By Lina Arshad
It’s no secret that Microsoft Azure has been growing in popularity over the past few years, with a recent report from Microsoft revealing that its cloud services revenue increased by 20% in Q4 2022, driven mainly by Azure growth—which was equivalent to 31%.
With an influx of businesses relying on Azure to drive their digital transformations forward, it’s no surprise that we’re seeing more skills associated with the platform being demanded by organizations and hiring managers. But with technology known for its fast pace, knowing which skills need to be prioritized can be a minefield for Azure professionals and those looking to break into the industry.
To give you a helping hand, we’ve rounded up seven of the top Azure skills that are in demand this year, so you can make smart decisions about the courses, certifications, and other learning materials you spend your time on this year.
According to our Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 and Azure Edition 2023, 77% of Microsoft professionals have experience with Azure—with particular mention of Databases (58%), Storage (55%), and Compute (50%) as the top products they have proficiency with.
With so many different Azure product categories available and the platform still expanding as it becomes more popular, we have taken a deep dive into the top skills you need to learn this year to get the most out of your career in Azure.
In the following sections, we’ll be discussing each of these skills in greater detail, so you can hone them and become an even more proficient Azure professional in 2023.
With so many career pathways and progression opportunities available within Azure, every professional will no doubt have a role-specific skill set they need to meet to succeed in that position. However, there are some universal skills that all Azure professionals should have to support them in any position they may take on, with these being a mix of Azure technical skills and business soft skills.
So, what are the Azure skills professionals need in 2023?
Although coding isn’t essential for all Azure roles, neglecting to get to grips with this skill can limit your career potential to just non-technical roles—and with our Careers and Hiring Guide showing that coding-heavy roles like Technical Architect can yield a salary of up to $200,250 per annum, it’s clear that keeping your career options open will be the most lucrative decision you can make.
Although it can be complex and time-consuming, this is exactly what makes coding such a standout skill to have on your resume—because people will pay you for learning it, so they don’t have to! And with plenty of free, discounted and paid Azure training resources out there, there have never been more ways to break into coding for Azure and increase your Azure earning potential.
Something worth noting about coding is that while in itself it’s a great skill to have, you can go a step further by ensuring you’re able to code based on the environment. That way, even if everything was to go completely wrong, you’d be able to confidently rectify the situation, or start from scratch if required—while only paying for your infrastructure when you’re using it. Similarly, if you had to launch your disaster recovery (DR) plan because a data center failed, you can easily get it back up to the same environment it was before, as you’d have the code to do so.
Azure has plenty of programs that can help make your coding processes easier. For example, with Azure Resource Manager (ARM) template you can create an infrastructure based on your code. Additionally, Visual Studio Team Services and Azure Automation can help you to deploy the code.
If the past three years have taught us anything, it’s the importance of being resilient and adaptable when things go in an unexpected direction. And while the cloud is built for resiliency, in order to protect your career, it’s important that you master the art of embodying these skills yourself because the cloud sometimes uses applications that you need to be aware of and take into account in your applications.
For example, your call to the database may fail when a platform has too many or too few requests coming through—both of which are temporary states. For the latter, you would need to retry your calls to external services by implementing the Retry Pattern. And while Azure mostly has this retry pattern implemented, it’s useful to know about it and how to customize it, if needed.
While general change is something to be expected, because cloud tech is evolving much quicker than any of us could ever have anticipated, having soft skills like resilience and adaptability will mean you can stay ahead of the curve—no matter how many twists and turns it may take.
These are not just reactive skills that switch on when somebody faces a challenge, but they also allow you to be proactive in what happens next, rather than being stilted by something you can’t control. This is why it’s such a great personal and professional skill to have.
When the pandemic hit back in 2020, and an overnight exodus of virtual work occurred, cybersecurity criminals saw an influx of opportunities to take businesses as victims—with so many businesses having data stored in the cloud.
And although it’s imperative that those who are hands-on with the creation and building of the application need to implement security best practices when designing the application, it’s just as important at any other stage of the process that Azure professionals understand and implement these security best practices, too.
