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IT execs: Most sought-after skills aren't IT-focused

IT skills are always in high demand, but the most sought-after skills may not be the technical ones. At the Gartner Symposium in Orlando, Fla., SearchCIO asked IT executives what IT skills they are looking for in the next couple of years, and their responses skirted certifications and common resume qualifications. Emphasizing everything from a pattern of learning and an eye for design to problem solving skills and good communication, these IT executives made it clear that their most sought-after skills are not IT-specific.

Abbas Haider Ali, CTO, xMatters: I'd say that the most important skill for IT workers that I look for in members that we hire, but also that I see our customers looking for, is the ability to learn. You used to look for specific certifications. You would [ask], "Do you have a CCIE? Do you have a particular A+ certification?" -- that list of certifications that you try to match people against. We [still] look for some elements of those to make sure we're pulling someone who has certain types of experience -- be it network side, virtualization or cloud computing -- but now what we look for is a pattern of learning. I think that's the most important thing because no industry really stays the same for any length of time anymore. It used to be that certification kind of guaranteed that you are good for a certain amount of time -- that's no longer the case. What you really look for is you look for a pattern that someone has demonstrated, that they're able to keep up and adapt very quickly to new things and that they're not held back by the knowledge they've had historically, but are continually willing to learn and improve themselves to deal with the changing marketplace.

Don Schuerman, CTO, Pegasystems: I really don't think about IT skills when I hire. I think about problem solving skills and I think about creativity and communication skills. There are lots of technologies that are developing, but coding, to my mind, is primarily syntax. [I try to] find somebody who's a good problem solver, who knows how to take a problem, break it down into pieces and get to a solution.

[I try to] find somebody who's a good problem solver, who knows how to take a problem, break it down into pieces and get to a solution.
Don SchuermanCTO, Pegasystems

Whether they're doing that in Java code or in Python or in CSS or in whatever the next JavaScript technology we're going to roll out to market is going to be, that's syntax that smart people can learn.    

If I can find people who are great problem solvers and who are really aggressive learners [that] constantly want to be playing and learning with new things, [those] are the [people] that are going to be the best to build into my team. That's a team that I can point at any problem, even one that I can't anticipate, and any technology -- even one that I haven't seen -- and know that they're going to be able to pick it up and carry it to a new place.

Neil Gomes, VP for Technology Innovation and Consumer Experience, Thomas Jefferson University: We certainly want progressive technologies. We want people that understand machine learning and the AI side of things. We want people that will also understand design. The lead on my design team is an architect -- an actual architect, not a data architect or anything; a real architect who worked in healthcare for some period of time. He also worked with Steelcase in designing furniture, because other industries have gone through disruption much earlier than healthcare education. The concepts, the things they have picked up and the way that they have addressed those disruptive times is important to us in healthcare. I think we can learn from that. Diverse backgrounds, diverse ideas, and the desire to ask, "Why do you really want to do that?" and "Am I doing the right thing?"

Otto Berkes, CTO, CA Technologies: With the kinds of challenges that technology departments are facing, I look to both attract and develop a really broad range of skills. People who can look at a problem in its entirety, and while they may have very specific domain expertise, really work through the problem within the full frame of the context.

For more on the most sought-after skills in today's IT realm, hear from execs on how they're finding the right people with the right talent and how they're building skills for the digital future.

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