Digital transformation is at the forefront of every modern business strategy, whether it’s adopting the cloud, improving and updating IT infrastructure, or developing data and analytics strategy to drive decision-making. Companies are interested in hiring seasoned pros who have a strong working knowledge of the skills they need to accomplish technology and business goals.

According to the latest 2023 Dice Tech Salary Report, there is a growing demand for IT pros who have mastered skills aimed at wrangling big data, developing cloud-native applications, processing data streams, architecting software systems, leveraging DevOps, or orchestrating cloud workloads — and they’re willing to pay top dollar to recruit them.

IT professionals already earn some of the highest salaries in the job market, but there are certain in-demand skills that can help boost your salary. Whether you already have these skills on your resume, or you want to learn a new skill to help improve your chances of a higher salary during a job hunt, these skills can help secure your IT career. Here are the 10 highest-paying IT skills of 2023, and how much they’ve increased in value since 2021.

1. MapReduce          

MapReduce is a programming model utilized in the Hadoop framework to access data stored in the Hadoop File System (HDFS). It was originally developed to be used by the Google search engine but has since grown to be adopted widely within the tech industry. MapReduce helps users analyze large datasets that span across different servers and networks, dividing it into smaller modules of data that can be distributed to computer clusters for parallel processing. The name references the Map and Reduce phases of this process, the map phase being when the data is input into the system and mapped, while the reduce phase refers to the process of analyzing and consolidating that data for output.

Average salary: US$146,672

Increase since 2021: +9.3%

2. Go/Golang            

Go, also referred to as Golang, is an open-source programming language developed in 2007 by Google as a user-friendly programming language to assist in the development of high-level software systems, web applications, and cloud and networking services. It’s designed to be efficient and easy-to-use, with simple syntax and features, including garbage collection, memory safety, and concurrency support. It’s become increasingly popular as for cloud-based programming due to the fact that it is adept at handling parallelism and concurrency. But you’ll also find it used in distributed systems, web development, machine learning, and network programming.

Average salary: US$145,672

Increase since 2021: +18.2%

3. Elasticsearch                    

Elasticsearch is a distributed search and analytics engine built on Apache Lucene that enables users to store, search, and analyze large data sets in real-time. It’s become a popular tool for organizations with large amounts of data to sift through, allowing users to quickly search through complex data sets stored across different servers. Elasticsearch is valued as a highly scalable and distributed tool that offers real-time search and analytics, full-text search, geospatial search, and structured search.

Average salary: US$143,619

Increase since 2021: +4.5%

4. Chef                       

The Chef automation tool is commonly used in DevOps and IT operations to manage and deploy software applications across different systems, servers, containers, and cloud resources. For large-scale computing environments, Chef is a valuable tool that enables organizations to become more operationally efficient by streamlining infrastructure management processes. Chef minimizes a lot of the backend work on automation, allowing companies to minimize downtime and errors, while also freeing up workers to focus on more high-level tasks. 

Average salary: US$143,188

Increase since 2021: +8.8%

5. Apache Kafka                    

Apache Kafka is a powerful tool for real-time data processing and analyzing, using a distributed streaming platform design. Kafka also makes it possible for organizations to handle large data sets, with high throughput and low latency, and provides a scalable and fault-tolerant infrastructure for data streaming. And with Kafka, it’s possible for several different systems to exchange data in real-time. It’s a popular tool in finance, telecommunications, and e-commerce, among other industries as well — it’s typically used along with other tools including Apache Spark, Apache Flink, and Apache Storm.

Average salary: US$142,764

Increase since 2021: +8.4%

6. Service-oriented architecture (SOA)                 

Service-oriented architecture (SOA) is an architectural framework that focuses on software applications and systems as independent services. Each service is broken down and categorized by its own specific set of functions into a standardized interface that allows those services to interact and access one another. Breaking services down this way makes them easier to maintain, update, and monitor without impacting other parts of the system and creating unnecessary downtime. SOA gives companies the framework to organize software and services and to manage flexible, scalable, and reusable services across different applications throughout the organization.

Average salary: US$142,459

Increase since 2021: +1.6%

7. Teradata                

Teradata is a company that offers several enterprise data warehousing and analytics tools that help organizations analyze and manage large and complex data sets. One of the company’s most notable products is the Teradata Database, a relational database management system designed for large-scale data warehousing and analytics. Teradata’s offerings focus on enabling organizations to integrate data from different sources, performing advanced analytics, creating business intelligence reports, and building data warehouses.

Average salary: US$141,515

Increase since 2021: +14.7%

8. Redis                      

Redis is an open-source data storage and management tool designed to be fast, efficient, and powerful. It enables users to cache and store data, making it quick and easy to access, while also keeping it backed up to a hard drive. As an IT tool, it’s known for being helpful for managing data structures, handling data in a distributed environment, and offering a high-performance and scalable solution for data storage and caching.

Average salary: US$140,290

Increase since 2021: +1.6%

9. PaaS                       

Platform as a service (PaaS) is a cloud computing model that provides users with an environment for developers to build, test, and deploy applications without impacting other systems and networks in the process. PaaS tools are typically third-party services that companies use to help improve the development process with a variety of development tools, scalability and resource management features, database and storage options, and tools for deployment and management. PaaS is touted as offering businesses reduced costs and a faster time-to-market, allowing for better efficiency and speed when releasing new products and services.

Average salary: US$139,858

Increase since 2021: +3.2%

10. Kubernetes         

Kubernetes is an open-source automation tool that helps companies deploy, scale, and manage containerized applications. Originally developed by Google, but now maintained by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), Kubernetes helps companies automate the deployment and scale of containerized applications across a set of machines, with a focus on container and storage orchestration, automatic scaling, self-healing, and service discovery and load balancing. Features include the ability to automatically detect and recover from errors and failures, built-in load balancing to manage traffic, and the ability to automatically scale applications while accounting for demand, resources, and cost.

