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Wet feet press the wetfeet insider guide to careers in information technology ebook lib

Insider
ider Guide
G

The WetFeet Insider
Guide to Careers in
Information
Technology
2004 Edition

Helping you make smarter career decisions.


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Insider Guide

The WetFeet Insider
Guide to Careers in
Information
Technology
2004 Edition

Helping you make smarter career decisions.


WetFeet Inc.
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The WetFeet Insider Guide to Careers in Information Technology
ISBN: 1-58207-328-7
Photocopying Is Prohibited
Copyright 2003 WetFeet, Inc. All rights reserved. This publication is protected by
the copyright laws of the United States of America. No copying in any form is
permitted. It may not be reproduced, distributed, stored in a retrieval system, or
transmitted in any form or by any means, in part or in whole, without the express
written permission of WetFeet, Inc.

Copyright 2003 WetFeet, Inc.


Table of Contents
Information Technology at a Glance. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
The Role . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Opportunity Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
The Bottom Line . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Trends in the Field. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Breakdown of Industries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Skills and Education. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
Certification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
Salaries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
IT Lingo. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25

On the Job . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
Creative Positions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
Engineering Positions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
Support Positions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
Sales, PR, and Marketing Positions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
Real People Profiles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48

Copyright 2003 WetFeet, Inc.


The Workplace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67
Lifestyle and Culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68
Hours . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69
Diversity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70
Compensation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70
Travel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72
Vacations and Perks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72
Career Path. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
Insider Scoop . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76

Getting Hired. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79
The Recruiting Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
Interviewing Tips. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83
Grilling Your Interviewer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84

For Your Reference . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87
Recommended Reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88
Job Boards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90
Certification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91

Copyright 2003 WetFeet, Inc.


At a Glance

Information Technology at a
Glance
Opportunity Overview

• The majority of IT workers work for non-IT companies. Job opportunities
exist in every industry, from the U.S. government, to the Red Cross, to the
bank down the street.
• Paid internships and co-op positions are available at larger companies but are
reserved mostly for engineering students and MBA candidates; most can lead
to permanent, full-time positions.
• Specialized recruiting and placement firms assist midcareer candidates in
finding new positions. Almost all companies recruit directly through their
websites.
• Many positions are available on a contract or part-time basis. Some contracts
lead to full-time permanent employment after three months to one year.
Other contracts are for specific projects and end when the project is done.
Major Pluses about IT Careers

• Information technologists tend to be well compensated. Computer and
mathematical occupations were the third highest paying occupations (after
management and legal) in 2001, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
• Continuing education is encouraged and usually subsidized by the employer.
• Nontraditional work arrangements such as telecommuting and teleworking
create a flexible work environment.
• IT professionals work in a dynamic and challenging environment. Learning
new skills is part of the job.

Copyright 2003 WetFeet, Inc.

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At a Glance

Major Minuses about IT Careers

• The hours are long. Late nights and weekend hours are not uncommon.
• Technology changes constantly and rapidly. Personal time is often lost to
“keeping up.”
• The job market is tough now: Competition is intense, and benefits are not as
extravagant as they were a few years ago.
• The environment can be high pressure.
• Repetitive stress injury to the hands and arms from the use of computer
keyboards and mice is a health concern.
Recruiting Overview

• Companies recruit recent graduates and MBAs at campus career fairs or at
trade shows and conferences throughout the year.
• Companies look at intern or co-op experience when selecting their first
choice interviews. Many companies will give hiring priority to their own
interns and co-ops.
• New college graduates will be most marketable with a minor or double major
in a field that complements the industry they want to join.
• A well-planned job search begins when you declare your major. Research the
job market and decide what type of company you want to target. This
research will help you select and focus on classes. “A successful job search
does not begin second semester senior year,” as one insider says. “You can’t
start then and expect to be competitive anymore.”

