What you need in an AWS cloud developer in 2020

By Nicola Wright

As the world’s leading cloud service provider, thousands of businesses around the world use AWS to run their operations and processes.

And when those businesses want to create apps, services, and infrastructure powered by AWS, they hire an AWS cloud developer.

But with so many products falling under the AWS umbrella, and so many different skills in the arsenal of today’s developers, choosing the right AWS professional for your team can be tricky.

To help you make the best decision, we’ve sized up some of the top skills that you should be looking for in your next AWS developer hire.

What does an AWS cloud developer do?

Before you can hone in on the right pro for the job, you need to map out what your expectations are. Of course, the precise role and responsibilities of your cloud developer will depend on the needs of your business; no two cloud developer job specs will be precisely the same.

If you want to find the best fit for your team, you can’t go off a cookie-cutter outline of a cloud developer’s role. Spend some time outlining the objectives that you need your cloud developer to achieve, what they’ll be doing on a day-to-day basis, and what kind of person they should be to align with your company culture.

Generally speaking, though, a cloud developer will be responsible for things like designing and building cloud apps and services, testing, deploying, and maintaining them to optimize performance. They also might help migrate and figure legacy apps and work to make sure they’re compatible with their new cloud environment.

So, to get all of that done and help your business achieve cloud-powered operational excellence, what do they need to know?


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Familiarity with core AWS products

Obviously, the most important thing you want to see in a cloud developer is robust technical skills and knowledge of the AWS platform.

Arguably the most valuable thing a cloud developer candidate can bring to the table is practical, demonstrable, hands-on experience with the products they’ll be working with in your role.

Nothing beats first-hand experience with a product, and candidates who’ve gotten up-close with AWS, seen it in action, and learned how it works are your best bet.

Any good AWS cloud developer will have worked with the most common pillars of AWS cloud architecture—products like:

  • Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2)
  • Virtual Private Cloud (VPC)
  • Auto Scaling
  • Elastic Block Storage (EBS)
  • Elastic Load Balancer (ELB)
  • S3
  • Relational Database Service (RDS)
  • Elastic Container Service (ECS)
  • Lambda

The A to Z of APIs

AWS cloud developers will come into frequent contact with APIs, and should be able to effectively build, analyze, implement, and scale APIs to ensure that cloud apps can communicate adequately.

They should be familiar with how to operate and secure APIs using the appropriate authentication and permissions. They should also be familiar with AWS API Gateway, and understand how to create, monitor and maintain APIs using this tool.

A proper grasp of modern programming languages

It goes without saying that any developer should have a firm grasp of at least one programming language. For AWS cloud programmers though, some language can prove more valuable than others.

Python is one of the most supported languages across the AWS product stable, so in-depth knowledge in that department is a must. Ruby is also an excellent skill for AWS pros to have, as are others commonly used with AWS products such as boto3, Node.js, Java, and Go.

AWS certifications—always a bonus

Certifications are a distinguishing feature for any AWS cloud developer and are also a good sign that a professional is invested in their own development and committed to keeping their skills up to date.

But as we mentioned earlier, practical experience is the gold standard when hiring development professionals of any variety. That’s not to say that certifications should be overlooked; certifications are a fantastic shortcut for sizing up what a candidate knows.

But it’s important to remember that certifications are an accreditation of theoretical knowledge; yes, the holder has learned some really granular, technical stuff and has been able to answer tough questions to prove it, but having a lot of official AWS badges doesn’t necessarily translate to proven experience implementing this knowledge in real-world situations. For this reason, certifications should always be considered a major nice-to-have rather than an essential.

When we spoke to AWS professionals as part of our annual salary survey, they cited that years of experience in IT, years of experience in AWS, and exposure to large projects as more significant to their AWS careers than certifications. What they considered least important, interestingly enough, was a university degree, so don’t get hung up on a candidate’s academic career!


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A passion for staying current

The cloud space moves fast; staying up to date with the latest developments, new products, and changes to the platform is vital if a business wants to make the most of the AWS cloud.

A great developer is truly invested in their work, and will actively keep on top of trends in the AWS space. Hiring an enthusiastic, engaged, and passionate developer not only means that they’ll be delivering their best work, but it also helps your business stay ahead of the curve.

Ask your cloud developer candidates how they stay up to date with the industry, where they get their news from, and what most upcoming AWS product developments they’re most excited about to get a feel for how in-touch they are with the ecosystem.

Eagerness to upskill

The skills that you need in your AWS cloud developer today might not be the same skills you need tomorrow. With the cloud skills gap widening and talent thin on the ground, you need to invest in your cloud professionals and ensure they have the resources they need to continue to develop new skills and adapt to the changing demands of their fast-changing cloud role.

Best practices for development are always changing, especially in a relatively new environment like the cloud, so a readiness to be open-minded about new ways of working and always striving to challenge the status quo are excellent qualities in a developer.

A good way to size up both a candidate’s ambition and their willingness to flex to meet the company’s needs is to ask how they plan to develop their skills in the future, what areas they’d like to specialize in, and what they’d do with a training budget if one was made available to them.

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