Wanna future in tech? Play it smart
All of these issues and more await some future tech workers. But there are ways to hedge your bets and avoid some of these woeful situations. Not all tech jobs are created equal, so you'll want to position yourself in favor of the trends -- that is, seek out hot IT jobs, as well as recession-proof ones.
Some IT projects are being cut in favor of other ones, and so it's good to know what's hot and what's not. Foote Partners survey found "urgent demand for talent" in three technical areas: management/methodology/process, database, and messaging/communication. The areas to avoid: application development, SAP and other enterprise applications, operating systems, Web and e-commerce, and systems networking.
Gartner's McDonald agrees that companies are focusing on tuning internal processes with quick returns on investment while shunning big projects. Many CIOs are concentrating on only a couple of projects per quarter that deliver results quickly, such as retiring old systems, consolidating duplicate CRM or reporting systems, and changing the cost structure within IT processes.
Offshoring and outsourcing have led to many tech workers losing their jobs, but there are ways to plan an IT career around them -- that is, you'll want to outsource-proof your career. Marist College's Norton regularly fields questions from parents of students concerned about the threat of offshoring. Norton admits offshoring poses a real risk to rank-and-file computer programmers, but not so much to high-level ones.
"I always tell my computer scientists, 'Don't become simply a low-level programmer, you need to become a software engineer,'" Norton says. The thinking goes that vanilla programming can be done anywhere in the world, but the world comes to the smartest software engineers. Indeed, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported computer programmers had one of the highest unemployment rates (6.1 percent) among tech workers, yet computer software engineers had one of the lowest rates (1.9 percent).
It used to be true that tech workers could stave off offshoring and outsourcing because their jobs centered on managing and supporting a physical IT infrastructure. In other words, they had to be onsite. But times are changing. "The difficulty with these [onsite] positions is that there's a lot of visa-based resources that are also qualified or overqualified for these positions, and many of them can be done remotely," says Jeff Gaines, lecturer of management information systems in the college of business at San Jose State University.
Gaines advises his students to aim higher than the typical technical fare and target jobs such as project management, process design, system definition and design, and quality assurance. "Business analysis and systems analysis jobs are really the target," Gaines says. "Because our students have a business degree, which includes a background in IT concepts, they are suited to work in the IT or business side."