Is your IT job safe?
By Deb Perelman
The U.S. economy appears to be hovering on the edge of a downturn. What IT skills will be
at greatest risk? Will IT departments be leveled, as they were during the dot-com bust? e WEEK asked
experts in the field to rate the security—and insecurity—of different facets of the IT department.
NETWORKING SKILLS can come up when there is over- SYSTEMS ADMINISTRATORS
As the IT department has become sight.” Virtualization may put many
increasingly responsible for support- systems administrators out of
ing a remote work force through IT SECURITY SPECIALISTS work in the long run, but a reces-
BlackBerrys, Treos and Ensuring IT security is non- sion could speed this process up.
other smart phones, negotiable in enterprises. IT security “Virtualization and other soft-the need for network- is “not just a nice-to-have technol- ware management technologies
ing skills has become ogy, but one that is will help reduce the number of
nonnegotiable. mission-critical,” said people who need to man the
“Networking skills Yoh Services’ Lanza- machine,” said Forrester’s Bartels.
had been No. 2 in lotto.
previous hiring index results and “Companies—espe- IT MANAGERS
recently took over top position,” said cially those within What will put any IT manager’s
Cameron Heffernan, a recruiter for the financial indus- neck on the line is redundan-
Robert Half Technology. try—are not going to cut back on cies, as these are the first things
IT security,” said Spherion’s Gary. companies cut when
BUSINESS-FACING ROLES they have to scale
Even in a recession, companies CONSULTANTS back their spending.
need to grow and keep their custom- On the one hand, consultants “[Companies are] not
ers happy, said Jim Lanzalotto, vice could be brought in to fill gaps if going to have two
president of strategy and market- full-time employees are laid off. But or three individuals
ing for Yoh Services, a talent and Forrester Research analyst Andrew doing a job if they can
outsourcing company. Project roles Bartels warned that CIOs are very avoid it,” said Technology Business
related to customers and company reluctant to cut full-time staff— Research analyst Josh Farina.
growth are “less susceptible to reces- especially employees who work on
sion angst,” Lanzalotto said. R&D—which means scaling back HELP DESK
“We’re projecting even higher IT on special projects and the consul- CIOs will look to positions that
requirements in meeting business tants who work on them instead. have historically been susceptible to
priorities,” Lanzalotto said. “We’re offshoring. “[CIOs will] be asking,
seeing much more effort around IT/ LEGACY PROGRAMMERS ‘Can we outsource? Can we get it for
business projects and less around A recession could be just what it a lower cost?’ With so much help
operations.” takes to get enterprises to expedite and support services being offshored,
plans to move past systems that there is a lot of risk in these roles,”
QUALITY ASSURANCE TESTING cost too much for what they are Farina said.
Companies cannot afford to delivering.
put out faulty products. “As we “It is fairly clear to us that those YOU
continue to develop more and that are the most vulnerable are Don’t fall within any of the cat-more products, they have to be involved in upgrading or main- egories above? Multifaceted, skilled
tested,” said Greg Gary, manag- taining assets that are beyond pros—such as tech generalists who
ing director for Spherion. “There their period of depreciation, such can call on skills in a large number of
was no bigger scare than Y2K, as legacy systems,” said Gartner areas—are much more marketable
[and that showed] problems that analyst Andrew Walker. than those who work within a niche.