Top IT job skills for 2014: Big data, mobile, cloud, security

The IT job market is on the rise, and top jobs include anything in big data, mobile, cloud or security. Learn more about the latest hiring trends with TechRepublic's roundtable of IT executives and tech recruiters.

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Tech hiring trends vary year by year. The top IT hiring trends for 2014 include the driving need for IT security, the boom of big data, and more people embracing the cloud.

TechRepublic talked to several IT executives and tech recruiters in a roundtable to find out what they predict in tech hiring this year.

Roundtable participants:

  • Rona Borre, CEO and founder, Instant Technology
  • Sean Casey, co-founder and CTO, Shiftgig
  • Phil Foley, senior vice president of communications, NanoTech Entertainment
  • Shan Fowler, director of product and marketplaces, Benefitfocus
  • Tim Herbert, vice president of research, CompTIA
  • Zubin Irani, CEO, cPrime, Inc
  • Pete Kazanjy, co-founder, TalentBin
  • Barbara Keihm, director of HR, Wintellect
  • Jason Langhoff, director of corporate development, TriNet
  • Frederick Mendler, co-founder and COO, Trueability
  • Denise Messineo, senior vice president of HR, Dimension Data Americas
  • Robert Noble, director of software of engineering, WhitePages
  • Steve Porter, technical director, Wintellect
  • Kenton Scearce, regional director of career services, ECPI University
  • Garth Schulte, trainer, CBT Nuggets
  • Tendu Yogurtcu, vice president of engineering, Syncsort  

TechRepublic: What are the top tech hiring trends for 2014?

Kazanjy: One of the biggest trends in 2014 will be the continued uptick in demand for technical talent, but more broadly across the entire economy, and not just siloed in its own "tech" sector. Technology is ceasing to be a "sector" on its own, and is instead becoming more critical in every industry, as seen with Google's recent purchase of Nest, the transformation of traditional commerce companies like Wal-mart, Macy's, Best Buy and so forth into "e-commerce-first" players. Moreover the ramp of "mobile" as something that will impact all forms of technology will continue apace. And with that comes the need for the technical talent to drive those processes.

Porter: This year will be more important for the UX engineer than ever before. More and more applications, especially mobile, are going to require sophisticated and extremely useable interfaces. We expect higher numbers of developers will be adopting and embracing UX skills and roles. Also, we see more and more enterprises are embracing the cloud, so naturally engineers with cloud expertise will be more in demand.

Scearce: From what I have seen, as well as read, is that 2014 will have a huge focus on data. Social media is exploding, cloud computing is a bigger focus for organizations of all sizes, and mobile technology has become a necessity. Therefore, we will see a bigger emphasis on employees educated and skilled with data programming/administration, mobile development and security as more information is provided online and via the cloud.

Yogurtcu: With the rising popularity of Hadoop, positions are geared towards filling these roles, with lots of interest placed on big data and data mining and analysis. Most of the new hires are recent graduates, since they embody a lot of creativity and forward thinking, both qualities needed in the industry of big data.

Foley: I know we’ve heard it several times over the past few years, but a lot of employers are using social media to do extra research on potential hires. It gives you a much quicker insight into receiving and analyzing a resume in order to see what the person is all about. That will not stop. It will continue to grow.

Noble: The demand for tech and software talent is exploding. A lot of companies have been aggressive and creative to compete for candidates in these fields. For instance, besides compensation and the technical work of the job role, companies are using culture as a key differentiator. They aren’t only talking about the company, they’re also talking about the perks outside of work, and benefits, like cool team events, providing free haircuts, massages, food and more.

Schulte: Big data. Data is exploding all over the IT scene and reshaping how we think about storing and analyzing large volumes of data. Companies are realizing they can mine valuable business intelligence to improve decision making and gain the competitive advantage. Tools such as Hadoop are making all of this possible and because of it, NoSQL skills at all levels are in extremely high-demand.

TechRepublic: Is the tech job market improving and will it lead to more jobs this year when compared to last year?

Yogurtcu: We think so. With more big data initiatives and higher adoption from organizations, there will be more new tech jobs. In addition, technology advances such as GPS data, medical sensors, and social media have expanded the realm of what is possible. This increases the demand for tech professionals, without diminishing the need for the more traditional tech roles.

Langhoff: Technology grew 21 percent in 2013 and looks to maintain a strong pace for 2014. New York has actually outpaced Silicon Valley in the last year and Los Angeles; Denver/Boulder; Austin, Texas; and Boston also have strong tech scenes. We will also see a continued shift to cloud-based computing and tech workers versed in cloud related tools and architectures will be at an advantage.

Fowler: The tech job market is improving. We’re seeing it in not only when it comes to hiring but in increased educational and training opportunities for students and potential candidates in the US.

Herbert: Steady is probably the best way to characterize the IT job market. Nearly 100,000 IT jobs were added in 2013, which translates to growth of about 2.1 percent over 2012, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data (note: this include jobs at firms plus self employed, sole proprietors.) Growth over the past three years has been in a similar range, so it’s not so much improvement, but rather maintaining a steady, but modest, growth rate. The data suggests 2014 IT job growth will be comparable to last year.

