Windows, Cisco networking top IT skills for 2006

Microsoft Windows administration and Cisco network management have emerged as two of the hottest technology skills predicted for 2006.

The latest IT employment and salary research by Robert Half Technology and Foote Partners LLC seeks to pin the most sought-after skills for this year’s IT growth.Robert Half Technology rates Windows administration, SQL Server management, wireless network management and Cisco network administration as the year’s most sought-after skills.Text

Robert Half Technology, based on its survey of 270 Canadian CIOs, rates Windows administration, SQL Server management, wireless network management and Cisco network administration as the year’s most sought-after skills.

Similarly, Cisco networking, voice over IP and wireless management have been identified by Foote Partners’ as the leading infrastructure expertise areas for 2006.

The New Canaan, Conn.-based company monitors skills and salary trends across 50,000 IT workers, mainly in North America.

On the cool side, demand for Novell’s Netware and IBM Lotus Notes is shrinking.

ATM switching (asynchronous transfer mode) and IBM’s Simple Network Architecture (SNA) have turned cold.

Enterprise data management is one of the most in-demand infrastructure jobs. Foote Partners also identified SQL Server among its hot technical skills, with salary growth of more than 10 per cent over six months.

Network security improvements remain critical and CIOs are looking for individuals with enterprise capabilities in assessing network vulnerabilities, virus protection and intrusion detection.

“Companies want to keep control of core infrastructure systems,” says David Foote, president and chief research officer for Foote Partners.

“They want the best network management and network operations people possible because, with so much business going online, from a sales and support point of view, they can’t afford to have the systems not working.”

Network management, network engineering, systems engineering and maintenance jobs have experienced increases in demand as companies began bringing these services back in-house, says Foote.

A host of in-demand skills

Project-level security and risk assessment, VoIP, storage area networks, gigabit Ethernet, Websphere, Oracle database and RFID skills have been and are expected to continue paying above average salaries.

Some of the other in-demand jobs identified for the next 12 months are network managers, wireless engineers, security analysts, disaster recovery specialists, systems integrators, storage administrators and system auditors.

Businesses are engaging in a massive drive to upgrade their systems from early Windows NT Server versions to Windows 2000 and 2003, says Geoffrey Thompson, division director for Robert Half Technology in Ottawa.

“Because Microsoft no longer supports Windows NT, people are really having to get their machines up to at least Windows 2000 or 2003, and most are going to 2003,” says Thompson. “This migration and upkeep of systems is showing a lot of activity.”

Hiring as a whole within the market is on the rise, says Thompson, both on a contract basis and full-time employment.

The majority of Robert Half Technology’s offices are working with clients to fill engagements on a permanent basis. “We haven’t seen that in many years,” he says.

“When companies are willing to pay fees in order to bring people in on a permanent basis, it’s a good indication that the market is strong.”

Robert Half’s IT employment outlook finds companies are accelerating the hiring process and resizing their compensation packages towards more efficient recruitment and retention.

Soft skills a must-have

To really get ahead in IT, however, Foote Partners has determined that jobs will require a suitable blend of technology skills and business acumen.

These hybrid professionals will mix internally focused technology skills with externally focused operations and customer skills. The survey sites a Gartner prediction that 60 per cent of corporate IT professionals will have evolved to business-facing roles within five years.

Companies are looking for people with enterprise project management skills, specific business practices and mature knowledge of business processes, says Foote.

“Particularly when they’re working with customers, businesses are working quickly and trying to be more agile,” says Foote.

“Some of the markets opening up might only have a window of opportunity for two or three months, so they need IT people who come into the business with a certain amount of intuition and knowledge about the business.”

For certified technical skills, Foote Partners says the highest growth figures are being experienced for the Certified Information Systems Auditor, CompTIA Network Technician, Sun Certified Systems Administrator and CompTIA Linux-plus.

Cisco’s Certified Network Professional is cooling, but Cisco has a slew of more specific certifications holding their own in the industry, among them Security Professional, Voice Professional, Internetwork Expert and Design Professional.

Other strong accreditation includes Citrix Certified Enterprise Administrator, HP-Compaq Master Systems Engineer and SANS GIAC Security Expert.

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