Over the past year or so, I’ve met with industry leaders around the world and asked them about the skills they need in their workforce. Through those conversations, I’ve identified the following as some of the key job roles companies require as they transform their businesses and processes for the future:
- Cybersecurity Analyst: This individual manages risk. They use relevant tools and techniques to gather vital end-point and network host data with the goal of identifying vulnerabilities. This person works closely with technical and non-technical individuals to “look around the corner” at problems that others don’t see to identify solutions.
- Network Engineer: This person coordinates cloud and traditional networking resources to make a business communicate efficiently. They know how to map technical network elements (e.g., a router, an edge device, a microdatacenter) to a company’s business needs.
- Project Manager: As businesses transform themselves to adopt today’s digital technologies, it’s more important than ever before to make sure this transformation is done on a step-by-step, logical basis. This often means implementing DevOps approaches, which combines the skills of code developers and IT operations folks.
- Vulnerability Assessment Manager: The penetration tester has grown up! Today’s pen tester does more than hack a server or use fancy security tools. Today’s pen tester takes a responsible approach and conducts strong, comprehensive tests to identify – and correct – unacceptable risks.
- Technical Support Specialist: Remember when the help desk pro just fixed PCs? Those days are long gone, but the world needs more tech support specialists than ever before: today’s tech helps manage increasingly complex issues involving data management, authentication and network troubleshooting.
Quite the list, eh? ZDNet has a longer list in an article where they interviewed me and a few other folks about future jobs. As important as the above job roles are to your future, consider this: we’re now living in a world where artificial intelligence (AI) agents will be helping us resolve issues. In some cases, though, AI just might be replacing certain IT jobs and workers. This begs a pretty pesky little question: Will AI replace me, or the jobs listed above?
The answer is, well, possibly. Not very reassuring, is it? But don’t worry – the same folks that told me about the job roles also gave me some perspectives on essential workforce skills.
Comparing 19th Century Scottish Land Owners to AI
For example; Imagine if you were able to travel back in time and meet a blacksmith in 1900. That was a very, common important and well-defined job back then. But with the advent of the automobile, this role has become less important today. What would you tell this person? That they will be out of a job in a few years? Well, maybe. Or, you’d say that they will likely be able to easily transition to becoming a mechanic. The folks I’ve talked to around the world think the same logic applies to AI and IT jobs: as some jobs disappear or are automated, others will be created. Let me explain.
Last month, I had the opportunity to walk a place in Scotland called the Quiraing. It’s a dramatic landscape on the Isle of Skye that includes crags such as the Needle, and groups of rocks called the Prison.
Approaching the ascent trail to the Needle at the Quiraing, on the Isle of Skye
The Prison, at the Isle of Skye’s Quiraing
As cool as that place was, I was especially inspired to think about today’s IT workforce by another walk I took. This time, I walked to one of the seven cleared villages on the Isle of Skye named Boreraig.
No one has lived in this village (or any of the six others) since the mid to late 19th century. Why? Because starting around 1800, Skye’s landlords realized that they could make more money simply raising sheep on the land, rather than renting out the land to the village residents. The result was that these villages – which had hosted residents and families for literally thousands of years – were permanently and forcibly emptied. Sometimes the landlords just trebled the rents. Other times, hired men arrived to drive people out.
Most of the villagers left the Isle of Skye for Edinburgh or London. Some left Scotland altogether, for destinations as diverse as New Zealand and the United States. As I walked this village, I had the chance to think about the changes in politics, economics and even climate that brought about the clearings.
The remains of a 17th century home in the cleared village of Boreraig
One of the now-ruinous homes in the village of Boreraig
Then I considered the shifts that are occurring today:
- The advent of artificial intelligence.
- The coming of the “gig economy,” which by some estimates is expected to employ more than 40 percent of the workforce by 2020.
- How globalization creates new workforce opportunities, and competition for the existing workforce.
How to Stay Relevant in Light of Automation
As an IT pro, I’ve often asked myself if I’ve kept up my skillset to keep up with the disruptions of digital transformation and modern life.
Thinking about the following as it relates to your job might help you identify if you’re at risk:
- Repetition: If your job involves a large amount of physical or mental repetition, then chances are you could get replaced by a new business process, AI, or a web server script. Consider working on gaining unique business and technical skills.
- Specialization: Many jobs are increasingly specific. Learn more about how your business works. What are the critical skills? As an IT professional, what technical skills can you map to your business?
- Keeping Current: Are you participating in a meaningful form of continuing education? You have formal and informal options available to you.
I’m confident that if you ask yourself these questions, then you’ll continue to build your skills and avoid being pushed out of the workforce.
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