Average salary: US$139,167

Increase since 2021: N/A

The next 5

Other skills associated with IT pros earning higher annual salaries include:

11. Containers

Average salary: US$138,559

Increase since 2021: +9.5%

12. Amazon Route 53             

Average salary: US$137,928

Increase since 2021: +3.4%

13. Rust

Average salary: US$137,153

Increase since 2021: N/A

14. RDBMS                 

Average salary: US$137,104

Increase since 2021: +8.5%

15. HANA                    

Average salary: US$136,789

Increase since 2021: +2.1%

Careers, IT Jobs, IT Skills, Salaries

About 20 years ago, during the “dot-com” era, technology impacted a relatively small portion of the enterprise, and very few would consider themselves tech companies. Today, every company needs to think and act like a software company to compete in our digital world.

As mainstream companies race to modernize their business and migrate to the cloud, keeping up with new technologies, training and upskilling workforces has become a business imperative. In fact, according to a Forrester report, 75% of IT and business executives say that their company’s ability to compete is directly related to their ability to release quality software quickly. But great software doesn’t magically appear — developers must build it. And that is getting more complex and challenging, even in a world where generative-AI is emerging.

Amid a period of tightened budgets, macroeconomic challenges, and labor skill shortages, upskilling and reskilling workers to meet the pace of tech complexity is critical. Organizations need to prioritize upskilling employees and leverage their “super powers” to not only retain valuable tech talent, but improve productivity and efficiency. Organizations that understand and implement modern application development processes will deliver higher quality, more secure code to production – at a consistent and rapid pace. This allows them to be more nimble in meeting evolving customer expectations and needs, and positions them to better compete in crowded markets.

Challenges facing upskilling efforts

In today’s tumultuous macroeconomic and industry landscape, not only is talent availability a concern, but developer skills (or lack thereof) are an issue as well. In-house expertise can help maximize investments in cloud and kubernetes migrations, for example, but many companies lack employees with these skills or have gaps as employees moved on to new roles during the “Great Resignation”.

According to a recent Gartner survey, IT executives see the talent shortage as the most significant adoption barrier to 64% of emerging technologies, compared with just 4% in 2020. A lack of talent availability was cited far more often than other barriers, such as implementation cost (29%) or security risk (7%). Now more than ever, upskilling programs are critical to ensure employees have an opportunity to grow in their roles, while equipping organizations with the skilled developers needed to undertake big modernization efforts.

And, as is increasingly common in today’s tightening labor market, a lack of skilled professionals adds yet another layer of difficulty. Workforce skills gaps paired with cost and regulations serve as barriers to modernization efforts, which is why it’s critical that organizations continue to build business cases that training initiatives generate a strong ROI while boosting productivity and innovation. Training aligned with emerging competencies can not only improve employee retention but also employee and business performance.

But organizations are also dealing with reduced budgets for upskilling opportunities. According to a recent report, nearly half of workers say their employers have reduced upskilling opportunities during the pandemic. Considering that for most companies, developer productivity now directly impacts both bottom-line and top-line growth, the need for skilled workers to build, manage and deploy mission critical apps has become a business imperative. Organizations must continue to make intentional investments to ensure skills are meeting the pace of technology innovation, regardless of the market in which they operate.

Smart companies are prioritizing upskilling planning

Despite knowing that upskilling is critical, the economic reality means organizations may not have budget allocated for these types of training. Organizations that are cloud smart plan ahead and think strategically about how to do more with less. They build an internal culture around embracing modern techniques for software development and these techniques to business outcomes.

Closing the skills gap doesn’t require organizations to completely rethink their training programs, rather it’s about updating and supplementing existing initiatives or skills and approaching them with a different mindset. For example, rethinking recruitment strategies can help bring new skills into enterprises. Today, many hiring managers today evaluate talent based on knowledge of specific software or languages, rather than soft skills or a demonstrated aptitude for learning. The practice of hiring or promoting employees based on soft skills and aptitude, and training them in new languages & development methods, can be a successful way to best fit organizational needs.

In addition, organizations can upskill workers with targeted learnings to help developer teams build technical proficiency that can drive the business forward. Professional training programs can improve IT workforce productivity, satisfaction, and career development. Even more experienced employees can benefit by expanding their existing skill set and potentially discovering new, better ways of working. Plus, by establishing a consistent and foundational cloud & modern application development training program, organizations can establish common terminology and best practices for modernization across the organization.

Meanwhile, cloud native technologies increasingly demand new skills sets and better cross collaboration with teams beyond IT. Creating a culture of learning and innovation in enterprises is key to meet the accelerated pace of digital transformation in all areas of business – from human resources, to customer support, to operations, sales and beyond. Because while technical skills can be learned, attitudes are difficult to change. Equipping developer teams with capable employees with the right aptitude and attitudes, rather than prioritizing historically required technical skills, positions you to execute long-term vision while delivering business value.

Establishing consistent and robust training practices and rethinking hiring practices across organizations can help bridge the existing skills gap, prevent costly setbacks and promote an agile and sustainable business.

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IT Leadership

Michael Edmunds needed top-notch consulting expertise, and he needed it fast. But getting strategy guidance for his startup from one of the big consultancies would be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming. Edmunds is senior vice president for global operations and quality at Witricity, which is developing magnetic resonance electrical charging technology for automobiles, industrial vehicles, and public transit. To create Witricity’s roadmaps for business development, market analysis, and product development, Edmunds needed input from seasoned management consultants.

Despite the seeming impasse, Edmunds had an ace up his sleeve: experience working with Catalant, a provider of a platform for flexible task team staffing, from his previous work at a major audio products company. Less than a week after he sent his requirements to Catalant, the company pulled together a qualified team, Edmunds says.

“We’re getting agility, which is critical for a startup,” says Edmunds. “The Catalant platform enables the immediate connection between business strategy and resources. You don’t have to carry massive overhead of employees. It’s like what you might get from McKinsey, but it’s affordable, and the results will be equal if not better — and faster.”

