What It’s Really Like to Have One of the 3 Skills Companies Need the Most

January 8, 2018

Here are the day-to-day lives of people who have the skills companies need the most.

At the start of the year, we announced the skills companies need most in 2018, aka the most valuable skills you can learn.

But there’s more to a job than just knowing it’s highly sought after. There’s also the day-to-day experience to consider – what characteristics are needed to excel in that role? Why is it so in demand? And what specific skills are trending within that broader skillset?

To answer those questions, we consulted with LinkedIn Learning content managers who are responsible for producing courses on these top skills – i.e. experts in their respective fields. From that, we were able to paint a clearer picture of what jobs you can get after learning those skills, and what your day might be like if you had them.

A deeper dive into what a career built around one of the three skills companies need most looks like

The top three skills right now are middleware and integration software, statistical analysis and data mining and, at the top of the pack for the second year in a row, cloud and distributed computing. Here’s a deep dive into each one:

    3. Middleware and Integration Software

The third-most skill organizations need the most – i.e. the third hottest skill in the world – is middleware and integration software. For more information about this skill, we interviewed Brian Anderson, LinkedIn Learning’s content manager for DevOps and testing.

Why is middleware and integration software such a hot skill?

Companies are increasing the number and complexity of their IT services. As such, the need for professionals who can work on the "glue" between these IT services is increasing.

Most commonly, middleware is about the messaging between your systems. In more traditional environments, this may take the form of switching to an enterprise service bus by installing and administrating vendor solutions (in which case, knowledge of tools like WebLogic and WebSphere is valuable, as well as Tomcat/Apache). On the more cutting-edge side, this means adopting new types of architecture (containers and microservices) to take advantage of cloud environments.

What are the characteristics you need to excel at that skill?

There are a few. First off, you need to be a systems thinker. That means understanding the purpose behind each component of a system and the workflow, so you can maximize efficiency and functionality of the entire network. Same goes for your team – you need to understand what unique skills you bring to your team and how you fit in.

This is also a job that requires you to constantly learn new technologies as they come out. That means you need to have a curious mind that’s eager to learn and understand these new tools.

Finally, you need to know how to prioritize, as you’ll be flooded with asks. This often comes down to the first point – the more you understand what’s most important within a system, the better you’ll be at prioritizing among asks.

What are the trending skills within that broader skill?

Besides specific skills with vendor technologies, which are always in demand, the emerging opportunities here are not dissimilar from other areas of IT.

In order to empower IT teams to adopt critical practices like continuous integration and continuous development, and enable both quick iteration while maintaining quality, integration professionals need to learn to code, design and architect systems, learn how to implement microservices architectures and work with containers.

What is the day-to-day life like if you're an expert in middleware and integration software?

The day-to-day life can vary greatly depending on the role you have. Obviously, it’s a technical role, with your focus on making systems as efficient as possible. It also requires strategy – weighing in on the most effective tools to bring into a system, solutions for doing so and optimizing systems that already exist.

Related Jobs: IT Manager ($95,000), Systems Integration Engineer ($98,000)

Recommended Courses: ASP.NET Core: Middleware, Learn API Documentation with JSON and XML, JavaScript and JSON: Integration Techniques

    2. Statistical Analysis and Data Mining

The second-hottest skill in the world is statistical analysis and data mining. Even though it sounds like these are two separate skills, they actually both are centered on extracting and deriving patterns, knowledge and insights from within what are usually large data sets.

For more information about this skill, we interviewed Steve Weiss, LinkedIn Learning’s content manager for data science.

Why is statistical analysis and data mining such a hot skill?

The biggest reasons? Organizations are collecting far more data than ever before, data is easier to access than ever before and companies believe the data they collect can be their competitive advantage. One big reason for this influx of data is the Internet of Things, which will translate to 50 billion connected devices by the year 2020, only furthering this phenomenon to reach even more industries like manufacturing (think Fitbit, Amazon Echo, Nest thermostats, etc). Hence, there’s a growing demand for data scientists to make sense of all that data – to the point the Harvard Business Review has named it the “sexiest job in the world.”

But an even bigger driver of the demand that’s arisen in the past year is the rise of AI and machine learning. Think of the realm of big data and data science as an upward spiral, creating demand. The data that’s produced, the more resources that are needed to measure and extract meaning and value from that data. At some point, the amount of data becomes so overwhelmingly large that – in the case of data science technologies – new solutions are devised to track, collect and measure all that data. Thus, artificial intelligence and machine learning. And those newly spawned techniques in turn spawn new technologies, tools and platforms, with their own techniques.

What are the characteristics you need to excel at that skill?

