2020 has been an unprecedented year for technology. The disruption caused by COVID-19 quickly forced organisations to reprioritise their technology objectives and strategies overnight to enable them to operate in a newly remote environment.
But it isn’t just how and where employees work that has drastically altered. In the space of just a few short months there have also been huge changes in the ways customers browse for and purchase products and services, and their attitudes towards brands. This change in consumer behaviour has resulted in companies having to completely rethink their entire propositions and approach. This, in turn, has led them to use technology, data and analytics in new and expanded ways.
Due to these drastic changes, there is now an even greater reliance on technology to ultimately enable organisations, their people and their consumers to adapt and thrive in this new world.
There’s no question that cybersecurity is currently a top priority among CEOs and business leaders, especially given that the annual cost of cybercrime looks set to hit $6 trillion by 2021. This rise in cybercrime is prompting a sharp increase in cybersecurity spending as businesses look to protect themselves by taking on talented professionals in this field.
In addition, many security issues have arisen from our new blended way of working – whether that’s user issues around behaviour, technical issues arising from people working from home using their personal devices, or even using company hardware while battling against an unprecedented volume of users.
It’s going to be a challenge to fill all of the new vacancies, as an estimated 3.1 million professionals will be required in the next 12 months to bridge the global cybersecurity talent gap. Therefore, cybersecurity will account for many of the fastest-growing jobs for tech professionals in 2021, including Security Operations; Governance, Risk and Compliance; Identity and Privileged Access Management; Cloud Security and Architecture. As teams expand, other jobs in demand will include leadership roles such as Chief or Manager of Information Security.
Organisations across all industries have been widely migrating to cloud solutions this year to allow for hybrid working – with Computer Weekly reporting that 82 per cent of global IT leaders have increased their use of cloud as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
However, circumstances at the onset of the pandemic meant that initial migrations were typically very quick in order to get all employees online as soon as possible. Therefore, organisations now need to take the time to ensure these systems are robust and as optimised as they could and should be.
We can therefore expect Cloud Engineers and Cloud Architects to be among the top tech jobs in 2021. Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure are the two primary skills here, with about 80 per cent of the market using these. I predict that demand in this area will be acute and supply will be limited, so it’s certainly a hot area to be working in.
Data science is all about analysing and interpreting complex data, thereby helping organisations to make better, more informed and more timely decisions. To do that, Data Scientists draw upon skills and knowledge such as a strong understanding of machine learning algorithms, the creation of data models, and the ability to pick out business issues and suggest suitable solutions.
So, what’s a ‘real world’ example of data science proving its worth for organisations? Well, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that since the pandemic forced many gyms worldwide to close, there has been a huge increase in people buying smart devices to track their health while working out at home. Changes like this – changes in the way we live our everyday lives – have led to many of us placing greater reliance on our devices, meaning organisations have even more data available to them. And with more data comes the need for more people to analyse it.
Data Analysts and Data Scientists will therefore be high on the list of the hottest tech jobs over the coming 12 months. In fact, the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020 listed Data Analysts and Scientists as the top job roles that are increasing in demand across all industries – not just in the fitness industry. For example, the health-tech company LetsGetChecked recently announced a huge number of data science positions following a year of unprecedented growth.
I expect to see the same story in the EdTech and MedTech industries too, as old data and models cease to reflect our new world, creating a need to develop and interpret new ones. After all, a core element of any platform is the insights it can provide, and organisations need data people for that.
In the words of AWS, “DevOps is the combination of cultural philosophies, practices, and tools that increases an organisation’s ability to deliver applications and services at high velocity”. A key characteristic of a DevOps model is development and operations teams no longer being “siloed”, sometimes even being brought together to form a single team.
In practice, you’ll tend to find DevOps Engineers working with software production, keeping a close eye on code releases to look for areas of inefficiency in the software. Their role can include not just monitoring and troubleshooting software, but also editing or reconfiguring it if required.
The importance of DevOps certainly won’t change in 2021. Many more organisations now have a DevOps team than was the case just a few years ago, so there will continue to be jobs in demand in this field, such as Platform, Build, and Reliability Engineers. In fact, there’s been a 40 to 45 per cent growth in the market over the last five years, with DevOps Zone predicting this will rise even higher
To successfully transition and adapt to radically shifting markets, organisations need developers to create new products, tools and services. This includes not only Back-end Developers who can build the heavier tech, but also the Front-end Developers – including UX – who can make sure any product that’s built is easy to use and navigate from both a design and build perspective.
Those Developers working for tech organisations – organisations which provide essential products, services or tools which consumers will always need in this new world – will be particularly high in demand. Take the video conferencing company, Zoom for example, which has boomed during the course of the pandemic, benefiting from a massive increase in profits whilst doubling its sales forecast.
But Software Developers aren’t just key to allowing tech companies to operate and thrive. Every company in every industry relies on tech to allow them to function – the taxi company Uber, for instance, relies on tech to enable drivers to pick up riders. In today’s world, it’s tech that powers organisations, so software developers will always be high in demand. It’s important to note, too, that these software development roles will also be absolutely crucial in enabling organisations to innovate to solve the many new problems that have emerged as a result of the pandemic.
Many of the technologies, skills and jobs I’ve mentioned so far are newer focuses for companies – trends that have been accelerated by the pandemic. It will therefore be critical for businesses to manage all this change successfully if they are to thrive in 2021.
Every customer I’ve spoken to recently is on this change management journey – whether that’s building their own solutions, buying them in, or a blend of both. And therefore, people with agile methodology are going to be essential.
Change Facilitators and Change Managers are the people who are making all this possible; they’re the ones moving everything from analogue to digital right now. Or in some cases, they’re working with third parties to bring their products and services into organisations.
Overall, it’s clear that during this past year, we’ve seen a huge shift in dynamics across not only the tech world, but our working world as a whole. And in order for organisations to thrive in the new era of work, it is essential that they are equipped in all six areas I’ve discussed.
What’s equally clear is that this shift will continue into 2021 and beyond, with both employers and jobseekers needing to be prepared. The skills and jobs that have become imperative this year are here to stay and will only accelerate in demand in the months and years ahead.
James Milligan is the Global Head of Technology at Hays, having joined in 2000. In his role, he is responsible for the strategic development of Hays ‘ technology businesses globally.
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