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Lucrative Careers Ahead of Today's Young IT Specialists

Elena Butkovskaya, Senior Consultant, IT& Telecom Practice, LRB
At present, the main feature of the personnel market in Russia is the chronic shortage of qualified staff.  While the increased demand for senior level staff is met by engaging expatriates or Russian managers returning home after several years working abroad, with regard to mid-level specialists and rank-and-file staff in unusual fields there is an acute shortage in almost all areas.  This situation is caused by the fact that over recent years the Russian market has been expanding rapidly and is continuing to do so.  In view of their lack of the necessary experience and particular skills, young specialists as a rule cannot fully meet the needs of a dynamically expanding market.  Thus experienced professionals in whatever field are now worth their weight in gold.
The IT market is no exception to this rule.  Indeed, there is a massive shortage of staff in this area, and it will most probably continue for the next few years. It should be noted that this crisis is only noticeable by those who work in the IT sphere.  It has largely gone unremarked by the media, and the general public is unaware of it. 
It cannot be said that the staff shortage is catastrophic throughout the industry, but it cannot be denied that in certain specialities there is a real lack of employees with the requisite professional skills.
Above all else this is true of specialists in the introduction of EPR systems. The shortage is particularly acute for specialists in the introduction and support for SAP R/3; over time this shortage will only increase.  There are special features in the training of such specialists, and it requires substantial expenditure by employing companies.  Further, the professionalism of a consultant who installs ERP systems depends directly on their project experience – the more completed projects to their name, the broader their knowledge. And although a younger generation of specialists trained and certified in SAP R/3 has begun to emerge, there are still few genuinely experienced and resourceful professionals in this sphere, and the market is often witness to a fierce struggle to secure their services.
SAP/R3 specialists are some of the highest-paid both on the ERP system market and perhaps also on the IT market as a whole. A trainee with almost no experience can immediately count on a salary of between $1500-2000. A certified specialist with average experience will receive about $3000-4000. Someone with extensive experience who has already completed several projects may well receive a salary in excess of $7000.
One of the peculiarities of the present market is the fact that salary expectations of SAP/R3 specialists are not always commensurate with their professional skills. However, in view of the fact that over the past several years the system is being increasingly installed, while specialists are still in short supply, the market is prepared to overpay. An unwelcome consequence of this is that specialists are predominantly motivated by financial considerations rather than any others. While several years ago it was virtually impossible to entice a professional away from an interesting project to work for another company, even for a large salary, nowadays it is very often the financial side which is the all-important factor.
The shortage of specialists in installation of other ERP systems is gradually decreasing because they have already been installed and adjusted almost everywhere where it was necessary to do so.  There are now few new projects, and salaries have also fallen. Thus Oracle specialists who would be paid $5-6000 at the height of the installation boom can now only be assured of a salary of $3,500-4000 per month.
Apart from specialists in ERP systems, at present the IT market is seeing a high demand for business and systems analysts, particularly in the banking and investment sectors. These employees are a kind of 'go-between' between business and IT. They are actively involved in projects for installation of finance and banking software. Their duties include simultaneous cooperation with representatives of their business and with IT specialists. On the basis of the business requirements, and analysis and description of the business processes, analysts will elaborate the operational requirements for the software suites to be installed, and draw up the technical specifications for the designers, and explain the particular features of the new systems to the users.
Traditionally there is also a high demand for staff with a very narrow specialisation – engineers, architects and designers who work with complex telecommunications equipment, telephony, data storage systems, and high-end servers, etc. In common with them employers actively seek IT specialists with a broad range of competencies who are able almost unaided to maintain the entire technical infrastructure, or most of it, in a small company, since they can deal with both hardware and software.
With regard to today’s young specialists, and the institutions of higher education from which they graduate and the prospects which the market has in store for them, then it can be said with certainty that at present as far as gaining employment is concerned in 90% of cases the name of the institution from which you graduated is not of any great importance. Obviously, the fact that you are a graduate of such seats of learning as MIFI, MFTI, MGU or MEI continues to confer a certain advantage in the eyes of potential employers, but all the same work experience today is the most important factor. Since companies on this market are continuing their dynamic growth they very often have little time for training their staff. Naturally, for a specialist there is no such thing as universally relevant experience, but even so, when recruiting staff a company will most probably give preference to candidates with experience of working in a similar post.  Students have caught onto this quite quickly, and so many of them start working part-time, and later begin more serious employment (sometimes even full-time) in the second or third year of their studies so that when they graduate they not only receive a coveted diploma but have also acquired some work experience which will enable them to apply for more substantial posts with good salaries.
It is also important to mention knowledge of foreign languages.  Foreign companies are entering the Russian market in ever-increasing numbers, and new banks, law firms, and investment companies, among others, are being set up.  These are managed by foreign nationals, and they report to their European headquarters, including on matters relating to IT. It is not uncommon for a young, relatively inexperienced specialist who can speak English to be preferred to a more experienced and knowledgeable candidate with a similar background, but who cannot communicate with English-speaking users and management.
 Given the current staff shortage, a further very important skill is the ability to present oneself, and to interest a prospective employer if not with your knowledge and skills, then with your personal qualities and willingness to study further.  In the IT market it is by no means uncommon in an interview for the deciding factor to be successfully setting out your objectives.
In summary it may be said that the most successful course for a specialist who wishes to make a career in IT is to determine the range of professional duties which they find most interesting, and then test his skills in a post, if only аn entry-level position, in a major company. Such experience is required by nearly all employers, and where in addition the employee is a graduate with a good grasp of English, then future career progression is assured.  In addition, once a certain level of professional skills has been attained, specialists will become known to the market and hence they will be able to take advantage of offers made by head-hunters, which will also enable such employees to determine the best route for further advancing their careers.

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