When I use the term optimization, I often refer to finding the most efficient way to use technology. Cloud career optimization (CCO for those of you who love TLAs [three-letter acronyms]) is the notion of evaluating the best and most efficient career path. Yes, it’s great to find the best-paying job, but it’s better to find the best-paying job that also brings a smile to your face. With these two attributes, a job approaches full optimization.
Careers in cloud computing all seem to have the same attributes. Either you can get a job that’s good enough and pays market rate for your skills, or you can find a job that provides opportunities for what you want to do now and into the future and pays what you want to make, within some limits.
I routinely mentor people embarking on cloud career paths and, more often, people looking to improve their existing cloud computing positions. Most of us are motivated by the same factors, with some prioritizing one over another. These factors include:
Being valued by the business. My father used to tell me, “You can earn a million dollars a year and still be underpaid.” Those who are undervalued by the businesses they serve know this all too well.
Value is almost never measured solely by monetary compensation, such as yearly bonuses, although money obviously factors into career decisions. The simple recognition and appreciation of the value that an employee brings to the company can be priceless. I often see people quit right after a major raise or generous bonus, simply because they do not feel like their participation in the business is of any true value.
In the world of cloud computing, employee value should be connected to major milestones such as migrating a group of applications and data to the cloud, or other accomplishments that deserve acknowledgment.
Compensation. This is the easiest metric to understand. Do you get paid at a market rate or above? Keep in mind that there are a few elements here, such as compensation that includes equity (i.e., getting stock or other options when you join a startup). You need to do your own research and set realistic expectations about your target compensation. Consider equity, bonuses, and raises tied to evaluations as well as your skill sets, experience, and market demand.
Opportunities for learning. This factor is often undervalued and overlooked when cloud-skilled employees evaluate a job opening. If you won’t have training opportunities or the ability to expand your skill sets, you’ll move backward, no matter how good the job is now or how well it pays. This is perhaps the most important factor of CCO.
Look for jobs that provide opportunities, such as learning cloud architecture when you are hired as a cloud developer, or a cloud operations position that allows you to expand your experience with cloud-based artificial intelligence systems. Also, move into new and hot spaces you see emerge, such as cloud finops, serverless, or containers.
Flexibility. Can you work from home for part or all the time? Does the position offer flex time for childcare or eldercare—or anything else that makes living a bit less stressful, such as staying out of traffic? The advantage of working with cloud-based resources is that it does not matter where you are located. All you need is a fast and reliable internet connection. Some employees now capitalize on this to live in areas of the country with a lower cost of living, better schools, less crime, and thus a better quality of life.
There are other things to consider, such as diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, the company’s mission, sustainability policies, and so forth. These should factor into your CCO to varying degrees. Find out if a potential employer does a good or bad job of supporting what’s important to you. These days many potential employees give corporate values almost equal weight in their decision-making process.
So, now it should be easy to find your most optimized cloud job, right? Sadly, it almost never happens. This is more about gaining a better understanding of what you want and being honest with yourself about a sound cloud career path.
Employers can learn as well. The optimal employees are no longer attracted by a single dimension; they are considering many of the factors I’ve listed above. Often, the companies that pay the most are not the best places to work, all things considered.
Once hired, those who excel in their cloud careers typically focus on optimizing the cloud computing architecture and how they can find the most efficient solution that will return the most value to the business. As a result, the business makes money and the employee’s career gets optimized. Everyone wins.