The interpersonal key to survival in Australian IT

There’s no place for codemonkeys in Australian IT, SAP exec says

A steady stream of IT work being outsourced to offshore developers may be a rising concern for some professionals, but according to SAP executive John Lombard, the Australian workforce has nothing to fear.

With about 40,000 staff employed in more than 50 countries worldwide, Australia seems but a drop in the ocean for business software vendor SAP. Predictably, most of SAP's development work is done in Germany, India and China. However, Australian culture and a penchant for research and development could contribute to an ongoing demand for what Lombard views as "more interesting" IT jobs to remain in-country.

"At the end of the day, some technical development work can be offshored, but we'll always have a need for human-to-human contact in Australia," said Lombard, the company's Director of Consulting in Australia and New Zealand.

"When I came out of university, I spent 5 years code cutting. Now, we're seeing graduates coming into more contact with business processes, and getting a broader perspective of business, early on in their careers," he said. "The sort of work we're seeing in Australia at the moment is all the juicy work, like business transformation."

"It's a great market from an IT perspective," Lombard said. "This is the industry to be in, and it's growing."

Current job openings at SAP certainly highlight a rise of more business-oriented positions. The company is currently on the hunt for 15 consultants in Australia, and a recent advertisement in the Australian Financial Review marks the first time it has advertised vacancies for consulting positions in Australia.

In fact, Lombard said, the company simply does not have any more of a need for the old stereotype of socially-inept technical specialists. Australian IT professionals should be equipped with a range of soft skills in order to thrive in today's job market, he said.

"I'm sure some companies view the pure technical aspect as a critical skill, but for a company like us, it's not just about the tech anymore," he said. "I don't have a job for anyone like that [with purely technical skills]."

"We want smart people who get good grades, but we also want people with good EQ [Emotional intelligence Quotient]," he said. "The most important part of our business is how we communicate with the customer."

Mandy Harris, senior Human Resources consultant of Sydney-based IT consultancy GLiNTECH, disagrees. Citing a nationwide shortage of skilled IT professionals, Harris expects a demand for technically adept staff to remain strong, especially in large, multi-departmental companies.

"There will always be a place for solid technical skills, and the skills crisis we are facing right now will ensure that this continues into the future," she said. "Large corporate companies will typically have layers between the business and the IT team, and this frees them up to focus on the technical skills over the soft skills."

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