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The 6 hottest new jobs in IT

Bill Snyder | March 8, 2016
These leading-edge jobs could prove to be the most lucrative careers in tomorrow’s tech.

Cognitive computing engineer/machine learning specialist

IBM’s cognitive computing initiative, best known for Watson, the computer program that became a "Jeopardy" champion, has given birth to the cognitive systems engineer, a title whose responsibilities have yet to be fully defined. Even IBM isn’t exactly sure if “cognitive systems engineer” is a meaningful job title. What is clear, however, is that cognitive systems are becoming a very large part of IBM’s business plan, and an ecosystem of smaller companies is developing around Watson and related technologies, bringing with them a host of new career opportunities.

SparkCognition, for example, is using machine learning, big data analysis, modeling, and other cognitive-related technologies to better understand security threats. WayBlazer is focused on consumer travel, and Point of Care, one of a number of health care-related Watson partners, allows clinicians to access peer-reviewed content on specific diseases on a mobile platform.

The demand for cognitive computing skills is gaining enough steam that institutions of higher education are paying attention. IBM is helping hundreds of universities develop cognitive-related course materials, says Jim Spohrer, director of IBM's university programs. The skills needed to succeed in cognitive computing go beyond the obvious knowledge key to any big-data-related specialty. “Data curation is a key part; you don’t build a cognitive system without thinking of a body of documents or websites,” he says.

A job listing with IBM Watson Health group, for example, says this about what’s needed to land it: “Candidates should be hands-on in their approach to technology. This includes unstructured data, statistical extraction of entities, machine learning, natural language processing, and search.”

Blockchain engineer

You won’t find a lot of job openings with this title yet. But startups are recruiting engineers and developers who are familiar with the technologies behind bitcoin and have deep experience in cryptography, distributed systems, hash algorithms, and more.

Bitcoin’s core technology, the blockchain, is proving the most intriguing to could-be employers. More than 200 companies and open source projects are seeking to apply blockchain technology to applications such as trading platforms, secure identification cards, self-executing contracts, and many applications in financial services.

Peter Kirby, CEO of Factom, a startup working to monetize the technology developed by, an open source project, says it’s easier to get eight-figure infusions of capital from VCs than it is to find qualified blockchain engineers. “It begins with understanding how decentralized architecture works and the intersection of software architect and cryptography expert,” he says.

The technology is not that difficult to comprehend, he says, but it is new and in some ways more like advanced math than programming.

Interested? Check out this job posted on by CyberCoders, an IT recruiting company promising a salary of $150,000 to $170,000 for an engineer with experience in Python, bitcoins, and distributed systems.


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