The 9 hottest jobs in IT

From multi-cloud integrator to cryptocurrency engineer, these emerging and resurging IT roles may be your best path forward in the years to come.

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Job candidates for the most in-demand IT positions are hard to find and, sometimes, hard for hiring managers and recruiters to describe, as new technologies appear and current ones evolve.

A report from CompTIA suggests the most sought-after jobs in IT are currently software positions, IT support specialists and systems engineers, in that order. Close behind and still showing strong growth are cybersecurity positions and roles based on emerging technology.

We reached out to recruiters, executives, and tech pros, asking them to weigh in on the best opportunities they see in the year ahead. If you’re burning out on your current gig, or feel that your role may be heading toward a dead end, consider some of these roles that offer security and steady growth for the foreseeable future.

Multi-cloud integrator

Caleb Hailey, co-founder and CEO of Sensu, suggests that companies adopting mixed cloud environments have forced a change in integrator roles, which we’ve previously reported as highly in-demand.

“The reality of integrating otherwise loosely connected systems is getting more complex by the day, which means businesses need dedicated individuals — with the right skill set and experience — to connect them,” Hailey says. “Even cloud-native thought leaders will readily admit that there's no magic bullet that you can use to solve every problem. You still have to use the right tool for the right job, and since these tools are increasingly cloud technologies and typically from more than one cloud platform or provider, you're looking for cloud integrators to tie it all together.”

Data scientist and data engineer

Some argue that the growth of data science and machine learning has led to a demand for new positions that more accurately describe the work being done.

“The market is starting to get a better understanding of data science,” says Alvaro Oliveira, vice presidents of talent operations at Toptal. “And that’s causing multiple roles to exist underneath it instead of a single role — for instance, data engineers, who are closer to computer science, and data scientists, who make meaning out of the data but don’t have a typical computer science background.”

Flavio Villanustre, head of HPCC systems at LexisNexis Risk Solutions, agrees that data scientists — along with data analysts and modelers — are difficult to find and specialization is likely to continue.

“Data science has become more complex, broader and more involved, as it’s difficult for a single individual to possess all of the required knowledge,” Villanustre says. “Whether pursuing a career as a data analyst, a statistical modeler, or a data scientist — a subset of the two — there will be continuous career opportunities.”

Ali Ghodsi, CEO and co-founder of Databricks, describes yet another role — machine learning engineer — which he calls “a portmanteau between a data engineer and data scientist. Companies who are looking for machine learning engineers typically want somebody who is good at the data science aspects of machine learning, but who are also engineers that are good at building and running systems. Companies who are hiring these positions are ahead of the game, and because of its importance to successful AI/ML projects, it’s only a matter of time until it becomes a position as common as a data scientist.”

Recruiters and hiring managers will have a hard time placing these positions because of the expertise required, says Ken Underhill, master instructor at Cybrary.

“There’s a lack of qualified candidates for these roles,” Underhill says. “Educational institutions are pushing to close the cyber talent gap — traditional universities and online sites, like Cybrary, Udacity, Coursera, etc. — however some experience of these roles is still needed to fully understand the intricacies involved in these areas.”

Robotics and cryptocurrency engineer

Along with more predictable roles like chief security officer, John Barrett, a partner at executive search firm ON Partners, says there’s increased demand — and short supply — for robotics engineering and cryptocurrency engineering roles.

“CISOs have been in increasing demand for the past few years and have become more plentiful in the marketplace. However, these other new high-demand roles are very difficult to fill. For example, VPs of robotics engineering need to have knowledge of the development and production of automated equipment, [machine-to-machine], manufacturing operations and AI. And VPs of cryptocurrency need to have first-hand experience with know-your-customer and anti-money laundering regulations. The talent pools related to these two positions are still very small relative to the increasing demand,” he says.

Network architect

Cassie Pike, senior vice president of client services at Cielo, says network architects and administrators are the two positions they’re finding hardest to fill. And they’ve noticed a steep increase in postings since 2017.

“Companies are continuing to invest in newer, better, faster technology networks, and employment within these functions is growing year-over-year. However, many candidates are leaning toward more alluring IT roles, like cybersecurity. Demand for information technology workers is high overall," she says.