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The Role

The Role
• Opportunity Overview
• The Bottom Line
• Trends in the Field
• Breakdown of Industries
• Skills and Education
• Certification
• Salaries
• IT Lingo

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Opportunity Overview
The Role

Information technology (IT) means different things to different people. A
software engineer at a technology firm will tell you that the IT department sits
in the back of the office and that you should go see them (“not me!”) with your
desktop support issue. That said, a census worker would laugh at the distinction—
hardware, software, support: It’s all IT. At its broadest definition, “information
technology” is an umbrella term that describes all fields that relate to the
organization and dissemination of information: from the worker who lays cable
wires to the telephone switchboard operator to the engineer who designs the
circuits in your computer. In this guide, when we refer to IT, we’re talking about
computer-related fields: hardware, software, and the people who support and
use those products. However, keep in mind that just because IT is computerrelated, doesn’t mean that a job in the field is necessarily with a computer-intensive
company. In fact, the majority of IT services jobs today are in fields that have little
to do with high tech. What this means for you, the job seeker, is that opportunities
are not limited to one industry but cross a wide variety of industries. This translates
into more jobs available for IT specialists than for many other professions.
Information technology plays an integral role in asset management, communication,
and branding in every field. An Oracle database can contain taxonomists’ specie
information (e.g., a database of newts would contain all known species along
with the history and habitat of each), bank records, or retail inventories. E-mail,
instant messaging, and mailing lists allow people and companies to exchange
information quickly. Corporate health care policies are always a click away on
the intranet, and that cheese that you can only find in Wisconsin is available
now, through a well-designed online order form. Today, information technology
facilitates the production, storage, and distribution of information—a role

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traditionally assigned to clerical workers across all
industries. In fact, over the last ten years, clerical
employment in the United States has dropped 8.4
percent, while overall productivity has expanded.

daily lives that we are often unaware of the job
opportunities spread across industries. Schools use
computers for online learning and as part of the
education curriculum. In a world where students

People who don’t
want to be in this
industry have left.
In some ways, it’s
a nicer place to be.
People aren’t in it
for the money in the
way they used to be.

The Role

Information technology is so entrenched in our

“”

learn keyboarding in addition to writing and spelling,
workers are needed in IT curriculum development and teaching. Nonprofits
need people to build websites, databases, and online donation systems. Businesses
need people to build intranets, websites, and e-commerce sites. Schools,
governments, and businesses alike invest in hardware and software and people to
support those systems. Intel and Cisco might not be hiring as many new people
this year, but the library is still looking for a database manager.
Today’s economy is riddled with uncertainty. Since January 2000, as many as 10
percent of the leading Internet companies that received formal venture funding
closed their doors. Between 2002 and 2003, the technology sector lost more
than 200,000 jobs, primarily in high-tech manufacturing. Since the first half of
2000, both the NASDAQ and venture capital funding have retreated sharply.
For IT-intensive businesses, this has meant less expansion and fewer new
ventures. Even financially healthy non-IT intensive businesses have trimmed IT
investments. Businesses are spending less and less on computers and peripherals;
prices for these technology goods are declining. You might wonder: Is a job in
IT a mistake?
Though the trends may sound bleak, they don’t reflect a decrease in the use of
information technology. In fact, because hardware prices declined more steeply

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5


than investment, the seemingly dismal trends actually reflect growth. The
computer infrastructure is growing, as is the need for new software and new
people to program and service equipment. In June 2003, the Department of
Commerce reported that IT professions are among the fastest growing and

The Role

highest paying jobs in the economy, and despite the downturn in IT-intensive
industries, there is still demand for highly skilled technical workers, particular in
nontechnical economic sectors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that
computer professionals will be the fastest growing occupations of this decade,
with more than two million jobs added to the economy by 2010.
There may be more competition for entry-level jobs this year, and the vacation
and benefit packages may not be quite as enticing as they were a year or two
ago, but information technology is still a field rife with opportunity. Because
technology is always improving, and computers are becoming faster, more
powerful, and less expensive, companies will continue to invest in new and to
replace obsolete capital.
IT workers comprise a wide spectrum of ages and backgrounds. Whether
you’re a recent college graduate with a BA in computer science or an MBA
looking to get involved with a new technology firm or product, the possibilities
for growth and employment are as numerous and varied as the fish in the sea.
You may need to cast a line out to catch one—the family business that’s
looking to hire an e-commerce manager will most likely not recruit on your
college campus—but the jobs are there, and the field is growing.