An engagement with one of the big consulting firms might run $4 million, Edmunds estimates, while a Catalant-assembled team can deliver comparable results for perhaps $400,000, he says.

Business climate favors dynamic talent sourcing

In the current volatile business climate, which includes a possible recession, venture-backed startups such as Witricity aren’t the only ones in need of flexible, affordable staff augmentation. IT organizations are also a fit, and CIOs should be aware not only of the options available to them but how best to leverage each as potential aspects of their staffing mixes.

“Businesses need their tech organizations to be adaptive to changing dynamics, and able to rapidly deploy new or different capabilities in order to meet customer demands,” says Forrester analyst Fiona Mark. The Forrester Business and Technology Services Survey 2022 predicts 44% of leaders expect to increase their use of freelancers in 2023.

According to Mark, there are hundreds of freelance marketplaces covering a wide range of expertise. Some platforms like Catalant are geared to provide management consulting services, while others focus on application development, web design, and other IT domains. Business models can also vary widely. Platforms such as Fiverr bring together task teams for specific projects, in contrast with Germany-based Vicoland, which creates virtual companies to meet client needs. Other platforms such as 365Talents, Fuel50, Gloat, and Starmind create marketplaces for companies’ internal talent — another approach CIOs are taking to fill skills needs in tight talent markets. 

Gartner sees the advent of what it calls talent ecosystems, consisting of inventories of both internal and external talent, being used to create a flow of labor when and where it is needed.

“Leaders are finding it challenging to find the talent they need when they need it, and there is a high speed-of-change for skills,” says Gartner analyst Helen Poitevin. By 2027, Gartner predicts 50% of large enterprises will have adopted an ecosystem approach, using platforms to orchestrate the flow of both internal and external talent.

Project management as a service

With a tight budget and minimal staff, the Save Our Children Truth Commission, a nonprofit organization created to file class-action lawsuits on behalf of children placed in foster homes, had made do for too long with a starter website. Executive Director Melody Janelle knew it was time for an upgrade.

“Website design was a drain on my time,” says Jannelle, whose organization seeks to protect children’s rights against such abuses as child trafficking both in the US and internationally. Needed was the ability to securely handle document uploads and financial contributions, along with a unified, cohesive design, Janelle explains.

Having worked with Fiverr on logo design at a previous company, Janelle sought out Fiverr once more. Her first contact was with an onboarding specialist to discuss her needs and budget. The next step was to connect with a project manager, provided via Fiverr’s Project Partner service, who proposed three teams to address the organization’s needs for copywriting, web development, and web design.

“They offered project management. That was very important. They managed a timeline, kept track of tasks, and coordinated meetings,” says Jannelle. As the work progressed, she worked one-on-one with each of the three team leaders as well as the project manager. Fiverr also provided security experts, who were particularly needed since the SOC website had been hacked twice previously, according to Janelle. Twelve weeks from the start of the project in January 2022, the new web site was completed.

Making dynamic talent sourcing work

As flexible staffing enters the mainstream, best practices are emerging. “You need to spell out your goals and have a champion,” says Witricity’s Edmunds. “It’s all about the statement of requirements and the desirable outcomes. Then checking on a daily or weekly basis.”

As work progresses, flexibility is important. Some teams might be hybrid with several internal employees working with freelancers provided through the platform, he says. “Have an open mind. Test and learn — the [subject matter experts] are available to be patched back in if there are questions,” Edmunds advises. 

Keeping the lines of communication open between platform provider and customer is vital to both parties because each will evaluate the other at the conclusion of the work.

“You’re rating them and they’re rating you, so it’s important to have a win-win,” Edmunds says. Those ratings are a key tool for prospective customers as they comb through the talent available. Like references for prospective employees, positive evaluations give users a feeling of confidence in what they’re signing up for.

“That’s the good thing about Fiverr. They do have a lot of quality talent. People aren’t lingering on Fiverr without reviews booting them off,” Janelle points out.

Before enlisting a freelance platform, Gartner’s Poitevin recommends that organizations look for talent within. “Companies should look first at internal capabilities, then to freelancers, independent contractors, and partners with whom they already have relationships,” she says. If needs are still unmet, then it’s time to look outside to a freelance marketplace, she advises.

Getting the most out of an internal marketplace has its own challenges, however. Keys are cultural acceptance and commitment, says the analyst. “The biggest thing to watch out for is managers hoarding talent. Employees have to be allowed to work on other projects. Will that be encouraged from a cultural perspective?” asks Poitevin.

“While dynamic labor models are enticing, there are hidden costs in ramping up and down people and there is value in organizational knowledge and relationships,” counsels Mark of Forrester. She stresses the need for governance to ensure not only the quality of work, but expectations about scope and knowledge transfer upon completion of a project. “Ensure that your organization has control over the most valuable, differentiating work,” she says.

Dealing with the feelings of internal employees is important to ensure they don’t feel slighted by the use of outside help, Mark says.

Echoing Poitevin’s advice, Edmunds says the best way to avoid resentment is to maintain both internal and external gig environments. “If people don’t feel vested and invested, you’re in a very difficult position,” says the startup exec. 

Looking ahead

Because the industry forces that have spurred adoption of talent platforms — economic uncertainty and skills scarcity — aren’t dissipating, it seems likely that use of the platforms will continue to grow, particularly as companies become adept at dealing with them and workers come to enjoy the flexibility in time commitment and location.

“There are some really gifted individuals. You will see the workforce transformed to become an Uber-like experience in which workers might work for a quarter, then take a quarter off,” says Witricity’s Edmunds. “Kids won’t work for a single company [for their entire careers]. They want to be on and then off. Also, the team can be anywhere in the world,” he adds.  

