The Evolving Landscape of Skills in the IT Industry

In IT, change occurs much faster than in other industries. Since the 1950s, when the first commercial general-purpose digital computer was built, the speed and power of central processing units (CPUs) have been doubling approximately every two years. These increases in capacity were not directly reflected by drastic changes in the functionality of the hardware and software. Until recently, that is. 

Though systems have been continually changing, it usually took at least a couple of years before older systems were phased out to be replaced by newer versions. This resulted in the skills and competencies acquired by IT specialists requiring continuous refreshments, training courses and constant learning too. Looking back now, compared to the speed of change in current times, that was a very gradual process.

The current landscape requires a new approach to learning and development initiatives, one which enables employees to upgrade their skills and competencies

Technology is now growing exponentially, and its adoption and democratization are astonishing even for tech gurus and IT academics. A recent example is ChatGPT, which reached a hundred million users in just two months. This is proof that we are entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The current landscape requires a new approach to learning and development initiatives, one which enables employees to upgrade their skills and competencies. 

Until just recently, the T-model of competencies was considered ideal, where a deep understanding of the technical functional area or specialty (the vertical part of the T) is complemented by a broader understanding of business processes and soft skills (the horizontal part of the T). 

In the current scenario, while a deep understanding of one functional technical area, such as networking, server administration, specific programming languages, etc., is still a must, concentrating on only one functional skill throughout might not be enough for a successful career path.

As business requirements change constantly and rapidly, employees might need to become experts in multiple areas through the course of their careers. What is more, they will have to be ready to abandon some of their competencies once they are no longer relevant.

Horizontal T is Gaining Importance

It is easily understood that domain and tech skills are crucial, but without the additional soft skills, it will be difficult to rise to the top of an organization. 

According to “The Future of Jobs” report from the World Economic Forum, only 4 out of the 10 most needed skills under ‘Information and technology services’ are purely technical. Many repetitive tasks have been replaced by bots, machine learning and artificial intelligence. The human aspect is becoming more and more important, as that cannot easily be replaced by technology. 

It is best to have a mix of hard skills, such as AI, big data, cloud, etc. and excellent soft skills too, such as:

  • Finding and solving complex problems 
  • Learnability and active learning
  • Creativity, reasoning, problem solving and innovation
  • Collaboration, communication and social influence
  • Critical thinking and analysis

Lifelong Education: the Need of the Hour in IT

There are some myths about learnability. For example, that people can’t learn past a certain age; can’t learn once they start working; can’t learn once they have a family; don’t need to learn because they can manage without it, etc. 

The truth is that all of us learn from cradle to grave. Recent developments in digital learning have made lifelong education easier than ever. The Internet is loaded with e-learning courses, webinars and podcasts which grant access to any skill. Digital learning is also becoming more effective with the adoption of new concepts such as adaptive learning, personalized learning, gamification and virtual reality.

There are countless learning opportunities, and you can define your own path and pace of personal development. 

Whatever path you choose, one thing remains unchanged: a fulfilling career in the IT industry requires structured and focused lifelong learning. To achieve success, stay on the top and make a real impact, you have to continually monitor recent trends and technical developments and take every opportunity to learn new and emerging technical as well as soft skills.

This article was first published on Nearshore Americas

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