5 Challenges Facing IT Pros in 2018
There has never been a better time to be in tech. It has also never been easier to break into the field. Every company needs IT support in one way or another and there are simply not enough certified professionals to go around. With all the good news in economies around the world, what challenges can you possibly face in the coming year?
There are three big challenges that face IT pros this year: Changing technologies, a specialization frenzy, and the best possible to have — too many options to progress your IT career.
Specializations are exploding in the IT field
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the demand for networking and systems specialists will grow by about six percent in the next 10 years, adding 88,500 new positions to the U.S. economy. Meanwhile, the demand for information security analysts is expected to explode, increasing 28 percent in the same timeframe. That means more IT pros will be moving out of generalist positions, and specializing in a security field.
The good news. More demand for higher-level skilled positions means it will be easier to progress into a specialized role in 2018. It's not only security, but also database administrators, cloud architects, and virtualization experts. If you're in an entry- or mid-level position right now, then you're probably just a certification away from stepping up to one of these hot jobs.
The challenge. You still need experience to get these jobs. For instance, we recently took a look at what it takes to score a security job. Security analysts not only need to identify current threats but also know how to fix potential holes. Cybersecurity is important — important enough that companies want people with experience.
More good news. The frantic industry-wide demand for specialization means many companies will probably accept "demonstrated interest" rather than experience — either of which you can probably achieve in your current role, too. As CBT Nuggets security trainer Keith Barker points out, you can talk to your supervisor or security team (if you have one) to addsome security-related tasks to your plate. The same goes for any specialization. You can leverage your current role into a new job, either at another company or with your current one.
It's becoming easier to get into IT
For most of the past 20 years, employment in every IT sector has seen consistent growth. Even the 2000 dot-com crash and 2009 financial crisis barely dented the demand for IT professionals. In fact, the IT industry only lost one percent of its workforce in 2009, and even then, demand rebounded within a year.
More recent BLS statistics indicate that it's going to be easier to get into IT in the coming years. If people are specializing at a greater rate, then you'll inevitably see more entry-level generalists jobs open. There's a lot of upward pressure in the IT field right now. That's great news.
The challenge. The word is out that IT is a great career field, so you'll be up against a growing number of people. IT is one of those few well-paid career fields where you don't necessarily need a four-year degree — or even a two-year degree. Ultimately, companies are more interested in what you can do. So, what does that mean about getting into IT?
The good news. Luckily, it's relatively easy to make your resume stand out. Remember how we said that every organization needs IT help? We do mean every organization. That means there's boundless opportunity to do some volunteer work that will pay off in your career. CBT Nuggets trainer Jeremy Cioara is a big proponent of using volunteer work to get your foot in the door.
"If your church, gym, or wherever you go regularly has computers or IT infrastructure, ask to help maintain it," Jeremy said. "Do it well for some time, and BING, you just got a work experience line item, and a referral for future employers all in one place!"
Robots want to do your job
Automation has been the boogeyman for many career fields for decades. But, at the time of this writing, robots haven't taken over. The latest buzz has been around the promise of artificial intelligence (AI). Despite Microsoft's recent rollout of an impressive machine learning toolkit for Azure, that's still a little way into the future. In the meantime, you can unleash robots today on many of your day-to-day tasks.
The challenge. Fighting off the robots isn't the challenge. And, quite honestly, why would you want to? Many IT pros have scripted away much of their boring, menial work. We advocate using them — and that's the challenge. Automation is not automatic. You have to unlock that power.
The good news. It's getting easier to automate certain elements of your IT job. You'll need to learn how to use PowerShell at the very least, and maybe even Python or Ansible. There are also plenty of off-the-shelf tools now available for infrastructure, desktop administration, databases, and project management.
More of your budget is moving to the cloud
According to Spiceworks, cloud investment is expected to stabilize in 2018, which is a positive change. In the past few years, we saw a big spike in new investment in cloud-based services. The stabilization means that we're seeing the levelling off of adoption and we're now moving into the maintenance phase.
The challenge. Hopefully, it's become apparent that the cloud isn't going to steal your job. With that said, it's probably also true that cloud-based services have changed the way you do your job. Whether that's a wholesale move to AWS infrastructure or the adoption of Office 365, you're going to be expected to master the cloud moving forward.
The good news. The cloud actually makes life easier.
You're expected to be an expert at everything
Despite the increase in specialization, there are still plenty of generalist IT positions out there. We've talked a lot about deepening versus widening your skills as an IT pro. That's meant something different than it does now. In the past, that mean you might do desktop support, maintain the network, and help your colleagues out with turning things off and back on again. Today, IT pros are expected to have considerably more complex skills.
The challenge. Just look at even the most IT generalist job postings. The list of technologies you're expected to know is almost comically long: VMware, Office 365, Microsoft Server, Mac support, and a solid helping of Linux. You might even be asked to know a little HTML.
The good news. There are plenty of resources out there to help you learn ahead of your interview, or figure it out as you go.
Everyone has their own device
Twenty years ago, you'd be shocked if someone brought their computer from home into the office every day. Today, everyone regularly uses at least two computers in the office, their work computer and smartphone. With the former, you have some control. In the latter, it's the Wild West.
The challenge. First, you'll need to choose among Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), Choose Your Own Device (CYOD), and Corporate Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE) policies. These types of technology policies are becoming more common and even expected. With this trend, IT shops are contending with a dizzying array of devices that burden your network, open security risks, and strain your support staff.
The good news. There are tools to help you protect your data from your users. For instance, Microsoft saw this coming and built mobile device management (MDM) skills into the Microsoft's Windows 10 Configuring Windows Devices 70-697 exam. You will also find that cloud applications are often available on most mobile and desktop devices with an adequate level of security and usability.
All of these challenges represent good problems to have as an IT professional in 2018. The career field is shifting into the new spaces created by innovative technologies. Whether you're just starting out or specializing into what might feel like a new career field, 2018 will be an exciting year with plenty of options. It's looking like 2018 will be a great year.