The 9 most endangered species in the IT workforce

The IT job landscape is evolving quickly. Here's how to avoid IT extinction

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Endangered IT species No. 6: The Common Web Designer (Templator fillerupus)

At one time they numbered in the millions; now there are only a handful left. Automated site-creation tools and increasing dependence on sophisticated marketing techniques has deprived millions of HTML and Flash designers of the natural Web lands they once called home.

"Dropping boring prose into a template isn't going to cut it in today's marketing maelstrom," says Simpletech's Madderra. "Companies that wish to flourish online need to build content based upon solid SEO [search engine optimization] principles utilizing media, writing, and design elements organized around a marketing plan. The Internet is swarming with companies champing at the bit to provide these services, some even for free."

As Fuchs from My IT Department notes, "My mom has a website. She made it herself with Go Daddy's tools. Once your mom can master a technology, experts begin to disappear."

How to avoid becoming extinct: Become an SEO maven, says Fuchs.

"With all these site-creation tools and the move to less dynamic websites that are more friendly to mobile devices, Web designers need to become to SEO experts very quickly or they will be out of a job."

Endangered IT species No. 7: The Woolly Unix Mammoth (Mainframus obsolete)

Once one of the dominant creatures in the enterprise biosphere, Unix servers -- and, by extension, the people paid to tend them -- are heading for the tar pits. Not because they can't still do the work, but because they're being replaced by more nimble and less expensive Linux boxes, says Anthony R. Howard, author of "The Invisible Enemy: Black Fox" and a technology consultant for Fortune 50 companies and the U.S. military.

When Oracle bought Sun in 2010, it de-emphasized Sun hardware and let Unix support dwindle, says Howard, while failing to keep up with the increased capabilities and dramatically lower costs of open source alternatives.

"A Unix server costs more than $25,000 per server," says Howard. "Linux can now run most of the same applications and costs only around $3,000 per server. One company I personally worked with saved more than a billion dollars over five years by migrating off of proprietary Unix architecture onto Linux. As more folks migrate onto Linux, the Unix admin will eventually go the way of the T-Rex. They ate well during their time upon the earth, but their days are numbered."

How to avoid extinction: Build up your Linux chops in a hurry, and become an expert on which applications can migrate to Linux and which ones need to stay on Sun, says Howard. "When your org does decide to migrate, you can lead the effort instead of getting left behind."

Endangered IT species No. 8: The Purple-Tufted Programmer (Codus cobolus)

Developers who cut their teeth on Cobol or Fortran are a dying breed, but they're not the only ones. IT pros who hack code -- and only hack code -- may quickly wind up on the wrong side of the evolutionary divide.

Routine programming jobs are largely being offshored or eliminated outright, notes Peirce College's Finnegan.

"If you aspire to plan to write code for a living, you'd better be prepared to do it at the level of software engineer," he says. "That means doing it for a large organization on a very large scale, with an engineer's attention to process and quality control, as well as the people skills to function in such an environment."

Even mobile developers aren't immune, notes Chris O'Connor, CEO of Taptera, a provider of enterprise-ready, social sales mobile applications.

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