Through my own job, my network, and my other activities, I’m exposed to the industry a lot. I have the chance to talk to other insiders, enterprise/bank IT leaders, and many many more. I also consult as a side hustle and build one or the other website from time to time. I don’t do this full-time, yet, but it may give me some credibility.
This section is here to showcase scenarios, skills, and business ideas that I view as opportunities for someone who wants to make a change and go the entrepreneur route or simply upskill themselves.
Upskill Yourself - The Blockchain Frontend Developer
Blockchain technology is on the rise, that’s a fact no one can deny anymore. The technology has one issue, though. It’s not that easy to understand and use for end-users. Just take a look at some Bitcoin clients. They are functional but they don’t do a good job of giving users something that is really easy-to-use. This is where a good frontend comes into the game. Companies adopting blockchain technology and building products based on it will need engineers to build usable and reliable clients for them.
There is more to the technology than only cryptocurrencies and their exchanges. We could build whole social networks on them, for example. And building frontends for those applications is not that much different from what we build on the web today. We exchange some APIs and include some other protocols instead of our usual backend API calls, and everything else stays the same. But through the knowledge required to interact with those blockchains, you can gain an advantage in your salary of up to 30% over “traditional” frontend positions. Sometimes a buzzword technology can make the difference.
Self-employment - The Cloud Architect
Every company and organization that somehow is able to currently tries to get into the cloud. They either have a specific plan, only want to follow the trend, or see cloud deployments as a way of selling more of their software or products. Many of those companies come from the same background: A service-oriented architecture deployed to VMs. Sometimes it’s already distributed, sometimes it’s everything on a large VM. They all have one thing in common, though: They need help to make that transformation. Their technical staff is usually trained in the technologies they previously used and don’t have a deeper understanding of the cloud and especially what each individual vendor offers.
The cloud is actually a very large and broad field. There are three huge and many smaller providers and a whole ecosystem of technologies, specifically tailored to the cloud. This makes specialization a basic requirement. It’s simply impossible to know everything really well. This opens up the opportunity to position yourself as a specialist of specialists. What about being a pro architect for data engineering in the cloud or what about being someone that knows how to manage large Kubernetes clusters in the cloud and make developers ready to build cloud-native software?
Due to the sheer size of “the cloud” and everything related to it, companies will gladly contract specialists who can help them on this transformation journey. The field is too broad to be able to do this transformation on their own and with their own resources. Someone with experience will simply be able to bring such a project up to speed, way faster.
There are so many possible paths as a cloud architect that I’ll have to focus on one path I am pretty comfortable with, as I currently pursue it myself (at least in my day job): A cloud architect focussing on Kubernetes and large, distributed systems, including everything that comes with it.
I think that the following skills would be necessary to pursue such a career:
Basic Knowledge Of A Cloud Provider Of Your Choice
You’ll do good specializing in exactly one cloud provider, at least in the beginning. Choose either AWS, Azure, or GCP. You’ll need to know which services that provider offers and how they play together. You can still branch out later but you should have a “main cloud” you’re so comfortable working with that you don’t start to sweat when someone has an advanced question for you.
Some certifications are not worth it but others are sometimes a hard requirement. Especially for large cloud providers, getting certified is mandatory. It shows that you know your way around that provider’s services and environment. Those certificates are well-known and accepted. It’s like a keycard giving you access to many companies.
Containers are an awesome invention. They are the best form of platform-independent deployment we currently have. As this path focuses on cloud-native deployments, containers are a must-have. You can’t deploy anything on Kubernetes when it is not containerized. Docker is the current industry-standard for containerization, so it makes sense to stick with it. Gladly, there have been a lot of efforts to standardize APIs, formats, protocols, and such. This goes so far that you can even reuse a lot of Docker’s commands with other solutions. Consider Docker or containers to be one of your core skills. You should really know how they work well, and be able to teach others how they work.
This is your second core skill. Kubernetes is the de facto industry standard for container management right now, and it is one of the fastest ever adopted technologies in enterprise IT history. Knowing your way around Kubernetes is a superpower that can have a significant impact on what you can charge. It’s relatively easy to use Kubernetes nowadays but it’s still incredibly difficult to understand it as a whole. If you can provide the latter, companies will profit a lot and value those skills highly. As with containerization, you should be able to teach developers how to use it.
A Managed Kubernetes Solution
Yes, this is a separate point. If you know how to set up a cluster yourself, that’s awesome. But if we’re serious, no one really wants to do it manually. Even adding other cluster nodes can be a real pain. Managed solutions abstract away all that pain and turn it into an (at least relatively) easy-to-use interface that sets a cluster up or adds nodes with nearly only one click. Your client’s operations teams will thank you a lot if you know a solution that makes this process easier.
Sometimes, you want full control over everything. All cloud providers offer solutions to collect logs, metrics, and more. But if your client wants full control without relying too much on external services, the cloud-native ecosystem has you covered. The list of projects currently being developed under the umbrella of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation seems to grow every day. Be it Prometheus for metrics and Jaeger for distributed tracing, there is a project for everything. You should learn about the most important core services and learn how to integrate and use them.