How to win the battle for network talent


FRAMINGHAM – Numerous sources have reported that the number of available technology jobs is on the rise but there are fewer workers available to fill them, creating a market where technology professionals are in a position to demand better salaries and perks. Network professionals are among the most in demand, and, with the right skill sets, they can ask for and receive higher-than- average salaries and benefit packages. Technology companies looking for network professionals must become more resourceful and creative in how they find and hire talent.

At Dice, a technology-jobs Web site, postings have more than doubled since mid-2004 to more than 90,000 technology jobs at the end of March 2007.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, technology unemployment is at its lowest level since 2000. Unemployment for computer and mathematics workers was 2.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2006 as compared with the overall economy, which saw a 4.5 percent unemployment rate during the same period.

Hot network jobs in 2007 This growth and expansion is coming at a time when fewer computer-science majors are graduating from colleges and universities and baby-boomer technology professionals are retiring in waves.

The industry also continues to suffer from misperceptions left over from the technology downturn. Nontechnology professionals often assume that thousands of technology jobs are lost every day to India, and isolated IT professionals labor away at workstations entering product code for hours. These concepts could not be further from the truth. It’s no wonder the technology market is witnessing a low level of interest and influx of new blood.

All of these factors create a perfect storm of a technology worker’s ideal job market. Some of the industry growth can be attributed to the numerous IT projects that were dormant during the technology downturn. Now that IT budgets have been unshackled, CIOs have the capital to fund their system upgrades and other transition projects — but they need qualified technology professionals to do so.

There is strong demand for systems engineers, systems administrators, network administrators, security analysts, and network and systems architects — which further illustrates that companies need qualified technology professionals to support their network-upgrade projects.

When it comes to network-specific jobs, the skills that are in demand include TCP/IP, wireless, WAN, routers, network engineering, firewalls and VoIP. The high demand for these types of network skills, which represent the broad spectrum of the technology sector, illustrates the overall need for technology professionals with a core understanding of networks.

Although there is a demand for more specialized skills, such as SMTP, frame relay and PBX, these skills are not the drivers of industry growth. The demand for these highly specialized skills significantly lags behind their broader counterparts.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Network professionals with specialized skills are less likely to be outsourced and are in a better position to ask for top salaries.

Salaries continue to be the driving force in the technology job market and are on the rise again after a period of downturn. Hiring companies must focus on their ability to offer competitive and fair-market salaries for technology professionals.

In our 2006 annual salary survey, Dice users reported a 5.2 percent overall increase in technology salaries to US$73,308.

Although network professionals trailed some of their database and operating-system counterparts, they still commanded salaries above or on par with the national average.

However, other related top skills saw a significantly lower average salary: VPN ($72,101), T-1/T-3 ($71,839) and telephony ($71,829). The lowest-paying network skills on the survey included network interface cards ($65,226) and cabling ($64,307).

Hiring companies that meet this market demand for higher salaries ultimately will be in a better position to find and retain top talent. But as the availability of technology professionals continues to decline, CIOs and recruitment managers must be prepared to offer comprehensive benefits packages that illustrate how the company values its IT employees.

Companies that support the continued training and certification of technology employees will keep their skills current, and enhancements to their professional development will benefit everyone. Employees with the latest skills will provide increased value to their employers, and the training benefit will entice them to remain in their current positions. In addition to reimbursing employees for professional courses or permitting time off to attend courses, companies can reward employees who gain new skills on a monetary basis.

Network jobs are part of the trend toward a full recovery of the economy and technology job market. Companies that understand these market conditions and are fully prepared to meet the demands of industry will be in a better position to win the recruitment war for technology talent.

SIDEBAR Skill and 2006 average salary.

(All figures in US dollars)

SOAP: $89,243

Web servers: $74,317

VPN: $72,101

T-I/T-3: $71,839

Telephony: $71,829

WAN: $71,155

TCP/IP: $70,489

Gateways: $70,418

Firewalls: $70,087

Wireless: $69,446

Switching: $68,730

Ethernet: $68,467

LAN: $68,095

Routers: $67,561

Hubs: $67,187

NIC: $65,226

Cabling: $64,307


Melland is president and CEO of Dice. He can be reached at [email protected].

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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