Thanks to recession-related layoffs and heightened competition in the job market as companies reduce their technology expenditures, career development has come to center stage for many IT workers.
Given the dampened mood in the IT sector many may even be considering a career change - but are unsure how their technical and business expertise could be used elsewhere.
I have good news: the knowledge gained in an IT job can be an advantage in entering and succeeding in many fields that veer off the traditional IT career paths.
Many of these careers are inherently resistant to recessions and, where vulnerability exists, you can minimise your exposure by targeting employment in a noncyclical industry.
Here I've highlighted five such careers - a sample of the 20 I cover in my book Debugging Your Information Technology Career.
The following professions can be entered with an undergraduate degree in a computer discipline. If you're looking for a dramatic career shift and are willing to pursue an advanced degree, other options such as a technology attorney are also available.
Technology insurance underwriter
In this role, you'll draw upon your knowledge of computer technology and industry best practices in evaluating applications for professional liability insurance policies submitted by computer manufacturers, software developers, systems integrators, ASPs, ISPs and consultants.
These policies provide coverage for risks stemming from errors and omissions, and for directors' and officers' liability. You'll examine applicants' contracts with third parties, such as customers, vendors, licensees, licensors and collocation facilities for potential exposures. You may study an applicant's documentation detailing its software development process. If you approve the application, you'll establish a premium to reflect the level of risk. Gaining experience as an underwriter can be an excellent springboard to a technology insurance broker role - a career with considerably greater income potential.
This investment industry position is found in equity research firms, broker-dealers, investment advisors, mutual funds, hedge funds and institutional investors. As an equity analyst assigned to cover a segment of the computer industry, you'll assess companies' top management, business plans, marketing strategies, current and planned products and, of course, financial results - with the goal of predicting their future performance and stock prices. You'll also maintain current knowledge of the companies' investments in R&D and new plants, restructurings, joint ventures and acquisitions. Because the ability to evaluate the commercial potential of hardware and software requires an in-depth understanding of computer technology and the processes needed to create it, many IT pros have been well-received by employers.
Corporate development analyst
The business plans of many IT industry companies emphasise growth through acquisition. As a corporate development analyst, you'd contribute to that goal by researching and evaluating acquisition candidates, using screening criteria you may participate in defining. You may collaborate with in-house department managers in planning and executing the integration of the acquisition's systems and organisation with your employer's. IT pros attracted to this field should target SMEs engaged in activities that mesh with their backgrounds. For example, a business analyst who supports a logistics function might approach a company that markets logistics software.
As an account executive - a sales representative - you may be assigned to bring in new customers or develop sales from existing ones - or both. Your responsibilities may include calling prospects, conducting feasibility studies to determine the most appropriate products for customers based on their computer infrastructure and other factors, monitoring competitive products and pricing, developing proposals, and delivering presentations.
Your ability to quickly master complex software and hardware should make you more productive than non-technically trained account executives because you'll be less reliant on pre-sales engineers. Equally important, your customers - knowing your IT background - will have a high level of confidence in your recommendations for products that best address their needs. The optimal strategy for breaking into this field is to target companies marketing products you've used.
Procurement project manager
These professionals participate in implementing centralised global procurement processes, either as subcontractors to or employees of consulting firms. You'll lead teams of personnel employed by the firm's clients in defining the criteria - quality, pricing, innovation and compliance - to govern the selection of vendors in one or more categories, such as marketing services, travel and, of course, computer hardware, software and services. The project manager analyses the information compiled by team members, prepares reports and delivers presentations on recommendations for procurement standards. IT pros have proven to be highly effective procurement project managers - and not just for computer-related categories - because of their skill in supervising teams in defining and implementing complex processes under time-critical deadlines.
You may have to retool your career plan because of offshoring or the recession. However, we live in a world dependent on computer technology - and it will only become more so in future. Thus, whether you want to continue along a traditional IT career path or pursue one of these alternative jobs, there will never be a dearth of opportunities.
Janice Weinberg is the founder of Career Solutions in Westport, Connecticut, and the author of Debugging Your Information Technology Career: A Compass to New and Rewarding Fields That Value Computer Knowledge, published by Elegant Fix Press, LLC.
The article, "http:="" management.silicon.com="" careers="" 0,39024671,39391083,00.htm"="">Five alternate careers for IT pros was originally published on silicon.com.