There are a few characteristics needed to be a great data scientist. Chief among them: curiosity and the ability to detect patterns within data. Data scientists also need to know how to find the most critical (i.e. meaningful) answers from the data, have a keen sense of detail and are logical thinkers.

Another surprising skill data scientists need to excel? Humbleness. You have to be ready to admit when the data shows that your hypothesis is wrong, and it also means being humble enough to effectively collaborate with others and tackle large business challenges together.

What are the trending skills within that broader skill?

Besides seemingly anything related to machine learning and AI? Within the broader skill of statistical analysis and data mining, specific trending skills include data visualization, Python, R, DevOps for data scientists, TensorFlow and Spark (machine learning tools/toolsets, the rising popularity of which presaged the oversll demand we’re seeing for AL/ML).

But for coding? Python is definitely on the rise. Python rocked the popular-code polls in 2018. Also, SQL.

SQL isn’t the 800 pound gorilla in the room – it IS the room. Because it’s been around for so long and works so well, SQL is everywhere in the big data realm, and SQL skills continue to be in-demand.

What does a day in the life of a data scientist look like?

Intense. It’s a life rich in rewards, if you’re willing to work hard and work smart.

The day-to-day life of a data scientist is a technical one, composed of either building data analysis tools or using those tools to gain meaningful insights. It also involves collaborating with others and presenting findings to stakeholders (often at the executive level) in an easy-to-digest way.

One facet of day-to-day life that is likely to change is specialization. While demand for data scientists is currently high, data science generalists can fill many roles. As the supply of data scientists increases, specialization by industry and/or function will probably become more common.

Related Jobs: Business Analyst ($72,000), Data Analyst ($62,000), Statistician ($90,200)

Recommended Courses: The Essential Elements of Predictive Analytics and Data MiningData Science Foundations: FundamentalsSQL Essential Training

    1. Cloud and Distributed Computing

The hottest skill in the world (again) is cloud and distributing computing. For more information about this skill, we interviewed Heather Hurley, LinkedIn Learning’s content manager for IT networking.

Why is cloud and distributed computing such a hot skill?

According to the RightScale 2017 State of the Cloud Report, a majority of enterprises have now defined the value they want to achieve from the cloud and have a timeline for implementing a cloud strategy.

Enterprises are increasingly implementing hybrid cloud and multi-cloud into their cloud strategy. IT professionals in cloud roles can give themselves a boost by gaining experience with more than one vendor platform or holding multiple cloud certifications.

Expertise was the top concern in 2016; however, while it remains a top cloud challenge (holding the top spot with security and cost management), concerns around expertise and security are declining. Concerns around managing the cost of cloud services are holding strong. The majority of mature cloud users cite this as their top concern.

What are the characteristics you need to excel at that skill?

IT professionals in a cloud role need to maintain a state of constant learning to stay on top of the rapid evolution of cloud products and services. With cost management a top concern, incorporating cost optimization considerations into a migration and deployment strategy is crucial to a successful cloud strategy.

For cloud professionals hoping to advance their career, skills that can set them on the path toward an architect role will command the top salary potential. Cloud architects are highly skilled and are expected to help an enterprise define not only its cloud deployment strategy, but also identify business requirements.

For cloud professionals, certification is an excellent way to clearly identify your skillset. In demand certifications include Amazon’s certifications targeted toward SysOps administrators, DevOps engineers and solutions architects; Microsoft’s Azure-focused certifications for administrators, developers, and solutions architects; as well as the Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP) and CompTIA’s Cloud+.

What are the trending skills within that broader skill?

While the exact skillset depends on a cloud professional's role, some of the key skills include networking, storage, security, virtualization, BCDR processes, operating systems, business skills and databases, as well as the ability to support both on-premises and cloud-based systems. DevOps skills include software architecture and programming, scripting, automated testing tools and code deployment.

What is the day-to-day life like if you're an expert in cloud and distributed computing?

The daily responsibilities of cloud experts will vary depending on the expert’s role as well as a number of environmental factors, including the size of the organization, the size of the IT team and the maturity of their cloud adoption.

Responsibilities can include anything from server administration and networking, to building and deploying applications, to developing the overarching cloud infrastructure recommendations for the organization.

Regardless of the role, an expert in cloud computing can count on the daily challenges of staying on top of ever-evolving technology and an environment of growth around cloud maturity.

Related Jobs: Platform Engineer ($120,000), Cloud Architect ($135,000)

Recommended Courses: Amazon Web Services: Storage and Data ManagementCloud Architecture: Advanced ConceptsCloud Computing Career Paths and Certifications: First Steps