Career watch: Dennis L'Heureux

Tips on finding an entry-level job and Australia's immigration requirements

Dennis L'Heureux, senior vice president for planning and CIO of Rockford Health System in Illinois, U.S., is this month's guest Premier 100 IT Leader, answering readers' questions about insulating your career from the threat of offshoring and finding an entry-level job.

I would like to return to school to study computer science. What areas should I concentrate on that would not be likely candidates for outsourcing?

Outsourcing of good-paying technical jobs is definitely an issue. I believe one way to insulate oneself from the possibility of outsourcing is to focus on processes. IT does not provide a return on investment unless it uses its power to change processes to make an organization more efficient. By concentrating on methods, process definition and analysis, you will bring to the table not only the ability to structure automation, but also the ability to identify what to automate. And it's much harder to offshore process and systems analysis than programming and hardware design. Although it's difficult to focus on a particular industry while in an academic setting, specializing in an industry such as health care, banking or manufacturing does strengthen your hand. I would look at industrial or management engineering programs with a concentration in information systems.

I have been in technology for 30 years and made a good living until outsourcing took my job. I know that if I move to a bigger city, my job prospects would improve, but I really do not want to do that. Any suggestion on how I can get back into the IT market in a semirural area?

Have you tried remote consulting? Depending on your exact skill set, you might be able to bid on and win contracts that would allow you to work at home. Prepare to market yourself beyond the typical resume. Use the Internet to find out what types of positions companies are recruiting for, and send them proposals outlining how you could fill their needs as a contractor, not an employee. In other words, have them outsource to you!

I just graduated with a bachelor's degree in computer engineering. What is my best hope of an entry-level IT job?

When I have the luxury of filling a vacant technical job, I often seek some very specialized concentration that requires some experience. So it can be difficult for those just entering the workforce to land a job. My recommendation is to seek out opportunities at a large technology vendor such as Intel, Amdahl, Motorola or Cisco. These companies are more likely to give new engineers a chance.

Getting ahead

The best ways for employees to advance in their careers:

  • Acquire or update skills, abilities and knowledge - 67 percent
  • Build and keep in touch with a career network - 64 percent
  • Volunteer for challenging and visible opportunities - 41 percent
  • Identify and communicate career goals - 34 percent
  • Identify and learn from mentors and role models- 32 percent
  • Perform their jobs in an exemplary manner - 29 percent
  • Project a positive professional image - 27 percent
  • Learn how to learn from experience - 21 percent

Source: Survey of 346 companies, released by outplacement firm

Reaching out from down under

The concurrence of several systems modernization and integration projects at Australian government agencies has led the country's visa bureau to launch an international recruitment drive for Java, C++ and other types of IT professionals.

The government hasn't released estimates of the number of technicians with Siebel, SAP, security and other types of expertise needed to work on IT projects in the public sector. But "acute" demand has led the Australian Visa Bureau to add these and other skills to its Migration Occupations in Demand List, says Oonagh Baerveldt, a communications manager for the bureau in London.

Applicants for immigration with these qualifications are given "bonus points" and can have their visas fast-tracked, but the overall process typically takes about a year, says Baerveldt. The fastest approach would be to obtain a work-sponsored visa, known in Australia as the 457 Standard Business Sponsorship Visa, which is akin to an H-1B visa in the U.S., he says.

The first part of the application process is a skills assessment, in which applicants detail their educational and professional backgrounds, including expertise they've developed in a sought-after skill. "Technically, you don't have to work in the field that you apply for," says Baerveldt. "You could apply to be a J2EE programmer and become a lifeguard on the beach."

By Thomas Hoffman

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