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IT Salary Survey 2014: Who's hot, who's not

April 7, 2014 06:30 AM ET

Lance Abla, principal systems engineer and specialist SE manager at EMC, spent more than six months finding the right candidates for three positions in EMC's presales consulting group. He says he's not seeking one specific skill but a wide range of knowledge in storage, networking, operating systems and "everything middleware and below."

"They have to be able to talk intelligently to C-level execs and customers, and make a case for why we should assist that customer in not only the services and software, but the hardware that they use to run their IT platforms. It's pretty hard to find people who have that breadth and depth of knowledge," not to mention the personality and professionalism that's required for the job, he says. "That quality where everyone perks up when they speak, or when they enter a room they have this presence -- I can't teach those things."

While positions remain unfilled, the projects are piling up for current IT employees. Some 26% of respondents said that in the past year their working conditions were significantly affected by unfilled open positions, compared to 20% in 2013. One-third of survey takers said they were affected by new understaffed projects.

Solutions architect senior manager Dane Bamburry received a 3% raise this year from his employer, Cox Enterprises, the same pay increase he had last year -- but he also got an 18% bonus for his efforts on two major internal cross-divisional projects that required him to work an extra five or six hours several days a week.

"In my immediate department we have a shortage of employees right now," says Bamburry. "I'm trying to procure funding to add additional staff."

Bamburry, who oversees a staff of five, says he fields eight to 10 phone calls a year from headhunters looking to poach employees with technology strategy skills -- especially people focused on mobility and cloud. "Those are the buzzwords of today," he says.

But he chooses to work the extra hours and stay with the company because he likes his team. "We have a good group of people, very collaborative, and a positive environment," he explains. "The career and growth potential so far have been good. If you have a good working environment with people you get along with, that's always a big plus."

Skills cooling off

Even as the need for some tech skills rises or stays steady, demand for others is cooling off. Staffing firm Robert Half Technology sees the biggest declines in mainframe and midrange computing skills like Cobol and AS/400 as the migration away from mainframe computing environments to Web and mobile systems continues, says John Reed, senior executive director at RHT.

Mainframes aren't disappearing, of course, but employers won't be paying top dollar for mainframe support. "I have mainframe guys on my team who clearly have not begun to recognize that they haven't maintained skills that are marketable outside of a small subset of the world," Abla says.

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Tips for keeping the talent you have

While many IT workers are choosing to stay with their current employers for now, the trend may not last much longer. "Recruiters are very active now," says David Foote, CEO of Foote Partners, "so companies that have never had retention problems are really having problems now."

John Reed, senior executive director at Robert Half Technology, says companies can encourage employees to stay by creating an environment where open communication is welcomed.

He advises managers to build career road maps for the key people on their teams and then offer them the training and experience they'll need to reach their goals.

"Managers also have to sit down with people on their teams and get a gauge on how satisfied they are with their jobs," he adds. "Pay attention to work-life balance. Most managers want to address concerns before [employees] come in and just resign."

Stacy Collett

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IT Salaries 2014
2014 Salary Survey

Our 28th annual survey results show which IT skills are in high demand and which are cooling off. Also, see how your salary stacks up to peers' with our Smart Salary Tool.