Chat with Xu Ying on My Career Journey (Part 2)
This part two of the interview was originally published on Xu Ying’s LinkedIn article on 03 May 2020.
I am Xu Ying, a final-year School of Information Systems student at Singapore Management University. A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure to have a chat with Henry Suryawirawan, who is currently working at Google as a Strategic Cloud Engineer. He has more than 14 years of professional experience working in consulting, startup, government, banking, and insurance industries delivering complex IT business solutions & products. During our chat, he shared about his amazing career experience, starting as a software engineer in an insurance company, and how he landed his career in Google as a Strategic Cloud Engineer. He also shared his advice to everyone on how to start and advance a career in Cloud Computing.
This article mainly covers Henry’s sharing of what he does in his role as a Strategic Cloud Engineer at Google, and his best advice for students who are interested to start their career in Cloud Computing. Read the first part of the article if you are interested to find out more about Henry’s career journey.
What do you do as a Strategic Cloud Engineer?
My role is to help Google Cloud’s strategic customers, mostly the enterprise to adopt Google Cloud products and services, and make them successful. It is a post-sales role. Typically after the Google Cloud sales team wins a deal, the clients will have projects that they want to do on the Cloud, either doing data migration, infrastructure & VM migration; or even build new capabilities like Machine Learning, build real-time data pipelines, etc. Google Cloud Professional Services team has a dedicated strategic team of engineers that can help with the hands-on technical implementation for the clients.
Is your role a generalist or specialist?
I’m personally more of a generalist, and that’s what I’ve been doing since many years back in my career. My background started with application development as a software developer, but over time, I picked up a lot of new areas like infrastructure, DevOps, Agile, etc. I even did data engineering projects in Google Cloud. Overall, I could do quite a number of areas, except probably Machine Learning.
How would you advise students to jumpstart their career in Cloud Computing?
It’s actually quite easy, you have to start by doing. These days, you can open an account with any Cloud providers easily, and they give you a good amount of free credits that you can use. A few hundred dollars is good enough to play around, deploy an app, deploy an infrastructure, etc. Just learn by doing, that’s always the best way to learn about anything. There are also other resources to leverage on, like tutorials and even certifications if you want to go more in-depth. But again, nothing beats the real experience of doing something, building something, and deploying it to the Cloud.
What are some of the most essential skill-sets/knowledge in the Cloud?
On the infrastructure side, I think the most important thing is to be able to understand networking and how to design applications in a scalable manner. You can choose any infrastructure platform you like, be it like Virtual Machine, Kubernetes, or even the serverless options, but you still need to understand the basics of networking, i.e. which compute options to use, how to secure your setup with the firewall rules, IAM permissions, etc. I think that’s still key to the Cloud. Many people can deploy to the Cloud, but the big difference is someone who knows best how to design a secure infrastructure set up, e.g. building your Virtual Private Network, assigning least-privileged IAM permissions, etc.
Apart from the infrastructure, there are many other areas of the Cloud that you can explore depending on the products & services that you want to use. For example, in Google Cloud, you have BigQuery data warehouse, which is very easy to use. You just need to learn SQL and know how to bring the data into BigQuery, and then you can start doing analytics on your Big Data in a serverless manner. If you focus more on serverless and managed services, there will be fewer fundamentals like infrastructure you need to know. Depending on the products and providers, again, Cloud is such a big area, so focus on what you want to learn.
What would be the best way for students to start their Cloud journey?
I would say, it should start with your own interests, like which area you want to focus on. If you like coding, then choose a platform that can help you to easily deploy your applications. For example, in Google Cloud, you have App Engine, Cloud Run, and Cloud Functions. Those should be the areas that you focus on, which can allow you to build an app and deploy it as soon as possible for the users to use it. Obviously, there will be other people who have an interest in other areas like containers. They could choose Kubernetes Engine instead. So again, focus on the areas that you have an interest in, and start finding the products that can match your interests.
Any advice you would like to give to students to succeed in their careers in Cloud?
This could apply to any technology, not just Cloud, which is to be able to learn and adapt fast. Nowadays, the technology landscape changes very rapidly. So being able to adapt and learn fast, of whatever is required, I think is the key, and it does not just apply in Cloud, but also other technologies in general. Specifically in Cloud, I think understanding the fundamentals is really important, i.e. know how to apply best practices to design a scalable, secure, and cost-effective Cloud infrastructure is a big differentiator, whether you work in a big enterprise or small startups, these things are still the key.