Cisco Live 2017: A tale of shifting skills and increased security

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins and Apple CEO Tim Cook explain how technology adoption is changing how organisations view skills and security

As the number of connected devices increases, so does the demand on those responsible for ensuring these devices work, causing a shift in required skills.

As Cisco launched several new platforms at its annual Cisco Live 2017 event in Las Vegas, the firm’s CEO, Chuck Robbins, pointed out that developing technology would make it increasingly important for those both inside and outside tech to improve their skills.

“We know that as we go through this, there are different skills, different capabilities that are going to be needed,” he said. “The world is changing – everything is programmable now.

“Our teams have been working hard on taking these new digital skills within the construct and within the framework you are all used to.”

Cisco has many certification paths designed to make sure users understand how to use its software effectively, and these certifications have been adapted over time to ensure customers can “take advantage of what’s possible in the future”, said Robbins.

Even Cisco’s own engineers will need to acquire new skills as the launch of its intuitive network platform will require a different approach to development.

Many claim that the technology industry should be more focused on cross-skilling and up-skilling existing employees to avoid the growing skills gap in the industry.

According to Susie Wee, vice-president and CTO for Cisco Networked Experiences, because of the shifting way that platforms are being developed by the likes of Cisco, there has been an “evolution in skillsets” as the type of skills customers need to use these technology platforms in their own organisations is changing.

“You don’t have to become a powerful coder; you need to become a super user of these software systems,” said Wee.

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But different skillsets will be needed depending on whether a firm creates a system or implements the technology of another company, said Gartner analyst Greg Young. Suppliers need increasingly skilled workers, while machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) reduce IT buyers’ need for skills, he added.

“For users, there should be downward pressure on skills, and that is partly there today thanks to some elements in orchestration and automation,” said Young.

But because of the mix of new and legacy systems, managing IT has become more complex for many, and added simplicity for customers is “mostly aspirational” in many cases, he said.

“With so much legacy technology from multiple vendors, managing IT has required increasingly greater skills,” he added.

For suppliers such as Cisco, this means its customers are demanding greater visibility of how the network and its releases will look going forward, so they can adapt the skills in their organisations appropriately.

“It’s not that they don’t have the right talent – it’s that they need the visibility to move it proactively towards deploying technology,” said Kevin Bandy, chief digitisation officer at Cisco.

“Security, datacentre, analytics and applications layer are the four most defined skillsets that you see IT leaders bringing back into the business, and what they’re looking for is to put innovation in the network,” he said.

Many jobs that will be created in the future, both inside and outside the technology industry, will be shaped by the growth of technologies such as machine learning, AI and automation, making people’s experience of the workplace very different.

“They trust that IT will evolve, and also want to make sure the rest of the employees have clarity on how their jobs will evolve,” said Bandy.

Changing face of cyber crime  

The changing digital landscape, as well as headline-making cyber attacks in recent years, means security is also at the forefront of people’s minds.

Cisco has recently announced that its intuitive network features will use machine learning to identify cyber attacks hidden in encrypted traffic without needing to decrypt it and jeopardise data privacy.

Apple CEO Tim Cook made a surprise appearance at Cisco Live 2017, and claimed hacking no longer adheres to its traditional lone-wolf stereotypes.

Those involved in cyber crime are often depicted as individuals wearing hoodies and operating alone in the dark, but Cook said the hacking community now comprises “sophisticated enterprises” rather than a lot of individual hackers.

“Cyber security threats are exponential, and it’s not the guy in the basement any more,” he said.

Cisco and Apple announced they would be partnering to reduce the cost of cyber security insurance for companies using both their technologies that are concerned about cyber attacks.

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