she recommends tapping into free resources.

She said: “There’s plenty of free online resources to get you started like YouTube videos and blogs. AWS also offers lots of free training and you’re able to create a free account to have a look around and practice running some infrastructure. It can definitely be overwhelming and hard at first if you’re trying to keep yourself motivated picking up a whole new knowledge base without anyone pushing you, especially because it can be difficult to get your head round at first.

“Lastly, I always say to not get disheartened by getting stuff wrong or encountering errors, it’s normal and happens at all skill levels. The best skill to have is to be able to research and find the solution, so don’t expect to always get it right the first time!”

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