The Top Skills to Watch

BOSTON (05/23/2000) - You want to spark up your career - but with the ever-changing information technology field, it's hard to focus on an area that will still be in demand by the time you've finished the training course.

So we went to the front lines of the IT hiring field and asked several recruiters what they see as the hottest skills in the months - and possibly years - ahead. Here's what they said.

Gimme web anything

Carl Kutsmode

President

Tiburon Group Inc.

Chicago

What is "the" skill? We [need] people with Java, JavaScript programming, JavaBeans, XML programming, Active Server Pages knowledge - anything Web-development-related. Still hot is business process re-engineering. With all the companies moving to e-business platforms, we need people who can step back and look at what works from the process perspective and make the Web transaction move throughout the business.

What is the demand for it? Ten times what's out there. People are naming their own salaries.

Which companies have the highest demand? Most traditional industries are figuring out how to make their Web sites profitable, so established companies are moving their business models to the Web. Some are operating them as part of the larger company, and others are spinning them off as pre-IPO companies and are [using] stock options to compete with the start-ups.

What salary can candidates expect? It's from $85,000 on the low end, if you've got a year of experience, to $150,000 on the high end, for two or more years.

What type of person gets hired? We look for someone with an overall background - maybe five years or more - in client/server who has moved to the Web. If a year of experience was e-business-oriented, then they can capitalize on that and take top dollar. If they have presentation skills and better people skills, they'll get a position quicker.

Java still steaming

Larry Johnson

Technical recruiter

Baldwin Forrester & Co.

San Francisco

What is "the" skill? The hottest thing out there now is Java applications, because so many businesses are setting up business-to-business applications and there are all kinds of e-commerce companies that want to have the latest and greatest for their sites. If somebody has a background in Visual Basic or C++, Java is the thing to learn.

What types of companies have the highest demand? For Java, it's mostly e-commerce companies and companies developing portals and business-to-business applications. For Netscape's Enterprise Server, it's mostly start-ups that want smaller, more streamlined equipment to set up their operations.

What salary can candidates expect? Java programmers working on a contract basis can ask $100 per hour and up.

A Wireless World

Ben Sabrin

Senior Java search consultant

Pencom Systems Inc.

Atlanta

What is "the" skill? The thing that is really going to continue to gain speed is stuff in the wireless arena and wireless applications, both for [personal digital assistants] and cellular phones, like Wireless Application Protocol and enablers for [it]. The driving force behind a lot of this is Java 2 Micro Edition. Another is Transmeta Corp.'s Crusoe chip, which targets wireless devices running at 400 MHz. And another is Jini connection technology from Sun Microsystems, which allows any digital device to communicate with other digital devices, no matter what operating system it uses, without cables or connectors.

Why is it needed? Global markets don't have as sophisticated a [telecommunications] infrastructure as the U.S. does, and wireless is cheaper than landlines, so a lot of countries are going right for wireless. We'll see the next big boom in Internet-related stuff targeting Latin America.

What types of companies have the highest demand? A lot of content providers and major portals. They're taking the content they deliver to the Internet and to wireless devices and optimizing it for that medium.

A lot of the new PDAs have infrared devices, so they could be used as portable scanners. You could do inventory with the PDA, slap it on a cradle and link up to the main system. There are lots of companies focused on the applications side right now - anyone with a large sales staff is evaluating PDAs for things like dynamic pricing applications.

What salary can candidates expect? Senior folks are making $100,000 to $120,000, depending on where in the country they're working. Good software engineers are making $60,000 to $90,000.

What type of person gets hired? The people who will do really well, especially if the company is in its infancy, are dreamers - people who can think of different ways that technology can make day-to-day life better and package that technology in this little handheld device. The technology is there; it's just a matter of dreaming of how to make it work.

Graphic designers rule

Tracey Claybrooke

Founder

Claybrooke & Associates Inc.

Tampa, Florida

What is "the" skill? What I see that will be in hot demand are creative directors doing the interactive computer graphic arts on the Web.

Why is it needed? I'm looking at all these interactive firms, and with the Web and e-commerce industries growing, these people are designing the whole front-end interface.

What types of companies have the highest demand? Anybody in the e-commerce world who has to make their site stimulating.

What types of people get hired? They're technical but have their bachelor's in fine arts and know about computer animation and the visual design elements that go into interactive technology.

What's the demand for it? It's growing. I have two clients who do interactive work, but as I work with companies selling front-end and back-end solutions, I get the sense that all of a sudden, these creative folks who work on the Web are going to be in high demand.

What salary can candidates expect? Eighty thousand dollars per year and up.

Healthy opportunities

Bob Mhoon

President

The Manx Group Inc.

Arlington, Texas

What is "the" skill? The demand for health care technologists is heating up.

There is lots of opportunity for individuals with experience in application packages such as those by Shared Medical Systems, [Software Technologies Corp.'s] DataGate and the systems by McKesson HBOC.

Why is it needed? It's driven by the need to cut costs while complying with myriad government regulations.

What types of companies have the highest demand? It's across the board with medical right now. You've got the managed-care systems trying to cut costs to stay alive and traditional medical centers and hospitals under the gun to cut costs. The difficulty lies in finding the people who will relocate to another geographic area. A lot of the spots in the hinterland are unfilled.

What type of person gets hired? Obviously, there's a preference for someone with experience in medical applications, but it depends on the level of position you're trying to fill.

Brandel is a freelance writer in Newton, Massachusetts.

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