The sweeping change that has taken place over the last two years with the outbreak of COVID-19 has made everyone realize that things will not be the same anymore. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, 50% of all employees will need to reskill by 2025 as the adoption of technology increases.
New technologies will come up, making the old ones obsolete, which makes it absolutely essential for the professions to keep learning, unlearning, and relearning. In fact, emerging technologies are transforming the world of work, pushing the workforce towards the need to acquire new in-demand skills and adapt to future jobs. It is also creating new roles and responsibilities in organizations to drive profitability and optimize resources.
Businesses are also realizing the importance of digital transformation and acceleration in business to stay ahead in the game – and the specific skillsets required to stay afloat in the new business normal.
CXOToday speaks to experts from the industry to identify the most in-demand skills employers are looking for and which tech domains they are going to prioritize in 2022.
Cybersecurity jumps to the top of the list since last year, primarily due to the pandemic in which our physical world has shrunk considerably, and the digital world remains a playground for cyber criminals who have developed new and devious tactics to obtain sensitive data. As the volume, frequency and creativity of cyber security breaches grow, so does the shortage of cyber security professionals with the appropriate skills to defend the enterprise, government and military networks. This global shortage of cyber security professionals has created an in-demand market for professionals to challenge and build career-advancing skill sets in this area.
Expert speak: Rajesh Maurya, Regional Vice President, India & SAARC, Fortinet
“The cybersecurity skills gap has remained a top concern for CISOs, contributing to security risks, overworked IT staff, and increasing the opportunities for bad actors to exploit expanded attack surface. At the same time, the constantly evolving threat landscape exacerbates the need for skilled professionals as the talent shortage affects more and more organizations each year and leaves them struggling to protect important assets amidst rapid digital innovation. According to an (ISC)2 report, in order to fill the cybersecurity skills gap worldwide, 3.12 million professionals are needed. As many organizations struggle to find talent to fill critical roles needed to help combat these threats, strained security teams are challenged to keep pace with the evolving threat landscape and face more security risks.” –
Cloud skills are in high demand and cloud certifications are associated with the top salaries in IT. The main reason cloud computing expertise is so essential is because it intersects with all of the important IT skills, experts unanimously agreed. Cloud has changed the game. Led by platforms like AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Oracle Cloud, among others, cloud is enabling new channels of revenue by leveraging technologies like AI/ML, IoT and blockchain and cloud specialists are in high demand in economic recovery, much of what has accelerated during the pandemic.
Expert speak: Hareesha Pattaje, Managing Director and Country Head (India), Synechron
“The digital world has witnessed an accelerated growth because of the pandemic. Everything turned virtual overnight. To cater this world-wide need, the global IT industry has witnessed an increased demand in technologies such as cloud computing, data engineering, artificial intelligence / machine learning, data science and more. With demands in cybersecurity, blockchain, digital payments to accelerate, these technologies will start enabling or continue to enable businesses to function and stay relevant in a virtual setting. Most of these technologies used to be buzz words, but now have taken the front seat. Essentially, the recommendation for tech professionals would be to upskill their abilities to suit the changing industry dynamics that are on the way or anticipate demands to innovate and be ahead of competition.” –
Data analytics and data science
Pandemic or not, data will continue to rise to become a crucial component for organizations and governments because it helps leaders make decisions based on facts and trends. By 2025, IDC estimates the world will create and replicate 163 zettabytes (ZB) of data, 10 times the number that was created in 2016. Data analysts and data scientists are hot commodities because organizations need professionals who can store, process and analyze data to answer critical questions and make predictions to solve problems and make informed decisions. Organizations however are facing the shortage of qualified individuals with this specific skill set. Data analysts and scientists are already playing a big role in the health care industry in the fight against COVID-19. Almost all the experts believe that data science and analytics will be an important skill as they navigate the current roadblocks to growth.
