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Where to for Sydney's Systems Engineers in 2013? Part II

16th Jan 2013

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Jordan Pearce from Sydney’s Xpand office shares his observations on the current Infrastructure space. 

“How is the Market looking”? A question that I’m asked on a daily basis by customers and engineers. I want to share with you some observations on the Infrastructure space here in Sydney at the moment as well as provide some information which might help with decisions on which role to move to, how to best set yourself up for success in Sydney’s Infrastructure job market or how to hire the best engineers. These observations are from my little corner of the market, and I’d love to hear what you’re experiencing.

Broadening of skills demanded and roles being offered

The days of a Systems Engineer being an AD/Exchange engineer are long gone. Up until the GFC Systems Engineering roles were becoming increasingly narrow and specialised across both the Corporate and Systems Integration sectors. From late ‘08 companies made mass redundancies and Systems Engineers were spread thinner over a broader scope of technologies. This trend has continued with today’s corporate Systems Engineer expected to bring strong skills across Microsoft, VMWare, Citrix and SAN technologies, preferably also Cisco and Linux knowledge if you wouldn’t mind…

Who’s hiring?

We’re seeing strong hiring across SaaS and IaaS providers who are demanding the technical skills to support these platforms. Demand is for engineers who have supported cross platform infrastructure that hosts large scale web applications. Over the past 6 months engineers who have experience across both Linux and Windows operating systems have been in high demand, with high growth SaaS and IaaS providers looking for a combination of these skills as well as Networking and Security skills to support their growth.

The Systems Integrators are hiring, particularly the price competitive small and mid size players. These companies also tend to hire people with a broad range of skills rather than a deep specialisation.

What’s in Demand in 2013?

On top of a broader skillset, the areas that I believe will be in demand in 2013 are:

- Virtual Desktop Infrastructure – The benefits of physical to virtual migrations have been realised by most Sydney based organisations, the next significant ROI will come from virtualising the corporate desktop environment. Engineers with experience in VDI products across Citrix, VMWare or Microsoft will be in hot demand by the Systems Integrators on a permanent basis and on a contract basis by the end technology users looking to perform the migration in house.

- Linux – Is becoming sexy due to its price advantages and robustness, and so are the engineers who bring strong skills with the technology. Small to medium hosting providers, SaaS companies as well as the technical Digital Media agencies are hiring Linux engineers to support their platforms, products as well as their internal user environments. Systems Integrators are responding to the corporate market demand for Linux by hiring senior Engineers and the end user companies are showing a preference for engineers bringing Linux experience alongside Wintel experience for traditional System Engineering roles.

- Within the Microsoft world the technical experience that I believe will be demanded in 2013 includes the Systems Centre suite of products, particularly Configuration Manager as well Operations Manager, Virtual Machine Manager and Orchestrator. The Systems Integrators will be demanding engineers who bring experience with new implementations or upgrades to the 2012 versions. They’ll also be hoping to find people with deep experience in multiple Systems Centre products, with the 2012 suite a much more cohesive offering. I’m also hearing that with the increased functionality of the newest version of Hyper-V it may appeal to the cost conscious CIO and we may see much stronger demand for engineers with Hyper-V experience, in particular experience migrating to Hyper-V from vSphere.

How’s the market looking?

There isn’t a single adjective that captures how the Sydney market for Systems Engineers looks at the moment. Up until three months ago I would have said relatively healthy, although at the moment peaky, patchy, selective and fickle are words that come to mind.

There are three factors I’ve observed in Sydney’s market that I believe we’ll continue to see in 2013, they are:

- Misalignment between skills demanded and skills available – The market is demanding a broad mix of technical skills, although there simply aren’t enough companies with these broad position structures already in place to produce enough engineers to satisfy the current demand. As the companies currently demanding engineers skilled across Windows, Linux, Networking, Storage and Security feel the pain of long term vacant roles, I believe they’ll relax their hiring requirements by hiring engineers with the aptitude to up-skill, in the process helping to rectify the misalignment of skills available / demanded. There are some extremely talented and proven engineers looking for a new position now that aren’t being considered for roles due to a “box ticking” mentality that I believe isn’t resulting in the strongest possible hire.

- High salaries and daily rates – I believe one of the strongest indicators of the health of a job market is the remuneration levels being set. Annual salaries and daily rates are, in my experience, as high as they were pre GFC, with many permanent roles in the senior engineering space paying between $120,000 to $150,000 p.a. and the average asking price of a senior contracting engineer above $600/day. Given that there are a number of good senior engineers actively searching for a new role or that are not currently in a role at the moment, I’d expect to see an adjustment of what is considered the “market rate” of engineers in early 2013 reduce by 10-15%.

- The Seasonal Effect – This time of year is traditionally quiet, combine this with low levels of business confidence as well as a reluctance of potential job seekers to consider upgrading roles and it’s not surprising to look on the major IT job boards and notice that Systems Engineering positions listed are not at the levels we’ve become accustomed to. January is always a quieter month on the hiring front and I expect to see the same this January.

How can I use this to my advantage?

If you are an engineer with broad skills, particularly across Linux, Networking, Security, Virtualisation or any of the products that I’ve mentioned, early 2013 is a good time for you to consider upgrading positions. My advice to engineers looking for work at the moment is to give strong consideration to roles which will broaden your skillset, or offer exposure to Linux, VDI or some of the Microsoft technologies I’ve mentioned. Provided you enjoy working with these technologies, you’ll set yourself up with the experience that I believe will be demanded well into the next few years.

If you’re hiring engineers early next year my advice is to be sure to promote the experience across these technologies that a potential candidate will gain. This is an opportune time to hire some very talented engineers, don’t compromise on the person you want in your team based on previous experience. If you hire based on team fit, technical potential and attitude there are some absolute gems to consider at the moment.

 

What are you experiencing? Do you see other technologies in demand as you are looking for a Systems Engineering role? Will your organisation be seeking different skills? I’d love to hear where you see the market going in 2013.