As an IT professional, is possessing only technical knowledge enough for you to keep up with the rapid development and changes in the industry? How can IT, as a function, elevate its status within the company and move away from being seen as just a support function? We interviewed Sekar Jaganathan, Digital Strategy Director at Kenanga Group, to hear his thoughts and perspectives on these critical topics.
1. As a Technology leader, what are the key trends that you've observed in the industry?
The trends are moving towards Business Technology initiatives. Businesses are now onboarding more technology that will support the growth of business velocity. Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning and data analytics are all geared towards bringing in the numbers.
It is now a given that technology lies at the core of most, if not all, businesses. Even when robotics is used, the goal of the implementation is to increase operational efficiency, but it is also done with the intent of driving higher volume transactions to increase revenue, as profit margins are being squeezed.
2. What are critical skills you think tech professionals should arm themselves with?
a. Soft skills
They should definitely try to understand the evolution of cognitive computing, its application and the impact that it will have on their respective industries.
b. Technical skills
Commodity technology (e.g. networking, infrastructure, and hardware) has evolved. To stay relevant, you need to understand its evolution in the context of your own industry.
3. What challenges do you see happening that will have a big impact on most companies and professionals?
I foresee that the challenges will stem from not being prepared. Traditionally, technical advisory is delivered by the in-house professional. Now, everyone speaks technology; Business Technology that is. IT professionals must possess strong industry knowledge, in addition to their technical expertise. Keeping the “lights on” is not the core function of a CIO anymore.
4. How do you think we should mitigate these challenges?
Remove ignorance, arrogance and get out of your comfort zone. The world is evolving at a speed that has never been seen before. Before our skills are made redundant, we need to develop the ability to foresee the impact of this evolution on our own industries and be prepared to act on it immediately. Your plan will be a blueprint that you can utilise for, at most, 2 to 3 years. Given the speed of change, you will have to constantly challenge your plan and adapt to stay ahead in the game.
5. There has been significant talk around automation, AI, blockchain and other technological developments, and their impact on the industry. How do you see roles evolving in the future?
As mentioned, any IT role has to be a business role. IT cannot exist solely as a support function anymore. The business functions are already encroaching into the technology expertise space, simply because technology has been simplified.
It is easy to speak technical lingo without being technical, as Natural Language Programming (NLP) is calling the shots. The job descriptions (JDs) of IT leaders are going to evolve tremendously as business leaders demand and expect more. Similarly, the JDs of the business leaders are evolving as well due to technological disruptions. We live in a funny but exciting world.
6. With these rapid changes, do you think the onus falls on the employer or employee when it comes to equipping employees with the necessary skills needed to stay ahead of the evolving trends?
Both, but there is greater responsibility on the employer when it comes to training junior and mid-level employees. For senior employees, they cannot remain ignorant and expect the management to give them direction on how to stay relevant. They need to take the initiative and be in control of their own learning path.
7. Share with us your advice for future graduates and those looking to enter the tech industry.
Technical graduates should search for opportunities where they can be exposed to industry changes and experience the impact of disruptive technologies, if they want to pursue a senior role in the future. Those who wish to enter the tech industry will need to make a choice between commodity technology and business solutions technology. These are two very different career paths they could pursue.