Hate the Name but Learn to Love the Technology

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Unless you’ve been coding in a cave for the past year or two, chances are you’ve heard at least a little about Web 2.0. But what is it really all about? More specifically, what does it mean for your career?

Although there is some debate about what Web 2.0 entails, it generally refers to Web-based applications and services that provide for greater collaboration among people and organizations. Instead of creating sites with static content for visitors, these technologies allow Web pages to be more interactive through the use of blogs, wikis, podcasts, forums, etc.

Mashups, which combine two or more separate elements into a single application — a common example being an online map overlaid with sortable crime statistics or restaurant locations — are common Web 2.0 initiatives.

What Skills Does Web 2.0 Require?
If you are responsible for Web or software development, or if you plan to pursue these specialties, expertise with .NET, Ajax, Java, XML and other languages will be critical to your success. Analyst firm Gartner Inc. notes that by 2008, the majority of Global 1000 companies will adopt technology-related aspects of Web 2.0 such as using Ajax to enable visitors to access new data on a Web site without having to refresh the entire page. Smaller firms also are embracing Web 2.0 to create and improve their Web-based applications and Web sites.

Robert Half Technology is seeing strong demand from employers for IT professionals with skills that allow for Web 2.0 development. Organizations seek individuals who possess extensive experience, with Web design, programming and applications creation with an emphasis on the languages mentioned previously. Candidates with Web 2.0 development skills typically are offered higher starting salaries than their counterparts who lack the expertise, according to the “Robert Half Technology 2007 Salary Guide.”

How Can I Gain Web 2.0 Expertise?
If you haven’t developed the right skill set for Web 2.0-related initiatives, it’s not too late. Because a shortage of experts in this area still exists, some firms are willing to invest in training for promising employees. Even if your employer isn’t pursuing Web 2.0 technologies today, it likely will in the future, and you might be able to make a persuasive case for building your expertise now.

Getting up to speed might require less work than you anticipate. Ajax, for instance, is not a new programming language but rather a new take on existing languages. Learning to leverage this tool might mean simply enhancing your knowledge of JavaScript, XMLHttpRequest, DOM, XML, CSS or XHTML.

As with most IT skills, there are a wide variety of training options available. Universities and private providers offer formal, on-site classes or even online training courses that you can take at your convenience. Entire Web sites are devoted to Web 2.0 and offer resources ranging from research articles to blog postings to message boards on which people share information about the uses and challenges of this technology.

To successfully work with this technology, however, you’ll need more than just solid programming skills. Web 2.0 is about better serving the needs of clients and customers, which requires an understanding of what appeals to specific audiences. It’s common for Web 2.0 experts to collaborate with marketing and other non-IT staff to develop a company’s online strategy. Basic classes in business communication, project management, Web design and consumer marketing can be wise supplements to technical training.

Web 2.0 might be hyped, but it won’t go away soon. Early adopters such as Google, MySpace and Flickr are paving the way for other companies.

As a result, taking the time to acquire or improve your Web 2.0 skills can be beneficial to your career. With skilled developers in short supply, and more companies beginning to leverage this technology, you will be of greater value to your firm and put yourself in a stronger position when searching for new employment.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. She can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.

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