With many forces arrayed in their favor, could talent marketplaces become the dominant employment model? Probably not, says Forrester’s Mark. “We will likely see growth in the coming years. However, the relative governance and overall switching costs of ramping up and down will likely create a ceiling on this becoming the dominant model across all organizations,” the analyst predicts.  

Even so, Edmunds is a believer. “Speed is paramount in every industry. If you are searching for talent, you’ll search for months and even quarters. It amounts to a boat anchor,” he says. And when it comes to management consulting, he sees a significant momentum shift. “There are many retired execs that can do it at a fraction of the cost. Strategists and consultants are taking business left and right from the big three.” 

Hiring, Staff Management

With talent markets tight as ever, upskilling is increasingly becoming an IT imperative, and Discover Financial Services is among those companies sharpening staff capabilities by investing in their IT training strategies.

The company, which has a culture of “empowering [employees] to work better together in modern ways,” says Angel Diaz, vice president of technology capabilities and innovation (pictured), is keenly aware of the latest “technology-fueled renaissance” that sees employees increasingly embracing “democratized” technology to “deliver better outcomes for customers at faster speeds.”

That renaissance has led Discover to develop the Discover Technology Academy (DTA), a unique one-stop platform for employees to “come together as a community and define how we work, how we think about the marketplace, and how to deliver on products,” Diaz says.

The DTA platform offers employees access to learning modules, content from subject matter experts (SMEs), trainings, networking opportunities, and other avenues for upskilling, reskilling, and continued learning. It’s all about “continuous learning and continuous improvement,” he says.

Built in-house by teams at Discover, DTA benefits greatly from being developed by employees for employees. Having the insight of team members working on building the DTA platform has proved crucial in creating a tool that employees actually use and integrate into their daily workflow.

Megan Kostick, an expert application engineer at Discover, and member of the DTA build team, helped “build out the content processor that takes the content submitted to GitHub, processes it, and posts it to the backend API to serve up the frontend,” she says, adding that she’s also a “regular customer and content contributor on the DTA platform.”

What Kostick loves most about the DTA is how easy it is to “search, share, connect, and find the information” that she’s looking for in one place. She notes that the asset types offered on the platform are “diverse and allow users to digest the information in a way that works best for their learning style.”

Autonomy for employees

The DTA is a big part of how engineers at Discover start their days. They can look at their backlog of activities in the morning and then utilize the DTA to identify the best approach to an unfamiliar project, or to brush up on skills they haven’t used in a while. They can also read articles related to their daily tasks or connect with other SMEs to ask questions and get guidance on a variety of topics.

“Most of our engineers, the first thing they do [each day] is they go to the academy to look at, learn, or bring something new into their day-to-day work,” says Diaz.

The platform gives employees more autonomy in their daily work and prevents them from being slowed down or held back by potential knowledge or skills gaps, Diaz says. Anything they need to know or learn can be found on the DTA, and if they can’t find it, they can contribute it themselves.

The Academy is open to everyone, but there are guilds and groups within the academy where employees can have discussions and technical debates to help “drive some of those more advanced technological discussions,” Diaz says.

“DTA is the first place I go to whenever I am looking for an answer to the problem I am trying to solve because there is a good chance someone else has already solved that problem,” says Praveen Erode Mohanasundaram, an expert application engineer at Discover. He finds DTA to be a convenient, centralized place to “share and locate content about standards, best practices, tutorials, and products.”

The power of the training platform, Diaz adds, is that it is “embedded in the way we work — it’s not a separate entity. It’s not something that’s on the side; it’s the main course.”

Building community through learning

The DTA not only gives employees access to learning materials, it’s also a convenient platform for networking within the organization. There are opportunities to chat, ask questions, and connect with peers in other departments or business units that employees might not typically interact with.

It’s akin to a “digital watering hole,” says Diaz, where people “share what they do, share feedback, how they’re learning, how they’re improving their process in the company, and who can be doing similar work in other areas.”

The DTA also enables employees to share their expertise. John Coyne, an expert application engineer at Discover, remembers when there was an “initial challenge from subject matter experts to create content” on the platform. Coyne stepped up and contributed more than 15 pieces of content, including tutorials, code patterns, articles, and blogs.

“DTA is undoubtedly part of my daily workflow. When I find myself in need of an answer to a question or solution to a problem, the first place I turn to search is on the DTA,” he says. “I look forward to the daily e-mail’s from DTA that provide some featured articles and upcoming events, such as lightning talks. I’ll often answer a question from a colleague by linking to a DTA tutorial or article.”

The community aspect of DTA is what “makes it extremely useful in solving actual problems you’re facing or developing solutions that can be implemented in your environment,” says Coyne. In regular training exercises, he notes that the projects you work on don’t always translate to real life and may not represent what you do in your daily work. But the DTA allows for hands-on learning, with examples that are true to Discover and its internal culture, all while building community.

Kostick agrees. “DTA has connected me with different product teams and SMEs across the company. It gave me a home and I feel connected to the greater company, with an overall sense of community,” she says. “DTA allows me to find and solve issues while increasing my personal knowledge to be a key contributor to the Discover technical community.”

Beyond IT skills, just the act of contributing to DTA offers employees opportunities to hone valuable skills.

Soumya Raju, a senior manager of product-immersive learning journeys, says that she utilizes DTA to create product-owner immersive learning paths for the company and to organize community events for the product teams. The opportunity to contribute her knowledge to the platform by uploading articles she’s written has helped improve her writing and communication skills, she says, adding that as an all-in-one platform, DTA is vital for helping her succeed in her career — and she doesn’t have to jump around through various tools or platforms to find the content she’s looking for.

Coyne has had a similar experience in contributing to the platform. “DTA has helped me to become a better technical writer,” he says.

By empowering employees to learn new skills, connect with colleagues and SMEs, and share their own expertise on an easy-to-use platform, Discover has reaped significant benefits from DTA. Beyond having a workforce that is up to date on the latest tech skills, through the platform the company is fostering a commitment to continuous learning, giving employees the ability to upskill on their own terms while fostering community across the organization.

