Which are going to be the best IT jobs to have in five or 10 years’ time? The chronic lack of IT professionals in this country is so severe that I’d be tempted to say that virtually any computing job is likely to be a good one, but new tech trends are likely to create thousands of new jobs.

It’s also important to recognise that it will become even more essential for SMEs to beef up their digital skills. Your company’s future will rely on you having people who are adept at grasping the opportunities and understanding the issues presented by emerging technologies.

Immediate Tech Trends

I can see two clear segments in the tech sector that will suck in talented people for at least the next five years and probably beyond: data security and data science.

Today, the safety of a company’s data is so important that a breach could threaten the very survival of the business. So, with cyber-crime the fastest-growing economic crime in the UK, security specialists are worth their weight in gold. Cyber security experts are in high demand and are also the hardest to find, according to a survey by an IT recruitment firm.

The global cyber security workforce shortage is set to grow even further, to 1.5 million by 2020, as more companies wake up to the need to protect their systems from attack, estimates the latest Global Information Security Workforce Study. For a job in this field, become a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) – it’s the key to unlock a world of opportunity.

One technology that could slow this need down is Artificial Intelligence. Over time, AI will be increasingly used in information security and will eventually take the edge off the need for ever-larger numbers of well-qualified humans. But, this is still a long way off.

Another massive growth area is data science. Big Data has been described as the “new oil” that will fuel our economy in the years ahead. But what is needed are people to refine that oil into the fuel to drive companies forward. The objective of a data scientist is, of course, to make Big Data small! UK companies will generate 346,000 big data jobs by 2020, but data scientists are already thin on the ground – they are the hardest professional or managerial jobs to fill in a company, and those already working in this field are facing burnout because of the increasing demands being put on them.

It’s a job that requires being good with numbers, but also a sense of curiosity as well as an ability to solve problems. It also needs people with vivid imaginations, who can think about what the future holds – the eternal “What if?”

It’s no exaggeration to say that a company’s ability to compete in the knowledge economy hinges on being able to hire people who are good at managing data, so it’s a gap that desperately needs to be filled. If you’re one of those people, you can be sure of an interesting, and well-remunerated career.

Longer Term Tech Jobs

So, what kind of jobs will be created as the latest tech developments play out?

Talking to a group of very well informed tech business leaders recently, I asked them what they thought the tech jobs of the future would be. Their response was that many of the top jobs of the future haven’t actually got names yet. The consensus was that roles with the rough title of “making stuff work together” would predominate. A better (though still not very elegant) description of these roles would be “cloud infrastructure integrators”.

Most companies, including a lot of small businesses don’t or won’t acquire in-house hardware and software, but will instead use off-the-shelf cloud-based packages, usually from a variety of suppliers. Getting programmes from different suppliers to operate together seamlessly is no mean feat, and who ever that job falls to in an organisation will soon find they’ll play a pivotal role in its future success.

People who know overall systems’ design and architecture, business process definition and adherence, together with advanced systems integration engineering will be in bigger demand than ever.

These are people who are capable of taking a blank sheet of paper and designing the optimal way for a company to work, then creating processes to achieve that design, whether for existing or brand new businesses. They’re the ones who can combine vision with nous to create the business disruptors, like Amazon. They’re always thinking about what will happen next, and what are the new gadgets and systems that could help a business to thrive and grow? Two that are likely to have the most impact in the coming years are AI and robotics.

These are two new technologies that no business can afford to ignore, however scary this may seem. We generate an enormous amount of data in our everyday working lives, which will be analysed to understand whether what we do and how we do it can be changed or improved. And yes, that may lead to the conclusion that the job could be done quicker and more efficiently by a robot than by one of us. It’s the task of advanced systems engineers to consider and often implement such technologies, eventually as a matter of routine.

There’s been a lot said about robots taking our jobs. In reality it’s been happening for decades – look at the car or food industries, for example – and there have been predictions that tens, even hundreds of millions of jobs will be taken by robots by the middle of this century.

There’s still some way to go before robots start to drive humans out of jobs, as there’s still a lot of work to be done by humans to teach robots what to do. But what I call ‘humanetics’ — the tight and eventually integrated combination of humanity and technology – isn’t far away. How long will it be before the average worker wears a microprocessor while doing their job? And how long will it be before that microprocessor is embedded under that person’s skin —or in their head?

Which jobs will be taken first?

Some experts argue that we shouldn’t worry too much, because workers will be moved, rather than replaced by machines, moving to new jobs. Others disagree, saying that computers will become so advanced that the notion of humans doing the more intellectually demanding jobs no longer holds. I was interested to read that Bill Gates advocates taxing robots and using the money to offer social security safety nets and to retrain people to do jobs that require understanding and empathy – human traits, he believes, that machines will never master. Certainly something has to happen in the longer term to soften the effect on society as a whole.

Although robots are unlikely to really start taking lots of people’s jobs for a decade or two yet, the writing is on the wall much sooner for some jobs. For example, with self-driving vehicles seemingly just around the corner, then the immediate future for taxi, bus or lorry drivers doesn’t look good.

So what does this mean for SMEs?

Small businesses shouldn’t think they would be immune to these influences. Think for a moment: how much of your daily work is pretty mundane? Does that task really need you, or any other human, to perform it? There are few jobs that couldn’t be done to some extent or other by a robot.

Even if what you make or do doesn’t change, how you interact with your customers is likely to, especially if you supply goods and products to a big company. Their processes will undoubtedly change, and they will demand changes from their suppliers, which are likely to have a big impact on your business.

So even though your business might not be able to afford to hire a Chief Information Security Officer, or a data scientist or a business process guru, you will need someone who can effectively do these jobs for you.

Just as I’ve said how every small business will need someone who thinks about their data security then they will also need someone who thinks about how the latest technology can be used to streamline their process or to give them a competitive edge.

You don’t need to have all of the skills within your business, but you do need to know enough about how this new technology might change your industry and have the nous to hire someone with the skills to enable your company to ride those waves, rather than being swept away by them.

The more I think about the new technologies being developed and the potential impact on business, the more I’m inclined to agree that many of the jobs of the future haven’t been given titles yet. Aside from the seeming rocket science of robotics, AI and data science there are hundreds of thousands of jobs for those systems people who really see the operational future of data and process control.

The best IT jobs of the future are likely to be those which involve looking ahead and understanding what systems will be required in tomorrow’s business world, and to create and operate those. We need to think about how we currently do business and to think whether in the future that could be done without humans. Businesses will increasingly fall into three categories: creators, passengers, or victims of the future? Which one do you want to be?

 

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