Skills to succeed in the age of rapid technological advancement

The dual forces of digital transformation and technological innovation are the new normal in business. This means that all workers, not just those orchestrating these endeavours, need to accrue an arsenal of skills to remain relevant in their roles and competitive in their careers.

woman working using two computer screens

As such, the degree of savviness goes beyond the simple integration, communication, and adaptation of technology. Associate Professor and Dean of International, Shanton Chang from the University of Melbourne’s School of Computing and Information Systems says the ongoing demand for progressive skillsets that are in-line with real time industry change is a hot commodity – but these require ongoing maintenance. According to Associate Professor Chang, the only way to be nimble and ripe in developing times, is through delving deeper and earning the competitive advantage through the following four core skills categories.

Technical and technology integration skills

“Digital transformation brings with it a demand for a whole range of skills that employees could capitalise on, and features both technical and technology integration skills. The more technical of these include cloud computing, cyber security, software engineering, and artificial intelligence and machine learning, through to data science, analytics and visualisation. The technology integration side of things ranges from UX Design through to business-IT alignment, information security, business process management, business analytics, search engine optimisation and social media expertise.

person coding on a laptop

It’s important to recognise that while all these skills are in demand, they are somewhat specialised, and are required by different organisations and different industries to a greater or lesser extent, in line with what they do and how they do (or want to do) it. For employees, what’s important is finding the ones that fit their aptitude, passion and interests in order to become an expert in their chosen field. Doing this will separate and elevate them from their peers who are vying for within the same industry. Building ‘expert level’ skills will also strengthen your aptitude for predicting a change in your industry, which is a vital skill in a fluid and changing workforce.”

Transferable skills

“It’s not just IT-related skills that are important to be competitive, it’s also the transferable skills of collaboration, creativity, adaptability, resilience, organisation and the ability to communicate effectively across cultures, professions and levels of management. Regardless of which area of technology an individual is interested in or required to engage with as part of their role, these transferable skills are important to remain competitive.

It’s true that in many instances the technology itself won’t be the ‘killer app’, it will be the people administering and managing the understanding and experience of the user that will provide the edge. Personally, I don’t like to separate the 'soft' skills from the technical because people tend to focus on tech skills as if that's an issue in itself – I know plenty of people who have a host of in-demand tech skills but still cannot secure a job.”

Transformative ability and willingness

“Existing employee skills related to the aforementioned transferable selection are absolutely crucial in today’s transformational environment. What’s also important is to be able to look at how your chosen or desired industry is changing and how IT and other technologies might impact it, scan for, then size up, opportunities amongst any threats.

In our Master of IT Management course, for example, we often ask students to think about their own professional background and how IT can be better integrated into their work. The best at enacting successful digital integration are those who have existing experiences in the specific industry, and are able to feel a sense of place, purpose and perspective in moulding the future of that industry.”

person coding on their laptop

Training and learning

“Very few professions do not require ongoing training or learning when it comes to technology, whether they accept it or not. Even well-established areas like law, medicine, teaching and accounting require ongoing development and innovations. What is different is the rate of change that might occur within the digital transformation environment. The likelihood of change in any industry being brought about by digital innovations is very high.

Therefore, for those in more technical roles, learning new skills and innovations is part and parcel of their jobs – it’s not unusual for IT professionals who are used to problem solving every day. For those in less technical roles, it’s about understanding how new technologies will impact current practices and how to leverage it, as well as being able to strategise and manage new opportunities and challenges as they present. Data-driven decision making is just one key example of a discipline that can bestow those organisations who invest in it holistically with real results, both now and into the future.”

As technology continues to innovate jobs, sectors and economies, it’s important that individuals and business leaders look at ways to stay at the forefront of these digital advancements. One of the most viable ways to ramp up digital skills is through more flexible, leaner learning programs and credentials as offered by the University of Melbourne.

These types of educational development programs ensure people are personally and professionally prepared to maximise their place in this new(er) world of work, and include the following dedicated microcredentials:

With special thanks to:

  • Associate Professor Shanton Chang, Associate Dean International, School of Computing and Information Systems, Melbourne School of Engineering.

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