Digital transformation underpinned by the Internet of Things (IoT) is enabling organizations to create new customer experiences, empower workforce innovation, and transform their businesses forever. On the flip side, the increased automation and efficiency gains brought by IoT are threatening to replace many entry-level jobs in the IT and operational technology (OT) spaces.
Fortunately, the good news is that IoT is creating jobs at such a rate that the IT industry is projected to grow by 50 percent before 2020. And many of these jobs will be roles that have never existed before. However, the majority of these roles are to be filled by seasoned professionals acquiring new skill sets for IoT.
IoT uses the power of IP network technology in a traditional industrial environment to reduce cost and improve efficiency. It has the potential to disrupt current manufacturing job roles by replacing more manual and repetitive jobs with collaborative and higher-skilled, dynamic, and multidisciplined engineers.
There’s more where that came from. Currently there are 4.5 million developers around the world contributing to IoT. As the number of connected devices explodes, it is likely that over the next five years we will see that figure grow—to a staggering 10 million people working in IoT. In short, the industry is facing the challenge of this growing talent gap. Stay status quo, and your job might become obsolete. Acquire a new IoT skill set and become an IoT professional, and there is a world of opportunity waiting for you.
What Is an IoT Professional?
Technology professionals are asking themselves, "How do I take advantage of the growing IoT market and plan my career path accordingly? What are the job roles available to me?" We all have a solid understanding of the roles and responsibilities of an IT professional. The same holds true for OT jobs and tasks, which are well defined. As IoT is a “greenfield” technology and is still evolving rapidly, IoT job roles are both new and expanding in scope. An IoT job is truly in the eye of the beholder and up for interpretation.
Without a reference framework like that of the Cisco training and certification program for Routing and Switching, it could be hit or miss in terms of crafting your personalized learning map to become a sought-after IoT professional.
First, Define What IoT Means to You
IoT is broad in scope. It traverses different technologies and industry verticals. In connecting edge devices such as sensors and controllers, connectivity starts with network infrastructure and spans the IT and OT domains. IT and OT network engineers will need to collaboratively install, configure, operate, and support the converged network.
In opening up the previously closed industrial network, “security by obscurity” no longer applies. How do you secure the industrial IoT network to ensure uptime and availability? Infrastructure architecture varies from industry to industry. Wireless, especially low-power WAN deployment, is essential for smart cities, mining, and utilities. Being able to process and analyze the data from many connected devices can drive cost improvement, process efficiency, and even the launching of new service revenue opportunities.
These are all new skill sets, and the industry still does not have consensus on how to define an IoT professional as one would with an IT network engineer. If you are an IT engineer, you might consider expanding your expertise into the IoT domain. As for OT engineers, the convergent IT/OT architecture is inevitable. To avoid job obsolescence, or career stalling, OT engineers can position themselves for success by getting training credentials in IoT as well.
The following is a chart for job roles and tasks for IoT. Based on your professional background, you can chart a learning journey to your desired job function in the IoT ecosystem and fulfill your career aspirations.
Where Are We At with IoT Today?
IoT is crossing the market adoption chasm. A recent Verizon report estimated that 90 percent of enterprises are in a pilot phase of their IoT deployments. The first order of focus is in the connectivity layer: The traditional closed industrial network architecture, based on incompatible application protocols, is evolving to an IP-connected factory. This converged architecture introduces a talent gap not met by current IT or OT professionals. Maintaining status quo, especially in the OT environment, could mean job obsolescence as automation enabled by IoT will replace many existing operational job roles.
In this context, IoT has an extended meaning: IT + OT! Accustomed to working in silos in the past, now professionals from each discipline will need to learn skills from one another and add soft skills to their repertoire in communication, collaboration, project management, and more.
For IT engineers, this is the time to plan for your career growth into the world of IoT and get acquainted with industrial networking and application protocols. Moreover, wireless deployment is essential for some industrial verticals such as connected transportation, mining, and utilities. Security is, without saying, top of mind.
For OT engineers, as your work environment transitions from the hierarchical Purdue Model to a flattened IP connected world, it is essential to understand IP networking protocols and the implications, as well as the power of sharing data with the rest of the ecosystem.
If you are not an IT or OT engineer, fret not; there are many IoT jobs awaiting you such as business leader, solutions architect, data engineer, business and solutions analyst, and project leader, as well as cross-functional team leaders in software development, QA, support, and more.
IoT is exploding in popularity across all industries. Organizations are scrambling to identify, hire, and train top talent to help them design, deploy, manage, and secure IoT networks. But IoT engineers are not one-size-fits-all. The key to taking advantage of this boom in interest is to identify what IoT skills your target market is looking for, and then taking steps to strengthen your training and skill set to match the demands of your ideal position.
IoT encompasses many technology disciplines, and it takes a strong collaboration effort among cross-functional teams to successfully realize the desired business outcome. Most IoT solutions evolve from efficiency to cost improvements and eventual differentiated and profitable solutions. It’s a journey!
All IoT projects start with connectivity. For more information regarding Cisco’s IoT network engineer certifications, please visit:
In future blogs we will discuss other IoT job role areas and a framework for IoT learning and certifications. We welcome your feedback and questions in the comments below.
Daniel Chan is a product manager at Learning@Cisco, responsible for IoT training and certifications. Daniel pioneered the interface to computer telephony integration (CTI) at Bell-Northern Research as a senior technical lead there and obtained patents, including for voice-authenticated security, as a senior product lead at Nortel Networks. He has also held various consultation positions for startup companies in the areas of web CRM, mobile device management, and connected cars.