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October 26th, 2011 - Heide Brandes

IT’s where it is

IT hiring is strong in the metro, but salary ranges remain below national average


Good news for techie job seekers: This year is showing an increase in job opportunities for IT positions not only nationally, but in Oklahoma.

Hiring for IT positions is expected to increase in the fourth quarter of 2011 from 4% to a net 6%, according to a Robert Half Technology survey, and 92% of CIOs say they expect growth prospects in their companies to increase in the next three months, as high as 5 points. 

CareerBuilder’s annual poll in December 2010, found that 42% of IT employers plan to hire more full-time employees. In the same study, 66% say they expected to boost pay for existing IT staff, with 13% expecting a raise of 5% or more.

right, Employees at iThemes

One-third of the 170 companies polled indicated they had open positions for which they cannot find qualified candidates, and 13% say they would hire outside the United States to fill those positions. Almost half of the companies would hire contract and freelance IT employees in 2011, and 46% say they would hire temporary workers on a permanent basis during this year.

In Oklahoma City, IT hiring is just as strong, but the salary range remains below national average, which may lead to a greater lack of skilled IT professionals in the state.

“In Oklahoma City, our unemployment is very low. Nationally, we have 9.1% unemployment, but in Oklahoma City, the latest number was 5.5%,” says Joseph McIntyre, branch manager for Robert Half Technology in Oklahoma City. “There’s a great demand for network administrators, as well as security. Web developers and .net developers are seeing an increase in hiring, and we’re also seeking desktop support and network professionals in this area.”

The local demand for IT specialists runs across the board, he says, from insurance to banking and finance to manufacturing. Nationally, according to the IT Hiring Index and Skills Report, skills most in demand are for security technology at 18%, networking at 17% and database management and tech support at 11%.

However, network administration topped the skill set in greatest demand with 63% of CIOs stating a need, followed by desktop management at 50% and desktop support at 43%.

“The energy sector continues to see growth, as well,” McIntyre says. “Also, because of the higher demand for IT services, the companies that provide that service are also looking to hire.”

Yet, the export of skilled professionals continue, due in part to the salary ranges. Although cost of living is lower in Oklahoma, the salary range is 89% of the national average, he says.

“Companies need to make sure the salary is competitive, and have programs in place to foster career growth and work/ life balance,” he says. “Our companies need to have programs that encourage our best IT people to stay here.”

Two Edmond-based companies hope to fix the dearth of a skiled pool.

Cory Miller’s iThemes Media office in Edmond, as well as that of Digimedia.com, are making a big splash not only in the U.S., but globally.

Miller, whose iTheme is dubbed the “Home Depot of web design,” started his company in 2008 in his garage. Jay Chapman and Scott Day of Digimedia. com have been making waves since the company started in 1997 in a watermelon shed in rural southern Oklahoma. Owning and maintaining one of the largest and most respected domain-name portfolios globally, Digimedia’s properties boast such generic names as fantasyfootball. com, dress.com and recipes.com. It also branches out to include even some small venture capital investments.

Now both companies are launching their own nonprofit foundation in Oklahoma as a way to prepare and position the state and its web-tech dreamers to be the next great hub of web technology.

“We want Oklahoma to not be Silicone Valley, but the Silicone Pasture,” Chapman says. “The idea is … to offer tech people in the state an environment so they want to stay here.”

Together, Miller, Day and Chapman opened The Div, a web-tech community hub at 1712 S. Kelly in Edmond. The Div — named for the web programming term, the start of a series of elements in programming — is a place for future web designers and programmers.

"With The Div, we are trying to provide that place where people can learn, meet others, grow and help themselves in the web tech field,” Chapman says. “From the Land Run to the oil boom, we stand on the shoulders of great men who gave us the opportunity to do this. We wanted to do something different. We wanted to create a place where those interested in web tech innovation didn’t have to move.

“We want to stop the export of webtech people to other states.”

The Div, an 1,800-square-foot space, will serve as a meeting place and training facility with the goal of mentoring webbased innovation and web-tech startups in the metro area.

With the goal of creating a workforce and even new companies in the webtech field, The Div offers webinars on technology topics, a library, weekly and monthly workshops and classes, social meet-and-greets, Friday lunch-and-learn seminars on general business topics and collaborative working spaces – all free.

“We will also have … 30 to 40 people who are highly skilled to mentor,” Miller says. “We reached out to other companies in the city to get strategic partners who share the same vision. Everyone is excited about Oklahoma becoming its own web-tech hub.”

The Div is open to anyone of any age interested in the field of web technology. Miller, Day and Chapman believe in the concept so much, they are personally funding the organization.

“Movement will happen,” Chapman says. “We want to empower other Oklahomans to jump into the field. We’ve had a lot of success in our companies. Now we’re blessed to open up the field, to create a platform for the next generation. The Div means a lot for the future of Oklahoma by giving talented and creative people in this state a space and tools to create their own future and innovations.”

Tips to retain top performers
• Ensure salary is competitive. Pay plays a large role in employee satisfaction; workers who feel undervalued may look for greener pastures when the economy improves.

• Develop programs that support career growth and work/life balance. The ultimate goal for employers is to create the type of work environment that will persuade their best IT professionals to stay, regardless of economic conditions.

• Address burnout proactively. Promoting realistic workloads, bringing in project professionals when full-time employees are at capacity, and tackling morale issues immediately can help prevent employees from feeling stressed and unhappy.

• Work with a specialized recruiting firm. These firms have access to thousands of IT candidates due to their networks in the local communities they serve. –Joseph McIntyre

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