Essential skills to save your IT Job

DQW Bureau
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The need to update your knowledge and learn new skills has always been there. The current economic slowdown has only sharpened this need, especially in the IT industry. In this story, we look at over a hundred IT-related skill areas and analyze for you whether you need to learn any new skills, in what areas, and how

Defining professional growth

How can you grow in your career-in terms of salary, designation, function, or position?

This is risky business, as there is no universal definition of what constitutes growth. Obviously, what is growth for the goose is not growth for the gander. That said, you are said to grow in your profession under the following four situations: Your salary rises; your designation improves, the function that you carry out improves (as in, handling a team of developers as against writing code yourself); or your position in your organization improves (the number of people under you in the chain of command increases, the number above you decrease, or both).

An improvement in designation is, traditionally, accompanied by an increase in salary. So combining the two, you are left with a three-dimensional growth graph as shown here.

In an ideal world, growth should happen simultaneously along all three axes; that is, along the line AB. In the real world, however, that rarely happens, and there may be periods in your career, during which professional growth will only be along one or two of the three axes as in the case of annual increments in between promotions bringing growth along line AC only.

Also, some of us are more comfortable and might choose to have growth along just one axis, developer who chooses not to take up managerial responsibilities (position), but would still continue to grow in salary and even in function.

This story is about the potential for growth, primarily along the two axes AC and AE, given your current skills; and the skills you will need, to improve your potential for growth.

Krishna Kumar

When I was a kid, we had two cows at our house, and many houses near ours also had cows. In those days, there were quite few jobs that depended on these cows. There was the guy who cut fresh grass for them, there was the guy who came around to milk them, and so on. Somewhere along the line, the neighborhood became a part of a bustling city and definitely not a place to rear cows. Along with the cows, all those jobs also disappeared, and new ones took their place, like those of the guy who now brought milk to our place.


I also remember going to my father's office in my childhood. The one place that fascinated me was the typing section with its long rows of typists going clickety-clack on their machines. Those were the days when typing institutes were to be found at every road junction, much like you find computer institutes today. Like the typing institutes, the typing section also does not exist any more.

So, what is the moral of these stories? That I am getting old? Perhaps! But equally true is the fact that skills, and by extension jobs, have a way of becoming outdated. A certain amount of re-skilling is an inevitable component of any profession.

There is no denying that there is a general scare in the market with job cuts and freezes being implemented (both announced and un-announced) by companies. But it is not as if some IT skills are declining in demand for the first time. How many Clipper programmers are still in demand? How many sys-admins with PDP-7 experience? The biggest difference when compared to the examples I quoted at the beginning is that the more the profession is based on knowledge, the more frequent the need for knowledge updating and re-skilling. In recent years, the cycle has become much faster, and the economic slowdown has only thrown the issue up in sharper focus.


So what do you do? Live in terror? Or make a realistic assessment of whether you need to re-skill; and if you do, then decide the right skill to learn? If you ask me, you would be much better off opting for the second.

The series of articles here are aimed at helping you along that route. We will look at over a hundred IT-related skill areas and tell you whether you need to re-skill yourselves or not, and if yes, how soon.

For the purposes of this discussion, we need to agree on some definitions.


First about you

  • Student: Someone who is not employed (has never been employed in that or a similar skill area), and is studying a particular skill.
  • Novice: Someone with zero to two years of experience in that particular (and sometimes similar) skill area.
  • Intermediate: Someone with two to three years of experience in that skill area.
  • Veteran: Someone with more than three years of experience in that skill area.

And then, about how secure your skill area is

  • Short term: The skill is under immediate threat. You should re-skill within three to six months.
  • Medium term: You should consider re-skilling within a year.
  • Long term: There are no immediate threats, but current trends indicate that your skill could come under pressure in two years time.

And finally,

Re-skilling: Learning a new skill (for example, different programming language) or a different way of doing things, and definitely not a new version of a language. Re-skilling need not be a back-to-school exercise.

Krishna Kumar