The demand for IT professionals shows no sign of slowing and is being driven, in large part, by evolving technologies and innovations that are transforming the way organisations operate.

The rise of big data, the need for greater cyber security and the push for mobile solutions are key factors, say experts. And cost is central to the equation.

“For the financial sector, cost saving is a big factor,” said Kelvin Lau, manager for IT commerce at Robert Walters Hong Kong. “Rather than spend a lot of money on additional headcount, employers hire additional IT professionals to automate the process, making things more efficient.”

Among IT professionals, Lau sees a steady demand for programmers - tech professionals who are able to develop software solutions for organisations. And if those programmers want to keep pace with the fast changing world of technology they must keep their skill set up-to-date, says recruiting experts Hays.

“We are seeing consistent demand for .NET developers at present, where the fastest growing technologies in demand are AngularJS, Java and Python” said Dean Stallard, regional director of Hays in Hong Kong. “There are a lot of programming languages present in the market, so it’s best for developers to know where the demand is, to make sure their skills are still relevant in the job market.”

But the strongest demand is for those professionals who have more than just a programming background.

“Besides the technical skills, employers are seeking professionals with strong communication skills,” said Romain Haimez, team manager at Hays.

Lau agrees, saying the best and the brightest business analysts are usually programmers who have transitioned from developing software to working on design solutions and system development and then to handling projects and managing stakeholders. And these candidates are getting younger.

“We’ve noticed a trend of project managers getting younger and younger – they are now in their low to mid-30s, having done three to five years technical experience, code crunching and then three years working half the time on the technical side and half with people and then moving to a more strategic position,” said Lau.

Other fields that are in demand are cyber security - particularly those with the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) qualification - as well as business intelligence specialists who can assess the local market.

“Customer behavioural analysis is another skill that is in demand for data science roles,” said Haimez.

As the tech sphere evolves, so does the makeup of the talent. Previously, Asia used to import a lot of senior tech talent from the US and Europe, but that is now less common.

Demand for IT talent is particularly high in Shanghai as many large organisations move their headquarters from Hong Kong to China’s financial capital. Singapore is also seeing strong demand on the back of the government’s big tech initiatives.

The focus on technology is only going to get stronger, which means IT professionals are sitting pretty as long as they keep on top of the latest trends. But to really be ahead of the game and command the highest salaries, Stallard said that business acumen is key.

“Show you have the soft skills necessary to work in a business too, demonstrate that you understand business practices and that you can meet deadlines. This way you will ensure your skills remain relevant and they will continue to be in demand by employers,” said Stallard.

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