Weekly Word on the Street: Your Country Wants You, Cyber Pros

by Jim Staats | Aug 10, 2012
Takeaway of the week is a bit of reinforcements of items previously mentioned in this space. Yes, politicians wrangle over cybersecurity legislation, but the end result could mean more money and perks for those with cyber skills. Yup, the looming cloud could spell doom for some traditional IT roles, but there might be a silver lining. And it's looking like Tony Bennett isn't the only one whose heart is in San Francisco.

Security Pros, Your Country Wants - To Pay - You

As politicians metaphorically arm-wrestle over the fate of cybersecurity legislation, the men and women seeking future roles in that industry could see monetary benefits in the end result.

Homeland security department officials are making urgent pitches to bump up pay packages for cybersecurity professionals as part of the bill being discussed on the Hill, a recent article in Nextgov notes.

The department has high hopes for what increased salaries and better benefits could do to attract talent - both in and out of government - amid a competitive job market.

"This legislation takes an important step in terms of hiring and retaining personnel," said DHS Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute in reference to the bill currently stalled in a partisan gulf.

The specific measure would give the Department of Homeland Security Secretary the same authority that the Secretary of Defense has with respect to civilian intelligence personnel "to establish as positions in the excepted service, to appoint individuals to those positions and (to) fix pay," according to documentation.

Department officials such as Lute are pushing for passage of the bill to bring in additional personnel to help protect the networks' operating critical infrastructure, such as power lines and dams.

Experts, however, estimate any such computer security bill isn't likely to be resolved until next year, after election campaigning subsides. According to government sources, the Air Force reports a current cyber workforce of about 17,000 staffers while the Army has an estimated 21,000 information security workers. The Defense Department and Government Accountability Office have less than 1,500 cyber professionals compared with nearly 88,000 professionals across all defense industries.

The Cloud vs. IT Jobs

As cloud computing services expand, it's clear that many IT jobs will vanish, but that doesn't mean necessarily mean the people in those roles will be out of a job.

That's the gist of comments provided by Gartner executive Gregor Petri on what the rise of the cloud means for the IT job market, in a recent item for TechRepublic.

Petri, who serves as a research director for the tech research firm, likened the current technological shift to that of 19th century manual laborers being replaced by industrial machines.

Petri used an example of pin makers putting out a measly four pins a day versus a factory with an output of 10,000 pins per hour. "That is what cloud computing is making possible: you can carry out these computing tasks on an industrial scale," he said.

The cloud will allow for more automation of IT infrastructure to handle the management of such things as providing additional storage, servers or network capacity for a particular application, Petri said.

"Cloud is allowing the industrialization of IT, that is why to some people it is very scary," he noted.

However, Petri did say while some roles will vanish, new roles will be created that can utilize these individuals' technical skills to continue to add value to the business.

A shifting computing landscape that is also factoring in big data and increased mobility, he said, will continue to allow for new roles to develop.

When this could all take shape is still likely in the future, Petri said, but not too far.

By 2020, the majority of companies will rely on the cloud for more than half of their IT services, according to Gartner's 2011 CIO Agenda Survey.

New Frontiers for IT Jobs

There are the big players when it comes to the U.S. states with high-tech employment and there are those locales for the "out-of-the-box" thinkers.

That's the message to come out of the recent report based on data from Dice.com, the technology job placement firm.

Most everyone following the IT job market can spout off the states that hold most of the cards when it comes to tech employment. California, New York, Texas, Virginia and Florida account for more than 650,000 tech pros in computer systems design and related services, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But folks may not be aware of the following:
  • The greatest amount of growth for jobs in that category this year is taking place in Maryland, with an increase of nearly 6 percent in 2012. In addition to defense contracting, companies recruiting tech professionals include hospitals, biotechnology and healthcare services firms.
  • Great growth is taking place in Massachusetts, with figures just slightly below that of Maryland. The state is home to more than 3,500 job postings for tech professionals on any given day, an increase of 12 percent over last year, according to Dice.
  • Minnesota officials are targeting 2020 to make the state one of the country's top-five technology states. Hiring spans well beyond technology firms to include retail, healthcare firms, consulting agencies manufacturers and insurance companies.
  • Oregon is increasingly becoming a draw for tech talent with world class mobile software and open source communities, as well as an average tech salary greater than $80,000 in the state.
  • As the tech workforce begins to percolate in Utah, figures released by the Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development indicate that state over-indexes in software at close to 1.5 times the national rate.

Tech Startups Heat up in San Francisco

As noted recently in this space, the epicenter of Silicon Valley seems to be edging north into the pointy skyscrapers and cable car-strewn streets of San Francisco.

To reinforce that point, a new article from the San Jose Mercury News highlights how the "City by the Bay" is now home to more than 4,000 start-ups in just one section of town alone.

With name brand tech companies including Twitter, Zynga and Yelp calling San Francsico home to their headquarters, it's no wonder the city has led the world in venture capital funding for three years running, according to the article.

"Silicon Valley is starting to migrate to San Francisco," said one real estate analyst.

The topography is one reason for the change -- the expansive Silicon Valley requires a car to drive from one business park to another, compared to a one-mile radius walk in the city.

"It's about running into people and building relationships, because people want to work with and invest in people they know and trust," said Bill Maris, managing partner of Google Ventures.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has made no secret of his administration's effort to woo the start-up crowd. The politician has sought out policies that can attract and retain tech companies. He has persuaded the city's Board of Supervisors to place a measure on the fall ballot that would replace the city's payroll tax with a more broad-based tax on receipts that won't ramp up as quickly when firms expand.

Though the city remains an attraction to firms, settling down doesn't always come cheap. Some have remarked that rising office and housing costs could threaten San Francisco's domination in this arena. Others retort the region still remains cheap when compared to the trendy high-tech wonderland of New York.

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