The Changing Role Of The Networker: Skills For Tomorrow

How the role of the networker is set to change


The US economy added 2 million jobs in 2017. This marked another solid year of gains. At the beginning of 2018, unemployment in the U.S was 4.1% – the lowest it’s been in 17 years, according to reports.

One trend fueling this growth is that technology has crept into just about every kind of job. That’s true whether you’re a nurse, a truck driver, an office worker or an IT specialist. Businesses are using connected technology in growing numbers to become more efficient, productive and profitable. Many jobs are changing as a result.

For those who are prepared, the IT and networking space is rich with opportunities. For example, these opportunities can position professionals to lead digital transformation projects, to automate enterprise networks, and so much more. That’s why the sky’s the limit for those trained and certified in the latest technology.

Trends driving demand

The IoT is the first place to look for trends driving network transformation. The number of connected things is growing at a rapid rate. Leading analyst firm, Gartner, said there were more than 8.4 billion things connected to internet as of last year. And there’s much more to come on that front.

The proliferation of connected endpoints is occurring so fast that it’s becoming impossible to configure devices manually. So, organizations need to start using automation.

Once devices and applications are live, they need to be managed and kept secure. Current network strategies make that impossible. So, networks are evolving to become more automated, intelligent, and programmable.

Before businesses build new networks, it’s critical that they address strategy and process. This includes mapping out business goals and deciding what data, people, and things are needed to achieve them. It also involves bringing together the partners, teams, and technologies to make that happen. It requires new skillsets because setting policy and programming in advanced, automated networks is a complex undertaking.

What skills are needed now

Networks are changing to be more responsive, reliable, and secure. Automation, analytics, IoT, policy-based network management, programmability, and virtualization are enabling these changes.

The technologies, and the way they’re being applied, are new. So, IT and networking professionals need new skills to make them work for businesses.

What are the fundamental skills IT and networking professionals need to appeal to hiring managers, secure and boost their careers, and bring greater value to employers?

At a very fundamental level, it’s critical that IT experts know the basics of LAN and WAN switching and routing. These skills will help network engineers configure, verify, troubleshoot and secure today’s networks.

And as the network continues to evolve, there’s a growing need for IT professionals who understand, can implement and manage software-centric networks. This involves using APIs, controllers, policy and virtualization. These technologies and tools allow for greater automation, network intelligence and agility.

Automation and virtualization make it possible for businesses to handle the growing number of applications and endpoints. Simplified network control through abstraction helps them cope with the complexity of containers, microservices, and virtual machines. Advanced analytics assist them with the new dynamics of applications in the network and help to predict problems due to congestion, failures and security breaches.

Beyond advanced networking, professionals with skills related to cloud, cybersecurity, and application and network performance are also in high demand. Know-how in these areas keeps businesses and their customers safe. And they ensure applications and services provide the value organizations and end users expect and require.

Even more, people who lead digital transformation projects – and keep them on schedule and within budget – are invaluable. That’s why skills in business intelligence, business architecture, machine learning and digital transformation are important.

IDC noted in its Worldwide IT Employment Model Future of IT Survey that the most in-demand IT roles involve:

  • data management and analytics
  • digital transformation
  • software and application development
  • IT infrastructure
  • Cybersecurity
  • These fundamental and advanced skills are critical to accelerating the potential of the network. And as the network continues to change, it’s essential that learning is treated as a continuous journey.

    Staying competitive

    Networks will continue to evolve and change. Business and job roles will keep changing, too. That’s why it’s essential that IT professionals continue to adapt and learn. By getting trained and certified in the latest IT technologies, individuals can build the skills that they need to stay ahead. And by educating employees, businesses can be prepared for change, too.

    It’s true – no one knows exactly what tomorrow will bring. But there is one thing that we know for sure – education is central to keeping pace. It’s the critical link to staying competitive in an ever-changing world. 

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