The AI era: 4 skills IT pros need to develop

The AI era: 4 skills IT pros need to develop

Winning in the age of machine learning and artificial intelligence will require new skills. Here are four priorities for IT pros

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February 20, 2018
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Emerging technologies like machine learning, deep learning, and, to some extent, artificial intelligence are becoming ripe for adoption. IT professionals need to understand how these technologies affect the businesses they support and begin developing the skills needed to manage and work with these technologies as they evolve. 

It’s only a matter of time before this emerging technology becomes not only commonplace but also essential for IT pros to successfully do their jobs. According to a new Gartner report, by 2022 one in five workers engaged in non-routine tasks will rely on AI to help with their work. The benefits of the analytics and predictive capabilities enabled by ML and AI are far-reaching. As organizations push to leverage business data in new ways, it’s the IT professional’s job to implement and manage that data responsibly.

[ See our related story, How to spot a machine learning opportunity. ]

The need for new skillsets is already top of mind in the IT community. Another recent AI report, from professional services firm Ernst & Young (EY), revealed that of the 200 senior AI professionals surveyed, 56 percent believe a lack of talent in the field is the greatest barrier to AI implementation. This suggests that tech professionals need to find ways to grow their skillsets and embrace education and certification initiatives. To keep pace in the coming age of AI and ML, IT pros should focus on the following skills and priorities:

Must-have skills for the AI era

Learn a sense of code: The battle cry to learn coding, which has echoed throughout the technology community for the past several years, is getting increasingly louder. The ability to understand and cultivate a sense of code, i.e., learning how certain coding concepts work together, will be a fundamental skill for success in the age of AI and ML. Hands-on training through vendor initiatives or beginning to investigate API client programming requirements will empower administrators to deliver added value to their organizations in the year ahead. This training will also prepare admins for the integration of new machine-based technologies, such as bots and, eventually, artificial intelligence capabilities. 

Learn data anlaysis: Embracing data science will soon dovetail into an individual’s ability to successfully handle AI and machine learning. Honing automation and data analytics skills, refining analytical reasoning skills, developing logical thinking and proper analytics, and understanding how to handle copious amounts of data are several of the top data science skills that will become necessary. 

Learn to decode buzzword bingo: At a very basic level, IT pros must understand the definitions of and differences between AI and ML. Possessing a broad, high-level knowledge of both technologies and which products/tools should be equipped with each enables IT pros to defend their organizations against “buzzword bingo.” When vendors inject AI and ML buzzwords into places and products where they don’t belong, IT pros must be able to spot the inaccuracy and choose the best product to meet the needs of their business.

Become a better business partner: The rise in adoption and implementation of new technologies will require that IT professionals cultivate and maintain mutually beneficial relationships with business decision makers, providing leadership, good counsel, and critical insights into the benefits or pitfalls of new tech adoption. For example, according to Gartner, AI is expected to create 2.3 million jobs by 2020, and eliminate 1.8 million jobs. Potential job losses and gains should be considered when investing in AI, as well as how the technology will change worker collaboration and decision making. It’s the IT pro’s responsibility to provide counsel to the executives and leaders making decisions such as investing in AI.

Cultivating the skills necessary to succeed in the AI/ML age before these technologies have completely permeated the tech landscape will be important for IT pros’ job security and success in the coming years. 

During this time, IT pros should do everything in their power– from education and developing new skills to becoming active business partners – to help ensure that they’re powering up their skillsets for the coming machine-based storm.

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Leon Adato is a Head Geek and technical evangelist at SolarWinds®, and is a Cisco® Certified Network Associate (CCNA), MCSE and SolarWinds Certified Professional (he was once a customer, after all). His 25 years of network management experience spans financial, healthcare, food and beverage, and other industries.  

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