Even as most of the planet struggles to rein in and control the pandemic, tomorrow isn’t going anywhere. We all have to look into the not-so-distant future, when things return to “normal.” (Yeah, your guess is as good as ours). However that normal looks, and however long it takes for that new normal to present itself, your career path is still going to matter.
If there’s one takeaway from this post that should stick with you, it’s this: The skills you are using in today’s job market are not going to be the same skills you will need tomorrow. The World Economic Forum estimates that, five years from now, 35% of the skills that are considered vital for today’s workforce will have changed.
Whether you’re looking for a new opportunity or trying to prove your current worth, skill development and training are as important as they were pre-COVID. What if we consider this moment the quiet before the next storm? What are the skills of tomorrow-ish that you could be working on today? Because now is the best moment to dig in and evaluate how well you’re addressing tomorrow.
What the Experts Tell Us About Skill Sets
2019 may feel like a century ago, but I just checked and it was actually last year. And in 2019, job site Indeed did a rundown of the top 20 skills employers were seeking, and they included (as they always do) a mix of both hard and soft skills.
Here are the top skills and their increase or % in change in the past five years:
While experts are saying that the IT job market might well be on its way back, there will still be some stiff competition. It might pay to get up-to-speed on the fastest-growing areas of demand. Those will include a mix of tried-and-true coding skills (SQL, Java, Python, and the various flavors of C) as well as up-and-coming skills in cloud technologies (AWS, Azure), containerization (Docker), and machine learning.
And of course, we have some very specific and important things to say about #13 on this list.
Before Anything Else: Level Up Your Agility
Most IT professionals are likely acquainted with Agile. In fact, you’re probably already either a die-hard fan or part of the “never Agile” (no judgment!) crowd. Business leaders today acknowledge that skill training is a must right now, and soft skills like communication are more important than ever. Remote work demands better communication skills. Emotional intelligence and critical thinking are all listed among the most important skills for the future of work and technology.
In a post-COVID world, change is becoming the new normal. Companies are shifting business models and workflows. Some products are dying out, and others are taking their place. And uncertainty is, to be frank, everywhere.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that control, while well-intended, can often be futile— planning isn’t pointless, but overplanning will quickly deplete your time and your resources. This “new” business environment is going to require a more agile way of working. An agile mindset allows you to respond to rapid change. Better to work in such a way that constant feedback and revision are “baked in” from the beginning.
Our prediction is that more and more organizations will adopt an agile way of working in order to manage change and spark innovation. If you want to be hired (or keep your job) as an IT professional, you’ll need to be either fluent in—or fluid with—Agile practices, whether that means refreshing your knowledge or getting your first Agile certification.
Whatever you do, you’re going to have to explain it well to business leaders and decision-makers. You also need the emotional intelligence—an increasingly common skill listed by employers, we should note—to make the right business decisions and, yes, lead.
The next thing on your résumé to dust off are those tried-and-true coding skills. These aren’t going anywhere soon…In fact, there might be even more demand.
That’s because digital technologies are now going to be the new normal. Curbside pickup and delivery options, for example, have quickly surpassed in-person dining—and they all need apps and portals to support them.
So, despite the fact that technologists have been saying this for years, digital transformation really is the new normal. Consider that the e-commerce SaaS provider Shopify is a pretty good bellwether for online retail and their earnings, and this past quarter their business skyrocketed.
Will those trends continue post-COVID? Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter. Companies are going to need to reinforce the infrastructure that wasn’t ready for this boom. Education wasn’t ready, and most e-tailers (despite what they say to the press) weren’t ready either.
So, bone up on your bread-and-butter coding skills.
Get Familiar With the Cloud
Looking back at the chart from Indeed.com, notice what’s really taking off: AWS, 418% growth. Azure,1107%. Docker, 4162%. If there was a trickle of cloud-focused jobs before, it’s a torrent now.
AWS was the sixth-most-critical job skill, according to the article: “The rise of AWS was even more stunning—up 418% over the same period, from 39th place to number six.” With a demand curve that staggering, we can anticipate that most firms are still playing catch-up, especially since we’re still recoiling from a very hot job market.
And though AWS is the giant in the cloud services room, Microsoft is catching up quickly. There will be a lot of need for Azure talent, too. You may not need to go down the full road of AWS or Azure certification, but do consider refreshing your skill set so that there’s more fluency there.
And, if your company doesn’t already have a cloud presence, a booming first step towards getting there with legacy apps is the world of containerization. Docker is becoming more commonplace in the IT workspace, and it’s a great skill to add to your repertoire—both for building new scalable, cloud-agnostic applications and microservices and for helping boost those older legacy applications into more modern, cheaper, and scalable infrastructures.
Already reasonably fluent with development languages? Refresh or improve your DB and analytics tools like Kinesis and Elasticsearch. Comfortable with the migration tools? Great! Add to that more security, storage, and networking best practices.
One area we’d really recommend is the intersection of AWS and machine learning. This article from McKinsey talks about the hiring challenges of smaller firms that were struggling to compete with the tech giants for AI and machine learning talent, which points to that remaining a very in-demand skill for the remainder of 2020 and beyond. This is especially true when it comes to data analytics. Speaking of…
Data analytics is a big deal now, which you’ve probably also read in every single other article about this very topic. Gathering data is one thing; how you apply that data is the real signature skill that your current (or future) employer will want.
For individuals and organizations, the future of IT needs leaders that are ready to use automation to derive value from data. Become adept now at using your first-party or second-party data to make better decisions and integrate solutions based on data intelligence. Get smart about when and how to use aggregate data (and when it is truly useless or valueless to a specific strategy).
Bottom line: How prepared are you today to use data analytics prescriptively as an IT professional in your current setting, and how can that knowledge become portable to other organizations and environments?
Now is the right time to take control of your IT career path, especially where a post-COVID job market is concerned. As you look to skill up, you’ll want to deal with coaches and trainers who make training and skill improvement interesting and fun.