When it comes to IT strategies for 2018, cloud computing is sure to be the one technology at the core of almost every business’ plan.

The problem with rolling out new tech — especially one which will radically change the very foundation of a company’s technical infrastructure — is that current in-house skills aren’t necessarily going to match up with what is required by the new system.

As businesses continue to turn to the cloud to improve efficiency, cut costs, and revamp processes, suddenly there are thousands of organisations ready to implement their new cloud-first action plan, and finding they don’t have the internal expertise execute it.

In need of new skills, businesses turn to their HR departments, who are tasked with hiring the absolute best cloud professionals on the market. But, as it turns out, every other business with a grand plan to migrate to the cloud is doing the same thing. So, what now?

The cloud skills gap problem

There is already a significant supply and demand issue when it comes to cloud technology professionals; a huge percentage of businesses report that they are struggling to hire people with the right cloud expertise. Despite the many alluring advantages cloud computing offers, many companies are postponing their migration because of the shortage of required skills, both internally and externally.

Don’t look for a unicorn when a zebra will do Click To Tweet

The mass shift to the cloud will create an enormous number of jobs, but at present, IT professionals are playing catch-up to a new and rapidly evolving technology. Those just entering the market — professionals who are “cloud-born” — are just beginning to build their experience. while seasoned IT veterans are attempting to master an expansive new technology, which, until recently, no one was really sure would become so mainstream. The centre pool of the Venn diagram between cloud skills and IT experience is slim; it’s a pool with too many fishermen and not enough fish.

To compound the problem further, hiring managers are not only competing with other end users for talent, but also the big-name cloud service providers themselves, with companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Oracle jostling to build teams that will help them move forward in the race for cloud supremacy.

Demand for cloud talent isn’t about to die down anytime soon. A recent report from Nigel Frank found that the percentage of businesses hosting applications in the cloud had increased by 26% on the previous year. Research also showed that tech partner companies expected managed cloud infrastructure services to be the most in-demand technology by their clients in 2018, beating out business and productivity applications for the first time.

Approaching your search

Unfortunately, there is no assembly line pumping out qualified cloud professionals into this combative market. With high-paying roles and new opportunities being dangled in front of them, IT professionals will be working on upskilling to meet demand, but closing the skills gap will take time. Businesses looking to deploy cloud solutions now can’t wait around for burgeoning talent; they need to have a plan in place in order to recruit in this candidate-scarce market.

So what can businesses do to make their search for great cloud talent more effective, and ensure they have the skills they need to move their cloud strategy forward?

The first step is to evaluate your needs. Look at your cloud strategy and work out exactly what you require in a cloud professional. A good cloud pro will have a well-rounded knowledge of cloud computing, but, like all other professionals, will tend to have a specialism.

Think about what you plan to use your new cloud platform for. Is it mostly for data storage? Do you want to develop and build apps? Will you be managing customer data in the cloud?

Detail your requirements and decide if you’ll need someone with experience in a particular area, whether that be migration, security, databases, or programming and development.

With many cloud platforms to choose from, each requiring distinct aptitudes, it’ll also help hone your search if you target professionals who have experience with your chosen provider.

Due to flood of wanted ads hitting the job market, businesses may come across applicants looking to meet, and capitalise on, that demand without having a robust enough skillset. Though the pressure may be on to bring cloud professionals to your team quickly in the face of such steep competition, always keep in mind; you can hire right or you can hire twice.

Top skills to look out for

Once you have your basic requirements mapped out, you should consider any additional skills When searching for potential candidates, it’s important to be on the lookout for

The technical skills required to oversee cloud infrastructure are not the same as those once needed to deploy servers and run internal data centres; with infrastructure housed off-site, traditional management skills become much more valuable. Don’t forget to look out for soft skills such as communication, organization, and sound financial literacy.

Naturally the most important thing to look for in a potential candidate is the right experience; do they have an understanding of your chosen cloud provider? Have they performed many migrations? Do they have experience building or developing on a cloud platform?

However, with new technologies experience can be hard to come by, making it tricky to verify a candidate’s skill set. Certifications can help you see exactly where their strengths lie, and are a good indication that the applicant is enthusiastic about the technology, and keen to keep on top of new developments. Look out for these trusted certifications when sizing up potential candidates:

  • Any AWS Certifications
  • CCSK (Certification of Cloud Security Knowledge)
  • CCSP (Certified Cloud Security Professional)
  • Certified OpenStack Administrator
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) – Cloud
  • CompTIA – Cloud+
  • Dell EMC Cloud Architect (EMCCA)
  • IBM Certified Solution Advisor – Cloud Computing Architecture
  • MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert) – Cloud Platform and Infrastructure
  • Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHSA) – Red Hat OpenStack
  • VMware Certified Professional (VCP) – Data Center Virtualization

Don’t look for a unicorn when a zebra will do

That doesn’t mean lowering the bar by any means; it’s simply a case of focusing your search. A good cloud professional will have a working knowledge of the all the basics, but with such a broad range of skills and specialisms within the cloud, you’re unlikely to find someone with expert-level experience in every single area of bleeding-edge tech.

Setting your heart on a unicorn cloud professional is going to make things even harder; by evaluating your prerequisites, and distilling the core skills that your organisation really needs to get the most out of its cloud services, you have a much higher chance of finding great that fits your business.

Of course, it’s fine to include “nice to have” skills, but don’t expect an influx of applications if you’re asking for the moon. The cloud is constantly evolving, and provided you find a professional who is engaged and passionate about their own development, they’ll pick up new skills as they go.

One final tip; demand has created something of a bidding war for qualified cloud experts, and those in the market for a new role command high salaries. If you’re moving to, or already utilising cloud services, you might find that you’re spending less on infrastructure; your hiring budget would be a good place to reinvest those savings to ensure you’re offering a competitive and attractive compensation package.