OPINION What skill sets are companies hiring for? If you think it’s cloud computing and big data, you may be surprised

A tale of two buzzwords
The data is in from our 2012 ComputerWorld Salary Survey. Almost 5,000 IT pros have answered questions on pay and prospects, and I’ve been living the pivot table dream for the last week.
 
I can’t give too much away — read it in the print version, Chester — but the survey was instructional in the area of what skills companies are looking to hire for. Compare that to the buzz in the industry, and you’ll note a substantial disconnect.
 
Read an industry journal, a random press release from a vendor or an industry association, and the likelihood is you’ll see one of two buzzwords: cloud computing or big data. (Yes, I understand they’re actually phrases, not words. But “buzzphrases” isn’t nearly as catchy.)
 
Cloud computing and big data skills are all that’s in demand, you might think, and we’re just as guilty as the next outlet of perpetuating this meme. According to our survey … well, not so much.
 
First up, some “good” news. Forty-five per cent of IT pros surveyed said their companies intend to hire new IT staff in the next 12 months, compared to 36 per cent who said theirs don’t. As good news goes, it could be better. Perhaps file that under “meh.”
 
And of those looking to hire, what skills are they looking for? Cloud and big data, right?
 
Not so much.
 
No. 1 on the list, at 57 per cent, was applications development. To be fair, it’s a perennial favourite, perhaps more so now given the market for mobile applications.
 
Other in-demand skills? Meat-and-potatoes favourites like help desk and tech support (39 per cent) and general IT functions in multiple areas (28 per cent). All hail the generalist.
 
Cloud computing (21 per cent) didn’t crack the top five in-demand skill sets. Database analysis and devlopment (31 per cent) and business intelligence (29 per cent), both big-data-related skillsets, did.
 
This suggests a couple of things, IMHO. (Apropos nothing, am I the only one who always reads the “humble” part of that abbreviation as irony?) When various organization talk about a skills gap in IT (and they do), much of it is in the bread-and-butter, generalist skill sets, not necessarily the higher profile, specialist disciplines (SOA? 11 per cent).
 
It also suggests that big data is surpassing cloud computing, at minimum as a fixation, but probably as a genuine enterprise skill set need.
 
The focus on generalists could also reflect a stall in hiring related to the economic morasse we’ve been sucked into by Europe and the U.S., a keep-the-lights-on mentality among IT organizations.
 
Whatever the case, it’s a good time to be an IT generalist. Your career path starts here.
 
Disagree? The comment box is right below.
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