Architecting Your Cloud Architect Career

June 8, 2022
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 The Cloud Architect Career

In this article, we will discuss the cloud architect career, so you know how to get your first cloud architect job.  We recently released a video that discusses this as well, you can find it here. First, we will discuss the career, then we will tell you the skills to be successful in your cloud architect career.  In this manner, you will know how to get your first cloud architect job, and how to rapidly progress in your career. So, let’s get right to it.

What is a Cloud Architect?

A Cloud Architect is a very special position. Most cloud architects work in pre-sales roles, and in this article, we will discuss these pre-sales roles. Post-sales cloud architects have a slightly different job, and we will post another article for post-sales cloud architects soon.

The cloud architect’s main focus is to assist the customer with digital transformation.  This means helping the customer use technology to improve business performance.  To achieve this goal, the cloud architect must be an expert in business and technology. Most specifically, how, and which technology to leverage to solve customer business problems.  Unlike engineering positions which are hands-on, architect positions can be summarized into three main roles: design, present, and sell.

Let’s begin with what goes into design.  It all starts with a customer meeting, where the cloud architect, the account manager (sales representatives), and sales engineers will ask the customer about their business goals. These goals will enable the team to think about the types of technology to improve the customer’s business performance – All architectures are aimed at improving the customer’s business performance. Next, the cloud architect will bring in a team of cloud engineers and technology professionals to baseline the company’s systems, in order to learn about their customer’s environment. After all customer goals and requirements are known, the cloud architect will then collaborate with other architects and technology professionals (Big Data Architects, Security Architects, Network Architects, Application Architects, Cloud Engineers, DevOps engineers, and some maintenance people also known as SysOps), to design the solution to assist the customer. The architect will then document this solution in multiple formats and diagrams for the technical and executive teams, which can be achieved by making use of tools such as Visio or LucidChart.

Next, the Cloud Architect will be required to present the documented solution to the customer (One to the management team, one to the C-Level executives, and one to the engineers). In order to meet up with the client’s goals, there will be several deliberations to be done between the customer and the account team including the cloud architect. Now comes the saying – remember no one buys technology because it is cool, but because they intend to use it to solve business problems. For every new architecture, the architect must prove to the customer that the value of the solution is greater than its cost – this means ROI capital modeling (Return on Investment capital modeling), where we assess the impact of leveraging new technologies on the business after an analysis. It is for this reason that the architect must be able to convince the customer that investing in their architecture is the right option. The business case will have to prove that the solution provides more business value than its actual cost.

Finally, with an architecture and a business case, the account team will then sell this solution to the client. After the customer purchases the design, the post-sales cloud engineering team will then build it. As soon as the design is sold, the cloud architect moves to a new customer. For this to be possible, there will be plenty of negotiation to be done – which implies that the cloud architect will require good negotiation skills to keep making sales.

So, what goes into the sales process?

cloud architect career

Client meetings and asking the client what they want

  • A lot of presentations – to the C-level executives, the management team, and the engineers.
  • Responding to sales documents such as RFI’s (Requests for Information), RFP’s (Requests for Proposals), and RFQ’s (Requests for Quotes).
  • Documentation of client goals as well as client offerings.
  • Client relationship management, which will require lots of client entertainment, to sell them solutions. This is mainly to develop good business relationships so that clients can comfortably disclose all relevant information needed, to enable them to get the exact solutions they require.
  • The Cloud Architect will be leading large teams of cloud engineers and other professionals such as big data architects, network architects, application architects, etc., during proof-of-concept testing. This will require a lot of leadership and executive skills.
  • Finding and collaborating with other internal and external resources. In cloud architecture, the architect will often be required to make calls for resources either internally or externally – meaning either from their company or from external sources. For example, if a client needs robust security architecture, the architect may collaborate with other companies like:
    • Fortinet
    • Palo Alto
    • Cisco
    • Checkpoint
  • Helping to build the business case and the Return-on-Investment Modeling (ROI) and business case creation.

The Cloud Architect will be required to write thought leadership papers to influence the industry, and present at conferences, which will require a lot of communication skills, writing skills, and soft skills.

In total, all the skills required for the above business role are:

  • CXO relevancy
  • Business acumen
  • Leadership skills
  • Sales skills
  • Presentation skills
  • Executive communication skills
  • High levels of executive presence
  • High levels of emotional intelligence
  • Negotiation skills

Now, what does a Cloud Architect design?

Cloud Architects design end-to-end solutions. For example, solutions that will provide new sales processes, new workflows, and new customer experiences. The majority of what cloud architects do is transfer resources such as storage and databases from traditional networks and datacenters to the cloud, which is a shared outsource, virtualized network and data center. Therefore, strong network and datacenter skills will be required for the cloud architect role. It is mandatory that a cloud architect should know what designing is all about, because they cannot design what they do not understand. Design is all about creating a solution – where the solution delivers more business value than the sum of its parts, The designed architecture must sell the business problem. This is NOT configuration training like certification which emphasizes how to build or set things up – That’s not the job of an architect; which is to design, present, and sell.

Here is a list of technical topics you can use to build your cloud architect career:

  • BGP,
  • IGPs (OSPF/ISIS),
  • WAN Technologies,
  • IP Addressing,
  • Subnetting,
  • Supernetting
  • Switching, (VLANS, VLAN Tagging, VLAN Trunking, Spanning tree, Rapid Spanning tree)
  • NAT – one to one, one to many, static, and dynamic,
  • ARP, Proxy ARP, DNS, DHCP Servers and server virtualization,
  • Containers and Container Orchestration,
  • STORAGE AREA networks,
  • Load Balancers, 
  • FW, IDS/IPS, VPN Concentrators, 
  • Databases,
  • Business applications and how they help businesses i.e., CRM, ERP systems.
cloud architect career

As you can see essentially, none of these topics are covered in certification exams from the cloud providers. This is because certification exams teach solely entry-level skills. Certifications look good on your resume and are good for getting interviews but will never get you a job. And this is why being 10x Certified is not a competitive advantage, you can read our article on this for more information.

Therefore, what certifications should you get?

  • One Cloud Certification – Either the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Professional, Azure Solutions Architect Expert, or the Google Professional Cloud Architect.
  • Network, Data Center or Security Certification – Certified Cisco Network Professional, CISSP, CCSP, Red Hat Certified Engineer

Remember, the job is for digital transformation specialists and not for techies. We’ve only mentioned professional certifications because they help build out the resume.  It shows that one has taken the time to get certified.  Certifications are useful for getting interviews.

As you can see the cloud architect is a hybrid business executive and tech professional.

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