Those who have been working in technology for a while remember the burst of the bubble of 2000 and the ensuing mass layoffs. In the 2001 recession, which was concentrated in the technology sector, women were more likely to have been laid off than men, according to a study by the Joint Economic Committee of the Federal Government. This time around, the layoffs have so far affected men disproportionately, with women poised to surpass men in numbers in the workforce for the first time in history.
While this recession started in the financial sector, the layoffs as of January have now widely spread to all sectors of the economy, including the technology sector. The unenmployment rate for African Americans is now at 12.6%, 9.7% for Hispanics and 6.9% for whites. Still, technology careers are weathering better than other sectors in this recession so far. There was pent up demand for technical employees; even with a hiring slowdown, there are some jobs out there for qualified IT professionals.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, firms in computer equipment manufacturing lost 8,800 jobs in January; the telecom sector lost 3,800 jobs. On the plus side, firms in Data processing and hosting added 200 jobs, and technical consulting services have added 11,000 jobs.
Even while they are making cuts, most major high tech companies are still hiring for specific positions – see the “spreadsheet full of sunshine” compiled by Rafe Needleman in his CNet blog for a view of who is hiring: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17939_109-10073394-2.html. However, companies are being extremely selective and the competition for any given job is very high. With few jobs available and many looking, companies that used to be be willing to hire an employee that was a close enough match and invest in their development are now expecting a perfect fit. The currency for being hired: showing the company that your technical skills are better than the competition’s.
In our study of 1795 technical men and women, (www.anitaborg.org/research/news), technical men were more likely than women to report updating their technical skills “on their own time”, informally. Men were also significantly more likely to report that their partner had the primary responsibility for the household/children. The technical women in our study faced significant work-life challenges. In this economy, those company sponsored opportunities to update one’s skills on work time, such as conferences and courses, have been cut, further compounding the problem.
With limited time, investing in updating the right skills is paramount – which skill to update depends on individual career paths, but here are some sources about those skills that are in demand:
ComputerWorld, in 2007, published some articles on high demand technical skills — these include web 2.0 languages, machine learning, security, and others, http://snipurl.com/cbtna and http://snipurl.com/cbtp4.
The latest Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report points to network administration and IT support, http://snipurl.com/cbtkd.
Obviously, in this market, soft skills matter too. Interpersonal skills and business acumen above and beyond technical skills can differentiate candidates that are equally technically competent.