How to build a career in cloud computing

Basic IT skills topped off with service management finesse and business know-how are good starting points

By  Cloud Computing

In the six years Drew Garner has worked in IT for Concur Technologies, his responsibilities have morphed along with the fast-growing provider of on-demand employee spend management services. Hired as a network manager, with a background in information security consulting, he quickly added server responsibilities to his role, and then became the network, server and storage guy.

"Many IT professionals out there already have the basic set of skills in place that they’ll need for cloud computing, so it’ll mainly be a question of increasing awareness and getting involved in sample scenarios."

Bharat Rao, associate professor of technology management at Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly)

That exposure, which included a leadership role in the company’s virtualization deployment, made him the go-to for perspective on cloud computing, he says. Now senior manager in charge of architecture services at Concur, in Redmond, Wash., Garner is explicitly tasked with cloud project management.

In fact, Garner returned stateside only days ago from a two-year stint in Europe to shepherd the company's cloud strategy, he says. "One of my main objectives for the next year to 24 months is figuring out how we extend our private cloud, integrate a hybrid cloud and evaluate public cloud providers," Garner says.

Toward that end, he has pulled together a four-person team comprising nuts-and-bolts technical planners and project managers/designers. While the technical planners study the mechanics of cloud computing and its integration into the Concur architecture, the project managers and designers will plot what resources will be needed from other IT teams -- database, server and storage, for example -- and how to phase in deployment.

In addition, Garner selected managers from across IT, including research and development, to participate in a multidiscipline architecture review board.

"This is a total collaborative approach. We all need to be plugged into this together -- we're not going to implement cloud in a vacuum because what we do will help with the future functionality and cost of our products," he says.

If not by name, then by function

At Concur and elsewhere across the enterprise spectrum, IT professionals are making a career in the cloud today.

IT professionals who understand the nuances of cloud computing are in demand at newbie ventures entering business with all infrastructure and services in the cloud as well as within existing companies grappling with how to best take advantage of this latest computing trend. These folks might have in-depth technical knowledge, the ability to decipher vendor strategies or be able to advise on, plan and architect cloud solutions, for example.

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