Unusual job titles aren’t new in the IT world. Before the Twitter ninja and social media rockstar, before the webmaster was hired to conjure up HTML sorcery, there was the software evangelist, an IT job title that merged the worlds of sales and religion. In the early ’80s an Apple executive coined the term for an Apple marketer who would praise the first Macintosh to potential developers and customers.
Since then, as firms have looked to boost innovation, cut costs, or improve security, new IT job titles have been forged to catch attention and signal a possible way forward. Scan IT job sites like Glassdoor, Indeed or LinkedIn and you’ll see bizarre IT job one-offs – Microsoft, for example, has a chief storyteller, and Google a chief futurist -- but also hundreds of (somewhat) recent additions and with openings like innovation manager.
Here, we look at 7 new or newly focused IT positions that experts say may sound a bit strange but are needed in today’s workplace and are here to stay.
Cloud cost containment officer/negotiator
As the use of software as a service increases, companies are looking for someone to manage short-term and long-term cloud costs. This role typically requires someone with a mix of business and technical skills.
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Todd Loeppke, lead CTO architect for Sungard Availability Services, says the new title is significant in the context of large-scale cloud platforms from Microsoft, Amazon and Google. The position “requires insight into the native tools the platform provides -- like Trusted Advisor on AWS -- as well as computing options like reserve instances and the different term options that are available,” Loeppke says. “The use and management of a spot instance market [bidding on spare computing capacity at a discount] could also be included here.”
The role of this cloud steward, according to Joe Kinsella, CTO and founder of CloudHealth Technologies, may be expanded to include governance and compliance.
“This position will continue to gain traction in the enterprise,” Kinesella says. “I see this person reporting into a title such as the director of cloud strategy as their right-hand person that helps execute the strategy and business operations.”
CIoTO (chief IoT officer)
A chief IoT officer would be tasked with integrating new product development with the IT department, as new internet-connected products (and potentially systems across entire businesses) are developed.
Melissa Kolodziej, senior director at Attunity, sees this role appealing to larger companies that would hire CIoTOs to develop IoT strategy and initiatives.
“The IoT market and supporting technologies are changing and growing so fast,” Kolodziej says. “A competent senior leader can bring clarity so that organizations can benefit more quickly and easily from the comprehensive analytics that IoT feeds. Companies that do it right can make swift gains in competitive advantage now and into the future.”
Sungard’s Loeppke says a chief IoT officer will make sense for some companies, while others might prefer different titles to absorb massive amounts of data collected from IoT devices. A chief AI officer or chief bot officer, managing policy and practices, might make more sense.
“AI requires large data sets for learning, and who ‘owns’ that data will keep the legal department and chief data officer busy,” says Loeppke. “Terms and conditions that consumers readily accept for a free application on their phone will start to push more into the enterprise space since most services will need more data to provide more business value.”
Data protection officer
As the EU preps for its data protection law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), to go into effect next year, companies are considering whether they need new positions that will help them stay in compliance with the GDPR, which aims to provide digital privacy to those in Europe. One such title is data protection officer.
“Organizations like ours are building and maintaining a privacy program to better equip ourselves in the future for new regulations like GDPR,” says George Gerchow, VP of security and compliance at Sumo Logic. “If you have a privacy program that is effective, you can just absorb the new regulations and manage any gaps. We are also seeing the emergence of business security analysts who spend most of their time working lines of business on their project requirements and overall security posture DNA.”
Yann Guernion, director of product marketing at Automic Software, says it’s not clear whether the GDRP will affect job creation.
“The GDRP does not enforce having a full-time DPO. This is a responsibility an employee can have on top of other missions,” Guernion says. “It will mainly depend on how serious companies will be with their data management strategy -- just reaching the minimum level of compliance, or taking the opportunity to review critical processes and tools to reach higher levels of security and performance. With GDPR coming in less than one year, companies with better data automation might take a competitive advantage. As usual, speed is of the essence.”
Devops manager/VP of devops
Of the job titles here, devops managers are likely the most prevalent. There are thousands of postings for someone who can wrangle IT needs and development, with salaries ranging just below to mid six figures. Job descriptions list requirements like managing teams of engineers, tracking costs and tracking (and implementing) new technology.
“Devops manager is becoming more mainstream,” says Sungard’s Loeppke. “[The role is] especially important in large organizations where the use of automated testing and tools that manage code pipelines are still an unnatural approach.”
A number of listings we found also sought someone who can develop automation processes for troubleshooting and maintaining production systems and admin functions.
“The focus now is on development efficiency through automation,” says David Linthicum, senior VP of cloud technology partners, “and the ability to perform tasks more quickly and more effectively. Devops has been a big push for the last several years, and they require new roles to make devops organizations effective.”
Most IT pros say it’s not a matter of whether a company needs a penetration tester but what kind — and whether the hire is a full-time gig. Either way, the era of hackers on the payroll is upon us.
“Depending on the engagement, penetration testers might need to attack networks, hardware, applications, or the people that use those assets,” says Charles Henderson, global head of IBM X-Force Red. “Most offensive security professionals will have skills in social engineering, data exfiltration, software exploitation and vulnerability research. The traits of the penetration tester are actually far more valuable, since curiosity and ingenuity often outweigh technical skill.”
