There's talent aplenty amid dot-com rubble

As an IT manager, you need talent to complete projects and fill positions. And now, you're in luck.

As an IT manager, you need talent to complete projects and fill positions. And now, you’re in luck.

The internet economy is stumbling, corporate profits in general are uncertain and investors’ appetite for high tech has nose-dived as stocks have taken an end-of-the-year beating amid some fourth-quarter profit warnings and revenue shortfalls.

This could be the right time to start assembling your dream team of qualified, experienced IT pros who, until now, have been too busy chasing stock options to return your recruiting calls.

But not so fast.

No matter how bad the tech market gets, the talent you want won’t let you call all the shots in your recruiting pitches.

Good IT people want to work on interesting projects; they’re not interested in standard, run-of-the-mill jobs. If you’re hunting for IT skills, consider that the best people often take on projects that last only for “about 12 to 13 to 14 months,” says Jon Slavet, co-CEO and co-founder of San Francisco-based Guru.com.

When uncertainty in the market hits, as it has recently, it can cause talented individuals to reconsider where their chief loyalties lie: with their careers or with their companies.

“In the context of volatility, some people might want the most security possible, but those with the best skills may also want to take their careers into their own hands,” says Slavet, whose company produces an online marketplace connecting freelancers and consultants with contract projects in IT organisations.

Indeed, Slavet says that the more talented the person, especially in IT, the more he can shift from engagement to engagement. This means that project managers will have to adjust to using teams of outside IT personnel who have portable and highly sought-after skills.

“The manager has to be creative and be able to sell the proposition that a particular goal is interesting and vital,” which is why people choose one project over another, Slavet says.

Right now, Slavet says, he sees an influx of Java programmers, though he adds that there’s also a lot of activity in business development and marketing, mainly from tech-savvy people who have been let go or released from Internet companies.

But Slavet cautions IT managers not to assume that people who work on their own have been downsized. Most people who work for themselves, especially in the IT space, do so because they choose to, and using them can be a different way to access IT talent.

While the current internet downdraft might serve up a little more talent, use this opportunity to recognise the fundamental shift in the way people like to work. Highly skilled people will continue to go from project to project, so don’t waste energy trying to lure them as full-time employees.

By seeking out contractors rather than employees, at least you won’t have to worry about their long-term loyalty. Clearly, that doesn’t exist.

Pimm Fox is Computerworld’s West Coast bureau chief. Contact him at pimm_fox@computerworld.com.

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