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The Bottom Line
The Role

Recent layoffs and the economic downturn have had a tremendous effect on
the IT workforce. Contractors grumble about falling rates, employees worry
about their job security. It’s an employer’s job market now. You can’t show up
for an interview unprepared or expect to see the swanky deals that made headlines
a couple years ago. Today’s hiring packages for IT workers are more standard:
Relocation expenses, extra vacation, and perks like free food and soda are not
necessarily a part of the deal. The competition can be tough, and it’s important
to differentiate yourself. Unpaid or underpaid internships can make a huge
difference on your resume. Good references and work history are necessities.
“The industry is becoming more consolidated,” a seasoned insider says. “People
who don’t want to be in this industry have left. In some ways, it’s a nicer place
to be. People aren’t in it for the money in the way they used to be.”

Copyright 2003 WetFeet, Inc.

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The Role

Trends in the Field
IT Everywhere
Over the past year and despite economic uncertainty, businesses have gradually
expanded their use of information technology. The Bureau of Labor Statistics
predicts that the economy will add more than one million new software engineering,
computer support, and system administrators to the work force by 2010. Software
developers and computer service professionals will be in particularly high demand
over the next decade, as companies seek to invest in areas that will squeeze greater
productivity from existing systems.
Though the recent downturn has been hard on technology-intensive firms, the
need for IT workers is expanding, particularly in fields outside the tech world.
According to a 2001 study by the Information Technology Association of
America (ITAA), 92 percent of IT workers are employed at non-IT companies.
Statistics also show that IT jobs in non-IT industries tend to be less adversely
affected by downturns in the technology industry. Industries such as health
care, finance, and real estate in particular need qualified information technology
employees at all levels to manage data and create and maintain information
systems. IT is not going away. If anything, it continues to be more important
and entrenched in our daily lives.

Play Nice with Others
The oft-romanticized notion of the lone engineer plodding through the night
to create a code masterpiece is more of a myth than a model these days.
Today’s IT workers are encouraged to work together. A recent study by the

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ITAA revealed that companies ranked interpersonal skills above analytical skills
when considering employees for advancement.
New IT development philosophies that emphasize teamwork are finding their
way into today’s work environments as well. Programmers might well find

The Role

themselves paired, so that two sit side by side at the same machine. One is the
driver, the other an observer. Though it may sound inefficient, it’s thought that
this practice results in better design, testing, and code. By pairing programmers,
companies also ensure that all work is reviewed by at least one other programmer.
In a field with relatively high turnover, having some redundancy in knowledge is
beneficial to everyone. Even in more traditional development environments,
good communication skills have become increasingly important. One insider
says, “To stand out in this job market, you need to set yourself apart by having
a professional package that demonstrates technical skills and outstanding
communication. And high business acumen.”

Diversity in the Workplace?
In March of 2000, the president of the ITAA shared some statistics about the
composition of the IT workforce: African Americans hold 5.4 percent of
computer programming positions, while Hispanic Americans hold 4.6 percent.
Both percentages are disproportionately low to the population of these groups.
Though recent data is hard to come by, insiders admit that ethnic diversity is
still an issue in the IT industry. “This industry has a long way to go in terms of
creating more diverse workplaces,” says one.
Women continue to be a minority in the IT industry as well, particularly in
upper level management, and studies show that the number of women in IT is
actually decreasing. Between 1996 and 2002, the percentage of women in the
IT workforce fell from 41 to 34.9 percent. “I would say that 75 percent of the
time I can be the only woman at a table or at a meeting,” an insider says. “There

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are certainly a lot of women working in the industry and a lot of companies
run by women or with strong women leadership, but you have to be able to
work within that—the culture is still more male than female.”

The Role

Sending Jobs Overseas
Companies tend to minimize their expenses and, when presented with the
option to hire employees for a fraction of the current cost, will likely do so.
Outsourcing, or hiring a foreign firm as a sort of subcontractor, is becoming
increasingly common in IT-related areas. This year, 6 percent of the U.S. firms
polled by the ITAA hired foreign companies for IT jobs. Fifteen percent are
considering doing this next year. Many job seekers worry that outsourced jobs
aren’t coming back. An offshore worker can’t fix a broken keyboard, but she
can program or develop a website. Though outsourcing is good for workers in
India, Russia, and Poland—areas with highly skilled workers and relatively low
salaries—many workers in the United States are not happy about it.