Full-stack engineer

Web users are increasingly demanding more robust, app-like consumer experiences, which has led to strong demand for front- and back-end web developers — and even more for those who combine those skills as full-stack engineers.

“Technologies like progressive web apps are bringing the web experience closer to native on mobile platforms,” says Gautam Agrawal, senior director of product management at Sencha. “And it won't be long before web is the preferred choice for mobile app development, especially in the enterprise, for all the obvious benefits of cross-platform development.”

Familiarity with open-source platforms is key, says Candace Murphy, IT recruiting manager at Addison Group. “Larger trends in open source development are growing. This trend is driven by companies moving away from the traditional platforms that require licensing fees.”

AI and deep learning engineer

As AI speeds how we work with massive amounts of data and converts it into actionable insights, the area is starved for new talent. Corporate and consumer interest are on the rise in areas like automation and autonomous driving, which means engineers with deep learning experience are hard to find.

“Today there is a huge demand for AI and deep learning related work with very limited supply, and the pay is extremely good — in fact, overpaid sometimes,” says Subbu Rama, CEO of Bitfusion. “So that’s a good area to focus on.”

And if you’re thinking of investing in a shift, rest assured: The demand for engineers with AI, machine learning, and deep learning chops doesn’t look to be slowing anytime soon.

“With the intense focus on predictive analytics, deep learning, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, these positions should remain relevant for years to come,” says Villanustre.

If you want to set yourself apart, work toward finding solutions using deep learning for domains that don’t start out with massive amounts of data to model from.

“To the best of our knowledge, it’s not clear how we can build machine learning models where only limited amount of data is available,” says Mehdi Samadi, CTO of Solvvy. “This is currently limiting the types of intelligent applications that we expect to see in the near future. The solution to this problem is either to find approaches that help us to generate data, or building more robust machine learning models which can learn from limited data. Transfer learning algorithms, learning from the data available in other domains in order to perform well in a new domain,” is a promising area for engineers, says Samadi.

Security analyst

Jeff Friess, practice leader of cybersecurity for Global Executive Solutions Group, says firms are so concerned about cybersecurity breaches — which may cost companies millions of dollars per incident — that there are many more open jobs than professionals to fill them.

“In the United States, an estimated 2 million positions will be left unfilled by 2020,” Friess says. “With the struggle to hire in-house cybersecurity talent, organizations open themselves up to hacking, data breaches, and ransomware attacks.”

Security analysts need to be generalists with skills that are broader than deep, he says, with the ability to work in various areas of the company doing the hiring. “They should be able to think strategically and see the big picture regarding information security, and have the necessary interpersonal skills to deal with stakeholders and speak to board members.”

IoT engineer

IoT devices are overwhelming companies with data, much of it unstructured, and firms want to find ways to collect and make sense of that information in a timely way.

“The internet of things is where the world of technology is going,” says Dino Grigorakakis, vice president of recruiting at Randstad. “Working as an IoT engineer has a lot of current and future opportunity, the position is often competitively compensated, and experience with IoT will prepare candidates to move forward within the information technology industry even if they choose to move away from working directly with the internet of things.”

VR/AR developer

Aymen Sayed, chief product officer for CA Technologies, sees opportunities for tech pros in virtual reality and augmented reality simulation and training, which should mean more roles for AR and VR developers — both in development and security.

“The integration of the next wave of apps requires immense coordination and security across systems, data centers, and applications,” Sayed says. “Companies will begin to realize incredible efficiencies and cost savings by leveraging immersive enterprise apps. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2020, augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality immersive solutions will be a part of 20 percent of enterprise’s digital transformation strategy.”

Scott Chasin, former McAfee CTO and now CEO of ProtectWise, touts VR-based cybersecurity as both a better way to identify threats and a means to attract new security analysts using an immersive experience they’re familiar with.

“Analysts will become infinitely more effective at responding to incidents and detecting anomalies,” says Chasin, whose company is developing a VR-based cybersecurity app. “And enterprises will better be able to bridge the talent gap by tapping into a new generation of analysts for whom sensory-rich, immersive, and virtual environments are second nature.”

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