We are facing an era of rapid change and widespread disruption for the technology industry. Anyone who stops advancing their career education will quickly become sidelined in such a fast-paced market. To stay relevant, IT professionals should continually seek to reskill and upskill themselves through the ongoing development of new technical proficiencies, and by expanding their professional networks. Here is a brief description of what I consider to be the most in-demand tech skills for 2018:
1. Computer Science and Data Science: Increasingly we live in a world in which nearly every device is becoming a kind of computer, so the importance of developing generalized and specialized expertise in this foundational field of computer science cannot be overstated.
2. Software Programming: Back in 2011, celebrity venture capitalist Marc Andreessen famously proclaimed, “Why Software Is Eating the World” in an essay for the Wall Street Journal. Andreessen’s premise has only intensified in the ensuing years as software code continues to gobble up our daily attention through cloud-based systems, mobile devices, social media platforms and smart appliances. Make no doubt about it: The need for talented coders will only continue to increase.
3. Cybersecurity: Nearly every day we hear some fresh report about a massive security breach or data hacking incident. Yet those news reports don’t even scratch the surface of all the other attacks which occur daily but go unreported to preserve corporate reputations, or to protect client data and intellectual property. The war on cybercriminals and state-sponsored cyberattacks is perhaps the gravest danger facing our society and economy today.
4. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: A debate has raged here recently in Silicon Valley over dire warnings that artificially intelligent machines may eclipse human learning abilities by mid-century – in which case, the machines would no longer need to depend on human developers and programmers! That’s why it is becoming so critical to hire enough qualified people to handle these new technological challenges unleashed by AI and machine learning. As our machines become ever-smarter, our data must be handled more carefully and ethically in a socially meaningful context to preserve our global humanity.
5. Internet of Things (IoT): As we move into 2018, we will see a much higher adoption rate for industrial IoT sensors, which are already making a big impact across the manufacturing, automotive, aerospace and engineering sectors. Other areas where we expect greater uptake of IoT systems include shipping, retail, agriculture and healthcare. This expansion will trigger a need to hire many more IoT professionals, resulting in the rise of many new types of IoT-specific roles within companies.
6. Natural Language Processing: We are seeing a growing trend towards natural language processing and away from screen and keyboard interactions. The rise of Alexa, Siri and Echo are leading this change among consumers. In 2018, this rise of natural language processing will become more popular because it is so much more efficient and convenient than existing user interfaces. As a result, voice commands will become increasingly integrated with home automation systems and IoT networks.
7. Biotechnology and Healthcare IT: Biotechnology has become the prime source for many medicines and therapies that make our lives better. The field focuses on the intersection of biology and technology, leading to an explosion of new products that are designed to enrich our lives and make us healthier. From vaccine production to genetic modification, biotechnology is everywhere. As a result, biotech careers are extremely promising for new graduates. Healthcare IT jobs are also expected to grow rapidly as more hospital systems and doctor’s offices transition from manila file folders to online record-keeping systems and cloud-based data storage.
8. Industrial Robotics and Automation: Fears that mechanization and robots will end the need for a human workforce have existed since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. These fears aren’t unfounded – jobs defined by repetitive manual tasks have been consistently replaced by technology, which has led to workforce upheavals in the past. With new advancements in robotics and automation, many manual, repetitive, and predictable tasks are set to be replaced by machines, a source of considerable fear today. For that very reason, skills in these fields will be in increasingly high demand.
9. Data Analytics and Business Intelligence: As our society evolves to be more computer-dependent, we are embracing an unprecedented surge of diverse data sources that can quickly overwhelm our ability to make sense from it all. IT professionals who specialize in data analysis will be able to drive greater productivity and efficiency for their organizations. In addition, the ability to create compelling new formats for data visualization will spur further innovations.
10. “Soft Skills” including verbal and written communications, careful listening and emotional intelligence: Scientists and engineers are typically hard-wired to pursue logical reasoning based on the scientific method. All too often, they lose their focus on softer “people” skills which are crucial to manage distributed online projects across diverse teams and locations. Going forward, today’s IT leaders will need to become more reliant on soft skills and emotional intelligence to guide complex projects involving the digital transformation of legacy IT systems.