Dull jobs but great opportunities

In the Web-enabled, e-commercial, data-warehoused brave new world of information-technology careers, job seekers who turn up their noses at less trendy positions may be making a huge career misstep.

Although it may seem that opportunity knocks only on the newest doors, plenty of work is still to be found in more pedestrian but no less worthwhile positions located a bit farther from the cutting edge.

For every Java jockey building the perfect browser-based database interface, there are dozens of traditional systems analysts dissecting code and software developers putting mainframes through their paces.

What’s more, they like it that way, said Bill Brannen, director of workplace transformation at Sears, Roebuck and Co. in Hoffman Estates, Ill. “We put the sexy, flashy stuff up on our job-posting system, but the people who are working on the traditional things aren’t flocking to apply for [it],” Brannen said. “Some folks really like to work on assembler programming or production support … I would imagine most people here don’t look at their jobs and think they’re mundane.”

With 1,700 IT employees and a strong recent push into on-line commerce and data mining, Sears offers its share of jobs that push the technology envelope. But the company has a much greater need for people who can do security administration, mainframe programming, quality assurance, desktop PC installation and other tasks that fall squarely in the mainstream of traditional IT.

Put together a Web page showcasing the latest appliances? Sure, OK, there might be an opening. Maybe.

Integrate a software package from PeopleSoft Inc. in Pleasanton, Calif. into the human resources department’s legacy system? You’re hired.

In fact, Brannen said, the backbone of Sears’ IT department is the production support staff. All are professionals with at least three years of experience who are on call around the clock in case a line of code needs repair or a table entry needs correction. The job isn’t glamorous, but it takes unshakable knowledge of a mission-critical system and the presence of mind to be able to fix a crash at 2 a.m. after being pulled out of a sound sleep by an insistent beeper.

At Ameritech Corp., the one-time Baby Bell turned telecommunications giant in suburban Chicago, 90 per cent of all IT hires go into systems development or systems administration. Those focusing too closely on Web development and e-commerce are severely limiting their chances of getting hired, said Renee M. Schneider, the company’s director of staffing for corporate information systems.

“The vast majority of the jobs we hire for are development jobs, traditional mainframe and client/server programmers through systems analysts,” Schneider said. “Right now, out of the 250 job postings we have in IS, only four are groupware and only two are for Web development.”

No, you might not be the envy of your friends when you’re compiling code while they hop aboard Web start-ups. But when they get laid off five times in six months and you’re steadily progressing toward CIO, with plenty of savings in the bank, who’ll be more content?

Fitter is a freelance writer in Brighton, Mass.

Would you recommend this article?


Thanks for taking the time to let us know what you think of this article!
We'd love to hear your opinion about this or any other story you read in our publication.

Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

Featured Download

Previous article
Next article

Featured Articles

Empowering the hybrid workforce: how technology can build a better employee experience

Across the country, employees from organizations of all sizes expect flexibility...

What’s behind the best customer experience: How to make it real for your business

The best customer experience – the kind that builds businesses and...

Overcoming the obstacles to optimized operations

Network-driven optimization is a top priority for many Canadian business leaders...

Thriving amid Canada’s tech talent shortage

With today’s tight labour market, rising customer demands, fast-evolving cyber threats...

Staying protected and compliant in an evolving IT landscape

Canadian businesses have changed remarkably and quickly over the last few...

Related Tech News

Tech Jobs

Our experienced team of journalists and bloggers bring you engaging in-depth interviews, videos and content targeted to IT professionals and line-of-business executives.

Tech Companies Hiring Right Now