The midyear state of the IT job market

The tech market is booming and that's good news for today's tech workers. Employers, CIOs and IT leaders, however, are facing many challenges. We spoke with David Foote, from Foote Partners, to help companies identify, avoid and overcome these obstacles.

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Hot skills areas within IT

Cloud

According to Foote, no conversation about the current hot skills in IT is complete if you don't mention the cloud, and recent data highlights that fact. In Foote Partner's ITSCPI, cloud skills investments have done well:

  • 59 cloud-related certifications and noncertified skills gained 1.3 percent in value in 2014 and 7.8 percent in the last two years.
  • In 2015, they've done even better: 63 certified and noncertified cloud related skills rose 1.3 percent in just three months (compared to 1.3 percent for all of 2014).
  • 33 noncertified cloud skills alone gained 3 percent for the 1st quarter 2015.

Big Data

"Big data capabilities are just too critical for staying competitive. They've expanded in popularity from a few industries to nearly every industry and market," says Foote.

Early 2014, big data skills were losing ground as premium pay decreased. In fact, within the ITSCPI, 58 big data related skills and certifications declined an average 4.7 percent in the last three quarters of 2014. To see what was driving this, Foote Partners interviewed more than 200 employers. "Among our major findings: widespread dissatisfaction with the return on their sizable advanced analytics investments. Interviewees cited organizational and cultural barriers related to transparency, data governance and sharing of data enterprise-wide," says Foote. Those interviewed also cited understaffing in the type of sophisticated big data skills and experience necessary to analyze their structured, semi-structured and unstructured data.

Foote points out, however, that things are turning around in 2015. Employers are taking a more long-term approach and the market value surrounding big data skills should increase. "With many employers now taking a more measured, longer-term perspective in their big data investments, our latest research findings show some recovery taking place in the first three months of 2015. Moreover, we continue to expect big data skills market values to recover over the next 12 to 24 months, he says.

The data scientist role is one area that deserves special attention. Foote says employers need to understand that there are different kinds of data scientists. "There are four distinct types of DS's and only one type is the true earthmover that companies are craving and can't find. The other three are readily available and able to make big impacts on their employers."

"The shortage of data scientists is a bit of a fallacy. Analysts that work with Hadoop or other big data technologies spend a significant amount of time NOT requiring any knowledge of advanced quantitative methods. In fact, even those who employ advanced quantitative techniques spend from 50-80 percent of their time gathering, cleansing and preparing data --- work for which there is plenty of available talent," says Foote.

Security

Is this the year that businesses get serious about security? "It's been a long time coming but 2015 will be a year when discretionary spending for security -- that is, everything not related to compliance spending -- will start to reflect the fact that all these high profile hacks have pushed corporate boards and senior business executives to finally admit that for decades they have not been adequately staffing information security departments," says Foote.

The market values for skills in security and cybersecurity have been on a steady upward path for the last two years, increasing 8 percent on average, and that will likely continue. "Strong performers in the first quarter 2015 edition are penetration testing, cybersecurity, secure software development, computer forensics and management certifications, with auditing certificates also strong through the past six months.

Interestingly, low-end foundation certifications have been performing well, perhaps an indication that more workers are refocusing their careers on infosec longer term," says Foote.

Employers from all industries are searching for cybersecurity talent, according to Foote. However, moving technology targets, a lack of consistency in job titles and the fact that this is a relatively new field is making it difficult to source this talent. "There is ample evidence of a global gap in cybersecurity skills. It is a relatively new discipline and there are few available experts in the marketplace for talent. But with a lack of consistency in jobs and career paths for security professionals we can expect that organizations will experience difficulties in attracting and retaining cybersecurity talent in the foreseeable future," Foote says.

IoT and sensors

The Internet of Things holds promise for many industries and as more connected devices and sensors are added to an organization's ecosystem, security becomes even more important. "IoT will roll out only insofar as companies and people are willing to accept the level of security protections that are in place at the time of purchase consideration. So security jobs and skills will be boosted by IoT interest and demand," says Foote.

Many industries are now looking at how these connected devices can give their organization a competitive edge. Foote points to the retail industry as an example of where the industry is looking to tap into sensor-generated data from wearable technology to provide targeted products and services to customers. "As businesses look to IoT technologies to provide more insight, there is an ever-increasing demand for analysts capable of transforming IoT data into actionable business intelligence," says Foote.

Final Thoughts

In the world of technology, the one constant is that everything keeps morphing - products, services, skills and job roles. That's not going to change. What should change is how you approach filling the need for the right people with the right mix of skills at the right time. The bottom-line is that organizations that want to be successful need to be forward-thinking and better align their human capital needs to their business strategy.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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