The tech industry never stops evolving. And as the pace of innovation accelerates, certain subsets within the industry stand out as particularly significant, especially IT.
“We are in a time of flux,” said James Stanger, senior director of product management at CompTIA. “One of the main things is we have reached a major point where there is so much new technology happening all the time. We’re having a hard time figuring how to manage it.”
There are five main categories predicted to change the way we do business and communicate in the next few years. Many of them are related, like security and mobility, but they all have one thing in common: They will propel the industry, its workforce and its method of training and hiring.
There’s no singular approach to the most pressing issue in the industry – security. For systems to be protected, professionals who understand all levels of networking need to develop multifaceted plans – especially as cybercriminals and hackers become more sophisticated.
According to Steve Durbin, managing director of the Information Security Form, a nonprofit association on information security, security is becoming much more complex. In an interview with CIO, Durbin says that sophisticated attacks caught more companies and organizations unaware last year. It not only takes a toll financially, but also perceptually, as brands are tainted by bad press. This increases the likelihood of an increase in more security opportunities at all levels of IT.
“Security and management go hand in hand,” explains Stanger. “More and more, it’s easier than ever for a hacker with a bit of skill to get deeper into a system.” Contributing to the problem is better consumer-quality equipment and even state-funded cyber-terrorism.
“All it takes is one person to click on that phishing link,” Stanger says. But this opens up a whole new category for IT professionals.
As the cost of security rises, according to PWC’s “Global State of Information Security Survey 2015,” businesses will tap more professionals to handle the issue – at a huge expense. For most companies, investing in security upfront will inevitably become the best way to save money and avoid a compromised system and image.
Mobility and the Cloud
“There are more and more networking pros working in cloud-based companies,” Stanger said. Even companies that don’t have cloud management in-house are outsourcing it to third parties.
The cloud experience – connecting smartphones, tablets, computers and wearable devices – helps companies operate at lower bandwidth costs. But with increased cloud use and added interest in interoperability and security, the entire network experience is changing.
Even though companies are outsourcing many of their cloud-based IT services, it does not mean jobs are being lost. In fact, multiple screens mean more professionals are needed to connect and keep networks up and running. And as it evolves, cloud computing will continue to require IT professionals to juggle many responsibilities, ranging from security to connectivity.
It’s predicted that every app will eventually use analytics to drive productivity, searching and real-time tracking of content. And when it comes to big data, more people than ever are becoming involved in the process – from determining what data is available to how it’s stored and analyzed. As companies offer more automated systems to connect data seamlessly, like SAP’s Smart Data Access, more people will depend on its capabilities.
The analytics trend starts with our smartphones, which attach tracking to our movements, social media check-ins and even photos. For IT professionals, this presents opportunities to find data not being tracked and streamlining the process for profit. Industries most impacted by analytics will likely be science, wearable tech and retail.
The good news is that the industry is currently seeing more guidance when it comes to best practices and making the most out of analytics. But two of the biggest questions that will need to be answered are who gets to see what and who gets to control what’s seen.
3-D Printing, Advanced Devices and Networking
Most households aren’t printing in 3-D yet, but many industries, including medical, have already harnessed the technology. Like any form of connectivity, it provides a new way of looking at how people work and play. DevOps – partnerships between development and operations – are playing an even bigger role in how new technological advancements can fit into the workplace. Additionally, the industry is seeing the creation of new devices to collect and use data, including robots, drones and smart devices.
Advanced automation of these devices is likely to increase the use of cloud services. This puts more responsibility in the hands of corporate data centers and operational environments that promise fast delivery, security and fewer human errors. But there’s also a learning curve, and that’s where the industry has a chance to shine.
One way to keep up with the demands of cost reduction is to stay innovative.
“We are having a hard time getting the best and brightest minds,” Stanger said. There may be a couple of reasons for this stagnation. First, education institutes tend to struggle with staying current. Second, the industry is still reeling from the perceptual impact of the dot-com boom and bust.
“A lot of people either got outsourced or off-shored,” Stanger said. “Some people feel like certain IT jobs are too hip and cool, or they think, ‘I’m not a Silicon Valley type.’” But he says there are actually many challenging and fulfilling opportunities on all levels of the industry, including network management and tech support. “IT support jobs are not going away,” he says. “There’s more of a need now than ever.”
Digital Leadership Redefined
Thirty years ago it was common for IT professionals to work behind the scenes. Today, specialists need to be as proficient in the boardroom as they are on the motherboard. Enter the new Chief Digital Officer (CDO), an increasingly important position on many company mastheads.
The IT professional of the near future will need to understand mobile and front-office systems as well as they do back-office systems and regulations. That means more professionals are invested in the research and selection of systems and subsequent upgrades, which means IT is reaching into just about every other corporate category. People who understands the technology best, as well as the business acumen needed to sell it, will soar.
Stanger said IT professionals can keep up to date on important trends in a few simple ways; reading books, attending webinars and networking. “Go to trade shows to identify your particular niche,” he says. “Increasingly, I’m seeing Cisco doing a great job with virtual events. It’s all about mentoring and sharing and exchanging ideas.”
Certifications are also becoming more important, especially as more employers look for professionals who can operate popular vendor systems. An example of such a certification is CompTIA Security+. The globally recognized standard is designed for IT security professionals focused on the architecture, design, management and controls in a business environment.
Good networking certifications, like CompTIA Network+, are also available, while CompTIA A+ is vital for the new generation of help-desk professionals.
“We just updated Network+ certification,” Stanger said, “which is designed for people who create and implement networks.” CompTIA is also updating CompTIA Linux+ Powered by LPI for pros who need to be experts in Linux, an important foundation in the industry. “Of the top 10 hot job roles that are out there,” Stanger said, “Linux is at the base of all of those things.”
Natalie Hope McDonald is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia.