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So, you want to be a Cloud Engineer?

In 2019 one of the biggest pieces of tech is the cloud. Whether it be public cloud or private cloud, cloud technologies are here to stay (for now). I predict that Cloud Engineering will be a very big part of IT (and development) for another 5-10 years. Today I want to share with you my journey in becoming a Cloud Engineer and some helpful tips. A career timeline to be a Cloud Engineer can go like so;

Desktop Support > Junior Sysadmin > Sysadmin > Sysadmin/Technical Lead > Engineer >  Cloud Engineer.

Although our career paths may not align, I believe that this progression is very import. Let me tell you why.



Helpdesk/Desktop Support

Helpdesk and desktop support get your feet wet. It allows you to understand technology and how it's used in the workplace from a business perspective. It shows you what technologies may be best in the current environment your in and how to support those technologies. It also teaches you soft skills and how to support people from a technical perspective (which can lead into how you support clients in the cloud). Another big part here is learning how to work with Operating Systems. This is crucial throughout your entire career and it starts here.

Junior Systems Administration

Here's where things start taking a turn to the infrastructure side. You start learning how to not only log into servers, but manage components of the server. Resetting AD passwords, new user creations, security groups, backups/disaster recovery. Having the ability to know your way around a servers features, the job that server is accomplishing, and how to properly manage those jobs are a vital part of Cloud Engineering.

Systems Administration

This is the point in  your career where you start solely managing those servers that you were touching on a bit if your stint as a Jr. Sysadmin. Now you are managing not only the servers/virtual environments, but all of the applications/roles/features that your organization is hosting. That may be Active Directory, Web Servers, Application Servers, Backup Servers, Terminal Servers, Virtual Servers (ESXi, Hyper-V, etc.). Learning how to properly manage, administer, deploy, and maintain these services is a key component in learning how to properly manage your organizations key services. If you are doing things the proper way, this should also be your starting point in learning how to automate with code.

Engineering

Now you're fully comfortable with operating systems, administration, deployments, full on management, and know your way around troubleshooting. This is the time that you start figuring out what direction you want to go in for the time being (until things change in tech and your career path changes with it). This is where you should start understanding more automation, coding, and architecture. Having the ability to build out full on stacks in your environment. If you're in a Windows environment, getting good with PowerShell. If you're in a Linux environment, getting good with Python. If you're in a mix of Windows and Linux, learning both PowerShell and Python. While you're doing all of this, start looking at your cloud environments. Whether your organization is running private cloud (VMWare, OpenStack, etc.) or public cloud (AWS, Azure, GCP). If your organization is running both, start looking into both. Make friends with the cloud guys and see if they have 30 minutes a day that you can sit with them and start seeing what's going on. Maybe buy a AWS or Azure course, sign up for a free trial in AWS or Azure, and start doing some home labs

Cloud Engineering

You're here, you've made it. You're in the position you've been working towards and now it's time to start learning, and eventually mastering, the key skills in the cloud. Below is a list of what I believe to be the most important skill sets.

1. AWS/Azure/GCP: Learning a public cloud. AWS right now, is the 800 pound gorilla. They hold the market at roughly 44%. Azure comes in at about 24%. GCP comes in at 3%. I believe that knowing all, to some extent, is important. However, it's important to master the one that your organization uses. 
2. Source Code Control (git): As you start writing code, you need some place to store it. Git is the key for this. I like to use Github to post public Source Code. I also store my private code in there as well. In Enterprise, you'll  typically see Gitlab or Github. 
3. Scripting/Software Development Knowledge (Python, PowerShell, Bash): This is key to taking yourself to the next level. No one wants to click next throughout several pages of configuration. Learn to code and automate your deployments. In a Linux ecosystem, you'll see a lot of Python. In a Windows ecosystem, you'll see a lot of PowerShell. Learn both if you can.
4. Infrastructure-As-Code/Configuration Management (Terraform, Ansible, CloudFormation, Azure Functions): As you're deploying infrastructure, you want to have the ability to write code for this as well. You can configure your infrastructure via code to do anything from spinning up instances in AWS to spinning up virtual networks in Azure. I haven't personally ran into something I couldn't do with Infrastructure-As-Code (from an infrastructure perspective of course).
5. YAML: Learning a markup language is very important because a lot of the Infrastructure-As-Code tools, Configuration Management, and even Kubernetes Manifests use it.
6. Containerization and Orchestration (Docker and Kubernetes): Containerization is becoming VERY popular throughout all organizations. Learning micro services and how to deploy applications with containers will take you to the next level. Learning how to do orchestration (spinning up multiple of the same application, for example) with Kubernetes will take you even further.

With the above five things wrapped up, these are the important points, in order;

  • Understanding how to work with people, support employees are your organization (your clients), working with operating systems, and learn how to work with technology overall.
  • Learning how to manage servers and the roles/features within those servers
  • Learning how to manage services and applications for your organization. Diving into automation and learning how to write code.
  • Learning automation, building out server stacks, and making your way into the cloud.
  • Learning advanced scripting, dabbling in software development, and understanding the tools available in the cloud.

I believe that the biggest part of being a good cloud engineer is having an understanding of both Infrastructure and Scripting/Software Development. Knowing both sides and having the ability to bridge the gap between both will put you in a very good place.

Thanks for reading! I hope you found this both enjoyable and informative. Please feel free to reach me at mikelevantech@gmail.com for any comments, questions, or just to say hi!




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