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Java, machine learning, AI amongst most important programming skills - report

Software architecture, Java and machine learning are amongst the top programming skills ranked by software engineers as important to their role in 2021, according to new research from Degreed. 

Degreed global user data from February 2020 - February 2021 uncovered the skills ranked as most important in a role, for software engineers, product managers, and business analysts. The data highlights the transferability of skills in certain technology and product management roles both internally and externally. 

Data was analysed from millions of active users in the U.S. UK, LATAM, Germany, France, the Netherlands, India, APAC, and Australia, and New Zealand - in companies that include Capgemini, Visa, Ford, Mastercard, and Unilever.

For software engineers, the top 10 skills they rank as vital to doing their work well are Java, Python, Programming, Software Architecture, Machine Learning, Software Engineering, Artificial Intelligence, Software Testing, SQL, and Linux.

Programming languages are most popular across all software engineering roles regardless of sector. The order of the top 10 changes in different sectors but the skills listed remain the same. In finance, for example, more focus is placed on Java, while in media/telecoms the priority is Python.

The top 10 skills most frequently cited as important by product managers were:

  • Product Management
  • Product Strategy
  • Leadership
  • Product Planning
  • New Product Development
  • Product Lifecycle Management
  • Project Management
  • Product Marketing
  • Strategic Partnerships
  • Go-to-market Strategy

Across multiple industries, the top 10 list remains consistent (particularly within finance, manufacturing, and media/telecom).

The top 10 skills ranked by business analysts are:

  • Business Analysis
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Data Analytics/Analysis
  • Project Management
  • Business Intelligence
  • Agile
  • Project Planning
  • Agile Development
  • Reporting
  • Software Testing

"What's compelling here is that the top 10 lists for each role do not change significantly as we look at what skills workers find crucial to their work, no matter their sector," says David Kuntz, head of data science at Degreed.

"A product manager in finance will broadly require the same skill set as a product manager in manufacturing. This means that the market for talented product managers, software engineers, and business analysts is not limited to an employers own sector or to a single department," he says. 

"Employers should look further afield when struggling to find the right talent as many of the skills within roles are transferable across industries and business functions," Kuntz says.

"They can look broadly for candidates, both internally and externally. This is particularly relevant for in-demand roles such as software engineering, where there is a well-known talent shortage."

Kuntz says it is vital to regularly look at the skills people say that they need to effectively do their work, as this ties into their productivity and quality of work. 

"Especially as organisations look towards recovery post-pandemic," he says.

The research found more than four in ten workers say that a lack of confidence in their skills means tasks take longer to complete and 22% say that their work is of a lower quality. 

"Spotting skills gaps early will help employers proactively upskill their workers to prevent this," Kuntz adds.