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Building Cloud Computing Skills

The growth of cloud computing and truly distributed IT environments has created a demand for a new type of IT professional. Today's IT pro must be well-versed in new and emerging technologies, but also have skills in a range of core areas such as storage.

So what do you need to do to acquire cloud computing skills and advance your cloud career? Here are some tips.

Learn the language of cloud
APIs, SaaS, the Internet of Things (IoT), software-defined platforms, and much more make up the cloud dictionary. It really feels like acronyms are popping up everywhere. You have to keep an eye and ear out for new and emerging technologies. And because everything is so integrated in the cloud, you also need to understand how all of these technologies interact.

The language of the cloud revolves around dynamic interconnectivity and data delivery to the end user. This isn't a bad thing, just something to make sure aware of. That said, how up-to-date is your cloud dictionary?

Cloud certifications
There are many ways to absorb information about cloud computing. Social media and networking are great ways to learn about some of the biggest cloud trends, including major security updates.

Outside of that, cloud providers are now offering cloud education to get you up to speed. Rackspace, for example, has its Open Cloud Academy, which offers core concepts around cloud computing. In addition, there are technical certifications that can help push you forward as well, including: MCSE: Private Cloud, VMware Certified Professional -- Cloud, and Amazon Web Services Certified Solutions Architect.

But don't limit yourself to cloud certifications. Getting an EMC or NetApp certification to help you understand how storage works in the cloud can be just as critical. When it comes to cloud computing, Cisco, VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft certifications are among those that can help.

However, when you put a certification on a resume, expect to defend it, especially if it's critical to the job. For example, instead of asking you about a specific technology associated with your certification, I would ask you to show me how you integrate it with other pieces in a cloud architecture. Think about the certifications you have now. How well can you architecturally define what they support and where they fit into an overall cloud framework?

There has always been a debate around the value of certifications. Organizations and partners have to keep up with these certs to retain their partnership level, but what about engineers? Here's the reality: Certifications still make a difference. However, just as important (if not more so) is real-world hands-on experience.

In job interviews, you might be asked to paint a scenario using a specific technology. There are times where the book can guide you on what to do, and other times only experience can help you paint the picture.

Think like a cloud architect
A cloud architect must see the big picture. IT is no longer bound by isolated islands. The modern data center and IT department are interwoven components of the business. All teams have to work together to achieve a unified architecture -- network, storage, data center, and programming.

Cloud architects and engineers must have a foundational understanding around everything that makes up cloud. I know it sounds tough, but it's critical. Cloud engineers must understand that their technology has the potential to touch everything within a data center. Hiring managers and organizations leveraging cloud infrastructure look for cloud engineers with a diverse background.

A cloud engineer must be a jack-of-all-trades with an understanding of many technologies. In the area of virtualization and cloud engineering, I've seen many IT professionals learn technologies that were originally outside of their area of expertise, and I've see those very same people succeed.