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IT skills in 2019: Putting the priority back into progression

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Trueffelpix)

For IT pros, knowing which skills to prioritise has always been a difficult task. However, it’s become even more of a challenge in recent years following an influx of new and emerging technologies. The rise of AI, machine learning, containers, and blockchain have created a complex landscape—and IT professionals are struggling to identify which of these technologies should take priority. This uncertainty has been worsened by hype-fuelled management chatter and expectations about the latest technology solutions, forming a divide between the IT team on the ground and the C-suite in the boardroom about what’s important. The skills gap is all too real. Our own IT Trends Report: Skills for Tech Pros of Tomorrow showed 70 per cent of all tech pros surveyed are not “completely confident” in having all the necessary skills to successfully manage their IT environments over the next three to five years—even though 98 per cent of tech pros have worked to develop a skill over the past 12 months.

Beyond the challenges of identifying which technologies are going to be most important for the business, IT professionals have their own career progression to think about, too. And skills development in today’s complex IT environments requires a strategic approach and thinking. To help themselves, IT pros must, at times, stand strong against management to prioritise the skills required for their own operations and IT environments. Blockchain has been described as the next technology set to revolutionise our industry. The C-suite has likely heard as much and may be applying pressure around investment. But in reality, IT pros need to nail skills to lead to business success. And while it might not sound as exciting, there are other skills sets, such as data centre management, in hot demand.

Personal patch testing

The days of having an absolute defined set of IT skills is over, due to the rapidly developing backdrop of emerging technologies. As IT pros, our knowledge and skills need to evolve alongside the latest technologies within the industry. Think of this like a patch test. We need to run these to spot weaknesses and improve them to ensure the highest quality of service, and we need to treat personal development in the exact same way. IT pros need to ask themselves, where could I improve? What areas do I want to learn more about? What will I need to be able to do in my job in the next couple of year? How can I stay ahead of the game?

Once you find the right training, the next step is securing the time, money, and investment needed from your organisation to make this happen. But finding the time, money, and support can, unfortunately, be the hardest part. The IT Trends report found an overwhelming number, 80 per cent of the tech pros we surveyed say they don’t have enough time to invest in training.

However, by carving out a few moments, you could read about a new topic or even enroll in a free online course. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the same can be said for the knowledge and skills development of an IT pro. The internet is a gateway to knowledge and picking up new skills. There are more sophisticated training options, but this needs to be approached the right pace for you and your employer.

Everyone is unique, and different approaches work better for some than others. While some pros can easily consume knowledge from reading material, our research found the majority (54 per cent) of pros surveyed cited a full-day in-person workshops as providing the most value for the time spent when it comes to IT skills training materials.

For training, budgets need to be considered. However, while you might regularly hear about budgets cuts within an organisation, it’s important not to assume there’s no money for training. It’s always worth asking. But, be prepared to explain the value of training. Make a case by describing what it’s going to bring to your job, demonstrate what you’re going to be able to accomplish, and how these skills will set you up for the future. By going the extra mile to show the real benefits of training and presenting it in a positive way, it can be difficult for organisations to say no.

A continuous journey

From security to networks, data centres to the cloud, our industry continues to evolve before our eyes, and with this evolution, it’s our responsibility to progress too. And while time, budget and support can be an ongoing struggle, it’s vital to find ways to develop your own skills.

In work and in life, we should always strive to learn something new every day. Whether it’s reading about a new software or watching a webinar online, it doesn’t need to take up large sums of your daily routine. Without training, professionals and their businesses will suffer and be left behind while others around them move forward using innovative technology to progress within the industry. When it comes to IT skills, progression needs to be the priority for 2019 and beyond.

Sascha Giese, Head Geek, SolarWinds