Michelle BB 00:00:07 The views expressed by guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Skillsoft. Welcome to the Edge, the Skillsoft podcast where we talk about transformative learning and the ways in which it helps organizations, and their people grow together. I'm your host, Michelle BB. My pronouns are she and her. When we launched the Edge back in the spring of 2020, it was at the onset of the pandemic, and we had no idea how our working worlds were going to change and change. They did Think about it. We were all working remotely, and even now most organizations offer some sort of hybrid model. So how do we live in this digital world? How do we lead inclusively in a digital world, and how do we equip our workforce with the skills they need that are aligned to this ever-accelerating digital world? Well, I've had the privilege and frankly the pleasure of introducing you to dozens of interesting and often entertaining guests, ranging from talent development leaders, diversity consultants, and executive coaches.
Michelle BB 00:01:16 We've had a resilience ninja, a virtual museum curator, and a team of NASCAR pit crew coaches talking with us along the way. And in every case, our conversations have been enlightening and inspirational, and hopefully you've gotten value out of them, and I think you'll find that today's episode is no different. Skillsoft recently published our 17th annual edition of the IT Skills and Salary report, one of the largest and most in-depth global studies of IT professionals at all stages of their careers across all geographies and industries. For the past two decades, the goal of this research has been to equip IT professionals from newcomers to senior executives with the data and analysis they need to understand the trends that will impact their careers, their organizational strategies, and so much more. And the report has been featured in Forbes, in PC Magazine, CRN, Fox Business, Information Week, Tech Republic, and that's just to name a few.
Michelle BB 00:02:18 And so it is absolutely fitting that I have asked Zach Sims to join me to talk about today's top tech skills and what organizations and people need to grow together. Now, for those of you who don't know, Zach, well, let's change that. He is a member of the leadership team here at Skillsoft and the co-founder and former CEO of Code Academy, which was acquired by Skillsoft earlier this year. And let me tell you, he has his finger on the pulse of today's most in-demand tech skills. Code Academy is a leading online learning platform that has helped more than 40 million people worldwide lead inspiring careers in technology by creating an engaging, flexible, and accessible way to learn in demand technology skills. Code Academy empowers people and companies to thrive today's tech driven workforce. Lemme tell you, Zach's a little bit of a celebrity. He has been recognized by the World Economic Forum as a technology pioneer by time as one of its hundred most influential people and has been named to both Forbes and Ink Magazines 30 under 30 lists for his work to scale education opportunities in technology. And so please join me in welcoming Zach to the edge. Zach, it's a pleasure to have you.
Zach Sims 00:03:37 Thanks for having me, Michelle. Excited to be
Michelle BB 00:03:39 Here. We're gonna jump right into this and I have a few questions for you and I am absolutely convinced that you are the right person to help me answer some of these because you know, a lot of the challenges that we see when talking to our customers, when looking out at the landscape are about the workforce and how rapidly it's changing and the skills that are needed to ensure that people are successful. And I have said this so many times, but every company today is a technology company. Every department is a technology department. And so, when, when we talk about tech skills, we're talking about a wide swath. So, what are the most critical tech skills today and why?
Zach Sims 00:04:26 The three areas of focus these days that are growing the most in demand are cloud data and IT infrastructure. And I think not only are the job openings growing in those areas, but we're also seeing, you know, substantial growth in salaries. And those are, you know, today the three highest paying IT functions as well. So not only are they growing, but they're also already kind of the three highest paid. Now when we look at the hardest rules to fill these days, I think, you know, companies are looking a lot for, again, some of the same skills as before, cloud computing, data analytics, data science and cybersecurity. So, I think learning any of those skills is a fast path towards fast deployment and kinda immediate career advancement.
Michelle BB 00:05:06 As you say that, when we talk about how rapidly the demand for skills is growing and how vast in some cases the gaps are in organizations, how do these competencies differ from what we saw last year? And if things are moving so rapidly, do we anticipate big shifts next year in 2023?
Zach Sims 00:05:27 Yeah, I, I think these areas, you know, tend to be pretty resilient. You know, we're only talking again about the three that are, you know, most in demand today. But I think the nice thing across all of technology is that these are skills that are consistently demand, even if it's not in the top three, even if it's web programming as an example, you know, it's a skill that is easily bankable and important to learn. These are skills that are of the moment today, and even if you learn them this year and they're not kinda top three next year, uh, they're skills that are not going on fashion. Mm.