Financial Services Industry, IT Training 

Cash pay premiums for some IT certifications rose as much as 57% in Q3 in the US, highlighting for employees the importance of keeping up to date on training, and for CIOs the cost of running the latest (or oldest) technologies.

On average, though, bonuses for non-certified skills were bigger and faster-growing than those for certifications.

One of the hottest IT qualifications was Okta Certified Professional, attracting an average pay premium of 11%, up 57.1% over the preceding six months, according to the latest edition of Foote Partners’ IT Skills & Certifications Pay Index.

The average pay premium paid for another qualification, Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT), rose 37.5%, also hitting 11% of base salary.

While bigger premiums were paid for a handful of other qualifications, those premiums grew more slowly. Certified Professional Scrum Product Owners attracted an average pay premium of 13%, up 18.2% since March.

An average premium of 12% was on offer for PMI Program Management Professional (PgMP), up 20%, and for GIAC Certified Forensics Analyst (GCFA), InfoSys Security Engineering Professional (ISSEP/CISSP), and Okta Certified Developer, all up 9.1% since Q1.

Other certifications attracting pay premiums of 10% or more included AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional, Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect, Google Cloud DevOps Engineer, Pegasystems Certified Lead System Architect, and Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), and a clutch of security-related qualifications such as AWS Certified Security – Specialty, Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK), CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP), GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH), and Okta Certified Administrator.

No certification, no problem

Bigger premiums were on offer for non-certified technical skills, however.

The top-earning skills were big data analytics and Ethereum, with a pay premium of 20% of base salary, both up 5.3% in the previous six months.

Close behind and rising fast, though, were security auditing and bioinformatics, offering a pay premium of 19%, up 18.8% since March. Other non-certified skills attracting a pay premium of 19% included data engineering, the Zachman Framework, Azure Key Vault and site reliability engineering (SRE).

There were also a host of other non-certified technical skills attracting pay premiums of 17% or more, way above those offered for certifications, and many of them centered on management, methodologies and processes or broad technology categories rather than on particular tools. These included metadata design and development, quantitative analysis, regression analysis, continuous integration, data analytics, data strategy, identity and access management, machine learning, natural language processing, and more.

Security, as ever, made a strong showing, with big premiums paid for experience in cryptography, penetration testing, risk analytics and assessment, and security testing.

Other tools including Informatica, Keras, Splunk and Redis also made the list.

Why certification doesn’t (always) pay

Foote Partners offered a number of explanations for the decline in value of some certifications. Some are no longer relevant or have been superseded by more modern qualifications, while demand for others is quickly saturated by a glut of recently qualified candidates chasing additional pay.

Finally, Foote notes, there’s a hard-to-shake feeling among some employers that book learning, and test results don’t always translate to sufficient real-world expertise to do the job — although certification organizations are working to counter this with laboratory tests and peer reviews for some of the skills they certify.

Whatever the reason, some certifications have lost as much as 44% of their value over the last two years, the most devalued being Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate: BI Reporting, Avaya Certified Design Specialist, GIAC Reverse Engineering Malware (GREM) and SAS Certified Advanced Analytics Professional Using SAS 9.

Segments of volatility

Overall, Foote Partners identified 58 certifications that gained in market value and 67 that declined in Q3, showing a little more volatility than in the previous quarter.

When it came to non-certified skills, though, there seems to have been a significant shift, with 60 skills gaining in value and 113 declining; in the prior quarter, there were more gains than losses. The most volatile segment was for management, methodology and process skills, 40% of which changed in value in the quarter — most of them heading down. Despite this, average pay premiums for management, methodology and process skills rose 2.3% during the quarter, and 8% year-on-year, suggesting that one way to get higher pay is to pursue higher levels of abstraction.

Certifications, IT Skills

The days when IT was left to its own (literal) devices, content to work on the tech side of various projects, are on their way out. IT organizations are shifting to product-based methodologies, in which cross-functional teams made up of both tech and business pros focus on a single product or service offering. This organizational shift has given new importance to the product manager, who serves as the leader for such a team and acts as the point person throughout the product’s lifecycle.

A product manager must blend soft and hard skills, and balance input, concerns, and feedback from multiple departments, key stakeholders, business leaders, customers, and clients. As business organizational cultures shift to emphasize product managers, IT leaders have to know more about what makes a good one — and others filling a variety of roles, including those in tech-centered jobs, might be curious about what it takes to make the leap into product management.

We spoke to a wide variety of professionals, including current and former project managers and those who hire and mentor them, about what skills and traits they see as marking out the best of the best in this role. They talked about what you need to succeed, how you can upskill yourself if you’re interested in this career path, and how the skills you already have may give you a leg up.

1. Great communication skills

Much of a product manager’s job involves ensuring the various functions of a cross-functional team work well together. That means you need to be a great communicator, says Dan Ciruli, VP of product management at software services provider D2iQ.

“Communication is an enormous part of every product manager’s job, from working closely with engineering and ensuring that requirements are understood to dealing with sometimes difficult customers,” he says. “You have to be able to present your products well, whether that be in front of a CEO, the board, or at conferences. Being able to write product requirement documents and create exceptional decks are essential skills as well.”

Tailoring information for specific and divergent audiences is particularly important. Tal Laufer, VP of products at cybersecurity firm Perimeter 81, says that the job “includes explaining things both ‘up’ and ‘down’ — up to engineering in terms of requirements definition, and down to explain complex concepts to less trained personnel, in simple, easy-to-understand words.”

In fact, much of your job will be learning how to get all of these audiences to communicate with one another, with you often serving as a mediator.

“Products are a result of multiple components and know-how; they require the involvement of many people across an organization and its business partners — in engineering, supply chain, manufacturing, security, marketing, sales, customer support, finance, etc.,” says Charles Paumelle, chief product officer and co-founder of Microshare, a smart building data solutions company. “Product managers must juggle all these competing agendas and secure alignment from all these parties to get a successful product out.”

