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Skills every ambitious tech professional will need in 2020

Tech industry employment is a seller’s market firmly on the side of top talent, but competition for the best jobs remains fierce. Candidates cannot skate by on common skillsets and expect to secure the lucrative salaries, prestige, and perks for which the tech sector has become known.

Companies today use advanced tools and tests to weed out the pretenders and identify the people who bring truly valuable skills to the table. Unfortunately, many tech workers — even some of the best — don’t know exactly where they stand.

To combat that knowledge gap, workers are turning to the same types of advanced tools that employers use on them. STELLARES, an AI-powered talent platform, developed a free Skill Mapper to help tech employees understand the relevance and demand for their skills. The tool also shows trends in skill demand, provides research-backed information on the skills required for different roles, and indicates the skills to pick up to optimize for compatibility with future jobs.

Whether you’re new to the tech scene or an old hand at COBOL, you should know how valuable your skills are and where you could improve — especially if you want to maximize your earning potential.

To polish your resume and compete for the best jobs in tech, work to develop these highly sought skills:

Cybersecurity CybersecurityCredit: Tech News World

Nothing makes an executive sweat like a data breach. Now that consumers pay more attention to how and why companies access their data, businesses need people with cybersecurity skills to protect them from bad press.

Cybrary offers free classes for anyone to learn cybersecurity basics. In most roles, you won’t need more than that, but a solid grounding in cybersecurity theory could be an invaluable resource at your next job. Even if not, it will still make a great talking point in your next interview.

To go further into cybersecurity, broaden your education through resources like Cybrary, Udemy, and Lynda. Participate in hacking contests and other white-hat security events. Don’t try to impress prospective employers by infiltrating their network uninvited, though. A few people might be impressed, but most will find the intrusion unwelcome.

Cybersecurity isn’t just about firewalls, either. Soft skills, including how to recognize potential fraudsters and intellectual property thieves, matter just as much. Prove that you understand the holistic nature of cybersecurity to impress your interviewers.

Proven communication skills

As valuable as hard technical skills may be in the office, employers desperately need tech candidates who can carry a conversation as well as they can code. Improving your communication skills could quickly differentiate you from the crowd of tech wizards competing for the best jobs.

Communication skills rarely stand out on an application, so consider bolstering your skills through real-world experiences. Volunteer at local schools or career centers to practice presenting in front of an audience. Write a blog or produce a video series on trending topics in your industry. You don’t need to create revolutionary content, but if you prove that you keep up with industry trends and know how to carry a conversation, there’s a good chance you’ll make a strong impression.

If you lack charisma, don’t worry. Charm is overrated compared to harder communication skills. Learn how to put together a killer PowerPoint presentation with courses from Udemy or Lynda, then publish your slides online with your programming portfolio. Upper management loves a good-looking graph, and if you learn to quantify and communicate the financial value your skills provide, you’ll be in great shape.

Data science

Unlike soft conversational skills, data science is hard as stone. Glassdoor has ranked “Data Scientist” as the best job in America three years running, and it’s little wonder why. With high starting salaries and massive room for growth, good data scientists should remain at the top of the tech talent marketplace for years to come.

Of course, companies don’t pay top dollar for common skills. Not many people possess the necessary technical, business, mathematical, and strategic experience to call themselves data scientists. Achieving that combination may seem impossible, but with dedication, you can leverage your existing tech skills into a data science background without going back for a second degree.

The Muse put together a list of the best resources to learn data science. Some of the classes are free, while others charge up to $50 per month. Compared to an expensive university education (and considering the potential career earnings), an investment in data science on the side is an easy choice.

Even if you don’t plan to move fully into a data scientist role, consider learning some data science skills to broaden your appeal. Data science is all about putting information in context, and as more companies rely on data to make decisions, the people who can participate in those high-level conversations will become more valuable.

Artificial intelligence

AI is taking over — not in some sort of dystopian science fiction way, but by changing the foundation of work itself. Between 2017 and 2020, AI was projected to have created 2.3 million jobs, many of them directly related to the technology itself.

The gains made in AI technology over the last few years has proven that there is no sector that won’t be impacted by smart technologies, so every tech professional needs to be prepared to work with them. Even if you don’t master the intricacies of AI, you need to at least understand enough that it can be incorporated into the work you regularly do.

Learning the specifics required to deal with AI professionally might be a challenge, but plenty of other skills can prove to be valuable foundations for the study of artificial intelligence. Machine learning, for example, is one of the most rapidly advancing subfields of AI, and its origins lie in the field of data science.

People more involved in the frontend side of things aren’t safe from the influence of AI either. Companies like B12 are developing AI-driven platforms that self-generate websites based on short questionnaires about business needs and design values.

There are plenty of online courses and bootcamps dedicated to developing AI and machine learning skills, but it’s very important that you find the right one to cater to your pre-existing skill set. Learn the AI-related skills that will have the greatest impact on your current role so that when the tide shifts, you can shift along with it.

Flexibility

It might not be a “skill” like some of the others on this list, but flexibility is just as valuable as anything you can get taught in a course.

The tech landscape is constantly changing, so most employers aren’t really looking for someone who’s mastered a few important technologies or languages; they’re looking for someone they know can adapt regardless of what’s going on around them. Try and constantly be learning in order to keep your mind as dynamic as possible — even though maybe not everything you learn you can translate to your work, having a learning-focused mindset can pay big dividends as technologies come and go.

Plenty of other tech skills not listed here can lead to lucrative career paths. Mobile design, AR, and VR all have promising futures too. That said, walk into any interview with a good basis in the five areas discussed here, and you stand a great chance of landing your dream job in tech.

Published August 17, 2019 — 19:42 UTC

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