Expert speak: Sharath Srinivasamurthy, Research director, Enterprise Solutions & ICT Practices, IDC India
“There is a war for digital talent in the IT industry. Clients have accelerated their digital transformation journey in the last couple of years and IT industry needs to ramp up fast on digital technologies. Data analytics/management, cloud, automation, AI/ML, AI driven operations and cyber security are the top skills that are in demand. In addition, the digital natives are working on developing applications latest of the technologies leading to increased demand for skills on application development using new platforms, agile and DevOps. IT industry is investing not only on getting the best talent from the market, but also on reskilling existing workforce on digital technologies.”
Expert speak: Tapan Barman, Co-founder and CEO, Mihup
‘‘In the contemporary business landscape, it is not sustainable for any business to remain oblivious to digital technology. The pandemic has only accelerated the transition further. Today, efficiency, optimization of processes, and integration of contact-less voice AI solutions has become a necessity especially in the customer-centric segments. The demand for products and services is by default accompanied by a growing market for IT talent with excellent AI skills, experience of working on Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Big Data platforms. Cloud computing and IoT-based automation is another area wherein a lot of talent will be required to perform tasks such as configuration, deployment, management, trouble-shooting and data security for the digital businesses. Data Science and the ability to generate meaningful insights are integral to AI evolution. This is where we believe that the ability to work with multiple programming languages such as SAS, R and Python is going to be a great asset for IT professionals.’’
Networking and wireless
According to Cisco, the number of devices connected to IP networks will be more than three times the global population by 2023. Network engineers and administrators will continue to be important job roles. The push toward wireless offices and growth of mobile application development, which requires testing mobile apps in a wireless environment, are driving the demand.
To excel in the career of a wireless network engineer, strong analytical and problem-solving skills are essential, and you need to be knowledgeable about all aspects of network technology. Also a background in wireless equipment, standards, protocols and WLAN design is considered ideal and reskilling and upskilling is the only way forward, as nearly 10,000 survey respondents in the latest IT Skills and Salary Report mentioned 22% have earned at least one Cisco certification.
Expert speak: Anand Patil, Senior Director, Systems Engineering, Cisco India and SAARC
“As we traverse through 2022, skill-based education will be the only way forward to fulfill the DeepTech industry’s demand and combat the challenge of digital-skill shortage. In the workplace of the future, skilling will be a priority from both the employee and from an employer’s perspective. In order to stay relevant in the ever-changing digital landscape, cybersecurity, cloud computing, DevOps, AI/machine learning, data analytics, blockchain, and software/mobile development are some of the most in-demand IT skills one should strive to develop. As businesses become more technology and data-driven in their approach, the demand for IT professionals will only see an uptake. In this rapidly changing environment, skills gaps can become much wider, faster than ever before. It’s important to embrace these changes today to be ahead of the curve tomorrow.” –
Expert speak: Sankalp Mohanty, Partner, Deloitte India
The most in-demand skill sets in the IT Industry include skills around cloud computing, AI/ML, cyber security and blockchain. These skills are commanding significant premiums in pay. For blockchain and AI for example, the premiums are in the range of 20-22%.”
Software development and programming
As mobile apps gain in popularity, the need for coders will rise in kind. Coding is also an important skill for network engineers. There is a greater need to automate configuration and operational tasks as network complexity increases. We also see DevSecOps that automates the integration of security at every phase of the software development lifecycle is the key to achieving customer’s incessant demand for digital services.
