By Michael Sisk
IT workers are feeling the pinch of job losses along with everyone else.
Yet some IT jobs are proving more secure than others, and there are strategies anyone should use to keep the job they have.
David Foote, CEO of Foote Partners, says one difference between current layoffs and previous recessions is a longer-term view that considers the IT shop's competitive position when the economy recovers. "They're asking themselves, 'What skills can't we afford not to have in 2010?'" Foote says. His research looks across industries, and he believes the findings hold true for banking.
Foote's most recent quarterly report, IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index, shows some IT jobs across industries are adding positions and commanding more pay. According to Foote, the average market value for 179 noncertified IT skills dropped 0.5 percent in the last three months of 2008 despite pay gains in three categories: management/methodology process (a 5.6 percent pay rise over the previous three months; database (up 2.9 percent), and messaging and communications (up 2.8 percent).
Meanwhile, average pay for 175 IT certifications continued a steady decline that began in 2006, losing another one percent from the previous three months. Here, too there were pay gains in three certification groups: architecture/project management (up 3.1 percent compared to the previous three months), IT security (up 1.9 percent); and networking (up 1.1 percent).
He attributes the resilience of architecture and project management to firms looking to increase efficiencies through software automation and workflow tools - noting in particular "sharp increases in pay and demand for ITIL, CoBIT, and similar expertise." Also, given the anticipated "escalation in recession-driven mergers and acquisitions creating an enormous amount of integration-related activity, IT architecture and project management expertise are in more demand than ever."
There's also security in security. Alan Paller, director of research at SANS Institute, a security training and research firm, says SANS' most recent cross-industry survey showed that through the end of November 79 percent of respondents predicted no immediate reduction in IT security staffing. Computer forensics, penetration testing, intrusion detection, and incident handling are skills getting a lot of interest from employers. "Operational guys are going to be fine [at banks]," he says. "Firewall, system administrators, intrusion detection, anyone actually responsible for stopping attacks."
On the flip side, Paller says, policy jobs are probably more in jeopardy. And Foote's study indicates a tough environment for operating system skills, Web and e-commerce skills and application development skills.
Judith Pennington, a senior manager at Accenture and leader of its global IT workforce practice, offers four ways that people in IT jobs can protect and solidify their positions. First, she says, people should look for opportunities to broaden and deepen their expertise. She recommends identifying two or three companion areas to one's current expertise and educating oneself. "You want to continue to be seen as the expert, the go-to person."
Second, meet performance targets. In a time of tight budgets this obvious job-saving tip can't be overemphasized. Third, stay positive. In today sour economy, it's easy to develop a negative attitude and gripe with others around the office. But remember, managers want people with good morale who can inspire that in others. Lastly, Pennington says, every IT worker must understand the challenges faced by their institution as a whole and how their own job and performance can help. "You must understand the business. You must make the connection between what your bank is doing and going through, and what you can do."
This article can also be found at AmericanBanker.com.

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