5 Hot New-Collar Job Skills For A Post-COVID-19 World

COVID-19 is changing the working landscape around the globe, but it’s not all bad. The crisis has exposed emerging areas of opportunity in the tech space and executives from leading tech vendors and solution providers weigh in on the job roles and skills that will be needed in a post-pandemic world.

Rise Of The "New Collar" Worker

Coined by IBM’s then-CEO Ginni Rometty in 2016, the term “new-collar” work blurs the line between “white-collar” and “blue-collar” jobs and refers to developing technical skills needed to work in today’s IT industry in areas such as cybersecurity, application development and database management, and cloud.

While emerging areas of tech have been opening up right along as trends like IoT, security, cloud, and collaboration propel the industry forward, the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has caused massive disruption around the globe and is accelerating the need for brand-new technology skills. That’s because many businesses are not operating at least partially – if not entirely – via employees working remotely from their homes. Businesses are adopting cloud tools at a rapid pace, and everything from security, to IT sales strategies, have had to evolve quickly.

As businesses come down from the initial phase of getting employees enabled to work remotely, IT investments will need to be made in new areas to prepare for anything that may lie ahead. CRN talked with executives from two of the leading networking firms and solution provider organizations about the new IT jobs and skills that will be in high-demand in a post-COVID-19 world. Here’s what they had to say.

Network Automation Development

While designing and implementing infrastructure will always be important, software and automation skills are becoming even more in-demand as customers digitally transform their organizations and are looking for next-level services and solutions, said Joel Rourke, director of sales at DataVizion, a Lincoln, Neb.-based solution provider.

Many vendors today are offering automation software to help offload some infrastructure-related tasks for IT professionals. Companies that embrace automation will create room for the creation of new IT job tasks, like that of a network automation developer, instead of a network operator or architect. This role will be able to focus on creating and deploying new, profitable services for their companies and end users.

Security And Governance Specializations

The work from home movement due to the coronavirus outbreak won't be winding down anytime soon. That's because many businesses are now seeing first-hand how remote working products from networking, to collaboration, are working and employees are staying just as productive as they are inside the walls of the office. But whether you're accessing the network in the office or at home, that connection needs to be secure, according to Gordon Mackintosh, vice president of global channels and virtual sales at Juniper Networks.

The so-called "new normal" could create security gaps for businesses that don't have the right expertise in place to handle IT security and governance, which has arguably never been more important as employees access sensitive applications from home or as more businesses move their data off-premise and into the cloud. Many businesses and solution provider organizations will be focusing on security, privacy, and governance in a post-COVID world, if they haven't started already, which will lead to more jobs in this area.

IT Sales/Marketing Evolution

Account executives aren't traveling to offices right now for meetings. And with the rise in working from home on a more permeant basis expected for some employees, these professionals most likely won't be able to go into people's homes for meetings, so the marketing of IT products and services will need to be transformed, said Joe Little, president of Laketec, a North Olmsted, Ohio-based solution provider.

Right now, many sales and marketing pros are getting creative with remote collaboration and videoconferencing tools to reach potential buyers and conduct offsite meetings. Little said that even within his own company, the conversation is centered on how to get a buyer's attention and if they will take a remote meeting. As such, there is a lot more digital content being created right now and that focus won't go away as executives learn how to make and edit their own videos and content to send to customers.

The Combination Of Dev/SecOps

Traditional DevOps roles combine software development and IT operations to shorten development life cycle through high-quality software. In a post-COVID world, security will be a key area of focus as some employees work from home permanently or at least part-time.

Rather than having separate DevOps, network operations (NetOps), and security operations (SecOps), security, if it's not already, will be a key part of both DevOps and NetOps roles as businesses grapple with keeping cloud deployments secure in a hybrid Dev/SecOps role or process, according Cisco's Susie Wee, senior vice president and general manager of DevNet and CX Ecosystem Success.

Cloud Cost Optimization

With the rise in adoption of cloud and cloud-based applications due to more remote work comes concerns around cost. And while cloud cost concerns have always existed, it will be a more visible problem as more businesses move to the cloud and deploy cloud tools, in some cases, overnight.

Cloud can become expensive fast if it's not being optimized. That's why many companies will be looking for cost optimization services, said Brad Hass, engineering director, DevOps, for solution provider giant Presidio. Job tasks around cloud cost analysis and optimization will likely pop up as a result of the pandemic, but cloud cost optimization will likely be a part of a process, rather than a single job role, Hass added.