Ignite Your Career: Virtual tech, social nets and what skills will be in demand

Are you getting your office apps from the cloud rather than a wrapped package? Was your last office meeting held online instead of in a conference room? Is your work PC actually your personal laptop?

Social networking trends, technology designed to appeal to consumers and developments in virtual technology are fueling a slow but steady decentralization of IT in workplace, according to panelist of the first installment of Microsoft’s Ignite Your Career Webcast series.  The series, presented in collaboration with IT World Canada, features various industry experts who discuss trends and development in the technology industry and provide insights on how IT professionals can further their careers.

“Social networking technology has taught us that what’s going on outside the corporate environment will eventually affect the office workspace,” said Jay Payette, a technology and management consultant currently working on systems integration at Accenture’s Ottawa office.

These and other technology developments will shape the IT professional of the future, he said.

Payette and other panelists were discussing how the microblogging site Twitter, primarily used by individuals to provide real-time updates on their personal activities has been adopted by the corporate world.

The social networking tool for instance, is being used by Rogers Communications Inc. to handle customer complaints and by a sandwich chain to field orders, according to Richard Campbell, co-founder of Strangeloop Networks Inc., a Vancouver-based building appliances that accelerate ASP.Net.

“If you want someone from Rogers to fix your problem right away, contact tech support through Twitter and there’ll be several people contacting you back right away.”

While the outside is coming in, the push to cut down cost and drive up productivity are also allowing office-bound technology to shake of its shackles, according to Lee Jacobs, program director for labour marketing information at the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC).

“There are various applications that are dovetailing with the teleworking trend and are now producing huge opportunities for enhanced productivity,” he said.

The increasing use of notebooks and other mobile computing and communication devices such as smartphones hooked up to corporate networks are evolving workplace IT practices and rules especially around security, Jacobs said. For example, some organization allow workers to customize computers or bring in their own laptops under a corporate bring your own computer program provided that the machine is partitioned to enable a firewalled work-only portion.

Campbell of Strangeloops Networks agrees. He sees this phenomenon in the soon to be released Microsoft Windows 7 operating system (OS) which has a drastically trimmed down footprint compared to its predecessor Windows Vista. “I think Windows 7 is the first Microsoft OS that focused on the telecommuter.”

Career moves

The panelists said that these trends, as well as virtual technology developments, have a direct impact on how IT departments operate and tech skills that will be in demand in the near future.

“Virtualization and cloud technology comes with a very strong business case, because all of sudden it has turned something like data servers into a fixed cost,” said Payette of Accenture. “Now IT managers and corporations have to contend with dealing with the security and perhaps legal repercussions data and applications travelling across the board or even continent.”

For instance, social networking site Facebook, which is based in the U.S., had to alter is privacy policies due to pressure from the Canadian government.

From a strictly technical island, the IT department is being stretched to include issues such as business benefits, marketing and compliance regulations.

In the coming years, the panelists said, IT professionals who understand how technology can best serve an organization’s business, marketing and compliance needs will continue to be in high demand despite economic downturns.
Lee of ICTC said the top four in-demand positions in IT are still:

• Computer analyst
• Business analyst
• Managers
• Software engineers

“But now there is greater emphasis on soft skills,” Lee said.

An IT professional needs to how the company makes money, how IT can help towards that goal and how to communicate IT’s benefits to his business counterpart, he added.

IT professionals who are knowledgeable in virtualization, cloud technology and social media tools will be in high demand, Payette said.

“With these developments come the need for new policies, compliance regulations and practices,” Campbell said. “The IT professional who is technically proficient and can still master these other areas won’t find it hard to get a job.”




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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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