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There's no doubt that demand for the technologically skilled will only increase in upcoming years, as practically every company becomes a software-driven enterprise. A survey by the jobs site Monster found that in the UK, jobs in the digital sector have multiplied at more than twice the rate of other non-digital tech sectors, and are predicted to grow by 20% in the next decade.

However, which skills will be particularly in demand? Can CIOs and other tech industry stalwarts future-proof their work by picking up certain skills?

While it's unlikely that the IT skills demanded by the jobs market today will become redundant within our lifetimes, the field is constantly evolving, and there are certainly growth areas on the horizon that IT professionals would do well to educate themselves in.  

Development  

Demand for skills in development is resolutely here to stay (for the time being anyway - this could change as soon as AI is more widely used to code). In 2017, the demand for software developers and engineers increased by 13% in the UK. 

But for now, many companies are looking to increase and improve their digital offering, and this work requires programmers.

Devops

Another important area of growth is the trend for companies to take a devops approach to their IT departments, meaning that developers well versed in this outlook and able to bridge the divide between these two departments will be the most employable.

So gaining a knowledge of devops tools such as Docker, Puppet and Chef is crucial for any developer looking to keep their skill set sharp.

Cloud computing

It's widely recognised that cloud computing is the future, and every IT professional should feel comfortable using these systems. Gartner predicts that by 2020 the worldwide cloud computing market will be worth $411 billion. This means that demand for cloud infrastructure specialists is increasing across the board. 

"Companies are willing to pay top salaries to find the professionals with the right skills and expertise," says Andy Slater, Cloud Recruitment Specialist at Networkers. "Outstanding communication skills are highly sought-after, as well as technical experience of working with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and an understanding of automation and tools like Puppet and Jenkins."

Machine Learning and AI

These are two obvious areas of increasing growth. In the UK, demand for AI jobs increased threefold between 2015 and 2018, even beating out the US in terms of demand. Any developer or IT professional worth their salt should aim to gain at least a grounding of knowledge in these areas. For IT professionals or CIOs looking to move into a new area, jobs in this area include data scientists and machine learning engineers.

"From both a jobs and a society perspective, AI is a technology that has the potential to be truly transformative," said Tara Sinclair, economist and senior fellow at Indeed. "While the jury is still out on how many existing roles could be made redundant as AI becomes more widespread, or whether its potential for job creation outweighs any losses, in the short-term AI is providing a shot in the arm to Britain's jobs market."

Data

Data has repeatedly been dubbed 'the new oil'. The digital infrastructure of our world is now constructed on vast mountains of data, used to inform everything from transport to IoT, as well as business intelligence data fuelling internal organisational overhauls.

This area goes hand in hand with machine learning and AI because in these areas, huge databases are required for machines to 'learn' from, and create intelligence. This area will grow in tandem with increasing demand for data scientists. Knowledge of data visualisation tools, as well as how to analyse and present data will become increasingly valuable in the IT jobs market.

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is an area set to grow exponentially in importance in the upcoming years. Every time a breach is suffered by an organisation, there is a huge cost both in terms of financial loss and loss of reputation and brand value.

A recent study carried out by jobs site Indeed indicated that the UK is dangerously short on cybersecurity skills and that the number of cybersecurity jobs advertised in the UK is the third highest globally, meaning demand exceeded candidate interested by more than three times. The same study indicates that the most in-demand roles are application security, cyber security engineers, network security, cloud security, penetration testing and data security.

The growing interest in DevSecOps will also expand the skillset that organisations are looking for in cybersecurity professionals, widening the scope of the job description to include an understanding of development and operations too.

Business and people skills

As business evolve and go through digital transformations, it is also likely that hybrid roles, mixing elements of business and technology expertise become more common - good news for CIOs, whose role already encompasses both skillsets. Business acumen should also ideally be complemented by soft skills such as leadership and people skills.

"The business of being a CIO, or even being in information technology, is a people business," said Marcy Klevorn, CIO at Ford to CIO UK's sister title CIO US. "Not starting out as a pure technologist helped me lead with relationships, building trust, and seeking to understand first, and then come with the solution next."