Michelle BB 00:05:56 I think that's good. Good to hear. And it also sounds like they are probably great skills, even if you have to upskill or train yourself in a different area or go into a different industry, these are things that you'll retain and take with you.
Zach Sims 00:06:10 Yeah, absolutely.
Michelle BB 00:06:12 So we know that IT leaders around the world, and I, this was reported in the survey that we conducted, that there's still reporting skills gaps, even though I think we've seen a decline year over year, but we know that nearly two thirds of IT leaders had three or more roles open on their team. And not only that, but more than half of IT professionals are looking for opportunities with different employers and, and you know, could be what you talked about, right? These are high paying in demand roles, so maybe they're gonna learn and earn more. I think one of the main takeaways from the report that I saw was that there's this ongoing strain in IT departments as they try to recruit and retain employees. And look lots of things going on as well, not just inside organizations, but exogenous factors, great resignation, volatile labor market, insatiable demand for tech skills. And I think they're all really contributing to what so many in leadership deem is their toughest challenge, which is retention. But on the other hand, we're seeing significant layoffs in the tax sector amidst rising inflation, signs of recession, geopolitical instability. How do we address the concerns for tech talent at a time when companies are tightening their belts?
Zach Sims 00:07:24 It's always important, obviously to, to retain talent more so when, when the costs of hiring new talent choose to get higher, even in a recessionary environment, tech talent is still super, super in demand. So, I think when, when we look at what you can do to keep your technology employees from, you know, fleeing the coop, if you will, the most important things that we see companies focus on, again, are learning and development. What you and I spend, I think a lot of our time on, if companies are able to provide those types of advancement opportunities, that type of educational opportunity for their teams, some of that can make up for, you know, challenges around compensation that may kind of be present in a recessionary environment.
Michelle BB 00:08:04 I'm with you. Training is a focal point I think for so many organizations. And as you said, particularly in the tech space, we know that the majority of IT professionals, about 86% of the respondents to our survey took at least some training in the past year, mostly in support of their organization's initiatives, not necessarily, you know, for their own personal development, but the highest percentage of IT professionals we surveyed say that their main driver for training is to prepare their organizations for what's to come. Could be a big product launch of migration or an update. But others, to your point, are motivated for or motivated by other things, increasing salaries. Maybe they have an interest in learning new skills, earning and maintaining a certification that's critical to the success of their job. And I think that the thing that we identified or saw in the report and what often stands in the way of someone being successful and being able to train themselves is management. The report indicated that something like 45% of respondents said that management doesn't necessarily see the value of training, and yet here we are talking about talent retention as a big challenge. Absolutely.
Michelle BB 00:09:14 So then Zach, where's the communication breakdown? Why is it so important for leadership to recognize and act upon the need for training and development?
Zach Sims 00:09:24 The important thing for leadership to realize is that learning is in a perk. It's not a nice to have for employees. It's, you know, again, one of the top three reasons people are looking for new opportunities in leaving, the important thing for leadership to do is to, you know, create those career pathways for team members at your company to provide those learning opportunities for folks. And again, those learning opportunities generally are, you know, a path forward, a clear annunciation of the skills that are required in order to get there and access to the learning material in order to do so, giving employees that across their entire cycle and make them more likely to stay.
Michelle BB 00:09:57 I really like that, and I think that this notion that it gives people a reason to stay is so important sometimes even more so than compensation, right? That said, these learning opportunities aren't just limited to sort of the hard durable job skills, the tech skills. There is this increased focus I think on building leadership competencies, especially on technical teams. Why is it important that tech teams also have these sort of leadership power skills and what are the most critical skills that need to be taught, particularly within IT teams?
Zach Sims 00:10:37 Some of those skills are, you know, soft skills, right? As part of that culture of learning, it's learning, you know, team communication, empathy, emotional intelligence. And I think that comes out in the data as well. In the report, when we asked uh, folks what the single most important skill for IT professionals and leaders to learn was, you know, team communication was number one and interpersonal communication was second. And I think that, you know, kinda goes back to learning isn't just about specifically tech skills, but it's also about learning to become a well-rounded professional. Um, and tech skills are only one part of that.
Michelle BB 00:11:09 I also believe that a lot of the learning and development that we gain, particularly those power soft skills within our organizations, they help us become well-rounded humans in life as well. So, these are skills that we can apply in every facet of our lives. I do wanna shift a little bit and talk, go back to sort of tech skills in particular because we know that one important aspect of tech development and one that it seems both IT professionals and leaders seem to agree on is the importance of certification, right? So, IT professionals report higher quality outcomes, faster resolution times, sharper focus at work after earning a certification. And 35% of leaders say these professionals who have certifications add quite a bit more in value to the organizations, like tens of thousands more. How do you look at and or quantify the importance of certifications and where and how do they play a role When you're thinking about sort of your own learning journey?
