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How to Transition from Cloud Engineer to Cloud Architect Roles


The rapid advance of artificial intelligence is causing major disruptions in the technology industry. While AI promises to dramatically enhance the efficiency of some technology workers, it also threatens to do away with the need for others. As a result, some tech pros are looking for ways to shift into roles that are more secure.

In the cloud computing field, AI would primarily impact hands-on positions, such as cloud engineers. The role of the engineer is to build out technology solutions. They are responsible for ensuring that systems work correctly.

A more secure role in cloud computing is the cloud architect. The architect’s focus is on using technology to improve business performance. The architect does a job that AI will never be able to do.

“The difference between an engineer and an architect is like the difference between an airplane mechanic and an airplane pilot,” says Michael Gibbs, CEO of Go Cloud Careers. “The mechanic is responsible for ensuring that the plane’s systems are up and running. The pilot, however, is the one who knows how to use those systems. The pilot leverages technology to take people to new heights.”

Gibbs has more than two decades of experience in cloud computing. In addition to being an accomplished cloud architect, he also trains students for elite cloud computing careers. Through Go Cloud Careers, he provides students with a unique education that includes a deep understanding of cloud computing technologies, along with expertise in key business skills critical to cloud architecture. The approach, which Gibbs calls “certification plus,” has helped virtually 100 students who graduated from his program secure six-figure technology positions.

Add business acumen to technology skills

Gibbs believes cloud engineers are in a good position to make the transition to a cloud architect role.

“Cloud architects need an underlying understanding of the technology associated with cloud computing to do their job well,” Gibbs says. “This means engineers, who configure and maintain the systems, are in a perfect position to shift to architect roles.”

Gibbs warns, however, that effectively making the transition from engineer to architect involves mastering a range of new skills that empower the architect to understand and solve business problems.

“Technology is just the tool that the architect uses to bring about digital business transformation,” Gibbs explains. “Designing the systems that can increase business performance and efficiency requires more than just tech skills. Becoming a cloud architect requires developing a blend of business and technology acumen.”

Develop a keen business understanding

Business acumen is one of the primary skills engineers must develop to successfully transition into an architect role. Without it, they will struggle to understand the business problems they are expected to solve. Business acumen is what allows the architect to understand how a business operates, the issues that challenge effectiveness, and the solutions that will have a meaningful impact.

Engineers seeking to transition to architects also need to develop strong communication skills. Because engineers typically play a behind-the-scenes role, communication skills are not critical to their success. An architect, however, is a customer-facing position in which effective communication is often the key to securing business contracts.

Gibbs advises engineers to also develop their executive presence if they want to succeed as architects.

“Architects will regularly be expected to meet with CEOs, CFOs, and CIOs, collecting information that will guide their designs and selling those executives on designs once they are complete,” Gibbs says. “To do that well, you must be able to prepare presentations that make complex technology easy to understand. Writing skills are also essential for conducting ongoing communication with clients that occurs over the course of a project.”

Sales is another skill that engineers have little use for, but architects find critical. Architects must be able to build a business case, respond to customer concerns, and manage RFPs and other documents involved in the sales process. The soft skills associated with sales, such as entertaining clients and building relationships, also play a role in the architect’s success.

“The cloud architect and the cloud engineer are both tech pros, but the architect has a different relationship with technology,” Gibbs explains. “Technology is the sole focus of the engineer’s career. To the architect, technology is only as valuable as the business solutions it empowers. Transitioning from cloud engineer to cloud architect requires seeing technology in a new light.”