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12 emerging IT job titles with a bright future
What does the next wave of IT hiring hold? New titles reflect shift in the very nature of IT and move to cross-functional teams
When you see an IT trend with staying power, you can expect new job titles and roles to follow. Take cloud computing: Today, titles like “cloud architect” or “cloud engineer” (and many variations thereof) abound on the IT job market. 10 years ago? Not so much.
So it shouldn’t stop you in your tracks that many of today’s emerging IT job titles – and the related responsibilities – connect to some of the most-hyped technologies and trends. Think IoT, machine learning, data analysis, and more.
You could argue that some “new” job titles aren’t particularly creative, including the aforementioned cloud examples. We’re just fusing “major trend” with “traditional job title,” as in the case of the rapidly proliferating “DevOps Engineer” moniker. (And that title makes our list below, highlighting the debates that spring up around defining new roles.)
[ How does your DevOps approach measure up? See our related article, DevOps Jobs: How to spot a great DevOps shop. ]
The formula for coming up with new IT titles is straightforward enough, but it potentially misses some of the point. These days, emerging IT job titles don’t just represent emerging technologies; they signal fundamental shifts in the nature of IT – especially its evolution from service-and-support organization to business leader.
New and forward-looking job titles in IT also, in some cases, reflect the blurring lines between roles once neatly defined by discrete departments in an organization (AI lawyer, anyone?). The notion that, say, IT and marketing are wholly separate business functions is passé.
“IT organizations will need to be much more fluid in how they operate, with self-organizing autonomous teams coming together to solve specific business problems,” says Mark Hill, CIO at recruiting firm Mason Frank International. “This will take a new breed of IT person who is much more business-focused...and thrives on almost constant change.”
Witness some nascent job titles, such as “API product manager,” which came up for discussion at the recent Gartner CIO Symposium. API product manager is a good example of all of the above: It fuses a significant technology with a traditional job title, one that’s traditionally more of a business role than an IT function. But it also represents the digital age in which we live and work: Increasingly, the technology is the product, and APIs are a crucial connective tissue in our increasingly cloud-first world, especially as microservices and containers spread.
So what does the next wave hold for IT jobs? Read on for insights and predictions from a wide range of technology and business leaders on important IT titles of the near future.
Machine learning engineer
This is one of the top two emerging IT titles, according to recruiting firm Mondo, based on 2017 placement data in its 11 primary U.S. regions.
“Machine learning is a growing, in-demand skill set that companies are beginning to hire for as they realize more fully the potential AI-driven tech that functions semi-autonomously provides and start to invest more resources into AI functionality, specifically for machine learning needs,” says Stephen Zafarino, Mondo’s senior director of recruiting.
You’ll find a bunch of variations of this title that reflect the growing role of machine learning in a wide range of businesses and industries, such as “machine trainer,” “machine tutor,” “machine tester,” and “machine learning expert.”
It’s also an area that overlaps other increasingly crucial roles and business drivers, such as data analytics.
“Machine learning is still a misunderstood concept, but it is increasingly important in everything from finance to social media,” says Lucy Wei, head of talent at AxiomZen. “There’s an overabundance of data and machine learning is how that data is practically employed and learned from; it combines experience with statistical data to develop [business] uses.”
IoT architect (and friends)
“IoT architect” is the other top title and field based on Mondo’s placement data. “The IoT industry is exploding rapidly, and businesses are looking to understand how best to integrate IoT devices into their business offerings, while also ensuring a higher standard of security given the recent developments in IoT cyberattacks,” Zafarino says.
But IoT is also driving a slew of other new IT titles, according Mark Rheault, founder and CEO of Infinite Leap. Try the likes of “IoT solutions designer” or “IoT solutions architect” on for size. Rheault points to another emerging title here that tweaks the hot trend and traditional title formula: Just marry two massive new technology concerns together: “IoT data scientist” fits the bill.
The roles themselves are anything but formulaic, however. They indicate IT’s increasing role in leading business strategy.
“The areas of IT expertise for these types of positions are at the intersection of sensory data, cloud computing, and mobile applications,” Rheault says. “These roles, however, require not only IT skills, but also a deep understanding of business operations and the value IoT data can provide to drive efficiencies.”
This one isn’t so much emerging as already popular. It’s a good example of how quickly a new title can gain a foothold, even when people don’t necessarily agree on what the title means — or whether it should exist at all. (You can expect similar debates to spring up around some of the newer titles on this list.)
“This title shouldn’t exist — [DevOps] is more of a mindset, culture, or collection of people — but it’s increasingly used as shorthand for engineers or sysadmins who have a competency in deployment and testing,” says Justin Kan, infrastructure engineer at ZenHub.
