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Reg headhunter serves up array of crystal balls

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Feature Disclaimer: Before taking any of my advice be aware that I once bet my career on OS/2 and that in all my careers articles my ambition is to help you avoid some of the mistakes I have made.

The Politburo at The Reg wants me to stick my neck out and show some trends in this “future” thing that young people seem so keen on nowadays. This is because I’m a headhunter and ought to have an insight into what will drive your career in coming years. But what I know is, there is no one big trend, so here’s a core dump of the threats and opportunities coming your way.

Banking and finance

Banking has plateaued big time. The biggest factor supporting the job market is the way regulators believe that quantity of regulation is a substitute for quality. The underlying profitability is fragile and if your work isn’t ultimately connected to revenue, so is your job. C++ continues to hold its own, even if the body count is down since most developers aren’t smart enough to fight the damned thing and Java has definitely peaked with C# slowly acquiring market share. This is the time, today, to start your move away from VB. It won’t die this year or next but like Jean-Luc Picard said “I am held in the grip of there being more yesterdays than tomorrows”.

A bright spot is data management. A scary/depressing percentage of bank data is in a woeful state either wrong or held in mutually incompatible silos and retail banking is at last getting a clue that maybe it should mine the vast pile of transaction data in your accounts to help sell you stuff. The whole Big Data / Data Science gig is the light in several of the tunnels I’m covering today.

BYOD

BYOD is the stupidest tech trend I’ve seen for ages.

We’ve spent the last 30 years getting our PCs standardised so they go wrong less often and are less hassle to sort out when they do. Now we support eight types of iPad, your dimwit Archos pad won’t access Google Play which has the app we rely on and I just bought a Nook with my own money.

Can you make this mess secure from hackers or stop the users nicking corporate data? Why won’t it attach to the corporate WiFi? Does the picture Mike copied onto a server of his kids in the bath count as child porn?

The list of stupid fiddly problems is endless and that’s why as your careers advisor I love BYOD, it takes us back to the 1980s when users valued the break/fix PFY who came and sorted out their tech lives. So BYOD is good if you’ve got talents in fiddling and enjoy helping users directly. It’s a good gig that will last for years.

The users are slightly less clueless

BYOD isn’t the only “empowerment” of users going on. They now have a lot more understanding of the tech than when you and I started in this game which screws with you on several levels.

They don’t understand why they can buy 16 Gb of RAM from Scan.co.uk for a few quid, but that IT wants to charge them £1200 for an upgrade. Or more accurately they *do* understand and are more able to cut up the web of cross subsidies you have woven. That’s going to hurt the IT budget, as is the fact that many IT directors know a lot less about computers than the heads of many other departments, so you are being weakened from above and below and have to try a lot harder to placate users under the guise of being “business focused”.

In City banks it is already the case that the best programmers are rarely in “central IT” since its long held policy of pay being a function of time served, where you went to university, Powerpoint/Visio skills, looking smart at meetings and “not making trouble” rather than ability to actually deliver working code means that in investment banking the best work and pay will be in “user” departments, not just trading but risk / CVA, client management/sales and tactical development.

Cloudy ops

The percentage of systems managed “by hand” is now only ever going to decrease, whether that is the fearsome complexity of dealing with the latest Windows Server/Exchange, the Cloud or a bunch of commodity Linux boxes. You have to place your career bets not only on the systems that you hope will prosper, but also the management tools.

In the SME space I’d guess the best bet is Spiceworks, which is also a defensive move if you are looking after small scale IT. There’s a lot of outfits offering to handle SME IT more cheaply for a fixed price. Yes we both know that’s a bloody lie, but they won’t be talking to you about the decision will they? Best to get a rationalisation and management programme under way soonish.

Across the board, server rationalisation is continuing to hold down the population of servers as the old habit of “one service, one server” looks increasingly quaint. We both know that in most cases “Cloud” is little more than topology and configuration requiring few new skills. I won’t tell them if you don’t, but never kid yourself that hype in this business doesn’t matter. I got accused of that in the live Careers chat last week and I proudly plead guilty of letting Reg readers grab the next wave. That relates to a blindingly obvious trend we’ve seen for a while: the bigger the thing you manage or program, the more money you get and the harder it is to get rid of you.

Oracle

For decades Oracle has been one of the best gigs for ITpros; a healthy demand for skills combined with a growth in market share and the fact that changing core database is as traumatic and risky as an organ transplant to make it one of the very few areas that could pay you for an entire career without having to scramble into another skill as it falls out of fashion. It ain’t going anywhere soon, but then again neither is Cobol.

At Oracle CloudWorld recently I observed how inward looking the firm has become. I was the only journalist there except Kate Russell from BBC Click who didn't appear to have a single critical thing to say about Oracle.

Oracle seems to have decided that nearly everyone who will ever buy their products already has, so is building them a walled garden so they can grow by lock in rather than new sales.

Although Oracle doesn’t talk to me, being a Reg writer leads people to suspect I know what is going on and maybe how they can monetise that. So over some rather good red wine, some of Oracle’s partner firms expressed the view that they should warm up their relationship with IBM who for decades has been the prey that Oracle fed upon, but IBM has now got a few managers who care more about technology than golf.

IBM wants into Decision Science big time and is throwing money at acquisitions to blast their way in so they can sell the software, a cloud to run it on and bodies to actually get it to work. Fortunately for you and the firms that want to feed on this change, IBM struggles to attract or retain the best talent these days, so the sexy work will be up for grabs and if you can trust a journalist, trust me when I say a good percentage of you will make real money for some years this way.

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