The Certification Debate

I recently met with a client to review and discuss several upcoming projects and positions which they were planning to fill – one client with multiple hiring managers and multiple positions. As we moved through the requirements discussion, the topic of certifications came up. I was reminded of a previous post concerning IT certifications. I asked each manager if certifications were important and as anticipated, I got three different answers.  It’s always interesting to hear a hiring manager’s perspective as opinions do vary.

Are certifications valuable? Are they required to be successful? Some people test well and have book sense but can they apply the knowledge in an everyday work environment? With this particular client, each manager had a different take. One was only concerned with past project experience, another referred to certifications as a “nice to have,” while another listed specific certifications as hard requirements. These positions ranged from application development to network security and so did their perspectives on experience vs. certifications.

Depending on your area of discipline, this can be typical. So which is more important, experience or certifications? The answer is both. A large majority of managers do believe technically certified candidates work more efficiently, attract top talent, and enhance the performance of their team. According to recent CompTIA study, over 60% of hiring managers believe IT certifications can be an effective measurement for evaluating candidates. In addition, certs can be a differentiator for entry-level job seekers when experience requirements are low.

A focused area of expertise demonstrates initiative, drive, and perseverance. Certifications can provide candidates an opportunity to stay current in a dynamic industry providing job retention and more importantly career improvement opportunities.  Certifications are valued, however, the real value-add is in what you do with the knowledge and capability. The level of importance hiring managers place on certifications will vary based on every situation. While important, they are only part of the package. A strong blend of practical real world experience with a focused concentration of certifications will go a long way. If a new certification is in your future, take a look at this article from CIO magazine outlining some of the hottest certifications projected for 2014.  

-Matt Bixler, UDig Technical Account Executive


Matt BixlerThe Certification Debate

UDig Brain Dig: Q&A with Chris Ivey, Senior Director at Fair Isaac

Mr. Ivey is a Sr. Director within the Professional Services Organization at Fair Isaac. Fair Isaac is an entity with a household name in terms of identifying one’s credit (or “FICO”) score. Fair Isaac is a large, publicly traded entity that further defines itself as “providing analytics and decision making services – including credit scoring – intended to help their clientele make high volume decisions.”  We asked Mr. Ivey for his insight about a variety of items aligned with the technology staffing arena and beyond, and the transcript below captures that exchange.

UDig:   You head up an organization comprised of elite information technologists. What is the #1 challenge you face in terms of identifying, qualifying and engaging the right talent for your organization today?

Ivey:  In FICO Professional Services, we’re looking to create careers for individuals with great customer facing skills (communication is king) and the core technical competencies we need. Like any service organization, our goal is to delight and add value to our clients each day and finding that right combination of strengths is the key challenge for any organization in today’s marketplace.

UDig:  How would you describe the supply-demand balance in the IT labor pool today?  What hard technical or business skills do you feel are particularly in demand right now?

Ivey: The balance of course depends specifically on what skill you need. There is certainly high demand and low supply in the area of analytic scientists currently and an area we pride ourselves on cultivating and retaining given that is a major focus of our business. Another area of complexity is driven by the numerous technology skills needed for integration of products with customer platforms. Here, experience using a specific set of technologies together in a certain way is often necessary given the intricacies of how they may interact. To begin to mitigate this, FICO has deployed the FICO Analytic Cloud which is helping us to standardize, speed and reduce cost of integration and deployment of products for our customers.

UDig:  There has been a great deal of recent discussion surrounding the availability of technical talent from overseas. How does that affect your ability to fully staff your organization?  What is your opinion about the United States’ approach to its workforce immigration policies (i.e. H1B Visas in particular)?

Ivey:  In FICO Professional Services, we have developed Centers of Excellence situated around the globe which consists of groups that are highly skilled in delivering technologies or products in certain areas. In some cases where high US client engagement is needed, that CoE is located in the US and conversely where a majority of our clients may be in the APAC region, the CoE could be in India or Europe. To that end, in the US we draw from those CoE’s to deliver the expertise needed and have had success in obtaining H1B’s where needed given our ability to show specific expertise.

UDig:  What are you reading?  What online or print sources do you follow as most relevant to your role and what you are asked to accomplish for FICO?

