Tech & Work

IT job skills for 2015: What IT professionals need to know

Gear up for the new year with these 5 job roles and skills in IT. Industry experts talk about security, soft skills, and other in-demand areas of the field.

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Tech is a moving target. 2015 will be no exception. That means keeping up with the jobs and skills on the rise through the end of this year and into the next.

With regard to more specific skills rather than job roles, it's important to to stay sharp. James Stanger, senior director of product management at CompTIA, recommended picking a technology and learning about what the next step for that technology is.

"If you're working with an all Windows system, start learning about the next version of Windows, or the next wave of virtualized Windows, or some of the security aspects of the system that you're working in," he said to name a few. "If you're a security person and you're very good at open source material, I would suggest you look into proprietary tools, just so you know how the other side lives."

While some companies worry that they'll train employees only so they can ask for raises or find better jobs, Stanger said in talking with bigger companies like Dell or Rico, they find the training builds loyalty. So, his response to "What if we train them and they go?" is "What if you don't and they stay?"

For employees, of course, there's no shortage of online courses. Matt Walden, partner at Infinity Consulting Solutions in New York, said self-learning is an increasingly common approach to learning new skills.

"If you're in a company that's got it, get on it, if they don't give it to you, take it," he said.

Here are five job roles and IT skills of importance for 2015.

Desktop support

While desktop support is one of the most fundamental roles in IT, it doesn't look the same as it did 10 or 20 years ago. Stanger said the job has changed from fixing PCs to troubleshooting network connectivity issues, figuring out login problems, and dealing with applications that don't function correctly.

"What's happened is the skill set has migrated and morphed, moved on," Stanger said.

One reason for the change is that PCs have gotten less expensive, he said, and when they break, much like mobile phones, you generally don't fix them.

Another reason why the role is increasing in demand, said John Reed executive director of Robert Half, is the various new technologies continually being introduced into businesses.

"The computing environment continues to get more and more complex. There's more technologies, there's more tools and things that are being introduced into the IT environment for most companies. They need people to not only maximize the efficiency of those tools, but help them actually use it and support them as they're trying to get comfortable with integrating that technology into their day-to-day work life," he said.

Database management

There's a lot of hype about data, but it can be a powerful thing when effectively used.

"Companies realize there's a lot of power in all of these data they're collecting. We can figure out a way to harness that maybe and use that, and put it back in the hands of the business group to help them make better business decisions and really spot trends," Reed said.

For Stanger, any role that works toward corralling data is a good bet, as well as the associated technologies, plus both database administration and database design.

"A good database person, if they can move into understanding MongoDB — kind of the stereotypical approach — understanding not only Oracle or IBM DB, but also MongoDB, NoSQL databases, and even object oriented databases is very important," he said.

Security

"Security, security, security," Walden said.

It's not news, but it's definitely not getting less important.

"We had major issues this year, obviously, JP morgan, Home Depot, Target... from the low level to the high level from identity access management to physical infrastructure, to firewall, to any type of security is going to continue to be the no. 1 hot thing," Walden said.

Stanger had similar thoughts.

"Specifically in security, what I'm finding is threat management and the ability to configure your systems so they are monitoring the proper threshold of attack," he said.

Monitoring is extremely important — know when there's a problem and when when there's not.

Project management and soft skills

"When most people think of IT, they think of the geeks who either create code or the geeks who work on the PCs or create the firewalls, but increasingly we find project management to be a very, very important thing," Stanger said.

Through research, as well as upticks CompTIA has seen in project management certifications, they believe it's a trend to watch.

IT is expensive — equipment, licensing, software. When it comes to IT projects, companies need the assurance that things are going to run on schedule.

"Otherwise, you have something that's already very expensive to balloon into something horrifically expensive," Stanger said.

Versatility

That point ties into something else Stanger discussed — IT professionals need to be more versatile. Find areas of crossover where you can end up increasing your value.

Stanger gave this example: "Just saying virtualization isn't good enough. If you can combine virtualization with a security background, you've got a great combination."

And the demands of evolving technology might necessitate this broader skill set.

"You'll either get hacked or you'll get replaced," he said.

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Erin Carson is a Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.

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