The ABCs of tech opportunities in the year ahead: AI, B2B, and CX

Regardless of what the economy does, we still have a 'a small percentage of the workforce holding up a massive B2B technology software industry.'
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer
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Call it the ABCs of opportunity for tech professionals over the coming year: artificial intelligence, business-to-business apps, and customer experience solutions. 

There may have been a spate of gloomy reports of tech layoffs, as well as endless talk of a looming recession. But there are areas where job opportunities are booming and will continue to boom in the months ahead. 

I recently canvassed industry leaders to get their takes on the prospects for technology professionals in the year ahead, and where they should focus their career efforts. (More perspectives to come in future articles.)

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Business-to-consumer (B2C) companies seem to be bearing the brunt of tech job troubles. "We're seeing the majority of layoffs happening in a number of B2C companies that rely on advertising models," says Duncan Angove, CEO at Blue Yonder. "On the other side, the B2B software-focused companies are on the forefront of many new and creative solutions. For example, the impacts of supply chain disruptions reach into every global industry and solving for those pain points with new technologies opens up so many new opportunities for the workforce. Pivoting to more resilient ways of doing business creates strong industry demand for technology solutions."

Small to medium companies may also offer the best opportunities. Recent headlines may have focused on downsizing in tech giants, but "one must remember that when the economy was on an upswing many of these companies were hiring indiscriminately and hoarding talent," Shawn Herring, CMO of AirSlate, points out. "For instance, Meta grew its total workforce by 23% from 2020 to 2021, according to Statista. While these large companies have no choice but to course-correct, today, many small and mid-size companies are actively hiring and looking for employees with the right skills."

Such skills seeing demand include multi-cloud management, automated software development, and core-to-edge architectural design skills, says Blair Lyon, head of cloud experience at Akamai, who foresees continuing demand for tech skills, recession or no recession. "Right now, demand remains high and the skills gap remains as prominent as ever."

Add to this the fact that digital transformation continues unabated, as does corporate interest in following through. Considering the whole world wants to digitally transform, the numbers of professionals who can help them accomplish this is microscopically small.

"There's still lots more work that needs to be done over the next few years -- especially as only 20% of companies have actually transformed their operations," says Angove. "Over the next few years, we'll need upwards of 4 million programmers in the workforce. We have over 8 billion people in the world, with an estimated 6 to 7 billion online, with only a small percentage of those individuals who are coding. It's a small percentage of the workforce holding up the absolutely massive B2B technology software industry. That's a skills shortage issue."

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Hand-in-hand with digital transformation is customer experience -- and businesses are only making slow progress in this area as well. "In the near term, we're likely to see the strongest demand from companies trying to deliver a better experience for their customers," says Lyon. "More and more companies have applications that require very low latency, global reach, data sovereignty, and privacy for regulatory compliance."

These skill needs don't only mean more programmers, but business professionals across all disciplines. "It's not just programmers, but other business functions that will require a skilled workforce to uphold the technology industry," says Angove. "If we have machines that are automating the basics, we still have a great need for a variety of other skill sets -- including business, consulting, marketing, and sales. You may have the technology, but you also need people who understand how it works and how to apply it to areas of business -- such as the supply chain. Furthermore, you need consultants to implement the technology, marketers to promote, and salespeople to sell. Given technology and the rate of change, today's technology is often obsolete within two years. It is constantly being reinvented, so the best thing you can do in the tech workforce today to keep your skill set strong and relevant, is to adopt an always-learning mindset."

Herring also sees continuing strong demand for skills in artificial intelligence, as well as Web3, cybersecurity, and big data analysis. "As organizations continue to advance investments in technology and data analysis to make smart business decisions, those with the right domain expertise in these areas will be critical to employers," he predicts. 

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Technology professionals should also consider that "skills in new architectures like core to edge and container security management are rising in demand, as more organizations want super low latency, highly secure, portable, containerized, and distributed workloads," Lyon urges. Automaton is also key, because "anything that allows software development and operations organizations to operate more efficiently will be in demand."  

Ultimately, the opportunities are found "for people to build innovative things," says Lyon. "We see it every day with developers building on our cloud infrastructure. Some of the most successful companies in tech's history were born in the face of economic headwinds."  

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