There are no shortages of pronouncements of a full economic recovery from the post-boom recession years. Tech job cuts are at a six-year low, IT operational budgets are at the highest levels since 1997, and tech wages are at a five-year high, and this is just a gathering from reports issued this week.
Yet, IT still struggles to disengage from the forlorn image of thousands of layoff victims after the tech bubbles collapse in 2001. A report issued this week highlighted some outmoded views of the field, as well as the schism that still exists between insiders and outsiders perception of the occupation.
Despite an overwhelming amount of techies expressing satisfaction with their jobs, outsiders dont recommend the field to others, according to a report issued July 25 by Dice.com, a New York-based career site for tech professionals.
In the survey, 94 percent of IT professionals reported satisfaction with their current positions, citing job enjoyment (40 percent), good pay (34 percent), liking their field (34 percent) and the ability to be creative (23 percent). Eighty-eight percent of tech pros said they would recommend a career in technology to others.
Yet, outside the tech industry, the survey painted a different picture. Sixty-four percent of nontech professionals said they were likely to recommend a career in technology. In addition, when asked why they were not very likely to apply for an IT job, 6 percent cited lack of job security, 4 percent said a lack of creativity, and 3 percent said they view IT as having few opportunities for professional growth.
“We wanted to find out how tech professionals see their career path versus people from the outside,” Dice.com President and CEO Scott Melland told eWEEK. “Not surprisingly, tech people like what theyre doing, though three or four years ago they may have responded differently. Yet, [from the] outside the [IT] career seems to have an image problem. People outside the field dont rate it as having any more appeal than other fields.”
Melland said ITs average salary is 8 percent more than the national average, the field is known to be more of a meritocracy than others and jobs often come with more schedule flexibility.
Dice is using this data to create a new Tech Appeal Index, a measurement of a persons inclination to recommend the IT field over another industry. For this study, the index was 123.7 from tech pros while 104.5 from nontechies. A value of 100 indicates the individual would equally recommend tech along with another field.
“The reason were going to be doing this index is that theres been a huge improvement in the job market for tech professionals but you still have not very many young people entering the profession. The number of math, science and engineering graduates coming out of colleges is way down from five or 10 years ago,” said Melland.
The professionals agree. Steven Pickett, CIO of Penske and president of the Society for Information Management, said that few understand what IT professionals do.
“IT is not as well-understood as other fields. People know what doctors and dentists do, but its different with IT,” said Pickett.
Furthermore, Pickett feels that outsourcing fears have been overblown, scaring recruits away.
“A lot of stories are well-targeted but will hit the wrong target. For example, someone writes a really good article about how to get the most out of outsourcing resources, and a layman reads into that Jobs are being offshored. A freshman at a university will then say that they dont want to get involved because of outsourcing,” he said.
Gerald Shields, senior vice president and CIO of Aflac, a Columbus, Ga.-based medical insurance company, agrees that misconceptions plague the field.
“I think there are some misconceptions about IT,” he said. “Theres a perception that IT has to work around the clock, a misconception that offshoring took all the IT jobs away.”
Kate Kaiser, a professor of IT at Marquette University and head researcher for SIM, attributes outsiders views of IT to not understanding the range of skills and capability the field represents.
“I talk about IT skills as business, project managing and liaising skills. These are not what the kids think about when they think of IT, and we need to change that perception. Theres a big problem that what they think we do is not what we do,” said Kaiser.
Kaiser feels that the onus to improve ITs image is on both the companies that need a continuing influx of technology professionals and the universities that breed them.
“Companies and secondary schools need to work together to get to the kids. Business and academics need to work together to get to these kids and to excite them about math and science and technology. We can get to the parents through the schools, too,” said Kaiser.