LAURA O’BRIEN takes a look at the most in-demand skills in the IT industry today and at how tech professionals can take advantage of this in today’s job market.
The changing nature of technology requires an IT worker to keep their skills as up to date as possible. As a result, the responsibilities of employees in this sector won’t remain static. There will be a need for new programming languages and a new understanding for changing platforms.
“To complete a degree, you need to achieve a certain level of knowledge,” said Dr Waseem Akhtar, head of the Faculty of Computing Science in Griffith College Dublin. “And that knowledge will help you get into the industry, but then the challenge is to perform well and retain that job.”
Indeed, the skills required to succeed not only include technical understandings, but also an understanding of how a business operates and how to work with others.
While a thorough knowledge of programming languages and tools are essential for any programmer, one of the biggest skills in demand for IT workers is the ability to communicate and work with others.
“The feedback that we have been getting from employers suggests that most fresh graduates don’t have ‘soft skills’, such as the ability to work in teams, the ability to make good presentations, and they lack good communication and interpersonal skills,” continued Ahktar.
“A number of institutions have introduced modules and assignments and group projects to teach these skills. While being a good programmer or a good software engineer is essential, today’s work environment needs people with good soft skills.”
Both Sonya Curley, managing director of recruitment agency Harvey Nash, and Mark Deegan, industrial placement co-ordinator, DIT School of Computing, agree these skills are highly important if IT professionals want to succeed in the technology sector today.
“The skills that employers are looking for from graduates are as much to do with their ability to work in a professional environment and to work as part of a team. And crucially, their ability to communicate and to learn,” said Deegan.
It certainly makes sense. While many IT professionals focus on developing their technical aptitude, in today’s working environment they need to be able to communicate their ideas in order to have valuable input in the company and to make themselves heard.
Having strong communication skills can help you land a job or get you promoted. It can also be an invaluable asset if you wish to take an entrepreneurial route, particularly considering the direction of the apps market.
Java and .NET
In terms of technical skills, both Java and the .NET framework are still strong assets for any IT worker today.
“The skills that are highest demand are in the software development world,” said Curley. “And in that you have Java and Microsoft’s .NET framework.”
Deegan also finds that Java and the Microsoft .NET technologies are still popular.
Programmers can get Sun Certified on the Java Platform. Becoming a Sun Certified Java Associate shows you have a base knowledge of the technology. You can also specialise further, to make yourself more valuable in specific job roles.
Microsoft .NET certificates work similarly, and qualifications include becoming a Microsoft Certified Professional Developer. You can move up to becoming a Microsoft Certified Architect.
Cloud computing is an area that’s growing hugely, meaning such skills are in demand for employers. Curley maintains these capabilities are required for numerous types of organisations.
These include smaller companies wishing to consolidate their local servers, and multinational organisations looking to centralise their system to provide a single location for their global operations.
Curley recommends gaining certifications around products such as VMWare and Microsoft’s Hyper-V to meet the demands of the cloud. Cisco has new certifications in this area, she added.
While the technology industry hasn’t suffered as badly as many other sectors have in the recession, it still has to run a business in a challenging climate.
Curley said that as a result, business analytics has become an area of growth, as companies look to their customer information and spending to find new revenue streams.
Having tools such as Brio Technology and SAP Business Objects can be attractive to employees looking to analyse their efficiencies, she said.
The enormous growth of the mobile market has paved the way for many new jobs for both software and web development.
“Mobile software development is one that is coming to the fore with prevalence in recent years, particularly with the likes of the app store on the Apple platform,” said Deegan.
He emphasised that while knowledge in developing mobile apps was much desired, “a strong, core ability program in good software is as important as detailed knowledge of iOS and Android”.
Curley has also seen the rise in demand for employees in this area and said that as it was still emerging, formal certificates are not mature yet. The main technology vendors, such as .NET and Java, will have mobile modules as part of their certifications, she concluded.