Hybrid cloud talent: How to find and keep it

Use this expert advice to locate, hire, and retain hybrid cloud pros
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The headline makes it sound like a cool summer breeze. But finding, attracting, and then keeping the IT pros necessary for effectively managing a mix of private and public clouds, often across multiple vendors, as well as legacy infrastructure? It’s no easy task for most CIOs and their teams.

“Finding an individual who has a strong grasp over both private and public cloud environments is tough,” says Patrick Circelli, regional recruiting manager at the IT staffing firm Mondo.

[Why are IT leaders buzzing about multi-cloud? See our related article, Multi-cloud vs. hybrid cloud: What's the difference?

Tough, but not impossible. We gathered expert advice: Let’s look at how to handle three key phases of hiring top-notch hybrid cloud pros, from finding them to retaining them.

How to find hybrid cloud talent

Just finding qualified candidates is in itself a challenge, in part because hybrid cloud is still a relatively young area, especially in the broader context of IT history. If you search LinkedIn or a jobs site for someone with Java programming experience, you’ll probably get hundreds if not thousands of results, depending on your geographical requirements and other variables. But even the term “hybrid cloud” itself still new-ish, and may not appear as often on resumes and other job-hunting collateral.

"Spend a lot of time on the how and why a candidate may have architected a cloud solution, or moved certain workloads to a particular cloud."

Circelli advises looking for candidates that have infrastructure experience at both large enterprises and startups or other smaller companies. That’s because, in the past, “private clouds usually appear[ed] in most larger organizations that can handle security efforts on their own, while public cloud environments tend to appear with smaller organizations that need outside services to handle their protection needs and may not be able to afford on-site resources to manage that.”

As cloud in general has matured and the hybrid approach grows, looking for candidates with prior posts in multiple company sizes may increase the likelihood of serious experience with multiples types of cloud environments, as well as traditional datacenter skills.

Jeff Budge, VP of advisory consulting and product management at OneNeck IT Solutions, says he’s had success following specific tech communities as a means of identifying hybrid cloud skills.

In particular, Budge has found strong hybrid cloud aptitude when looking at architect-level or team lead-level talent from the ERP world: “These folks have been thinking about hybrid for a while as the ERP vendors have been on a long march from on-prem software to SaaS-based software.”

He also has had good luck with high-level folks that have worked for some of the big names in the native SaaS world – Salesforce is a prime example. “We find that these senior-level folks have often worked on other enterprise-grade application or technologies and have had to transform their on-prem and hosted mindsets to a SaaS mindset as a natural course of career growth,” he says.

Budge adds that, as hybrid becomes the norm, the application integration space is increasingly relevant from a talent sourcing standpoint. “Folks that have worked in Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) have been thinking about microservices and the modularity of platforms allowing the right workload to execute in the right platform while still relaying their results back to the overall platform,” he explains.

Circelli says CIOs and hiring managers need to cast a wide net for hybrid cloud talent: That means looking not just at active job-seekers, but passive candidates, too. Your ideal candidates might not actually be on the job market – but that doesn’t mean you can’t change their mind.

No matter where you find it, hiring the right hybrid cloud talent requires really digging into the details in the screening and interviewing process. Spend a lot of time on the how and why a candidate may have architected a particular cloud solution, or have moved certain workloads to one particular cloud or another, and ask how they handled data protection in previous environments, Circelli advises.

How to get hybrid cloud talent to say “yes”

As any recruiter or hiring manager can tell you, finding good people is one thing – actually getting them to accept your offer is another thing altogether. 

“Attracting the right talent is extremely difficult when it comes to high-level cloud architects/engineers/consultants,” Circelli says.

So, how do you make your shop as appealing as possible? Try these strategies:

  • You make clear that the candidate’s expertise across multiple environments is critically important to you and the broader organization. “These individuals want to know that their opinions matter and they want to be a part of the next step for the organizations that they are considering to work for, so being open to their opinion is paramount in attracting them to [your company],” Circelli says. This may be especially true for those candidates with experience in multiple company sizes. “They have been through numerous situations, so gaining their knowledge about utilizing and implementing certain technologies shows that you value them more than another company that just wants to have them architect any old solution that can 'get the job done.’”
  • Top tech talent wants the ability to continue to learn and evolve. Offering people the chance to work with a multitude of platforms and technologies – hybrid cloud certainly seems to fit the bill here – including new and cutting-edge stuff should be part of your pitch.
  • You grant your team significant autonomy to innovate. Budge finds that people with serious hybrid cloud chops want “a balance [between] freedom to experiment [and] the regular management duties,  encouraging innovation as a part of the job.”
  • You’re willing to pay. You didn’t think we’d skip money, did you? You’re going to have to pay competitively; in some cases, you might need to pay more than competitively, depending on the urgency of your needs, your particular market, and so forth. And as we’re about to see – money is going to be an ongoing part of the talent equation.

How to retain hybrid cloud talent 

In any competitive hiring market, talent retention is just as important as hiring. It’s like the tried-and-true business adage that it’s often easier and cheaper to keep an existing customer than to land a new one. The same principle can apply to employees. But maybe “cheap” is a poor word choice here, because money will be an ongoing area of attention when it comes to keeping your best people.

“The most common frustration I have heard from hybrid cloud talent is a compensation plan that does not align to their work.”

“The most common frustration I have heard from hybrid cloud talent is a compensation plan that does not align to their work,” Budge says. “It can’t just be a base salary, it has to have a variable comp model that ties to the right goals; it can’t be about utilization, it has to be about contribution; it can’t be about volume of work, it has to be about meeting desired outcomes.”

Similarly, Circelli believes that many of the things that appeal to candidates in the first place are just as critical from a retention standpoint: Hybrid cloud pros want to know their expertise is not only necessary to the business, but valued.

“If a resource feels as though the direction and advice he/she is providing [is being ignored in] an organization that isn't willing to move in a modern direction, they will seek other opportunities that will allow them to express their opinions and expertise,” Circelli says. He adds that top-notch engineers want to change things for the better; they want to have a visible impact. If they no longer think they can do that in your organization, they’re going to seek greener pastures.

Budge also brings up an ongoing topic in the business world, one that may be especially relevant in the often ultra-competitive tech hiring market: The ability to work remotely or from multiple locations.

“I have found that a lot of the best hybrid cloud talent has chosen to live where [the location] fits their non-work lives the best, and as such, the ability to work remotely and work on a flexible work schedule is a must,” Budge explains. “They expect to be held accountable for the work, but have the freedom to deliver it from a variety of locations.”

Kevin Casey writes about technology and business for a variety of publications. He won an Azbee Award, given by the American Society of Business Publication Editors, for his InformationWeek.com story, "Are You Too Old For IT?" He's a former community choice honoree in the Small Business Influencer Awards.