Communication skills are so in demand that good communicators from a wide variety of backgrounds can use them to enter this field, says Cait Porte, who is chief marketing officer at software development company Digibee and has a background in product management. “Given that this role can emerge from various backgrounds, including customer success, sales, marketing, or development, a real opportunity presents itself because effective communicators can empathize with the users and translate priorities back to the business,” she says.

2. Empathy

You may not be used to hearing someone say that an ability to empathize is a business skill. But in fact, almost all the experts we spoke to cited it as a key quality an elite product manager should have.

“Empathy is essential because product managers need to always keep in mind the raison d’être of their products — who will use them, and why will customers change habits to adopt a new product?” says Microshare’s Paumelle. “Too many products fail, despite being technically brilliant or aesthetically beautiful, because they serve no unmet need and therefore find no customer adoption.”

Shane Quinlan, director of product management at software development firm Kion, says that empathy with potential customers is just one part of the picture. “You also need to understand, balance, and mold the perspectives from multiple functional areas — dev, stakeholders, design, etc. — and personalities,” he explains. “Whether you call that EQ or something less buzzy, it’s the soft skills that make great product managers.”

And empathy too isn’t necessarily an inborn quality — it’s a skill that you can develop if you want to find success in this field. “A great product manager feels the urge to make things simpler and easier for their users,” explains Vincent Paquet, CPO of Dialpad, which makes AI-powered communications software for contact centers and other businesses. “A great way to get there is picturing yourself explaining to a good friend or family member how to use that feature. It puts you in the right mindset and somehow makes it obvious what needs more polish.”

3. Data and analytical savvy

But a great product manager needs hard skills as well as soft ones. Casey McGuigan, product manager at software maker Infragistics, says that in particular, “Data should always be top of mind and at the center of all decisions. The background that I have in mathematics has helped me tremendously in truly being able to understand my customers’ journeys and points in which they need improvements. The ability to analyze and understand the metrics that you are looking at is essential to growth hacking improvements as a product manager.”

Data savvy is another potential skillset that you can leverage if you want to jump into the product management career track, and that was definitely the case for McGuigan. Those data skills were “what drove my progression from reception to product analyst,” she explains. “With the combination of an analytical mindset and a collegiate athlete’s determination and drive, the growth into a product manager role was clear.”

Still, a product manager needs to be able to put creative flair into their application of analytics, says Holly Hester-Reilly, founder and CEO of product management coaching and consulting firm H2R Product Science. She says that a product manager’s analytic abilities should “allow them to look at a problem critically and figure out how to measure even things that are hard to measure.”

4. Decisiveness — and flexibility

Armed with emotional and analytic insights, good product managers shouldn’t be afraid to lead their teams to quick results. “You need to be willing to make decisions quickly with imperfect information and build a culture that is amenable to the impact of that,” says Kion’s Quinlan. “No analysis paralysis. No death by committee. Observe, orient, decide, act.”

Because you need to be able to make quick decisions, you also need to be able to change plans on the fly in response to new information, changes in the business landscape, and any problems that the market throws your way. “Being flexible is critical as a product manager,” says Luke Gannon, product manager at graph database company Neo4j. “You have to learn to be flexible in order to get over any hurdles, like late delivery or bad enablement content. It’s important to focus on the overall goal while still recognizing that the plan you built initially may need to be shifted over time in order to achieve the vision.”

5. Business smarts

All the skills we’ve talked about so far need to be marshalled in support of your company’s business goals — and that means you need to understand those goals, and where your product and your company sit in the marketplace, very well.

“I see elite product teams succeeding when product managers are strategically connecting their product goals with the overall goals of the company,” says Trisha Price, CPO at software development company Pendo. “There are so many product teams that just talk about features — whether it’s a feature their customer asked them to build or it’s something they’ve outlined that they want to build. Product managers need to address the ‘so what’ of those features. What’s the outcome you’re going to get by building that feature? What problem will your customers solve by using this? What business outcome are your customers going to get because of your investment? Product managers need to think ahead and tie the business strategy and product strategy together to really address the company’s business goals and metrics, instead of focusing on just mechanically building new features.”

D2iQ’s Ciruli says that this higher-level analysis of your product’s role in the business should help you understand “the exchange of value.” What does he mean by that? “As a product manager, my job is to ensure that what we are building is something of value to our customers,” he says. “That means knowing their needs and looking beyond that to see what can improve their lives.”

But the customer isn’t the only player here, he explains. “My job is also to ensure that we are building a business and see the value in our return — whether that value means data, money, or something else entirely, it is my job as the product manager to understand that value. It is vital to understand that product management isn’t just about making a great product, but also understanding how the exchange of value is instrumental to enacting progress.”

“As product development progresses, choices and compromises have to be made,” adds Microshare’s Paumelle. “Product managers must drive these decisions by striking the right balance between empathy (voice of the customer), business acumen (commercial viability for the organization), and technical acumen (technical feasibility of the product).”

6. The ability to drive your organization with enthusiasm

It should be clear by now that the product manager’s job is to mediate among customers and various stakeholders within the company. Mona Ghadiri, director of product management at cybersecurity firm BlueVoyant, puts it this way: “Being good at product management is about managing both the culture surrounding your portfolio and the hearts and minds of other decision makers. I like to quote my Big Fat Greek Wedding — in the movie, they say the man is the head and the woman is the neck, and the neck turns the head. I think product management is the same. We are the neck of the organization. We turn the head.”

To serve that mediating role, Kion’s Quinlan says you need to maintain enthusiasm about your product and your business. “You care about product management, software development, technology trends, market trends, business strategy, marketing, sales, design … everything,” he says. “If you lose interest — or never find it — you’re going to deliver subpar solutions.”

