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Digital Transformation

How to Upskill from Storage Administrator to Cloud Expert

December 20, 2022

Topics: Cloud Manager Advanced8 minute read

Today, it’s impossible for any technology expert to remain indifferent to the cloud. In the past couple of decades, the cloud has paved the way for the digital transformation of many industries.

The cloud has also completely changed the way organizations leverage technology and has created completely new business models and revenue streams. The increasing reliance on cloud technology has also opened up brand new career opportunities.

In this article, we’ll explore how IT storage administrators can upskill, adapt, and pivot their careers to become cloud experts.

Jump down to a topic in this article:

The Evolution of Storage Administrator Skills Across Different Cloud Roles

The IT storage administrator role has evolved alongside the cloud digital revolution many industries are going through. Cloud technologies ignited a shift in technology capabilities, processes, and culture.

Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find a job posting for an IT Data Storage Administrator. As storage administrator responsibilities change and new digital transformation technologies emerge, so do the roles.

What Does a Storage Administrator Role Look Like Today?

The experience and knowledge a storage administrator accumulates throughout their career provide several options for different cloud career paths. In a cloud-centric work environment, it’s common for storage administrators to transition to a DevOps engineer or cloud specialist role. These roles enable them to focus on automating and integrating different managed services as well as compute and data storages.

For experts with solid cloud knowledge, a data engineering or architect role can be an option. In these roles, you can learn to design complex cloud systems or build bridges across different teams and technologies such as IoT and machine learning operations (MLOps).

However, if data is your true passion, the areas of business intelligence (BI) and analytics or data management are also popular choices. As organizations generate larger amounts of data everyday, properly managing information and rendering it usable for operations is increasingly important.

With so many options available, planning your cloud learning journey to match your career objectives is essential.

Planning Your Cloud Learning Journey

According to the 70-20-10 model for learning and development, 70% of your learning comes from your day to day tasks, 20% of your learning should come from networking and interacting with peers outside your regular work tasks, and only 10% comes from formal training such as courses and workshops.

Finding good mentors and coaches will provide you invaluable insights that can significantly accelerate your learning journey, help you set goals, and steer the direction of your career. Reach out to people that transitioned to cloud roles from a similar background or experts with the skills and knowledge you want to obtain.

Nonetheless, the biggest portion of your learning happens on the job. It’s a huge chunk of time and it is often disconnected from the person's learning objectives, i.e., to become a cloud expert. While we can’t always choose or fully control the tasks that land on our desks, learning as you go is a great way to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and acquire new skills.

Which Cloud Providers or Technologies Should You Learn First?

Single public cloud provider? Hybrid or multiple clouds? Which cloud provider or cloud technologies should you focus on learning?

Your learning journey should always follow your passions, interests, and career goals. However, especially in the early stages of learning about cloud, it makes sense to align your learning goals with your organization’s cloud adoption strategy. If your organization is migrating to a single cloud provider such as AWS, it'll be easier for you to find cloud-related tasks and apply AWS knowledge obtained via courses or certifications in practice.

Similarly, your organization might be using a hybrid or multicloud setup with on-premises data centers and Microsoft Azure, or planning a proof of concept in Google Cloud. Whatever the technology is, the most important thing to remember is that on-the-job experience is what will help you grow, so always volunteer to assist in executing cloud-related tasks even when they’re outside of your comfort zone.

Is Learning New Cloud Technologies All There Is to Upskilling?

At the foundational level, all cloud providers share similar core building blocks, such as virtual instances, software defined networks, and data storage services. This may make it seem like their services are quite similar, but after a few months or years using different managed services, you’ll begin to understand what makes each provider unique.

That said, this presents a challenge for newcomers. Experts with several years of on-premises and data center technologies experiences, when facing cloud technologies for the first time will often dismiss their benefits by thinking of the environment as yet-another-data center.

While understandable, this hinders the learning process. A true understanding of the cloud mindset usually comes with experience when you see how it’s possible to build complex solutions in a fast, scalable, and robust manner by leveraging built-in managed services building blocks.

However, learning about various cloud technologies and how and when to use each one isn’t enough to become a great cloud expert. Enhancing your non-technical skills is just as important. For example, it’s important to be open-minded and prepared to accept feedback and knowledge from those around you. Communication skills are just as important. To work on your communication in the cloud world, try to attend talks or webinars on cloud topics, write down your thoughts in a technical blog, and pay attention to the language and vocabulary used by others in the industry.

Boost Your Journey with Cloud Certifications

Cloud certifications, when combined with your daily work tasks, are a fantastic way to challenge yourself and validate your gained knowledge. Each cloud provider has their own certification catalog but one common element is the different difficulty levels available. At entry level, you can find several cloud certifications that focus on fundamental aspects of cloud computing. These don’t require any prior knowledge or experience and are often suitable to anyone, including non-engineering roles such as sales, business development, or marketing.

A typical cloud certification exam costs between 100 and 300 dollars. However, the end result is worth the cost as these certifications are very sought after by employers and are a great way to showcase your knowledge level. In addition to certifications, cloud providers often have self-paced learning content available free of charge that allow you to gradually obtain digital skills badges.

While nothing prevents you from signing-up directly to an advanced level certification, it’s recommended to first complete a fundamental level certification. This will help you understand the certification exam process and increase your confidence for the next levels. For any data enthusiast, the Microsoft Azure Data Fundamentals certification is a great starting point.

AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Certifications for Storage Administrators

The AWS Solutions Architect Associate is one of the most popular cloud certifications in the industry. Despite the intimidating name, it's attainable even without many years of cloud experience. This certification focuses on challenging the student to understand how the different building blocks (data being a key part of it) work together to design a cloud solution. For solution architects with many years of cloud experience, the Google Professional Cloud Architect certification covers a wide range of software engineering best practices that can be applied to many areas.

To anyone transitioning to a data engineer or data architect position, it’s worth exploring the AWS Data Analytics Specialty, Microsoft Azure Data Engineer Associate, and Google Cloud Professional Data Engineer certifications. These are targeted to experienced professionals and bridge the gap between cloud architecture and data science. They cover different parts of the data lifecycle in the cloud, such as ingestion, preparation, storage, analysis, and visualization.

Another interesting certification for storage administrators is the AWS Database Specialty. This advanced level certification is ideal for anyone with previous experience and interest in databases and overall data storage. It helps you understand different ways to store data and make it available and scalable by leveraging different managed AWS services such as NoSQL, relational databases, data warehouse, and others.

Finally, the Microsoft Power BI Data Analyst Associate certification is ideal for those who want to learn how to best analyze and visualize data. This certification is popular across many organizations and it’s becoming increasingly sought after not only by engineers but by anyone in an organization working with data.

Conclusion

Whichever cloud career path you choose or certification you pursue first, the most important step is simply starting. The number of vendors, technologies and information available is enormous and can make it difficult to decide where to focus our time and energy. Yet, with the rapid pace of innovation and access to free or low-cost high-quality content, it has never been easier to push ourselves, upskill, and progress in our tech careers.

NetApp went through its own cloud transformation journey in the past years. Today, the same level of top-notch enterprise-grade data and storage on-premises NetApp capabilities are available as natively in the cloud. With NetApp BlueXP customers have a wide range of features that work seamlessly across both on-premises and multiple cloud environments on AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud.

Try NetApp BlueXP today with your preferred cloud provider.

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Bruno Almeida, Principal Architect & Technology Advisor

Principal Architect & Technology Advisor