For example, being able to identify sensitive data avoids breaches of personal data and protects against leaks of these which can be costly to both a business’s profits and reputation. Similarly, it’s crucial to know that at any point, your Azure data center could fail and knowing what the contingency (or DR) plan is to get everything back on track quickly and quietly, is something all professionals involved with the application should know.
To do this effectively, it’s key that everyone knows what the plan is while being familiar with and utilizing the benchmark recommendations given by Azure itself, significantly reducing risk to your organization. You can learn more about this in Microsoft’s introduction to cloud security benchmarks.
When you work with the cloud, you’ll find that your system may consist of numerous different services—any of which can be classified as a microservice and further broken down into containers. This means that you need to have the ability to analyze the service by identifying the cloud’s features, characteristics, and the application it supports in order to make the best decisions moving forward. Analytical skills become even more crucial when you consider the distributed nature of the cloud.
Analysis can be made easier by using a pipeline which monitors your system properly for you. For example, you can use Azure Monitor to collect, analyze, and respond to telemetry from your cloud and on-premises applications. Once you have the data you need, knowing how to interpret the results and evaluate what steps you need to take next will be invaluable to an Azure career of any kind.
Critical thinking is one of the most in-demand soft skills there is. Not only does it allow IT teams to think realistically about their projects, but it also helps encourage problem-solving, with added advantages of keeping projects on target and under budget.
There are six main skills under this umbrella term, including analysis and evaluation which have already been mentioned in this article, but brings these together with reasoning, creative thinking, and interpretation. This provides a full picture of the circumstance and encourages professionals to look at their projects and applications in deeper detail, rather than taking things at face value—resulting in more meaningful and accurate conclusions, as well as better tailored next steps.
Often enough, Azure professionals are brought into an organization’s IT team because these teams themselves aren’t confident enough with the vendor to be able to use it. And this in itself has been a deterrent for many businesses who have held off from executing their digital transformations until it’s been really crucial for the survival of their company.
When you’re working alongside a team that has trusted you with something they don’t necessarily have much competency in, and have previously been hesitant over, it’s more important than ever that you have strong communication skills. Not only will this help you to further convince the organization that moving to the cloud was the right move for them but will mean you can explain in ‘layman’s terms’ any issues that may come up and how you plan to solve them—or what you need to do in order to move forward from them.
Similarly, we all know that working with others means there’s a number of views and opinions being shared. And while this can be great for drumming up new ideas and clarifying the direction the organization wants to go in, it can also put a spanner in the works. This makes negotiation skills all the more important when you’re using Azure. More specifically, being knowledgeable enough about the platform can build trust and credibility in you as a professional and makes your job (and ultimately the business’) a lot easier!
With Azure being the best place to run AI workloads, it’s unsurprising that Azure professionals should have a good understanding of AI as one of their key skills for 2023—particularly as figures from the IDC have predicted that worldwide spending on AI-centric systems is forecast to reach $154bn this year alone.
With Microsoft’s mission to drive every person and organization to achieve more, they have a purpose-built AI infrastructure to help with this. One huge pro of this is that it allows for scaling up to take advantage of multiple accelerators within a single server and to also scale outwards to combine many servers. And when you combine this scale-up AI infrastructure with the capabilities of graphic processing units, you create high-speed memory pools that are hugely useful for processing large amounts of data and helping you enhance the insights you get from this. This drives innovation forward even more.
On top of its existing advantages, it’s clear that AI is set to continue expanding and developing, giving us more opportunities to improve our cloud projects. And, failing to be in-the-know with AI and other modern technology phenomena will without a doubt put you behind your competition. So, a keenness to learn and experiment with AI is a skill you won’t want to miss out on gaining this year!
Any great professional will be dedicated to continually improving their skill set, but make sure you prioritize the skills that will get you furthest in the current state of the ecosystem.
With technology changing and evolving so rapidly, there’s no doubt that the skills you’ll need may change years in the future, but nailing these basics will help you to navigate the world of Azure and open up plenty of new opportunities for you.
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