Zach Sims 00:12:20 It's obvious when you look at the data that certifications are just a net good overall. They are good for organizations and their employees of the population that we surveyed, 97% of IT decision makers would say that folks that have certifications at value, those become valued team members. When someone is looking to give a raise or promote people, certifications are important ways to do so. If that's true in your organization, what can you do about it? And I think that goes back to what we talked about earlier from a career growth and kind of life cycle of an employee perspective where it is critical to encourage employees to kinda obtain those certifications, to grow as professionals and do so in a way that, you know, builds their career but also adds value to your organization. So, I think you can really bake, you know, certifications in areas where they are relevant into what you are designing as an employee life cycle. And that will hopefully massively help the retention as well.
Michelle BB 00:13:15 We actually did a podcast that focused on certifications a while back, but what is it about the certification itself? Is it the commitment? Is it the fact that the training requires tremendous focus and discipline and a deep understanding of the topic? Or is it really the fact that in some ways we've gamified this so you get the certification and it's just recognition of an accomplishment? What is it about a certification that's so important?
Zach Sims 00:13:42 Yeah, I think certifications are proof and accomplishment to your point. I think part one is, you know, you have a set of skills and your employer is looking to use that set of skills to accomplish something. A certification is, you know, kinda almost a bulletproof way of ensuring that they have that skill. Okay, great. I need someone who knows how to build on aws. We have someone who's AWS certified. Perfect. I think on the other hand, for someone learning, we found, you know, at Code Academy we offer badges, right? And certificates and skill stuff obviously offers those as well. For a learner kind of having that to look for at the end proof you demonstrated a skill that you're learning kind of wasn't for, not ends up being super important as well. So it really, a certification serves kind of multiple benefits for folks that are taking courses, both kind of tangible hard benefits in your career as well as, you know, benefits along the learning process.
Michelle BB 00:14:33 I love that because there's something that can't be quantified. Obviously, there is the quantification where I can earn more money if I have this certification, but there's also the sense of accomplishment and as you talked about, the pride in, you know, having something that is tangible proof of what I'm now capable of doing. And I love that. Let's pull this thread a little bit more. As part of the report, we looked at the quantitative data demonstrating how developing new skills and earning certifications increase an employee's value to the organization on three different lists. Salary increases for 2022, investment areas for 2023 and toughest areas to hire for cloud was reported in, first placed as the most important skill and cert required. So why is cloud so important right now in the near future and how do IT professionals avail themselves or take advantage of the opportunity that this presents?
Zach Sims 00:15:29 If you look at that kind of generational shift that is occurring for most companies and has been for, you know, the better part of 10 years at this point, cloud is, you know, the future for almost every organization in terms of how they power their online presence. And so, every company, regardless of size, industry, geography, kinda again relying on cloud computing as they grow, it's possible to retrain existing teams in order to kinda help with that cloud expansion. Whether those are again, DevOps teams, existing programming teams, I think there is an opportunity to, you know, help your existing team members skill up and learn an area that is super in demand, not just for them, in which case it'll be good for their careers, but most importantly for your company as well. You can do that a whole bunch of different ways, whether it's instructor led training, whether it's, you know, learning asynchronously, so on and so forth, really help you dramatically grow your organization as you move towards kind of 21st century technologies.
Michelle BB 00:16:22 We've talked, um, before about this idea of building sustainable workforce, about retraining existing team members and you know, a lot of cases the cost of acquisition as you said, really, really high. So, what are your other options if you're not gonna go out and buy talent? Well, you can build, and you can bridge skills and it sounds to me like those are really important nowadays as we think about shifting people away from technologies that may not be as in demand right now and refocusing them on the things that are so critical. And then you layer on top of that. Well, how do you do that? Well, we've talked about the fact that some of these other skills, these power skills are soft skills, resilience, agility, the ability to move quickly and communicate, to your point, all important in shifting from sort of one discipline, if you will, to another. So, it sounds like it all goes hand in hand.
Zach Sims 00:17:21 Yep, absolutely.
Michelle BB 00:17:24 As I mentioned in the start of our discussion, this report, the IT skills and salary report, it's one of the industry's most comprehensive global studies. We've been doing it for almost two decades, but it also includes regional breakdowns, right? So North America, Latin America, EMEA, and APAC. And in some cases, look, we see similar trends around the globe, but in others there were some market differences by geo what were some and what can we learn from those differences? What, what do we take away in terms of how participants responded in India as example?
