News Column

Tech Jobs in High Demand

March 13, 2013

Mary Beth Jackson

technology jobs

There's a war on for talent in the region's tech sector, and it's a great time to enter the field if you have the skills, say the area's tech leaders.

There's a war on for talent in the region's tech sector, and it's a great time to enter the field if you have the skills, say the area's tech leaders.

A panel of four regional tech leaders answered students' questions about tech jobs in the area and what employers are seeking at the Southern Piedmont Technology Council's Tech Summit last week.

Damond VanWeerhuizen of TEK Systems in Greensboro, N.C., said apps and games are growing markets, and there's a need for developers and network administrators, too.

"IT employment is a little under 3.5 percent," he said. "Everybody's working right now. There's a massive need for qualified individuals."

The panel also included Matt Grether of TEK Systems; Inez Harville, director of information technology for the city; and G. Russell Jones of Acumen Physician Solutions in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.

Discussion was moderated by Dave Zook, president of Horizon Tech.

The panel discussed the finer points job seekers need to put themselves at an advantage in the pool. Gone are the days when the stereotypical IT guy could hide out with his systems in the basement and avoid human contact, Harville said. Companies are looking for good communicators.

"You have to be able to carry on a conversation," Harville said.

She said applicants need to be well-rounded.

"It's not the school, it's not the classes," she said. "It's going to be the outside stuff that determines whether we hire you or not."

Zook said he is always looking for a combination of degree and real world experience. When students countered that jobs were hard to find, Zook told them to volunteer, even if it's creating a website for a church.

VanWeerdhuizen agreed, adding, "Find a way to get your hands on technology."

He said free work can lead to high-paying jobs later.

Those in attendance wanted to know what IT certifications were the "hot" ones to get out of the myriads available.

"Certifications are great, but they're not necessary or required," Grether said.

VanWeerdhuizen said some job opportunities do require particular certifications, but they are most useful for setting an applicant apart and showing initiative. Harville said they were valuable for branding oneself for a particular sector.

In the interactive session, students expressed disappointment that more tech internships and jobs aren't available in Danville. Harville said students have to work at nabbing jobs and be willing to reach.

"Gone are the days a job is going to be handed to you," Harville said. "It's a job to find a job."

Zook said the city has done a great job creating the broadband network, but that the network alone does not create jobs.

"We need to find and foster a way to get more and more people to get into that field," Zook said, noting that companies are having trouble finding programmers. "The demand is there today."

While demand is strong for tech professionals, applicants still have competition. Grether said networking is the key to getting noticed.

"You can build up a rapport with somebody," he said. "Maybe they'll take you under their wing. Networking is by far the best way."

Harville said one way to network is to get connected with the SPTC's Tech Bunch for Lunch, Young Professionals of Danville-Pittsylvania County or Business After Hours, sponsored by the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce.

"A lot of the jobs people get today are through networking," she said. "It's not the resumes, it's the contacts."

VanWeerdhuizen said employers would rather go to who they know than sift through a stack of resumes.

And resumes are still important. Jones said resumes are still an essential first impression, and that they should be a single page, two at most, and emailed.

Harville said it is a good idea to tailor one's resume to the job being sought, highlighting skills applicable to the job.

VanWeerdhuizen added, "Spelling and grammar is huge, too."

Harville said there's one other qualification applicants should have -- a love for what they will be doing.

"Make sure you love it," she said. "It's not an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job anymore. It's a 24/7 job."

Jones said some people are wired for developing, others more oriented to working with hardware.

"Find your passion," he said.

Source: (c)2013 the Danville Register & Bee (Danville, Va.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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