Web Services
Everyone seems to be talking about Web services these days. IBM, Microsoft,
and Sun just announced their strategies for it. Businesses speak of Web services
with much enthusiasm. But what, exactly, are they? In a nutshell, a Web service
is an Internet application that implements a set of standard protocols, which
allow it to share information with other Web services. Web services perform
functions—from simple requests (e.g., a stock quote retrieval), to complicated
business processes that combine information from multiple sources. Barnes &
Noble, for example, has a Web service that takes an ISBN number and returns
the price of the book. Expect to hear even more about Web services in the
coming days.

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Keep Them Out!
Increasingly, companies are looking for ways to secure their networks from a
host of threats: Worms and viruses might prey on networked systems. “War
Drivers” (people who cruise around and identify businesses with insecure wireless

The Role

links) might access networks, or worse, spray paint symbols on the office building
publicly describing how to break in. Remote workers might expose a company
to industrial spies through holes in their less secure remote systems. The threats
are a real and growing concern for companies, and security budgets have received
more attention over the past two years than ever before. The demand for IT
security experts is on the rise.

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Breakdown of Industries
The Role

IT workers have penetrated the payroll of companies in every industry—from
education to manufacturing to real estate, health care, and government. The
need for software developers, computer support specialists, network and system
administrators as well as analysts, managers, and researchers continues to grow.
In the broadest terms, IT professionals will work in one of two places: directly
for companies within the various economic sectors (e.g., as a system administrator
for a hospital) or for computer and data services companies, which provide
information technology services to firms that do not have adequate in-house
resources. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are more
than 178,000 such technology service providers. These firms tend to offer
specialized services, from setting up a corporate website to designing software,
to computer repair and network consulting.
The relationship between a technology services firm and the company that brings
it in can take several forms, and this makes for foggy lines when determining
where jobs really are. For example, a retail company might hire a technology
services firm to build an e-commerce site. Once built, the company might choose
to manage and maintain the site in-house or continue to hire the contracting
firm to run the whole show. In general, large companies will have an IT staff,
and smaller companies are more likely to turn to contractors to meet their IT
needs. (Naturally, this is not always true.) Even firms that contract out IT work,
however, still need people to manage the relationship and determine how
information technology is and should be used by their firm.

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Business Services
Business services accounts for nearly half the software development
workforce—and the number of developers involved in this area is expected to
increase by more than 140 percent to 474,495 by 2010. This broad category of

The Role

work includes all engineering and technical management and consulting services
needed by businesses. Things like software, communications systems, infrastructure,
data management, and advertising all fall under this umbrella. Ubiquitous and
relatively well compensated, IT workers who go into business services can
expect to find a wide variety of opportunities.
Keeping things running. The folks who maintain and optimize the business

technology infrastructure represent a significant sector of the information
technology workforce. System administrators and analysts tend to enjoy a
relatively higher degree of job stability, as every company that runs a network
needs someone to support it. Insiders say that there is an oversupply of
network support people in the market right now, but the field is predicted to be
one of the fastest growing over the next ten years. The BLS expects that the
economy will add about 280,000 of these positions across industries between
now and 2010—about an 80 percent increase. “Not for people who find it hard
to manage stress,” as one insider says, this kind of work can leave you feeling
unappreciated. Few people realize that the last Friday in July is “System
Administrator Appreciation Day.” Don’t hold your breath waiting for gifts.
Market it, brand it, make it look good. Advertising and branding are more often

associated with marketing than information technology. But the fact is, most
businesses have a website these days, and if they don’t, well, they should probably
get on it. Well-designed websites incorporate the work of designers, information
architects, software and system engineers, and site managers. Firms like Razorfish
and Organic are famous for working with companies to develop their corporate

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online presence (though in the current market, downsizing is also a reality in
this corner of the industry). Many businesses, from publishers like Chronicle
Books to television networks like MTV keep in-house staffs to manage and
develop their websites as well.