Zach Sims 00:17:59 Yeah. One of the most interesting and important things about the technology market today is just how global it's right. We saw a lot of that both in the similarities and, and in the differences between different geographies. Recruitment and retention remains a top concern across the globe. But in North America as an example, you know, the lowest percentage of IT professionals who were likely to leave their jobs. So, it seems like that might be a more pronounced issue kind of outside of North America. Mm. In India you mentioned as well, I think there's, there's a really meaningful investment in teams training their own internal teams to address skill gaps. Uh, India, you know, being one of those, those highest areas where IT leaders plan to invest with more than 64% of all IT leaders planning to invest in, in training their internal teams to meet skill gaps, which is higher than we see in North America where the number is about 40% in APAC where it's 60% or in <inaudible> where it's 56%. So again, India kind of that really fast-growing market that invests a lot in training, the challenges that set are, are similar. Even the responses might be different. I think in India, north America, you know, again, those talent retention and recruitment challenges are the top two challenges that IT leaders are facing today. There are some similarities in the challenges that people are facing, but some geographies are, are facing off against those challenges differently than others
Michelle BB 00:19:16 Are. Those geographical cuts are really interesting, particularly as we think about the differences in population. So, age plays a factor as well as to your point where investments are being made in order to train people where organizations are making those investments. I've really enjoyed our conversation. I'll have to have you back, Zach, and look, I said it before, every company's a technology company, so I am certain that everybody listening has been taking notes like I have. But before we wrap, I'm gonna ask you the same three questions that I ask every single guest and I've asked every single guest since we started the edge back in 2020. So, three parter. You better take it down cuz it's, it's, it's a long question. Uhoh. So <laugh>. So, Zach, okay, first part, what are you learning right now? Or what have you recently learned that's had an impact? Second, how are you applying it, whether it's in the flow of work or in your everyday life in general, or something new you might be making time for. And third, what advice about learning would you share with others? So, what are you learning, how are you applying it and what advice would you give?
Zach Sims 00:20:24 Yeah, so what am I learning right now? You know, one of the most interesting trends in technology in the past couple of months has been kinda the speed and rate of change within, uh, artificial intelligence. So, looking at things like generative ai, whether it's tools like Dali or state diffusion or text generation, you know, through things like G P D three or the application of those things through things like open ai, Kodak and have co-pilot. I think, you know, I spent a lot of time kind of digging into the technology and the applications behind artificial intelligence. Some of that is, is playing with those tools and you know, taking courses and learning experiences, some of which are on co academy and Skillsoft. And some of it is, you know, looking at what is out there that I think, you know, is probably the biggest change coming to software the next year or two years is within the realm of artificial intelligence.
Zach Sims 00:21:06 So how am I applying it? I think some of it has to do with what we're doing at work, finding ways to generate new content to help our learners learn by kind of meeting 'em in the flow of work. And some of that is kind of for interesting things on the side. And I think kind of learning any new piece of technology, again, fortunately has that kind of duplicative impact within your personal life and in your work life. And on the third question, what additional advice about learning? I think for me, the thing that we see our learners struggle with the most oftentimes is confidence. Because, you know, they don't look like every other programmer. And I think the most important thing we kind of consistently tell our learners is, you know, you can do it. And I think that's true for any subject. You know, you just have to get started. And that tends to be the hardest thing for learners to do is kind of believe in themselves. And that's what I encourage everyone to do. Whether it's programming, a learning or something else. You know, you can do it.
Michelle BB 00:22:04 I love that. Thank you. That's fantastic. And it's gonna give me the courage and confidence to maybe go finish that Python course that I've started, that I have yet to finish.
Michelle BB 00:22:20 Thank you again for joining us today, Zach, and thanks as always. To our listeners, you can follow Zach's insights on LinkedIn and Twitter, and you can learn more about Code firstname.lastname@example.org. That's C O D E C A D E M Y. And if you haven't had the chance to read Skillsoft's IT Skills and Salary report yet, you can download email@example.com. Here. We at Skillsoft propel organizations and people to grow together through transformative learning experiences. And these learning experiences include technical skills in areas like coding and cyber and cloud ops, as well as those critical power skills that Zach talked about, communication, resilience, and emotional intelligence. And listening to Zach today, I really hope that you are inspired to start something and learn something new. I know I am. I'm Michelle BB. Until next time, keep learning, keep growing, and be well.