Despite the economic upheaval caused by the pandemic, David Foote, chief analyst of Foote Partners LLC, made a lot of surprisingly accurate predictions about the jobs and key skills that would increase in value during 2020.

For example, the mass shift to remote work actually accelerated the demand for technologists with Big Data, artificial intelligence (A.I.) and cybersecurity skills, matching his prediction. With that in mind, what’s on tap for the coming year? 

With few exceptions, the value of tech certifications (which declined further in 2020) will likely hold steady or continue to fall. Meanwhile, the further entwining of people, devices, content and services (or what Gartner calls the intelligent digital mesh) will increase the demand for technologists who possess the right combination of non-certified skills and experience.

To keep your career on track, Foote referenced data from the firm’s latest “IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index” to forecast the roles and key skills that will increase in value (as well as those that might lose ground) in the coming year.

Big Data/IoT

Once again, Foote is bullish on the prospects for data analysts, engineers, scientists and data architects in the coming year… and for good reason. The value of the 113 non-certified big data skills tracked by the firm increased 2.5 percent on average over the past 12 months. 

However, as more data comes from connected devices—forcing IoT, Big Data and A.I. to mesh together—professionals will need additional skills to wrangle and monetize massive, complex data sets and qualify for emerging roles such as data strategistdata specialist and IoT specialist.

What skills do employers want? NewSQL and data mining increased 25 percent in value during the six months ending Oct. 1, and are currently garnering premiums equivalent to 15 percent of base salary. Tableau and master data management increased 20 percent and 6.3 percent in value respectively, garnering 12 percent and 17 percent pay premiums.

Other skills rising in value include: Amazon Athena, RStudio, Cloudera Impala, Apache Cassandra and Scala. Experience with neural network algorithms, in-memory data grids, data security and open-source streaming frameworks such as Kafka, Spark and Flink can also enhance your marketability.


“Cybersecurity was hot before the pandemic but now it’s downright incendiary,” Foote said. It’s hard to go wrong no matter which route you take, with Foote citing 26 different jobs and domains as hot over the next two years. In fact, even soft skills such as business acumen, outside-the-box-thinking and communication are worth extra pay, Foote said. 

However, to boost your job prospects, consider acquiring a CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner, Check Point Certified Security Expert, or the Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate certification, which are cybersecurity certifications bucking the downward valuation trend and earning premiums of 14 percent, 12 percent and 8 percent of base pay, respectively. The top non-certified skill is security architecture and models, which increased in value by 5.6 percent during the six months through Oct. 1, earning premium pay of 19 percent.

Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning

There will continue to be a huge demand for A.I./ML engineers as well as A.I. developers, ML scientists, AWS or Azure data scientists. What’s more, because A.I. is emerging as an umbrella term for responsibilities that apply to so many jobs, the entire category of skills increased in value by 7 percent over the prior year. 

However, for those who want to maintain a cutting edge over the competition, the up-and-coming skills include Keras, an interface for solving machine learning problems, which increased 23.1 percent in value during the three months ending Oct. 1. Also, TensorFlow, an end-to-end open-source platform for machine learning, Google Cloud AI platform and deep learning framework, Caffe.

Edge Computing

In a nutshell, edge computing brings computation and data storage closer to the IoT devices where it’s being gathered. Although it has been around for a while, the arrival of 5G and the transition to remote work will facilitate and propel the deployment and adoption of edge computing over the next two years Foote predicted. In turn, jobs involving edge computing projects, mobile software development and analysis and network management should see a rise.

Digital Marketing

Marketing automation is red hot. The sector, estimated at $6.08 billion in 2019 and projected to reach $16.87 billion in 2025, uses software-as-a-service, chatbots and virtual assistants to complete repetitive tasks and engage prospects in B2B and B2C environments. The growth will create opportunities for digital marketing managers, strategists and analysts as well as UX/UI pros, product designers and more. 

When it comes to digital marketing, learning Marketo can help you earn big bucks. The skill increased 41.7 percent in value during the six months ending Oct. 1 and garners premiums equal to 17 percent of base salary.

Back Office Automation

Another field that will be red hot next year is the automation of back-office processes, especially robotic process automation that uses technology, a virtual workforce and A.I. to automate labor-intensive and repetitive tasks. The growth will create opportunities for process automation specialists as well as A.I. and robotics engineers.

Foote admits that he got one thing wrong last year when he said that robots aren’t “coming for your job.” Actually, they are… if your job is largely operational or administrative and relies on automation.

Automation will lower the demand for administrative managers, operations managers and general managers, while the continuation of remote work will lessen the need for senior level tech managers.