Cloud skills certification can add zeros to your pay cheque

Grab some letters to put after your name

All geek to me

However, Erdle is not alone in criticising some technical cloud certifications for failing to bridge the gap between business and IT departments.

He also believes vendor-specific certifications on their own are not enough to allow people to work across the range of different cloud environments.

Business frustration with techies who bring geek speak to the boardroom and can’t translate technical knowledge into business results have been a driving force behind its vendor-neutral certification, Cloud Essentials.

Developed in collaboration with cloud rivals such as Google, Amazon Web Services, IBM and Microsoft, Cloud Essentials sets out to demonstrate that an individual knows what cloud computing means from a business and technical perspective, as well as what is involved in moving to the cloud.

It is an approach that appears to be supported by research from IDC. In a report published in 2012, the analyst warned that cloud computing is a complex environment with a variety of enabling technologies:

Most organisations will need technical proficiency and even expert proficiency in a wide range of these technologies to be successful.

IT managers who are hiring for cloud-related jobs find that understanding the relationship between cloud computing and other activities, such as service management, business continuity, and even the business value of cloud, is as important as understanding the specific technologies being leveraged.

Companies get into trouble because security and compliance can be overlooked

“With cloud computing, users are getting closer to buying the business functionality they need without having to call the CIO,” Erdle adds.

“Procurement of cloud services is a great way for companies to get into trouble, because security and compliance can be overlooked.”

Almost a year ago, CompTIA launched Cloud+, a full professional certification which focuses on deployment, utilisation, security and compliance of cloud technologies. Security represents by far the biggest element – about 35 per cent – of the programme.

Nonetheless, even Erdle accepts the need for vendor-specific certification. “CompTIA is a very good baseline and then you can train people in a specific technology,” he says.

Most of the big players in the market have already developed cloud computing certification schemes and the list is growing. Deciding which to pursue depends on what your organisation wants from the cloud.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has devised its own education and certification programme delivered through accredited training partner QA Training. The programme is organised around different roles, including solutions architects, developers and sysops administrators.

“Mapping from one environmental construct into a modern construct is quite an involved process,” says Ian Massingham, technical evangelist at Amazon Web Services(AWS).

He said, “We introduced certification because customers want validation that the resources they use have a certain skill. For individuals, being recognised as a technical expert is really important.”

The advanced Architecting on AWS course is designed for individuals with experience in designing applications on the AWS platform. It covers how to incorporate data services, infrastructure configuration management and security on AWS.

“One of the challenges is people coming from a more traditional systems background. It’s about the breadth of the ecosystem and not just about buying a box. If you don’t have the awareness of the breadth of services, you will miss out on all the benefits,” says Massingham.

“It’s important to give customers a choice. We think our certification gives people a deep grounding but if customers want to source alternative training, we’re certainly not averse to that.”

In the frame

Ultimately, a solid strategic overview of cloud capabilities and in-depth technical knowledge of specific products is a killer combination, with the potential to command huge salaries.

For individuals looking to enhance their CVs with the most sought-after skills, having a clear view of your career objectives is an obvious starting point.

Employers want people who understand deployment and security. If you have your heart set on a specific industry, even a small amount of research will soon throw up details of any qualifications you may need to get a foot in the door.

SFIA (the Skills Framework for the Information Age), meanwhile, is an industry-wide framework to help organisations and individuals understand the skills requirements of a given role and a given level, and details qualifications associated with it.

“Some sort of benchmarking is very useful for organisations in that context,” says Adam Thilthorpe, director of professionalism at BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT.

Regardless of the specifics, most experts agree that there are certain boxes that any certification should tick. In particular an element of continuing professional development recognises that technology never stands still.

“If people take lifelong learning seriously, they are definitely the sort of people you want in your organisation,” says Thilthorpe.

Ultimately a certification that offers some form of future proofing can only be a good thing.

“It’s about good practice, doing today’s stuff well, and next practice, doing tomorrow’s stuff now,” says Thilthorpe.

If you are still scratching your head as to which certification track to pursue, bear in mind that certifications on their own will not necessarily cut the mustard. Relevant experience will certainly give you the edge, or may even be a crucial requirement.

“IT professionals need to gain cloud experience in the workplace to enhance their career opportunities,” says Sherick.

Thilthorpe adds: “The industry needs to recognise that certification is important because there’s a currency for these things. It’s not about ticking a box, it’s about outcomes.

“That’s the language we need to speak as a profession.” ®

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