IT skills in 2017: here’s what to have on your CV

Skills gap

Want 2017 to be the year your career in IT takes a leap forward? Here are the skills you need to get on your CV to keep a step ahead of the competition.

To find out why cyber security skills are essential to any IT team, download Kaspersky's report 'Lack of security talent, an unexpected threat to Corporate Cybersafety'

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The skillsets you need to stay ahead depend on the industry you're in, but there are a number of skills that are applicable to all of IT - and the wider world in general. We spoke to leading experts to find out which areas you should be looking at to keep your career on the right track.

"Skills areas that will be in the highest demand in 2017 will parallel the technology priorities of organisations," says Todd Thibodeaux, CEO and president of trade organisation CompTIA. Security, project management, and the flexibility to integrate different platforms or hardware should be key areas of focus for IT specialists, according to Thibodeaux, as well as keeping an eye on the latest industry developments.

He explains to IT Pro that continued investment in your education is the most important career choice you can make - but this doesn't always mean forking out for expensive classes or taking time off work. "It can range from reading news stories and analysis of technology trends; to participating in in-person or online training, boot camps and courses; to earning new industry certifications and credentials," he says.

A company need not always hire to fill a recently discovered skills gap - instead, it may consider training an existing employee. "For some hard-to-fill IT positions, it can make more sense to identify a current employee who, with some moderate amount of training, can quickly layer on additional skills needed in the organisation," adds Thibodeaux. "Or perhaps you've identified a potential candidate that has 80% of the experience and skills you're looking for, and with a little training, can eliminate the final 20% gap."

This makes sense from an employee retention perspective too, as according to a Spiceworks survey of IT professionals, the number one reason employees move to a new role is to advance their skill set - topping even a raise in pay.

Here's the IT skills that every company will need in 2017 and if you have them, you're sure to be in demand regardless of what industry or area of IT you focus on.

Smarter security

Are you in networking, development, admin? You need security skills, no matter your area of specialisation. "Everyone needs to ramp up their cybersecurity skills," says Thibodeaux, explaining that all IT workers need to have "the ability to understand what hackers are looking for, what pathways they're using to get in, and what tools are available to keep them out".

The Spiceworks research reveals that the vast majority of IT workers believe security expertise will be the most important skill to have in the coming years. Given the string of attacks against companies over the past year, resulting in billions of data records being stolen, most companies will be on the look out for more proactive security staff. Unsurprisingly, a survey from recruiters Robert Half revealed that security was the highest priority for CIOs in 2017.

"For many years, the cybersecurity pro was playing defense, waiting for an attack or a breach to happen and plugging the hole as quickly as possible to minimise the damage," Thibodeaux adds. "Today, the position has been elevated. It's no longer about managing firewalls and antivirus software. More and more the job is shifting to a proactive mindset. You're looking at the behaviour of the network and its users; and using advanced analytics to identify potential vulnerabilities and strengthen them before an intrusion happens."

Cloud forecast and data demand

Cloud has been a buzz word for IT for years, and shows no signs of slowing down - spending on public cloud alone is expected to hit $195 billion by 2020, according to IDC figures. Despite this, a report by Gartner revealed that 59% of IT professionals feel their companies lack the skills required to make a shift to the cloud, with 22% believing that it's the technology that will have the biggest impact on their career. Research by managed cloud company Rackspace revealed that vacancies for jobs at Microsoft Azure have risen by 75% this year alone, with Amazon Web Services demand up by 53%.

LinkedIn's annual job research ranked cloud and distributed computing as the top skill set for the second year in a row, saying such skills remain in high-demand because companies need such skills "to stay competitive".

Thibodeaux agrees: "Understanding how the cloud works is another area where IT workers would be well served to enhance their knowledge and skills. This involves understanding how the cloud functions, where it works best and, most importantly, how it's secured."

Another long hyped area will see attention in tech recruitment. Sick of hearing that data is the new oil? Don't expect to stop hearing the tech axiom. Statistical analysis, data mining, and data presentation all made LinkedIn's top ten hot skills ranking, saying "employers need employees who can organize data so it's easy for people to understand."

Cutting edge

Keeping watch on intriguing new innovations is fun but it's also good for your career. "The pace of innovation always exceeds the rate at which we can hire and train new workers," contends Thibodeaux.

"Mobility, cloud computing and data analytics are the big emerging areas... Companies that are investing in these technologies need their IT staffs to be trained and certified in new disciplines," he says, but those areas aren't forward-thinking enough. "IT workers interested in continuing their education would also be wise to look beyond the things that are in the market today to new and emerging technology solutions, such as robotics, automation, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, smart cities, and the Internet of Things."

The rise of the bots started in 2016, and it'll continue in years to come, touching all aspects of the IT department. "In banking, you could use AI and machine-learning techniques to model current real-time transactions, as well as predictive models of transactions based on their likelihood of being fraudulent," Gartner states in its rundown of the top technology trends for 2017.

"Organisations seeking to drive digital innovation with this trend should evaluate a number of business scenarios in which AI and machine learning could drive clear and specific business value and consider experimenting with one or two high-impact scenarios."

What else do companies look for?

Valuable skillsets do not always revolve around new technologies, of course - there are some talents that never grow old and are essential for IT. According to Robert Half's survey, the most in-demand skills were desktop support, network administration and database management. While those jobs are considered old hat today, they are constantly faced with new challenges.

"Today's IT technicians support a broader variety of computing devices and operating systems than ever before," adds Thibodeaux. "They must be knowledgeable working with tablets, smartphones, laptops and desktops running iOS, Android, Windows and OS X connected to secure local networks and the cloud all at the same time... Employers want people who are able to work across a number of different domains, operating systems and platforms."

The Spiceworks research highlights that keeping IT infrastructure up-to-date, and upgrading to the most recent software and operating systems were considered some of the biggest problems facing IT workers in 2017. Yet the task considered the most daunting was securing buy-in from the bosses, meaning that soft skills such as management and communication will become increasingly important.

Thibodeaux also believes project management is another essential skill to add to your 2017 CV. "It's good to have smart people and cool equipment," he says. "But without good project management skills to oversee the big picture, more often than not the result will be a project that's late, over budget and ultimately doesn't deliver what it was supposed to." Delivering good work, on time and on budget, will continue to be a highly sought-after skills no matter the year.

Reasons to invest in cyber security training and resource can be found in Kaspersky's white paper 'Lack of security talent, an unexpected threat to Corporate Cybersafety'

Download now