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The rapid adoption of AI, the hybrid workplace landscape and the growing popularity of unified communications as a service are among the trends that will shape unified communications jobs and hiring in the next 12 months.
These shifts will keep UC professionals busy, but they might also require new skills in order to shine as a job candidate. These trends might also steer more job candidates toward positions offered by vendors instead of nontech firms.
"Professionals well-versed in both the contact center-as-a-service and unified communications-as-a-service markets will be highly sought after," said Prachi Nema, principal analyst, enterprise communications, at Omdia.
The UCaaS market is expected to reach $24.8 billion in 2024, a 50% jump from 2019, according to research firm MarketsandMarkets. This growth is fueled by demand for UCaaS by large enterprises and SMBs, mobility and emerging technology like AI.
Hiring managers seek operational efficiency
There is one common element in hiring UC professionals in 2024 -- the need for creating greater efficiencies, according to Rebecca Broadway, principal, product management, 5G/unified communications, at Lockheed Martin in Orlando, Fla.
Broadway, commenting on UC hiring trends in general and not specifically about Lockheed Martin, said organizations are exploring a host of new technologies, increasing cloud investments and determining what role AI and machine learning should have in their operations. On top of those challenges, many organizations are faced with managing on-premises systems and devices with large numbers of remote workers and personal devices.
The technology stack for hybrid work arrangements should be flexible and secure. Accessibility, reliability and scalability are key for success. As a result, hiring managers are more demanding, Broadway said. Job candidates must have a track record of improving operations, be able to work with and manage multiple devices and systems, and improve communication and collaboration processes.
AI skills in high demand
UC job candidates should be able to demonstrate a willingness to learn in-demand skills quickly. For many, that includes learning how to work with AI applications.
"AI will be in high demand for 2024 as vendors and enterprises further embrace AI across their products and workflows," Nema said.
Integrating AI applications into the development process can result in significant productivity gains as well as free up time for UC professionals to develop unique features. AI investments will only increase and organizations will look to vendors that can provide that capability -- further driving UCaaS interest.
Hybrid work isn't going away
While the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic are now behind us, its full impact on the workplace and workforce is anything but finished. Hybrid work has gained significant traction, and this shift has placed new demands on unified communications jobs.
Many organizations still have up to a quarter of their workforce performing their jobs from home. That drives the need for tools and technologies designed for remote communication, collaboration and engagement. The challenge for many organizations is in supporting the communication and collaboration needs of both on-site and remote workers without sacrificing functionality and security.
Personal traits that will best serve job candidates
With all of the changes and challenges the UC sector faces, two traits that will best serve job candidates are "curiosity and grit," Broadway said.
"I want to know how a candidate interacts with other people," Broadway said. "I want them to tell me what they've done, and how they solved a problem."
Another question that Broadway might pose a UC job candidate: Why did something work in this case, but not in another case?
"I'm looking for how they have used digital tools to solve problems," she said. "I don't have the time to always look at the digital tools myself, but I can look at what some of our three- and four-year engineers are doing and how they are using them."
Outside of basic job role qualifications, Broadway also wants to know that candidates have the understanding and willingness to search out their own answers to questions and challenges.
"It goes back to the curiosity factor," she said. "If they don't know an answer, I look for a person who's going to say, 'Yeah, you know, I don't have that answer, but I know where to find it. So let me get back to you on that.' Then they come back to me with the answer."
Finally, Broadway said that although unified communications job seekers may find robust opportunities almost everywhere they look, a few markets stand out, among them the greater Atlanta, Boston and Dallas-Fort Worth areas.
In particular, "Atlanta has a lot of really good, hot talent," she said. At the entry level, "Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia both have a really interesting artificial intelligence and machine learning program, and they are applicable in a real business sense."
The result: Students and young professionals equipped with both technology and business acumen, which are key attributes for the sector going forward.
David Weldon is a business and technology writer in the Boston area who covers topics related to data management, information security, healthcare technology, educational technology and workforce management.