Custom software development, for the Web, mobile Web, smartphone platforms and for running businesses, is where the action is in the information technology, or IT, field. Those with the right skills likely won't go wanting for work, according to local IT companies, as demand for online, mobile and cloud-based computing service grows.
After reading this, chances are you'll soon be on your computer or smartphone e-mailing, tweeting, or updating Facebook or Foursquare. Maybe even working.
And that, in short, is why IT is such a promising area now and in the future - especially for Web and mobile software developers, or programmers, who build the applications that keep us connected.
IT jobs fall roughly into three broad categories:
Network architecture. Network engineers and technicians oversee the switches, routes and even servers that enable you to open a Word document or spreadsheet and save it over a network. This branch also can include help desk administrators and field technicians.
Applications support. Technicians or engineers deploy applications within a company's computer system and analysts help decide what applications to buy and assist in setting them up.
Application development. This category includes database analysts, database architects, business analysts, developers and project managers who work to identify a company's software needs - from a new website or data warehousing system to custom applications that run an entire company - and subsequently build the software to meets those needs.
The hottest area now, and in the foreseeable future, is in software development, according to a number of IT companies in the Twin Cities.
"Anyone who's a strong Web developer or mobile developer is very sought after right now," said Tom O'Neill, vice president of Bloomington-based, Nerdery Interactive Labs, a rapidly growing Web development services firm that develops custom Web and mobile applications for clients nationally and locally. "If you're good at this stuff, I don't know anyone who's going, `Oh man, I can't find a job.' The software development industry has been pretty recession-proof so far.
Specifically, O'Neill said, demand is extremely high for developers working in the Android and Apple's iOS 4 mobile platforms, although he expects the mobile Web likely will overtake native mobile applications in the future.
Well-rounded developers - those who can develop both front-end or interface applications as well as the back-end underpinnings that make websites run - are likely to find jobs the fastest, O'Neill said.
Igor Epshteyn, CEO and president of customer business software development company Coherent Solutions Inc. of Minneapolis, agreed that demand for senior developers is and will be strong, particularly for those with Microsoft.Net and Java development skills.
"I don't see the need for these types of skills, for people with this experience and knowledge, to go away any time soon," Epshteyn said. For the future, he recommends keeping a close eye on development for cloud computing, where applications are delivered online through the Web while software and data are stored remotely on servers instead of on a single hard drive in a desktop computer or laptop.
As the IT market rebounds, demand for project managers and business analysts appears to be growing, said Heather Manley, president of Minneapolis-based IT staffing firm On-Demand Group, which places mid- and senior-level consultants with business and governmental clients. Data security, for health care, financial and other companies, likely will be an expanding IT field in the near future, she said.