The IT industry is a great place to carve out a career yet it is facing an acute talent shortage. So whether you have a computer science degree or not, if you are a quick learner and have the right attitude, you will be in demand. Ade McCormack explains.

The IT market is booming. The indicators are that this will continue for a number of years. Given IT's increasing importance to both business and society it is likely that the associated boom-bust cycles will smooth out. Consequently the associated risk of entering what is traditionally a volatile industry will diminish.

This article provides you with an insight into what the major trends are in the IT sector. Knowing the top ten waves will enable you to avoid career cul-de-sacs in respect of your choice of employer. Read on.

Business-IT entwinement

There is a tradition in many businesses whereby the IT and business people live in parallel universes, between which distrust rules and common goals are rare. This needs to change, so those that have the bridging skills to both engage with technologists and users will be sought after.

The type of roles that 'patrol the demilitarised zone' between both parties include business and systems analysts, help desk personnel and IT service account managers. Importantly there is pressure for pure-play technologists to morph towards hybrid-business technologists. In other words it is not enough to have IT skills, knowledge of the business is equally important.

Infrastructure

There is a big push towards driving down the total cost of ownership of one's IT assets. In other words, business leaders want IT to deliver more with less. This requires lateral thinking within the IT department.

Concepts such as thin-client, grid computing and virtualisation are currently in vogue. An emerging theme is the carbon-neutral IT department, so there will be an increased focus on power consumption. This presents an opportunity to make a positive impact on the future of the planet.

Telecoms applications

Some will argue that telecoms is not IT. At the usability level telecoms is definitely IT. The convergence of voice, data and broadcast media (triple play) is big business. Those who build their careers at this intersection will be at the forefront of a long running trend.

Web services

Applications are moving from the purchase of CDs via a retail outlet to the rental of services via the web. This theme will have a seismic impact on the IT market. Those technology players that don't 'get' web services are likely to become extinct. Key developments in this area include .NET, J2EE and Lamp.

Security

Security has always been an issue. As the world becomes more joined up, e-security becomes as important, if not more so, than physical security. In my view the technology elements of security are reaching a climax. The ongoing opportunity will remain for those with skills in security policy and deep audit (aka ethical hacking).

IT service management

Financial accounting scandals such as those associated with Enron and Worldcom have triggered a focus on corporate governance. This has trickled down into the IT department. Thus there is a newfound interest in IT governance and IT service management. This area embraces many skills. Business continuity expertise jumps out in my mind. You are encouraged to explore areas such as ITILĀ® and Cobit.

Offshoring

Some will see the migration of technology roles to (so called) low cost countries as an unlikely source of opportunity, unless you are at the delivery end of the relationship. Offshoring is a natural consequence of globalisation.

The extent to which offshoring will decimate the 'Western' IT marketplace is unclear. In any case, opportunities will continue to exist. User-facing roles will stay at home. I am also seeing an increased demand for project managers who are comfortable dealing with multicultural teams distributed across the planet.

Enterprise applications

Applications that link up corporations, internally and externally, will continue to be in demand. Such applications effectively help the users work more as a team across the business, which today will give the business competitive advantage and tomorrow will be an entry condition into the market.

Skills associated with SAP, Oracle and Microsoft will continue to be in demand. A branch of enterprise applications called supply chain management is particularly important to organisations.

Systems integration

The world is becoming more joined up and this means that systems that were never designed to work together now need to. Those that can deliver the magic that make disparate systems work together will be kept busy. Skills such as XML, middleware, EAI will continue to be in demand.

Boardroom-ready CIOs

It may seem premature to advise new entrants on the opportunities associated with being the 'top banana' in the IT department. However I believe that the role of CIO has to change if the IT industry is going to deliver full value to the users. I believe that the CIO of tomorrow needs to be on the board of directors.

In fact smart organisations need to start seriously thinking about the CIO as the future CEO. You have a chance to steer your career in order to acquire the 'right stuff' skills. To this end I suggest that you major on your business / interpersonal skills and in the course of your career path spend some time gaining expertise in the workings of business development and finance.

Conclusion

My activities as a consultant to both the business and IT communities give me confidence that these ten opportunities all have genuine career mileage. In broad terms, I encourage you to avoid specialisation in the early stages of your career; get to know what you like and dislike before you turn on the 'career laser beam'.

Ensure that everything you do is business-relevant. There needs to be traceability between your role and the health of the corporation. Whilst having a technology-driven career in IT is both noble and rewarding, there exists a real opportunity for you to set your cross-wires on becoming a future CEO.

What could be better than working in a stimulating, leading edge industry and getting paid very well for it?! Over to you.

About the author

Ade McCormack is founder of Auridian (www.auridian.com), which is focused on helping organisations maximise the business return on their IT investment.

Ade McCormack provides regular consultancy services to IT recruitment company www.theitjobboard.com, who commissioned this article.