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June 4, 2001

Getting the Edge

With more candidates in the job pool this year, you really need to make yourself stand out from the competition. We asked two experts to name the new technologies that will impress even the fussiest hiring manager.

Everyone wants an edge, a particular skill or experience that will shoot them into the career stratosphere.  But which technologies should you concentrate on?  And how do you get the training or experience in them?  To find out, Computerworld spoke with executives at two recruiting firms: Tom Morgan, vice president and director of recruiting operations at Pencom Systems Inc. in New York, and Robert Beauchemin, president and CEO of CNC Global Ltd. in Toronto.

Can you forecast any new business strategies, competitive issues or economic factors that will affect technology investments, thus influencing which technologies would be best to train for?
Morgan: The business trend I see is real-time access to information, whether it's inventory, the supply chain or financial statements.  Venture capitalists are still pouring a lot of money into companies that can help provide the infrastructure that makes real-time access possible - storage, network management, optical networking, wireless applications and handheld devices.
Beauchemin: There will be continuing investment in technology, but most companies will take a more cautious approach in terms of balancing time to market.  Employers will be willing to wait another week and find a person with a 95% fit rather than a 75% fit, as in the past.   That being the case, it's important for technology workers to round out their experience level and not be all that specialized.  For instance, it's not enough to be a good programmer - you have to have creativity or adaptability to new concepts.

Which emerging technologies will be most in demand by employers in the next couple of years?
Any technology that enables information to flow in the most expedient manner, like embedded systems technology.  Some examples are a flight navigation system or a point-of-sale system or a control arm on a vehicle, where the instructions for what the system should do are embedded in the code.  Data centers are becoming more important, and storage technologies are becoming critical because of the large amounts of data.  Networking and network management are also a key piece, especially optical networking, in order to increase the bandwidth and speed to carry this information.  I'd also include wireless and handhelds and things like that.   Real-time access also depends on effectively and efficiently transacting over the Internet, which leads to security issues - another hot area. We're seeing more of a need for people who can write security measures into the application code.
Beauchemin: WAP [Wireless Application Protocol] applications are hot.  We also see a lot of demand for wireless LANs.  You might laugh at this, but good old project management is also in demand.  There are never enough project managers, and finding good ones is always challenging.   Another technology growing in demand is electronic bill presentment and payment.  Underlying technologies like XML help standardize the exchange of documentation that is involved.

And there are a lot of collaborative applications.  This requires programmers to have some business-level skills: "How do I take Java programming skills and get a collaborative result?"   Which types of companies do you see investing in these emerging technologies and for what purposes?
Morgan: Pretty much every single company out there will find [real-time data access] the key to success, but in no area is it more notable than in financial services.  If you were a portfolio manager and wanted to evaluate the history and qualifications of a particular fund across any number of variables, that's information you would want immediate access to.  When the market shifts, the ability to quickly give traders information to execute a trade could literally mean the difference of millions of dollars.
Beauchemin: You have to look at companies with innovation written all over them.  Clearly airlines, financial institutions and e-tailers have been advanced users of technology.  WAP technology could be useful for anyone from a railroad to a high-tech company.  Peer-to-peer networking would be useful to a manufacturer with a large supply chain. 

How will training in these emerging technologies affect the IT worker's career?
Morgan: Certification and training are not necessarily the main criteria that these companies use to evaluate candidates.  companies are looking for people with practical experience, even if it's somewhat limited.  People with good technical skills can parlay their existing skills and adaptability and assertive personality into opportunities like these.  If they do, they won't be sorry.
Beauchemin: It's one thing to have the technology wherewithal.  It's much better to be able to transfer that technobabble to business conversations and translate it into valuable business propositions.  

Do you have any suggestions for how IT workers can best identify emerging technologies and get training to poise themselves for a career boost?
Morgan: [When looking for a job], people need to be willing to compromise a little bit in terms of the total package they're seeking [in order to gain experience with these new technologies].  If they do, there will be tremendous opportunities down the road, and doors will open for them. It's a short-term sacrifice for a long-term gain.
Beauchemin: The challenge with emerging technologies is that training may or may not exist for them.  If you try to look today at peer-to-peer computing, there are no books written about it at this moment.  It takes a person with curiosity and the mind to look at the technology and see how it's appropriate for the enterprise.  They have to be up on the Internet and read specialized magazines and do a lot of research in their spare time on, for instance, how well electronic bill presentment technology works.

Brandel is a freelance writer in Newton, Mass.

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Published at 20:02

11 March 2011

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