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Key skills required for a career in Digital

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By Amitabh Mishra, Chief Digital Officer, Vedanta

If you’re a software professional, you may be wondering, “What exactly is Digital? If I want to upgrade my skills for a career in Digital, how exactly do I go about doing it?” Or perhaps you’re about to graduate and hoping to equip yourself to find a job in this emerging field. (In this piece, I have used ‘Digital’ to denote the broad technology domain, in order to distinguish it from ‘digital,’ which means data that is transmitted in 0s and 1s, as opposed to in a continuous, or analog, manner.)

A massive shortfall in Digital talent is in the offing. According to Gartner, by 2020, up to 30% of tech jobs will go unfilled due to scarcity of talent in Digital. The biggest shortfall is likely to be in the following specific areas:

1. Front-end developer
2. Product manager
3. UX/UI designer

This is, of course, great news if you’re a young tech professional. But what exactly are the skills you need to develop? If you’re confused, you’re not alone. Even middle managers and CEOs are. In the last month, two CEOs I know defined Digital in entirely different ways. Major IT service providers have flourishing Digital practices, but the structure and execution of such organizations are so different that the natural question arises: “Is there really a uniform understanding of Digital?”

The answer is no, because the perspective of an organization will necessarily be from the prism of what that industry requires. For example, an industrial company producing large electrical equipment views Digital and IoT (Internet of Things) synonymously, while an end-customer-oriented B2C company views Digital as the primary vehicle to provide an enhanced user experience.

Please see below for a representative matrix, which lists purely technical roles in nine areas:

Field Role Skills
System Integration Solution Architect ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), CRM (Customer Relationship Management), SCM (Supply Chain Management), MES (Manufacturing Execution System) – e.g. SAP, Oracle, etc.
Programmer One or more of the systems above, plus APIs (application programming interfaces)
Front-end developer Visualization tools, integration tools, web application development, UI/UX tools
Internet of Things (IoT) Software engineer IoT platforms, Digital Twins, Industrial Engineering, IT-OT integration (information technology/ operational technology), sensors
Front-end developer Visualization tools, integration tools, web application development, UI/UX tools
Augmented/ Virtual Reality Software Engineer Native app development
Front-end developer Web development, visual scripting language
Analytics & Big Data Solution Architect Data warehouse and business intelligence tools, Extract Transform Load tools, SQL and shell scripting
Front-end developer Visualization tools
Robotics Robotics Engineer Computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), electronics, mathematics
Mechanical and Electronics Engineers Mechanical, Electronics engineering, mathematics, understanding of CADD and CAM
Cloud Computing Software Engineer Databases, programming languages, Operating System-level languages (e.g. Linux), DevOps
Cybersecurity Security Architect Analysis tools, incident response tools, data science
Engineer Scripting languages, data science, DevOps
Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning Software Engineer ML/AI programming languages such as Python, C++ or Java, probability, statistics, applied mathematics, algorithms, distributed computing
Project Management/ Agile Leadership Scrum master Sprints, scrums, requirement pipelines, storyboarding
Project manager Communication, stakeholder management, sourcing, budgeting

All right, now,what are your next steps?

1. Pick an area and role. You can’t be everything at one time. While some of the areas above are inter-related, you’d need to pick an area that is aligned to your strengths, and a role you’re comfortable with, e.g. Analytics – Solutions Architect.

2. Pick three skills you’d like to master.Just three to four are enough to perform effectively in a function, depending on the industry, company size and level of specialization in the function. Let’s say, going with the above example, you pick the following three skills: data warehouse, SQL and shell scripting.

3. Determine the level of skill you wish to develop. No employer would expect you to master every skill to the same level. For each of the three skills you picked in the previous step, select the level of proficiency you wish to develop: (a) Basic, (b) Intermediate, or (c) Advanced. For example, you may wish to say: Data warehouse – Advanced, SQL – Basic, Shell scripting – Intermediate.

Now that you have a list of skills you wish to develop, and the level of proficiency you want to acquire, all you need is to put together a plan of action with your specific objectives and timelines.

As digital transformation disrupts businesses in the coming 3-5 years, there will be one factor which, more than any other, will determine if organizations can turn Digital to their advantage. That factor is people. It’s the most critical element for a company to transform and grow. By equipping yourself with the appropriate skills and competencies, you’ll position yourself to take advantage of the Digital revolution and establish a stellar career for years to come.

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