The Role

Sell it now! Often rolled in with business services is e-business, which encompasses

business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) commerce. Even
traditional corporate giants like General Motors and Merrill Lynch are now turning
to the Internet (because it is a low-cost securable platform, and because Internet
usage is wide and still growing) to increase sales. Online selling, or e-commerce,
is growing, despite prognoses that vary from bleak to gushing. Recent reports
for this sector have been positive: According to the U.S. Department of Commerce,
retail e-commerce in the United States hit $11.92 billion in the first quarter of
2003, a 25 percent increase over last year. In Europe, online e-commerce is
expected to rocket from $77 billion in 2001 to $2.2 trillion in 2006.

Health Care
Health care is the largest single industry in the United States, but it has historically
spent only 2 to 3 percent of its total revenue on information technology. This
low investment received quite a bit of attention a few years ago when the “Y2K”
bug threatened countless hospital records stored in aging systems. Today, the
need for information technology in the health care industry has been accepted.
Though the industry is fraught with debate and financial struggles, hospitals now
look to IT to reduce the cost of administration and improve patient care, and
it’s predicted that health care will be one of the top industries for IT growth over
the next few years. Hospitals and integrated health care systems such as Kaiser
Permanente, New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, Mount Sinai
Health System, and Sisters of Providence Health System are leading IT employers.

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Knowledge management. Keeping track of medical records is a tremendous

job, and one that information technology is playing an increasing role in. It’s
not a coincidence that nearly 30 percent of IT workers in the health care industry
identify themselves as “directors of information services.” Fueling the need for

The Role

IT software developers, database managers, and systems analysts in the health
care industry, the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
(HIPAA) mandates that doctors and insurance companies standardize the
electronic exchange of financial and administrative information. “This will not
only improve administrative efficiency in our health care system,” one insider
says, “but prevent misuse of private health information.” The HIPAA will also
require that nearly all health care providers update and overhaul existing IT
systems. Anyone know a good systems analyst?
Research and development. IT systems and products must be developed with

input from IT professionals, doctors, administrators, and insurance professionals.
The process of R&D requires good communication skills and careful attention
to the requirements of the system. (This is true across industries.) Though some
of this type of work is done within health care institutions, it’s quite common
to see health care industries work with outside consultants. Kaiser Permanente,
for example, agreed to spend $1.5 billion over the next four years to develop a
system with IBM that allows doctors to convert paper records to electronic ones.
In June of 2003, IBM announced that it would also manage the core computing
systems of three New York hospitals. The Healthcare Information and Management
Systems Society (HIMSS) has a useful website (www.himss.org), which has
information about what’s going on in the industry and who’s working on it.

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Education
Salaries in education tend to be lower than those in other industries. According
to the 2002 Computerworld salary survey, the average salary for nearly every education

The Role

technology position is about half of what it would be in the financial services
industry. However, if you are willing to compromise on salary, the opportunities
in education and information technology can be very rewarding. This year, the
University of Miami was even ranked in the top three workplaces for IT workers.
Teach from afar. The field of “distance” or “online” or “e-” learning is growing

rapidly. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 84 percent of two- to
four-year institutions were expected to offer distance-learning courses in 2002—
nearly double the 1997 figure. Even well-known universities are getting involved.
Harvard and Stanford joined forces to offer online continuing education classes,
while MIT announced its “OpenCourseWare” plan, with the goal of placing all
courses online in the next ten years.
IT opportunities are not limited to American universities. An e-learning group
is now working with the European Commission to make online learning a reality
in Europe before 2004. The U.S. government is also investing in programs. In
July of 2002, the U.S. Department of State, together with SmartForce, unveiled
a plan to provide online courses on e-mail, Internet, and IT competency to all
30,000 State Department personnel in more than 250 countries.
Despite the tougher times, the tremendous interest in e-learning will contribute
to the growth of companies that produce learning management systems—
places like SmartForce and KnowledgeNet. Universities will also require IT
workers to maintain networks and manage new and often exciting curriculum
programs. The tech department at the University of Miami, for example, is
currently exploring a telehealth program, which will provide distance-learning
and consulting services to doctors and clinics in Latin America.

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Curriculum development. Incongruous with the buzz about shrinking IT job

possibilities is talk of the “gap”—IT jobs left unfilled for want of qualified
workers. An April 2002 study conducted by the ITAA reported that hundreds
of thousands of IT positions go unfilled due to a deficit of applicants with the

The Role

necessary technical skills. Training a tech-savvy workforce has become a priority
at the national level, and the attention has created a need for teachers and
curriculum developers. “The best way to make sure that you’re up to date on
the most current technologies is to develop curricula to teach those things,” an
insider says. “There’s no better way to learn than to teach.”

