9 November 2020 · Absolute IT
For the years leading up to COVID-19 and New Zealand’s first lockdown, tech skills have been in shortage. Employers have continually been looking for specialised skills across IT to keep up with transformation and innovation. The skills shortage has driven upskilling, encouragement for students to choose tech as a field of study, and employers looking overseas for talent. New Zealand’s tech community has never been larger or indeed more diverse, with career development not just possible but practically required to support the breadth of technology needs across industries.
When the Level 4 Lockdown came into place late March 2020, our work life changed instantly. Tech staff worked from home, virtually meeting and accessing systems remotely. For many, this period revealed just how practical working from home was; many employers have opted to maintain remote working post lockdown for part of the week. And with our borders closed, immediate recruitment of IT skills will focus solely on homegrown talent. This presents a big opportunity for individuals with high-demand skill sets to leverage into excellent roles and salaries.
As businesses emerged from this lockdown and started to help rebuild the economy, technology continued to play an important role. COVID-19 looks to be an enduring challenge, shaping the ways we work for years to come. Let’s look at some roles that are becoming more important to support these new ways of working.
Cloud computing, be it storage, networking, web-based software or server solutions has been rapidly growing over the 2010s as robust solutions like AWS take the load (and cost) off businesses otherwise relying on local infrastructure. While at one point the notion of the cloud came with concerns around security, the maturity of the industry has meant organisations can enjoy secure, fast and reliable cloud software, platform and infrastructure. The New Zealand Government has even outlined its preference for the agility of secure cloud-based solutions.
For many organisations, the cloud transition has not yet happened. This may be due to a number of reasons, such as the need for complete control over data and systems. For others, there’s simply not been a strong enough business case to make the switch. With COVID-19 sending a chunk of the workforce home to work, remote access to systems, data and communications is simply now a requirement. As organisations previously reliant on ‘in office’ staff make the transition, new opportunities are coming to market for IT professionals with cloud skills.
Given that COVID-19 was so immediate, many businesses are left exposed to incomplete remote working solutions. Cloud computing expertise from architecture to maintenance and even procurement can help these businesses close that gap, with clear understanding of business requirements and solution capabilities. Experienced Change Managers should also look out for opportunities relating to cloud/remote transitions as larger more complex organisations look for additional reassurance during the migration. Once in place, a business working in the cloud will require a range of disciplines to fully work ‘in the cloud’ including DevOps, programmers, database specialists, architects and of course security.
Auckland has seen a significant increase in demand by employers for Security Architects, to build, test and maintain computer systems to ensure they are resilient and safe. Part of this senior, problem-solving role includes business continuity plans in the event of an unforeseen event – like a pandemic. The role of a security architect requires staying at the forefront of security standards and flaws within platforms and software, to help businesses protect against hacks and breaches.
This growing demand for security architects in Auckland (as well as Hamilton and Wellington) indicates that COVID-19 has surfaced the need for security architecture in preparation for potential long term remote working staff.
Staff working remotely does take some control away from the employer and their IT infrastructure team – home WiFi networks and internet connections the most typical of these. With some organisations mandating ‘work computers’ and a controlled suite of systems, risks can be reduced. A Security Architect will assess and design a remote working approach resilient to cyber attacks and educate the organisation on good security behaviours.
Along with security architects, NZs demand for expertise will extend to security analyst roles, in the areas of internet, network, cloud and mobile security.
The management, analysis and protection of data collected or managed by businesses is a changing landscape with data being accessed from more places than ever. Business’ collection of customer data including contact tracing information will need to be protected by secure systems and handling practices. As large datasets are accessed and analysed outside of the office – at home or on the go – storage of data will need to be built to quickly and securely provide access. Organisations looking to make careful decisions will continually rely upon accurate data, particularly within an economy with less room for error. As such, we expect growth in data science, analyst and intelligence demand over the coming year. And as the shift to remote access continues, senior expertise in data repositories and warehousing will be needed to support infrastructure for a post-2020 industry.
Management of big data has steadily increased over the past decade, with new qualifications emerging to meet the market’s need. In a COVID-19 tech world, the data scientist will be even more important to make sense of new and changing customer data and behaviours
Virtual Project Management
But what about the people side of the tech sector? Arguably this area has been the most affected by COVID-19, with collaboration, sprints and stakeholder meetings all occurring virtually during lockdowns. The demand on project managers, product owners and delivery teams to keep communications high online has certainly required an adjustment.
Agile methodology has a number of rituals like stand ups that previously involves in-person contact; teams have found ways to replicate this digitally and benefit from the structure and organisation that Agile provides. This includes:
- Online Kanban boards, e.g. Miro.
- Video conferencing standups, e.g. Zoom meetings.
- Reviews, reflection and retros.
- Simplifying approach and comms.
- Handling adaptation and scope changes.
- Efficient, digital stakeholder management.
- Keeping sprints delivering.
We’d suggest that project managers look to build a remote capability into their skillset and/or surface this within their application for roles as project managers, coaches, product owners and scrum masters who’ve adapted and thrived during lockdown could find themselves highly attractive to employers seeking a digital-centric approach to agile.
COVID-19 and our work behaviours
The lockdowns in New Zealand have been a test for Kiwis. We’ve found a level of flexibility and resilience in ourselves that we might have not otherwise known was there. Much like the country pulled together to eliminate community spread of the virus, many teams in businesses came together and problem-solved their way through large challenges.
COVID-19 showed us that when pushed, tech-centric companies can still function without working in close proximity. While of course we’d prefer to be in contact with our colleagues at least part of the week, the enforced remote working has opened the eyes of many employers when it comes to productivity and ‘working from home’. Some businesses have even made the decision to officially transition staff to part home, part office arrangements.
To see businesses provide flexible working arrangements as the norm has some exciting implications for the industry. We’ve learnt how to feel connected when working remotely, how to juggle children and work (most of us have probably met a few of our co-workers or clients’ kids on VC by now!) and how to produce great work without being in the building. And potentially now we may see smaller workplaces, making room for more businesses in our CBDs.
On the flipside, the risk of losing the work/life split by having everything at home shouldn’t be ignored. Without a commute to and from work, we may soak up that time and work late because it’s easy to. Employers and employees will have to work to maintain a healthy balance and keep to traditional start/finish times where possible.
The more remote and flexible working becomes standard, the greater need for talented tech staff to accommodate this without compromising the security or performance of NZ businesses. Homegrown talent with the expertise required by the market can expect to command a higher salary, particularly without the international job seekers able to apply until the global pandemic has been brought under control.
Are you someone with these skills?
We may have opportunities in high demand for you to take the next step in your IT career. Chat with our team who can help you leverage your skills and experience into a new role. Keep an eye on our IT Jobs section where you’ll find a broad range of roles at all levels. And if you require help getting your CV or Cover Letter ready, head over to our resources section.