Ivey: I finished reading the “Innovator’s Dilemma” by Clayton Christensen recently and I’m on to “Lead with Luv” by Ken Blanchard and Colleen Barrett. It is imperative that our team members see a tangible career and skill path that aligns with company and personal goals and that they are routinely recognized for accomplishments along the way and how they contribute directly to our collective success. This book relays the Southwest Airlines culture that is certainly an example of the employee engagement we strive for each day here at FICO. In terms of other reading I find that CIO and American Banker tend to have great stories relevant to trends in our business.

UDig:  What do you see as both the greatest threats and opportunities in your space over the next one to five years? 

Ivey: The biggest threat and opportunity in our space is time to value. Most customers are under increasing pressure to deliver more with less and it’s imperative that our products, team members and technology infrastructure (i.e. the FICO Analytic Cloud) deliver value to our customers faster and with very high quality. In the context of staffing, this translates to team members with great technical and communication skills to maintain scope, mitigate risks and develop quality implementations the first time around.

UDig:  You’ve accomplished a great deal since you completed your undergraduate work. What advice do you have for this year’s newest college graduates?

Ivey: For a new college graduate, I think personal drive and being pro-active is key. Any thriving company these days is going to have complex products or services that are not easily copied and that means it takes time and dedication to learn them. Seek out information and opportunities to learn and don’t expect it will all be laid out in front of you. Spend your off time practicing and getting ahead of the curve. Find ways to learn about the industries you’ll support. You won’t have the experience of working in a bank or an airline or an insurer for a decade but you can begin to learn the industry by talking to colleagues about the problems you are solving for those customers. Set professional and personal goals for where you want to be in 3, 6, and 12 months and stick to them.

UDig:  What is your outlook for the overall high tech labor market in the coming one to two years?

Ivey: Given a continued shift to cloud environments using numerous innovative technologies and Big Data, we’re going to be looking for resources that are flexible, adaptable and quick learning. This should signal growing opportunities for the high-tech labor market that can help companies like ours accelerate the value we derive from those technologies in solving our customer’s problems.

-Jeff Grimm, UDig Senior Technical Account Manager

Jeff GrimmUDig Brain Dig: Q&A with Chris Ivey, Senior Director at Fair Isaac

RFID is everywhere and still growing

It’s amazing to me how few people are familiar with RFID technology and its everyday usage. RFID technology is everywhere. Companies and labs use them as access keys, Prius owners use them to start their cars, and retail giants like Wal-Mart have deployed them as inventory tracking devices. Drug manufacturers like Pfizer rely on chips to track pharmaceuticals. The tags are also about to get a lot more personal: Next-gen US passports and credit cards will contain RFIDs, and the medical industry currently uses RFID as an asset tracker to cut down on medical equipment and supply theft, an estimated $4.3B annual loss.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is a fast-developing technology that uses radio waves for data collection and transfer. This technology can capture data efficiently and continuously without human intervention and enable automated decision-making processes. The tags work by broadcasting a few bits of information to specialized electronic readers. Most commercial RFID chips are passive emitters which means they have no onboard battery: They send a signal only when a reader powers them with a squirt of electrons. Once juiced, these chips broadcast their signal indiscriminately within a certain range, usually a few inches to a few feet. Active emitter chips with internal power can send signals hundreds of feet; these are used in the automatic toll-paying devices (like SmartTag and E-ZPass) that sit on car dashboards, pinging tollgates as autos whiz through.

The scary thing about RFID is that its current use could just be the tip of the iceberg in terms of its capability. Potential future uses include implantable tracking devices, which could benefit in tracking the elderly and small children. Medical uses include “swallowable” sensors that track the efficacy of medications and monitor internal organs, body temperature, etc.

According to multiple studies, the push for digital inventory tracking and personal ID systems mentioned above will expand the current annual market for RFIDs from about $3B to as much as $26B by 2016. What effects could RFID have on the recruiting industry? 

-Gordon Kelly, UDig Technical Account Manager

Gordon KellyRFID is everywhere and still growing

Don’t Get Left Behind – Staying Current in IT

We all know the IT scene is constantly changing. Advancements in technology can provide job opportunities and at the same time cause job loss. Keeping current and informed is vital to staying at the crest of the wave during your career in technology.       

