Cybersecurity, cloud and coding: Why these three skills will lead demand in 2023

Cybersecurity, coding and data skills are like gold dust - and demand in 2023 will only grow.
Written by Owen Hughes, Senior Editor
Man and woman colleagues talking to each other in the office with post-it notes on a glass wall in front of them
Image: Getty Images

The demand for digital skills has accelerated considerably in 2022. As more companies lean on technology to innovate and future-proof their business, the pool of available software talent capable of achieving these goals continues to shrink.

While this has created considerable hiring challenges for companies, skilled technology professionals have found themselves in a very favourable position when it comes to job opportunities and negotiating power.

Looking ahead to 2023, the picture remains much the same. While the risk of a recession will prompt more companies to slow or freeze hiring in an effort to cut costs or 'streamline', the effect on technology hiring will be comparatively small. Indeed, even in an economic downturn, technology remains (for now at least) a pretty safe place to be.

One sector crying out for talent is cybersecurity. According to Secureworks' 2022 Boardroom Cybersecurity Report, the number of open cybersecurity jobs worldwide grew 350% between 2013 and 2021, from 1 million to 3.5 million.

Simon Hepburn, CEO of the UK's Cyber Security Council, says the demand of cybersecurity skills in the UK is particularly pronounced, with an estimated 14,100 roles currently sitting unfilled.

According to Hepburn, even with the threat of a recession weighing heavy on business leaders' minds, skilled IT security staff are something employers can't effort to skimp on in 2023. "Leaving an organisation vulnerable to cyber-attacks also leaves it open to operational dysfunction, loss of earnings and significant reputational damage," Hepburn tells ZDNET.

"These are not risks that organizations will want to take when they are already tackling the dual challenges of rampant inflation and a looming recession."

Something that's become abundantly clear is that technology alone cannot solve the problem.

SEE: Cybersecurity teams are reaching their breaking point. We should all be worried

David Mahdi, CSO and CISO Advisor at digital identify provider Sectigo, says companies need security leaders who can drill cybersecurity awareness into the collective thinking of the organization. "You can surround your employees with the latest firewalls and anti-virus software, but it's only when you teach them how to keep their own online identities safe in the workplace can you cultivate a strong cybersecurity framework," Mahdi tells ZDNET.

Gone are the days when employees can simply use their mother's maiden name as their password, with a few numbers and special characters tacked onto the end. "The best security tech just won't cut it if you don't continually educate yourself," Mahdi adds.

"Being able to protect yourself at an individual level is an increasingly critical skill."

Calling all coders

Coding will also see continued and intense demand in 2023 and beyond.

According to a recent report by Randstad, job postings for data engineers rose by 116% between 2018 and 2021, while ads for computer scientist increased by 72%. Robert Half's 2023 Salary Guide also identified a steady demand for developers, most notably those with knowledge of C#, C++, Angular, Node.js, AWS, Google Cloud Platform and Azure.

Cristian Minea, head of talent at tech recruiter hackajob, says C# and Java have proven to be among the most sought-after skills on the hackajob platform.

According to data published by hackajob in September 2022, Java programmers secured the highest proportion of job placements, accounting for 15.8% of market hires in 2021-2022. This was followed by C# developers (15.3%), DevOps professionals (10.8%), JavaScript programmers (10.6%) and Quality Assurance technicians, who made up 8.9% of industry placements.

"Looking at our stats over the past two years, the most popular tech roles we have placed candidates in are Java and C#, and we anticipate this trend to continue in 2023," Minea tells ZDNET.

"Interestingly, we're seeing a lot of backend developers having Golang on their CVs -- not as a commercial skill, but something they are learning in their spare time. We expect this will have a snowball effect and turn it from simply an interest to a must-have skill, and it will very likely grow in popularity over the next few years."

Developer roles also continue to be some of the best-paying: stats from hackajob's recent Marketplace Monitor, which analysed tech talent and hiring trends over the past 12 months, found that starting pay for software engineers is 64% above the UK national average.

"For more experienced tech workers six-figure salaries are commonplace, with bonuses and shares on top. It also means that candidates can often confidently walk away from a job opportunity if the salary doesn't meet expectations," Minea adds.

In conjunction with cloud-related skills, developers can recession-proof themselves by mastering modern software delivery processes, particularly DevOps. 

"As DevOps is central to how organizations accelerate their path to value with software, developing management skills and a true understanding of the operations at work will ensure that developers are ahead of the competition," says John Smith, CTO at  Veracode.

"By mastering modern software delivery processes, developers will be able to demonstrate how they can add value and directly address business challenges."

A new type of software developer?

As the scale and growth of software development accelerates, and with ongoing AI developments in programming and engineering, the role requirements of software development also look set to change.

"AI/ML are changing the world of programming much like the calculator and the computer changed the world," says Stormy Peters, VP of Communities at GitHub. "These technological advancements are taking care of a lot of the mundane, grunt work that developers once had to devote all their time to. Development looks different now."

SEE: The future of the web will need a different sort of software developer

These advancements, says Peters, have freed up time for a larger focus on critical problem-solving and the bigger picture. As we enter 2023 and software development remains at the heart of business strategies, problem-solving, critical thinking and other human skills will prove integral. "While emerging technologies will increasingly enable them to stay in the flow and solve challenging problems, the technicalities in being able to program, engineer, and develop code through a high level understanding of AI, DevOps, and programming languages will also stay central in importance to the discipline," she adds.

Indeed, Sander van't Noordende, CEO of Randstad, says the rapid growth of AI and other technical innovations will not only change the way people work, but also "the skills needed to thrive in the digital economy" – including those skills innate only to humans.

"Demand for people who have knowledge of machine learning, data science, data visualization and social media skills is spreading across sectors faster than the demand for average skills," Noordende tells ZDNET.

"The human traits that set us apart from machines -- like empathy and creativity -- remain crucial in labor markets and talent and employers should prioritize them alongside technical skills."

The challenge for leadership

Leadership will also be key to maintaining growth stability over the next 12 months, particularly hiring, retention and upskilling challenges continue to impact the business.

Melina Masnatta, Learning & DEI global director at Globant, believes that investing time and resources into management skills and diversifying leadership is "one of the most important actions both companies and individuals should be undertaking right now."

Specifically, Masnatta says leaders will be responsible for providing the structure and resources to develop skillsets among teams, and effectively managing upskilling across the organization. "It will be the leader's responsibility to engage and empower their teams, often remotely," Masnatta tells ZDNET.

"High-performing working environments are driven by high psychological safety within teams. Future and present leaders face the challenge of fostering that psychological safety from a distance."

More on the tech trends to watch in 2023:

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