Big data and the changing role of the IT professional

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In today’s enterprise IT environment, the traditional IT professional that would be shuffling through cables, managing and racking up physical servers, and interacting with networking equipment via a command line interface is disappearing.

The role is either evolving or needs to evolve to a professional that understands the challenges, complexities and business value of technologies and concepts such as big data, cloud-based infrastructure and services, containers, software defined networking and network virtualization, just to mention a few.

The computing, storage and networking components of data-centric enterprises can nowadays be deployed, configured and managed via code. This allows new sets of automation possibilities and of quick response and turnaround times for delivering services to the enterprise.

The move towards a software-defined IT infrastructure generates many changes in the way IT management and monitoring is carried out. Add to this, the fact that many enterprises are relying ever more on data to generate insights, products and monitor their efficiency, which can only be carried out if their IT infrastructure is flexible enough to provide computation, storage and communication capabilities in the right places and at the right time.

All of this implies that computer networking fundamentals and IT management principles have to be looked at with a new light in the institutions that educate enterprise IT professionals in order to meet the current and future needs of modern enterprises.

The way that data management principles are taught should be revisited, since cloud services, big data and analytics have brought about new challenges in areas such as information security, data governance and risk management.

Additionally, the modern enterprise IT professional will very likely interact or be directly involved with teams of people building new products or seeking new insights from data or planning for major initiatives where it is no longer feasible to just pass on to the IT team the requirements that need to be satisfied to provide the infrastructure for every project or initiative.

Thus, curricula for this IT professional should also provide a good degree of business oriented skills in areas such as project management, team building and effective communication skills.

At Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies, our MS degree in Enterprise Data Systems is designed to prepare professionals that can manage, design, and deploy the infrastructure that supports the modern digital enterprise. The program covers both conventional and future network infrastructure planning, design, deployment and management principles along with an understanding of the services, protocols, standards, and applications and soft skills that are transforming the enterprise.

The program also requires students to understand basic data analytics and how data scientists will use data once the correct infrastructure to deliver it or access it is in place. This prepares students to be ready to participate in teams involved in data analytics and the generation of new data driven services.

Additionally, students can focus on areas such as Data Science Applications, Information Security Management, Enterprise IT Infrastructure Management, Mobile Services and Applications, and Cloud and Virtualized Information Environments.

Overall, we believe that students, faculty and IT managers must understand that the enterprise IT field is ever changing and they must acquire the tools and the means to embrace change and adapt to it. In particular, students that become future IT professionals must develop an attitude that leads them to learn new topics and adopt new technologies but always with a focus on how they will provide value to the business and their careers.

Professors and instructors should not subscribe to teaching models that facilitate the continuous repetition of the same concepts each academic semester. Instead, they need to embrace problem-based and hands-on learning and have an observant eye on the evolution of IT concepts and paradigms to quickly adapt their teaching and research. Managers must allow their IT teams to explore new tools and approaches to solve problems and stimulate learning and sharing of knowledge.

Depending on the economic sector, enterprise IT environments are structured around a wide variety of systems going all the way from mainframes to cloud-based infrastructure and its different flavors (public, private and hybrid). APIs are present in all (or most) of these systems to make it easier to integrate them in the operations of modern IT environments to support big data applications, mobile applications, Internet of Things, and whatever else comes in the future that is going to require a flexible and responsive infrastructure for providing a path to the bits composing the data that drives a business.

Thus, to current and upcoming IT professionals, I advise to keep looking for new education opportunities to remain relevant in your fields while enjoying the learning of new topics, methods and tools. At the very least have the attitude to explore new things and adapt to the changes in the IT sector.

Enterprise IT will continue to be fast changing and interesting to those that embrace change. So, hold on to your hats, it’s going to be a thrilling ride.

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