I’ve had the privilege of delivering cloud training to over 300,000 students globally. Along the way, I’ve worked with both teams and individuals who are trying to adapt to the modern era of cloud computing. Some of the most common questions I’ve found myself answering revolve around transitioning into roles that have never existed before.
How do you get a job in this new world ruled by cloud computing when you don’t have experience? The reality is it depends on how far along you are in your journey. For those who are brand new to the industry, it’s an effort that will take some time. However, if you’re an existing IT industry professional, you’re in a prime position to ramp up and take advantage of the opportunity since you are already in the game. Regardless of your industry knowledge, there are a few things you can do to pick up cloud skills and practical experience that employers desperately need.
Build Open-Source Projects
There’s no better way to gain practical experience than actually building something from scratch. Build something using the tools and services offered by one of the major cloud providers and share it with the world. For example, you could build a web application that allows users to upload files into an object storage service. You don’t have to be a software developer, either. You could create an infrastructure template that automates the deployment of your own custom solution built with virtual machines, storage, networking and other managed services.
Your digital assets can be shared and made open-source through a service like GitHub. This practice exercise will get your hands dirty, and it might also help someone else in the community who is just one or two steps behind you. Way too many people are waiting for experience when they can start anytime they want. All you need is an idea.
Teach People What You’re Learning
Once you begin to build your own projects, you’ll immediately be in problem-solving mode. Taking action to do the work will give you a much different perspective, and you’ll learn the answers to many common, beginner questions.
I always tell people to share what they are learning if they want to take things to the next level. You only get so far from reading articles, watching videos or listening to interviews. Explaining what you’ve discovered will require looking at things from a different angle. You can write blog posts, share videos on social media, present a lunch and learn at your company, speak at a meetup or record a podcast.
Find Freelance Work
We’re living in an era where working online, on your own terms, is actually possible. There are countless freelancer sites on the internet — so many that I can’t even begin to list them here. A basic search will turn up tons of online platforms where you can bid on technical projects that require cloud expertise.
Yes, freelancing can be competitive. However, it’s an excellent place to start for an open-source contributor who is actively sharing what they’re learning in the community.
Work For Free
If you don’t want to hustle for work on freelancing sites, ask someone if they need free help. Do a bit of networking, either virtually or within your local community. Offer to work for free in return for experience. You might be amazed at the opportunities available to you if you simply make the effort to ask and offer to help.
Start A Business
You might have a vast amount of experience in IT. That’s the case for most of my students who are moving into cloud computing. In that scenario, people tend to ramp up quickly, but they’re still limited by their lack of formal experience.
In the early 2000s, I was working as an enterprise consultant, but I wanted to transition into a web development role to gain experience writing code. I didn’t have formal web development experience — it was a hobby. But, I was building projects and teaching others what I was learning, and I eventually I started my own business. Within two months, I began landing web development deals with small and medium-size businesses.
It’s never been easier to start your own side hustle. The best part is you get to pick when and who you work with when you run your own business. Another option is to go into the business of getting paid to teach and share what you’ve learned. There are plenty of ways to do that online in 2019. There’s just so much to learn in this industry, and you’d be amazed at how much you can help once you’ve gotten started.
Technical certifications are a great way to validate your skills. You’ll find that a vast majority of job postings for cloud computing positions will be looking for them.
I’ve always been a fan of IT certifications, and they’ve served me well in my career. Role-based certifications are very common in the world of cloud computing, and these generally map to jobs in systems administration, software development, DevOps, architecture, artificial intelligence, big data and a few other specialties.
My advice is to knock down one or two cloud certifications to add to your resume, along with all of your other experience created through building projects and sharing them with the community.
The opportunity is now. The job market is full of cloud computing positions and demand is unbelievably high. I don’t think that will last for more than a couple of years. There’s no doubt it is a lot of work, but it’s a great way to get an edge.