Business or technology? Mix of two levels of skills required to progress in the 2020s

Digital isn’t the only transformation taking place these days – there’s also a profound career transformation that’s reshaping the roles and aspirations of the people who are building the digital world. This is creating some confusion in the tech career space, as tech professionals are told that they should pay more attention to developing business skills rather than deep tech knowledge.

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Photo: Joe McKendrick

As technology managers and professionals move into more business-focused roles, they must also bring their technology skills to the table. “Some technologists who want to stay in the field with deployment and innovation” – and that’s fine, says Haluk Saker, Senior Vice President for Booz Allen Hamilton. “Companies are embracing deep technical leadership and recognizing the value that senior IT engineers bring to executive-level discussions and decision-making. For those who are passionate technologists, who want to stay in the trenches, it It’s important to find companies and cultures that have made technical leadership a priority.”

To fix the issues with technology, “it’s not going to be a new fix or a new feature,” Saker says. “Tomorrow’s leaders will need to have a dual purpose that balances technical expertise with mission immersion.”

Welcome to the era of the Renaissance tech professional, who must have two skill levels, allowing them to look at problems from both a technical and a human perspective. The enterprise of the 2020s demands it, experts in the enterprise technology landscape agree.

Technology skill requirements have not gone away, but the focus has shifted from basic work on coding, integration and systems performance to now include creating business value. Get to know the company, advise industry watchers. “It’s important to start learning about the financials, business processes, and other strategies that make up the full cycle of your product or solution for your organization,” says Nag Vaidyanathantechnical director at Duck Creek Technologies. “How you collaborate with other functions is critical to the results you can achieve.”

“I have a background in software development, and for much of my career the challenge was figuring out how to make the 1s and 0s work,” says Saker. “Today, with technologies such as the cloud and other digital capabilities, development teams look quite different and there is an increasingly empowered user base. User experience and design are become even more important than in the past.”

Moving forward into the 2020s, “it’s important for IT professionals to stay true to who we are as creative problem solvers,” says Vaidyanathan. “We’re used to learning new things, trying new things, and failing at new things. We’re also very familiar with collaborating and iterating to always improve and always find a better solution.”

This involves emphasizing “the skills that generate revenue and growth for an organization”, explains David Moodysenior partner of Schellman. “It’s not the hot skills of the latest popular app or technology, but rather the fundamental skills that create those apps and technologies.”

This means rethinking the roles and composition of technology teams within companies. “Some of my best performers have degrees in music and art,” Saker points out. “It’s exciting to see different backgrounds come together to better serve customers.”

The rise of AI and automation means there is a need to “understand the key roles and values ​​of humans in running an increasingly automated business,” Moody says. Otherwise, companies “will find themselves in a situation where the machines spin the business model, leaving the company in an exposed position when the environment changes. We have already seen vivid examples of this with some of the supply chain disruptions. supply in recent years, where just-in-time smart technologies have not coped well with the unintended consequences of a pandemic, which have been exacerbated by the lack of key personnel who have understood how to adapt and correct the changes radicals.

Significantly, because technology is changing so rapidly, professionals and managers need to hone their “problem-solving skills versus language-specific skills,” advises Saker. “IT professionals should be focused on learning, disrupting the status quo, and continuing to build skills in different areas that interest them. This type of professional, with an innate curiosity and an aptitude to grow as a leader and influencer, is the one who can face head-on the most difficult challenges of tomorrow.”

All technology professionals should also have deep analytical skills to support their business skills. “There is a huge shortage of people with strong math skills, often underestimated as a valuable computer skill,” says Moody. “As well as being the cornerstone of programming algorithms, the skills and practice of mathematics foster strong analytical thinking in architectural design, problem solving, testing, and performance benchmarking. security and risk benefits greatly from sound mathematical analysis. Such skills provide a tremendous set of general tools for the IT professional that will set them apart from the rest of the IT crowd.”

Analytics is a powerful area of ​​opportunity for tech professionals, agrees Vaidyanathan. “Every day, more and more data is flowing into the business, creating a number of opportunities to do more with data analytics, to create new machine learning and modeling capabilities. AI, and to create new actions and workflows that creatively use data to drive action.Previously, much of the value was found in writing code to make something work – but This expectation is changing very quickly.”

Margie D. Carlisle