IBM i Jobs: Having What It Takes To Get Hired
September 23, 2013 Dan Burger
The job market for IBM midrange professionals fluctuates somewhere between contrary and crotchety. The same could be said about many of the pros who are inside and outside the workforce. One thing for certain is that this job market is changing and the people who want to get jobs or keep jobs have to change with it. Resistance, as we all know from watching Star Trek, is futile.
A friend of mine, Bob Langieri, is dialed into the IBM i job market in the greater Los Angeles area. He’s been a one-man employment service specializing in career placement for IBM midrange professionals for as long as the midrange has existed.
Just last week, Langieri presented his annual State of the IBM i Job Market report to the OCEAN User Group, the IBM i-centric local user group based in Orange County, California. In general, he sees the job market continuing to improve, and for companies that are adding IBM i staff, there is an abundance of candidates. For job seekers, his advice is to be proactive in modernizing and broadening skill sets to add value to the companies that are hiring and have a lot of candidates to choose from.
Looking at specific skills that get people hired, Langieri provided a few valuable tips for application developers, system administrators, and networking professionals.
Basic RPG developers are almost invisible to the big majority of companies who are hiring. That means RPG Free Form and ILE RPG are almost an automatic requirement. That brings with it skills associated with subfiles, stored procedures, and embedded SQL. Job candidates will also distinguish themselves if they have skills related to graphical user interface tools, interfacing with mobile devices, and business analytics. Add examples of continuing education to your list of what you can bring to a new job: classes, seminars, certifications, and conference attendance shows professionalism.
System administration jobs are few and far between. Langieri says the outsourcing of data centers and the increasing use of system automation software are responsible for reducing the demand for IBM i administrators. Skills that add value to those applying for these jobs include familiarity with high availability, logical partitions, virtualization, cloud computing, and management of AIX, Linux, or Windows environments. In some instances, networking is part of this job. The specifics of network administrator are in the next category.
Networking administrator positions at IBM i shops almost always include responsibility for Windows servers and virtualization tools from VMware and Citrix Systems. That means Web servers, firewalls, enterprise and WiFi security, as well as SQL Server and SharePoint Server. Cloud computing and storage area networks are also skills that differentiate those who are hired from those who don’t get called for interviews.
Everyone is interested in the topic of salaries, so Langieri built some comparison tables with numbers plugged in from 2003 and 2013. The numbers depict a range that reflects hires with average skills on the low end and hires with tops skills on the high end. Salaries have modestly increased during that 10-year span, but with average skills garnering a 1 percent to 2 percent increase per year and those with the best skills doing much better.
Note: The salary ranges shown above from Excel Technical Systems are for the IBM i market in southern California. They are based on active candidate salary expectations and the salary ranges companies are willing to pay.
Skills and titles are often not so neatly pigeon holed. Situations vary as do titles and responsibilities, particularly in smaller shops where one person will wear many hats. Some shops will have a separate position for network pros but not for system admins.
“The salary differences between 10 years ago and today are not that much different,” Langieri points out. “These people are a bargain.” That is, of course, if you take inflation into account, which the numbers above do not. And even without that, a big increase over 10 years, as the average increase data shows, is still only a few points per year. It is a bit curious as to why system and network administrators have seen their salaries go up so much faster than other higher paid professionals, but that question may be its own answer. One could argue that such employees were underpaid on the other side of the Great Recession and are making up for it a bit on the this side of it.
The complete State of the IBM i Job Market report is available in PDF format from Langieri’s business website at www.excelsearch.com.