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Clouds ahead: What an IT career will look like five years out

Paul Heltzel | Sept. 9, 2015
IT infrastructure is increasingly giving way to the cloud. Here's how to remain relevant in the years ahead

As companies' infrastructure needs move increasingly to the cloud, so too will jobs dedicated to maintaining racks.

"IT managers will need good network engineers, help desk staff, security managers, and business analysts," says Chris McKewon, founder and chief architect of IT consulting company Xceptional Networks. "But they won't need server/storage engineers, systems administrators, or data center managers."

The result will be a fundamental shift in IT's overarching mission at most organizations, with the support-and-maintain mind-set giving way to a more strategic, software-centric vision for IT. In fact, the IT staff of the future is likely to need the skills of a businessperson to stay current, as their company's software requirements and the options for satisfying them will be deep, varied, and changing quickly.

Tim Prendergast, CEO and founder, Evident.io
"The days of server-hugging, deep domain expertise, and IT-only certifications and training are long gone." -- Tim Prendergast, CEO and founder, Evident.io

"IT managers will have to support applications, not equipment," McKewon says. "They'll have to be flexible, adaptable, and inclusive. It will be difficult to set standards on what hardware will and won't work. The users will do that for them. And cloud-based single sign-on will become one of the most important elements to a successful cloud strategy. Users don't want to manage 50 login names and passwords for 50 different applications."

"The IT department won't need to be onsite monitoring and recovering devices and systems to ensure they're ready for use," says iCore's Rogers. "Instead, the IT professionals can spend more time as strategic planners and business analysts who ensure their organizations are structured appropriately to support cloud-based office communications. They'll be responsible for vendor management and integration processes." And, he says, IT pros "will be educators, hosting essential end-user trainings for colleagues."

Tim Prendergast, formerly of Adobe and now CEO and founder of AWS infrastructure security firm Evident.io, sees more crossover roles in the future.

"They'll look like today's devops and full-stack engineer roles," Pendergrast says. "We'll see IT become less-siloed ... and heavily staffed by software engineers. Staff in existing roles will have the opportunity to grow and embrace new technologies and practices for the new era of cloud computing, and take advantage of the value found in rapid iteration environments. The days of server-hugging, deep domain expertise, and IT-only certifications and training are long gone."

That said, not all legacy systems will disappear. In fact, some may remain critically important to the business for years to come, whether IT likes it or not. And somebody will need to care for and feed them.

"Many project managers continue to focus on battling tech debt because of old technology, bad technology decisions, and one-off technology patches that continue to drive complexity and reduce speed," says Curt Jacobsen, principal at PricewaterhouseCoopers. "This battle will be inevitable -- and IT managers will be managing those legacy issues for a long time."

 

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