IT workers’ Top 4 dream employers

Companies often talk about their “dream” IT job candidate, the type of worker they’d most like to have on their staffs. But what about the IT workers themselves? What type of company are they most interested in?

Computerworld (U.S.) asked 431 IT workers where they dream of working someday. Here are the four companies that came out on top, along with snapshots of what type of environment IT workers will find themselves in if one of their wishes does come true and they do end up working at one of these “dream” employers:

1. Google

Don’t let the lava lamps, free gourmet lunches, massage chairs and foosball tables fool you — the fast-paced, unstructured work environment at Google Inc. is anything but casual. Google expects you to come to work with energy, passion, creativity and the willingness to put ideas into practice at what it calls “dizzying speed.”

“Googlers” need to enjoy stretching themselves beyond their comfort zones — not even “great” is good enough, according to the company. No wonder software engineers are offered “20 per cent time” within their regular work schedules to explore their passions. Employees work on small, focused teams, with a diversity of cube mates, including former neurosurgeons, alligator wrestlers and Marines.

Search is just one of Google’s focuses; it also needs people with backgrounds in information retrieval, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, distributed computing, large-scale system design, networking, security, data compression and user interface design.

The company is hiring software engineers and “diverse, upbeat, creative, team-oriented” engineering operations staffers to work in areas such as data center operations, engineering management, hardware operations, intranet systems, operations/IT, partner solutions, technical writing and Web systems.

2. IBM

Despite its size and legacy, IBM Corp. doesn’t want to be seen as a “grey, faceless corporation” but as an “ideas company” that nurtures a culture of support, inclusion and collaboration. An ideal employee, according to the company, is a “problem-solver, decision-maker, innovator, analytics ace, agent of change ready to make our planet work smarter.”

To its credit, the company has worked to become less hierarchical. For instance, it has introduced online “jams,” where all employees are invited to brainstorm on issues and initiatives.

Still, taking a job at IBM means accepting a certain amount of bureaucracy and “administrivia,” according to members of Glassdoor, an online community that claims to offer a “free inside look at jobs and companies.” However, people who visit Glassdoor also laud IBM’s benefits package, work-from-home options and training programs (employees average 60 hours of training per year).

Opportunities extend across IBM’s consulting, research and technology units. Through 2015, major areas of focus will include analytics, cloud computing and emerging markets, as well as the company’s “smarter planet” initiative, which tackles pressing social issues such as energy production, climate change, traffic congestion and health care. Technology-focused applicants are also expected to have teamwork, social, communication, number-crunching and analytic skills.

3. Microsoft

Admit it. You just want to play on the Microsoft campus, which offers retail shops, sports fields, 11 restaurants, 33 cafes and 37 espresso stations. Or is it the 100 per cent healthcare coverage, gym membership or famed employee discounts you’re after?

Be warned: You’ll work hard to earn all of those perks. From the moment you begin Microsoft Corp.’s famously rigorous interview process, you’ll realize that the company expects a lot of its employees. And once you’re hired, you’ll be rubbing shoulders with people who are as ambitious, competitive and highly intelligent as you are, if not more so.

Opportunities at Microsoft go way beyond software, spanning games, phones, developer tools, business systems, online services and operating systems.

There is some grumbling on that things at Microsoft move more slowly than the creative workforce would like. However, the company claims that it hasn’t lost its individualistic, entrepreneurial ethos.

And Microsoft employees do enjoy lots of freedom in terms of work hours and dress code. As the company’s Web site says: “You have your own style; we expect you to bring it.” That extends to how you think — during the interview, be ready to explain how you came up with a technical issue or design question.

4. Apple

Perfectionist, idealist, inventor: If this describes you, then Apple might be your dream employer — but only if you don’t mind the pressure to deliver original thinking every day. The culture encourages employees to question everything, continually raise the bar and deliver something “astounding.”

Employees tout Apple Inc.’s generous health benefits, the social and collaborative nature of the workplace and the energy that goes into building products and creating experiences that many around the world are excited about. A downside is Apple’s famed culture of secrecy, which isn’t for everyone.

In IT, Apple needs collaborative problem-solvers who can manage business issues like online ordering, the retail experience and global network capacity. Key areas include software development, network architecture, information security and systems engineering.

On the product side, the company seeks innovative, creative, boundary-pushing hardware engineers, as well as self-motivated, ambitious, team-playing software engineers and project managers.

Expertise is needed in protocol stack development, wireless systems architecture, location technologies, telephony software engineering, mobile applications and frameworks engineering. As a software engineer, be prepared to work with a diverse group of people that could include musicians, filmmakers and digital artists.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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