An important facet of career development is knowing when and where to focus one’s energy and resources. With the economic outlook uncertain in the early part of 2008, foresight in career movement becomes even more important.
“We find certain job types coming up over and over again, [in which] people with the skills are clearly in the catbird seat,” said Thomas Hart, executive vice president at staffing firm Veritude. “For starters, project managers are always in demand because they have that crossover roster of responsibilities working both with business and technical folks. They’re required to have exceptional communication skills and really good planning and budgeting skills. We find that keeping a pipeline of good project managers is essential given the need that continues to be out there.”
The second hot job on Veritude’s radar, the business analyst, might be on the same team as a project manager. Hart said business analysts usually have solid industry experience, extraordinary business knowledge and top-notch communication skills, and job market demand for them consistently exceeds availability.
Third on Veritude’s list is the enterprise architect. Like the project manager and business analyst, it’s difficult to find quality talent in this area, and demand often exceeds availability. Enterprise architects are often hard to find because they need to have both a broad and a deep understanding of technology in order to be effective in their roles as strategists for multilayered IT platforms.
“They need to know that top, client-facing layer; the middle layer, which operational folks would use; and they need to know the underlying layers, which is getting down into the data forms and the data structures that support the entire platform from a data storage and warehousing standpoint,” Hart explained. “They need to be able to navigate from the top, middle, lower levels of an architectural solution, and they need to be able to effectively communicate. We’re looking for these folks to advise us on what technologies are compatible and what things, when plugged and played together, are not, so that those solution options can be avoided.”
The fourth hot job in the IT space is systems administrator. The general skill set for this position requires competency in operating systems and network architectures. Systems administrators also must understand which technologies and operating systems work well together, which are problematic and which are prone to error or are unreliable when combined.
“The difference between enterprise architects and systems administrators is, with the systems administrators, we don’t worry quite as much about these extraordinary communication skills,” Hart said. “We worry more about their technical competence. With these folks, if we can find them, we can place them, as a general rule, day in, day out. There’s certainly more demand in the marketplace than there is quality talent available to take on the opportunities that are out there.”
Fifth on the hot-job list is the software engineer. Hart said the demand for this position has been helped by the prevalence of business situations in which multiple delivery platform solutions are in play.
“You have a customer who’s looking to push their product or service or solution across multiple channels. They want to get it out to PDAs. They want Web delivery, maybe they want some type of texting capability on cell phones or (there are) other emerging wireless technologies they want to leverage and take advantage of,” he said. “Whenever you have a situation where a business is trying to solve a problem across multiple delivery channels, the demand goes way up for folks with a broad set of Web-based skills and other front-end tools like database HTML, .NET, Flash, C# and some Java expertise.”
The savvy job seeker or IT pro looking to advance his career might do well to place development dollars and certification emphasis on gaining competence across multiple technology platforms while working simultaneously to improve communication skills and increase business knowledge.
If you’re considering a career move to a different industry, Hart had a few recommendations there as well. For instance, right now the financial services industry is soft.
“The market is moving into a recession, the dollar is weak, unemployment rates are going up, interest-rate fluctuations are changing constantly and being changed continuously by the Fed,” said Hart, explaining that these factors affect financial services in general, whether its mutual-fund companies, brokerage firms, registered investment advisors, asset managers, custodians of money or banks. Hart added that he expects these conditions to last three to six months.
Industries that remain firm and continue to offer plenty of demand for IT pros are the biotech space, biopharmaceuticals and light industrial and manufacturing.
“[In] those industry sectors, we still see a fair amount of demand for the roles that I previously described, as well as a subset of roles that focus more on that biotech, biopharma space,” Hart said.