Coding skills are in demand, but companies want more from technology professionals

Coding skills are in demand, but companies want more from technology professionals
Coding skills are in demand, but companies want more from technology professionals

Photo: Joe McKendrick

The ascendance of digital enterprises — powered by AI, machine learning, and cloud-based services — is recasting the career opportunities of technology managers and professionals. Coding skills continue to be in demand, but companies ultimately want more, and as a result, IT roles are being pushed upward. 

One thing is sure — certain aspects of IT plumbing are going by the wayside. “Unless someone wants to work at one of the public cloud providers or collocated data centers, IT staff should be moving away from hardware management, OS management, and related skillsets as these will soon be primarily done by the public cloud and collocation providers,” said Steve Padgett, global CIO at Actian.  

Overall, the trend has been toward demand for architects and designers, Padgett continued. “The emphasis is moving away from detailed, low-level admins, and engineers to more architects, designers, business process specialists, and other design and architecture positions to meet the needs of business transformation,” he stated. “Cloud computing also moves many of the ongoing staffing positions from maintenance into innovation and design work.”

Cloud and low-code/no-code technologies are accelerating the push to move IT, managers, and professionals, upstairs — and with good reason. “The value of cloud doesn’t lie in its infrastructure alone but in the notional agility organizations can create if leaders are highly skilled and knowledgeable of all its possibilities,” said Will Perry, US cloud innovation and engineering leader with PwC. “Cloud fluency will play an important role in bringing together the greatest aspects of this technology with today’s biggest business challenges and opportunities for growth, including supporting critical business model evolution and enhancing customer experiences.” 

In today’s market, “There’s an expectation for software engineers to have worked with a cloud provider, have an understanding of the services and how they interact with each other,” said Ryan Jones, vice president of software engineering at Jobber. “If you’re moving to a true DevOps model, your software engineers are building and supporting the infrastructure as much as they are building the applications for your customers.”

At the same time, it’s too early to discount the need for highly technical skills — which is still insatiable across many companies. “When it comes to roles that will be more prominent, expect software developers to become more needed,” said Sergey Nikonenko, chief operating officer at Purrweb. “Actual people are still needed to create applications and software for the various needs of the target market. You would also find system analysts and computer engineers still in demand.”

Even low-code/no-code solutions, intended to automate development and make it accessible, have served “mainly to bring automation of basic tasks to the masses,” said Jones. “Low/no-code isn’t going to be a major breakthrough when it comes to consumer applications and the custom development that they require.” 

Jones added that technical skills are in demand, including frameworks such as React, Angular, and Vue.js for front-end development, and knowledge of serverless functions such as AWS Lambda. “Being able to spin up serverless functions or leverage them in spikey traffic scenarios is a great skill to have,” he observed.

Serverless is a key skill area, and another is containerization. “Containerization  — the dev side of DevOps — is critical,” said Daniel Bartholomew, CTO at Section. “Being able to build and integrate microservices into DevOps lifecycles with critical components like automatic feature rollouts with zero downtime and container health checks is a skill that has more versatility across organizations who are using Kubernetes in production today.  At the same time, the demand for security specialists continues to grow, particularly those with experience hardening Kubernetes environments. These roles require a broad knowledge of security and systems coupled with a deep understanding of containers and Kubernetes.” 

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While much of the application and system plumbing will move to the cloud and automated environment, Padgett predicted that “there still will be a strong need for provisioning, systems management, and applications management, as these skills will still be primarily performed by IT staff.”  

Technology professionals should keep looking upward within their businesses” technology decision-making chains for long-term career planning advancement. “Things will be moving away from detailed, line-level coding in Java and other languages and move more towards low-code and no-code solutions,” Padgett predicted. There continues to be an ongoing need for skills such as Java and Python, “And with a shortage of skilled technical staff, these positions will still garner higher salaries and stronger demand,” he explained. “But over time, both of these will decrease as low-code and no-code solutions take a greater percentage of the application portfolio. Increased skills in systems analysis and business analysis will be needed to be able to provide the growth for low/no code solutions.”

Increasingly, technical project and product life cycles “will have more emphasis on the upfront work — planning, business use case analysis, architecture and design,” said Padgett. “This is more about moving the work to the left end of the project and produce lifecycle, and moving the upfront tasks over build and implementation.”