How Automation is Changing Entry-Level Career Paths in IT

There is no doubt that artificial intelligence and automation will transform the delivery of IT business. Today, organizations usually tackle complex problems by deploying human capital – IT workers. But soon the IT business will be largely delivered by a combination of people, artificial intelligence, and automation.

The changes will affect the traditional entry-level career path for many IT workers, who will likely spend their first few years doing hard work. IT automation is motivating CEOs to rethink the traditional IT career path, starting with entry-level IT jobs – some of which will be replaced by automation.

Historically, the entry-level job concept has been around a menial, repetitive task, and the philosophy has been that entry-level people will take that job off the board of an experienced person, and learn the company by doing so.

“With millennials and Generation Z, the expectations around an entry-level job are very different,” says Vijay Korkal, CEO of Resolve Systems. “One of the most important indicators of attracting talent is meaning, purpose, and how it affects the bigger picture.”

He says it’s hard to organize a basically mean business and throw it at these generations. This puts a strain on IT managers who must now approach their hiring strategies in a more thoughtful manner.

“The onus is on companies to create meaningful work, and that’s where automation comes in,” Corkal says. “With the introduction of automation into systems and processes, entry-level jobs are not about menial tasks, but about tasks that need to be automated, which become more challenging and interesting.”

With too many remote workforces, a lot of service desk requests are password resets, or performance degradation – a lot of these diagnostics and repairs are very manual and repetitive, and the more IT workers do, the faster they get in combustion stage.

“However, if you frame that in a role where a person can learn how to design and automate a process for these tickets, that is where automation can really enrich everyone’s satisfaction with their job,” Corkal says.

Since no one can perform a redesign without understanding the business, this leads these workers to realize the impact and value of their position.

Corkal points out that one of the big drawbacks to automation is that CEOs don’t know where to start installing automation into their workforce pipeline.

“They need to see the possibilities and think about what needs to be automated, and how that affects the company’s headcount strategy,” he says. “This is the kind of dialogue a CIO needs to start from the top down.”

Automation as an aid in skill improvement

The democratization of automation capabilities through low-code platforms is a great example of how companies are moving IT workers further afield, says Antonio Vasquez, CIO of Bizagi, who specializes in intelligent process automation.

“Any IT worker should have a sufficient technical background to facilitate access to these kinds of platforms,” he says. “Upskilling goes hand in hand with practical automation, from simpler isolated processes to more complex integrated processes.”

Using low-code platforms will require new architecture and developer capabilities, starting with entry-level IT professionals. Add to this the artificial intelligence (AI) technology that is already present in many areas of IT.

Vasquez notes that areas with a large amount of data, such as log and event management, have been deploying AI capabilities for a while.

“This means that we do not need to employ an army of novice operators to monitor these large amounts of data but to bring in capabilities to understand the process and the logic behind the algorithms in order to improve the decision-making process,” he says. “This translates to a powerful shift in skills.”

Corcal also points out that the more IT resources you have in building (as opposed to managing), the more applications you can create in the business.

“However, a lot of current IT staffing strategies are all around management — put up with some body where they interact with a range of requests, and from there entry-level IT staff will learn what we’re doing,” he says.

In the wake of the digital transformation driven by the pandemic, companies continue to build more and more apps, which has led to a flurry of bugs, bugs, outages, and crashes.

“This puts a lot of pressure on management, and they’re throwing bodies at them instead of automation,” Corkal says. “But everyone wants to work in the construction part of the business, and there is really a huge shortage of talent in IT globally. And you are competing with Google and Facebooks in the world. How do you create that level of excitement for a newbie to come and join?”

The CIO needs to have a blueprint of where the talent is coming in, the work they do, and how to make that work more feasible and competitive with other offers these people could receive.

Automation as an enhancement, not a replacement

“It is important to realize that AI and automation will not replace IT workers,” says Frank Vanzelli, project advisor and investor. “These technologies simply enable the IT worker to effectively manage the most complex and rapidly changing systems.”

Fanzilli says that with automation on its way to becoming an entirely new discipline within IT — one that will fundamentally change how IT work is presented — it makes it a great opportunity for entry-level IT professionals to exploit the skills gap and become the next generation of IT leaders.

He says junior engineers should make sure they understand transformational automation technologies like robotic process automation and digital platform connectivity, and then build a career path that leverages these technologies to drive ever greater business value.

“You’re already seeing this happen with the rapid adoption of platforms like UIPath and ReadyWorks and the impact of these human/automation interfaces in lowering costs and improving overall quality,” Vanzelli notes.

This means that CIOs should expect to see their employees take advantage of these types of systems to deliver much more value than the entry-level worker just a few years ago, as these systems became increasingly essential in completing complex IT projects.

“CIOs should embrace new technologies such as digital platform connectors, and then motivate entry-level IT workers to become leaders in these new and very promising areas,” says Fanzilli.

As Vasquez also mentioned, technologies like AI are a boon to enterprise IT teams as they struggle to deliver quality projects, given the increasing complexity of environments and the need to reduce costs and improve delivery over time.

“AI will help open more doors and inspire higher levels of innovation,” says Fanzilli. “CIOs should encourage employees, especially talented entry-level employees, to acquire a modern skill set that is grounded in a solid understanding of the practical application of both AI and automation.”

Vasquez says it’s important for CIOs to understand that career growth in entry-level IT jobs must align with company-wide automation programs to allow for strong architecture, coding, and coordination.

From Corkal’s perspective, CIOs need to realize that they will not be able to hire enough people to replace the retired generation. This means that they need to hire people in the automation teams to deal with this reality.

“This is where the CIO has to say, this is going to be paid for in the long run — they need to delegate putting the automation in place,” he says. “We say, ‘How do you make adopting automation really easy, that even a novice can do with two weeks of training? “It’s about reshaping junior jobs.”

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