He speaks from experience, having been in the job market in 2008 after a layoff. "I had 10 years of Solaris experience and a little bit of networking, and I could only get one interview," he says. But within a week after getting his CCNA certification, he began receiving interview requests for networking jobs and continues to receive emails responding to his resume. He ultimately scored a sysadmin job that was similar to the work he had been doing before the layoff.
The more certifications and tech skills you can accumulate, the better, Reed says. "We have hundreds of candidates who apply for the positions we advertise, and everyone feels they can do the job, but companies are looking for the best candidate," he says. "You can be a Windows admin with two years of experience, but if you're competing with someone who has also touched Linux and Unix and has several certifications, you can see where you'll have a disadvantage," he says.
How to prep for change
Traditional sysadmins will not be able to make these changes overnight -- but they do need to get started because the clock is ticking. Forrester forecasts that the global market for cloud computing will grow from $40.7 billion in 2011 to more than $241 billion in 2020.
They should start, Topi says, by surveying the business context in which they currently work, the roles and responsibilities of the people they serve, and the business model of their employer. Also important, he says, is developing better communication capabilities, specifically the ability to both negotiate with and listen to users in a different way. "There will be an increasingly high intensity of dealing directly with users and understanding their needs," he says.
Companies aren't going to let go of an eager, adaptable and accountable employee. Alice Hill, Dice.com
Employer-provided education can be somewhat helpful, though companies tend to provide training in narrow, product-specific areas, Kizer points out. Some universities offer formal programs in systems administration, and both LOPSA and ACM are working with educators to help define their curricula ( sample PDF here), but most skill revamping will likely be self-taught, he says.
"With the availability of free virtual computing environments, you can build you own cloud on your own hardware for learning, or you can cheaply rent it from IaaS providers."