Evolving Careers and Skills in the IT Industry

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IT professionals must keep learning and reinvent continuously to stay in demand in the fast-changing job market.

The Indian IT industry is going through testing times. Amidst hype around the huge layoffs, which is fuelling a lot of speculation, the bitter truth is that automation is killing some jobs, there is slow growth in the traditional services business coupled with an increase in protectionism, and newer business models that decouple revenue and headcount have emerged. The need to take charge of one’s career has never been felt as strongly as it is being felt now. It is a fact that skills that could fetch jobs at a premium a few years back are no longer fancied today. It is tough for people who have not invested in themselves or grown as professionals to survive and stay relevant in today’s fast-changing times.

The good news, however, is that jobs are aplenty but only for those who have stayed relevant by investing in themselves, having taken risks to step out of their comfort zone to learn what is ‘new’. Automation may have made some jobs redundant but it has also created a new set of jobs. With the decline in traditional services, and the sharp increase in digital and engineering R&D services, skills have become much more important than scale. The types of skills in demand have changed but the number of new jobs continues to be high.

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A recent NASSCOM report indicates that 40 per cent of the tech professionals in India need to reskill over the next five years, if they want to survive the onslaught of automation. Another startling statistic is that India will lose up to 640,000 low-skilled jobs to automation by 2021, and the IT industry will shrink by 14 per cent within the same time period. With open source technology platforms becoming mainstream, the potential for developers to experiment and evolve is vast. Jobs and skills are not limited by how much you know, but by what you can do with the knowhow. Open source platforms have always been a source of innovation for developers.

Different open source tools and open standards are important, and will continue to be so in the future, in order to ensure that all the devices being used today are able to interconnect properly. These open source tools will also be responsible for the back-end tasks of processing the large volumes of Big Data that all of these devices will generate in the future.

It is imperative for every individual to understand what skills they have an aptitude for, what interests them and what the industry trends are. This will help them pick skills that make them much more competitive in the job market. Also, individuals need to introspect every few years in order to stay relevant in the industry and prolong their IT career. Organisations and individuals who have consistently reinvented themselves every few years have managed to forge ahead.

Gone are the days of generalists—the IT industry needs specialists today. Learning and implementing any new age technology, which includes certifications in mobile and Web development, data science and Big Data analytics, machine learning, UI/UX design, robotics, cyber security and so on, will be in demand. One could even choose to be an SME in the field of security, finance and payments.

An important point to note here is that soft skills have emerged as a critical skill without which survival in the IT industry is a challenge today — this was not the case a decade ago. With the industry becoming boundary-less and global, job seekers must have good communication and presentation skills along with good stakeholder management, as well as negotiation and interpersonal skills. Also, working on open source projects not only enables one to enjoy the work and contribute back to community-developed projects, but also helps to hone one’s skills and stay relevant in the job market.

Honing skills need not be restricted to junior level employees or developers but applies to mid-level managers and senior leaders too. Mid-level managers who know how to manage traditional engagements should learn how to manage engagements with newer development methodologies.

They can get new certifications under their belt, making them more attractive to prospective employers. Senior leaders, on the other hand, who have a proven track record of creating leadership pipelines can consider becoming certified leadership coaches or certified executive coaches, as they have the ability to bring out the best in people; that’s a skill that will always be in demand.

The industry will always be in a state of evolution, so it is up to individuals whether they view this as a challenge or an opportunity. The time is now or never, and if you do not take control of your own career, no one else will.

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