IT careers 2021: Automation skills wanted

Looking to land a new IT job this year? Focus on automation, AI, and soft skills to further your career
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IT career - automation skills wanted

[Editor's note: This article is part of a series highlighting the most in-demand IT skills in 2021, how job seekers can learn these skills, and how they can stand out in an interview.]

The most sought-after skill in IT right now is automation – especially the ability to write Python to leverage cloud APIs for automation. This is followed closely by artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps) and leveraging AI across an organization’s SD-WAN and Wi-Fi solutions.

These skills require an understanding of how AI capabilities can be applied as well as of the key attributes of an effective AI foundation (data, domain expertise/classification, rich data science toolbox, virtual network assistant, self-driving capabilities) to enable evaluation of emerging and developed AI-driven networking solutions.

[ Related read: 8 automation trends to watch in 2021. ]

Beyond technical skills and AI capabilities, the most successful IT professionals should also possess adaptability and creativity skills.

Why automation skills are critical

With many enterprises moving toward a hybrid work model, professionals with the technical skills to address the IT challenges of a remote workforce and an expected increase in smaller branch offices will be much in demand. They will be tasked with optimizing the end-user experience and expediting remote troubleshooting.

Automation via APIs and AI assistants will reduce the number of customer support tickets, which ultimately reflects improved customer experience and satisfaction. Adding AI assistants to the IT team will enable team members to work on more strategic business problems and reduce the amount of time customers are spending with their vendor’s customer support team. IT professionals who view AI as a way to alleviate current challenges will be able to focus on driving innovation as opposed to simply “keeping the lights on.”

Soft skills such as communication and collaboration will be crucial in adapting to the constantly changing needs of a remote workforce.

Additionally, soft skills such as communication and collaboration will be crucial in adapting to the constantly changing needs of a remote workforce and solving new challenges that come with remote work.

[ Need to speak artificial intelligence? Download Cheat sheet: AI glossary. ]

How to build these skills

The most important skills to develop involve automation and ITOps. Learn how to develop an AI strategy that fits the needs of the organization so teams can keep up with today’s stringent network requirements. Because AI solutions deliver large amounts of data, network engineers should learn how to analyze AI solutions for actionable insights.

At organizations where AI solutions are already in place, you should be comfortable with using AI assistants to support the IT team’s day-to-day work. Understand how to train AI assistants to effectively mitigate mundane tasks, giving network engineers the bandwidth to focus on developing next-generation technologies for remote workers.

How to stand out

Highlight any experience you may have working with AI solutions, and focus on your knowledge of tools and algorithms and how to integrate and interface these tools efficiently and effectively.

Be sure to include specific examples on topics such as speeding up new network infrastructure rollouts or upgrades – hiring managers want to see a commitment to using AI to increase bandwidth so teams have more time to focus on strategic projects.

[ How can automation free up more staff time for innovation? Get the free eBook: Managing IT with Automation. ] 

Bob Friday is CTO and co-founder of Mist, which develops self-learning wireless networks using artificial intelligence. Bob started his career in wireless at Metricom (Ricochet wireless network) developing and deploying wireless mesh networks across the country to connect the first generation of Internet browsers.