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The skills and priorities of tomorrow’s tech professionals

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Trueffelpix)

Faced with today’s tech realities and the expectations of tomorrow – tech professionals in 2019 are finding themselves at a significant crossroads, forced to ask inward-looking questions: Are they equipped to successfully manage today’s increasingly complex tech environments and emerging technologies? Do they have the skills and training necessary to confidently manage new technology innovations? Where do their personal aspirations fit into the expectations on the horizon?

We recently published the latest edition of our annual IT Trends Report, Skills for Tech Pros of Tomorrow. The report explores existing and emerging technologies and the extent to which today’s tech pros feel equipped to manage not only their daily environments, but personal career growth. How do they shape up, and what’s on their minds for tomorrow?

Amongst other key findings, this year’s report found that the majority of UK tech pros aren’t confident they have the skills needed to manage their environments in the near future, especially when it comes to emerging tech. In fact, 70 per cent of all tech pros surveyed said that they aren’t “completely confident” in having all the necessary skills to successfully manage their IT environments over the next three to five years.

When it comes to the idea of implementing or managing specific technologies, emerging tech is a pain point. This is, in part, because buzzworthy technologies are often escalated to the highest of executive priorities. With their current skillset, the top three technologies that tech pros feel unequipped to manage are: artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and machine and/or deep learning. In the year ahead, tech pros must approach skills development strategically – prioritising necessary training based on the needs of daily operations and IT environments, as well as the skills that translate to career growth.

Today vs. tomorrow

The report’s findings also show that tech pros will continue building skills in daily operations, with an eye toward areas like data science. In the past 12 months, UK tech pros have prioritised skills in hybrid IT when it comes to deployment, monitoring and management (48 per cent), systems and infrastructure management (43 per cent), and security management (41 per cent).

In the next three to five years, the top two skills tech pros are turning their attention to are security management (55 per cent), and data science and analytics (47 per cent). This is in line with what tech pros say will be most important to their organisations’ transformation over the next three to five years: SIEM and threat intelligence. Nearly all of the tech pros surveyed have their sights on learning at least some kind of data science in the near future. While it will be critical for these pros to develop a sense of data science techniques and approaches—as more vendors contribute to industry-wide standards—today’s tech pros shouldn’t feel pressured to become fully fledged data scientists. Instead, they should spend time familiarising themselves with the key tenets of data analytics as part of their wider awareness of data science principles.

For tech pros, the most important technologies for their career development are (by weighted rank) aligned with the top three technologies for organisations’ transformation over the next three to five years: cloud and/or hybrid IT (67 per cent), AI (51 per cent) and automation and/or orchestration (48 per cent). Closely following these in fourth and fifth are Internet of Things (IoT) and SIEM and/or threat intelligence, respectively. This interestingly suggests that tech pros are thinking about the impact of emerging tech on their careers.

When it comes to the next three to five years, tech pros are looking to prioritise the following career development goals: technology innovation (61 per cent), strategic planning (49 per cent), people management (41 per cent). IT security protocol/processes and data analytics/science round out the top five career development goals for the next three to five years.

The challenges

Tech pros who can learn the language of business will be able to better understand what the business cares about—typically; growing revenue, reducing cost, and removing risk—and how technology can positively affect those three performance indicators. Ultimately, when equipped with this knowledge, tech pros can successfully influence technology decisions and improve their CVs while they’re at it.

While the appetite to prioritise career development is clear, tech pros are finding themselves hindered by factors like time and cost. Nearly eight in ten tech pros (78 per cent) surveyed said their day-to-day IT tasks extend into time earmarked for career development, with 33 per cent saying this always happens.

Currently, tech pros engage in IT skills training and/or career development programs ranging from a few times a year (32 per cent) to monthly (23 per cent), quarterly (13 per cent), and annually (13 per cent). However, if there were no schedule or workload restrictions, most (36 per cent) would prefer weekly training. When it comes to their primary sources for training, tech pros turn to: industry events/tradeshows (22 per cent), online communities/forums (22 per cent), and vendor training sessions (19 per cent). Despite this, the ideal delivery format for IT skills training according to tech pros is (by weighted rank): in-person workshop/user conference (full-day), self-guided online course, or a webinar.

Final thoughts

To truly capitalise on the opportunities presented by emerging technologies—and ultimately remain competitive in coming years, tech pros must commit to the mindset of lifelong learners by taking a more disciplined, proactive approach to new skills and career development. Starting small and setting aside manageable, realistic amounts of time play a significant role in successfully developing this kind of personal development.

For tech pros, skill development is an increasingly crucial undertaking as emerging tech becomes the mainstream and is widely implemented across the industry. It’s highly likely this boom in emerging tech will significantly influence personal career goals, this is something all tech professionals should be aware of and be prepared for.

2019 presents technology professionals with the opportunity, now more than ever, to demonstrate and capitalise on the critical tie between skills development, business transformation, and career growth.

After all, we have chosen this career path, as in IT there is always something new to discover and to learn. That’s the best part of it, isn’t it?

Sascha Giese, Head Geek, SolarWinds (opens in new tab)
Image source: Shutterstock/Trueffelpix

Sascha Giese is a Head Geek™ at SolarWinds, based in the company’s Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) headquarters in Cork, Ireland.