What skills will future generations of IT engineers need to develop, and how will automation help organizations overcome the current shortage of IT technicians and engineers? In this third and final post in our series, we talk with Sunny Shah, VP of Technology at TierPoint, for answers to these questions, and more.

Did you miss parts 1 and 2 of our interview with Sunny? You can access those posts here:

The IT organization is evolving due to automation

Interviewer: How is the IT organization evolving as data center automation increases?

While we often think of IT people as being on the cutting edge of change, there’s a surprising amount of resistance in IT to change. A lot of forward-thinking organizations are forcing the conversation. They’ve even created a new role called the DTO, Digital Transformation Officer, that is part of executive leadership. These DTOs are given executive authority to execute digital transformation throughout the organization in support of the business’ objectives. And they have the highest level of support. In some companies, this role even reports to the board of directors, instead of to the CTO or CIO.

In the traditional model, each of the IT functional silos perform their parts to support a service. You have a server team that deals with Compute, Network team that touches Network and Storage Team that provisions storage. Each of the teams needs a lot of coordination and well-documented hand-off steps and the speed is often time sacrificed in the name of quality, accuracy and reliability. However, IT is now being challenged to turn into an enabler rather than acting as a barrier. The attitude is shifting from “why” to “how can I” for your smart Agile IT leader. It is this paradigm shift from a “technology focus” to “a business focus”, that is being embraced by IT leaders to deliver everything faster, better and in a more secure manner.

We’re also seeing an evolution within IT that is being spurred on not only by automation but also by the current skills gap. Most companies will have functional engineers on staff. For example, they might have a very smart storage engineer who knows EMC, NetApp, Nimble, Pure… You name it; they know it. Clearly, this is a valuable individual in any company. But, the challenge these companies face is that when you automate you need engineers who also have some programming expertise.

For example, they may need to write a utility script or write a small script that can run and extend their NetApp volume across forty data centers at the push of a button. It’s not that the companies ignore the need for this skill, it’s that they never realized how necessary these programming skills are at this stage of digital evolution.

Growing skill sets for data center automation

Interviewer: Sounds like there’s some skills development that needs to happen. How are organizations addressing that, and is there anything they can do to speed up the process?

Some companies have developed a DevOps culture that pairs programmers with engineers, so they can help each other out and supplement the skills gap on both sides. This promotes agility as well as helps companies and individuals think about the use case for what they’re building.

This makes for better engineers too. When they have a higher-level view of what they are doing, they’re going to be able to continue to develop their practices and processes to support the company vision.

Key skills for data center new hires

Interviewer: What sorts of skills should organizations be looking for in new hires?

It used to be that hiring managers needed to look for individuals who could fill specific roles, but as rapidly as IT is evolving, you need a much more rounded employee than ever before. I also think you need to look for employees who have a grasp of business concepts and understand IT’s role in achieving the business’ objectives. As technology evolves, you can teach a bright, young engineer what they need to know. It’s a lot harder to teach someone who only cares about hardware or networking what they need to know about the business as a whole.

In the future, your next generation IT engineers will need to be a “jack of many trades, but master of some.” Learn to code. Understand how to analyze large amounts of data! New IT engineers should always be looking for ways to improve and evolve themselves. Never lose your innate curiosity and love of learning.

Expert advice on automation

Interviewer: Any final words of wisdom you’d like to share with our audience?

Don’t jump into this space with a “Platform First” strategy. Many technologists make this mistake. They go after an automation platform provider, and they assume that once they get it rolled out, it will address all of their issues.

It’s not going to happen! You have to make sure you understand your current processes and your use cases. You have to make sure you evaluate your team’s skill set. You have to sell why automation makes life better and why it’s not a threat to IT’s existence. You have to demonstrate to your IT that you’re as committed to them as to the needs of the business by helping them see where they fit in the big picture. If you do those things well, the platform and the technology options are just going to fall into place.

Next Steps

Automation can be a valuable tool for any business looking to transform. Learn how TierPoint can help you maximize performance and availability to create the best experience for your users. Contact us today.

Subscribe to the TierPoint blog We'll send you a link to new blog posts whenever we publish, usually once a week.