Evaluating tech skills needs for 2017 – analytics, security, and soft skills rule the day


Tech skills data is full of false promises and over-hyped salaries. But if you dig, you’ll find important clues to emerging skills – and where enterprise projects are headed. Here’s my opinionated review of 2017 tech skills projections.

magnifying-glassWhen I last hit on tech skills, I asked whether AI, low code and big data will justify the hype in 2017. Alas, the answer was not a simple yes or no. The debate with Experts Exchange COO Gene Richardson did bring clarity to the tech skills that are fading – and which are emerging.

For employers, an effective tech skills plan combines internal mentorship with judicious use of external consultants and platforms. With changing rules on work visas hanging in the air, it’s never been more important for companies to grapple with the tech skills they should be cultivating internally. That also means expanding ideas on where to find talent. Example: Why veterans can fill your company’s tech skills gap.

For individuals, the challenge is to add the skills that elevate your ability to contribute. That’s a dizzying canvas of possibility, from user experience design to enhancing the business side via MBA programs. AI, big data, and IoT obviously loom large – but can you splash such things onto your existing skills, or does it require a whole different specialization to get involved? Another danger for individuals: “hot skills” articles featuring grossly-inflated salaries for deceptively narrow skills (Yeah, you can probably make $124K in Silicon Valley for expert PHP skills, but good luck finding that where I live).

With so-called “hot skills,” timing is everything. It’s possible to get too far in front of what employers need – Virtual Reality being a prime example of a much-hyped area you’re supposed to master, even though it lacks broad adoption.

LinkedIn’s top skills for 2017 – my annotated review

For a gut check, I looked at new studies and year-end skills data from LinkedIn, Dice, and others. Here’s what I found. Last quarter, LinkedIn released The Top Skills That Can Get You Hired In 2017, based on LinkedIn site activity. Here’s the global view:


from LinkedIn’s Top Skills That Can Get You Hired In 2017.

Most of these skills are the usual suspects of our cloud/mobile/web existence. But a few stood out. LinkedIn’s Catherine Fisher called attention to these trends:

1. Demand for marketers is slowing. “While marketing skills like marketing campaign management, SEO/SEM, and channel marketing were in high demand in 2015, things have changed. This year, SEO/SEM dropped five spots from #4 to #9 and marketing campaign management dropped completely off the list.”

MyPOV: a deceptive state in my view. Yes, demand for traditional marketing skills is probably in the slow lane. But the ability to create content that sparks audiences, and the ability to pull that opt-in data into a new relationship with sales – well, those skills are as needed as they are hard to find.

2. Data and cloud reign supreme. Cloud and distributed computing has remained in the #1 spot for the past two years and is the Top Skill on almost every list — including France, Germany, India, Ireland, Singapore, the U.S., and Spain. Following closely on its heels is statistical analysis and data mining, which came in #2 last year, and #1 in 2014.”

MyPOV: I believe all tech pros now need an analytical component: the ability to design and configure tools that help the business make better sense of data. The latter part is the rub – empowering business users with the data they need means more than pretty charts. Where it gets tough is: when do you specialize in data? Data science, for example, requires a full immersion – it’s not an add-on skill.

3. User interface design is the new black. “User interface design (#5) ranked #14 in 2014, #10 last year, and #5 this year (second largest jump on this year’s Global Top Skills of 2016 list). Data has become central to many products, which has created a need for people with user interface design skills who can make those products easy for customers to use.”

MyPOV: Design chops matter. This is similar to data/analytics in that all tech pros should have some ability to work with designers. The big skill isn’t actually design – it’s knowing how to create product in a collaborative way that involves business users from the get-go. But just like with data, true experience design is a specialization unto itself.

Computerworld survey standouts – security and project management

One big miss from the list: security. That did show up on Computerworld’s 2017 jobs forecast report. In 10 hottest tech skills for 2017, Computerworld broke out the skills winners. 26 percent of employers cited security as a skill they plan to hire for in the next twelve months. Security comes with a slew of certifications and clearances – this is one area where the more credentials you have, the better off you are. Even those who don’t specialize in security need to understand how to design for security and how IoT-era devices change security vulnerabilities.

The rest of the Computerworld list is pretty much in sync with LinkedIn’s. One difference: project management, a need cited by 25 percent of Computerworld respondents as a pending need the next twelve months. Project management does have one go-to certification, the PMP, that anyone in pursuit of a project management career path should consider.

The problem with project management: it means different things to different companies. I always encourage tech pros to add team lead skills without abandoning their hands-on skill set. Leaving hands-on work for project management is a serious career crossroads.

More views and data – a quick hit roundup

  • CIO’s 10 tech skills that will boost your salary. Be wary of lists like these – too many narrow items like Apache Hive. Tools come and go, advice like this will have you chasing your tail.
  • Real Skills You’ll Need for A.I. and Machine Learning – The piece from Dice.om is better – no lists of tools to master, but useful nuance on adapting to “intelligent thinking”, working with algorithms, understanding business needs.
  • CIOs: Tech Pros Need to Work on Soft Skills – Another reminder from Dice. Money quote: “Soft skills are more than just the ability to communicate. Flexibility in the face of changing circumstances, engagement with multidisciplinary teams, and even customer service are all necessary skills.”
  • Most In-Demand Skills and Certifications of 2016 – Skepticism of certifications is encouraged. Yes it matters in security and project management, and for certain vendors like Cisco. Otherwise don’t assume the certification will open the door.
  • The Hottest Tech Skills for 2017 – Oracle University took LinkedIn’s skills projections and tied them into the relevant Oracle technologies to master. This is useful for Oracle pros, and you could do a corresponding list for most vendors that would help you to combine, say, mobile development with the specific tools your vendor community needs.

Final thoughts

I hope this review gave employers and job seekers something new to consider for 2017. There isn’t one skills map to follow. We’ve had debates on diginomica about the degree of specialization versus generalization needed. One thing I will not waver on: the best tech pros straddle the fence between tech and business and speak in terms the user can understand.

Diverse skills are usually a plus, but you must have a burning pursuit of mastery. Just what to master, and how to wrap that mastery in collaborative abilities – well, that’s the secret sauce we all have to find. It’s not available off the shelf – you have to concoct your own.

Image credit - Curious school boy with magnifier © adam121 - Fotolia.com. LinkedIn graphic credited under pic.

Disclosure - Oracle is a diginomica premier partner.

    Comments are closed.

    1. greg misiorek says:

      Hi Jon,

      Dice had a nice and detailed IT skill salary ‘survey’ in 2016 where HANA topped them all, but i haven’t seen any updates for 2017. i’m not a big fan of LinkedIn, esp after they got bought by Microsoft and started peddling all the unrelated ‘stuff’.

      thx for the update,

      1. Jon Reed says:

        Greg Dice hasn’t updated that survey from last year that had HANA ranked at the top of the pay scale. I didn’t like that survey much – at least the results they shared weren’t too enlightening and tended to feature ridiculous rates for a handful of products in infographic form.

        I share your views on LinkedIn’s questionable moves with Microsoft, something I’ve already written about, but LinkedIn still has access to a huge amount of data on job seekers and hiring tendencies, so that’s useful here.

        – Jon

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