IT Pros Require 10 Hours a Week "Upskilling" to Stay Relevant

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Thinking of looking for a new IT job? Are your skills still relevant?


What is the half-life of your staff’s IT knowledge? In 1962, economist Fritz Machlup coined the phrase “knowledge half-life” to describe the time it takes for half the knowledge in a particular domain to be superseded. You probably will not be surprised to learn that the half-life of IT knowledge decreases every year.

But now in 2013 we are in a new century, and the world has continued to change in many profound ways. Today, many of the innovations changing the way we work, live and play are happening in places such as the cloud. New applications for
business, entertainment, communication, productivity, and connections are being developed and launched every day, sometimes with profound impact. So how does the IT proffesional stay current with their skills and maintain their marketability?


According to a recent article in the IEEE Spectrum, the half-life of an IT professional’s career is now about 10 to 12 years or perhaps even less. Staying relevant for even that amount of time takes dedicated, ongoing self-education, also known as “upskilling.”


The same IEEE article says that IT professionals need to spend seven to ten hours a week, 48 weeks a year, gaining new knowledge in order to stay current. It is not too surprising that the number of IT staff in training over the past 12 months ranges from 72 percent in Japan to 97 percent in India and Thailand, according to CompTIA’s 2013 global workforce survey.


Although training is on the rise for workers in almost all industries, IT upskilling outpaces the global average. This can be explained in part by the incredible pace of innovation and evolution in today’s technology. IT professionals are in general very analytical and natural problem solvers who are more engaged in their jobs and happier generally when they are learning new skills.


Even though opportunities for continuing self-education is one of the top factors affecting employee satisfaction and engagement, training programs too often are early casualties of budget cuts.


My advice to the IT professional is embrace the Cloud. As as specific example consider the traditional role of the DBA.


The threat to job security is understandably one of the greatest fears any DBA harbors when faced with the reality of a cloud database taking over certain job functions. But that’s not the only reason you may encounter some serious pushback. DBAs take pride in their work and tend to have a strong sense of ownership over what may have been years of hard work to consolidate on-site databases. Suddenly having certain responsibilities turned over elsewhere may bring up some resistance, which shouldn’t be ignored.

Security is also a chief concern, with many DBAs unlikely to trust the ability of an outside provider to guarantee the safety of closely guarded enterprise data. This is a rational concern that must be addressed by adequately vetting the track record of any cloud database providers you consider.


The concerns of DBAs about the cloud are not unwarranted. Although a transition to the cloud may seem to the average CIO as a convenient move, DBAs may see it as a disruptive change to the status quo, a paradigm shift that may be hard to swallow. However, it’s also important to understand that cloud computing can simplify many tasks and eliminate the overhead costs inherent in housing and maintaining on-site storage capacity.


Ultimately, convincing your DBA and database architecture teams that there’s nothing to fear by embracing the cloud requires stressing the positive benefits. Ensuring a worried group of individuals that their jobs are not, in fact, on the line is a tough but worthwhile task.



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Bill has been a member of the technology and publishing industries for more than 25 years and brings extensive expertise to the roles of CEO, CIO, and Executive Editor. Most recently, Bill was COO and Co-Founder of and the parent company PSN Inc. Previously, Bill held the position of CTO of both Wiseads New Media and


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