Raman Sharma, VP of Product and Programs Marketing at DigitalOcean
“Businesses need strong leadership and skilled candidates with sufficient experience to drive the business forward during these challenging and uncertain times. Almost all industries and sectors showed a positive trend in terms of hiring activity, but the technology sector has been the most active, and we expect this to continue in the near term. Similarly, more effort needs to be made to modernize and develop continuing education programs with an emphasis on innovation, science, and technology. Any business that interacts with developers should also be investing in developer relations programs. This could also mean engaging with the community to spread awareness around popular technology trends, managing open source aspects of a company’s products, and much more. Writing code, building features, and working with other similarly skilled people in technical teams to deploy and operate software on some kind of infrastructure will still be necessary, but a new wave of technologies like serverless and low-code/no-code tools are enabling a whole new set of people to participate in software creation. Everyone from designers and data analysts to non-technical entrepreneurs will be able to utilize these tools to build software of all kinds. Companies are seeing developers begin to adopt low-code solutions for enhanced productivity. That’s because low-code sits atop of existing infrastructure and APIs and eases the tension of working with complex developer tools.” –
Anand Sahay, CEO, Xebia
“There has been a paradigm shift in the way digitally adept customers want to engage with any businesses. The customer expectations are ever evolving, and businesses must find ways to keep up with demand. Constant innovation and speed are the keys to survive for any business. To enable this demand for agility and constantly advancing digital channels, it’s important for businesses to look for highly skilled personnel who have aced the digital game and can constantly learn new ones are crucial to keep businesses in line with customer expectations and to survive this wave of digital transformation. This in turn has increased demand for core technical skills in the IT industry. Some of the crucial tech skills to enable the digitization are Platform development which means software developers need to ace Full Stack Engineering, APIs, Streaming Technologies like KAFKA, high performance language such as GoLang and Scala. Further to this, no platform approach to digitization can happen without having engineers with strong skills in cloud technology, cyber/cloud security, data engineering and data science (AI/ML) aspects. The whole philosophy of agile development along with software craftsmanship principles to write code augmented with DevOps culture is paramount to achieving customer’s incessant demand for digital services and succeed by any business in the world today.”
Vidhur Bhagat, General Manager, Enterprise Business India, New Relic
“At the heart of any tech product or digital service is coding, and coding skills are regularly listed as being in the top 10 most in-demand by employers on LinkedIn. Having a mobile and responsive web development experience gives a clear edge for candidates and is also vital for emerging technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality.”
AI and Machine Learning
As organizations increasingly use big data to make data-driven decisions, AI/ML skills will continue to be in high demand. AI and machine learning are used to identify patterns and trends that humans can’t see or process using traditional methods and automate work seamlessly. The main aim behind deploying AI-based solutions is to enable machines or systems to act by themselves without repeated programmer coding. With nearly every company now has employees working remote AI/ML assumes greater importance. They can also be used to improve endpoint security and safeguarding the data and devices connected to the corporate network.Given its huge potential, it’s not surprising that it is amongst the most sought-after skills by employers and employees alike. Professionals with an in-depth knowledge of data science and statistics, and that of data processing and software engineering are in high demand for such jobs.
Expert speak: Abhijit Shanbhag, President and CEO, Graymatics
‘‘Today, technology adoption is no longer a choice, but a necessity and the demand for specific IT skill sets is on the rise. Technologies like automation, AI, Data analytics and IoT are being deployed to assist authorities, facility management teams and transport organizations in maintaining efficiency in the new normal. This is a great time for IT professionals to enhance their skills in cloud, AI and data and video analytics. The scope for video analytics will expand tremendously in the times to come with surveillance systems and public oriented infrastructure becoming intuitive and capable of generating real-time actionable insights. The ability to build new algorithms, AI solutions to cater to diverse needs and enhancing the flexibility of cloud solutions alongside networking are going to be key skills on resumes in the years ahead.”
Expert speak: Palanivel Saravanan, Cloud Engineering Leader, Oracle India
“One of the most significant outcomes from the pandemic has been digitization. It became an imperative for maintaining business continuity and ensuring steady growth. It also spurred the necessity for young professionals to expand their knowledge and future-proof their careers by upskilling or reskilling themselves in new fields. Given the fast pace of digitization, coupled with the opportunity it presents for young professionals, demand for expertise in artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, digital assistants or chatbots, analytics, data sciences, data security and more has been on the rise.
