Unexpected career challenges in IT – and how to overcome them

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The global information technology sector is expected to grow more than 4 percent to $3.5 trillion this year, according to research from industry group CompTIA. This continued expansion bodes well for IT professionals of all areas, signaling years of promising organizational and technological innovation. Of course, with maturation comes disruption, a phenomenon with which individuals in the field are fairly familiar, as many have had a hand in developing technologies that have moved beyond traditional operations in other industries. Now, IT and the workers who navigate the space must cope with disruption.

IT professional working on laptop.

Trends shaping the IT marketplace

A number of powerful forces are catalyzing change in the IT marketplace. Workers on the ground are expected to bear the brunt of the impact, as firms pivot to address new customer expectations and remain competitive among their peers.

The cloud crystallizes

Enterprise cloud computing solutions have gained considerable steam in recent years. Roughly 95 percent of all American enterprises now access the cloud, according to research from RightScale. However, most still maintain on premise processing equipment, meaning the market will continue to grow as companies move their remaining digital assets to offsite virtual servers.

As adoption rates increase, cloud technology moves forward. A number of innovations in the space are opening up new opportunities for firms embracing cloud-only infrastructure, according to CompTIA. For example, hyper-convergent frameworks – software-based cloud platforms that combine data storage, networking, processing and virtualization services – are growing in popularity as internal IT stakeholders search for simpler cloud solutions. Artificial intelligence has also found a niche within the enterprise cloud market, giving businesses the ability to automate data-driven backend processes and achieve greater scalability.

What does this mean for IT professionals? Many will be required to move from managing on-premises servers to cloud service platforms. This transition will require a host of new skills, CloudTech reported. Database and Big Data experience tops the list. The cloud eases the adoption of data-backed enterprise fixtures, most of which will fall under the purview of internal IT personnel. Migration is another sticking point, as adopters must leverage institutional knowledge to successfully move information from onsite server rooms to the cloud. Container skills are also in demand, according to CloudTech. Organizations of all sizes are swapping first-generation cloud applications for containers, processing environments that, unlike virtual machines, utilize host operating systems to create partitions at the application level. This eases data management practices and reduces the likelihood of total system failure stemming from a single application. In short, individuals navigating the IT realm must fully embrace the cloud to maintain their career trajectories and ultimately find success in the industry.

Additionally, these professionals will have to deal with the fallout from the new opportunities that come along with cloud computing technology, most notably automation. A.I.-infused solutions are beginning to change the hiring and recruitment landscapes in the manufacturing and professional services sectors. Similar changes will soon affect IT, Futurism reported. Leaders in the industry believe automation could claim as much as 80 percent of all IT positions. While this sort of mass restructuring is years, if not decades away, some firms are already cutting back on IT roles that are now cheaper to automate, according to research from ComputerWorld. In September of last year, the publication asked nearly 200 IT executives to cite common positions up for elimination. Almost half said they would be reducing help desk and technical support hires in 2017.

Data security concerns increase

As business and data become more entwined, cyberattacks increase. Consequently, organizations in every sector now devote resources to defending their digital assets, hoping to avoid headlines and maintain customer confidence. Even so, these allocations do not seem to effectively address the problem, as hackers continue to gain access to company servers.

Over 42,000 data security incidents occurred in 2016, according to Verizon Wireless. This figure includes more than 1,900 publicized breaches. Malware, installed via malicious email, was used in 62 percent of these attacks, 73 percent of which were financially motivated. This fraught state of affairs does not bode well for modern enterprises, many of which must serve technology-savvy customers who are not afraid to look elsewhere for goods and services should their information be compromised. Luckily, software-makers are working to develop data security products to address this problem, according to research from Deloitte. The market for such solutions is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 8.3 percent over the next three years to top $101 billion, according to the International Data Corporation.

Businesses are already taking advantage of the many new cybersecurity platforms, implementing cutting-edge detection and response tools to meet ever-intensifying online threats. In fact, enterprises are expected to spend $90 billion on these solutions this year, according to research from Gartner. Cloud security, endpoint protection and user tracking are among the most sought-after features. Of course, firms in specialized industries such as finance are looking into niche products. Banks and similar institutions have begun to adopt blockchain technology, a method for storing, securing and tracking online assets, such as digital currency, via public ledgers. Roughly 12 percent of financial institutions currently utilize blockchain, Deloitte and The Wall Street Journal reported. However, 24 percent are on track to launch the technology this year. Firms outside of finance are testing blockchain as well. In fact, an estimated 21 percent of all organizations are in the process of implementing it in some form or fashion, with 10 percent of these earlier adopters investing $10 million or more in blockchain-related projects.

This new security landscape has an impact on IT professionals at all levels, as employers expect internal teams to bolster existing systems to meet ever-rising industry standards. Unfortunately, many do not have the necessary skills to take on such tasks. Last year, Intel connected with IT decision-makers around the globe to assess data security skill levels among enterprise IT staffers. More than 80 percent of respondents said on-the-ground personnel did not have required experience and over 70 percent indicated that this shortage weighed on the bottom line. Many are looking to outside hires as a result, ComputerWorld found. An estimated 36 percent of U.S. organizations are expected to emphasize data security hires in the coming months in an effort to bolster internal information protection capabilities.

IT workers would be smart to acquire as much data security experience as possible. Intrusion detection, secure software development and attack mitigation skills are drawing the most demand among employers, according to Intel.

Technology and business become one

In the past, IT and business development departments operated on two different planes within the organization – one responsible for supporting productivity tools, the other tasked with widening margins and reaching new customers. This is no longer the reality within most modern enterprises. Business leaders have, by and large, broken down barriers between IT and operations, trading regimentation for collaboration. Why? Data collection and analysis are now fundamental business activities, according to CompTIA. And, IT teams support the systems that facilitate these pursuits.

This presents new challenges for professionals in the space, as technical skills alone are not enough to excel within an organization. In fact, an estimated 19 percent of American enterprises believe business strategy to be an essential skill for new hires in the IT department, ComputerWorld found. Other soft skills are finding their way into job descriptions for technology-centric roles, TechRepublic reported. Communication skills, political smarts and deal-making abilities are among the most in-demand requirements for today’s IT workers, most of whom must not only deploy and support essential systems but also work with stakeholders in sales and marketing to connect with customers and drive revenue.

Develop the right skill set

With these industry trends in play, it’s clear that IT professionals may need to develop more robust skill sets to climb the corporate ladder and gain influence within the organization. The question is, how? While internal training sessions and third-party certification courses can certainly help in this regard, formalized education remains the most effective method for gaining the skills needed to meet new challenges within the IT arena.

The online Master of Science in Management Information Systems program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham is an optimal choice for IT workers who wish to change their career trajectories to align with modern operations and move into the C-suite. MS MIS degree candidates have the opportunity to take courses on key subjects such as Information Technology and Business Strategy, Incident Response and Business Continuity and Leadership in IT. The 100 percent online MS MIS program at UAB ranks among the “Best Online Graduate Business Programs,” according to U.S. News and World Report. The UAB Collat School of Business also has received accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

Ready to gain the skills needed to succeed in today’s IT industry? Connect with an advisor to learn more about the online Master of Science in Management Information Systems at UAB.

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