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These data skills areas are best bets for career advancement

Artificial intelligence; machine learning; the Internet of Things; blockchain; security; big data; smart cities.

With all the buzzwords of the past few years, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype. But for those whose job it is to ideate, develop, code and deploy the next innovation cycles, it can be just as frenzied trying to figure out where to amplify your skillset.

With the tech landscape changing at an ever-more rapid pace, let’s take a look at three key areas where skills will be needed in the next few years.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning

With digitization quickly becoming baseline, the next big evolutionary jumps will be in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Because these emergent technologies are rapidly on their way, but not yet fully on the scene, companies are starting to fill out roles in anticipation of new workflows.

Much like how the Internet itself completely changed the landscape across every industry, so too will AI and ML. From airlines to logistics to automotive to food production to sports to consumer goods — every sector wants to incorporate AI and ML into their systems.

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Bottom line: developing and iterating on AI and ML will be skillsets relevant to the coming tech landscape for a long time, and companies across the board are looking to hire in legion.

Blockchain

The past year has been the story of the rise and fall — and rise again? — of blockchain. Regardless of market valuation, Foundation research suggests a strong, continuing interest in the underlying technology.

Whether it will dominate transactions in the future, as blockchain loyalists claim, remains to be seen. However, what we can predict is that companies will want to stay in-the-know on some level, not wanting to be caught with zero blockchain heavies on their bench should the technology become essential in some way.

Mobile app development

Phones continue to get bigger, holding more real-estate and attention with a never-ending flow of various apps for all shapes and styles — customer-facing apps, training apps, apps used within a company, streaming apps, content apps, games, banking, social media, and on and on.

As the technology pushes forward for cloud nativity and the information and agility offered to users continues to expand, mobile app development will remain a bread and butter assignment. Companies that only have a web platform need to develop their mobile apps. And companies that already have an app or apps will look for continual iterations of improvements or the creation of new platforms to expand their brand and audience.

A Swiss Army knife, not a machete

For tech workers, it’s all about keeping a mindset in which you’re continuously learning. As new technology comes online, you’ll need to keep your ear to the ground and stay close to drivers of innovation, such as participating in collaborative open source projects, where you’ll not only learn but help build the systems that will define our future.

As you consider your career, ask yourself what emerging tech makes you most enthusiastic. What do you want to build? To collaborate on? To participate in?

The days of huge, monolithic applications are dwindling. The mentality now is more about agile — think of your skills not so much as the wielder of a big, hack-all machete, but as the spread of tools in a Swiss Army knife. Bring those skills into sharper focus, and you’ll have what you need.

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