David Fitzgerald, network and security engineer at Ariad Pharmaceuticals in Boston, says he gets a call or an email from a recruiter "probably once a day." But like Baker, he doesn't see himself leaving his current employer anytime soon. "It's a small cancer-based pharma. They're doing good things for people," he says. "I have a great deal of autonomy. I can make a difference."
(Many survey respondents ranked intangible factors such as recognition for good work and a positive corporate culture as important aspects of their jobs. See " What Do IT Workers Want?")
All of those recruiter calls point to a growing challenge facing employers: It's taking them longer to fill open positions. Half of the managers surveyed by Computerworld said that it has taken at least three months to fill open IT positions in the last two years.
The IT skills shortage is real
IT job watchers and HR consultants agree that there's a real skills shortage in the "hot" IT specialties because the number of projects that involve those types of work is exploding. And with many other IT positions, employers want the "perfect candidate" — someone with a mix of tech expertise, problem-solving abilities and people skills. That's a tall order that keeps positions from being filled.
"Companies don't want the hard-core techie that sits off in the back room. They want the person that has those tech skills, but also someone they can put in the boardroom or in front of the business group," says John Reed, senior executive director at Robert Half Technology. "There aren't that many of those types of people."
Today, IT workers are "being thrust into a seat at the table," adds David Foote, CEO of Foote Partners. "The problem is, that seat requires a very different IT organization" — one that can move with speed and agility — and therefore a new hiring philosophy is also needed. For instance, Foote says, "the best companies are hiring software engineers who are also analysts because it's more efficient. You're doing it quicker, and it's strategic as well as tactical."
Lance Abla, principal systems engineer and specialist SE manager at EMC, spent more than six months finding the right candidates for three positions in EMC's presales consulting group. He says he's not seeking one specific skill but a wide range of knowledge in storage, networking, operating systems and "everything middleware and below."
"They have to be able to talk intelligently to C-level execs and customers, and make a case for why we should assist that customer in not only the services and software, but the hardware that they use to run their IT platforms. It's pretty hard to find people who have that breadth and depth of knowledge," not to mention the personality and professionalism that's required for the job, he says. "That quality where everyone perks up when they speak, or when they enter a room they have this presence — I can't teach those things."
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