The hiring outlook for IT workers in general is strong, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, the agency notes that “Demand for these workers will stem from greater emphasis on cloud computing, the collection and storage of big data, and information security.”
Nutanix’s Pearce points to his own company’s hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) products as an example of how quickly things can change. HCI turns multiple layers of the hardware into a software-defined IT stack. It modernizes data centers, making it quicker, easier and less costly to scale up or down resources compared with traditional IT systems.
Pearce said legacy IT required highly specialized teams for each technology area, such as hosting, storage and networking.
“The Nutanix administrator could be the one person that does the entire virtual machine setup, including the storage and networking,” said Pearce. “Just a single person can do it. They don't have to be an expert, but they have to know enough about the implications of the technical choices they're making.”
The need for specialized skills isn’t necessarily on the decline, but long-term success will increasingly demand the ability to understand the bigger picture of how technologies interact and to shift with changing times.
"Generalists are needed because you've got to have somebody who can look across a number of different areas and derive insights," said ExtraHop CIO John Matthews in an interview with CIO.com.
When bringing on new talent, Matthews looks for people who are passionate about specialties like networking, but that’s not all.
“They must be smart enough to understand that every technology and application that connects to their network affects its performance,” he said. “Honestly, the best specialists I know are generalists."
LinkedIn’s 2020 list of the hard skills most needed attests to the speed of change. The top two most in-demand skills are blockchain and cloud computing, technology specialties that barely existed a decade ago.
The next two skills on the list, analytical reasoning and people management, are among those most resistant to automation. The fifth one, user experience design, demonstrates how the rise of software as a service has put a premium on skills that can make technology accessible to the average businessperson.
Help Wanted: IT Teachers
David Foote, whose research firm Foote Partners tracks ongoing demand and pay rates for more than 1,000 IT positions, sees the explosion of new technology driving demand for IT people who can teach.
“The Internet of Things, AI, blockchain and robotics will make training more important in the future,” Foote said. “The only way to get people to use these things is to train them.”
Having spent two decades tracking IT skills demand, Foote has noted a steady rise in interest in skills related to human interaction, such as negotiation and salesmanship.
“CIOs are hiring more soft skills because non-technical people are having a lot of trouble with new technology and you can’t talk to them the way engineers do,” he says. “CIOs have been telling us for years they need more marketers and salespeople.”
New technologies like machine learning will contribute to the need because the tasks they replace will tend to be repetitive, according to Moor Insights’ McDowell.
“IT organizations will be looking for “someone who’s a little-more customer-facing instead of someone who looks at errors and alerts,” McDowell said.