IT Architects are in Demand
IT Best Practices Alert By Linda Musthaler, Network World
The past two weeks I've written about new IT certifications that are meant to help you skill-up to prepare for higher-level positions or for very specific technical roles. This week I checked in with my friend James Del Monte, president of JDA Professional Services, Inc., a Houston-based company that specializes in IT staff placement. I wanted to get a feel from Del Monte as to what the IT employment scene is like today, and how useful these new certifications would be for IT professionals.
While the U.S. unemployment rate overall remains high -- 9.2% as of September 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics -- we have to drill down into the numbers to get the outlook for the IT profession, which is decidedly brighter than the economy as a whole. In fact, IT employment has been growing steadily throughout the year, as reported by the TechServe Alliance. While overall employment plodded along at a growth rate of only 0.26% over the past year, IT employment is up 1.8% for the same time frame.
Del Monte says he's seeing hiring demand in a couple of different areas. "Within the networking arena, it's all about reducing costs and consolidation," he says. "Whether it's data centers, server farms, virtualization or storage issues, it's about doing more with less, and this drives the need for higher-level skills from an engineering perspective." Del Monte says the professionals in highest demand today are the true infrastructure architects and engineers who can map out the consolidation strategy. In contrast, he's not seeing many requests for the people with the skills to perform daily operations.
Some of the hot skills involve virtualization. "VMWare. Citrix. SAN storage. Employers are looking for people with experience with these technologies," Del Monte says. "People don't need the certifications in these areas as much as they simply need to have experience." He says that Cisco VoIP is also in high demand.
OK, but what about the junior-level IT professionals who don't yet have the hands-on experience to be virtualization experts or infrastructure architects? I asked Del Monte how these people can skill-up to improve their career prospects. "You've got to be in the right environment and tag along with someone who is working the important projects," he advises. "It's especially important to learn how to present the business case while also implementing the technology solutions."
Who is doing the hiring these days? Del Monte says he's seeing an increasing demand for people to work for hosted services companies. "Lots of businesses are consolidating their data centers, and one of the strategies is to outsource the data center to a managed service provider," Del Monte says. "These hosting companies are hiring the technical people, and businesses are hiring the strategic-level people that are attuned to the business operations."
One lingering effect of the recession is that companies are still putting off projects as long as they can. Del Monte believes this is creating a soft market for people with lower level skills, especially pertaining to Microsoft and Cisco. "The delay in doing some projects, as well as the data center consolidation projects, is actually having the effect of reducing the need for lower level people," according to Del Monte. He says these folks might consider working for the hosted service providers, or try gaining new skills to become more relevant in today's market.
As for IT salaries, Del Monte says that internal salary increases are very low: "Somewhere between zero and five percent." However, the "good people" -- those with the high level architecture experience -- are commanding good salaries and even significant increases. "Employers know that good people are hard to find as well as hard to keep, and they're willing to pay for those kinds of professionals," says Del Monte says.
During the recessionary times of the past two years, many IT professionals were afraid to or couldn't afford to change jobs. People are getting restless, but Del Monte says it's still a slow market. "Employers only need one or two key people to plan and architect their IT strategy," he says. "It's these people who have the best opportunity to flourish in today's market."
Read more about infrastructure management in Network World's Infrastructure Management section.
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