For cloud architects, a deep understanding of cloud tools and technologies is only the starting point in terms of skills that need to be mastered. Enjoying a successful career as a cloud architect requires much more, including certain skills that are typically not associated with the tech industry.
Architecture and Design
The cloud architect needs to be an expert on end-to-end system design since their primary responsibility is solving a customer’s problems through the use of technology. The architect’s ability to develop a design that solves a business’s problem is where their true value lies. Because design is architecture, the cloud architect must have expert knowledge of all the current and legacy systems that exist in the network and in the data center and also understand how to migrate them to the cloud, matching them to the proper cloud-based systems.
Network and Data Center Technologies
Networking and data center skills are critical for the cloud architect because one of their major responsibilities is designing a plan to take the systems that were on the network and hosted in a data center and migrate them to the cloud. To do this successfully, cloud architects must be experts on networking and data center technologies.
Digging deeper, they must be experts at routers, load balancers, switches, routing protocols, IP addressing and WAN connections whether those are private line-based, VPN-based or software-defined networking. They must be experts on servers and server virtualization and containers and storage, too: Block storage, object storage and file storage. The cloud architect also needs to be an expert at file-sharing protocols such as Server Message Block for Windows and NFS for Linux. Security, too, is an important skill; they must understand how firewalls, IDS/IPS systems and how VPN concentrators work. The cloud architect needs to have full knowledge of databases, understand how web applications work and understand ERP applications and supply chain applications. Good, strong network and data center knowledge is the foundation for architects who are overseeing the migration of tech from the data center to the cloud.
Cloud architects are digital transformation specialists. They must craft end-to-end business solutions for customers with the goal of improving their businesses. If they do not have a thorough understanding of customers’ business, they cannot effectively engineer solutions that will solve their business problems.
Business skills include the ability to calculate an ROI model based upon the expected value of an opportunity, to read a financial statement and to read a balance sheet. It includes knowledge and understanding of what the CEO, CFO, CIO and CTO care about and being able to communicate with them in ways they understand. Without an understanding of business, cloud architects limit themselves to simply adding or removing technology, which might make business outcomes better or might make them worse.
Accomplishing anything great requires a team, which means being a great cloud architect requires leadership skills. When working for a client, a cloud architect typically will need to set a baseline of current systems. Accomplishing that effectively might require a team of 50 cloud engineers working together to evaluate the customer’s systems. Leadership skills allow you to effectively manage that team of engineers.
And leadership skills go beyond effectively managing people as they work on proofs-of-concept and deployments. Leadership skills empower the architect to make sure teams are motivated, are fully engaged with projects and are contributing to success.
When on the job, a cloud architect is constantly selling. The solutions they designed need to be sold to the customer. The plan to implement the solution needs to be sold to management before the necessary resources can be obtained. When it is time to get people to work with us on a project, we need to sell them on its value. Sales skills are employed in a wide variety of ways. Cloud architects sell to customers, internal stakeholders and to management.
Cloud architects also need exceptional presentation skills because they will be presenting to customers. Those customers could be technology professionals like engineers; they could be presenting to management and/or to C-level executives. Additionally, cloud architects will be presenting information at executive briefings and at conferences. In general, presentations are part of everyday life for the average cloud architect.
Determining the business requirements for any cloud architecture project requires asking a lot of questions. They’re never just handed a piece of paper by a client that says, “Build this.” Without stellar communication skills, it’s difficult—if not impossible—to determine the business’ requirements, meaning the solutions that are designed could be incorrect.
Even once the business requirements are well understood, the next step is to take those requirements to a team of technology professionals, which means communicating effectively with tech people as well as business people. Communication skills, which include communicating to customers, teammates and various other stakeholders in the organization, are critical.
Emotional intelligence is a critical skill for those who want to increase their professional value and propel their cloud architect career forward. Emotional intelligence increases the capacity for leadership, understanding and communication. When used regularly in the job, it is the best predictor of career success and typically results in about a $30,000 increase in the average person’s salary. For a cloud architect to have a successful career, building on the skills outlined above is critical.