Henderson says there are two questions to ask before a hire is made: Is there enough work to keep a full-time penetration tester engaged? And would that person have the skills necessary to test every likely type of vulnerability?
“Some organizations might benefit from an in-house testing team if they have multiple projects running concurrently,” he says, “but most organizations require testing in bursts. The other consideration is that security testing requires highly specialized skillsets that are relevant to the project at hand. Using a managed service for security testing allows for flexible on-demand projects that are supported by the appropriate skills.”
Mike Fitzmaurice, VP of workflow technology at Nintex, comes down hard on the side of hiring outside testers.
“I would not recommend, under any circumstances, hiring them in-house,” Fitzmaurice says. “If you must, keep them out of the IT reporting chain. You can’t have penetration testers establish relationships with, well, anyone else. It would change the way they view your environment and any available threat vectors. Too much inside knowledge opens certain cognitive doors and inevitably closes off others. To protect IT from outsiders, you need people who think like outsiders. Hire outsiders and rotate them so different people are trying different things. This position should be in demand for a long time -- by security firms.”
The risks go beyond traditional networks and IoT devices, especially as more companies farm out services to the cloud.
“Ultimately it is the needs of the enterprise — post [the hacks of] Target and Home Depot — that really pushed penetration into the spotlight,” saysRuss Wickless of Schellman and Co.’s threat and vulnerability assessment team. “Penetration testing can range in duties across a broad spectrum of work. Engagements can be anything from testing applications in the cloud to an on premise social engineering exercise to test a company’s physical security.”
An innovation manager could wear different hats depending on the company — and some have argued innovation should be baked into each department as a matter of course. Nevertheless, the speed of change in business has some firms hiring an executive to keep an eye on emerging technology.
“Innovation managers are focused on defining and developing new processes, products or services,” says Cloud Technology Partners’ Linthicum. “Often working for the chief innovation officer, they are the ones that are asked to have their minds on the future, and think creatively.”
Gopinathan Padmanabhan, who is, in fact, a chief innovation officer (and president) of global delivery at IT services company Mphasis, argues the role of innovation manager is to seek out challenges — and find solutions by developing projects with business partners and customers.
“Developing cutting-edge IT needs to be fast,” Padmanabhan says. “Today’s competitive market requires a wide range of skills: digital strategy, development and user experience … data, research and operations — and that can be hard to find quickly. We find that working hand-in-hand with our partners allows us to build a strong talent pool. This role is critical for not only future-proofing our company with an experienced team, but to develop and maintain key relationships with our customers to deliver real business value and impact.”
Automation is, of course, an old tech standby, but as companies seek to automate their data centers, new challenges arise that require an actual human to address them. Job posting service ZipRecruiter says this job title saw nearly 500 percent growth from 2016 to 2017.
“Digital transformation has highlighted and emphasized the need for a holistic, comprehensive automation strategy,” says Neville Kroeger, product marketing manager at Automic Software. “Automation has always been the unsung hero of IT, working in the background to ensure applications are running as required. Today, however, applications have become the face of the enterprise and they have to be available, reliable and ever-improving. It’s universally agreed that effective automation in all areas of IT is an absolute requirement in order to achieve this. It’s absolutely critical that enterprises implement an automation strategy that will serve them now and in the future.”
Sungard’s Loeppke says the role of automation architect is now fundamental to devops — and he sees the role growing to address other departments.
“In the IT world, you often hear the phrase ‘Software is eating the world,’ meaning more and more companies are running on software. Automation of this software is critical for companies to maintain reliable environments while managing cost. The build-out and tear-down of infrastructure, deployment of code, and testing via automation are table stakes for success. An automation architect could be part of any team that’s writing code. In my opinion, the job might not call for a new hire, but rather additional training for existing teams — software development, operations, QA/test teams, etc.”
The position has staying power because it’s part of an evolution of technology that helps speed up business processes to stay competitive, says Automic’s Kroeger.
“Automation is a response to IT not being able to get things done fast enough,” he says. “Every day we are seeing new areas of IT that can benefit from automation and as IT becomes a more integral part of 'the business' we should expect this trend to continue for the foreseeable future. Without a solid, future-proof automation strategy in place, enterprises will no longer be able to compete in the digital economy. The strategy needs to be scalable, flexible, and comprehensive. In order to ensure that a viable strategy is implemented and, just as importantly, is maintained and enhanced, an automation architect should be high on every IT department's shopping list.”
Nintex’s Fitzmaurice sees the position benefiting nontechnical workers, and his company is bullish on the idea of these workers’ new ability to initiate some forms of automation on their own.
“To really make that work, someone needs to act as coach, facilitator, promoter, integrator and curator,” Fitzmaurice says. “Companies that have taken this to heart and positioned workflow and content automation as a standard business skill have — or need — people who train power users, create libraries of integration connectors and ready-to-use sub processes, keep an eye on what’s being built to see what can be promoted for wider reuse. As well as what could use some polite advice on how to improve it. The proactive parts of this — especially when it comes to integrating applications, data, content and devices — are where an automation architect can shine. In fact, this person should own your integration strategy. Unless you use a single application asset to run your entire business, you’re going to need this person in perpetuity.”