Gone are the days when internet technology professionals could specialize in a specific set of skills that could serve them for much of their career. Now, these IT pros – particularly those in public sector and contractor jobs – need a range of skills and savvy to be effective, and whether it’s executing an agency’s mission, securing a network or designing the HealthCare.gov website, many of these professionals are yearning for one thing – training.
A new survey of 111 public sector IT professionals by SolarWinds found that just more than half (51 percent) agree at least in part that a generalist IT skill set is more valuable than specialist IT skills, particularly given the demands of new technologies, ever-increasing IT operations and compliance measures. Yet only one-quarter of IT professionals rated their existing abilities to effectively manage current network complexity challenges at a 7 out of 10 or above, the study found.
IT professionals ranked network engineering (26 percent), business understanding (24 percent) and information security (18.9 percent) as the most important skill sets in their work. Other skills, including mobile applications and device management (9 percent) and project management (8 percent), were considered less valuable.
Obtaining another college degree or a specialized certification were not considered the most effective means for honing those skills, however, IT professionals noted. Most (63 percent) believe an organizational investment in training will get the job done, while increasing experience and expertise organically (51 percent) and participating in peer-to-peer learning (45 percent) also could help IT workers boost their skills.
“Training is difficult to get approval and make time for, and at the end of the day, that’s short-sighted for agencies,” Sanjay Castelino, vice president and market leader at Solar Winds, said Thursday. “People are looking at the fires they have to fight because that’s what IT workers do every day. They’re too busy fighting fires to have time for training. But it’s going to come back to bite them – whether it’s through scenarios like HealthCare.gov or in smaller ways that impact an agency every day.”
Investing in training for IT staff has become even more difficult for agencies in an age when many are being urged to rein in conference spending, but it may behoove IT staff to make sure they educate their management about the value of training and how they will use the training to reinforce their skills and further the agency mission, Castelino said. IT staff can turn to training and conference vendors or to their peers in online forums to learn how to effectively make the case for training to their boss, he added.
“Leadership has to recognize that training is valuable, and while conceptually they do, IT workers have to be more proactive and make the case for themselves,” Castelino said. “Part of the return in talking about justification is that an organization will have fewer fires if it does things right, and the way to do things right is to first get trained on how to do it.”