Weekly Word on the Street: Tech Still Tops in Hot Jobs

by Jim Staats | Mar 02, 2012

Takeaway of the week is that a fresh batch of reminders only strengthens the idea that 2012 really is a cornucopia of good tidings for the IT job-seekers. The U.K., for example, is bursting at the seams with plum IT roles, if you have the right skills and experience. Another ‘Hot Jobs’ list isn’t just sprinkled with technology roles, it’s downright dominated by ‘em. And, if that isn’t enough, more evidence comes forth that executives are actually investing in their technology departments as a means to drive their business. Yes, you read that right.

Tech Shouldn’t Fear the Reaper
Even as financial executives at various firms take a ‘slash-and-see’ attitude to address economic struggles, a traditional target - IT - is more likely to get a free pass these days.

A growing number of CIOs are actually stepping up investments in information technology budgets in the hopes of using the latest tech trends to boost their competitive edge, a new Wall Street Journal article reports.

The bigwigs holding the purse strings view investments in systems that collect and analyze data and activate mobile devices as the gateway to greater competitive advantages, the article notes.

“We’re very concerned about the economy and trying to take some measures to cut costs,” said Mike Lucki, CFO of Colorado-based engineering firm, CH2M Hill, on plans to boost their tech budget at least 20 percent this year. “But, this is an investment that we need to make to stay competitive. If you don’t do it, you’re not in the game.”

Data that can be collected - on consumer habits, client details, you name it - is growing exponentially and those who can best utilize and apply these details will be ahead of the game, or at least competitors.

A survey of CFOs co-opted toward the end of last year by Financial Executives International found an overall targeted boost in technology spending of about 10 percent in the coming year, even as most expressed a lack of confidence in the economy.

The question now being asked is whether technology is ready to live up to these promises.

A Tech-laden Best Jobs Listing
If you buy into the recent list of ‘Best Jobs of 2012’ compiled by U.S. News & World Report and you’re looking for a job in the technical industry, you’ve got a lot to smile about.

Yes, the latest picks, based on the U.S. Labor Department’s employment projections and focused on professions analysts’ expect to be hiring in droves in coming years, has several technical-centric positions slotted in the ‘hot jobs’ category, the publication reported this week.

Besides a projected hiring boom for these roles, other pluses include better-than-average compensation and room for growth.

Out of the list of top ten jobs summarized, half are technology roles:

  • Computer programmer - high job satisfaction, competitive salaries and good prospects cited
  • Computer systems analyst - serve as liaison between client and the developer
  • Software developer - advances are a constant for the inquisitive and trained
  • Web developer - estimated to be at least 65,700 jobs available in this profession
  • Database administrator - data today is online and the right ‘wrangler’ is coveted

Tech Skills Needed in the UK
With tech skills in high demand, but youth unemployment still skyrocketing in the U.K., more emphasis needs to be placed on bridging that gap, according to one influential tech exec.

John Harris, chairman of IT user group The Corporate IT Forum and a vice president at pharmaceutical firm, GlaoSmithKline, said a chief goal of his is to bring greater attention to IT skills development, in a recent interview featured in ComputerWeekly.com.

Harris is working to drum up support for Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent comments on the need for apprenticeships to help build up economic confidence.

“We are trying to make apprenticeship a hot topic,” said Harris, who is working with other members of his Forum user group to this end. “Unanimously, everyone sees this as important.”

He realizes there is a true need for certain IT roles in the country and believes bringing in young people to be trained on various skills is a valuable experience that can be taught via text books.

He points the finger at an IT community that has relied too heavily on outsourcing IT skills.

“While outsourcing did bring value, people moved jobs that should not have been moved,” Harris said. “We outsourced our skills pipeline.”

By developing skills in-house through young IT apprentices to be groomed into future IT experts, Harris said, the end result would be clear career planning for a new generation and better value for businesses.

The Golden Combo? IT Talent with a Business Brain
CIOs have the tough job these days of luring in the right staffers to respond to growing expectations of the general public and business leaders when it comes to consumer technology.

The biggest bang for an exec’s pile of bucks? IT staffers with a flair for general business sense, according to a recent CIO.com article that queried a few CIOs.

Josh Jewett, CIO of Family Dollar, which recently put a member of his firm’s merchandising procurement department in charge of his business-facing IT teams, advises his peers to prepare for some blow-back, but address it head-on by letting IT people know this is their opportunity to learn new, transferable skills that will benefit them in the long run.

More and more are following the business-to-IT model.

Specialty food distributer, United Natural Foods, has long been recruiting business analysts for its IT organization.

Nick Coussoule, CIO of BlusCross BlueShield of Tennessee, said it’s been a recurring practice to bring in business people for IT positions. His new VP of business engineering and continuous improvement came from the company’s Medicare business.

These executives experienced similar anxiety within IT departments as Jewett mentioned, but agreed that such concerns need to be handled with a clear transition plan up-front.

“Right away, he set up specific times to sit down with each business and talk through goals and expectations,” Coussoule said. “That went a long way toward showing everyone that he was wearing a new hat.”

Coussoule added: “You can’t be viewed as ‘only IT’ by the business or as ‘only business’ by IT. That’s critical to success in these hybrid roles.”

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