Always remember your career goals are a moving target. A few weeks ago I had lunch with a very high level Network Engineer and we discussed his long term career goals. This person has achieved all of his broad career goals such as technical skill level, position title and compensation but has grown concerned over the long term viability of his skill set. His experience has recently focused in a niche area of IT which has been much desired in today’s market. He is well paid and loves his job but is constantly looking forward. He knows a career development strategy is needed in case his niche skill becomes obsolete. He wants to know what is coming around the corner and how it will affect his skill set. He accomplishes this by attending local technical user groups, keeping up with the tech journals and always being flexible and adapting to these changes. 

Rich Hein provides 8 great tips for staying current in his article for CIO. 

  • Industry News – Rich recommends Google Alerts to monitor any changes with a topic that is vital to your career.  I use Google Alerts every day, a great resource.
  • Conferences, Boot Camps and Classes – Local User Groups are a great way to meet peers in the industry and keep up with trends. 
  • Certifications
  • Online User Communities
  • Industry Magazines
  • Industry Blogs
  • Social Connections
  • Job Boards/Recruiter – No one will have a better grasp on hiring trends than a good recruiter. 



UDigDon’t Get Left Behind – Staying Current in IT

Certifications: Good or Bad?

A current trend that seems to be gaining a lot of steam in the IT industry is the need for certifications for certain positions. Many candidates I speak with seem to have a love/hate relationship with them. I see some that have several certifications in many different disciplines and also see some candidates that have several years of experience in specific areas without any relative certifications. One of the biggest gripes I hear from experienced candidates is that certifications are expensive and don’t really prove anything other than someone is a good test taker. While I do think there is some merit to this but it also shows initiative and follow-through. Someone actually took the time to pay for, study and pass an exam that shows some level of technical ability. Hiring managers like to see this mixed with good experience because it adds instant credibility in backing up someone’s work experience.

Another thing that I see is a candidate that has several different certifications in several different disciplines without the necessary experience to back it up. This can absolutely send the wrong message to a hiring manager. If someone has a CCNA and Security+ then has a certification in .NET development without any relative experience a hiring manager may think the candidate does not have an idea of exactly what they would like to do. The best thing to do is find certifications that match up to what you are currently doing in your position. This can add weight to your resume and make hiring managers take notice. Proper work experience combined with certifications is always a good thing.

-Rob Brinkley, UDig Technical Recruiter

Rob BrinkleyCertifications: Good or Bad?

Big Data – Hadoop

One of the great things about being an IT Recruiter is that you get to keep up with some of the newer technologies and learn firsthand what skill sets are hot and are going to be in demand in the future. Even though Hadoop didn’t just come out yesterday, I have definitely seen an increase in job descriptions for that particular skill, along with others like MongoDB and Cassandra, over the last six months. Not only do companies have a bigger demand but I’m also seeing an increase in candidates who are specifically searching for companies that work with Hadoop and other big data technologies.

The types of companies using big data technology are definitely growing and tend to be focused around data analytics and big data security analytics with an expertise in merging massive amounts of data. There seem to be a few good reasons for this and according to Katherine Reynolds Lewis, “Hadoop is more than just a faster, cheaper database and analytics tool. In some cases, the Hadoop framework lets users query datasets in previously unimaginable ways.” Hadoop is an open source tool. It was inevitable with the large amount of data that companies are working with and with some of the older technologies not being able to support the needs -something had to change – and Hadoop seems to be that change.

If you are looking to get into the IT field or expand on your existing skillsets, I would definitely recommend looking into and learning as much as possible about big data technologies. The job market is hot for candidates with a strong technology background and I only see more jobs coming in the near future looking for this type of expertise.

To learn more about Hadoop and other Big Data tools, check out Lewis’ article.

-Greg Valentine, UDig Senior Technical Recruiter

Greg ValentineBig Data – Hadoop

Calling all 2013 IT grads…the job market looks good!

Spring is upon us and 2013 is off and running. Q1 was an exciting start to the year as the IT market was hot and demand for high caliber technical talent continued to build. Needs for niche specialties like mobile, big data, security, and application development continue to rise and we are seeing a strong blend of direct hire, contract-to-hire, and project based opportunities across our client base. Good news ahead as hiring overall is up with more hiring projected for Q2. As a whole, companies are offering more perks and workforce flexibility, as well as, higher compensation packages. Recent studies show that, on average, IT salaries jumped over 5% in 2012 and are projected to increase another 5% in 2013.

