Tech Jobs: How to Get Hired in 2007

Friday Mar 16th 2007 by James Maguire
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It’s all about demonstrating competency in certain highly sought-after areas. And more than ever, a key intangible is on the minds of IT hiring managers.

If you want to land a tech job in 2007, it helps to be in one of four hot areas: project management, security, IT architecture, and network management.

On the other hand, those workers who do packaged app support and app maintenance may have a cloudier future: these tasks are being outsourced.

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These are some of the conclusions of a new report by Forrester research, “Trends 2007: Hot IT Skill Areas.” Based on a survey of 281 IT decision makers in Q4 2006, the report provides a detailed portrait of how tech job seekers can position themselves to land the best gigs.

The report also looked at areas that companies are prioritizing for in-house training dollars, including change management, vendor management and service management.

Additionally, Forrester identified a longstanding trend that’s growing ever more important: interpersonal skills. In short, get ready to smile and act like you get along with others. The majority of IT hiring managers are seeking applicants with strong communication skills.

“IT professionals may be limiting their career progression by [lacking] some of the softer skills,” says Forrester analyst Samuel Bright, the report’s author.

“As IT strives to become more aligned with the business, it’s not only about being able to talk to people, but also being able to talk to people within their frame of reference,” he tells Datamation. Tech staffers must be able to “translate technical jargon into language that business cares about.”

The following graph represents the priority that hiring managers place on key skill sets:

tech jobs

(Graphic by Forrester research)

Next Page: Jobs in Demand

Wanted (Desperately): Project Managers

It’s a refrain that has been heard throughout the IT industry for years – and it’s still true in ‘07: there aren’t enough good project managers.

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“What’s interesting is that project management is both a top hiring and and a training priority,” Bright says. IT hiring execs are saying, “If I had a choice between 20 project managers and 20 programmers, I’d happily hire the 20 project managers.”

Not only do 26% of IT hiring execs plan on bringing aboard new project managers, a whopping 59% say they’ll be training in-house staff to fill these big shoes.

If anything, the role of project manager has become even more critical over time. IT departments are loved or hated based on whether they deliver projects on time, and more importantly, within budget. This big responsibility rests with the project manager.

The scarcity of project managers derives from a central paradox: to have sufficient technical depth to manage a project, you typically need to have years as an IT staffer. But many IT staffers are not temperamentally suited to the demands of the very political job of project manager. (After all, it means getting along with the suits.) So project managers remain in high demand.

Please, Get Me a Security Pro

In a world in which top cyber criminals have the technical sophistication to earn six figures (were they to take a legit job), hiring staff to protect against bad guys is exceptionally important.

In 2007, “most firms plan to spend between 7.5% and 9.0% of their budget on security, regardless of their size, geography, and industry,” the report notes, pointing to a “mad rush for qualified IT security talent.”

Nearly a third of hiring managers hope to recruit new security talent, and these new hires will see ever expanding job roles (which typically translates to expanding salaries).

Hot and Getting Hotter: Architects

The term “architect” has a broad definition in the IT world. This year, two types are in demand: enterprise architects, who envision and plan company-wide tech initiatives, and infrastructure architects, who in the age of SOA are gaining importance. A quarter of hiring managers expect to hire new IT architects this year, with the enterprise and infrastructure types in equal demand.

The popularity of this job illustrates a larger trend in IT: the big thinkers (like architects) are getting more popular while the routine technicians are seeing their job sent oversees.

In-House Training Dollars

While taking a job with a new firm is one option, some IT staffers will grow within their current company. Many firm hopes to develop a key skill set in-house this year: change management.

A full 60% of companies will dedicate resources to grooming internal staffers to handle this task, the Forrester report notes. Change management, loosely defined as overseeing a system’s move toward greater integration, efficiency and/or availability, is becoming more important. The reason? IT is asked to do more with the same or fewer budget dollars. A prevalent form of change management is the move toward IT automation, which management sees as a major cost cutter.

Another big area attracting in-house training dollars is service management, especially as it relates to ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library), a framework of best practices designed to improve IT services. Fifty eight percent of companies will train their staffers in this area.

Also attracting in-house resources is vendor and sourcing management. Translated: with more than a quarter of IT work now done by outsourcers, proper supervision of these external workers is vital to a business’s success. Important skills include negotiating contracts, assessing vendor risk, and monitoring service agreements. Given the importance, it’s no surprise that 56% of companies will focus on this in 2007.

Network Management: A Mixed Message

Sending a shiver down the spine of certain IT staffer, the Forrester report says, “commodity skill areas are candidates for outsourcing or contracting.”

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One of these so-called commodity skill areas is network management – sort of. “Network management sort of has this mixed message, where it’s both a hiring priority and an outsourcing priority,” Bright says.

IT execs are looking to outsource this position when costs for routine configuration and maintenance climb too high. Yet network managers who are “conceptualizers,” who can design and improve systems (especially the security of those systems) continue to be in great demand.

Almost a quarter of firms will outsource packaged app support to third party providers, suggesting that software-as-a-service (SaaS) will become more prevalent. An additional 11% will buy these skills on a contract basis in 2007.

Curiously, the report finds that “IT leaders, though feeling under-resourced for maintenance, wouldn’t hire new maintenance people even if they had the budget to do so.” As an alternative to paying staffers to oversee routine maintenance, managers are looking to tools. (Which might create a problem: who handles the weekend system failure when the tool malfunctions?)

On a related note, 23% of companies expect to outsource legacy programming, with 16% handling legacy system issues on a contract basis.

Playing Well with Others

The Forrester report makes it abundantly clear: “Interpersonal skills are critical across the board.” The survey found that an overwhelming 75% of hiring managers said communication skills are very important to their hiring decisions this year.

“IT is become more intentional in terms of its search for interpersonal skills,” Bright says. Communication skills have become so paramount that employers are finding new ways to screen IT candidates in interviews. These include setting up mock scenarios and bringing teams of business people into the interview.

“There’s a level of creativity in terms of trying to identify, from the get go, that these candidates have the soft skills that allow them to blossom in their IT jobs,” he says.

soft skills in IT jobs

(Graphic by Forrester research)

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