'If one can write 100-150 lines of good code in a day, they will always be in demand,' advises Jitendra Singh, chief technology officer, TalentSprint, an edtech platform.
The tech world has been changing rapidly, and especially so during the last 5 years. The uncertainties caused by COVID-19 have sped up the change by several notches.
This has led to very rapid transformations in job roles across industries -- new roles are opening up for which new skill sets need to be acquired.
Even existing jobs need reskilling to be more productive and efficient.
The onus on individuals to take charge of their careers is very high, probably the highest than ever before.
What is changing?
There were times when people would switch jobs every 1-2 years and career growth would happen auto-magically, but I don’t see that happening anymore.
The old method of finding the right project and then getting trained on it won’t work anymore.
Companies will now actively look for people who have the required skill sets.
Be it within your company or outside, be it fresher or experienced professional, those with advanced technology skills will be preferred and will command a premium.
Those with current skills will need to put in efforts and be ahead of the curve by reskilling -- either on their own or from good hands-on courses.
What should I learn?
I am often asked what key skills one should focus on acquiring.
Taking advantage of my leadership position in one of India's leading edtech companies which offers premium deep tech education programs, I can say that 'key skill' is not a one size fits all.
It depends on your aptitude as well as your career stage.
As a fresh graduate, you need to learn skills which are hot right now.
For a mid-level professional the goal is to look at skills that will be hot for 5-10 years, while a senior professional must pick a domain along with tech for best results. Let me give you a few examples.
In my view, fresh graduates must focus first and foremost on mastering coding skills.
If one can write 100-150 lines of good code in a day, they will always be in demand.
Most companies today are open to any modern programming language of your choice.
They are looking for freshers with clear thinking and coding abilities which can be mastered in a few months, with practice and under guidance.
At the start of their career, if one is looking for a more exciting career than plain vanilla coding, then I recommend exploring the world of cyber security.
This is one field that is going to explode in the coming years and reap rich dividends in 3-5 years from now.
Those who work on cyber security from early days of their career will go on to become leaders in the space in a short span of time.
If you are a mid-level professional with 4-5 years of experience the most important future skills will definitely be AI/ML.
We have already seen a lot of hype around it, but I feel this is just the tip of the iceberg. As technology matures, it will find applications in wide areas like marketing and data analytics and then the demand for people with experience and knowledge of AI will be very high.
So, start learning AI/ML now and keep working on problems on sites like Kaggle and in just one 1 year, you could be looking at a transformed career altogether.
For those who are less inclined to learning complicated mathematics required for AI/ML, they can look at blockchain. This is one of the most promising technologies created in the last decade.
The potential is huge, and we haven’t even started to scratch the surface. With financial institutions picking up blockchain technology for inter institutional transactions, the future is very bright.
There is a large scope for blockchain if one is keen on starting their own company or working in the financial services sector.
Since this is a nascent skill, one needs to have patience for a year or more till it matures and reaps dividends.
Now if we look at the people who have had experience of a decade or more, there are many options these days to learn applied skills in a domain, like fintech which is a combination of multiple technologies specializing in financial services.
Then there is a huge scope for AI professionals in healthcare and even in marketing. These combinations augur well for large companies and mid-stage startups which are looking for experienced tech savvy leaders.
Another alternative for senior professionals is to become mentors.
There are so many hubs and accelerators of start-ups that are always looking for senior folks as mentors.
While this may not be rewarding immediately, it will help them learn and stay in touch with cutting edge technologies, and the experience of mentoring start-ups will prepare them for taking senior positions in mature startups.
Once the mentored start-up becomes successful, very often, the mentors have joined them at senior levels at very exciting packages. It's a win-win with a long-term view.
A mandatory skill that I strongly recommend everyone must develop is Design Thinking.
While there are no job advertisements for design thinking as a primary skill, it is tested in all technical interviews today and is a primary factor towards being a successful leader.
With recent focus on it, there are some great blogs that one can follow to get better at design thinking.
It is a skill like swimming, very natural to children, but difficult to learn as an adult, and once learnt it becomes a natural part of solving problems.
From my experience, I can say that the world is hungrier for people with skills today than it ever was earlier.
Often the experience and skills don't match up and leave a big gap in expectations of job seekers and the industry. The above recommendations should help in finding the right fit for your experience level in the industry in the near and distant future.