Government
Increasingly, federal and state governments and agencies are turning to information
technology to facilitate communications, streamline processes (e.g., collecting taxes or
renewing a driver’s license online), and save tax dollars. As consumers become more
technologically savvy (a Pew Foundation poll found that more than 40 million
Americans went online to look at federal, state, and local government policies in
2002), the government must work to meet the rising expectations of its citizenry.
The Government Paperwork Elimination Act (1998), for example, now requires
Federal agencies to permit consumers to submit information or transact business
electronically. Agencies like the Department of Labor and the National
Endowment for the Arts now maintain websites, and the U.S. Post Office is
considering a digital identification program to help track and deliver mail. Creating
and maintaining these types of programs requires skilled workers in all areas of
IT, and the need for savvy professionals will continue to grow.
Though many corporate IT budgets are stagnant this year, federal technology
budgets are on the rise. Over the last two years, for example, the Department
of Defense’s IT operation and maintenance budget has increased more than 15
percent. This is good news for system administrators and analysts willing to

Copyright 2003 WetFeet, Inc.

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work for Uncle Sam. All together, federal agencies spent a total of about $48
billion on IT in 2002.
Keeping the data safe. Federal funding for information security investments is

rising as the government becomes increasingly concerned for the safety of its

The Role

systems and information. In 2002, federal agencies spent $2.7 billion on
information security alone. The Office of Management and Budget expects
that number to rise to $4.7 billion in 2004.
The federal government is anxious to invest in security and recruit skilled security
professionals. In 2000, in fact, the federal government created the Cybercorps
program, designed to help train IT security professionals. The program, aimed at
midcareer professionals, provides up to two years of scholarship funding to study
information security. In return, scholarship recipients are obligated to work an
equal amount of time for the federal government.
Those interested in a career in information security have other education
options as well. A great number of certificate programs promise a substantial
return for each dollar invested (see “For Your Reference” for more information).
Many universities also offer advanced degrees in the field. One insider suggests
checking out www.nsa.gov, where the National Security Agency maintains a list
of schools deemed excellent in information assurance education.
During economic downturns, a federally funded position may prove more
stable and even more financially rewarding than a corporate one. According to
a 2002 Computerworld survey, government IT workers were more likely than any
other IT professionals to have received a recent raise. Though salaries in other
sectors have flattened, and in some cases even dropped, salaries rose an average
of 6.6 percent for government IT workers.

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Copyright 2003 WetFeet, Inc.


Finance
If finance is truly a high-flying field, then its wings are feathered with information
technology. Without the information systems that make the rapid and secure
transmission of data possible, the industry would surely take a nosedive. The

The Role

recent East Coast blackout confirms this. No, the New York Stock Exchange
did not loose any data. But if the backup generators had not been in place to
power the data center and trading floor, the system would not have functioned
so smoothly.
There’s good news for those who choose to work amidst the hustle and bustle
of the financial world: Finance IT workers are almost always compensated
more highly than IT workers in other economic sectors. In 2002, for example, a
systems engineer for a financial company earned an average of $64,000, which
is nearly 10 percent higher than the average salary across sectors. And if a higher
salary alone is not enough to convince you, perhaps the fact that the sector
tends to be relatively stable will help. A 2003 survey on Jobsinthemoney.com
reports that the economic environment in the majority of surveyed financial
firms has held steady or even improved over the last year—reassuring news in
uncertain economic times.
Super systems. Security experts and systems administrators and managers

prepare! The finance industry depends on large information systems that have a
constant need for maintenance and updates. Currently, for example, MasterCard
and Visa along with a number of associated network providers are updating
their electronic transaction systems to the triple data encryption standard (DES),
an encryption method that is very difficult to break. Though costly, system
updates such as this are necessary to ensure the safety of transmitted information
and to maintain consumer confidence. In a world where the next BugBear virus
(which was targeted at financial institutions, by the way) is just around the corner,
there will always be a need for good security and systems people.

Copyright 2003 WetFeet, Inc.

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