Scearce: Overall I think we all can agree the job market is improving and government data confirms it. In terms of the tech market specifically, yes. All of our campuses have been seeing an increase of tech-related positions from employers and recruiting firms. Businesses are growing again, creating the need for more support staff for a growing IT infrastructure. Company data is filling the cloud, website, etc. and must be protected. Things are certainly looking very positive for the tech industry.

TechRepublic: Which tech jobs will be most in demand?

Fowler: The top three roles will be: software developers, database administrators (DBAs) and IT security professionals. Every company, regardless of industry, can be considered a software company because technology touches every aspect of an organization. IT is responsible for the success of a company’s supply chain, finance, communications and customer service. The explosion of mobile apps and big data is driving the needs for savvy developers, data administrators and security pros who can ensure businesses and their customers are well covered. Consumerization is driving the demand for great software developers. We can also expect an uptick in hiring for IT security roles given recent high-profile hacks at major retailers and a general sense of insecurity from consumers around NSA activities.

Borre: There are top four skills IT professionals will need in 2014. The first is web frameworks, because as more applications are moving away from closed systems and desktop to the web it is crucial for both infrastructure and application development professionals to familiarize themselves with web based frameworks such as ASP, Java or Ruby. The second is big data. In 2014, data will range from geocached information to audio recordings to video, and new systems are needed to both effectively store and analyze this data. The third skill is responsive design. Nearly 20 percent of all web traffic in 2013 was from a mobile device and that number will only grow as more and more people work remotely with little more than their smartphone and a tablet. The fourth is UX, which is webspeak for User Experience. Professionals are dedicating entire careers to not only understanding how users interact with their system but analyzing how applications and client facing systems can be optimized for users to find exactly what they’re looking for in the minimum amount of time.

Messineo: As we expand our business in cloud, IT outsourcing and data center, skills in those areas will be critical. This will also include virtualization, security, project management, help desk, unified communications and consulting skills; Cisco certified talent (CCIE) as well as Microsoft Lync and Exchange. In general, it's more about cultural fit than having all of the technical skills on a manager’s wish list.

Scearce: Considering the trends, I would say positions in database programming/administration and application development will be in high demand this year. As companies move data to cloud-based systems and establish a more robust presence on the web, security of that data will be crucial. Therefore, positions related to the network and overall IT security will be in high demand. Businesses are growing again and they need proper IT support. So, positions such as IT help desk associates and general technical support positions will be growing in 2014 (specifically in the healthcare niche) and we have already seen a large increase in demand.

Schulte: It's incredible the amount of big data job titles that are out there, and new ones are popping up every week. Search your favorite career site for big data and you'll see what I mean. This includes big data scientists, big data software engineers, big data DBA/systems administrator, anything business intelligence (BI) related, anything Hadoop related.

Porter: The top jobs will be UX engineer, cloud engineer, process engineer, developer in test and JavaScript engineer.

Kazanjy: The top tech jobs in 2014 will be mobile developers, full stack software engineers, and engineers with strong design chops who encapsulate skills in newer technologies and languages.

Noble: Big data and mobile computing are in most demand this year. For big data, companies are looking to find clever ways of mining data and discovering business intelligence they didn’t know before. In mobile computing, there’s blurred lines between laptops and mobile devices and tablets, and other devices like smart watches, so the demand for job roles focusing on these will be popping up a lot this year.

Yogurtcu: The big data industry is growing at such a fast rate that the high-demand positions vary. Data scientists and IT professionals are dominating roles, employers in are looking for Hadoop-certified individuals with experience in distributed computing, MapReduce, Hbase, Pig and Hive. 

Foley: Without a doubt, programming skills are on an exponential growth pattern. Particularly, the Android operating system, Apple and any mobile development platform, including HTML5.

TechRepublic: Which tech jobs will be less popular this year?

Porter: UI Designers who purely design and do not feel comfortable in the UX and development worlds.

Casey: Systems roles. Infrastructure management is becoming increasingly efficient and tools like Puppet make it easy for a single person to maintain thousands of servers. The need for highly skilled development engineers will be there but companies need far fewer people to manage that.

Irani: SAP/Oracle ERP is on a big decline. With most companies outsourcing support in this area and most large skill ERP implementation a thing of the last decade, the demand for these skills is sharply dropping while the supply of skills continue to rise.

Fowler: iOS native mobile development may be in less demand in favor of HTML-based mobile solutions.

Noble: Older technologies like Cobol are dying. Assembler is less popular, and more people are moving to higher-level languages like Java, Python and Ruby.

TechRepublic: What skills sets should people considering adding in 2014 to stay relevant?

Porter: UX and JavaScript for sure, with cloud development coming in a very close second.

Noble: People should gain front-end skill sets, including human computer interaction, user experience and responsive design. On the back-end side, skill sets should be focused on big data and scale, so we’re looking for people who are able to process enormous quantities of data in real time.

Foley: With the explosion of social media and its growth, it would benefit anyone developing content to gain skills in video editing and graphic editing.  

