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Study reveals hot and cold OS, languages, positions

Employers of open computing software professionals proclaim Solaris, C++, and sysadmins "hottest"

By Michael O'Connell

December  1995
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A recent survey of hiring managers at companies in need of software professionals reveals a tremendous demand for senior systems administration talent, and indicates Sun-related operating systems continue to dominate the client/server market. Furthermore, companies' continued pursuit of the promise of rapid prototyping and reusable code drives the adoption of object-oriented methodologies, making C++ the clear language of choice.

The 1995-1996 "Software Hiring Trends" survey, conducted by the recruiting firm Pencom Systems Inc., in conjunction with Unix Expo, polled 200 of the top employers of software professionals in the open computing marketplace by phone and fax, and collected 100 responses. The technical managers completed a two-page questionnaire and ranked the hottest and coldest IT positions and skills. The survey results are summarized below.

Sysadmins in greatest demand
Hiring managers ranked system administrators, application developers, and database developers as both the most difficult to locate and the highest in demand. New machines, greater system up-time requirements, Internet connectivity, and security factors propelled system administrators into the number-one "hot" spot in the survey.

Companies in need of system administrators have few options, notes David Keenan, Pencom's head of research and marketing. They can either steal sysadmins from other companies ("sysadmins typically get five unsolicited job offers per year") or get rid of the need for sysadmins through automation, consolidation, and other efficiency measures.

Pencom reports that the need for application developers with an object programming background continues to grow, and database application programmers with Sybase and Oracle skills are in short supply.

While mainframe environments continue to coexist with client/server technology, the supply of mainframe talent grows as demand plummets, leaving few options for mainframe professionals short of retraining.


Lingua franca: C++
C++ appears to be the language of choice in the Unix world, while Visual C++ and Visual Basic dominate in the Windows world, the Pencom study notes. SmallTalk retains a hot spot, due mostly to short supply rather than significant demand, especially in financial and brokerage firms.

Although Java didn't make the survey this year, Keenan notes that it is "coming up on the radar screen really fast," and expects a lot of requests for Java developers within the next 18 months.

Solaris, SunOS dominate
Sun's operating systems continue to dominate the client/server market, the study notes. An increasing percentage of SunOS shops are converting to Solaris bolsters demand for Solaris system administration skills.

AIX and HP-UX run neck and neck behind Sun. AIX seems more prevalent among corporate end-users; HP-UX is more often found in engineering and development environments.

The demand for Windows NT skills nearly parallels that for AIX and HP-UX, with more and more companies trying NT on a departmental or experimental basis.
--Michael O'Connell

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