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Role of IT continues to evolve, SolarWinds report captures tech pro sentiments

By Catherine Knowles, Thu 16 Sep 21

Almost half (48%) of tech professionals are proud of what they do, another 44% love what they do, and 41% believe this year has proven they're more capable than they realised.

As tech pros look to the future, 62% of respondents say they're motivated to succeed in their roles and nearly all (81%) agree there will be multiple opportunities to develop and enhance their careers in the next year.

These are some key findings from SolarWinds' IT Pro Day 2021 survey: Bring IT On, which seeks to understand how tech pros feel about their daily roles and responsibilities, what lessons they learned over the past year, and what they think of the primary technical and non-technical skills needed to capitalise on opportunities for their future career growth.

On the whole, after a year of unprecedented challenges and change, tech pros responding to this year's survey report a positive perception of their roles and say they look forward to what lies ahead.

Non-technical skills take greater focus

Tech pro respondents also agreed a balance between non-technical skills and more traditional technical certifications and experience will play a large role in enabling career advancement, though past surveys found finding time to cultivate those skills is often limited.

Collaboration (teamwork, listening to others, networking) (66%); innovative or creative problem-solving (48%); and communication (public speaking, written documents) (46%) are considered the most important non-technical skills needed for advancement.

These non-technical skill sets will play a large role in enabling tech pros to achieve advanced responsibilities, such as project management and becoming part of the decision-making process, which 34% of tech pro respondents say is their biggest opportunity at work in the next year, the report finds. 

Meanwhile, tech pros are also cautious of challenges on the horizon, such as cybersecurity threats and burnout, but are confident the continued evolution of IT operations in the new normal such as new tools and processes will create positive change.

Highlighting the positive sentiments of tech pros, the report found that when reflecting on positive lessons learned about themselves in the last year, 41% believe this year has proven they're more capable than they realised.

Nearly a quarter (24%) of respondents say they learned they have leadership skills, which will benefit them as they look to higher-level, more cross-functional responsibilities and roles in the future.

In addition, 48% also say they are proud of what they do and 27% of those surveyed are extremely motivated to succeed in their roles, saying they've set specific goals and look forward to achieving them.

Career advancement and new opportunities on the horizon

Looking to the future, the report finds that 67% of respondents say they expect their level of responsibility at work to increase over the next year, and 81% agree there will be multiple opportunities to develop and enhance their careers, the biggest of which is continuous education (gaining new skills and certifications), chosen by more than half (56%) of respondents.

Considering career enhancement, tech pro respondents increasingly recognise a balance between non-technical skills learned in daily life and technical skills/professional certifications will be key to new opportunities in the future.

Respondents report security (57%), troubleshooting (51%), and network management (49%) to be the top technical skills needed to progress in their careers.

At the same time, collaboration (for example, teamwork, listening to others, networking at 66%), innovative or creative problem solving (48%), and communication (such as public speaking, written documents at 46%) are seen as the most important non-technical skills needed for advancement.

Respondents also say these experiences at home or in general daily life are perceived as most useful at work: time management (e.g., prioritisation, organisation) (69%), communication skills (verbal and non-verbal) (67%), interpersonal skills (e.g., adaptability, flexibility, patience) (66%), and problem solving (65%).

Additionally, nearly three-fourths (70%) of those surveyed said they've had a hobby that helps them in their day-to-day role as a tech pro.

These non-technical skillsets will play a large role in enabling tech pros to achieve bigger responsibilities, such as project management and becoming part of the decision-making process, which 34% of respondents say is their biggest opportunity at work in the next year, the researchers find.

According to the Monster Future of Work: 2021 Outlook survey, recruiters chose soft skills topped by dependability, teamwork/collaboration, and problem solving/critical thinking as the most important skills they're seeking in new hires.

Further, more than half (56%) of tech pro participants believe they'll have the chance to broaden their education to acquire new certifications and skills, helping them excel in their careers and workplaces.

Cybersecurity threats present ongoing challenges

While tech pros are wary of future challenges like cybersecurity threats and burnout, they believe an evolution in the IT operations of their organisations will create positive change.

More than half (53%) of tech pro respondents cite cyber threats as the biggest challenge they expect their organisations to face in the next year, followed closely by employee burnout (48%), the struggle to hire for specific roles due to ongoing skills gap/skills shortages (40%), and an increased or unmanageable workload (37%).

Regarding cyber threats, the SolarWinds' IT Trends Report 2021 revealed a similar statistic in that 46% of survey respondents cited external security threats and breaches like cyber attacks to be the biggest external factor influencing their organisation's risk exposure.

However, respondents anticipate their organisations IT operations will evolve in the next normal to better prioritise investments and address these potential challenges:

  • Implementing new tools and processes to better address security, compliance, and risk (68%)
  • Adding more collaborative technologies (44%)
  • Adopting next generation IT operations solutions (40%)

Comments from the experts

SolarWinds' head geek Chrystal Taylor says, “This year's IT Pro Day survey results showcase IT pros' adaptability and dedication to expanding the more prominent roles they've taken on over the past year to support remote and hybrid work.

"As more tech pros embrace the Bring IT On mentality, reaching for more responsibility and a leading role in the digital transformations of their businesses and setting goals to get there we can certainly expect how the IT organisation is viewed by the business to completely transform in the future."

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