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Most Valuable Tech Industry Skills

Iñaki BarturenAugust 06, 2021

As rapid as tech industry growth has been (from stocks to products and leaders), the industry shows no signs of slowing down. Quite the opposite: There’s still an ongoing explosion in the number of tech jobs in the market. Research into this new frontier is sorely needed, as the employees of the future may very well end up working in one of these jobs. And who better to inform this research than those working in the tech industry now?

In partnership with Fractl, we recently spoke to 525 tech industry workers and dug into the essential soft and hard skills they utilized, which skills were most desired by managers, and how tech workers learned and refreshed their own abilities. If you’re looking for a job in tech or are curious about the future of the industry, keep reading.

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Key Takeaways

  • Fifty-two percent of managers said that they look for a balance of soft skills and technical skills.
  • 64% of employees and 72% of managers felt that skills should be refreshed every 3 to 12 months.
  • Three out of four tech workers said that they did freelance work at least once a month.

Essential Skills for Tech Jobs

Tech jobs aren’t the sort of thing you can just intuit. In the first section of our survey, we asked employees to share the importance of tech skills versus soft skills and which coding languages they already knew.

While soft skills wouldn’t uphold a tech role in its entirety, they were certainly important. Seventy-two percent of employees considered soft skills very or even extremely important to their job, and managers felt this even more strongly. In fact, both managers and employees gave soft skills a higher importance than tech skills. Evidently, patience can go a long way in the tech industry.

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There were, of course, hard skills that a tech employee would also do well to learn. When it came to coding languages, managers rated the top three as Python (31%), JavaScript (24%), and Java (23%). Blockchain technology, however, was met with overwhelming skepticism by the tech community. Only 3% of respondents noted blockchain knowledge as “extremely valuable.” In comparison, many felt that it was only slightly valuable (23%) or not at all (33%).

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Managerial Skill Set Preferences

The next section of this study looks at responses from tech employees who manage or supervise others through the middle to executive levels. They shared what they felt the most important skills were in their employees, taking both hard and soft skills into consideration.

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Managers revealed that there actually wasn’t a need to prioritize soft skills over hard skills or vice versa: Instead, they wanted employees who had a healthy mix of both. Where soft skills were concerned, the number one talent they hoped to see was critical thinking. Eighty-nine percent of managers considered this very or extremely important in their hires.

Analytics was the No. 1 hard skill that tech managers wanted to see. Data has become the name of the game for tech companies and beyond, as it provides deep insights into the minds of their customers and their markets. The data analytics market is expected to surpass $132.9 billion by 2026. With that in mind, buying data drives the need for someone to actually make sense of the information, explaining managers’ heightened desire for analytics talent. The ability to perform analytics was considered more important than coding, AI, or UX knowledge.

Updating Skills

In an industry that’s evolving as quickly as tech, even those already employed within it will need to update their skill set to keep up with the times. The next section of the study looks at how employees learn new things, whether they’re getting reimbursed for their education, and how this differs across gender lines.

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Like the tech industry, the online learning industry is also exploding. Evidently, the two go hand-in-hand. While tech provides the foundation to create online courses, the foundation of tech is often taught by those very same courses. In other words, online courses were the most commonly selected method of refreshing skills among tech employees. This type of education may be so popular due to its convenience, especially since 84% of employees felt that skills should be refreshed at least once per year.

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Getting reimbursed for continuing education was also relatively common. Sixty-one percent of employees at large companies felt their employers were likely to reimburse tech-related education, while women working for these businesses were even more likely to think they would receive such funding. Considering how many funds have popped up in recent years to fix the gender gap in tech, these women are probably correct in their assumption.

Freelancing and Side Hustling in the Tech Industry

If full-time tech isn’t your thing, burgeoning new opportunities may just convince you to try your hand at tech freelancing. Even some of those who are employed full time in the tech industry take on extra work in the field, indicating a lucrative potential side hustle. The next and final section of our study looks into the world of tech freelancing today.

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Many large companies (those with 250 or more employees) are evidently utilizing freelancers all the time, with 44% reporting doing so. That being said, even 18% of small companies were hiring tech freelancers as well. When companies were sourcing freelancers, they were much more likely to choose a candidate because of a specific coding language they knew rather than a specific project they needed help on. Interestingly, small and micro businesses reported being more likely to hire freelancers for a specific project or coding job than larger companies, likely because they have a smaller full-time talent pool to draw from.

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Tech freelancers most often took on the additional work to earn extra money. Even so, more than a third were primarily looking to practice their skillset. This can often take up much of their time: only 32% of respondents spend less than two hours each month on freelance tasks while more than a quarter were working 11 or more hours every month on freelance work, in addition to their full-time positions.

Leaning Into Tech

The tech industry is showing more of an open-arms attitude than one might think. Managers and employees alike insist on the value of soft skills even in an industry often associated with hard skills. They also tended to their skills mostly online and even freelanced for additional opportunities outside their full-time jobs. Even if your background isn’t in tech, your future very well could be.

At Reign, technology is our kingdom. We use it to empower whatever ideas you may have. With the development of mobile and web applications, we can create the modern and digitized tools you need to make them a reality. If you’re looking to create something technological, head to Reign today to see how we can help.

Methodology and Limitations

We collected 525 responses from employed tech industry workers via the Prolific survey platform. Seventy-five percent of our participants identified as men, and 25% identified as women. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 60 with a mean of 30 and a standard deviation of 8.1. Those who reported no current employment or who failed an attention-check question were disqualified.

The data we are presenting rely on self-report. There are many issues with self-reported data. These issues include, but are not limited to, the following: selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration.

Fair Use Statement

As the tech industry continues to grow, so does the need for surrounding research. If you know someone you think could benefit from the findings of this study, please feel free to share it with them. Just be sure your purposes are noncommercial and that you link back to this page.

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