I meet Judy at NetHui, a strange place to meet a conveyancing lawyer.

But she's switching from law to software development after deciding her job was likely to be automated in the next five years.

That accords with a survey by recruitment firm Robert Walters which found nine out of 10 New Zealand and Australian IT professionals believe automation will significantly alter the skills they need to compete within the next five years. That and the threat of job loss to artificial intelligence is starting to influence the choices those professionals make.

Shay Peters, Robert Walters New Zealand country manager, says conveyancing is symptomatic of the wider market, where automation and other trends are creating challenges and opportunities for those in IT.


"If you look at the IT industry as a whole, that's what we see a lot. People understand technologies are changing if you are an IT professional with a skill set that may not be required in the next five or 10 years, so one of the main motivators in looking for new employment is to shift to organisations that offer opportunities to train or retrain," he says.

Technology is no longer just for technologists.

"If you look at the marketing space, it's morphing very quickly and marketing professionals are often needing digital experience. That type of skill set has traditionally been in the IT world.

"A lot of large traditional organisations like banks or infrastructure companies are essentially going to be retail technology platforms so the way they interact with the market is all a focused on UX or user/customer experience."

As technology becomes a central part of how people work and transact rather than just having a support function, the technology professionals become not just support staff but will help decide business direction and strategy.

The survey found though most IT professionals were aware they may need new skills to future-proof their careers, only half had enrolled on courses.

That may be because they're too busy with existing workloads, as organisations head down the path of digital transformation.

Four out of five employers expect the already high workload in their IT departments to increase over the next year, and more than half plan to increase hiring levels.


Some 72 per cent of hiring managers expect salaries to increase in IT departments in 2018, probably by up to 5 per cent.

But it's not a case of demand driving up wages for all technology workers.

The recruitment landscape is more nuanced with high wages only occurring in niche areas where demand is highest and skilled workers in limited supply.

To cope with the increasing demands, the bulk of managers said they were looking to contract in resources or outsource work to external providers or professional consultancies rather than increase headcount in-house.

This gives the specialist technology worker opportunities as specific skills are sought for project-based work. The top three niche areas will be cyber security, followed by development and digital, then business intelligence and data management.

"In 2018, cyber security professionals will see the highest growth in demand for their services, in the wake of high-profile security breaches and increased regulatory scrutiny in 2017," Peters says.

"High on the list will also be development and digital specialists, especially those with experience in digital transformation."

Peters says organisations are looking for other ways to fill skills gaps.

One of those is Flux, which develops the software that powers energy retailer Powershop.

Chief information officer Mark Drysdale says to counter a shortage of people with experience in the Ruby on Rails development environment it uses, it tests for aptitude and then puts new hires through what it calls Dev Train for three to eight weeks.

"One of its effects is that it helps the person understand our culture," Drysdale says.

"They may have come from a bank or large organisation with a different approach to engineering.

"Development is a craft, not battery work."

Even senior developers have to do a couple of weeks of Dev Train to get the culture.

Drysdale says as well as being a starting point for graduates and people who have been through a boot camp like Dev Academy, Dev Train is used to give some of its 150 call centre staff a pathway into software development if they show promise.

"If you are smart and have a good mindset we can teach you anything," he says.

Powershop, which was set up by Meridian Energy to promote innovation and disrupt the market, is growing fast.

It now also operates in Australia and the United Kingdom, meaning Flux is constantly hiring to keep up and now has 80 developers in Wellington and, as of last month, eight in Melbourne.

Drysdale says it tries to pay just above the Wellington norm — that means about $55,000 for a graduate to $100,000-plus for senior developers who may have to be lured from other firms.

Peters says Flux's solution is a way to escape the bidding war for low level talent.

He says a built in training programme is a way employers can make themselves attractive, as workers are attracted to the chance to get their hands on new technologies or interesting project work.

"From the other side a lot of people are doing courses or trying to upskill after working hours," he says.

"This is an industry facing constant change and people in the industry are more adaptive by nature.

"When IT specialists weigh up job offers, one in three said their first or second priority was the technology and projects they would get their hands on in the new environment. So it was not just the day to day role they would have but what they would be exposed to in that role," he says.

Despite automation and more efficient way of doing things, the overall technology job market is growing and has done so for the past 10 years.

"Automation may have an impact around certain efficiencies being gained and jobs affected, but it opens a whole new world on the other side of what people will be focused on in the future," Peters says.