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Are you all set to ride the new wave of technology disruption?

Mon 20 May 2019
FYI, this story is more than a year old

A shortage of IT professionals, as well as the high wages offered, has been hitting the headlines in developed countries. However, even IT professionals are not immune to disruption.

Technology skills are constantly changing. Look towards the market for advice.

Digital disruption is not homogenous where only repetitive and mundane tasks will be automated. Digital jobs are also being disrupted. Buried in the day-to-day operations at work, it is easy to miss out on up-and-coming developments that are critical to future-proofing one's careers.

The hottest technology skills are changing at an increasing pace. The same job role now, for instance, a database administrator could involve different tasks, and hence require different skills, than a database administrator three to five years ago.

A relatively newer database, MongoDB has been steadily on the rise since its inception. In recent years, it is gaining popularity in the Singapore market with growth predicted to remain buoyant in the near future. Moreover, its demand is not concentrated on only a few large companies.

Since January 2018, there are more than 2,700 jobs posted that require MongoDB and the top 10 companies hiring for this skill only contributed to 21% of these jobs. Demand is relatively scattered throughout other companies rather than a handful of companies.

In addition, database administrators are increasingly tasked with data engineering responsibilities such as Extract, Transform and Load, database monitoring and Hypertable. IT professionals will have to constantly adapt to the changing work scopes and new technology stacks in their workplace.

One source IT professionals can derive inspiration from is the general market trends in the economy. As can be seen from the headlines, big data analytics and artificial intelligence have been on the rise. The number of data analytics jobs posted has increased by more than 40% from more than 2,700 in 2017 to close to 4,000 in 2018.

To live up to its hype, the foundations have to be laid first and foremost. Consequently, this has exerted an important influence on the responsibilities of database administrators. It is becoming increasingly necessary for them to possess the know-how to maintain data pipelines to fuel downstream tasks such as machine learning and visualizations.

Another important source of information is through labour market insights. Job descriptions are a useful source of gleaning emerging technology skills in demand by employers. For instance, from JobTech's data sources, Redis, an in-memory database for optimising data access, has been experiencing strong growth in the Singapore market. According to JobTech's econometric models, Redis is predicted to continue growing rapidly into the near future.

Soft skills becoming ever more vital

The hottest technologies are constantly changing. This is why nimble learners who are able to learn fast are highly sought after by employers. To deal with the demanding pace of change, learning to learn is essential. There are even online courses on neuroscience techniques to help one learn. However, this is not limited to deep technical skills but also to 'less technical' tasks such as consulting, pre-sales, product management etc.

Other than demonstrating your ability to learn, communication skills are also crucial. It may sound cliché but many still experience inertia putting in the time to hone their communication skills. These skills are not limited to just writing and presentations but also listening skills -- to practice active listening when interacting with clients and team members.

How to approach future-proofing 

Professionals who can successfully combine their domain knowledge and technical skills across diverse fields will be able to be more resilient in the face of disruption. Bringing a different set of domain knowledge introduces a unique value one might bring to his/her team. By tapping into other domains, it provides one with additional perspectives and create innovation from gaps between different verticals.

For example, an Internet-of-Things (IoT) engineer with knowledge of urban farming technologies would be able to provide digitisation solutions for urban farming management.

Agri-tech requires expertise in both fields and requires the engineer to be able to design and develop urban farming products, and lead and manage urban agriculture projects. The engineer who possesses this combination becomes a valuable member of the team making him/her a rarer find compared to his/her other peers.

Similarly, a finance professional who picked up deep skills in data analytics would be better positioned to adapt to the evolving nature of quantitative analyst roles. For instance, an investment analyst has to employ newer machine learning techniques to model and forecast financial instruments and learn to wrangle datasets that are increasingly larger in today's data-rich world.

The idea of a combinatorial approach is that one can improve the value he/she brings to the table not just by acquiring unique and niche technical skills but also through a unique combination of domain knowledge and technical skills to result in creative and novel applications.

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