That’s why H2R Product Science’s Hester-Reilly says that great product managers need to maintain boundless curiosity about their job and their business. “Curiosity leads them to always be asking great questions and seeking to better understand how people interact with technology and the world around them,” she says.

Start your product management journey

This all may seem somewhat overwhelming. But different potential candidates on this career track may balance these skills differently — and if you know you’re lacking in one, you can pick it up along the way.

“I certainly think these skills can be learned,” says Pendo’s Price. “The field also changes, so it requires continuous learning — being the best at your craft one day requires investment to stay there. There are a lot of places where you can learn best-in-class product management approaches and skills. Mind the Product is a great place to start — they have great content, conferences, and lots of workshops and training opportunities. The key here is being able to translate the concepts into your day-to-day work, to drive specific outcomes that align with company or product strategy.”

“I think the main traits that have helped me be successful are my constant desire to learn, research, and read, my empathy for users, and my technical background — but most of all it’s my desire to solve problems using technology,” she adds. “It is a real thrill for me to see my product being used, to hear stories from customers on how these products drive value.”

Careers, Hiring, Project Management

To Guy Hadari, CIO of Biogen, the most important, but often overlooked skill for a CIO is management.

“Most people consider the CIO to be a technology person, and they want to put them in a technology box, but technology should be only 20% of a CIO’s job,” says Hadari, who has been leading IT for the $15 billion biotech business since March 2021. “CIOs need to understand infrastructure, security, and business applications at a high level, but it is more important that they know how to manage a business function. A CIO with a half billion-dollar budget is essentially the CEO of a very complex business.”

As Hadari sees it, “The challenge is that most up-and-coming IT professionals are trained to be technology implementers and innovators, and so are ill equipped for the management aspects of the job,” something that he experienced personally. In his first few years as CIO, Hadari’s comfort zone was data, analytics, and statistics, and that was the lens he used to lead IT. “Although my early years focused on the application of technology to business problems, it was during my years in management roles with IBM that I started to see that technology depth was keeping me from being a good manager.”

With several CIO stints now under his belt, Hadari certainly learned how to manage, and today he places a premium on the management skills of his senior leadership team. Here are the essential management skills he looks for in IT leaders today.

1. The ability to think strategically — and focus on details

“I expect IT leaders to know their business, the details, the numbers, and also be able to step back and take a bigger look,” he says.

2. The savvy to run IT like a business

Hadari looks for managers who understand that good management is a steady cadence of activities you need to conduct in order to run IT like a business. “The most challenging aspect of management is the repetitiveness,” he says.  “It can be very challenging to create something with continuity and sustainability.” But that is what Hadari is looking for: someone who has created an organization that is so well managed that they can walk away without causing immediate disruption.

At Biogen, Hadari uses a management framework that functions as the drum beat of the organization. The framework, which every leader on the IT team uses, contains a regular schedule of IT town halls, meetings, and functional reviews. “The framework can seem ‘boring,’ but it keeps the business running,” Hadari says. “And it gives us credibility when we talk to the business, because we know all of the details. Is it sexy and transformative? No, it is management 101, but solid operational management processes have been critical to the last three transformations I have been privileged to lead.”

3. A knack for asking the right questions — before providing solutions

“Asking questions is difficult. It is easier to start with answers or just deliver a solution,” says Hadari, who considers asking questions before proposing solutions to be a state of mind. “You have to want to get to the heart of the problem by digging into the specifics,” he says.

For example, say that a sales manager asks for a new CRM tool to better drive sales. By asking the right questions, the IT leader learns that the sales people are losing time because it takes them an hour to enter expenses. The solution is not CRM; it’s a better process for expense management. “‘If we reduce expense management time by 30 minutes, will that help to drive sales?’ is a better question than, ‘What kind of CRM tool do you want?’” Hadari says.

4. The instinct to advance and protect your people

Have the courage to protect and develop the people who work for you. “Most companies still consider IT to be a necessary evil and a cost burden,” says Hadari. “When you sit in an organization where one measure of success is that nobody is yelling at you, you don’t always feel great about your work. That’s why it is so critical for IT leaders to advocate for their people and drive their advancement. Leaders who drive the advancement of others naturally gather great people around them.”

5. The ability to transform from data

Hadari encourages his team to use data, surveys, and conversations to understand the perceptions of IT, and the problems that create those perceptions. He finds that comparing how IT rates itself to how the business rates IT reveals a great deal about where IT needs to focus. “Collecting all of that information is not an easy process, but it is the beginning of change,” says Hadari. “It means that we can accept our challenges, bring them out into the open, and do something about them.”

At Biogen, Hadari’s extended leadership team, which is one level below his senior IT leadership team, owns the strategy and plan for IT improvement. “They build it, execute on it, and own it,” he says. “Once they have a plan, they can have constructive conversations with their business partners and hold their heads high.”

6. A willingness to grow

Coming full circle, Hadari looks for IT leaders who do not have a comfort zone bias. “If you are an expert in commercial IT, then commercial IT becomes your focus and holds you back from becoming a multi-disciplined IT leader,” he says. “The CIO’s comfort zone should be building and managing a high-performing IT organization.”

IT Leadership

As anybody in IT can attest, the skills gap companies are facing is real, and it’s getting more pronounced. The Great Resignation trend is hitting IT hard. Nearly 90% of all employers either already have a shortage or expect to face one within a few years. And a third say the problem has already grown worse over the past year alone.

Employers are approaching the skills issue proactively. They’re offering more perks to attract highly qualified applicants, of course. Many are also setting up certification programs to arm their work forces with more of the IT “technical skills” that are in high demand – everything from networking to technical support to machine learning to cybersecurity and analytics.

Efforts like these can help raise the technical skill levels inside organizations. But they won’t ensure that IT teams have the broad range of skills, knowledge, overall business acumen and emotional intelligence they need to meet tomorrow’s challenges.

