The secret to a long, lucrative IT career

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Choosing a career path in IT is like trying to navigate a forest with a map that keeps changing. The skills you learned ten or even five years ago may no longer be as relevant today because new technologies are evolving constantly, gradually pushing older technologies (and skills) out of the enterprise.

In a recent study, IDC and Cisco combined data from a global survey of IT hiring managers, nearly 2 million job postings and a global IT employment model to forecast the growth potential for every major role in IT, both near- and long-term, globally and by regions. They came up with 20 specific IT positions that were dubbed “the most significant IT roles.”

By themselves, the lists are a useful resource. But IDC/Cisco also categorized each position by how hard they are to fill (most in-demand) and how important they are to enterprises achieving the goal of digital transformation.

For example, “security management specialist” was the only position whose future importance globally was rated “very high.” But filling that particular job is rated as “not difficult.” Then there’s “social media tech manager/administrator.” A “very difficult” position to fill, but its future importance is rated as “very low.”

The sweet spot clearly would be jobs rated as very important for which it is difficult to find suitable candidates. The standout in the global IT job market is “business intelligence architect/developer,” rated as high in future importance and difficult to fill. Another position that holds promise is “data engineer,” rated medium in importance but difficult to fill, with high long-term growth. And while “machine learning designer/developer/engineer” is not a difficult position to fill, according to IDC/Cisco, it has a high level of importance and “very high” long-term growth.

The study also includes breakdowns for North America, South America, Western Europe and Asia/Pacific, all of which align fairly closely with the global numbers.

What the study really should demonstrate to IT professionals is that they have far more flexibility in their careers than they thought because of the perpetual shortage of workers with skills in emerging technologies. You may have been a database administrator for most of your career, or a data analyst, or a mobile apps developer; but if enterprises are trying to remain competitive by integrating new technologies into their networks, they have to get the necessary skills somewhere.

“Even if companies have difficulty finding candidates to fill roles, they often proceed with the project or objective anyway,” the study concludes. “They look inside their organization to fill vacant positions and send IT professionals to training to ‘grow from within.’”

Sure, the more transferable skills the better, but “motivated internal candidates” often can seize internal opportunities they otherwise might have ruled out simply because they didn’t appear to be on their existing career path. Certifications also can’t hurt; even a Udemy course or two on artificial intelligence, machine learning, or IoT (Internet of Things) design — whatever skills are in painfully short supply — can lead to exciting new career paths, particularly in-house.

Bottom line: Enterprises have technology implementation needs that typically can’t wait, IT problems that must be solved now. If you look like a potential solution, your career options and opportunities will grow. Stay agile and aware, my friends.

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