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Soft skills increasingly important for IT career growth – SolarWinds survey

16 Sep 2019
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IT management software service provider SolarWinds has announced the findings from its IT Pro Day 2019 survey: Building Confidence for Tech Pros of Tomorrow.

The survey results explore what tech pros need to build confidence in managing both today’s hybrid, distributed tech environments and the complex environments of tomorrow.

The survey supports IT Professionals Day, which is observed on the third Tuesday of every September (September 17, 2019), and emphasises appreciation for IT professionals, the critical role they play in end users’ lives, and in operating successful, modern businesses.

This year’s findings reveal how technology professionals can prepare for the future.

“Tech pros may know where they want to go, but the road to career confidence can be challenging,” says SolarWinds global chief technology officer and engineering executive vice president Joe Kim.

“Mapping out the necessary skills and understanding how best to gain those competencies can be difficult, as proven by our annual IT Trends Report from earlier this year.

“For IT Pro Day 2019, we’ve taken it a step further by exploring how tech pros can skill up and become more confident, and how we can help them on their path for career confidence.”

Tech pros are feeling the impact of the skills gap.

Sixty percent of survey respondents have not actively pursued a new skill or completed a certification in the last six months; nearly 50% of tech pros who did start a certification process did not complete it due to lack of time to commit.

The IT Pro Day 2019 survey reveals how business leaders and tech pros can work together to address the need to upskill.

Survey results found increased support and budget from IT and business leaders are the top two requirements for tech pros to become confident managing current and future tech environments. At the same time, developing skills in interpersonal communications is critical for continued career growth.

“Now more than ever, technology professionals work alongside business leaders to meet organisational goals. At the same time, they must keep up with the tremendous amount of work and responsibility that comes with managing today’s complex tech environments,” adds Kim.

Key Findings

The IT Pro Day 2019 survey: Building Confidence for Tech Pros of Tomorrow polled global technology professionals to gain insight into the skills gap and how it’s being addressed from their perspective and by the organisations they support.

  • Despite the lack of tech pro confidence in managing current and future environments, skill development is still on the back burner.
    • Nearly 60% of survey respondents have not actively pursued a new skill or completed a certification in the last six months.
    • Some tech pros attempted to pursue a new skill: 63% of survey respondents started a certification process (such as Microsoft, Cisco, AWS, VMware) but did not complete the course.
    • Nearly half (47%) cited lack of time to commit to completing the course as the reason they stopped before completion.
       
  • Organisations are working to resolve the data centre labour shortage in ways that resonate with tech pros.
    • In-company trainings ranked as a top-three tactic for addressing the labour shortage, with 35% of respondents selecting this option.
      • Similarly, the majority of survey respondents (54%) cited full-day in-person workshops as providing the most value for the time spent when it comes to IT skills training materials.
      • Organisations using automation to address this gap (31%) point to business investment in new ways to help their staff develop skills.
         
  • Developing soft skills is becoming increasingly important in driving career growth.
    • Nearly half of survey respondents (46%) cited interpersonal communications skills as most critical for their continued career growth. Other top skills included:
      • Project management: 56%
      • Public speaking/presentations: 52%
         
  • While most tech pros feel confident communicating with business leaders, they’re not always equipped with the support and tools necessary to do their jobs effectively.
    • The top two requirements for tech pros to become confident managing current and future environments are:
      • More support from IT or business leadership: (48%)
      • Increased budget/additional resources: (64%)
         
  • Most tech pros feel comfortable communicating with business leadership when it comes to requesting technology purchases and investing time/budget into team training:
    • Forty-four percent are very comfortable and nearly 50% are somewhat comfortable
       
  • Skills in application performance management (APM) are becoming increasingly necessary for tech pros across disciplines to possess. Tech pros have an appetite to develop APM skills further.
    • Respondents cited application support, troubleshooting, and monitoring as responsibilities they are tasked with falling outside their core job description.
      • Specifically, 53% cited user experience monitoring of applications as an additional required skill to develop to confidently manage their environment, which points to the continued prioritisation of an exceptional end-user experience.

Fielded in August 2019, the survey was conducted by SolarWinds and yielded responses from 177 technology professionals from across the globe, including those from public and private sectors.