7 Ways IT Professionals Can Stay Ahead of IT Technology Trends

12/2/14 2:19 PM iCorps Technologies

shutterstock_162877529.jpgshutterstock_305872844.jpgIT professionals know that the only constant in technology is change.It’s a fact that’s supported bytoday’sabundance of technology advancements, innovations, and trends – from computing platforms and programming languages to BYOD and big data.

But whether you’re talking about Android or OpenStack, Ruby or Python, Hive or Pig – one thing is clear. Staying “ahead” is less about the technology – and more about how people approach change.

Learning is key to keeping pace – if not staying ahead – of technology changes, regardless of what is trending – and whatever your IT role is. “If you don't like to learn something new, then this field is not for you,” observes Stephen Withington, an application engineer at Blue River Interactive Group.

But how you learn and what you learn also are important. Here are a few things to consider as you learn to stay ahead:

Be Passionate

Maintaining a relevant understanding of the continuous advancements and developments in technology certainly takes effort. To be effective, it helps to be “deeply passionate about technology,” according to Pritesh Ugrankar, Senior Delivery Specialist with EMC. After all, passion fuels the hunger for learning which feeds adaptability and growth. There’s a lot to choose from, so find something that really interests you and dig in.

Keep Your Finger on the Pulse

With broad technologies taking the lead today – such as social media, the Internet of Everything, data analytics, and the cloud – there really is a great deal to keep up with, whether you’re an IT veteran or are new to the industry. “You need to constantly keep on top of trends,” says Eric Ruck, an independent software engineer. “Not by reading a single breathless article but by reading lots of articles to see where lots of people doing lots of different work in IT are heading.”

Establish a Solid Foundation

The pace of change spotlights the need for IT professionals to know how to learn and to learn faster in order to adapt. But starting with a solid understanding of the basics goes a long way in helping you continue to grow in a constantly changing environment. “There's very little truly new anymore.  But there sure are a ton of different implementations,” explains John Harding, a software engineer and interim CTO for a start up organization. “Study the fundamentals – i.e., a good computer science course. A broad base of knowledge allows you to apply what you understand to whatever technology comes along.” 

Expand Your Toolset

With a strong foundation established, expand your toolset selectively and based on your interests. Bharat Meda, a mobility consultant for UST Global, suggests that building knowledge in specific technology areas, such as the cloud or data analytics, as well as participating in projects that apply these technologies will put you ahead and allow you to keep learning. Finding a niche is important too, notes consultant Eric Ruck. “I tend to stick with technologies that I think will be difficult or necessary, or at least underserved so I have less competition in the market.”

See the Bigger Picture

What’s hot today in the industry today may not be tomorrow. Understanding the concept of an emerging area that you are interested in will allow you to adapt as the APIs, platforms, and languages continue to evolve. Web developer Domagoj Salopek recommends against specializing in a single framework, for instance. “Don’t become a WordPress developer or Magento developer,” he advises. “Learn the technology used to make them. Know what lies beneath.”

Hone Your People Skills

Technology is important,” notes Mohamed Momtaz Hegazy, creative director at Battalion Digital in Egypt. But, he says, the ability to understand both “the people that build that technology and the ultimate users” is what helps you stay ahead. Honing your people skills – including collaboration, listening, and influencing – and understanding how people use your technology are as important as developing your technology knowledge and skills base.

Align Technology with Business

Today’s business relies on technology. The ability of an IT professional to translate technologies to support the business needs effectively is critical. Manny Veloso, senior solutions engineer at SmartRG notes, “The new technologies help you do things that the business wants better/faster/more effectively.” Learning “how to map business needs/requirements to technology,” he says, is vital to staying ahead.