Computerworld Career Adviser

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Career Adviser

By Fran Quittel

A biweekly, interactive advice column in which selected questions will be answered by nationally known columnist and recruitment expert Fran Quittel.

February 14, 2000

I am a project manager at a large electric utility where I've been employed for 15 years. My career has become stagnant, and I'd like to move into another industry where I can get involved in managing e-commerce development. Most advertised project manager positions require technical experience in newer technologies. It's been a long time since I've done any hands-on technical work. How do I acquire such experience without stepping down from my current position?

— Target Me for E-Commerce

Dear Target Me:

As an "energy geek," you'll be valuable to utility companies moving toward the Web, since e-skilled utility people also need to know traditional industry skill sets inside and out to integrate them with new Web-based applications. This requires the skills of the old enterprise crowd, asserts John Gaus, CEO and co-founder of in Maynard, Mass.

So don't discount your current computer information regarding metering, billing, accounts receivable and accounts payable systems. Just become aware of what else is going on in your industry so you know how to apply what you already know in this newer context.

Because most utilities are now creating e-commerce projects and budgets to encompass a host of jobs, everything from customer service, to data sharing of account information for customers that choose third-party projects, to commodity transaction management wholesale/retail is up for grabs.

"Dear Career Adviser:
I'm in my mid-30s and have been in IT for just three years, preceded by 10 years of accounting systems background. I'm now a freelance consultant to retail companies setting up their LANs (under Novell 3.12-4.0 and Windows NT 4). I want to consider myself at the forefront of systems integration, including Web-based services and e-commerce with a strong knowledge in systems design and programming. What do I need to add to my background so an e-commerce company will hire me?

— Need To Know

Dear Need to Know:
You'll need two to three years of work focused on developing the hard-core skills of e-commerce, says Salim Khalife, founder and president of Paramount Technologies Inc., which provides Web-enabled business-to-business e-commerce solutions for small to midsize companies.
Concentrate on Crystal
Reports, SQL Oracle or Microsoft SQL Server, and gain strong knowledge in HTML, the Internet programming language, and XML, the content tagging language. Then make sure you have a good understanding of Web browser and server concepts as well as the client/server model. Finally, you'll need strong Microsoft Access for importing and exporting data from different databases, experience in Web markup languages like Microsoft Active Server Pages or Allaire Coldfusion HTML, a good understanding of electronic data interchange as well as Open Buying over the Internet. Once you have these applications and experience, target traditional consulting companies with e-commerce practices or those high-flying online procurement organizations.

"Dear Career Adviser:
I have more than 12 years' experience in the IBM mainframe arena, working with databases such as DB2, IMS and IDMS. Our organization is migrating to Sun Solaris servers, using PeopleSoft and Oracle.
I am enrolling in an Oracle certification program to become an Oracle Certified Professional in database administration. I am taking computer-based training classes such as Oracle PL/SQL, Oracle database administration, Unix, Visual Basic, C and Java. This is prior to enrolling in the certification program for Oracle. Could you give me some advice about how to find employ-ment as an Oracle database administrator?

— Oracle Deb

Dear Deb:
Of course, you could stay involved with traditional applications. Better yet, consider this: If your ultimate goal is to use your experience in back-end systems with companies moving their business to the Internet, become deeply involved with your company's migration plan, says Toni McIntosh, director of human resources at Pervasive Software Inc., a Web applications development company in Austin, Texas.
Because Web applications are often very database-intensive and both Oracle Corp. and PeopleSoft Inc. have announced widespread Web/Internet integration initiatives with their latest releases, expand your knowledge base to include new Oracle database, Unix and programming language skills. Once you understand the ins and outs of migrating applications to a Sun/Oracle/PeopleSoft platform from hard-core experience, then leverage yourself into consulting work or into a start-up.

Quittel is an expert in high-tech careers and recruitment. She is the creator of The FirePower Career Forum on The Microsoft Network (MSN) and of the Web sites and, which offer her tips and advice for job seekers and employers, repectively.

Copyright © 2000 IDG Communications, Inc.

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