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Clouds ahead: What an IT career will look like five years out

Paul Heltzel | Sept. 9, 2015
IT infrastructure is increasingly giving way to the cloud. Here's how to remain relevant in the years ahead

IT roles in flux

Here's the big question: As the cloud continues to gain traction, will companies need a fully staffed IT department? As you may have guessed, few believe the IT department will disappear. Companies will still require talented staff who can -- at the very least -- manage systems integration. But an IT department five years from now will need to keep pace with nearly constant change.

John Matthews, CIO, ExtraHop
"The more complex and interconnected these cloud environments are going to become, the higher amount of a general understanding and knowledge of how it all works together will be required from IT teams." -- John Matthews, CIO, ExtraHop

"I will say that I think the number of implementation and ops-focused roles will decrease, and those IT staff will have to switch to a strategic mind-set," says Roman Stanek, CEO of GoodData. "Leaders who were once focused on operations will have the opportunity to dive more deeply into the blending of business need with technologies, data science, data monetization. IT will no longer be the people who try to manage your database; they'll be the people who are thinking of new ways to monetize, share, and use your data for organization-wide success."

James Quin, senior director at B-to-B marketing firm CDM Media, says he's already seeing radical changes in how IT departments operate and how companies are structuring them.

"The IT department isn't going away, and the role of the CIO isn't going to be marginalized. But as more workloads shift to the cloud, the construction of the IT department, by necessity, must change away from traditional roles to those more focused on vendor, business, security, and service management," Quin says. "This doesn't mean that development and administration jobs go away, just that there are fewer of them."

Mathew Lodge, vice president, VMware cloud services group
"There will be a cross-pollination between development and IT operations, with IT teams becoming much more application- and developer-savvy, and dev teams understanding the impacts of development choices on operations." -- Mathew Lodge, vice president, VMware cloud services group

The jobs that remain, Quin says, will focus on what he calls the "shim" layer that integrates different public cloud services with a few applications that must remain in-house. These could include highly sensitive corporate (or scientific) data or medical records and images, for example.

John Matthews, CIO of IT operations analytics company ExtraHop, is a 20-year veteran of the industry. He says he's seen this sort of sea change before.

"Like 10 years ago, where we had vertical specialties around things like phone systems, we will now employ vertical experts who are 100 percent dedicated to how to make things work in cloud IT environments such as AWS and Azure," Matthews says. "Specific names of IT positions and what their roles entail will change, but the function will be the same as today -- or even 10 years ago. There will be roles best suited for the general IT knowledge worker, and there will be those that require a specialist's touch. For example, a lab manager's role might morph and be 70 percent focused on managing workloads in a system like AWS, which will provide them with additional tools to take on more tasks across the network."


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