Machine learning. As companies work to build software such as spam-filtering, collaborative-filtering and fraud-detection applications that seek patterns in jumbo-size data sets, there is more need for people with machine-learning expertise, or the ability to design and develop algorithms and techniques to improve a computer’s performance. Demand is expanding for data mining, statistical modeling and data structure skills, among others. “Companies are snapping up these skills as fast as they can grab them,” Scott says.
Mobile applications. The race to deliver content over mobile devices is akin to the wild days of the Internet in the ’90s, says Sean Ebner, vice president of professional services at Spherion Pacific Enterprises LLC, a recruitment firm in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. With devices like BlackBerries and Treos becoming more important as business tools, companies need people who are adept at extending applications like ERP, procurement and expense approval systems to mobile devices, he says.
Wireless networking. With the proliferation of de facto wireless standards such as Wi-Fi, WiMax and Bluetooth, securing transmissions is top of mind for IT employers, says Neill Hopkins, vice president of skills development at the Computing Technology Industry Association. “Companies are concerned about how these [wireless technologies] all fit together and the security risks, which are much bigger than on wired networks,” he says.
Human-computer interface. There will be a growing demand for skills in designing user interfaces for Web and desktop applications. Thanks to companies like Apple Inc., “consumers are increasingly seeing well-designed products,” Scott says. “Why shouldn’t they demand that in every piece of software they use?”
Project management. Project management is a perennial hot skill, but the new wrinkle is the need to demonstrate actual expertise in this arena. “Job reqs are coming in for ‘true project managers,’ not just people who have that title,” says Grant Gordon, managing director at staffing firm Intronic Solutions Group in Overland Park, Kan. Employers want in-the-trenches experience, Gordon says. “The right candidates are fewer and farther between, and those that are there can be more picky on salaries and perks,” he says.
General networking. No matter where you work in IT, you can’t escape the network, so non-networking professionals need a basic understanding of networking concepts. At the very least, they should brush up on basics, such as TCP/IP, Ethernet and fiber optics, and have a working knowledge of distributed and networked computing.
Network convergence. With more companies implementing voice over IP, there’s a call for network administrators who understand LANs, WANs, voice technologies, the Internet and how they all converge.
Open-source programming. There’s been an uptick in employers interested in hiring open-source talent
Business intelligence. Momentum is also building around BI, creating demand for people who know how to apply technologies from companies like Cognos Inc., Business Objects SA and Hyperion Solutions Corp. to the business. “Clients are making significant investments in business intelligence,” Ebner says. “But they don’t need pure technicians creating scripts and queries. To be a skilled data miner, you need hard-core functional knowledge of the business you’re trying to dissect.”
Embedded security. The trend to integrate security into day-to-day operations has yielded a surge in employers looking for security skills and certifications in all IT job applicants.
If I was to pick three of these that can make a huge difference in the future, they would be
- Human-Computer interface, although I see that evolving as well as the concept of an OS and its apps start to blur with the network we work in.
- Network convergence, wireless and mobile - relevant as all three are independently, they are also closely interrelated and will play a key role in defining how applications are "aware" of each other and work together.
- Business Intelligence, although has been much talked about for ages is coming of age due to better data mining tools and techniques.