When I started working in technology approximately 25 years ago, times were different. Technology at that time was enormously complicated. It also was not entirely reliable. Sometimes the systems worked; other times they didn’t. To keep things up and running, we needed people that really were willing to live in the weeds. No matter what those people were like — if they didn’t shower, or if they didn’t know how to talk with others — if they understood the tech, we needed them.
Over the years, the technology world has changed. Let me offer an illustration of how much. When I received my first major certification for networking 20 years ago, I was required to read approximately 75,000 pages. And that was to be certified to work on just one component of the network. In today’s world of cloud computing, passing a certification exam that covers the network, the data center, and applications requires less than 500 pages of reading.
Overall, the systems of today are much simpler, and they work much better. In addition, more businesses are using the technology because they have realized that it gives them an extreme competitive advantage. Because of these factors, the technology professionals of the future need to be different from what they were in the past.
The new tech landscape requires new skills
To succeed in the future, technology professionals will need to have good business acumen. They need to know what is going on in the business world, the types of problems that businesses are facing, and how the latest technology can solve those problems. They need to assist businesses in becoming more effective and efficient through the use of technology for digital transformation.
Today’s technology is simpler, empowering businesses to do more with fewer people, but it also requires more specialized skill sets. The tasks that must be accomplished include software development, creating and managing databases, information security, networking, and more. Each of these tasks is accomplished by separate people or teams, which means technology professionals must be able to talk to each other and walk to each other. Tech professionals with business acumen are needed to bring all of these people and skills together.
What is currently being taught in universities is what I like to call “generic preparedness.” Students learn a little coding, a little database, a little networking — a little of this and a little of that. This creates a very well-rounded person who is a jack of all trades, but a master of none.
The problem with this approach is that students graduate knowing how technology works, but not knowing how to make technology work for a business, which is the job of the technology professional of the future. They are good at everyone else’s job — the database person’s job, the network security person’s job, and the coder’s job — but they are not good at their own. We need a new approach that teaches skills that are specific to the careers of the cloud architect or the DevOps engineer, rather than teaching general skills.
The new tech landscape requires career agility
Preparing people for the tech jobs of the future also means preparing them to transition over time. This means they need the career agility skills that make them desirable to any employer. Unfortunately, these skills are not being taught to them in schools and certification programs.
Many universities have safe spaces for students, insulating them from interacting with people who are different from them. The reality of the work environment is that success demands an expert team of people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Building something great requires the effort of people with different perspectives and experiences working together to develop the best solutions. To prepare students to thrive in that environment, they need an educational and training background that exposes them to diversity.
Other critical skills for career agility include:
- Emotional intelligence: Including this in professional training programs prepares students to bring out the best in others.
- Sales skills: Starting with selling themselves in their job interview, tech professionals of the future will depend on sales skills in many areas of their careers. They must sell solutions to their clients and sell their managers on providing the resources to bring those solutions to life.
- Presentation skills: Selling clients on tech projects often requires great presentations that present the rationale behind the solution, and explore the journey of development and implementation from beginning to end. Even students who complete MBA programs in today’s universities are not trained in the presentation skills that they need.
- Writing skills: Business requires executive writing skills. This means learning how to take 30 pages of content and condense it down to two pages of writing. Additionally, this means writing for readability, with plain language that is free of acronyms and jargon.
- Executive presence: For maximum success, a person needs to be seen as a leader. By coming to understand executive presence, they learn to leverage their visual communication, which makes up 55 percent of communication, and their auditory signals, which make up 38 percent of communication, as well as their content, which is only 7 percent of communication. Tech professionals need to know how to go beyond the monotone method of communicating that is normal in the tech space to effectively communicate.
- Leadership skills: In the tech world of the future, we will need a team for everything. Good leadership skills that empower you to create, inspire, and lead teams, are absolutely critical for these future jobs.
The goal for technology professionals is not just knowing the tech but making it do more for business. Therefore, technology professionals of the future need to go beyond generic preparedness and add to their skill set abilities like those mentioned above that empower them to be more effective at understanding problems and developing, presenting, and selling solutions.
Michael Gibbs is the CEO of Go Cloud Careers, a global organization that provides training for elite cloud computing careers. Go Cloud Careers is focused on helping individuals achieve their dream technology career by getting hired. Michael has 25 years of experience in networking, cloud computing, and IT security.