Over the past five years, information technology has taken a considerable leap. Mobile development, HTML5, the rise of dynamic software languages, agile and lean development methodology, cloud computing, and infrastructure virtualization are just a few of the areas that have seen massive growth. In many CIO and information technology leadership circles, many feel that a skill revolution is around the corner. I believe they are late to the party; the revolution has occurred around them. Information technology skill gaps are rapidly increasing. The majority of the industry is playing catch up.

How Did We Get Here?

During the “Great Recession,” many IT departments slashed budgets, investing only the minimum to keep legacy systems on life support. IT professionals were asked to work longer hours maintaining systems based on technologies that are now in a range of 5 to 20 years old. Time and funds that previously used for staff training and certification dried up, leaving IT professionals to fend for themselves. Information technology skill gaps have formed where many technology pros have mastered the skills of the past 15 years but have had zero exposure to the landscape of today.

Today, the IT sector has recovered from the recession and hiring is at an all-time high. A colleague of mine, a partner in an IT staffing business, explained that here in Atlanta, for every employed software developer there are eight open positions paying over $100,000 annually. It seems many companies are just now trying to accelerate to today’s technology. Just as many senior-level professionals have information technology skill gaps, leaving them unable the job requirements employers desire.

What Can We Do?

Information technology professionals (including yours truly) that consider themselves to be free agent consultants are now the most qualified. What traits do these technology consultants possess that all IT professionals should have in this new world?

  • They value communication, business fundamentals, leadership, strategy, finance. and customer service over technical prowess. It’s easy to find people who can configure a router, create a virtual machine, back up a database or code in any language you want. When building teams, I value people who show dedication to business and communication skills as well as technical skills. Spend as much time learning project management, business analysis, business fundamentals, leadership, strategy, finance, and customer service as you do technical skills.
  • They take full responsibility for their career development. Many companies are unwilling to invest in training unless there is an immediate benefit to them. Free resources – from books, to videos, to online courses, to free cloud infrastructure – are readily available. Choose to spend some free time learning marketable skills and concepts.
  • They pay attention to where the information technology landscape is heading. An IT professional with their head in the sand is on a proven path to being left behind. Just ask ColdFusion, Adobe Flex, or Silverlight developers, all who have seen their technologies of choice pulled out from under them. Diversification is as essential in your skill set as it is in your 401(k).