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Do your IT skills need an upgrade?

See where IT developments are trending so you can stay ahead of the game.

While some jobs are disappearing, others will be taken over by robots. But there will always be a need for IT pros — albeit in perhaps different capacities. If you want to stay relevant or are simply looking for a more challenging, interesting role, now is the time to upgrade your skill sets for the next digital revolution.

If you’re in IT, you’re already aware of how technology has been evolving with cloud, big data and mobile computing. But newer technologies, like artificial intelligence and cognitive computing, will drive huge demand for IT pros.

And there will be plenty of jobs to choose from. South of the border, an additional 500,000 IT-related jobs are expected to be created between 2014 to 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In part, this is due to greater emphasis on cloud, mobile computing, the Internet of Things (IoT) and the collection of big data.

Closer to home, demand in Canada for IT pros is also on the rise. It’s been estimated that some 218,000 skilled ICT workers will be needed in Canada by 2020. For those who stay on top of developing technologies in the IT field, countless opportunities could abound.

Shaping the cloud

If you’re investing in professional development — for either yourself or your employees — you want to get the best bang for your IT buck. That means investing in the right skill sets.

Software, applications and infrastructure are moving to the cloud, which means some of the IT that used to be managed in-house is now in the cloud or being managed by a third-party provider. That won’t eliminate the need for in-house IT pros — but it will change their role.

Cloud has created new roles, from designing the architecture for a cloud environment to integrating and managing various cloud contracts. That’s why we’re seeing the emergence of a new job title: cloud architect. But companies are also looking for network and systems engineers with cloud experience.

Of course, there’s no ‘cloud degree,’ nor is there a single set of skills that define cloud experience. But there are skills that will come in handy, such as SQL for data management and Ruby, Python and JavaScript for building cloud-based apps, as well as knowledge of programs such as Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services.

Making sense of big data

Some of the hottest tech trends right now revolve around data analysis, according to recruitment firm Randstad Canada. “As expected, coding ability remains incredibly in demand, due to slow growth of talent in this sector. If you’re considering adding coding skills to your resume, Java tops the list of most in-demand programming languages. SQL, C# and web development languages such as HTML, CSS and PHP aren’t far behind.”

As companies accumulate more and more data, the need for analysts to find trends and patterns — to look for the competitive needle of insight in their stack of big data, which can in turn influence business strategy — is on the rise.

Again, there’s no specific degree program, but rather a diverse set of skills that include math, statistics and engineering, as well as a working knowledge of BI tools and the ability to use programming languages. Currently, R is the language of choice for statistical analysis and visualization, according to an article in Forbes, which also recommends knowledge of big data languages such as Scala.

But jobs relating to BI require more than a firm grasp of statistics; they require business savvy to understand how that data can be used to meet a company’s goals. In this case, a few business courses could be a useful complement to IT skills.

Engineering artificial intelligence

But what about up-and-coming technologies, such as artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, and augmented and virtual reality? These are areas where significant expertise will be required — and demand will, at least in the short term, far exceed supply.

VR engineers, AR engineers and cognitive computing engineers will be in high demand, according to an article in Network World. “No longer solely relegated to the gaming sector, virtual reality engineers are being sought out by everyone from Google and New York Times.” AR engineers will develop software that integrates elements of the real world into software programs, while cognitive computing engineers will help bring cognitive functions (such as speech and decision-making) to IT infrastructure.

Attending conferences, workshops, events and meet-ups will help you get versed in these technologies and understand their potential. While many of these are new roles, and some are yet to be defined, it’s a good time for IT pros to look to the future. By upgrading your skill sets, you’ll be ready for the changes coming your way — and become indispensable to your organization.

Up Next: See how new IT developments are resulting in a shortage of ICT workers in Canada.

Canada needs 218,000 more ICT workers

Vawn Himmelsbach

Vawn Himmelsbach is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. She has covered technology and travel for 15 years, for media outlets such as CBCNews.ca, The Globe & Mail, Metro News, ITBusiness, PCworld Canada and Computerworld Canada. She also spent three years living abroad and working as an Asian correspondent.

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