With a shortfall of available IT jobs, recent discussion regarding a trend toward hiring less experienced individuals in today's datacenters caused many high-tech professionals to cringe, as veterans claim a lack of knowledge will ultimately hurt IT organizations.
Datacenter managers speaking on a panel at Interop Las Vegas 2009 told session attendees that they look for energetic, passionate, and eager-to-learn candidates to fill current positions, rather than IT professionals with specialized skills. Among the reasons cited by the two panelists were a greater need for a broad set of skills, including facilities and IT know-how, and business acumen.
Tim McLaine, global functional manager for datacenter services at Perot Systems said: "The majority of people we bring in are entry-level, and I don't care if they have datacenter or tactical experience. I more look for behavioral traits, such as enthusiasm, passion and energy because we can teach technical skills very easily. The deep technical experience from the past might not be applicable in our datacenter now.”
Readers responded to statements like that online with mixed feelings. Some said it's expected that many skills can be taught on the job -- but only if the candidate has a good technical foundation. Others felt the lack of specialized skills could hinder datacenter operations.
"Specific skills can be taught and learned right on the job, but this is provided that the candidate [already] has a solid and broad base of skills," one reader commented. "You can make anyone a specific specialist after a few years on the job and a bunch of courses in a specific area (for example, a Microsoft network administrator), but this does not mean that that person suddenly became an IT professional."
Others agreed that while some skills can be taught, datacenter managers looking to hire only entry-level staffers might be more concerned with cutting costs than adding talent to the organization.
"While it may be true that skills can be learned on the fly, it does not take the place of competent IT professionals," one individual wrote. "IT generalists know a lot, but just not enough. [This is] typical rhetoric from an IT manager looking to cut costs by any means while still expecting to run a respectable IT center."
It's not unusual for datacenter managers to seek those with a broad knowledge and solid foundation for entry-level positions, but still find the need for specialists in IT organizations, others said.
"It is fallacious to argue that because new technologies are constantly arriving, experienced and specialized talent becomes irrelevant," one online comment read. "In most IT shops, the opposite is embraced and new technologies are usually tested and modeled by the most experienced specialists in the areas that closely map to the business challenges addressed by the new technologies."
Those commenting online also said there seems to be an issue with semantics, that a generalist with years of experience would be a great hire, but that an entry-level candidate couldn't offer that general knowledge out of the gate.