The IT landscape is everchanging, and as the U.S. economy wrestles with a weak housing market and record oil prices, perhaps surprisingly, demand for talented IT professionals is still growing.
The key to getting hired is dominating one of the handful of skills that are in high demand. We talked with more than a dozen technical recruiters, CIOs, and other industry professionals and asked them what they predict are going to be the seven hottest IT skills are for 2008. Here's what they had to say.
"Cheap bandwidth, expensive power, and better technology together add up to a huge drive to consolidate systems, and businesses with multiple locations are realizing the benefits of consolidating systems to a single data center," says Matt Hyatt, owner of Rocket IT based in Atlanta. "Other organizations are discovering, through the magic of virtualization, that multiple applications can often share a single server. Businesses love consolidation because it saves money and usually makes things simpler. That's why technology workers skilled at merging and simplifying complex systems will be gobbled up this year like cashiers at Christmas-time."
2. Web 2.0 Development
As companies continue to increase their investments in web initiatives, demand is red-hot for individuals skilled in AJAX, PHP, and Microsoft's .Net Framework, says Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director at Robert Half Technology in Menlo Park, California.
Programmers skilled in .Net can command a 10 percent premium over those who lack it. Expertise in .Net is valued in such positions as web developer or designer and software developer or engineer. Flash is another powerful skill for your portfolio. "The biggest increase in demand I've ever seen for a particular skill in my ten years of recruiting is Flash programmers," says Tyler Townes, senior technical recruiter at MySpace and Fox Interactive Media (News Corporation). "Flash programmers are going to be in very, very high demand," he says. Job hunters with solid OOP skills in Java, C#, and C++, along with DBA skills in Oracle, DB2, and SQL Server are assured of employment, now and in 2013, says Arne Vajhoej, architect at GTECH.
3. Unified Messaging
In 2008, there are more ways than ever to send and receive messages. Office voicemail, wireless voicemail, email, instant messages, and faxes all compete for our time and, until recently, required a separate device or application to use. Modern workers demand flexibility and speed—they want the ability to quickly send and receive messages from whatever device they happen to have handy. "A huge opportunity exists for IT experts that can build and support device-neutral systems that make it easy to access message content," says Hyatt.
IT security may be as old as computing itself, but it's a skill that will never go out of style. And, right now, the demand for security talent is outweighing the supply. "The T.J. Maxx security breach last year and the Harvard breach just last month drove home the point that massive amounts of sensitive information are still obscenely vulnerable to theft," explains Mike Gavette of All Staffing, Inc. "These virtual break-ins are leading to stricter enforcement of information protection and IT professionals with a solid understanding of the vulnerabilities and proactive knowledge of countermeasures will have highly valued skills in 2008," says Gavette.
5. Collaboration Technology
MOSS 2007, short for Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007, topped the list of most in demand skills of almost all the recruiters we talked to. "With new functionality beyond that of former versions of SharePoint, and all the hype surrounding said enhancements, consultants with as little as 6 months of experience with MOSS are garnering astronomical rates," says Carol Dorethy, recruiter at TEKsystems based in Houston. IT professional search recruiter, Joseph Wohrer agrees that MOSS 2007 is hot. But he feels those who have experience with previous releases are also in demand. "Companies are looking for high-end professionals, 10-15 years with overall MS experience, including the in-depth MOSS," explains Wohrer.
6. Business Acumen
Technology has become more complicated than ever. That's why it's no longer enough just to be a computer whiz. Successful IT professionals must be able to understand the business problems that drive change and deliver solutions that solve those problems quickly, and economically. "More and more companies want there professionals to be able to talk to both non-technical and technical resources, translate the requirements, and take them back to their associated projects," says Wohrer. Scott Whitten, service improvement manager at Dimension Data explains it by saying, "In most IT organizations, there is no more room for the people who are technical geniuses but cannot communicate with people. But if they have a broad set of skills and a teachable spirit, I will take a quality individual and teach them what they need to know to be successful." Hyatt completes the picture by revealing, "Find a computer whiz that truly understands business, and you've got somebody that will always have work."
7. Troubleshooting/Technical Support
Troubleshooting may not sound new or fancy. That's because it isn't. But people who can fix problems are always in demand. "Workers rely on a dizzying array of applications, devices, and services that often depend on one another so a small problem has real potential to wreck somebody's day," says Hyatt. "As long as the term 'downtime' exists, people that can troubleshoot and solve problems will continue to be hired in droves," declares Hyatt.