June 24, 2021

Skills that will outlast tech industry disruption: Future-proofing your IT toolkit

8 min read

Those in the tech industry are perhaps better conditioned to change than any other field. It’s pretty much built into the job. But this doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t core transferable skills that will be applicable no matter what lies ahead. If you’re an IT professional and want to make sure you’ll always be employable, here’s a selection of skills that you can rely on long into the future.

The ability to learn new platforms and languages

Having existing knowledge of a programming language like Python or library like React Native will help you land roles throughout NZ for the foreseeable future. But even better is having an efficient and effective way of learning new disciplines that can be applied to work relatively quickly.

Some might argue that the ability to learn is simply something you’re born with. We don’t agree. With practice, learning can become fine-tuned. Doing research on ways to learn, memorise and apply fresh skills can speed up the process from novice to educated on any given platform.

Part of learning is putting yourself out there to get feedback and work through challenges you don’t immediately know the solution for. Going through this process isn’t just teaching you the end skill, but actually improves your ability and openness for future learning too. We need to be open to learning first before anything will stick – and this means not being an expert. This can be an interesting challenge for those who are long-standing experts in certain platforms and languages. But no matter how experienced, having the ability to learn is going to help you broaden your CV and be a more attractive employment prospect down the road.

Testing and QA methodology

We struggle to imagine a world where testing and QA is not part of any digital-based solution. Quality control is critical in order to deliver a good user experience as well as patching any vulnerabilities.

Testing in 2021 is a combination of processes, people and tools. And it’s not just the technical or ‘functional’ testing that’s important; user acceptance, integrations and security also need thorough stress testing before the product is released to the end user.

If you haven’t already, take some time to learn more about testing approaches – in a larger organisation you may have access to testing specialists who can provide a depth of knowledge in this area. Also do some of your own research online around the tools currently available and learn how these work.

Having a working knowledge of testing platforms helps more than just those doing the QA. As a developer or architect, you can consider these aspects of a build during the build itself, helping to deliver something better at the QA stage. As the digital world becomes more complex and nuanced, the ability to apply a QA lens to a project is highly valuable to any employer.

Front-end design and user experience skills

If user experience ceases to become a desired skill in tech, we’ve got bigger problems. As an IT professional, the UI and UX of a solution will always be a key consideration. Understanding principles and best practices around making a product accessible and enjoyable to use is an applicable skill to virtually any project where there’s an end ‘user’. Websites, internal portals, software, tools – these all need to be created with the UX at the fore.

The devices we use may change, the platforms we engage with could be different, but we aren’t going to stop demanding better experiences.

It’s a broad field with plenty of elements to learn about. For many IT professionals working in the industry today, UX is simply part of the project and learning is happening every day through conversations, sprints, presentations and testing. For anyone not already in the FED or UX space, there’s a lot of online information and courses available where you can grow your understanding of the field. With many projects requiring front and back end resources (often from the same person!), simply working alongside experts at front end and UX will help build your capability here.

Data management and security practices

It’s maybe one of the most talked about elements to technology in the past few years, but there’s no signs that data and its management will become any less of a priority for organisations any time soon.

With more of our business and personal lives being run digitally, we have bigger demands on the safety and handling of the activity. For any organisation that handles individuals’ data, there’s a non-negotiable need for this to be protected from any leaks or nefarious access.

We expect that the roles within this space will continue to multiply across New Zealand, making anyone with a good working knowledge and application of data and security highly sought after.

And this is a practice that will still be important in 10-20 years time, regardless of the way we’re living our lives digitally – so if you’ve got an interest in this space, there’s no better time than now to start upskilling.

Business Analytical skills

Because a BA does a range of tasks outside of the development of a solution itself, the role is largely agnostic of certain platforms or languages. Instead a BA needs to expertly assess a project or organisation and their ability to deliver an outcome. This requires critical thinking, problem solving and excellent communication skills. We’ve worked with many tech professionals with a background in hands-on development who’ve moved into BA work as they broaden their focus out to helping businesses deliver tech solutions from a requirements, budget and process perspective.

You can learn more about becoming a BA in our dedicated page here.

Core tech skills

There’s going to be elements to coding and development that are bound to stick around. The building blocks of the discipline are used in many new languages, with syntax and function carrying through to new frameworks. If you’re a tech professional in the development space, there’s always going to be a useful application for skills in  Javascript, HTML, CSS, Server-side, Client-side, APIs and other core skills. We know that many of you reading this will already have experience in some of maybe even all of these areas. But we can’t stress enough how valuable these are to not only gain but continue refining. The tech world is still largely powered off these things.

Agile methodology

There’s no 100% guarantee that a new methodology for organising IT projects and workflows won’t come and replace Agile. But if the last decade is anything to go by, the principles of Agile are well-proven and likely here to stay in some form or another. Having a good understanding of how an agile team works is a good idea for anyone looking to end up in a leadership role. Working in an agile team builds on other peripheral skills like the ability to focus on smaller parts of a project over a smaller period of time and becoming comfortable with multiple iterations.

Ability to present ideas

Presenting ideas and thoughts isn’t just a skill reserved for management. When certain functionality or solutions are put forth to a stakeholder, you as an IT professional may be responsible at least in part for presenting the case as to the benefits of such an approach. This is a real art that takes practice to get right – go too technical and you may struggle to effectively convey your ideas. Regardless of where tech goes in the 5, 10, 15 years, there will always be a place for effective communicators within any IT-based project team.

Critical thinking

Mastering the skill of analysing and reviewing information is a valuable addition to any IT professional’s toolkit. In our field, it’s not just a matter of using critical thinking skills to solve a challenge within your project, it’s the ability to understand how evolving and emerging technologies fit into the future stack of a project or organisation. The amount of variables at play in the tech sector simply demands an ability to assess situations and facts to make the right move forward.

Wondering about the best way to develop critical thinking abilities? Put yourself in situations that demand this. Over time you’ll build up experience that refines your ability to evaluate and act.

Empathy and emotional intelligence

While this isn’t unique to the tech sector, it’s no less important. These qualities are most apparent when they are absent. Empathy and emotional intelligence manifests in a number of positive ways professionally, including:

  • the ability to see and understand other’s viewpoints
  • knowing how to communicate with others in a team
  • a care for the workplace culture, and not just the work
  • building a solution that suits the user first, and
  • being able to lift others around you.

Building more awareness of the people element to projects is a trait natural to some and less so for others. And that’s okay – much like other soft skills, you can nurture and grow these with mindfulness and practical application in your day to day work life.

Want to harness your transferable skills into a new IT opportunity?

Get in touch with our team to discuss how we can help you prepare you for the next stage of your IT career. We help our candidates with CVs, cover letters, interview skills and a lot more to give you the best shot at landing that next role.

Further reading

Absolute IT