Get Better at the 5 Hottest IT Skills in 2016

Mar 9, 2016
9 Min Read
Get Better at the 5 Hottest IT Skills in 2016

Want to be marketable? Consider sharpening these in-demand competencies.

Computerworld’s 2016 Forecast study has identified the hottest skills for IT professionals. The top five include IT architecture (42 percent of IT hiring managers seek this skill), application development (40 percent), project management (39 percent), big data (36 percent), and business intelligence/analytics (34 percent). And business intelligence and app development rank #2 and #4 in the list of the most difficult skills to find. Let’s look at how current or would-be IT professionals can up their game in these areas.

IT Architecture

Learning how software and systems are built has never been easier. In a blog for Robert Half Technology, Jerry Clinesmith advised prospective architects to read and write as much code as possible. Through open source, you can find projects you’re interested in and study the code. “Look at how things are broken into classes, access patterns, and think through the overall structure of the project,” he said.

In terms of creating code from scratch, the only way to get better is through practice. “Take a single idea and rewrite it using different styles, languages, and techniques,” said Clinesmith. “Write it once using classes, another in a purely functional manner, etc. You'll learn what works best and how to solve problems in different ways.”

Keep your knowledge of front-end, back-end, distributed systems, and storage fresh, and don’t forget to pow wow with other architects. “Attend local user groups and conferences, talk to other developers about what they're working on,” suggested Clinesmith.

Application Development

No one will tell you that a degree in computer science or software engineering isn’t useful to acquire app dev skills. But it’s not absolutely necessary either. There are now a variety of courses and certifications available – online and offline – for different aspects of development. Mobile apps, obviously, are stratospheric at the moment and a great space to be in.

As with IT architecture, the best way to prove that you’re marketable as an application developer is to actually build something. Before you can, though, you’ll need a solid understanding of user interface design, multiple programming languages, and the business reasons companies build apps in the first place.

Once you’ve started a project, JavaWorld writer Andrew Oliver recommended writing your own documentation. “I can't tell you how many times I've worked on a project, only to be pulled into an executive meeting because I wrote a document or presentation they saw and understood. What most managers want to know is: who can drive this to completion and won't BS me about how it's going?” You want to get accustomed to writing this way so that you’ll appeal to the people who make hiring decisions.

Project Management

We’ve talked a lot about how PM certifications increase your earning potential and differentiate you from other IT candidates. The Project Management Institute offers six certifications, including the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM), which is designed for project team members with subject matter expertise (like IT) and recognizes an understanding of the basic fundamentals of PM.

If you’ve already been doing project management in your job for a while, you might consider the Project Management Professional certification. This credential recognizes competence to fully perform the role of a project manager, specifically experience in leading and directing projects. It is meant for those who are responsible for all aspects of a project for the life of a project, and who lead and direct cross-functional teams to deliver projects within the constraints of time, budget and scope.

Although certifications are a terrific way to hone and prove your PM skills, simply managing projects on the job can get you to the same place. If you seek out the responsibility, it will inevitably find you.

Big Data

“Big data pros who can harness machine learning technology to build and train predictive analytic apps such as classification, recommendation, and personalization systems are in super high demand, and can command top dollar in the job market,” said Alex Woodie in a recent article for Datanami.

What are the most significant skill sets? You apparently can’t go wrong with statistical and quantitative analysis. “If you have a background in quantitative reasoning and a degree in a field like mathematics or statistics, you’re already halfway there,” wrote Woodie. “Add in expertise with a statistical tool like R, SAS, Matlab, SPSS, or Stata, and you’ve got this category locked down.”

There’s no replacement for actually getting your eyeballs onto data, though, and being proficient in a visualization tool is essential. “You can do multivariate or logistic regression analysis on your data until the cows come home, but sometimes exploring just a sample of your data in a tool like Tableau or Qlikview can tell you the shape of your data, and even reveal hidden details that change how you proceed,” suggested Woodie.

Business Intelligence

Abe Selig of Software Advice and the Plotting Success blog, analyzed 200 Business Intelligence (BI) analyst job listings across the U.S. to uncover exactly what employers are looking for in these candidates.

While employers sought candidates with a wide variety of technical experience, proficiency in SQL topped the list, with over 60 percent of employers requiring this skill. Similarly, 60 percent also said they wanted candidates who had experience working with specific BI software programs, such as Oracle or IBM Cognos.

Twenty-two percent of employers wanted candidates with some degree of familiarity in database tuning or maintenance, and 18 percent specifically said they were looking for candidates with experience in data modeling. Another 18 percent of employers sought candidates familiar with the processes of extract, transform and load (ETL) or online analytical processing (OLAP).

And, because BI analysts need to perform the dual functions of technology expert and translator of data into business action, nearly 40 percent of employers sought candidates with strong communication, presentation and interpersonal skills.

All of this is certainly a tall order, but rest assured that any coursework or self-study you do to become proficient in BI will pay off in terms of compensation.

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