Executives explain what skills employers are looking for, how to land dream job

DENVER – Hundreds of thousands of information technology and computer-related jobs are currently unfilled in the United States due to a shortage of qualified applicants. The sector’s long-term employment outlook remains robust.

Those were two of many promising messages that information systems and other business students heard at the 8th Annual Business Executive Panel. About 300 Business School students attended the event, featuring eight information technology executives, at St. Cajetan’s on Tuesday evening.

Even more good news was supplied by Jahangir Karimi, PhD, professor and director of the Business School’s Information System’s program. He told the audience that Information Systems now offers a dual degree design which allows undergraduate students to take some graduate-level courses and earn both an BS and MSIS in just five years. He noted that the IS program is the only program in the Business School that offers a doctoral program in computer science and information systems. “So as you listen to our panelists tonight, think about these programs,” Karimi said. “It may be something for you to look forward to.”

The panel featured moderator Ted Hellmuth, division director of the Denver office of Robert Half Technology and 2009 MBA graduate from CU Denver’s Business School; Gail Coury, vice president of risk management, Oracle; Alan Cullop, chief technology officer, DaVita; Mark Endry, senior vice president and chief information officer, Arcadis-United States; Randy Guthrie, Microsoft; Tim Rod, president of Rod Consulting Group, Inc.; Randy Weldon, director of supply chain management in the IT department of Johns Manville; and Daniel Zimmerman, vice president of technology, Nordstrom.

Dean Sueann Ambron thanked the panelists for participating in the executive panel and encouraged students to look into the dual degree program. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for students in this particular field,” she said.

Before the panel began, co-presidents of the CU Denver chapter of the Information Systems Association — Michael Carlisle and Riya Deotale — encouraged students to join the organization, which sponsored the event.

Hellmuth started the panel discussion off by contrasting the national unemployment rate — 7.3 percent — to the current unemployment rates for web developers and network/computer system administrators — just 1.8 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.

“As you can see, having a background in technology, having certain skills and taking relevant courses will obviously prepare you for your job search,” Hellmuth said. “Having a little bit more technology background is only going to increase your chances of getting a new opportunity.”

Guthrie, technical evangelist for Microsoft, explained that both the current and future jobs outlook for technical positions is very bright. The sector is expected to add 30 percent to 40 percent more jobs over the next 10 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. He said entry level technology jobs often offer salaries in the $60,000 to $70,000 range, depending on the market.

“The good news is that a technology career is not only pretty interesting and dynamic in the short term, but it has a lot of future potential as well,” Guthrie said.

The panelists provided a wide range of information, including what skills employers are looking for, how to position yourself as a top candidate, and job-location trends in technology. They pointed out that current employment statistics show that the trend of jobs being shipped overseas does not apply to the technology sector.

The jobs are available in this country. “If you have a passion for health care, or higher ed, or another area, if you’ve got a business background and strong IT skills you can take that and apply it to many different types of industries,” Coury, of Oracle, said.

Cullop, with DaVita, added, “It’s smart to take a look at companies and industries that you want to be in and then get your LinkedIn account going or find ways to meet people who work for that company.”

All of the executives emphasized the importance of taking the initiative in landing internships, joining professional organizations, networking, and making an impact in technology areas both inside and outside the classroom in order to set yourself apart in the job search.

One student asked if a college degree is necessary to achieve success in information systems and technology. The panelists unanimously said it is. “If you don’t have organizational skills, if you can’t sell your ideas to other people with negotiation, communication and presentation skills, you’re not going to have a sustainable job in the future,” Rod, of Rod Consulting Group, said. “It’s not strictly about just having a technical skill. So, is it absolutely mandatory to have a college degree? No. Does it lay a foundation for ultimate success in the future? Yes.”

(Photo: Panelists in the Business Executive Panel are, from left, Ted Hellmuth, Daniel Zimmerman, Tim Rod, Gail Coury, Alan Cullop, Mark Endry and Randy Weldon. Not pictured is eighth panelist Randy Guthrie.)

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