What an IT Career Will Look Like in Five Years: Part 1

Cyber Security and Digital Data Protection Concept. Icon graphic interface showing secure firewall technology for online data access defense against hacker, virus and insecure information for privacy.

November 28, 2019

(Courtesy: cio.com)

If you sketched out how IT roles will change in the coming years, you’d likely envision tech roles maturing around emerging and high-value technologies, such as AI, data science, and the cloud, as well as a continuing focus on security across industries and business divisions.

These topics frequently came up in our discussions with tech leaders about the near future of IT roles. But so too did surprising insights — including potential new positions that don’t exist today.

Along with in-demand roles we discussed how work will get done and how a mix of full-time and gig workers will help deliver results. We also considered how these changes might suggest a road map for making career adjustments or corrections that can help you thrive in the years ahead.

New security roles

Evolving security threats will lead to new roles, suggests Joy Beland, senior director of cybersecurity business development at Continuum, with an emphasis on organizational culture rather than technology alone.

“The internal culture of businesses needs to adopt a new perspective around privacy and security,” Beland says. “The adoption of tools and cyber solutions is completely dependent upon this. I think this will lead to a new title: chief cybersecurity culture officer. Those who focus on the human element for cybersecurity implementation are going to become more sought after as the integration between old-school HR policy, corporate culture, and information security merge into one leadership role.”

Beland can also see CIO and CISO roles merging at smaller companies, “as the need for integrating oversight of technology with privacy and security continues to align, and budgets within smaller companies struggle to accommodate both roles.”

Jim O’Gorman, of Offensive Security, also sees a need for new security roles. “It used to be that you could say you were an exploit developer,” O’Gorman says. “Then it changed to ‘I write browser exploits,’ and now it’s ‘I write exploits for this specific browser.’ As the protections have gotten more and more complex, diving deep into specific areas is becoming critical. Even within organizations, splitting penetration testing IT teams and true red-team assessments continues to be more essential.”

Planning for distributed teams

Remote work, like the gig economy, is only expected to increase, driving the need for new tools and approaches to meet deadlines and goals.

“As almost half of U.S. employees already work remotely in some form, technology will enable a greater number to do so over the next five years,” says Chris McGugan, senior vice president of solutions and technology at Avaya. “And for businesses to truly reap the benefits of such a workforce, project managers will be needed to ensure the distribution of work is met.”

McGugan also sees the need for IT specialists who can implement new collaborative solutions to facilitate remote work and ensure remote workers can easily contribute to projects. “These specialists will be needed to choose the right technology vendors, and make sure the systems operate well,” he says.

Michael Cantor, CIO of Park Place Technologies, sees another scenario that will make gig and remote work necessary.

“The upswell in retiring workers will also make talent acquisition harder as the labor pool declines, making alternative arrangements more acceptable,” Cantor says. “These will just be another source on top of FTE, contracting, offshoring, etc.”

But Cantor doesn’t expect a full-fledged shift in how career paths will unfold, just that new work patterns will be available to those who are interested in them. “I don’t foresee the continued hiring of FTEs and contractors as changing, and individuals who prefer those working models should not have trouble finding those jobs,” he says.

Democratization of data and app development

Steven Hall, partner and president at ISG, expects widespread adoption of tools across business divisions that can help employees develop apps and make sense of big data.

“In general, we’re seeing a de-industrialization and de-centralization of IT. Technology is accessible to all with literally thousands of SaaS and micro-services available to the novice,” Hall says, pointing to two emerging trends: the rise of low-code development platforms and tools that make data science and data visualization more accessible to business users.

“IT skills are changing dramatically, but in quite interesting ways. Cloud and SaaS solutions with low-code or no-code capabilities have simplified software development. Organizations are shifting to PaaS solutions, such as ServiceNow and Force.Com to rapidly develop applications with limited IT support,” he says. “Rapid developments in data visualization through tools such as Microsoft BI, Tableau, Domo, etc., have moved traditional business reporting functions from the dark corners of IT to the front of the business where analysts across the organization can now easily analyze data in real time and provide extremely sophisticated visuals to better understand the data.”

Specialized guns for hire

Andres Rodriguez, CTO of Nasuni and former CTO of The New York Times, says there’s a growing need for contracted data scientists with specialized experience that should only increase.

“We see relatively small boutique firms that specialize in specific industries such as pharmaceuticals, transportation, logistics, etc.,” Rodriguez says. “The benefit to their clients is that there’s typically a great deal of overlap when it comes to the useful, achievable goals in any given sector. These firms can help cross-pollinate that utility and reduce the risk of ending up in an analytics dead end.”

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