News & Analysis

How IT Leaders Can Survive in The Wake of Layoffs


The IT industry is facing tough times. The recent lay-offs at Cognizant, Infosys and several others suggest that enterprises are slashing jobs from middle tier on grounds that their cost-to-company isn’t commensurate with the value that they bring. A report published in the Business Standard quoted V Balakrishnan, former CFO at Infosys as saying that IT companies were left with no choice but trip the middle-level to ward off margin pressure and become more agile.

These job cuts are touted as part of cost optimization drive, but Balakrishnan believes that IT organizations need employees who understand new technologies and can leverage digital technologies rather than sit on the legacy systems, if they are to survive. So, what does that mean for a large number of IT professionals who entered the industry a decade ago and are finding themselves in some trouble?

Read more: Job Crisis: What Could Turn the Tide?

Future Tech Jobs

The message is quite clear! There is a dire need for tech executives to prepare themselves for the work of the future – which is more of a survival strategy in the face of layoffs and downsizing. We identify five new upcoming technologies that are faster, superior and agile and help CIO/CTOs create maximum value in the organization.

Blockchain: Blockchain technology is becoming one of the most thriving skills in the IT job market. Online job search site Hired reported demand for blockchain engineers is seeing a year-over-year growth of more than 200%. Blockchain has gone far beyond its beginnings in banking and cryptocurrency. Now, industries like transportation, logistics, healthcare, insurance, manufacturing, gaming and digital payments are making blockchain an integral part of their business. With Worldwide spending on blockchain solutions forecast to reach $11.7 billion in 2022, as per a recent IDC report, it is indicative of even more jobs.

AI-ML skills: The year 2020 will be a pivotal year in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) related employment dynamics, according to Gartner. The research firm says that artificial intelligence will drive many a future jobs. At a recent HR technology conference in US this year, IBM’s CEO and President Ginni Rometty said the company is working on initiatives to develop the workforce of the future and close the skills gap in areas such as AI and automation. The Big Blue is investing $1 billion in initiatives like apprenticeships to train workers for what it calls “new collar” jobs. According to the AI talent report, the number of AI-related jobs on Indeed has increased by 119%. Industries like manufacturing, transportation, healthcare, finance, agriculture, retail and customer service will receive growing business value from AI.

Big Data Analytics: The tremendous increase in data has given birth to Data Science, which has further divided into Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Deep Learning, and more. According to a survey conducted by IBM, there will be an increase by 364,000 to 2,720,000 openings in the year 2020. Furthermore, the unstoppable rise in demand for data scientists will reach approximately 700,000 openings in the same year and the demand for data scientists will rise by 28% by 2020 alone, a strong indication for tech managers to pull up their sleeves.

Cybersecurity: Given the fast-evolving cyber threat landscape, there is an increasing need for robust cybersecurity protection for both enterprises and individuals. A Nasscom report shows that India alone would need 1 million cyber security professionals by 2020. As hackers become more sophisticated, and attacks more frequent, there would be an increased demand for beginner level roles to C-suite executives in cybersecurity. Some of the popular roles that are picking up in cybersecurity are Cybersecurity analyst, Cybersecurity Manager, Security Architect and Chief information security officer.

Moving Beyond Tech Skills

Despite job cuts by some large and mid-sized enterprises, the projected increase in salary in India is the highest in Asia Pacific, with Blockchain, AI and ML, Cybersecurity, analytics and DevOps as the most in-demand skills. According to the latest Q3 2019 Salary Budget Planning Report released by Willis Towers Watson, salary in Indian IT sector is projected to rise 10% in 2020, marginally higher than the actual increase (9.9%) in 2019. However, tech skills in isolation do not help. Researchers point out some job skills are also in high demand and tech executives should take note as part of their survival and growth strategy.

Critical Thinking: Those with the ability to discern what information is trustworthy among the abundant mix of over-information such as fakes news, propaganda, and more will be critical to an organization’s success. Critical thinking doesn’t imply being negative; it’s about being able to objectively evaluate information and how it should be used or even if it should be trusted by an organization. Employees who are open-minded, yet able to judge the quality of information inundating us will be valued.

Adaptability and Flexibility: In the fast paced, ever changing world, IT folks need to commit to learning new skills all along and must be adaptable to change. The strategy that worked best strategy yesterday may not fit the bill tomorrow. So, openness to unlearning skills is also important. Additionally, people must be cognitively flexible to new ideas and ways of doing things.

Creativity: Regardless of the importance of robots and machines, humans are still better at creativity. Therefore more companies will go creative humans to innovate and dream of a better tomorrow. Tomorrow’s workplaces will demand new ways of thinking, and CIOs with a creative style of leading is critical to moving forward.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ): As AI and automation accelerates, emotional intelligence is becoming a must-have skill. “As more traditional and routine tasks become automated, organizations are placing a premium on EI skills, from self-awareness to relationship management and communication. At present however, four out of 10 organizations invest in developing EQ skills. As John Mayer, Professor of Psychology, University of New Hampshire said, “For EQ, there is a certain amount of teaching and tutoring that can be helpful. We can acquire knowledge in the area which will increase the effectiveness with which people use their intelligence.”

Leadership Skills: This will be paramount for digital leaders. Enabled by the support of machines, there will be more individuals who are in decision-making positions, whether leading project teams or departments. “Understanding how to bring out the best within a diverse and distributed workforce requires strong leadership skills,” Lois Frankel, leadership coach and author said in a note.

Read more: 5 Ways CXOs Can Rewire Their Minds To Stay Successful

This apart, various self-management skills make people more successful in the future, including self-motivation, time management, stress management and the ability to embrace and celebrate change. Experts believe those tech managers who have a growth mindset, are adept at experimenting and have a sense of continuous learning will be highly coveted in the new digital age and can survive in the new market reality.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at [email protected]