For technology skills, cloud is the common denominator

AWS executive's advice to aspiring tech professionals: 'The skills needed often more closely align with the type of company or place you work, not simply the role you're in'
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

Enterprise technology is a kaleidoscope. It is an ever-shifting hodge-podge of technologies, old and new, that need to be built or supported. It's well documented that there are still a lot of companies running COBOL on mainframes, presenting its share of staffing headaches. There are even companies still running systems such as FoxPro, or even RPG-based applications. Now cloud and AI-based algorithms are being layered into the mix. With it comes a kaleidoscope of IT skills needed to keep things going. For every company, there's a different mix required. Established companies need help with infrastructure migrations, while digital-native companies are full steam ahead with artificial intelligence. 

Photo: Joe McKendrick

Scott Barneson, director of learning products for Amazon Web Services, naturally sees the need for cloud skills, but points out that while cloud is a key part of the mix, no two companies are alike. He recently shared his insights on the directions IT managers and professionals need to take in the 2020s:

Q: What types of skills should today's IT professionals be working to develop?   

Barneson: The skills needed often more closely align with the type of company or place you work, not simply the role you're in. For example, many tech startups are native to the cloud so may will be looking for builders who understand data sciences and machine learning. Larger enterprises that run in the cloud not only look for these skills, but likely also need individuals with integration and migrations expertise who can help onboard new systems and work with systems integrators to help them scale their business.

Q: How have IT skills requirements evolved with the rise of cloud computing and digital transformation?

Barneson: As the world becomes increasingly digital, we're seeing new career opportunities emerge and existing ones evolve. For instance, with more choices for managed database solutions in the cloud, the database administrator role has become more dynamic. As these roles become more software based and less about provisioning and managing on-premises hardware, today's DBAs are now managing multiple cloud-based solutions, and can lean into opportunities to develop strategic business solutions with the development team. 

Another example is the need for individuals who understand and can help implement best practices regarding account and identity management, enabling customers to accelerate innovation in the cloud while maintaining governance, security, and compliance.

Q: Are there particular job roles or skills that will be supplanted by automation, AI, or low/no-code?

Barneson : The technology job landscape is evolving and creating more opportunity than ever before. The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2025, 97 million new roles will emerge due to increasing digitization. For example, manually reviewing image content -- such as advertisements -- for brand violations is something that used to be heavily manual, but has now been automated through machine vision. So as the way we review image content evolves, new roles emerge to support this technology evolution like the machine learning experts and software developers who built and delivered the new tool.

Q: Are there roles or skills that will become more prominent as lower-level tasks are supplanted?

Barneson: There are the three areas where we hear strong need for upskilling from our customers: migration, as CIOs want to make sure their team is prepared to migrate workloads to the cloud; cloud fluency, as CIOs want all functions to have a baseline understanding of the cloud, the taxonomy, and the core benefits to help build common taxonomy and remove unnecessary friction; and AI/ML, as we shift from the experimentation phase to production use cases. CIOs are looking to equip their teams, from decision makers to practitioners, with the baseline skills to identify use cases that have positive customer and business impact.

We regularly hear from our enterprise customers a desire to increase cloud fluency throughout their organizations -- from individuals in technical and non-technical roles alike. That's a desire we hear mirrored from individuals too. Our own research shows that the need for digital skills training has increased due to the pandemic with 85% of workers reporting that they now need more technical knowledge to do their jobs. The study also found that the use of cloud-based tools is the top-most in-demand skill employers will need by 2025.  

Q: Please provide advice for IT professionals seeking to move up the management ladder. 

Barneson: There are a couple pieces of advice I'd share. First, being able to connect the technology to driving forward business priorities is important, so look for courses that can help you make that bridge. For example, one of the most popular courses that we released last year was "Machine Learning Essentials for Business and Technical Decision Makers." These courses are intended to provide the knowledge needed to shape a machine learning strategy. I think one of the reasons it has been so popular is because it is geared toward helping individuals make the connection between the technical content and the business challenges they face. 

Second, moving up the management ladder is less about growing your org chart and more about increasing the scope and scale of customer impact. This requires leaders who focus on getting value to customers faster, and remember to measure the impact their teams have on customer and business success.

Q: Please provide advice for IT professionals contemplating entrepreneurship, or are already entrepreneurs.

Barneson: I have three simple pieces of advice for those looking to build a business: First, gain conviction about the customer problem you're solving, and run experiments to validate you're on the right path. Second, you'll have thousands of decisions to make and only so much time to make them. Take advantage of opportunities to reduce complexity. Third, don't try to do it alone. Being an entrepreneur can test the limits of courage and perseverance, so ask for -- or hire -- help along the way. 

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