Programmers: Coming out of the back room

The trend is for developers to cross-train combining business analysis skills with programming abilities

Code, code, code used to be the mantra of the programmer. But now a growing number of Australian IT pros are moving out from behind the keyboard.

Jill Noble, account manager at local IT recruitment consultancy Icon Recruitment, sees programmers becoming more proficient at multitasking.

"I think the way it's working now the idea of just being a programmer doesn't exist," Noble asserts.

She sees IT staff, who in the past had solely done programming work, now also analysing what's needed for a particular project or system. "So, you're also analysing the business requirements and then you'd get involved in the testing and the rollout," Noble said.

"Most programmers nowadays have come out of the back office -- a lot of them now are actual graduates as well -- they haven't just fallen into programming," she added.

Noble sees graduates coming out of tertiary courses prepared for the reality of having to multitask, something some of the older programmers may find a bit of a change.

Alex Knight, manager of the IT division of recruitment company Robert Walters, said it has also been finding that most jobs this quarter were for C++ programmers, with Java skills coming in second on the list of what employers are after.

Or it could be a combination of skillsets, such as C++ with SQL scripting, or Java using Object-Oriented design tools.

Knight credits the demand for skillsets such as C++ to the fact that a number of companies are working on bettering existing systems, rather than on brand-new application development.

He also agrees that more multitasking is now required of programmers. "Companies are looking to reduce costs by taking out the middleman, in the form of a business analyst," Knight said. "This can often mean that developers will be required to assess business needs and produce technical specifications."

"Business analysis skills combined with programming abilities are probably required of every development job we get at the moment."

Some companies are also looking at cross-training staff within their organisations. Anthone Withers, marketing and communications manager at Avanade, said training was part of its process.

Avanade is a systems integrator, which is 20 percent owned by Microsoft and 80 percent owned by Accenture. As well as nifty incentives, like a gadget allowance, Avanade also encourages its staff to train in new technologies.

"I suppose as a company Avanade looks at attracting new people to the organisation who have a passion for technology -- whether they're a systems engineer, a systems developer, or an HR consultant," Withers said.

Staff joining the company in systems engineer or systems developer roles must obtain Microsoft certification within 12 months. Withers said that its technical people come from a range of backgrounds such as Visual Basic, Visual C, Java, Cobol, and also UNIX.

"What we're doing at the moment is training them all to use Visual Studio.Net," said Withers. Part of the reason for this is so Avanade's technical staff can work with its customers' existing systems.

"A lot of what Avanade does internally is roll out the latest and greatest in technology -so when we go out and talk to customers we've already done it ourselves."

In addition to certification courses, staff also have access to resources such as soft study guides, practice exams, and virtual instructor-led courses.


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