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The hottest IT skills for 2020

What are the hottest technical skills in the IT market this year and how can you ensure your skills and CV are relevant?

March 4, 2020

A man and woman standing with a laptop in front of a large touchscreen with icons for the hottest IT skills in 2020

The market for IT skills is buoyant; companies are challenged to deliver products and services quickly, keep up with the constant pace of technology change and do so while delivering the best customer experience. FinTechs are disrupting and redefining the status quo of the large banks which, until recently, have dominated the demand for IT staff. There is also a surge in technology startups such as Skyscanner and Fanduel, and greater demand for specialist, multiskilled IT workers than ever before. For candidates, securing the perfect job in IT is not necessarily easy, but understanding the most in demand skills and having an awareness of where the market is heading is a great place to start.

In our January article on top IT hiring trends for 2020, we explored the continuation of digital disruption, the shift towards upskilling and multiskilling and the soft skills required to succeed in IT this year. In this article, we explore some of the most in-demand skillsets in line with these trends.

The top skills IT employers are looking for this year

What’s trending in data science?

Data and intelligent automation continue to advance and improve the quality of business decisions, operations and processes. As companies advance their data strategies and data recording, storage, and analysis methods, we expect continued demand for the following skills:

  • Python – A programming language used in software development, infrastructure management and data analysis. Marginally slower than other languages, but popular because of its simple programming syntax, code readability and English-like commands that make coding a lot easier for experienced developers and new coders alike!
  • R – A statistical programming language developed by scientists that has open source libraries for statistics, machine learning and data science. Employers see R as an inherently useful and valuable skill based on the importance of data driven decision making. Popular statistical packages are typically very expensive, and many employers understand that if they hire people who can use R, they can save money on costly alternatives while benefitting from improved data outputs.
  • SQL – According to Be Seen, by Indeed, SQL was the top tech skill of 2019, appearing in 22% of all IT job adverts. We expect demand for SQL to continue this year based on its universal nature and popularity in powering large databases like Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL and SQLite.
  • Machine learning – A type of AI that provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience instead of explicit programming. According to GangBoard, more than 90% of supply chain vendors in 2020 will rely on Machine Learning to modernise their operations. Around 2.3 million job opportunities are expected to open globally in this field.

What are the top skills in software development?

Demand for development skills that focus solely on the front or back end of a platform still exist, but companies are increasingly moving away from this siloed way of working. Demand for full stack developers is more relevant than ever. With a host of popular languages to learn, choosing one may be a difficult task. Your choice will depend upon the type of company you wish to work for, the technologies they use and an appreciation that all languages have their pros and cons. However, if you are looking to upskill or reskill be this year, here a few to consider:

  • JavaScript – According to Stack Overflow's 2019 Developer Survey, it’s almost impossible to be a software developer nowadays without using JavaScript in some way. Easy to learn and comparatively fast for the end user, it is also used to create web servers and mobile applications.
  • React – An open source JavaScript language developed by Facebook that is often used to develop websites and mobile apps. React focusses on the front-end UI.
  • Angular – An app-design framework and development platform popular for creating efficient and sophisticated single-page apps.
  • Docker – An open source platform used to create software packages called containers. Containers give developers the ability to create predictable environments isolated from other applications. Docker is popular for development due to its portability, consistency and efficiency.
  • Django - A Python-based and open source web framework popular for its pragmatic, maintainable, clean design, and secure websites.
  • DevOps – A type of software development that takes the entire software lifecycle into account, from planning to use and maintenance. DevOps has redefined serverless architecture, allowing firms to save time, ensure workflow resilience, and cut costs. As the trend towards serverless architecture increases, so too will the demand for DevOps skills.

Agile ways of working

While the Waterfall methodology is still utilised across many companies, Agile ways of working continues to grow in popularity. This is due to its iterative, flexible nature that enables companies to break down large pieces of work into bite-size chunks, with team members working collaboratively to solve business challenges. With more companies looking to embark upon Agile transformations or better deliver under their current model, the demand for positions including Agile coaches, product owners and Scrum masters grows. These positions will be needed this year to equip companies for successful Agile IT project delivery; people possessing the skills for these positions are better able to partner and collaborate with their technical specialists.

How important are soft skills?

In parallel to the demand for such technical specialists, successful Agile working practices rely on hiring people with people skills. This year, while technology continues to play a leading role in business, there is an increased focus on human touch and the people involved in making technology work. A report by Udemy has emphasised the active role soft skills such as communication, teamwork and collaboration will play in learning and development in 2020 and beyond. It emphasises that employees need to continue learning and developing their innately human skills to support what robots and technology still can’t do. These skills include attributes such as critical thinking, storytelling and emotional intelligence. Topping its list of the 10 most in-demand soft skills this year are:

  • Having a growth mindset
  • Creative thinking
  • Focus

Should I specialise in one skill or become a generalist?

A dilemma facing many candidates is whether to be a ‘Jack of all trades’ or a master of one. There is no right answer to this, but in IT, demand for the multi-skilled IT worker has grown. According to People Matters, “gone are the days when one skill could serve a professional through [their] entire career. Today, it is no longer sufficient to have skills in one domain; professionals also need cross-domain knowledge and cross-functional skills to stay relevant and thrive in the competitive skill landscape.” Agility and versatility are needed, and continuous learning is the key to staying relevant in the IT industry.

When learning or developing a new technical skill set this year, consider how to balance technical prowess with some of the above soft skills. The key to staying relevant in the coming years is not to become siloed, but to learn skills crossing the IT spectrum. Some of the most successful companies in the market include financial companies like Monzo, Atom Bank and Starling. These organizations are staying at the front end of new technologies, disrupting the status quo along the way. They innovate by hiring people with cross-functional skill sets and new, pioneering ways of thinking.

As the IT industry continues to evolve, it remains important to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to learning and development. Upskilling in some of the latest skills highlighted above will keep you relevant this year but keeping a finger on the pulse of the next IT trend can guide you towards skills that employers will need in 2021 and beyond. With 5G, blockchain, augmented reality and IoT emerging, positioning yourself well now will help keep you relevant for IT employment in the future IT market.