Scearce: From an IT skill set perspective, the hot skills to add would be focusing on network security, application and database development, and cloud computing for any industry niche. From a job-seeking perspective, the skill of networking is still the most important weapon when looking for an opportunity. There are also a multitude of social networking sites, such as Linkedin, and apps that can really help if used properly.

Kazanjy: In 2014, recruiters will look for people who are more modern, iterative, and can quickly develop languages like Ruby, Python, Node.js, and such will continue to accelerate. Mobile development, especially newer technologies like iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and cross platform mobile frameworks like Sencha and Appcelerator's Titanium, will be a big trend in 2014. And as big data becomes something that shows up across more and more offerings, familiarity with NoSQL data stores like Hadoop, Cassandra and Redis will be helpful. 

Fowler: Developers with superior skills in big data, Hadoop, Java and NoSQL (MongoDB), as well as HTML5 and CSS3, will have a leg-up on the competition.

TechRepublic: What skill sets should people gain in 2014 to be sought out by headhunters?

Mendler: The most sought after skills by headhunters are development skills such as Python, Java, CSS. For systems engineers, the most sought after skills are experience with NoSQL databases such as MongoDB, Cassandra and Redis. And configuration management tools like Chef and Puppet.

Irani: The top skill is Agile. Agile is blowing up, we have seen the number of jobs requiring Agile skills go up by a factor of 10x in the last 18 months and that trend will only continue. Also in demand is DevOps. It’s still a relatively new concept, but we have seen an increased trend and expect to see a greater increase of demand for people with skills in this area.  

Langhoff: With the continued shift towards cloud computing, familiarity with development operations skillsets and tools will become critical in quickly deploying servers and software. Popular languages will include front-end languages (e.g. Javascript, HTML, CSS), the mobile languages (e.g. Java for Android, Objective-C for IOS), server side languages and frameworks (e.g. Python, PHP, Ruby), and database tools and frameworks (e.g. SQL, Hadoop).

Scearce:  In addition to the IT skills I have mentioned above, graduates and job seekers should also pursue certifications. IT certifications can net candidates an additional 5-15 percent increase in salary (from various reports and data). They also make you much more marketable as a candidate, since certification standards are constantly updated to keep current with the latest in technology trends.  

Foley: I would have anyone looking to pick a secondary set of skills to look into HTML5 programming. It’s extremely easy for a non-programmer to learn. Its capabilities will redefine how we interact with the Internet.

Yogurtcu: Since Hadoop is rapidly dominating the big data field, employers are looking for professionals who are knowledgeable on the administration and development side of Hadoop projects. Basic skills like problem solving, the ability to apply information to a current problem and computer science fundamentals are also hot topics in the field.  

Fowler: Technology is a vast industry and it will depend on what chunk of that field an individual would like to get involved with. I would recommend expanding your skill sets with Java EE, big data, Hadoop, MongoDB and Spring, as those seem to be what companies are currently looking for in their employees. 

TechRepublic: If someone is in college, what degree should they be pursuing for a tech career? 

Keihm: A computer information systems (CIS) degree, or a bachelors or masters in information technology.

Fowler: Hone in on a computer science degree with a strong emphasis in math, and explore the option of one-off code school setups to develop specific coding skills.

Casey: My development team is a mix of high school graduates, computer engineers, and a CS PhD. Someone needs to have the drive to continually learn to be truly successful.

Noble: Someone who is pursuing a tech career should be pursuing a computer science degree. There’s not nearly enough talent coming out of schools to meet the demand in the job market for these positions. If you’re looking to expand your specific skill set, Coursera is a great program as well.

Scearce: I would focus on a CIS degree, and focus on one (or a few) of the following:  cloud computing, database programing and application/web development, network security and healthcare IT.

TechRepublic: What are the top computer languages to learn for 2014?

Foley: HTML5, Android, Apple OS, and JQuery.

Herbert: CompTIA does not produce an official list of top computer languages. For any insight on demand for skills, Burning Glass Technologies Labor Insights tracks job postings, which helps to quantify what employers are looking for. For 2013, these programming languages were cited at the highest rates in job postings: SQL, Java, JavaScript and C#. Looking ahead, there are a number of emerging programming languages that have high growth rates, but because they are still somewhat niche, the total count of job openings is still relatively small (for example, Pig, Hive and other Hadoop-related languages.)

Casey: Other than native mobile languages, developers should learn JavaScript (and frameworks like Angular or Backbone) and Python. 

Scearce: I do not think this is a big change from last year, but some of the top programming languages in demand are SQL, Java, HTML, C#/C++, ASP.Net and XML. They all seem to be in popular demand from companies, large and small.

Yogurtcu: This is a very dynamic area. The ability to learn new languages and have a good foundation in algorithms is critical. There are opportunities for filling the skill shortage in the big data market with Pig and Hive. Java and Python will continue to be popular, and Scala is certainly will be another interesting one.

Mendler: High-level languages such as Python continue to be a popular choice. Python skills can be used for mobile application development, and scientific data analysis including big data number crunching. For web development, JavaScript is a good choice. JavaScript-based languages are seeing big gains in popularity using frameworks such as Node.js, Angular, Ember, and jQuery.