Six cutting-edge cloud certifications than can give your career wings

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This feature first appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.

Certification is an excellent means of getting your head in the Cloud and mastering its cutting-edge tech.If the IT landscape were like an actual landscape, people in tech would be reaching for their umbrellas right about now, because the sky would be filled with clouds, from horizon to horizon. Spending on cloud services rose by almost 19 percent last year, with businesses and organizations around the world shelling out an estimated $260 billion, up from $219 billion in 2016.

It’s no surprise that some of the hottest certifications in IT right now are cloud certifications. Public and private organizations are in a blazing hurry to move to the cloud, with investment in Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) leading the way. There has never been a better time than right now to jump into cloud computing with both feet.

To help you map out your personal path to cloud tech acuity, here is a list of six certifications sure to catch the attention of employers eager to hire top-shelf talent.

AWS Certified Sysops Administrator – Associate

Amazon Web Services is leading the charge with their cloud computing platform, and this a great cert to have under your belt. Every day that I spend doing anything on AWS reminds me of hand-building servers in a small shop when I began my career many years ago. The AWS platform combines cutting-edge technology with the old-school cool of hands-on malleability.

This certification is unique and impactful because its primary focus is on migrating existing infrastructure to the cloud, and locking in your knowledge of how to get that done. The bottom line for employers looking to migrate their operations to the cloud is employees who can do it on time, under budget, and seamlessly.

While you can go hog wild on AWS certs, getting a dozen or more, I strongly advise you to start with this one. It will cost you a few hundred dollars, require you to really understand the material, and — rather than just pay a fee to keep the credential current — you will need to recertify annually. The annual recertification alone is a strong validation that your skills are up-to-date, and that you can successfully migrate any company’s business to the cloud.

Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Cloud Platform and Infrastructure

Cloud certs dude on the moveMicrosoft’s competing cloud platform, Azure, is perhaps the foremost challenger to AWS, and I recommend this be your next credential after AWS Certified Sysops Administrator – Associate. Practitioners of this platform and obtainers of this certification can fully utilize Azure and its myriad components.

The unique aspect of this certification is that you will have to become certified in a few other domains beforehand. For example, you can pick the MCSA: Windows 2016 track and receive your cloud certification after you earn your 2016 server cert. Employers love MCSEs because they know that their knowledge and skills are more broad-based than just knowing the ins-and-outs of Azure.

I personally find Azure to be less user-friendly than AWS, but who doesn’t run Microsoft on their server side? My advice is to get certified at the MCSA level, the prerequisite for Cloud Platform and Infrastructure, and then decide whether you want to continue on. At worst, you’ll be certified in something almost everyone uses already, and poised to quickly take advantage of that ubiquity.

VMware Certified Associate 6 – Cloud Management and Automation (VCA6-CMA)

First to market with the software-defined datacenter, VMware has created the VCA6-CMA certification to help skilled professionals manage their tech. Individuals who hold this credential are sure to have a positive impact, and any organization that acquires them will consider themselves lucky.

VCA6-CMA validates that you have gold standard skills and are capable of not only running, but also migrating a company’s entire business to a cloud environment, both internal and external. Achieving this certification will put your career on a steep upward trajectory.

You can then move on to VMware Certified Advanced Professional 7 – Cloud Management and Automation Design, followed by VMware Certified Design Expert 7 – Cloud Management and Automation, and find yourself at the pinnacle of VMWare certification. No more job applications to fill out — employers will come looking for you.

Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Cloud

Speaking of pinnacles, a daring soul might want to get into the infrastructure side of the house with the CCNP Cloud credential. This creamof-the-crop Cisco certification, which requires successfully passing four tests, can’t be attempted unless you first earn its junior counterpart, CCNA Cloud, which has two tests of its own.

Per Cisco Learning Network, the certification and training arm of the company, “The CCNP Cloud certification is a lab-based training and certification program targeted at Cloud Engineers, Cloud Administrators, Cloud Designers, and Architects working in Data Centers. This program delivers the knowledge and skills necessary to design, provision, automate and manage Cloud and Infrastructure-as-a-Service deployments.”

Individuals with this certification are likely to have a major positive impact for any organization, as they will bring with them the ability to design, grow, move and administer all cloud solutions.

Splunk Certified Architect

One deficit I see in cloud technology is the insufficient number of highly skilled people working in monitoring and automation. Making those areas more robust is essential to a healthy IT ecosystem and a growing bottom line.

Splunk is fast becoming the main tool of choice for any organization’s enterprise monitoring and automation needs: “Splunk captures, indexes, and correlates real-time data in a searchable repository from which it can generate graphs, reports, alerts, dashboards, and visualizations.” In other words, it turns data into knowledge.

A skilled individual can use Splunk to automate common functionality and dive deep into any cloud computing issues within their company. It allows you to have data driven insights into every part of your business, not just IT. Monitoring and automation has moved beyond just “pinging a server” to see if it’s up and running.

Branding yourself a Splunk Certified Architect will allow you to master this software. From design to installation and operation, you’ll have the skills to positively impact the monitoring and automation at your current company … or your next company.

Splunk Certified Architects are in demand. A quick Glassdoor search for the keyword “Splunk” lists more than 4,600 openings. This is a highly sought-after certification and skillset that is well worth pursuing.

TOGAF

Sponsored by The Open Group, TOGAF is a useful certification to have for making an impression on employers. I personally like the Level I and II certifications. When it comes to enterprise architecture and enabling global enterprises, the TOGAF framework is the accepted standard.

It assures that everyone speaks the same IT language and “avoids lock-in to proprietary solutions by standardizing on open methods for Enterprise Architecture.” A TOGAF specialist can utilize resources efficiently to save time and money while achieving demonstrable ROI.

Certification is an excellent means of getting your head in the Cloud and mastering its cutting-edge tech.As an advanced cert, TOGAF is tough to achieve, but well worth your time and effort. The credential validates your ability to handle whatever cloud-related computing you’ll run up against.

Make IT work for you

Cloud computing is opening all sorts of new avenues for data sharing and opportunities for skilled cloud pros. Setting and achieving your certification goal is the most important thing for your career. Whatever certification you choose to achieve in 2018, I recommend you be aggressive and shoot for the stars.

Don’t disappoint yourself now or in the future. As always, happy certifying.

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Nathan Kimpel

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nathan Kimpel is a seasoned information technology and operations executive with a diverse background in all areas of company functionality, and a keen focus on all aspects of IT operations and security. Over his 20 years in the industry, he has held every job in IT and currently serves as a Project Manager in the St. Louis (Missouri) area, overseeing 50-plus projects. He has years of success driving multi-million dollar improvements in technology, products and teams. His wide range of skills include finance, ERP and CRM systems. Certifications include PMP, CISSP, CEH, ITIL and Microsoft.

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