Obviously a great time for a job search! So what’s in store for the graduating class of 2013? Although the past few years have been challenging for entry-level IT job seekers, 2013 is trending up for this group. Consider a few positives as reported in a recent survey by

  • Who’s hiring the most recent college grads? IT employers ranked ahead of all other industries with 65 percent of hiring managers and HR professionals surveyed planning to hire recent graduates.
  • Top industries for college graduates The IT industry has the largest percentage of employers currently recruiting for jobs.
    1. IT — 26 percent
    2. Customer service — 19 percent
    3. Finance/accounting — 16 percent
    4. Sales — 16 percent
    5. Healthcare — 12 percent
  • Highly skilled = in high demand College grads looking to enter highly skilled fields will have an added advantage over their peers. Employers in industries that generally demand more highly skilled workers are also more likely to recruit recent college graduates. Those graduating with technical skill sets will be in a better position overall to find more opportunities at higher compensation levels.
  • Starting salaries for college graduates Of the employers surveyed who plan to hire recent college grads, 27 percent say they will offer higher starting salaries than they did in 2012, ranging between $30,000 and $49,999. 
  • Job market overall This year’s recruits are entering a stronger job market than in previous years. More than half (53 percent) of U.S. employers plan to hire recent college graduates in 2013. Although equal to 2012′s numbers, this forecast is up significantly from 2011 (46%) and 2010 (44%).

For those future technologists out there, landing your first job can be a daunting task. Stay optimistic with your search as the momentum appears to be building. It may take time to find that first opportunity, but the numbers appear to be trending in your favor. Do your research, leverage your network, and be sure to maintain a professional online presence. At UDig we consistently see a strong backlog of entry-level opportunities that span a variety of disciplines including: Help Desk, Desktop, System Admin, Network, and Application Development. Check out for our current openings and our profile builder.

-Matt Bixler, Technical Account Executive


Matt BixlerCalling all 2013 IT grads…the job market looks good!

UDig Brain Dig…Marcus talks 15+ years of PowerBuilder

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Marcus for a little over a year and half starting when he relocated from Connecticut to work on-site at one of our top clients in Richmond. He is a true professional and is always available and happy to help out in any way that he can. He has been doing PowerBuilder development since 1994 and has a real passion for software development. He recently started his second engagement with UDig at another top client in Richmond and I’m excited to continue working with him. Here’s a little insight into Marcus’s thoughts on PowerBuilder …

About a year and a half ago you moved from Connecticut to Richmond – what are some of the differences you’ve seen in the IT Community? I really don’t see any differences in the IT Community in Richmond and the IT Community in Connecticut. They are pretty much the same from my personal experiences. And, when it comes right down to it, it is all just a bunch of ones and zeros no matter how you want to look at it.

You’ve been developing in PowerBuilder for over 15 years now – how do you see companies using it most effectively in the future? I have thoroughly enjoyed working with all versions of PowerBuilder from 1994 to the present. I never thought I would still be developing applications with it for this long when I got started in PowerBuilder version 3.0. What I see is that companies are moving away from PowerBuilder and going towards developing applications in Java and .NET.

What do you see as some of the issues with PowerBuilder moving forward as some companies are moving away from it, and what technologies would you like to get into? When Sybase bought PowerBuilder from PowerSoft, that’s when PowerBuilder, in my opinion, started to lose its share in the marketplace. For quite a few years after the buyout, Sybase used PowerBuilder as their ‘cash cow’ to invest in some of their other products and did not put a lot of effort into PowerBuilder from a marketing standpoint or a technical standpoint. I have done advanced Java programming and I started working with .NET in January of 2011. I would love to be a part of a migration of a mission critical legacy PowerBuilder application over to a web-based solution either in the Java or .NET paradigm. Software engineering is one of my passions, music is another.

What’s work/life balance like for a software developer? Can one expect to work nights and weekends? From my experience, corporate America expects a two for one. Your salary is based on 40 hours per week but you’ll end up working 50-60 hours per week due to being on call. So if your salary is $100,000 per year and you work an average of 50 hours per week, in all actuality you will be making a little over $80k. Please keep this in mind when you are offered a position with on call support.

