February 11, 2022
The tech industry continues to face crippling, industry-wide shortage of skillsets, and as automation becomes a critical technology helping accelerate business processes, organizations across various industries are developing fully automated workflows.
This is increasing the demand for skilled employees and new talent to assist with system testing, design, and development. For those looking to land a job in IT automation, a range of skill sets is required, as well as solid administration skills.
Dinesh Nirmal, General Manager for IBM Automation, explains IT professionals also need an understanding of the business's operations and workflows to apply automation to IT processes.
These IT processes often vary in complexity, which affects how they are managed and how automation can be applied. Simple IT tasks, like closing or grouping an IT support ticket, for instance, can often be handled with automation.
“For these simple tasks, current and aspiring IT professionals benefit greatly from software development skills, and familiarity with key IT Ops tools like issue tracking and event management systems,” Nirmal says.
These include ServiceNow ITSM, Atlassian Jira, and IBM Cloud Pak for Watson AIOps. More sophisticated processes, with more complex automation, may require DevOps skills and familiarity with tools like GitHub, or log management tools like Splunk.
Specific Automation Skills Desired
Shivam Trivedi, a solutions architect with Glean Technologies, a work assistant and knowledge management platform vendor, said to develop a career in automation, one also needs to have scripting and coding skills, because without knowing how to code, you cannot automate all your tasks.
“As an automation engineer, you need to know how to leverage both command-line tools, as well as APIs for external services,” he says. “Having some familiarity with cloud platforms and SaaS technologies would also be very useful, since that’s the way the future technology is headed.”
Besides having software engineering skills, automation specialists are also expected to have good sysadmin or cloud admin skills and having a strong knowledge of major operating systems like Linux, network, security, common Cloud products and SaaS solutions is also important.
“Automation is the future, and there is always going to be increasing demand for it,” Trivedi adds. “People who automate work will be in high demand because they can have an outsized impact at the company. As technology continues to proliferate every part of our life, we need more engineers to automate the repetitive tasks so we can focus on innovation.”
IBM’s Nirmal explains that to achieve the value automation, IT workers must be able to collaborate, pointed out humans must work together with automation -- not see it as a replacement.
Collaborating not only with the technology but alongside other teams will also be critical to achieving true end-to-end automation.
“It is vital to have a company strategy for how and where automation is stored and deployed,” Nirmal says. “Without all business lines involved, it is impossible to properly automate workflows at scale.”
Entering a Career Automation
Trivedi points out there are many places where people can begin their journey, starting in core-IT or IT engineering, before moving into automation engineering/SRE (Site Reliability Engineer).
“Another good path is to start off in the technical support organization and learn more about the technical side of the product,” he says. “Then, you can take on small projects that help automate support issues, and you can use this experience to move into SRE. Many people also start off in a systems administration role before moving into an engineering role.”
Nirmal said entry-level professionals with an understanding and passion for automation technologies have “endless opportunities” to embark on a career path that provides tremendous value to a company's digital transformation and future growth.
A key change in how organizations are approaching automation is through expanded use of AI and machine-learning. This means IT workers must have knowledge of how AI advances automation and allows for more informed decisions that improve outcomes.
Nirmal adds each business will require different platforms and applications depending on the type of automation used, desired speed of implementation, future automation ambitions, and degree of customization.
For those beginning to automate business workflows, organizations should consider easily integrated to incorporate significant AI capabilities, without having to start the automation journey from scratch.
“As adoption increases, organizations may want to scale their automation efforts with self-designed platforms that would require the creation of a centralized catalog of APIs and playbooks that everyone works from in order to achieve success,” Nirmal says.
Other Roles to Apply Automation
Nirmal says other roles for those interested in automation include business analysts, IT operations analysts, IT operations managers, process engineers, IT analysts and site reliability engineers.
For IT operations, knowledge, and familiarity with major cloud providers like AWS, GCP, or Azure, are helpful.
He points out centralizing codes into a Git management tool such as GitHub, GitLab, or AzureDevOps can make it much easier to collaborate automation efforts across multiple teams.
“Regardless of the type and scale of the automation processes, the use of security and testing applications is essential for businesses of all sizes across all industries to ensure automation tools are being used safely and effectively,” Nirmal says.
Therefore, familiarity with major security standards and best practices for secure agile development can be very helpful to IT professionals embracing automation in this environment.
“With the proper tooling and skills to use those tools, any professional can become an automator, as long as they know what work they are trying to automate,” Nirmal says.
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