Outmanoeuvre before you

If you work in data centre operations, at the help desk of an IT call centre, or as a programmer for an aging coding language like COBOL, it might be time to consider a new career path, according to a former Forrester Research analyst.

With the increasing trend toward consolidation and outsourcing in the IT industry, the need for entry and intermediate level IT jobs is quickly evaporating. Laurie Orlov, principal analyst and head at LMO Insight, said that IT pros currently working in data centres might be some of the first to feel the effects of consolidation.

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“Internal IT in a consolidating world isn’t going to be the best place in the data centre,” Orlov, who also spent nine years as a vice-president and principal analyst at Forrester, said. “Running around loading back-ups onto servers and that sort of thing is going to be subject to consolidation.”

But according to Haresh Daswani, a team lead and sales manager at Toronto-based IT staffing firm Sapphire Technologies Canada Ltd., data centre consolidation may actually create new roles for IT professionals to pursue.

“We’ve seen increasingly demand for folks that can architect these consolidated data centres,” he said. “Network architects that consolidate back-end applications as well as overall enterprise architects have grown by 30 per cent across Canada.”

Orlov agreed, saying that IT pros working in the data centre should look into picking up knowledge on automation software and how to manage multiple systems.

The impact of outsourcing, however, isn’t up for debate. Outsourcing has already been seen at the help desks and call centres for many major Canadian enterprises. But Orlov said that it won’t stop there and warned that IT operations jobs — especially ones without a strong career path — may also be on the chopping block.

“People who set up and configure laptops and PCs in IT are not in a hot field right now,” she added. “Programming jobs for third or fourth generation programming languages should also not be a career path of choice.”

Daswani added that mainframe developers have become a dying breed in recent years.

Exact matches only

While Orlov acknowledged the highly publicized IT skills shortage, she indicated that many of the unfilled jobs are highly technical or senior management roles. She said that recruiters are often unwilling to settle for anything less than an exact match when looking to hire.

“Rather than send somebody out for the appropriate amount of SAP training that they need, employers are looking for that SAP expert that can hit the ground running,” she said. “It really is a field of people with toolkits, and in their toolkits they have the most current skills that they need in order to have the greatest degree of flexibility in their career. But if they let their tools rust, they might find themselves under-qualified.”

Orlov said that many established IT employees allow themselves to get closely associated with one company and lose their flexibility and mobility. “They need to try and stay prepared and pick up additional skills, so if they are downsized they will be able move,” she added.

Follow the customers

For junior IT workers who feel their IT career may be headed down the wrong path, Orlov suggested that these professionals seek out additional IT training whenever possible and embrace multiple responsibilities and hybrid positions.

“The closer you get to the customers, the higher degree of the risk, and the more likely that those jobs are never going to be outsourced,” she said. “So you want to figure out a way to get jobs that are associated with managing risk and security, architecture type roles, virtualization, and designing plans for making an employee base more mobile.”

On the security side, Daswani indicated that Sapphire Canada has tracked a significant increase in security administrators over the last two years. “It’s a critical area that will continue to grow as information systems become more strategic,” he added.

Daswani also indicated that his staffing firm is seeing continued demand among enterprises for Web developers. Java and .Net developers are still hugely in demand, as businesses keep exploring new initiatives and strategies around Web development, he said.

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