With 2020 and its many challenges nearly – hopefully – behind us, it’s exciting to think about the possibilities that lie ahead for us in 2021. The COVID pandemic created challenges, but with those came new opportunities for technology solutions and services that are going to be critical in 2021. From advances in tech to advancing our own professional development, we firmly believe that the future is bright and there are big things in store this coming year. Here are our predictions for the top skills you’ll want to develop in 2021.
After the year we’ve had, we could all probably write a PhD dissertation on being flexible and adaptive! But futuristic thinking isn’t a vague, science fiction-y term; it’s the ability to look at existing trends and events and predict how they could impact your industry and your own professional development. One example would be the impact of Instagram Reels, a new feature of the social media app that has taken off for brands and influencers. Seeing this feature on the horizon and being ready and able to capitalize on it gave brands a big boost, with outfits like the NBA seeing a 22% increase in engagement with the use of reels over their standard Instagram posts and stories. Being able to pivot, flex and adjust in the face of challenges is critical to survival, and people who are skilled in these areas are going to be critical, too.
The field of cybersecurity is always expanding and innovating, but 2020 changed the way many organizations thought about their security posture. The sudden shift this spring to remote work made it much more difficult for organizations to protect their data and intellectual property. In 2021 and beyond, the focus will be on building digital infrastructures for our organizations that can scale, ones that are proactive rather than reactive to breaches. Cybersecurity is one of the fastest growing career paths, seven times faster than the national average job growth, with Cloud Security skills being the most in-demand, which leads us nicely to our next top skill for 2021.
If you didn’t utilize cloud computing in February, you probably did by the end of March. The pandemic caused a cloud explosion, which resulted in new job opportunities in a range of areas in the field, including cloud computing design, planning, management, maintenance, and support. In the world of eLearning, cloud computing has transformed the experience of using Learning Management Systems, providing seamless integration, mobile capability and enhanced security, among other optimizations. Cloud computing is predicted to be a $331.2 billion market by 2022, so investing in these skills could really pay off this year, which is why cloud computing is returning on our list of Top 5 Skills for 2021.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is considered by the World Economic Forum to be the fastest-growing technology, poised to create 133 million new jobs by 2025. AI performs tasks like facial recognition, image classification, and image and speech recognition much faster and more accurately than humans can. One growing area of AI is Machine Learning (ML), which is an application of AI that can mine data for insights and execute rule-based tasks. Some ML skills areas to get experience in would be learning to build chatbots, working with neural networks, natural language processing (NLP), robotics, deep learning, and specific program knowledge in applications like TensorFlow, Python and Java.
The cloud is coming to us! Edge computing allows your device to do more processing within itself, in your home, instead of having to relay everything to the cloud, which causes a delay as the query is sent and answered. Essentially, Edge allows our devices to get quicker replies and, thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), if our fridge needs to know the weather in New Zealand, it’ll be able to find that information that much faster. In all seriousness, Edge computing usage will increase as we continue to invest in IoT devices, which will have a corresponding growth in jobs for software engineers and other professionals with experience in the technologies used to integrate IoT successfully into our corporate infrastructure.
As exciting as the future looks for professionals in 2021, we also want to make sure to point out that soft skills are more critical than ever. Communication, collaboration, and adaptability are some of the qualities that have allowed us to lead our organizations through adversity, helping us survive this unprecedented year – and allowing us the opportunity to leverage our newfound skills in the coming year. Yes, technology has touched every facet of our lives, and many roles are being automated, but there will always be the need for real, live humans to perform the critical skills necessary to get the most out of that incredible technology.