To manage increasingly complex IT environments, organizations need to add more of the “power skills” that aren’t usually associated with the IT profession. These include the interpersonal skills that enable teams to go way beyond tinkering with technology – everything from workplace collaboration to leadership to critical thinking. These are the skills that enable teams to make technology work optimally for the organization itself.

To a certain extent, these types of power skills are innate; certain people just seem to perform them better than others. But these skills can also be taught. And many organizations are building up skill levels in these areas by taking advantage of flexible, anytime, anywhere, learning-as-a-service models that enable workers to develop on the fly.

Here are six nontechnical talents your staff should be skilled up on, and how you can teach them:

Collaboration – Promoting Teamwork

In sports, teams that play together well generally have an edge over those who don’t. The same applies to tech organizations. “Team players” collaborate with each other on tasks, mentor each other and focus strategically on solving problems that hold back the larger group. Managers are responsible for creating a team dynamic. But individuals can learn what it takes to collaborate. Courses can focus on conflict management techniques, listening, assessing group dynamics, carving out a productive role and applying individual expertise to organizational goals.    

Critical Thinking – Digging into a Problem with a Broader Perspective

To perform effectively in their job, IT managers need to bring a lot of skills to the table. It’s not enough to just punch the clock and check off items from the to-do list. It’s important to think – deeply and broadly – about potential problems and how to solve them. Management training courses often devote segments to critical thinking skills. Concepts like analytical thinking, open-mindedness and self-regulation are central to the act of problem framing in a technology environment. This involves committing to gathering the best information, regardless of source, and shedding biases when it comes time to make a decision. Developing a sound critical thinking process establishes trust from peers and helps individuals keep aligned to the bigger picture.

Leading Through Ideation – Building Collaboration into the Process

While leaders have the final say, they can’t be the only ones talking. Others need to contribute ideas, and let the group decide on the right one to pursue. This requires an organizational commitment to ideation. Both managers and team members need to prioritize the practice – and work on it. There are techniques to employ that may seem obvious, but they can be taught. Brainstorming, for instance. Workshops can teach ways to create structured processes that encourage out-of-the-box proposals, keep contributors focused, collect ideas, track progress and develop feedback loops. Another technique – “bodystorming” – encourages participants to act out situations and put them in the user’s place. Teams that use their ideation skills to the fullest solve problems more quickly and effectively than those headed by autocratic leaders.

Practicing Inclusiveness – More Points of View Generate More Value  

In society the term “inclusiveness” has focused on acceptance of individuals regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. It can be seen as even more broad-ranging – the ability to blend with others that are different from you in any way. This is a skill. The workplace is a melting pot of people with different experiences, approaches, talents, problem-solving abilities and work styles. Being able to listen to others, help others and be helped by others helps organizations advance overall levels of innovation.

Problem Solving – Removing Roadblocks Before They Happen

Work can be seen as a series of sequential, interconnected problems that need to be solved to ensure a smooth flow of progress. Inability to solve one problem invariably backs up the whole process. There are problem-solving techniques that can break the logjam. One that’s being taught across disciplines is to address specific issues in a journalistic who-what-where fashion. Who is most affected by this problem? What does this problem prevent from moving forward? Where did this problem take place? When does it take effect? Why is it happening? How is it affecting workflows and team members from being productive? Performing effective problem-solving helps individuals lower stress levels and remove roadblocks to eventual success. 

Decision Making – Ideation to Execution

Ideas are helpful, but they won’t benefit the organization’s mission if the best ones aren’t put into action. Decisions need to be made. Leaders, of course, have to control the big, sweeping moves, but rank-and-file technologists need to successfully decide how to move tasks forward on their agendas. How can they do that better? Courses and workshops can focus on specific decision-making techniques. Here’s one string to follow: 1) Identify the problem; 2) Gather relevant information; 3) Brainstorm possible solutions; 4) List potential consequences; 5) Make a decision; 6) Take action. Making timely, well-informed decisions advances business objectives and prepares each contributor to take on more responsibility.

Conclusion

Companies are only as effective as the people they employ. The technology sector is currently facing challenges recruiting and keeping qualified workers. Moving forward, they’ll need to double down on efforts to develop skills from within – not just in technologies themselves but also in the skill areas that advance the organizations as a whole.

For more information, visit HPE Education Services

About Drew Westra

Drew Westra is a Worldwide Marketing Leader in HPE Educational Services, with over 25 years’ experience in the information technology, telephony and wireless industries. As an entrepreneur, he has also successfully developed several small businesses into thriving organizations.

IT Leadership

Skills shortages continue to plague the IT sector, causing UK technology job vacancies to shoot up by almost 200% since 2020, according to BCS.

Not having the right skills or team is the third biggest worry among senior IT decision-makers in the UK, with two-thirds of technology executives (66%) highlighting that their organisation’s digital transformation projects are being stalled due to struggles in recruiting IT professionals with the skills they need.

Cybersecurity is the UK tech sector’s most sought-after skill set according to the Nash Squared Digital Leadership Report, with 43% of respondents reporting a shortage, followed by big data specialists and analysts (36%), technical architects (33%) and developers (32%). Other in-demand skill sets include network engineering and devops.

Sadly, there’s no quick fix to the problem of tech skills shortages. With the biggest cause of IT skill shortfalls in the UK being a lack of STEM graduates coming through the education system, changes to public policy are key. However, there are steps that CIOs can take to begin easing recruitment challenges.

1. Change the perception of a career in IT

One of these is to work towards changing the general perception of IT careers and giving people a better understanding of how varied work in the technology sector can be.

“IT often has the perception that it’s solely focused on the lone ranger sitting in a darkened room responding to the bad guys. In terms of attracting talent, this may not appeal to those who’re searching for a career that’s people-focused and revolves around being part of a team,” says Heather Hinton, CISO of cloud-based comms company RingCentral.

Hiring, IT Leadership, IT Skills, IT Training