If you really want to know what IT skills are especially hot, having a chat with someone whose livelihood depends on knowing what skills are in greatest demand and knowing how to find people who possess them often gives you the best picture.
I recently did just that when I spoke with Jeff Remis, national IT practice manager at Addison Group, a Chicago-based staffing and recruitment firm that specializes in IT. According to Remis, data analytics and transaction security are where it’s at.
I asked Remis if he had to identify the one IT skill that’s in highest demand among his clients—and that’s most difficult for him to find—what it would be. He responded without having to ponder the question:
A lot of roles in the highest demand are roles in the big data space—primarily database analysts, administrators and architects. That also includes business intelligence developers, analysts, and report writers, and people in the data warehouse arena. I’d say half of the positions we have open right now—and this has been consistent for at least the past six months—are either in the big data arena, or asking for people with big data experience, whether it’s a project manager or project analyst, that have come from big data projects. … Companies are investing very heavily in how they capture, store, analyze, protect, and even utilize their data. With this information, organizations that we work with want as much information on their customers as they can get in order to solve complex business problems.
Another “very highly coveted skill,” Remis said, is intrusion detection:
The landscape is really starting to change in the payment card industry. Ever since the Target breach occurred, more and more security breaches are popping up in the news. I have been asking a lot of the organizations that we work with, primarily in the financial and e-commerce spaces, if they have any plans to invest in security. The response is, “Yes, yes, yes.” When, and how much, is all being sorted out now. Some of our managers are saying, “I hope these things are 2014 initiatives, but they could be more 2015 initiatives.” An example would be one of the retail banks that we work with. They’re doubling the number of PCI [Payment Card Industry] specialists on their security team. Another e-commerce organization we work with, that does a couple billion dollars in revenue a year, is doubling, and possibly tripling, their security budget. All of this ties into the mobile world, because everyone is using tablets and mobile devices to make purchases.
I asked Remis if we could debunk any myths. For example, are there any particular skills that are generally perceived to be in high demand, that really aren’t? He was willing to go out on a limb with his response:
I don’t know that the world would agree with me—I know there’s this big push for mobile technology and mobile app development. But it’s not necessarily building the applications to be used on the mobile side. I think we just need much heavier security around mobile applications. So the myth would be that there are not enough mobile developers. I don’t think that’s the case. I think the case is there’s not enough emphasis on mobile security. This all ties into people using their devices now to make purchases. We’re not hearing about it as much now, but application security within the mobile space is going to be big.
I asked Remis what programming languages are especially hot right now. He said at Addison, .Net technologies seem to be where they have the highest demand, and not enough qualified people to meet it:
Finally, I asked Remis if any particular skilled positions that he’s finding need to rely on workers from other countries here on H-1B visas to fill. He said he has found that to be true:
I usually work with organizations that can afford people that have at least seven to 10 years of experience in the United States. So when I typically look at an H-1B visa holder, I’m not concerned about that H-1B. It’s a matter of whether they’ve been in the country long enough to be Americanized to the way we write code and the way we run projects. As far as certain skills, primarily I see it in these niche technologies, like a WebLogic Server admin, and a lot of SAP people—SAP ERP, Oracle E-Business Suite. These are very challenging technologies to pick up, and I do feel that universities in other parts of the world can equip these students, and these prospective candidates, with the right tools to pick this stuff up quickly. They’re open to travel, as well, and they’re open to contract-based work, and that’s primarily where these roles are. They’re usually in oddball locations where there’s not 100 people looking for work at one time.