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4 Skills You’ll Need as the Lone IT Pro in 2019

If you’re part of a small IT team, or even the sole IT pro in your shop, you know how it goes. It’s quite a bit of plugging in wires and turning devices off and then back on. That’s been the case for a long time.

In today’s office environment, your users are facing increasingly complex tools and business requirements — and relying on you or your team for help. Even while helping everyone in the office with the day-to-day items, small IT shops aren’t exempt from tasks related to security and collaboration.

Here are the four skills that you’re going to need in a small IT shop. To be clear, these aren’t the only skills. They’re just the ones you might not initially expect.

1. Data Analysis

If you’re the only IT pro in your organization, it’s common to be the DBA, analyst, and trainer all rolled into one. You might even dabble in some light Excel training.

There are plenty of ways you can begin honing these skills. Focus on technologies like Tableau, Power BI, or even Python, and you’ll gain exposure to the best tools out there for data analysis. Importantly, these tools will also allow you to automate reports and data requests. Or, even better, empower your users to access the data themselves.

If you find you like this line of work, it’ll be a great path to pursue in 2019. Perhaps the most essential skill IT professionals can develop is the ability to analyze data. The demand for data professionals is growing at a booming rate — it’s expected to increase by 364,000 openings in 2020.

2. Cybersecurity

Security is an absolute requirement for organizations — and IT teams — of any size.

With all the news of systems being compromised and clients held for ransom, businesses are investing more in cybersecurity than before. Global spending on cybersecurity products and services are expected to surpass $1 trillion by 2021. Attacks focus on accessing information that hackers can sell, and can also be intended to harm a business or an industry. For these reasons, you need to prepare your entire team.

But before that can happen, your InfoSec skills need to be up to par.

There’s plenty you can do to increase your security know-how. The amount of security training out there is practically endless. But, small teams are strapped for time and resources, so stick to the basics. You can follow a specific vendor like Cisco or Microsoft, go with a more vendor-neutral certification from CompTIA, or just refresh yourself on security basics.

Every employee within an organization should be up to date on the latest security best practices. As an IT pro, it’s essential that you’re able to fully explain to every team member how cybersecurity works. This way, everyone can take the steps to help you secure the network — or at least not make your life harder.

3. Project Management

Lone IT pros are project managers and technicians. Project management isn’t just about time management. Though, you’ll need that, too.  

With project management skills, you’ll understand how to manage projects fast and successfully. Having a project management framework in place ensures that nothing falls through the cracks, no matter the project you’re working on.

Scheduling, critical thinking, and task management are great skills to add to your skill set no matter the size of your organization. Organizations with small IT teams tend to have just as small — if not smaller — PM units. So you may end up wearing multiple hats. Consider this: 51 percent of project managers say soft skills are now way more valuable than they were five years ago.

One way to validate your project management experience if you’re in a more IT-specific role is through certification. Earning ITIL® certification requires a solid mix of IT knowledge and project management skills that translate the skills you have as an IT pro to a management lens. Even with the IT-specific base this certification has, employers will see your ability to get things done — and likely will place you in management roles for it.

Good project management is equivalent to a superpower, and is increasingly important in today’s market.

4. Collaboration Technologies

Whether it’s Cisco Call Center for the phones or Microsoft Teams for chat, every office uses some type of collaboration technology. They don’t run on magic. Someone needs to manage those systems. As the lone IT pro, you have to learn at least the basics of these collaboration tools — and it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

Understanding the nuts and bolts behind collaboration tech will endear you to everyone, especially if you can block all the spam. Employers in many industries will see your ability to combine online communication tools and use them to build an even stronger communication platform.

They will also see you as a modern IT specialist who can run with whichever technologies are thrown at them and tie them together to make a tool that works.

Conclusion

These four skills are going to give an upper hand to any IT professional, but they’re especially valuable to the lone IT pro. Learning the language of data, project management, or security will help expand the variety of people you can easily communicate and work with. And who knows — it might even lead to a new role for you (if you’re good enough).

 

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