You had to relocate for your first position with us in Richmond – what advice would you give to someone considering relocating for a new job? You have to be right with your family. You and your spouse need to be on board with each other. If you are single, then there should be no problem relocating whatsoever. However, keep in mind that if you do not know of anybody in the area that you are relocating to, it can be very tough on you emotionally and spiritually at first.

What is the best part of Richmond that you’ve experienced so far? The people here in Richmond have been fabulous. Case in point… last December, when I was working with CarMax, I had 5 different invites from my coworkers to spend Christmas day with their families. I have always heard about ‘southern hospitality’ and thought it was a myth, but, in all actuality, it is real. And, that is why I am staying in Richmond. I have fallen in love with its culture and hospitality.

-Greg Valentine, UDig Senior Technical Recruiter

Greg ValentineUDig Brain Dig…Marcus talks 15+ years of PowerBuilder

Breaking into the IT field

Are you unsatisfied or struggling with your current career? It may be time for a career change and IT would be a great one to consider. If you look at the Forbes’ top 18 in-demand jobs for 2013, you will see many IT positions on the list, including: Software Developers, Computer Systems Analysts, Network and Systems Administrators, Information Security Analysts, Web Developers and Database Administrators.

Now penetrating a new field with little to no practical experience is no easy task, but it is realistic with the right approach, attitude, drive and work ethic. If you are able to break into IT, find your niche and succeed, it should eventually lead to a fruitful and comfortable career. That being said, you may have to make some sacrifices coming in at the ground level. I think the old ‘take a step back in order to take two forward’ adage applies here. Having 5 or 10 years of experience in your current field isn’t going to translate in terms of salary when landing your first ‘entry-level’ IT job.

It will require a lot of initiative to be looked at as a viable candidate. Without the real world hands-on experience, the onus will be on you to educate yourself on the IT skill that you ultimately choose. Most IT professions have industry recognized certifications associated with the skill that provide real validation and value for those that are able to obtain them. Two years ago a friend of mine was fed up with the banking world and decided to obtain the Security+ Certification and within a couple months landed an entry-level role as an Information Security Analyst. He had to take a pay cut but more than made up for it after only a year and the earning potential in the long run is far greater than the banking role he was in before.

Some other options to educate yourself and become a viable candidate would be: technical training, going back to school for an IT Degree, setting up a lab in your home where you can gain hands-on experience or volunteering your time to do IT work for non-profits or projects within your community.

With so many IT skills in high demand and employers willing to take a chance on driven and goal-oriented professionals, IT is a great industry to consider breaking into.

-Wahid Osmani, UDig Senior Technical Recruiter

Wahid OsmaniBreaking into the IT field

IT job search…no time like the present

I certainly hope 2013 is off to a great start for all of our blog readers. As a follow up to my previous blog on end of the year hiring strategies, I thought it would be fitting to turn the page and look forward to the year ahead. We are busy at UDig with a strong backlog of opportunity. The IT market is active as companies are up and running after the Holiday lull and on the search for high impact, high caliber talent.

While the economy is still in a modest recovery mode, IT remains a hot spot for avid job seekers. According to a December 2012 survey by Dice, 65% of IT hiring managers plan to add headcount in the next 3-6 months. These opportunities will span a variety of technical disciplines. A Computerworld survey listed the top ten IT skill sets for 2013 including Application Development, Project Management, Technical Support, Security, Business Intel/Analytics, Cloud, Virtualization, Networking, Mobile, and Data Center Services.

The time is right given that we are now in the peak hiring months for most companies. Studies show that January through March present the highest number of opportunities for job seekers and is the ideal time for those looking to make a change. In our experience, the first quarter of the year is by far the most active hiring season for most companies, followed by September and October. Take a look at this article by John Rossheim who further details hiring cycles by quarter.

All of this is food for thought when implementing your job search strategy. While there is no definitive right or wrong time to make your move, timing can work to your advantage. For those technologists on the job hunt (or planning for one), what better time than right now to land that next position? Check out our available jobs or give UDig a call today.

-Matt Bixler, UDig Technical Account Executive

Matt BixlerIT job search…no time like the present