How IT Operations Engineers Can Stay Relevant in a Cloud World

The convergence of the rise of Automation, Cloud computing and DevOps has led many people to think that the medium to long term future of the Systems Engineer is bleak. Thinking that if everything is in the Cloud and we have automated “all the things” what is the value of the VMware, server, storage and network architect and engineer? The answer is in the classical Leigh Matthews statement “nothing is ever as bad or as good as you think.” There are still Mainframes out there, 20 years after people thought they would go away.

The reality is that 3-4 years ago everyone thought that everything was going to move to the Public Cloud.  The maturity of the market has resulted in a realisation that some things just don’t belong in the Public Cloud and that a Hybrid Cloud will be the predominant architecture for many years to come. Organisations are realising that a more pragmatic fit for purpose/best of breed approach works best. 

However, we all need to evolve to stay relevant and complacency will definitely result in limited job opportunities.

Here are 6 things you can do to stay relevant and ahead of the market.

1. Architecture counts - There is always a server - No matter what you are using whether it is IaaS, Paas or Functions as a Service. There is always a server and a network somewhere. So, Architecture and  Design skills in this space will always be relevant. Brush up on your architecture skills across the stack and you will always have a seat at the table. TOGAF is one of the most accepted and common certifications you can take.

2. Learn a scripting language - scripting your server builds using a common scripting language like Powershell, Puppet, Chef or Ansible is the basis for Infrastructure as code. This is where you treat your infrastructure like software and deploy everything with scripts can save you a huge amount of time and effort doing boring and repetitive tasks and is the basis for a DevOps environment. All these tools allow you to script once and deploy anywhere whether on-premises or the Public Cloud.

3. Adopt  version control - Start capturing your scripts in a centralised version control repository like GitHub. This allows you to version control  your scripts and collaborate on them with others and test and continuously improve them over time.

4. Pick a Public Cloud -  Pick one of the Public Clouds; AWS, Azure or GCP and start to learn it and take basic certifications in it. All of  them have free tiers that you can use as a lab environment and get your “hands dirty”. This will give you valuable experience and improve your value in the market.

5. Improve  your soft skills - the old-fashioned grumpy engineer in the corner is no longer an acceptable mode of operation. While many of us are introverts and are naturally uncomfortable presenting and collaborating in groups this is a key skill in the new world. Engineers who are  approachable and easy to work with are highly sought after in the market. There are many soft skills online courses available.

6. Technical to business - in a continuation of the above point, technical people that can convert technology to business requirements and the reverse are extremely valuable. So, if you can start to reflect on how to improve how you communicate your requirements and initiatives in business terms, you will rapidly increase your market value and the outcomes you achieve.

The key to all of the above is a willingness to embrace change and continuously improve.

Which in a world that is moving as fast as ours is no longer an option.

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