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The Fastest-Growing IT Skills List of 2017

By - Source: Toms IT Pro
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Technical abilities feature strongly in 13 out of the 20 skills on the Upwork Q1 list of the most in-demand business skills of 2017.

Credit: ShutterstockCredit: ShutterstockEarlier this month, Freelance talent and staffing resource site Upwork released its latest Quarterly Skills Index for Q1 2017. Upwork makes its living bringing freelancers and employers together for all kinds of projects, but as one might expect from an online resource, much of the work they facilitate ends up being technical or IT-related. Upwork's list of "The Top 20 fastest growing skills" for its most recent quarter of record (Q1'17) certainly bears that out:

Upwork Top 20 Fastest-Growing Skills, Q1 2017

1. Asana work tracking
2. Artificial intelligence
3. Rapid prototyping
4. Immigration law
5. Natural language processing
6. Instagram marketing
7. A/B testing
8. Twilio API development
9. C++ development
10. Swift development
11. Brand strategy
12. Marketo marketing automation
13. Penetration testing
14. Docker development
15. Relationship management
16. Application security
17. AngularJS development
18. Accounting (CPA)
19. Machine learning
20. JIRA administration

MORE: IT Career Planning 101 for 2017

Of the 20 items in the list, 13 are out-and-out technical skills (11 of them are development skills, in fact). Of the seven remaining elements on the list, at least five have strong technical or IT components. Lest one read too much into this agglomeration of skills, it's probably wise to remember that freelance hiring usually targets well-defined, self-contained tasks and activities that are amenable to hiring out (and often, out-of-house) with definite deadlines and deliverables to match.

I don't think this mirrors the IT situation at large, nor is it a mirror for the entire set of skills and knowledge that IT professionals are usually asked to acquire and use on the job. That said, it is quite interesting and should give readers thinking about self-employment – either full or part time – some useful targets to think about acquiring for themselves.

Some of the most interesting items IT-minded people are likely to find in this list include number 2 "Artificial Intelligence," number 5 "Natural Language Processing", number 14 "Docker development," and number 19 "Machine Learning." All of these speak to technical specialties in extremely high demand right now, and many of these are likely to cluster together in the kinds of modern, voice- and vision- or graphics-driven applications now in development in (and for) consumers and so many modern organizations and companies.

In its press release on this list, Upwork makes the point that "more than 30 percent of the workforce's essential skills will be new … in the next three to four years." A quick look at the top 20 list in general, and the four skills I've focused on in particular, more than bear this out. With more professionals migrating into freelance work, it's also a very good thing that as Upwork puts it "companies that need emerging skills can access them quickly by hiring freelancers and are doing so increasingly – 55 percent of companies that utilized freelancers in 2016 expect to hire more in 2017."

This list is worth watching also to see what areas companies and organizations are exploring as they seek to develop and deliver new products and services. That's why I find it an interesting and informative indicator of where the marketplace is going, and the role that technology plays in bringing ideas to life.

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