Another key technology paradigm that is taking center stage is Edge Computing and this also presents a huge opportunity for IT professionals. IDC predicts that by 2023 more than 50% of new enterprise IT infrastructure will be deployed at the edge rather than in corporate data centers, up from less than 10% in 2020. This is a very exciting time for young technology professionals who are aspiring to become developers. It is important for techies to treat this as their opportunity – to challenge conventional thinking, encourage innovation and drive creativity.”
At a time when uncertainty is rampant, you need project management skills that help teams focus on providing the right value for their employers. There are plenty of challenges that organizations witness to complete their projects from being completed on time and within budget. IDC believes that by 2022, the financial impact of the IT skills gap will grow to $775 billion worldwide, from $302 billion in 2019, as a result of delayed release of products/service, missed revenue, or increased cost. It’s a project manager’s job to create, communicate and execute a project strategy. Experts see besides technical skills, it is important how a project manager responds to change, sets expectations, resolves conflicts and communicates to multiple audiences.
Dr. Dinesh Babu Jayagopi, Associate Professor, Data Science domain, Faculty-in-charge Placement and Internship, IIIT Bangalore
“At the level of freshers, programming and analytic skills are the most sought after. While Data Scientists are also in demand, few years experienced are mostly preferred. Freshers aspiring for Data Science positions are mostly tested for their programming skills and then having an end-to-end project experience seems helpful. In terms of programming languages, having working experience in Python, C/C++, Java is helpful. Project experience in one of the areas such as Machine Learning, Security, DevOps and Cloud Computing is a huge positive. Increasingly, AI based on deep learning methods is giving state-of-the-art performance and optimizing the computing stack on the cloud and on the edge is a requirement. This emerging area is termed MLOps, inspired by the more familiar DevOps. Apart from having a good CV, companies are looking for passionate engineers who have in depth knowledge about the projects that the candidates have mentioned in their CV.”
Vidhur Bhagat, General Manager, Enterprise Business India, New Relic
“What traditionally came under production or administration in terms of responsibility, but it is now considered essential for IT. Consider the number of advanced projects that IT has had to undertake, and it’s clear why. Each one of the new technologies IT is expected to implement consists of many complicated moving parts with hard deadlines and benchmark targets that have little room for compromise or failure.”
A growth mindset
While the world is set to recover from the pandemic and we still do not know what lies ahead, the best way is to prepare for this uncertainty and help align IT operations with business strategies. There are also some soft skills worth mentioning. For example, growth mindset, creativity, communication skills, critical thinking, and leadership (with empathy) that have stepped forward in the last two years.
Paridhi Khaitan, Managing Director, ProTeen
“The future of any modern industry now demands 21st-century skills along with the prerequisite technical aptitude and education. Simply put, 21st-century skills are a crucial set of knowledge, work habits, and character traits that are essential for modern professionals to have a successful career. Competitive businesses are set to focus on these proficiency to ensure employees can cope with and keep up with the demands of the modern career world. IT professionals will need to focus on these alternative skill sets that will complement their existing technical capabilities and allow them to be valuable assets for their company. Expertise like complex problem solving, critical thinking, and decision making are being increasingly viewed as essential as they will help professionals navigate a variety of scenarios in their careers. Other abilities such as resilience and stress tolerance are also valued greatly. These skills are crucial as they help a professional to adapt to future career demands and industry trends.”
The Indian IT sector will continue and is likely to see a gross employee addition of around 450,000 in the second half of FY22, according to the Monster Annual Trends report.
While all the above mentioned skills are extremely significant to thrive in a post-pandemic world, 96% of companies are planning or likely to plan to hire new staff with relevant skills to fill future big data analytics related roles in 2022. This is most likely going to be the most in-demand role in 2022, says the report.
To sum up, as organizations move towards a hybrid workforce, it is clear that skilled professionals will continue to play a major role in driving growth and sustainability during this turbulent time.