Want a well-paid job in tech? You just need to become a cloud-native god

At KubeCon, the need to bridge the skills gap was clearer than ever

Opinion At KubeCon North America, I did a little exercise I've done before at major technology shows. I went around the booths in the exhibition hall and asked a very simple question: "Are you hiring?" The answer from two-person startups still building up from their personal credit cards to Fortune 500 companies was always the same: Yes.

True, there have been a lot of tech job layoffs lately, but for every LinkedIn, Nokia, and Qualcomm slashing payrolls, there are more companies looking for tech-savvy people.

Yes, it is weird. Some businesses – we're looking at you, Nokia – are in trouble, but many companies seem to be laying staffers off out of some unfounded fear that there's a recession hiding around the next quarter. Spoiler alert: Economists, tired of playing Chicken Little and finally realizing that the sky has not fallen, are no longer certain that any recession is on the cards.

In the meantime, open source and cloud-native computing continue to dominate the tech world. And it's only growing larger. Much larger. As Priyanka Sharma, Executive Director of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), said: "If you're wondering about the importance of the cloud-native market, we're going to be at $2.3 trillion in 2029."

To make those numbers real, companies will need people who can stay abreast of open source and cloud-native projects. Businesses are also willing to pay real money for people who know their way around Kubernetes and the like. For example, according to Robert Half Technology's 2024 IT salary report, cloud engineers make $132,060-$185,380; DevOps engineers $140,740-$210,800; and software developers $130,200-$186,930. That's not chicken feed.

So what do you need for these jobs?

The essentials are:

Understand Core Cloud Concepts: Proficiency in the basics of cloud computing, including IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS service models, as well as public, private, and hybrid cloud architectures, is fundamental.

Experience with one or more Major Cloud Providers: Building expertise in services provided by hypercloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

Master Containerization: Knowledge of containerization tools such as Docker and container orchestration with Kubernetes is crucial.

Learn Infrastructure as Code (IaC): Familiarity with IaC tools like Terraform and Ansible that enable the provisioning and management of infrastructure through code.

Cultivate DevOps Practices: Understanding the principles of Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) and experience with DevOps tools.

On top of one or more of those, you need to know security best practices. There are not nearly enough people out there who know how to properly secure software. With one security fiasco following another, such as the July breach of Microsoft Exchange Online, security has become critical. If you can show you're a master of say AWS and Identity and Access Management, it's not a matter of if you'll get a job, it's when.

As Dustin Kirkland, VP of engineering at Chainguard, a company that knows a thing or two about security, pointed out, understanding the security posture of applications running in Kubernetes and the necessary enhancements is crucial.

That's all well and good, but how do you prove you have what it takes?

While a degree in computer science or a related field certainly helps, certifications can also showcase your commitment and expertise. Besides the obvious ones, such as AWS Certified Solutions Architect; Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate; Google Cloud Certified – Professional Cloud Architect; and Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA), Sharma suggested specialized cloud-native certifications can also be a big help both for companies and staffers.

She said: "It's ever more essential to get everybody up to speed. 55 percent of respondents to our surveys have said cloud-native specific training and certification have helped them land a job." Unfortunately, it's easier to say "get a certification" than it is to do it.

As Christophe Sautier, CNCF's cloud-native training and certifications lead, recently said, there's still a lot of work to be done to close a skills gap that prevents many organizations from embracing modern IT platforms.

Still, if you can close that gap, you'll be well on your way to a career in cloud-native technology. Jobs may come and go in tech, but if you combine cloud-native skills with security expertise, you'll never be out of a job for long. ®

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