The Market Heats Up: Top IT Skills for 2014

Even as the government shutdown threatens to derail the American economy, IT continues to clamor for engineers and other IT pros. Network World has compiled a list of 8 IT skills that have the highest demand. We will mention that briefly, but first we can say for sure that IT security is high on the list.

“IT security” is defined as preventing threats to the network and applications. Security engineers protect the network by configuring and installing firewalls, malware, routers, and different network devices, each of which has its own interface and command-line language. Application security experts work on provisioning, single-sign-on, authentication and authorization, LDAP, and encryption.

To handle the surging need for network expertise from the demand side, companies are rallying around the new concepts of Software Defined Networks (SDN) and Virtualized Function Networking (VFN). The goal is to define standards for networked devices and replace proprietary hardware with software-based firewalls, routers, switches, malware, and intrusion-detection software and push all of that onto virtual servers running on commodity, standardized hardware.

SDN should reduce the need to have a different expert for each device. You should not have to type “go” into each different machine using completely different syntax.

In addition to keeping the hardware salesman from knocking down the door, VFN has the advantage of allowing companies to spin up new devices, like video optimization servers, when demand surges because people are, say, watching the Masters golf tournament instead of working. It’s important to make sure you don’t let increased site traffic cause an outage or slowdown that will generate end-user complaints that distract from your other duties. You need to be proactive about monitoring and addressing these potential problems.

Here is the Network World list, along with my own commentary:

1) Programmers. Of course we need more programmers as software has completely taken over our lives and made Facebook and Twitter addicts of all of us.

2) Support. Those in category (1) who consider themselves artists and geniuses would say support is “boring.” Those who work in support know it is essential to keep the lights on and the machines humming, so that those in category (1) do not howl.

3) Networking. The world has gone wireless; the cabled lan is passé.

4) Mobile applications. You already know that mobile devices are pushing notebooks and desktop computers right out the door—except for those of us with fat fingers who need a keyboard.

5) Project management. Where would we be without someone to remind us to fill out our timesheets?

6) Database Administration. Can you spell “Big Data?”

7) Security. As we told you above, you don’t need to read Network World to know this. Security is an overarching concern.

8) Business Intelligence. This requires skills that do not include “Business Stupidity.”

If you fall into any of the above categories and can type, consider yourself hired.

If you are doing the hiring, the market may be tough as many of those who want a job already have one. Make sure you cover all areas – for example, applications without support will inevitably crash and big data without analysis will quickly become useless.