Want to be a Great Tech Professional in 5 Years? Master These 4 Skills

September 25, 2017

The skills of the future for tech and IT pros are revolved around the IoT, cloud and cybersecurity. #FutureSkills

We have a confession to make – originally, this was supposed to be two blog posts.

There was one for IT and one for developers. But we interviewed leaders in both, and both recommended similar skills IT pros and developers need to learn.

It spoke to a bigger point: the lines between IT and engineering is blurring (hence why processes like DevOps are becoming increasingly more important). Over the next five years, both groups will need to tackle the same topics, of course with their own slants on it.

So, what are those topics, exactly? To find out we consulted with these six tech leaders:

  • David Linthicum, senior vice president at Cloud Technology Partners, five-time CTO, three-time CEO and 13-time author who was recently named the #1 cloud influencer by Apollo Research.
  • Simon Ritter, deputy CTO at Azul Systems and former head of Java technology evangelism at Oracle with 30+ years of software experience.
  • Caroline Wong, author, vice president of security strategy at Cobalt.io and former director of global product management at Symantec.
  • James Turnbull, author and CTO at Empatico who formerly worked as the CTO at Kickstarter and a VP of engineering at Venmo.
  • Mike Chapple, professor of IT at Notre Dame and 15-time author with more than 15 years of hands-on IT experience.
  • Ben Sullins, a self-proclaimed “data geek” and former Chief Data Officer with more than 15 years of experience in data science and data analysis.

The six highlighted several skills that – thanks to changes in both market conditions and demographics – will become increasingly more important to tech professionals over the next five years. They are:

1. Cloud Computing

Cloud computing has been among the most in-demand skill in the world over the past couple of years, with the experts both agreeing the cloud will only continue to become more important.

“Most big companies are closing their own data centers and moving to a hosted environment,” Ritter said. “It's just so much more cost efficient and flexible. For tech professionals, the things to be aware of for the cloud are the primary technologies: continuous integration and continuous deployment tools especially. Architecturally, we're seeing a move to the use of micro services, so an understanding of things like Docker and Kubernetes is essential.”

Linthicum agreed, saying that his advice to those leaving college is get Amazon Web Services Cloud training.

“It’s not enough to just say you understand the ‘cloud’,” Linthicum said. “Over the next 5 years enterprises will be looking for specific skills and training to support those skills, here are the ones that I think will be the most desirable. Any AWS skills… No matter if you take the developer or architect path around AWS skills, companies are focused on those that have the training and thus the knowledge.”

LinkedIn Learning courses that teach that skill:

2. Cybersecurity

Considering news of security breaches seemingly hit the airwaves daily, and any organization’s success is ultimately tied to trust, it’s no surprise that cybersecurity was highlighted by the six tech experts.

“Over the next five years, I believe it will be critically important for tech professionals to have a practical understanding of cybersecurity,” Wong said. “It’s an extension of risk management that is growing as technology changes and business interact with each other in new and different ways. Many of the world’s most valuable assets and transactions exist in software and need to be adequately protected. The number of SaaS companies (and businesses with SaaS components) is going to continue to grow, resulting in security as a key business driver.”

“In a world where there are thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of cybersecurity firms in existence, a key skill becomes understanding what must be done to adequately secure the business, as well as being able to see past extraneous solutions to problems that don’t actually exist, require too much TCO (total cost of ownership), or aren’t relevant to a particular business scenario,” Wong continued. “Fundamentally, tech professionals need to know how to evaluate cybersecurity risk and apply appropriate controls that take into consideration a business’s unique technology environment.”

Chapple agreed.

“Cybersecurity remains one of the most in-demand technology skills,” he said. “Adversaries continue to become increasingly sophisticated and building strong defenses against information security threats requires a team of highly skilled cybersecurity professionals.”

LinkedIn Learning courses that teach that skill:

3. The Internet of Things

The experts agreed: the internet of things (IoT) is only going to become more important over the next five years, as smart devices continue to flood the market.

“People often think of things like internet connected fridges and washing machines, but the real value is in things like connected cars (reducing congestion, emissions and running costs),” Ritter said. “The greatest value though is in Industrial IoT: improving the efficiency of manufacturing and distribution can provide huge savings for companies.”

The real key? According to both Ritter and Linthicum, it’s coupling the first and third skills on this list – the IoT and the cloud – and seeing how they work together.

“For the tech professional who wants to be ahead of their peers, understanding how to put IoT and cloud together is the ultimate goal,” Ritter said.

LinkedIn Learning courses that teach that skill:

4. Strategy

Yes, there is obviously a need to learn technical tools to work in tech. But Turnbull said the best tech pros moving forward will transcend that, and become strategic partners to the business. And that comes down to collaboration across departments and prioritizing what’s most important for the business.

“My take on the future of tech skills is mostly related to how modern companies will build applications,” Turnbull said. “Companies don’t build applications or services anymore - they build systems. Building these systems requires close collaboration between sales, product, marketing, developers and operations with a focus on the continuous delivery of product and related content.”

“Businesses rely on these systems for competitive advantage and engineers are responsible for building, managing and improving these systems,” he continued. “Whether it's delivering streaming video, an online shopping experience, or online banking, the systems that dictate the customer experience, and ultimately the success of the business, are managed by engineers. Their customers, and the business units that serve them, will expect performant and highly available products with superior user experiences.”

Sullins agreed. And a big part of being strategic isn’t just thinking strategically; but also communicating your ideas in a way that makes sense.

“I've sat in countless meetings with brilliant tech professionals in varying fields where they have presented amazing solutions that could change the direction of the company,” Sullins said. “However, because of their inability to present their ideas clearly the opportunity was lost. This leads to friction on all sides, which I feel could be completely avoided if everyone had better communication skills.”

LinkedIn Learning courses that teach that skill:

The takeaway

In his response, Ritter said tech pros need to focus on “the very big (cloud computing) and the very small (IoT).” Add in cybersecurity to protect both the big and small (an everything in-between), and you have the tech pro of the future.

But the last point made by both Sullins and Turnbull screams loudest. Yes, there will always be jobs (and good-paying jobs at that) for people who master the latest and greatest technological tools. However, those jobs are highly fungible and require constant learning.

To transcend that, tech pros need to see beyond the day-to-day tech work and understand how their actions can most help the business. As the demand for tech pros continues to grow, so will the supply. Hence, the most in-demand employees moving forward won’t be people who use the most cutting-edge tools; it’ll be people that use the most cutting-edge tools in the ways that’ll best serve their organization.

This article is part of a series on the future of skills that you and your team will need to succeed moving forward. Our other articles cover: