It’s no secret that adding connectivity to products can make business models more difficult to service or change them altogether, or that undergoing a digital transformation changes the company culture. But what many companies only realize once they start adding the internet to their products or their production lines is that the IoT changes the skills companies need to hire for, too.
After talking to executives in a variety of industries, I’ve catalogued five different job skills that matter more thanks to greater connectivity. Broadly speaking, most jobs require greater IT savvy than ever before, and all of them ask more of employees than comparable jobs in non-connected environments.
Decision-making: One of the consequences of bringing more connectivity into manufacturing environments is that the computers see more patterns and can add more value by pointing out problems before they blow up a machine or halt a manufacturing process. This is good. But for the folks on the manufacturing line who get these alerts, it can require doing a lot more than simply checking to ensure a machine isn’t screwing up. When a factory worker gets an alert, she has to figure out if it’s serious enough to halt work immediately, if she should schedule maintenance for later on, or if she needs to take some other action altogether. Basically the more low-level problem-solving the machines do, the more higher-level tasks will fall on human employees. Those workers have to be ready to make harder decisions and their management needs to be ready to support them making those decisions.
IT savvy: A common thread among all of the employers I spoke with was that software skills — and if not software skills, then some level of IT savvy — are essential. Without them, those in the organization who do understand IT will quickly get overloaded. For example, an IT executive working at a commercial real estate company might find himself getting pulled into meetings about connected building platforms so that he can make sure vendors aren’t selling his company something based on an unsupported platform, such as Windows XP. A whole host of industries are increasingly looking to make IT-savvy employees a core part of their operations teams so that they don’t get stuck with connected products that have poor compatibility with their existing IT systems and practices.
Six Sigma: In the same way operations teams are adding IT-savvy members, the IT folks are looking for experts in manufacturing and process engineering so they can understand their customers. Experience in the manufacturing world helps companies trying to make IT products for the industrial IoT gain credibility with clients; it also helps them build products that address real concerns, including dashboards and data visualization products that can be added to existing work processes.
Skilled customer service: In a conversation a few months back with Brett Jurgens, the CEO of Notion, he noted that customer support calls now require a new set of skills. It’s not enough for a company to let people walk through a traditional script, because in many smart home device situations there is no good script; there are simply too many variables at play. Instead, organizations need to hire folks who have experience with smart home gear — the hardware, the software, and the murky world of device integrations.
Data protection: This is more of a prediction and less of a certainty, but it matters. With laws such as Europe’s GDPR and the realization that controlling connected device data is crucial to keeping competitive data secret, expect to see employers hiring for data protection roles. Qualifications will likely include having a legal background, especially for roles that deal with consumer privacy. But such roles could also be appropriate for analysts and competitive intelligence experts who can creatively look at sources of data and see where that data might be exploited. As machine data gets online and tools such as computer vision make their way into the mainstream, it will become easier and easier to parse unique forms of digitized data in order to draw conclusions from them. Businesses that aren’t thinking about using these new forms of data will lose out.
So if you want a big role in the internet of things, think beyond data science and computer programming to skills that will make your résumé really shine. And employers, if you can find folks with these skills, you will be well served.