How to become a cloud computing leader

Enterprise cloud efforts are begging for leadership. Time to step in and fill the void.

Technologists working with cloud need a range of specific skills, from Java or .NET framework to REST API development to knowledge about Amazon Web Services. But businesses are also crying out for people who can take leadership roles in moving operations into the cloud world.

Buildings-Time Warner Columbus Circle NY 3-photo by Joe McKendrick
Photo: Joe McKendrick

When it comes to leadership, it's the "soft skills" that matter, as cloud often requires the ability to look at the big picture, marshal organizational resources and funds, and sell new ways of doing things to skeptical line of business managers.

Bill Kleyman, writing at Data Center Knowledge, provides several pointers for imporving cloud skills:

Think like an architect -- see the big picture.  This is important, and it highlights the emerging role of enterprise architecture in cloud computing efforts. But Kleyman suggests that it would be helpful for everyone to be able to see the big picture, especially as it relates to the potential growth of the business. As he put it: "Thinking like an architect forces you to understand the entire problem, everything that it will impact, and how to design an all-encompassing solution."

Learn the language of business. This is something that is said a lot at conferences and in analyst reports.  But it's something that's extremely important for cloud leaders. Businesspeople don't care if you're using REST or SOAP-based protocols -- but they care a lot about delivering new business, or getting innovations to market faster. The cloud leader coming from IT will need to understand business, but the cloud leader coming from the business side is going to have to improve his or her tech knowledge as well.

Understand organizational dynamics. Over the years, many of the most well-designed and well-intentioned tech projects fizzled out due to lack of funding and support. The same goes for cloud. Kleyman puts it nicely: "Here’s something that needs to be understood immediately: IT is no longer an independent function of the business organization. Rather, modern businesses are actively integrating technology functions directly into their enterprise model. This means more communication, more reliance on the data center, and a lot more demands from the IT department. Business no longer tells IT where to go. Now, IT and technologists have a direct say in the direction that a business must take."

Keep learning new technologies and methodologies. Many of the services available to enterprises today were not even on the radar five years ago.

Think outside the data center box. This goes with learning new things. "Get creative," says Kleyman. "There are so many supportive technologies out there to help optimize your environment. If you’re a storage expert, start thinking about data management and optimization. How can you increase density, improve I/O, or decrease space utilization? Here’s the challenge: How can I optimize my data center environment while still lowering operational costs? Understanding SDx technologies and the data center virtualization revolution can help you create new types of business strategies. Learn about new supportive technologies which directly optimize core data center functions."

Take advantage of social media. Especially if you want to be heard, and communicate with stakeholders.