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Cover image for Forget Web Development, Become a Cloud Developer Instead! ☁️

Forget Web Development, Become a Cloud Developer Instead! ☁️

moneerrifai profile image Moneer Originally published at moneerrifai.com ・6 min read

The "Learn How to Code" Hype Train

If your goal is to become a developer, then you have no shortage of resources.

The first coding bootcamp appeared around 2011, and over the next few years, they exploded in popularity. There are now countless in-person (Covid19 screwed that up a bit) and online bootcamps. Additionally, there are tons of platforms and online courses, some completely free (like freeCodeCamp).

All these programs are great, but for the most part, they focus on one thing: web development.

The common path goes something like this:

  1. Learn some frontend web development (HTML/CSS/JavaScript)
  2. Learn some backend development
  3. Practice and build a portfolio
  4. Apply for jobs

This obviously is a little oversimplified, but it is a very popular path that new developers follow, and a decent path to be honest.

So why am I writing about this?

If this is something that you are considering, I would like to talk you out of it, and present you with an alternative!

Why No Love for Web Dev?

Back in 2017, I was catching the "development bug" and I wanted to be one of the cool kids.

After finding an online program that was a good fit, I proceeded to spend the next few couple of months learning web development. I loved it, but I bumped into the following two problems:

Problem 1: The Web Development Market is Getting Saturated

The explosion of bootcamps and the wide availability of online resources has been a blessing for those who want to get into the industry.

It has never been easier to learn if you are willing to put in the effort (and often, a decent chunk of money).

Coding Bootcamps

Coding Bootcamp Market Growth According to Course Report (source: https://www.coursereport.com/coding-bootcamp-ultimate-guide)

What that means for new developers though is that the competition is fierce! When there are multiple applicants for the same web dev position, having the skills alone might not be enough. Applicants need to have a strong portfolio as well as experience and additional skills to stand out. Many have to start out with an internship.

Problem 2: Companies Are Hiring (and Keeping) Fewer Junior Web Developers

Web developers will always be needed, but when companies tighten up their belts, UX/UI and web dev teams are often the first to be affected.

It is not that those skills are not valuable, but they are often viewed as less critical to the continued operation of most tech companies.

Additionally, it seems that every day new technologies and frameworks are coming out that minimize the need for large web development teams. Large organizations will always need web devs, but many are getting by with smaller teams, or even outsourcing their work to freelancers.

The bottom line: web development is still a great career, but it is getting more and more competitive and difficult to break in to, especially for junior devs without a lot of experience.

Enter Cloud Development

Let's talk about what is arguably one of the hottest and most in-demand skill in the tech industry right now.

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True, but a select few actually do!

What is Cloud Development

Simply put: it is the usage of modern development technologies to architect, build and support complex cloud infrastructure.

A cloud developer is essentially a developer that knows how to build and automate actual infrastructure. To be successful, a cloud developer needs to have one foot in the development world, and another in the infrastructure and operations world.

The availability of public cloud computing is fairly recent (about 10 years or so). Understandably, one might come across many job descriptions that intersect or even fall under cloud development. For example: DevOps Engineer, Cloud Architect, Cloud Administrator, SRE, etc. All of these titles share some (or most) of the same core technical skills. Do not let the job titles confuse you.

Why Cloud Development

1. Insatiable Demand

As practically every company moved to the cloud (or currently in the process of moving), demand for cloud experts soared and has not slowed down.

To add to that: many cloud providers like AWS responded by providing more services. If you access the AWS console for the first time, you are bound to be overwhelmed! There are dozens and dozens of services, and new ones keep getting released. Most organizations need experts (or teams of experts) to help them navigate this complexity.

2. Very Limited Supply

It turns out that very few people out there have the skills described earlier.

This is a bit of a generalization, but traditionally, tech professionals come from one of these two backgrounds:

  1. Software development background: which includes most computer science majors and self-taught developers

  2. Operations background: which includes system administrators, network engineers, support engineers, general IT practitioners, etc.

Very few happen to have skills that span both of the backgrounds described above, and that's where the sweet spot is!

As someone who has been on the hiring side, I experienced this firsthand. I recently helped interview candidates to backfill a position on my team. We interviewed many candidates: some had strong infrastructure and system administration skills but could not write a simple "for loop", while others were strong developers but barely knew what an IP address was!

3. High Demand + Low Supply = 💰

Economics 101 tells us that when the demand is high and the supply is low, price goes up.

This theory indeed holds up: if you look at any industry report, cloud jobs are consistently some of the highest paying.

4. Not a Dull Moment in the Cloud

Building fancy interfaces and colorful buttons is a lot of fun, but cloud development is just a whole other level (ok that was a mean joke - I know there's much more to web development).

As a cloud developer, you are often building and automating pretty impressive infrastructure. You architect massive systems that can scale to accommodate thousands or millions of users/requests. You get to touch so many aspects of technology: one day you might be automating CI/CD pipelines, and the next day you might be implementing the latest in serverless architecture.

You write code (sometimes a lot of code), but that is not the only thing you do. The variety of the skills that you develop keeps you engaged.

As an example, in my current job, I write a lot of code, but I also do a fair amount of design and architecture, communication with other teams and stakeholders, technical documentation, security, even support and troubleshooting.

How to Get Started

The skills that you need to develop as a cloud developer might seem overwhelming, but it does not have to be that way!

