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What Skills Do We Need? February 14, 2006

Posted by Brian Jepson in Uncategorized.

One of the things I heard come up a couple of times at the Geek Dinner was that folks are having trouble finding senior level/hotshot programmers here in Rhode Island. Back in the days (early 1990s to about 2000) when I was programming for a living, I found the exact opposite: I had to go to New York and Northern Virginia to find the kind of work I wanted. But I loved Rhode Island enough that I was willing to take the train or fly (out on Sunday, back home on Friday) to where the work was.

Is the problem that the people with the skills simply aren’t connecting with the people who have the jobs? Or is it that there aren’t enough people out there who have the skills needed? Perhaps it’s some combination?

I’d be interested in hearing from people on both sides of this: are you looking for hotshot programmers? What skills are must-haves? Are you a hotshot programmer who loves Rhode Island, but you’re flying or taking the train to where the jobs are? What’s keeping people with the skills from hooking up with the people with the needs?



1. runawayjim - February 16, 2006

not a programmer, but i do work in IT. the only tech work in RI seems to exist only in the colleges and few companies that are here. not exactly something you see a “hot shot programmer” doing. the real tech jobs, those that said programmer would find interesting, are either in boston or new york (or northern VA or cali or…).

the only tech company i know of in RI is APC, the UPS makers. so even if you’re a hot shot programmer, the chances of finding a job that keeps you interested in RI is pretty slim. i don’t think it’s a lack of skills, i think it’s a lack of jobs.

2. Mark - February 23, 2006

I have to disagree with the fact that there are no tech jobs in RI, with qualifications. I guess the key is what you define as a “tech company”. If you include defense contractors there are quite a few folks programming for a living in and around Newport. Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), Anteon, Raytheon, RiteSolutions, SeaCorp, CSA, LiveWave, 21CSI and others all employ programmers. I know at least some of these folks are hiring.

If you don’t want to work in defense GTECH and Citizens Bank and several other companies are always looking for programmers.

What skills are needed? Well take the following with a grain of salt as I am not in a position to hire anyone. I just know some of the skills I would like my co-workers to have.

Skills in JAVA, OO design, UML, JSP, XML, and lots of other key words are always nice to have, but please don’t put something on your resume unless you actually have experience using it (you would be surprised).

Having experience working with groups of people on projects of various sizes in a variety of roles, including leadership is important. It is also good to have a solid understanding of the programming process, everything from project life cycles to configuration management to assessment of risk to job size/cost/time estimation. Being a hot programmer who hates everyone is not enough, unfortunately.

3. sped - March 6, 2006

of course there’s the minwage office cleaning jobs where ‘J2EE and MCSE are a PLUS!!’

4. Andrew Gilmartin - March 9, 2006

Recruiters don’t pay much attention to Providence or Rhode Island. A result of this is that their normal activity of finding senior talent to sell and finding the businesses to sell them to is not happening. I have ask several recruiters about why this is. The common answer is that the very large pool of programmers in MA simply don’t want to work in RI and so recruiting in RI not profitable enough.

5. James Wright - March 29, 2006

I’d like to weigh in on this string with a few comments based on my experience: I own an IT staffing/recruiting company here in RI and I know that there are an increasing number of high level IT programmer jobs available and many people qualified enough to fill the roles, though there’s still a limited enough number of candidates that companies are sometimes having a hard time finding the exact match they’re looking for. I’ll give you an example: my company, Bridge Technical Solutions, had 1 permanent placement in the first 2 1/2 years we were in business (Jun 2002 – Dec. 2004). We’ve made over 25 permanent placements in the past year. Not all of those were sr. level programming jobs, but many of them were. So, the jobs are coming back, and we’re continuing to get high level perm programming requests at an increasing rate. One thing that strikes me as odd, having lived in San Francisco through the boom years and seen a more diverse set of requirements out there, is that the sr. programming jobs we’re coming across are heavily weighted towards .NET. I’d expect .NET to be the majority, but it’s like 10:1 for requests for .NET as opposed to Java, perl, coldfusion, etc. – all other programming jobs combined. We have clients in the Boston area, and with them we’re more likely to hear of non-MS skills (we’re currently working both a javascript/java job and a J2EE job up that way). There are plenty of high-tech companies in RI though: surely not the wealth of companies up near Boston, but many more than you’d think. “Mark” mentions DoD, and there are many, many other growing companies doing interesting and sophisticated technical applications. He also makes good points about it being not just the skills: our clients are often looking for people with full life-cycle experience; sometimes the ‘wish list’ includes specific industry experience; we’ve had candidates turned down for inflating resumes too. It seems to me that it was really a buyer’s market 2-3 years ago, when there were so many people on the street that companies could ask for the moon and find someone – and as the market tightens up and IT professionals have more opportunities there is definitely a lag in matching up the two groups. I’d be happy to talk directly with anyone interseted in learning more about our experience with how the market has been the what the demand is for different skills.

6. Theresa Chamberland - April 4, 2006

I just read the PBN article and I wondered if you would pass along a job opening for a Web Administrator at Mount Holyoke College ( Western Mass).

Here’s the URL:

7. Jennifer Keiser - April 25, 2006

I’m the GM of a small (25-person) software company in Warwick, Healthcare Automation. Our owners are also the prinicipals of a second software company (McCabe Software), also located in Warwick. So, I assure you, though you may not have heard of us, there are smaller tech companies doing very interesting things in RI!

We do almost all of our advertising on Monster. We list jobs as “Boston-South” rather than “Providence”, because we find we get a meager response otherwise. Of course, it’s a pain weeding through the resumes from those north of Boston who didn’t really read the posting. And we always prefer to hire those from RI and southern MA … no one is going to drive 1 hour + every day for very long and like it.

So I hope you don’t mind if I used this forum for a little free advertising for several RI tech jobs …

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