Virtualization: A Marketable Skill in a Tight Job Market

The topic of tech education in the U.S. has become a national priority like never before. Late last year, President Obama called for more tech education to support everything from the country’s economic growth to national security. Recently, 17 Silicon Valley tech companies — including Intel, Cisco and Google — pledged to hire 10,500 U.S. college graduates in 2010, which is double the number hired last year. The companies promised to “bet on America’s next generation of innovators.”

In spite of this pledge, the tech job market remains extremely competitive. So, with a growing number of potential technology students and a still-tight job market, where should you focus your continuous learning efforts? An emerging technology, virtualization is still considered a niche and plays a great part in supporting green IT efforts. To help ensure their success and differentiate themselves, students are taking it upon themselves to become trained and certified in desktop and server virtualization; both are key focus areas given the changing computing needs within many organizations today.

Benefits of Desktop and Server Virtualization
“Many organizations are looking to virtualization to help reduce infrastructure costs and the maintenance requirements — in terms of people, hardware and software — needed just to run their business,” said Julieann Scalisi, managing director of education for Citrix Systems Inc.

A key benefit of virtualization is that software is abstracted from the underlying hardware, allowing multiple operating systems to run simultaneously on a machine. With server virtualization, one physical server can run several virtual machines with multiple operating systems. Reducing the number of physical servers saves energy consumption and encourages green IT planning and implementation.

Desktop virtualization separates the personal computer environment into different logical entities. This separation can include the physical client machine, operating system, applications and user settings. Desktop processing and storage are shared, allocated to users as needed and centrally managed. This behavior reduces security concerns and management efforts while enabling users to access their corporate desktops from multiple devices.

Getting Certified Makes a Difference — Now More Than Ever

Times have changed, and in today’s job market, having a degree is not a guaranteed door opener, nor is it enough to land a job.

“When I speak with hiring managers, many indicate that they are seeking a combination of a degree, a technical certification and relevant hands-on practice,” said Scalisi. Certification gives a competitive advantage to students looking for employment opportunities in desktop and server virtualization.

Recent studies have found that IT professionals with the skills to support virtualization growth are among the most sought-after employees in the field. In ongoing surveys conducted by Foote Partners, virtualization consistently tops the list of the most in-demand skills.

Training and Certification Options
Students who want to demonstrate expertise with a virtualization product or product line will find vendor-offered certifications to be valuable. These certifications are of particular interest to organizations that have already invested in a virtualization solution. Citrix, VMware and other vendors offer certifications dedicated to virtualization and geared toward unique roles, such as administrator, engineer and architect. Such certifications can complement a more broad-based technical degree.

Continuing education institutions also offer virtualization training and certification programs. These programs often provide general curricula on the industry with additional information on current market trends. For example, the UC Berkeley Extension offers the virtual and cloud computing program, which is designed for professionals who want to learn about cloud computing and its virtualization foundation. Students may want to consider pursuing continuing education once completing their degrees. Through continuing education, individuals are able not only to learn about the technology, but also about leading companies that contribute to industry trends.

Current students and recent graduates should do research to determine what skill sets employers are seeking. Through this research, individuals can identify the training and certification programs that are likely to increase their marketability.

Mark Carter is lead courseware developer and Roxanne Balolong is courseware developer at Citrix Education. They can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.

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