In the spotlight: Rowan O’Grady talks top cloud certifications for success


The pandemic threw businesses around the globe into chaos as we all tried to adapt to a new, more flexible, way of working. Not only did it mean leaders had to think of innovative ways to keep up productivity and customer service levels, but also that everybody still had access to all the data and information needed, whether they were at their kitchen table or able to visit the office.  

The sudden change cast a huge spotlight on just how important your cloud architecture is. As a result, the cloud really shone ahead of on-premise solutions. However, the business challenges caused by the pandemic also led to uncertainty when it came to hiring, and thus, recruitment in the tech sector slowed alongside every other vertical. Now, as companies sees the value in using the cloud for digital infrastructure, there has been a significant rise in new jobs across all technologies.  

Recently, our President of Americas here at Nigel Frank International, Rowan O’Grady, sat down with Emilio Aguero, owner of YouTube channel Digital Byte Computing, to talk through the latest IT news, as well as the best certifications professionals should look at to break into the industry.  

Emilio: Well, thank you so much for joining me today Rowan, I really appreciate it. So maybe you can begin by giving everyone an overview about yourself and what you do at Nigel Frank. 

Rowan: Hi Emilio, great to be here! So, my name is Rowan O’Grady, I’m the President of Americas here at Frank Recruitment Group. We are a group of specialists and niche IT staffing agencies, Nigel Frank being one of them. All of our companies or agencies are effectively aligned with a particular technology. So, for example, Nigel Frank is aligned with Microsoft technologies like Dynamics and Azure.  

Emilio: That’s great, thank you. Given that Nigel Frank works with a lot of IT professionals, including some who are just starting out on their career journey, what advice would you give to someone who is just breaking into the industry? What are some of the foundational tech skills or certificates you think are worth acquiring? 

“We’ve seen around a 50% increase in new jobs coming in across all technologies, and in terms of cloud jobs, we’re seeing well over 50% of new roles being posted every single week”. 

Rowan: I think it really depends on what it is you’re interested in pursuing. That being said, if you wanted to cast a wide net, and assuming you’re completely new to the career, then the CompTIA IT Fundamentals Plus certification is useful for teaching you the basics. If you’re looking to become an expert and to be in the highest demand, I would definitely say cloud technology is the one to get to grips with.  

Cloud professionals are in the shortest supply right now and will be for as far as we can predict in the future. Microsoft also have a whole range of role-aligned certifications to help you progress, but if you’re starting out I’d recommend Microsoft Certified Azure Fundamentals. On the AWS side of things, the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner is a great option for someone looking for a broad introductory certification. 

Emilio: So, are you finding that Microsoft certifications are more in-demand than AWS certifications? Are you finding that there’s a bit of a shift going on where people are focusing more on Azure over AWS? 

Rowan: I wouldn’t say so, no. But I can tell you that between them, Azure and AWS dominate the market, and account for half the systems out there. That being said, it certainly isn’t an obvious choice, so if you’re really interested in developing a future in technology, the cloud is a great place to start. And to add to that, I would say whether you go with Azure or Microsoft as your starting point, it isn’t really going to make too much of an impact on either.  

“I think candidates must remember that practical hands-on experience always trumps certifications, and that’s for every industry”. 

Emilio: Thanks for clarifying that. So, do you find that IT professionals who have more certifications find it easier to land a job? For example, do those who have loads of certifications across different technology disciplines find it easier to find a job versus someone who may not have as many? 

Rowan: Yeah, so you could say it’s easier for somebody with a lot of certifications to get through the first round of selections as at face value the hiring manager can see that the candidate possesses the relevant knowledge, and the level of work they’re competent with. This can be particularly advantageous if the interviewer or hiring manager is coming from a non-technical background. So, while it provides a sort of tick list for those people hiring, I think candidates must remember that practical hands-on experience always trumps certifications, and that’s for every industry. 

Certifications can certainly push you through the screening process, especially when there decision is up to a non-technical interviewer. Gaining these also shows a lot of commitment and enthusiasm for your professional development, which is exactly what employers want to see. But just don’t be tempted to rely solely on them, as experience does matter.  

Emilio: I agree. I think it’s definitely important to be balancing those two things. In terms of actual certifications, do you think there’s a balance between candidates having Microsoft or Cisco? Is there more demand for one over the other? 

Rowan: There are definitely more open roles that require Microsoft certifications than Cisco, and that’s got a lot to do with Microsoft having a much broader customer base and a wider product range. So naturally there’s a greater surface area across which expertise is needed. Neither is better than the other, but if you’re trying to decide between them, I’d say go for Microsoft because there’s likely to be more job opportunities around in line with this.  

“The best advice I can give is to focus on becoming a cloud architect, get your certifications, build up your experience, and you will have a lot of very fruitful career options ahead of you!” 

Emilio: That’s really good to know. Is there any other advice you’d like to give to budding technology professionals, or perhaps those looking to grow with the sector? 

Rowan: I would just say that as well as thinking about how to wind up in your dream job, there should also be an element of balancing following your passions with earning a great living and reaching those higher-paid jobs. If you are technical and want to form a career in technology, I’d really recommend focusing on the cloud space and getting your certifications in AWS and Azure simultaneously, or one after the other as you progress.  

Azure and AWS aren’t going away. In fact, they’re only just warming up and considering how lucrative a career pathway it already is, you could have a fantastic future ahead, paying you a lot of money and a huge demand for your skills. So if you’re thinking “what’s a bright future for me as an individual?”, the best advice I can give is to focus on becoming a cloud architect, get your certifications, build up your experience, and you will have a lot of very fruitful career options ahead of you! 

Emilio: Yeah, that’s really helpful information. Did you see a big move to the cloud globally last year? Were more businesses looking to move away from solely on-premise infrastructure over the past 12 months? 

Rowan: Initially, we expected the demand for people working in cloud services to jump up because everyone was working from home and more companies would be relying on the cloud to share relevant information around their remote workforces. But it didn’t because companies were fearful of hiring during such a period of uncertainty, and they weren’t willing to spend in an area that might not pay off.  

As time has gone on, and particularly into the start of this year, the amount of positions opening up for these jobs gradually started to increase, and finally exploded around March and hasn’t stopped! We’ve seen around a 50% increase in new jobs coming in across all technologies, and in terms of cloud jobs, we’re seeing well over 50% of new roles being posted every single week. That means there’s now more demand for these professionals than there ever has been. So yeah, there’s been a huge change and it’s very clear that that’s what the future of technology is.  

The rising demand for cloud professionals means the industry is now more lucrative than ever. If you’re considering a career in technology or are already in the field and considering exploring different technologies, think cloud. By taking the tips given in this blog by Rowan, you will have the best building blocks for starting or progressing a successful career in tech. 

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