Do You Need IT Specialists or Multi-Role Generalists?

Transformation is the word in IT right now, but it’s not just digital. Learn about tech role transformations and the rise of the IT Swiss Army knife.


For IT Pro Day 2022, I decided to revisit a post I wrote last summer following our Pure//Accelerate® Digital conference. It was inspired by a session titled, “DBAs and IT Admins of the Future: The Swiss Army Knives of the Data Center,” in which some of my Pure Storage® colleagues discussed the growing need for multi-role, IT generalists in just about every major business, everywhere. 

At the time, companies were leaning hard on their IT teams to help them transform digitally (and rapidly) and build resiliency for a post-pandemic future. The core takeaway from the “Swiss Army” session is that the world still needs IT specialists—but these pros must now always be at the ready to act as a multi-tool utility knife. They must be able to apply, or at least identify, whatever tool or knowledge is required to problem-solve and bring new ideas to life quickly.

Over the past year, the need for highly skilled and super-versatile IT talent has only intensified. A study of 500 IT decision-makers worldwide conducted by Bredin Research and Pure sheds light on some reasons:

  • 84% of organizations are making new investments in IT systems and software to support new initiatives.
  • 60% are implementing next-gen IT infrastructure to achieve business outcomes.
  • 61% see sustainability initiatives as critical to the IT investment choices they make.

Businesses are modernizing their IT, adopting leading-edge tools, and keeping an eye on sustainability. So, in addition to aligning the right tools and knowledge, today’s IT professionals need to adopt the right mindset toward building critical IT infrastructure that will help their organization manage explosive data growth and amplify innovation—while also driving down costs and meeting sustainability goals.

At this year’s Pure//Accelerate® techfest22 conference, a panel of experts from Pure explored the challenge for IT pros during the session, “DBAs and IT Admins of the Future: Technical Skills for a Sustainable Data Center.” They discussed the skills, technology, and mindset that IT professionals need to evolve into valued consultants who can help discover new ways to increase business value by saving time, money, and energy—and reducing environmental impacts. The panel explored topics such as:

I encourage you to check out this session to get insight into the skills and tools (and mindset!) you need to build a sustainable data center and future for your organization. 

And now, in honor of IT Pro Day 2022, I also suggest reviewing the following tips for transforming into an IT Swiss Army knife. They’re based on a list I compiled for the first version of this post.

Future-proofing Your IT Career: 5 Recommendations

What can pros, like DBAs, sysadmins, or administrators, do to ensure they can ride the wave of role transformation in IT and not get washed away by it? They can work to:

  • Really understand what’s in the cloud computing stack. Businesses are relying more on cloud services like SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS to simplify their infrastructure, build resilience, support remote teams, and so much more. IT teams need to know what these services do and how to work with them and get the most from them to help the business meet its goals—it’s as simple as that.
  • Learn NoSQL. Unstructured data, from text messages to spreadsheets to images, makes up more than 80% of enterprise data today, and it’s growing at the rate of 55% and 65% per year.¹ Most businesses really want to harness insights from this data to understand their customers better and make strategic decisions. And to work with this data, they need NoSQL databases.
  • Become a data scientist. OK, so you don’t have to go back to college and earn a degree in data science (unless you want to). But IT pros should understand how large data sets, unstructured and structured, work. These data sets are only going to keep growing as the internet of things (IoT) continues to expand. Data science knowledge also makes you better at working with data—and if data analysis isn’t part of your job now, it will be soon. So, look for online courses that can help you gain baseline knowledge in data science, and from there, consider earning in-demand certifications that can help set you apart.
  • Build container technology knowledge. A SQL DBA who doesn’t know how to work with containers is on the road to trouble. It will be well worth the investment in time to learn how to run a database in a container, step by step. Really dig in to understand how the data works in containers, too. And as you increase your knowledge, keep growing it. There are plenty of resources available online to learn about containerization. (While you’re at it, take time to learn about cloud native Kubernetes, which is becoming only more vital for agile development and application and microservices delivery.)

Is your enterprise ready for a container strategy? Learn how Portworx® provides a fully integrated Kubernetes data services platform that makes it easy to get persistent storage, data protection, and automated capacity management.

Bonus Tip: Think Like a Data Architect

One final recommendation for future-proofing your career and meeting the challenge and opportunity of role transformation in the profession is to consider up-leveling your skill set to align more with that of a data architect. 

Data architects can translate business goals and requirements into specific database solutions. They can visualize and design the data management framework, standards, and principles for an enterprise. But their knowledge extends beyond data modeling and design to many other areas of IT, including network management, security, application architecture, and performance management.

That’s right—you guessed it. They’re an IT Swiss Army knife.