The IT industry is constantly growing and, as of late, at an increasingly fast pace. As new technology is developed and deployed, IT professionals are expected to develop along with it. For this reason, individuals in the IT industry are in a constant state of learning and advancing their skills to keep up. But, with no concrete idea of what the future of IT will look like, how do professionals know what to learn? What is relevant today may not be tomorrow, so professionals must invest their time and knowledge wisely. To become, or remain, a competitive individual in the IT industry, these are the 6 IT skills you should master in 2021.
1. AI and Machine Learning
In recent years, AI and machine learning have revolutionized the IT industry and industries beyond. With the ability to automate processes and optimize decision-making, these tools are critical for any modern company. While each has different capabilities, there is some crossover between the two technologies. AI is a broader concept than its counterpart, focusing more on enabling machines to act like humans. Specific AI skills may include natural language processing, automated speech recognition, and automation. As AI is being implemented in businesses of all industries, the need for knowledgeable IT experts is significant.
Alternatively, machine learning relies on devices making sense of data sets. Machine learning is a widespread tool found in technologies ranging from Siri and Alexa to predictive analysis and even self-driving cars. As technological developments continue, there is no question that machine learning will continue to grow in prominence. Today, 49% of companies are implementing or planning to use machine learning. As the market is not yet over half, there is significant room for machine learning experts to get ahead now. Machine learning skills may include recommender systems, generating customer insights, and detecting fraud.
Much like AI, machine learning can be applied to any industry, making it a very lucrative tool. As these tools become more mainstream, the demand for professionals with AI and machine learning experience is rapidly growing.
Any organization dealing with customer information or sensitive data of their own should place an extreme priority upon cybersecurity. As technology grows more advanced, so do malware attacks. The risk of data breaches is growing, and their impact can be detrimental to an unprepared organization. When breaches significant breaches occur, they can cause considerable damage to a business's reputation and cost them significantly. As a result, it is of utmost importance that companies have the best possible cybersecurity.
For this reason, the demand for IT professionals with cybersecurity skills is considerable. Companies are seeking professionals that can keep their network security up to par, and in just one year, the demand for cybersecurity engineers has increased by 13%. Currently, there is a shortage of experts trained in cybersecurity, which is where you come in. Equipping yourself with cybersecurity, information security, network security, and vulnerability assessment skills will make you a valuable candidate for organizations of every industry.
3. Cloud Computing
An increasing number of organizations are abandoning their traditional server infrastructure for cloud solutions. Beyond merely transitioning to the cloud, many companies are building their products and services directly in their cloud infrastructure rather than switching later. While cloud migration skills are still relatively new, cloud-native architecture skills are quickly catching up.
As cloud technology has opened up numerous revenue channels, it is critical that companies have cloud expertise within their workforce. Significant cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure are changing the game of cloud computing. These platforms feature database storage, content delivery, networking, and hundreds of other services. For professionals interested in becoming skilled in cloud computing, in-demand roles include cloud architects, engineers, and system administrators. The future of data storage and sharing is cloud computing, so to stay relevant in the world of IT, knowledge of this technology is crucial.
4. Data Science and Analytics
A significant IT trend of 2021 is Big Data, and the two most in-demand jobs within this include data science and data analytics. Many organizations have adopted data science and analytics to optimize their decision-making processes, resulting in improved accuracy. Decision-making directly affects every other operation within a business, so it is vital that decisions be as informed and accurate as possible. As an expert in these subjects, individuals will manage Big Data technology to utilize data correctly.
The most prevalent industries in data science and analytics include banking, manufacturing, professional services, and the federal government. Within these industries, 53% of companies are adopting big data analytics. To facilitate and manage these operations, experts with knowledge in these areas are needed. While data analysis is more of an entry-level role, data science is much more advanced. Obtaining skills in Big Data will make a candidate desirable to any company in a wide range of industries.
When individuals think of blockchain technology, what typically comes to mind is cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin. While a revolutionary development, blockchain has evolved beyond cryptocurrency. Today, IT professionals are finding other uses for blockchain, such as crowdfunding, file storage, peer-to-peer payments, identity management, and banking.
As more and more companies look to implement blockchain technology within their company infrastructure, they need developers with a robust understanding of blockchain, smart contracts, and decentralized applications. Prominent blockchain skills include networking, database design, cryptography computing, and a variety of programming languages.
6. Extended Reality (XR)
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) – collectively known as extended reality – are taking the IT industry by storm. While initially, these technologies were utilized for entertainment purposes such as gaming, they have extended far beyond that. Today, extended reality technologies are being used in marketing, advertising, manufacturing, and healthcare to optimize company operations. The capabilities of extended reality were pushed forward during the pandemic as an increasing number of individuals sought remote activities. Now, VR and AR have enabled activities such as virtual fitness, business collaboration, and distance learning – and that's only the beginning.
As more businesses recognize the opportunities that extended reality has to offer, there is a growing demand for IT professionals with coding skills to forge a path into extended reality. While demand for these experts is skyrocketing, supply is low, presenting ample opportunity for IT professionals to train for this tech skill now.
The IT industry is fast-moving, and as companies implement new technology, they require IT experts to keep up. Equipping yourself with these up-and-coming IT skills is critical to staying competitive in a fast-growing industry. With skills in AI and machine learning, cybersecurity, cloud computing, Big Data, and XR, any IT professional will become a candidate that companies will fight over. Investing in yourself with current knowledge and skills is critical to keeping up with developments in the IT industry – and it comes with significant rewards.