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IT jobs on the other side of the cloud

By Howard Baldwin
November 6, 2012 06:00 AM ET

Overall, IDC says "demand for cloud developers will likely remain high for the next five years, with another five years passing before supply catches up with demand. During that time, salaries and benefits will stay well above average, as will opportunities to advance into leadership roles."

Three differences in the cloud

Leo Casusol has put in his time in enterprise IT. He started out in the '90s writing ERP applications for the world's largest publicly traded copper company, and was later tapped to be senior vice president of engineering and technology at Quadrem, a business-to-business network for the mining industry. Now he's CIO of Miami-based Terremark, the cloud services division of Verizon.

He sees three primary differences working on the other side of the cloud. "First, on the service provider side, people have higher expectations. When you are delivering services to internal customers, sometimes you're not as aggressive as you are when you're [delivering services as] a vendor," says Casusol.

"Second, when you deal with external IT managers, you need to adapt your processes to deal with them." Specifically, account managers and others at the service provider must be better at both change management and at communicating proactively.

And third, "you now have to think about how to maximize your P&L impact by increasing margin and lowering cost," says Casusol. Specifically, "you need to think about scale, about deploying processes and tools that deal with volume," he explains. "You become a business within a business."

Working for a cloud service provider

Benefits
  • Constantly-changing environment.
  • Big paycheck potential.
  • More gratitude from customers.
Challenges
  • More attitude from customers.
  • On-call 24/7.
  • Scale can be intimidating.
  • Revenue generation part of the job description.

For those reasons, Casusol says, it may be difficult for traditional IT employees to make the transition to working for a cloud service provider. "You need to adopt a customer service mentality," he says. "Traditional IT is not looked at as customer-friendly, especially when they're enforcing policies. Going from being [a controlling influence] to being customer-friendly requires a cultural change."

Pat O'Day, Bluelock's CTO, echoes Casusol's last sentiment, as did other IT professionals. He spent 10 years as a Web services manager at a hospital, and then a little over a year in pharmaceutical manufacturer Eli Lilly's Internet group, running the security infrastructure. For him, traditional IT wasn't always fun. "I'll be completely honest: Sometimes we felt like we could almost hear the grumbles of people cursing IT," he says. "Is there more gratitude on the service-provider side? Yes."

High stakes

If there's more gratitude, there are also higher stakes and more demanding customers. Users choose the service provider they want to patronize, O'Day cautions, and they're free to choose to take their business elsewhere -- which will have an immediate impact on the cloud provider's bottom line.

"With a service provider, people get enraged if the network goes down for an hour," says O'Day. "You have to give 110% service. The way you behave -- how quickly you call people back, how quickly you address their issues -- affects the health of that customer relationship. There's a stress factor to consider."



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