At a high level, you need the following skills:

  1. Cloud: there are a few major cloud providers (like AWS, Azure, GCP), so picking one and gaining expertise in their offering is a great idea

  2. Code: you need to become a competent developer, so picking an object-oriented language that is also cloud compatible is highly recommended

  3. Tooling: this could be optional, but there are countless tools and frameworks, some more important than others, so learning a couple (based on your interest) might be very beneficial

Depending on your background, you might be able to transfer many of your existing skills over. For example, I came from a traditional IT operations background so I was able to translate that to the cloud (by picking up some cloud certifications) but I needed to work hard to develop my code skills (of which I had none) and I also had to learn a couple of cloud tools.

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Yoda is right, but it is not as bad as he thinks

Your path might be different than mine, but it is very likely that you will need to supplement your existing knowledge, or even build it up from scratch if you are new to tech. No matter where you're starting from, you can easily break into this exciting field.

If you would like a step-by-step program, I have put together a short free ebook that will help you through the process:

https://www.moneerrifai.com/ebook/

Final Thoughts and Call to Action

I hope that I did not offend anyone by disparaging web development! Please take my tongue-in-cheek comments with a grain of salt.

Truth is: web development is still a lucrative and exciting career, but I do think that it is becoming a little harder to get into.

If your passion is in web development, then you should definitely pursue it. For me, I decided that I was more interested in moving packets than moving pixels. And despite my persistence, I struggled endlessly with CSS! And believe me, I tried...

But if you are curious about the cloud and looking for a career that is guaranteed to challenge you and keep you on your toes, then give cloud development a chance.

If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you!

Posted on by:

moneerrifai profile

Moneer

@moneerrifai

Hello 👋! My name is Moneer and I am a cloud developer 💻 on a mission to help others break into the exciting field of cloud and DevOps

Discussion

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This is my field of work, and just wanted to add a couple of tidbits from my own experience:

I can confirm it is near impossible to find a good engineer with this skill set. Understanding enough about systems and software at the same time is very rare. Positions have gone unfilled for months.

Also, according to Stack Overflow community surveys, DevOps specialists have among the highest job satisfaction numbers of any professional developer. Something to consider when picking a specialty!

 

I agree Kelly! we have had such a hard time finding qualified candidates too. We usually end up hiring a developer and teaching them about infra, or a system administrator and teach them how to write code. What do you do now in your current role?

 

where to start ? any suggestions
thanks

 

Mohammed - give my ebook a quick read (it is pretty sure, and the link is at the bottom of the article). It'll hopefully give you a good idea of where to start and how to go about it. Then reach out to me if you have more questions - would be happy to help in any way I can

 
 

Ha — This is great that you shared this Moneer, I'll share it in the next newsletter I send out. You've captured a thought / conversation that I've had many times with others. I originally got into web development, and made a personal shift to cloud for a few reasons:

Why I left web development

  • The industry was getting FULL of bootcampers —> I was getting infuriated by the fact the industry was just exploding with new bootcamp engineers. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE working with juniors, but when you're working with an entire team of straight-out-of-bootcamp engineers (whilst it's great for building coaching / leadership skills) it soon erodes your own skillset when you're not sufficiently challenged or working with others who can push your own skillset further. Explaining the key skills over and over, such as TDD, good code hygiene etc becomes a drain.

  • Cloud is more challenging —> Generally speaking, I find cloud more challenging, it's growing, but growing in a way that's truly productive. The web dev industry is now just re-inventing the wheel, new frameworks, new solutions to the same problem. This is not the case in cloud. New technologies in cloud are genuinely producing step changes in the ways that we work. Containers changed so much, Serverless changed so much, and things keep on changing, fast. This is fun.

  • "High Demand + Low Supply" —> As you say, there's more demand and less supply in cloud technologies right now. It makes finding a job easier, and the salaries, etc are higher. Also, there IS a higher barrier to entry, which makes it harder for the industry to be saturated with bootcamp graduates that are (often) pretty well skilled up.

Why Cloud hasn't caught up yet...

What the web development bootcamps got right, the cloud market has yet to do. Web development bootcamps have been so successful off the back of certain technologies. For instance, the rise of the "MEAN" stack back in the day, and now what is probably just React + Node.JS or Python equivalent allowed bootcamps to create homogenous, easily "marketable" skillsets that were high in demand.

The cloud side of the market has not yet woken up to this yet. In fact, it's still thrashing around with the problem of calling everything "DevOps". Whilst that term had it's place, it's not allowed cloud skilled engineers to adequately describe their roles. I believe the growing prominence of other terms, such as SRE, and Platform are somewhat helping (and hindering this).

The cloud market has also rallied heavily around cloud certifications, AWS for instance offers: "architect", "devops" etc certifications. But there are not homogenous enough for employers. Take, for instance the architect, we all know that a real architect cannot just take the AWS course and go and apply, it's not that simple. There aren't many proper bootcamps in the cloud space that offer truly structured career paths.

Eventually the market will catch up. In the mean time, that's why I write so much on my website, I want to help new engineers find the joy in cloud engineering and see that it's a better bet than just web development (no beef on web development.

Thanks again for writing the article, I'm open to chatting about this stuff any time.

 

Lou,

Love the points you made! And I agree with most of what you said. Maybe the cloud market will catch up, but as you stated, the constant innovation and evolution of that space makes it a challenge. And you are correct in the fact that saying "cloud" or "devops" is such a vague term and it encompasses so much: code, networking, databases, ci/cd, operating systems, the list goes on and on. I have a hard time seeing how this could be possibly distilled into a 3-month intensive course, but you never know.

I think in the end to be successful you have to have a true appetite for constant learning. That's the only way to make it. Thanks for your insightful comment and I will be checking out your website and your writing!

 

cloud developer is a high demand profession now. you can start your career by boost up your knowledge with cloud courses like AWS DevOps Course, etc.