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Find The Boots

Rantings from a few corporate types about life, technology, travel, guns, politics, and everything good in the world.

IT for the Next Generation

Monday, August 20, 2007

Tech Republic has an interesting article titled » Sanity Check: Is IT still a profession worth recommending to the next generation? Jason Hiner makes the argument that there are still plenty of opportunities in the IT field if people just know where to look:L
1. Software engineer — While there are lots of low-level coding jobs that are being commoditized and more code being modulized and reused, there will be an increasing number of software engineering jobs that will involve conceptualizing, planning, and developing software to power increasing numbers of things, from your oven to your wristwatch to your sneakers.

2. Systems architect — As internal IT departments focus more on overall direction and strategy, they will need highly capable systems architects to take business goals and strategies and design the specific technical infrastructure to meet those goals. The systems architects will need to be able to collaborate and communicate well with the IT operations group and/or any managed services providers.

3. NOC engineer — As more applications and systems (via virtualization) are moved to the data center, there will be a much greater need for NOC engineers to run more and larger data centers and command centers. Some of this will come at the expense of decreasing numbers of local network administrators, especially in small and medium businesses. NOC engineering will become a very competitive field and will demand cutting edge skills and continual education.

4. Project manager — Most IT organizations are realizing that projects dominate their workload and having good people who know how to organize and run projects — and communicate about them — is critical to IT’s success. My hope is that in the future, IT projects will become smaller and more frequent to help companies stay nimble. Nevertheless, good project managers will still be critical in an environment with fewer and more frequent projects, because they will need to be the ones to keep track of everything. And there will still be a few giant projects that make PMs indispensable.

5. Information security specialist — This is not a job title but an umbrella term to cover IT security professionals. More and more data is moving online. More and more organizations are developing a fluid, borderless IT infrastructure. More and more hackers are going professional and joining with organized crime to steal data and extort and launder money from their victims. Those factors are leading to a crisis in information security that will demand new solutions from the security specialists. And as the world increasingly goes digital, information security professionals will be the digital security guards of the future.
There's only one problem with his rosy outlook. You can't get there from here.

Western corporations are hyper focused on the quarterly bottom line, and this short term focus has eviscerated the supply of young specialists coming into the field. The jobs he describes are all higher level jobs that require 5-10 years of experience. I'm sorry, but a resume with a degree from the finest technical universities and no experience will not even get you an interview for system architect job. When our generation came up, there were plenty of "entry level" jobs available in the IT business. Companies understood that they needed to grow their own talent. That crop turned into the generation of of IT middle management we have today.

But the entry level jobs in IT are gone. They are filled by "freshers" in India, where a salary of $5/day is living the high life. You might be able to find a job with a small company in a technical field since small companies don't have the infrastructure to easily offshore, but there simply is not a career progression that starts you off as an entry level engineer where you end up as a system architect.

The IT business is in for a heavy squeeze. They've eaten the seed corn. The companies that took this route saw short term gains because they were able to cut expenses, but they have nothing to plant for next spring. The hyper focus on short term expenses has created a future where expenses will skyrocket. Many experienced managers left the business during the last round of cutbacks. There are no new ones coming up through the farm system. Competent people with 20 years of experience are becoming extremely difficult to find. As this generation retires, there won't be one coming up behind them to fill their place. When was the last time you heard of an older IT manager being laid off and replaced with younger talent? Aside from being illegal, it's just not possible because the 30-somethings just aren't there. They went into other fields. But as the article points out, there will be plenty of need for those positions. The few remaining people with those skill sets and experiences will become increasingly expensive.

The answer isn't that we need more H1B visas for people to come to the US to fill technology jobs. They may have technical skills, but they don't have the management and leadership skills we'll need. We can create plenty of our own technical talent, but there have to be jobs there to attract them. Somebody just needs to slap some CEOs around until they stopping feasting on the seed corn.

No matter what we do, we are always living in the long term. Most of the problems we have today stem from decisions we made in the past where we thought the consequences would be long term. This is yet another example of where short term thinking creates havoc in the long term.

   

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1 Comments:

  • At 11:08 AM, Blogger mark said…

    I would say you are 98% right. The job market out there for new IT is slim to none. I have been working in IT for about 10 years. I have not one piece of paper that states my talents. Why? I just never have taken the time to go and get one.

    I do not want someone to hire me because of a paper that got while reading out of a book. You can learn to trouble shoot, but if you are not a natural at it you will never get very far.

    Young people that are leaving college might be able to run circles around me at somethings like, business models and planning. If you asked them what do do if patch Tuesday didn't go so well how many would be able to tell you?

    Some things are just learned by experience and there is not a lab in the country that will test an admin the way that end users do. Labs are nice but it doesn't prep you for the spam and chain letters that are passed around offices and the little bugs they carry.

    We, as a country, really need to open jobs up to the people of tomorrow, other wise there will there will be no one to do the jobs of today when tomorrow gets here.

     

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