Four areas will beat the path toward how technology jobs will look five years from now: the cloud, mobility, employees’ demand to do company work on their personal devices (BYOD), and smart computing. Between now and 2018, Corporate America will rely even more on these areas than it does now because, says Andrew Bartels, an analyst for Forrester Research, “Technology is seen as a key enabler of innovation, and innovation is a key business priority.”
That means that the corporate approach to technology has flipped. It used to be that business trends drove changes in technology. Nowadays, technology trends are driving changes in business. And that switch is going to impact what employers expect from you and the kinds of skills you’ll need to develop over the next few years.
It also means more technology jobs are going to be created. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that between now and 2020, employment in the computer and information and technology sector will increase by some 22 percent, outpacing the wider economy’s 14 percent growth.
Total Employment, By Occupational Group, Percentage Change 2010-20 (projected)
With IT and business becoming more intertwined, technology workers will need to have more than pure tech skills to succeed. They’ll have to understand and talk about their work as it relates to their company’s business and operations. For instance, it won’t be enough for chip designers to focus on the speed of their revamped products. They’ll also have to understand the cost savings that can be achieved from faster processing speed.
So, which skills will be the most needed by 2018? These:
Drivers of Change
One driver here is the continuing growth of cloud services. Forrester expects the market for public, virtual and private clouds to increase from $40.7 billion in 2011 to $242 billion in 2020.
The most dramatic growth will be seen in virtual clouds, which allow organizations to operate separate, designated clouds within a public cloud structure. Their market is expected to grow eightfold between 2011 and 2020, to $66.4 billion. In terms of dollars, the public cloud — where multiple organizations share the same computing resources through a third party — will be a $159.3 billion market. Private clouds, used solely by one organization either on-premises or through a third party, will see respectable growth — $7.8 billion in 2011 to $15.9 billion in 2020.
Some areas that look to be particularly promising are creating and maintaining dynamic applications services in the virtual cloud, where revenue will grow from $4.77 billion in 2012 to an estimated $27.66 billion in 2020, the private cloud, and cloud-based integration. Providers there could more than double their 2012 revenue of $500 million to $1.26 billion 2020.
Meanwhile, the security sector will see some notable changes. The most dramatic will be the merging of information and physical security operations within the enterprise. This is a movement that’s already begun: In 2009, TD Ameritrade combined both divisions into one. Last year, the state of Michigan made a similar move.
“States are reluctant to outsource security,” says Doug Robinson, executive director of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers. “And they need someone in charge of both physical security, like data centers, and logical security, like network access. They want that in one person because of the types of threats that have emerged.” Robinson estimates that currently 15 percent of state information specialists are also responsible for physical security.
In the last few years, the demand for natural language speech scientists has gotten a lift from the likes of IBM’s Watson, the Jeopardy-winning supercomputer, and Apple’s iPhone personal assistant, Siri. Here again, the cloud is a driving force: The number of mobile speech-recognition platforms will grow as more voice-driven cloud services are introduced. By 2017, ABI Research predicts, the sector will see revenue growth of 68 percent.
The Internet of Things
Finally, expect the Internet to connect to more than PCs and mobile devices. Job opportunities are sure to expand for virtual connection engineers, skilled code crunchers who create links between the Net’s common thread to consumer devices, corporate assets and even packaged goods.
“The Internet of Things is the sweet spot for engineers,” says Diane Morello, managing vice president at research firm Gartner. “It’s about connecting virtually to mobile, social, information and the cloud. It’s the nexus where everything is connected by a URL.”
Old Skills Fade Away
As these shifts propel some skills to the forefront, it’s only natural that others will drift into the background before moving offstage entirely.
Among those whose ranks are shrinking are semiconductor processors, whose roles are being decimated by automation. The number of jobs for them has declined by double digits.
Ironically, IT technicians have been hurt by advances in technology that allow engineers to pick up some of their work, says Michael Wolf, a BLS economist. CAD software, for example, allows engineers to handle much of the design work technicians used to do. As a result, technicians are seeing flat to little job growth.