Weekly Word on the Street: IT Pros on the Move

by Jim Staats | May 04, 2012

Takeaway of the week is another shout-out for that seemingly superhero IT pro who can wrangle big data - i.e. the elusive data scientist. Also on tap is another survey that shares some good and some bad about those working in IT, a generation shift the industry has created in India and a virtual invitation for techies with a hankering to relocate to the Emerald Isle.

Survey: IT Pros a Hot Commodity

If findings from a recent survey commissioned by a recruitment firm are correct, IT professionals are big on seeking greener pastures while the getting is good. Of the more than 1,000 IT workers surveyed by Hays IT, 73 percent were considering switching jobs, a ComputerWeekly item noted.

Because of that, more than half of those surveyed said they received bonuses and pay raises from their current employers. The current economic climate doesn't appear to be hurting this particular sector, with 59 percent of IT pros in the survey noting their careers hadn't been hurt by the recession.

On the other side of the ledger, however, it was noted that IT workers are feeling overworked, with 61 percent saying they've seen an increase to their workloads over the past year. More than half expressed displeasure with the lack of career progression opportunities provided by their current employers. James Aldridge, director of Hays IT, said that given such high levels of dissatisfaction, employers would be wise "to support their employees better, particularly key staff, and make sure they receive the development they call for."

He said many IT pros are on the hunt for higher day rates available to them through contract positions.

Roles in particular demand include developers for visual and gaming industries, business process analysts, IT change experts and data specialists.

Big Demand for Big Data Equals Big Talent Shortage

The all-consuming need to mine gobs of business data signals a greater need for workers with the right skill set to do so.

As the big data trend continues to gain a foothold across the business landscape, experts see a growing problem in the shortage of talented individuals with expertise in statistical analysis and managers with know-how to operate firms using such analysis.

A Wall Street Journal article highlighting international events for this past week's Big Data Week discussed the talent shortage.

Ultimate success of big data - which refers to that idea of unlocking those golden nuggets of information out of the mass of data generated by business intelligence - will be stalled without solving this problem, according to a report published last year by McKinsey.

The report noted the need for 1.5 million additional managers and analysts in the U.S. who can make sense of the big data analysis.

What the industry needs is more data scientists.

"Thirty years ago we didn't have computer science departments; now every quality school on the planet has a CS department," said Pat Gelsinger, president and COO of U.S. data firm EMC Corp. "Now nobody has a data science department; in 30 years every school on the planet will have one."

Data scientists, experts say, must be equipped with three key skills: ability to take a data set and model it mathematically; engineering skills to understand how to do those tasks; and the ability to gather insights and information out of that data.

Apparently, those on the hunt for the right individuals are coming up empty when searching universities and recruitment firms, based on recent comments from individuals within those communities.

In the meantime, more companies that want to excel in big data may have to become self-taught.

Have Tech Skills, Will Travel...To Ireland

A new Irish initiative intended to bolster a technical skills gap hopes to attract a bevy of IT pros to the Emerald Isle.

The campaign, called Open Ireland, seeks to bring in up to 75,000 skilled overseas workers per year to help solve a localized skills shortage and generate employment throughout the country's economy, the Irish Times recently reported.

Entrepreneur Sean O'Sullivan, who is spearheading the initiative, said the growing demand within the country for technology skills is already causing many firms to outsource the work outside of Ireland.

"There is no way a country as small as Ireland can produce all the software talent it needs," said O'Sullivan, noting many local start-ups are being halted before getting, well, started because of a lack of tech talent.

Burgeoning firms, he also noted, are having difficulty paying competitive wages for developers.

"Revenues could be higher if we were able to employ enough developers," O'Sullivan said, stating his own software firm, Avego, "is being held back because our software development is being slowed down."

If nothing were done to rectify the situation, he envisioned an environment in which companies had to pony up above-market wages for below-average tech talent.

India's IT Industry a Boon for Women

The competition for talent among India's IT industry has created the subcontinent's most diverse and inclusive industry, especially for career-minded women. The industry is being credited with smoothing out inequalities and expanding professional horizons for women in many other career tracks, according to data from recent studies.

The country's IT and BPO services industry employs about 3 million workers, with more than quarter of that sum being women, findings reported in TechRepublic note.

That number of women workers continues to grow, the recent study Diversity in Action by Nasscom and PricewaterhouseCoopers reports.

The IT industry in India is diverse in terms of gender, geography, language and socio-economic factors because the focus is all on talent, said Akila Krishnakumar, CEO of SunGard Technology Services, a U.S.-based provider of services to financial and education sectors.

In a country in which the banking industry is dominated at the top by women, experts are forecasting the same for the IT industry in the coming five or six years.

So powerful is the attraction of talented IT workers that India's caste and class systems have been upended. With the migration from small towns to larger cities, many Indians no longer feel categorized by the caste system or held back by it in an industry ruled by true technical talent.

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