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Crowning careers

iconThe royal mantle of IT careers is woven of many threads. OK, enough with the poetics: There are a whole lot of IT jobs you can get into and if you're young it can mean a very fast career start. Be IT-ish and click here for a list of some of them.  
graphic If you're not in an IT field now, how tempted are you to train for it and move in that direction?

I'm seeing monitors and keyboards in my dreams -- as soon as I have the money for a training program, I'm there.
I'm trying to decide whether it's going to be interesting enough, so I'm unsure what to do.
It's not for me. As much as I'd like the money and the assurance of work, it looks tedious and awfully detail-oriented.
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IT workers still rule

In this story:

Dot-com demand

Training deals

Hitting 'Shift'


(CNN) -- Hardly a week goes by when you don't read about a dot-com going under, or at least eliminating a chunk of its work force in a bid for tenuous survival. Surely as we move into the new year, bad days lie ahead for information technology workers, right?

Well, no.

"The amount of people being laid off still doesn't match the massive gap in IT unemployment," says Tom Ferrara, president and CEO of New York's, which builds, hosts and maintains customized career centers for client Web sites. CareerEngine divides the IT universe into categories in an effort to conquer the job-search and recruiting market.

There are about 400,000 IT jobs that went unfilled in 2000, and most analysts expect little change in supply or demand in 2001, Ferrara says.

"What's happening now is the second wave," Ferrara says.

"In the first wave you had pure Internet companies. Now you're getting a lot of the brick-and-mortar companies coming to the Internet. They want to protect their revenues, protect their margins. They've been traditionally outsourcing this work, but because some of it is becoming part of the vital infrastructure of these old-world companies, they want to have it internal."


Dot-com demand

It can be argued that Ferrara has to hope the IT job market stays hot -- to keep his CareerEngine running. But he's hardly alone in his assessment about IT jobs.

A survey released in April by the Information Technology Association of America concluded there would be an estimated shortfall of 843,328 skilled workers in the IT industry during the 12 months to follow. The jobs most in demand: technical support representatives, database developers and administrators and programmers, according to the association.

A job posting on advertises an opening for a C++ programmer on a "hip trading floor." The perks listed, in order, are: casual dress, four weeks vacation, free breakfast and lunch, cool people to work with, innovative work space, 401(k) with matching program, corporate pension plan, and "LOVE your job!"

And earlier this month, James Treacy, COO of TMP Worldwide -- which operates the job-hunting Web site -- estimated that one in 12 IT jobs are open worldwide. There are nearly 20,000 open dot-com jobs posted at, he estimates.

And with their talents in such high demand, workers with tech skills will continue to command good salaries. An application developer fresh out of college -- even with no college -- might start at a base pay of $35,000 and be making $60,000 within a year if he or she turns in good work, Ferrara says.

But, he cautions, don't expect to continue seeing excesses in pay and perks. "It will be a good year, but I think what you'll see is an end to some of the ridiculous perks of the past few years," Ferrara says.

"That's starting to weed out a little bit. Especially in the Internet world, they're starting to focus on becoming profitable, and those" -- high IT salaries -- "are some of the first things they're shaving.

They're not all looking for wonder kids who've never been near a campus. An "innovative, rapidly growing, international B2B software and information services firm headquartered in Chicago" is advertising on for a senior Internet application developer with "six or more years of development experience with at least three focused on intranet or Internet development. A related degree from an accredited four-year program is preferred. The candidate must have project experience with Java, Java Server Pages (JSP), Java Script, HTML/DHTML, SQL Server or Oracle, and Visual Source Safe. Must have experience as either project lead and/or technical architect. Experience developing COM/DCOM with Visual Basic and/or C++ is desired."

"Whereas the jobs may be protected, the perks are not. You're not going to get as many raises, as many bonuses. You won't have gobs and gobs of money being thrown around."

That said, salaries have dramatically increased for tech workers in the past five years, Ferrara says.

"What also happened is a lot of bad people were hired simply to fill the positions. Some of them will be weeded out and there will be more pressure on some of the senior producers and senior developers to perform better."

There may also be a trend among IT companies in the coming year to be less generous in allowing techies to telecommute, Ferrara says.

"They actually want to verify what people are working on. If workers are at home, they miss out on the team-building, the quick grab-you-for-a-second meeting.

"More important, a lot of people ask -- especially for production workers like developers and in graphics -- how do you effectively monitor the project and see when somebody is done with it so that you can give them another one?"


Training deals

The training required for these technical jobs varies.

"It really depends on the position and the potential," Ferrara says. "Usually for management positions, they'd look for an undergraduate degree. However, for other strong positions with salaries of upward of $80-grand, they don't care as long as you have the working experience and can show them what you've done."

There are numerous technical schools that offer certification in computer technology. And some IT companies including Microsoft, offer this training in-house. So too does Ferrara's firm, with the caveat that an employee must refund the cost of that training if he or she leaves within a year. That can be as much as $10,000 to $12,000, he says.

graphic As soon as you've said "IT," you've said a mouthful. Information technology is a vast field of sub-categories and specializations. Recruiters and job applicants run through long lists of skill sets, trying to get good matches of applicants and employers. Here's an interactive menu of some key areas in the wider field.

"It's always good to have a paper of certification that you've taken the courses," he says. "But I used to run an IT consulting firm and I've seen so many paper (certifications) that couldn't hold a candle to somebody who didn't have a certification doing it for three years.

It's real-world experience and the ability to learn and the ability to want to learn that counts."


Hitting 'Shift'

With good salaries and plenty of opportunities, some workers are getting the training they need for a mid-career switch to an IT job.

"We have Web editors who want to take classes in HTML or Java," Ferrara says. "We have sales people who are trying to learn that stuff, and they range in age from 26 to 45."

"Sometimes part of the problem is that a lot of the traditional straight-out-of-school IT people you see are young and aggressive, but they aren't seasoned. They aren't really mature."
— Tom Ferrara,

A recent survey conducted by New Horizons Computer Learning Centers found that about half the company's computer training students were taking certification training courses in the hope of making a career change into the IT field. Three-fourths of these students were working outside the IT industry, according to the survey.

The New Horizons survey of its students also found that most were men, between the ages of 30 and 49. And the survey found that women were more likely to be taking computer training to get a better job with their current employer, while men were more apt to do so to obtain a better position with a new company.

We've seen some very successful people who have made mid-career changes into the IT realm," Ferrara says.

"Sometimes part of the problem is that a lot of the traditional straight-out-of-school IT people you see are young and aggressive, but they aren't seasoned. They aren't really mature. So they're the ones you risk losing a lot more than a 40-year-old."



Tech weakness spreading?
December 15, 2000
Workers seek pay equity
December 5, 2000
IT worker shortfall
April 20, 2000

TMP Worldwide
Information Technology Association of America
New Horizons Computer Learning Centers

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