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Dark Clouds – and a Silver Lining – on the Hiring Front

Talk to anyone about jobs during a recession, and it isn’t likely to be a cheerful discussion. Talk to geeks about IT jobs, and you’ll get a small taste of a recent conversation going on across the Linux blogs.

A pretty picture it isn’t, that’s for sure — at least not across the board.

IT job satisfaction, for instance, is generally in the gutter, according to a recent survey by the Corporate Executive Board. Whereas about 12 percent of IT workers surveyed in 2007 reported that they were “highly engaged” in their jobs — meaning, essentially, committed to going the extra mile for their employers — that number is now down to 4 percent, Computerworld reported.

One implication? Many are likely to leave for other opportunities as soon as economic conditions improve, the Corporate Executive Board predicted.

‘I Can’t Wait to Find a New Job’

“Amen!” responded Grishnakh on Linux Today. “I’m not in IT exactly, but a software engineer, but otherwise this article resounds strongly with me. I can’t wait to find a new job.”

The dissatisfaction in IT is not entirely surprising, of course, given — for example — that half of all data centers are currently understaffed, according to a recent Symantec survey cited by Network World. The IT workers who remain, then, are stretched to their limits — and perhaps beyond.

Then there’s the fact that companies are “showing their true colors during the recession,” suggested an anonymous reader in the Computerworld comments. “Believing that workers are essentially captives, the companies are no longer pretending that they respect and value those workers, because they don’t believe that they have to.”

‘A Much Larger Burden’

Indeed, “the problem is that most employers don’t see IT employees as anything more than assembly-line workers instead of the problem-solvers we are,” Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack told LinuxInsider.

“I’ve had employers in the past not understand that sometimes you need to talk a problem out with someone else or distract yourself from the problem to get a solution,” Mack explained, even going so far as to “ban staff from talking outside of break hours.”

Most smart workers would leave a place like that, “but in these times it can be hard to find a new job to replace the bad one with,” he added.

“There is also the problem of tight budgets, meaning IT staff have to take on a much larger burden than they would when times are better, leading to extra stress,” Mack noted. “I suspect job satisfaction will improve as the economy does.”

‘H-1B Is a Cancer’

Too many companies are using the recession as “an excuse to under-staff or — worse — outsource,” Slashdot blogger hairyfeet agreed.

“Some will call me racist for saying so, but H-1B is a cancer that has to go,” hairyfeet told LinuxInsider. “So many of my friends are having to take their 60k education and compete with some guy from India that paid 8k for his –how can you compete with that?

“It is like our manufacturing sector being expected to compete with China, where they can just dump toxic waste into their rivers and poison their workers,” hairyfeet added. “No way we can compete.”

‘The IT Staff Are the Victims’

It’s hard to say if the decline in IT job satisfaction is recession-related “or just general malaise in technology,” Slashdot blogger yagu opined.

“Technology continues expanding faster than the universe,” he told LinuxInsider. “Companies suffer from ‘technology du jour,’ and the IT staff are the victims — new technology, new learning curves, new (unattainable) deadlines and never mastering the current platform.

“Heck, I read the trade journals and I don’t have the slightest idea about some of the things considered the rage today,” yagu admitted.

“I’ve been lucky,” he said. “I have a job I absolutely love, and I look forward to every day at work. I work where people are smart and well-managed, and the technology is stable.”

Of course, “part of that is because our core technology relies on Linux,” he added.

New Job Board on Linux.com

It would be hard to find a better segue, in fact, to the silver lining around all these dark IT employment clouds: Linux.

Demand for Linux-related jobs has grown 80 percent since 2005, according to the JobThread Network, making Linux the fastest-growing job category in the IT industry, the Linux Foundation reports.

That’s on top of being named the second-hottest IT job skill by Foote Partners last summer!

Little wonder, then, that the foundation just launched a new Linux Job Board on Linux.com.

“Linux is more than just a poster child for open source; Linux is a key player demonstrating the rock-solid technology that is Unix,” yagu asserted. “Linux, were it not excellent, could never have generated a job market.”

‘There Will Be Explosive Growth’

GNU /Linux has long been in demand on the server, but “very few jobs are ‘only GNU/Linux’,” blogger Robert Pogson pointed out. “That other OS infects everything it touches.”

With virtualization, however, “the world of the server and the desktop are merging more than ever,” Pogson told LinuxInsider. “As more GNU/Linux desktop environments are installed and distributed, the demand for knowledge of GNU/Linux will increase steadily.”

While the installed base “of that other OS will prevent anything as explosive as growth in servers, the huge quantity of XP machines out there are fertile ground for GNU/Linux migrations,” he added. “Some fraction of them will move to thin clients and may well run GNU/Linux as more Web applications take hold.”

Looking ahead, “I expect we shall see quite a different landscape by the end of 2010, with GNU/Linux growing rapidly in price-sensitive emerging economies and moving forward in established markets when the XPers see that GNU/Linux is a more comfortable fit than ‘7,’” Pogson predicted. “When business tips to GNU/Linux, there will be explosive growth in GNU/Linux jobs because everything from developers to installers will be needed.”

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