If you're looking for work in the tech services sector, Todd Thibodeaux has good
news for you: there are jobs to be had, and the sector is poised for continued
"Other than health care, information technology has more jobs open than any other
sector," Mr. Thibodeaux, who's completed 15 months as president and CEO of
CompTIA, said over breakfast at the Grand Hyatt Washington last Monday.
The trade group he heads counts computer service firms, distributors, vendors and
others which bills itself as "the voice of the world's information technology
(IT) industry." The group also offers a range of "vendor neutral" IT
certifications that are well regarded as job-boosting credentials.
Though based on Oak Brook, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, Mr. Thibodeaux is no stranger
to Washington, having spent 17 years with the Arlington-based Consumer Electronics
Association, most recently as that group's senior vice president of industry
Although the first two quarters of 2009 were, for CompTIA's members, "very
poor," with the second quarter "the worst in history," there are bright spots,
Mr. Thibodeaux said. Managed service providers, or MSPs, particularly those serving
small- and medium-sized businesses, have "held up" in the tight economy, he
noted. In fact, these firm's "haven't touched the tip of the iceberg" when
it comes to bringing in new business. And that, he said, is where employment
opportunities may be found.
Such a development would be rather timely: the U.S. Department of Labor October 1
said initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose to a seasonally adjusted
551,000 last week from 534,000 in the previous week, meaning 17,000 people became
newly unemployed in the period. As companies move from having in-house IT
departments to contracting out to an MSP, some IT professionals who've only worked
inside will be job-hunting, however.
"If you've been providing value all along" to an employer, Mr. Thibodeaux
asserted, "you'd have the skill set of tools to adjust very well to an MSP."
However, he added, today's programmers "needs a more diverse skill set than they
had ten to 15 years ago."
Dislocation and "reinvention" can be tough for anyone - ask a Saturn
automobile worker about that prospect - but in the IT field, the shift to a
different workplace, where you're dealing with a host of clients, can bring
satisfaction, he said.
Joining an MSP, Mr. Thibodeaux said, can give a once-isolated IT worker "the
opportunity to be part of a team, and potentially a more fulfilling career," and
one where your horizons are more broadly "professional and more technical rather
than being pigeonholed."
The market is large enough, Mr. Thibodeaux asserts: spending on IT products and
services in the U.S. totals about $120 billion a year, one-third the world's
total. Dell Inc.'s recent purchase of Perot Systems, and Xerox's $6.4 billion
move last week to grab Affiliated Computer Services, both show growth in the sector,
And, employment potential isn't limited to newly minted college grads, either. As
the workforce starts to shrink as "baby boomers" begin to retire, Mr. Thibodeaux
predicts a "high demand" for those with certain skills on legacy and other
systems, including lots of part-time opportunities for those retirees wishing to
keep a hand in things.
"There will be chances for retired 'boomers,'" he said. "There will be an
opportunity for someone to come in." He ticked off a list of potential projects
where IT help will be needed: smart buildings, the next-generation power grid and,
of course, the health care sector, which, he said, "will be one of the
While government IT spending may or may not eclipse health care, Mr. Thibodeaux said
such spending "will be extremely strong" in the coming years, especially since
"sixty percent of [economic] stimulus money will be spent in 2010." What CompTIA
is looking for is a "better [framework] for how small companies can participate in
all of this."
What that means, of course, is that Mr. Thibodeaux, who said he misses the diversity
of dining in the D.C. area, likely will return here often to press his association
members' cause. More information on the group can be found at www.comptia.org.