There’s been plenty of ink spilled over “robot lawyers,” but here, the title refers to an actual person, one who’s as much technologist as legal eagle. As people increasingly interact with and consume AI and AI-like services, there’s a brave new world of implications for what happens when things go wrong.
“A whole field of law, responsibility, and liability is emerging, and a future technologist will be required in the legal system to tackle the pace of change,” says Kyle White, CEO and co-founder of SaaS provider VeryConnect.
Chief data officer
Ready for another CxO title in IT? Jim Eichmann of BillTrust says we should expect one, and he’s already wearing it: chief data officer. Choose your own stats; they all pretty much say the same thing: We’re generating an always-increasing amount of data.
“The chief data officer is an emerging IT leadership position at many companies right now, but I expect it to become commonplace within the next decade,” Eichmann says. “CISOs and CSOs were the hot title on the rise a couple years ago, but now CDOs are gaining traction in the C-suite due to the abundance of data and need for data governance.”
Data compliance officer
Sometimes it’s not a business or technology need that drives new job titles, but external forces such as changes in the regulatory landscape. George Gerchow, director of security and compliance at Sumo Logic, expects to see more companies look to fill a data compliance officer position in the year ahead. (Unlike the CDO, this wouldn’t necessarily be an executive-level position.)
“Designating a person to lead the charge on providing the company with best practices on how to approach data privacy is critical. This role helps employees understand where the organization’s data resides and how best to protect it with methods like encryption,” Gerchow says. This will be especially true for global businesses, with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation set to take effect in 2018. “With GDPR on the horizon, this role will only continue to increase in importance for companies in the global market that must remain compliant across borders."
[ See our related article, How to avoid a GDPR compliance audit: Best practices. ]
Cyber risk & resilience manager
Matthew Stotts, partner at Tenor, expects recent breaches to prompt IT security leaders to reexamine their personnel on the front lines, and how they define and assign responsibilities when incidents occur.
“CISOs are going to want to [more specifically] define the role responsible for standing watch and making the first response,” Stotts says. “The CERT Division of the Software Engineering Institute has been a thought leader in the category — it stands to reason it will become a job title all its own.”
Cloud vendor liaison
Ian McClarty, CEO and president of PhoenixNAP Global IT Services, expects the growth of multi-cloud environments to bring with it a need for a specialized role tasked with managing multiple vendors, optimizing resources, and generally unlocking the potential benefits of a multi-cloud strategy.
“The job role will be part technical and part finance,” McClarty says. “The person has to be savvy enough to look at used resources from an IT perspective while at the same time having the ability to negotiate and manage a growing vendor list.”
Increasing automation throughout the software development lifecycle doesn’t remove the human element. In fact, in concert with growing container adoptions, automation is creating new needs for human intervention, according to McClarty.
“It’s going to become a job to just administer and audit all of the moving parts that are required for a deployment,” he says.
Technologies may come and go, but the need to ensure those technologies are functioning as intended is a constant, even in an era when “automate everything” is a popular approach to IT operations.
“As new sophisticated technologies and services continue to emerge and become integrated into everyday apps, one constant will continue to be the need to ensure they work as promised,” says Bill McGee, director of marketing at Sauce Labs. “Approaches for testing apps will need to evolve even further as IoT, AI, and virtual reality come to the fore, as well as new paradigms like Bitcoin and blockchains.”
McGee offers titles such as virtual reality tester, blockchain test engineer, data mining test analyst, and infrastructure automation engineer.
The latter, a blend of DevOps and test automation, is a good reminder of how some of these emerging titles might intersect or even spark arguments: It’s in a similar family to the DevOps engineer or site reliability engineer, another fast-growing title in the software world. (Or, from another perspective, it might be the same thing.) It could also be a function of, say, McClarty’s pipeline administrator role in some organizations.
But expect test and QA roles to remain relevant, albeit with new and changing titles. Speaking of which...
Data science QA [lead/engineer/tester/analyst]
The data scientist boom has created a corresponding business need, especially given how much money companies are throwing at these positions: Making sure the conclusions data scientists draw are well-grounded. Data science needs QA in much the same way that software does.
“With an abundance of high-paid data science roles with similarly high demand, there will become an increased need for quality assurance of the data science as results will feed into business and financial strategy more and more,” says White of VeryConnect.
This one might sound like a nod to futurists, but it’s more here-and-now than some folks realize.
“As many of the biggest technological firms push the boundaries of quantum computing, a huge unexplored chasm of opportunity lies waiting in the form of quantum algorithms,” White says. “Programmers in this space will sought after by the earliest adopters building the original hardware of the future.”
[ Read also: 5 laws every aspiring DevOps engineer should know. ]