Up Your Game This Year: Six Digital Skills to Help You Thrive in 2017

2016 was a whirlwind of a year. We witnessed cutting-edge innovation in emerging areas like artificial intelligence and virtual reality, and potent advances in traditional industries, all amid political turbulence.

The skills to thrive in this rapidly changing environment are tech-focused. If you want to carve out a solid career, mastering one or more of these six skills are sure to help.

Front-End Web Development

What is it: For those that are unfamiliar with web development, it can be broken down into “front-end” and “back-end.” If we use the comparison of a car, the front-end would be everything you can see and touch: the leather seats, red paint and sleek bumper. The back-end would be the engineering “under the hood” that makes the car work that you can’t see: the engine, distributor and braking system.

Now think of a website, the overall structure and aesthetics that you can see. The colors, buttons and fonts are the front-end; the data storage, processing and overall integration is the back-end.

Why do I need it: You don’t need to become a full-time developer to benefit from increasing your technical knowledge. A solid foundation of web development will allow you to bridge the communication gap that exists in all industries to operate more effectively.

User Experience Design

What is it: UX design focuses on maximizing the user’s overall experience with a product; this can be digital or physical.

We’ve all sat in a chair that is too stiff or too low, and I’m sure we’ve all found a chair that is extremely comfortable and supportive. In the digital space, I’m sure we’ve all clicked on buttons in the wrong spot, and I’m sure we’ve also had seamless checkouts using an ecommerce platform. These are the differences between bad and good user experiences and all are driven by a framework that would include everything from research to interviews to actually creating a blueprint of the solution.

Why do I need it: Today’s digital users are busy and impatient. They demand a seamless online experience that gets them what they want as fast as possible.

Understanding the thought process behind an effective user experience can make a huge difference in keeping users engaged with your products. The happier they are with their experience, the better your chances of conversion are. It is said that a good user experience can be noticed instantaneously, but a great user experience goes unnoticed because it’s that smooth.

Growth Hacking/Digital Marketing

What is it: Growth hacking and digital marketing are extremely hot topics and continue to evolve as the internet changes and becomes embedded into our everyday lives in different ways.

This can include everything from digital advertising (think of billboards and banners in the physical space) to email marketing (think to the days of print mail…whomp whomp!) to push notifications on your smart devices.

Why do I need it: The methods by which a potential “customer” can be reached are changing at an alarming rate. Understanding the basics of social media is only the start, as there is a complete science involved in listening to, speaking to and converting visitors into users, paying customers, or whatever your key objective is (typically to buy what you’re selling!)

Digital Product Management

What is it: If you think of a Product Manager in the “physical space” for something like a corporate building, they are the ones resourcing teams, setting deadlines, and overall managing the expectations and results of the build. A digital product can be classified as anything that is built without physical resources; there is no steel, no lumber or paint.

Facebook and your local pubs’ website are both examples of digital product—obviously built out with completely different goals in mind.

Why do I need it: While there are definitely similarities between “physical” and “digital” project management, it truly is another world. For digital product management you aren’t using any physical resources, just people and their time.

Knowing how to motivate people, establish appropriate roadmaps and the tools/software needed to manage projects is essential to your success at delivering the appropriate digital solution.

Mobile Development

What is it: Mobile development includes building out software or an overall experience that can be scaled across our handheld devices: smartphones and tablets.

Why do I need it: We have already become a mobile first society and there is no shortage of stats that solidify that the industry is only going to get bigger. For example, the average user is engaging about 200 times a day with their mobile device of choice, spending an average of two hours and 21 minutes a day on them. Let’s aim to be less of a user and more of a creator.

Data Analytics

What is it: There is such a constant flow of data at every touch point now that big data is simply normal data. But guess what? Data is completely useless unless someone is making sense of it. There’s where an analytical eye comes into play.

Why do I need it: As a data scientist or similar, your job is to take complicated data and convert them into actionable insight that moves business forward. The ability to understand data and utilize it effectively is a skill that transcends specific roles, proving helpful along virtually any career path in tech.