The most demanding IT jobs

July 1st, 2012 | by Aaron Tan
The most demanding IT jobs

If you think your job is tough, think of the data centre managers and IT engineers who have to be constantly on their toes to keep your apps, websites, networks and other e-services humming along.

According to a new survey by business continuity vendor Emerson Network Power, IT professionals need serious brain power and are called on to wear the hats of fire fighters, coaches, sprinters and marathoners, diplomats, and inventors. They are required at a moment’s notice to be ready to serve, solve problems, fix mistakes, do the job right the first time. They work nights and weekends and take calls from the beach.

Not surprisingly, work-life balance is non-existent. The 792 respondents from China, Singapore, India, Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, France, Italy, Mexico and the United States are required, on average, to work 119 hours in a 168-hour week, though it’s hard to tell from the survey if this means lower job satisfaction.

Here are the top 10 most “always-on” IT jobs:

1. Executive Director/Administrator
Respondents performing this role agree they work on many projects at once, and that their work requires a high level of intelligence. Only 25 per cent agree or strongly agree that success depends on things out of their control. In other words, they are accountable for success, and that translates into high job demands. These IT pros have their heads and hands into every aspect of the job: strategic, operational, technical.

2. IT Procurement
They identified themselves as analysts, buyers, representatives, supervisors, consultants, directors and leaders. But in spite of the diverse titles, more than half of respondents who say they do IT procurement  don’t have control over their schedules and don’t have time to do quality work. These always-on professionals point to multiple pressures: urgency, demanding clients, staying up on the latest equipment, filling pressing staffing needs. Sounds familiar?

3. Chief Information Officer
CIOs score highest on “dependencies and multi-tasking”. Responses show particularly high requirements to work on many projects at once and make important decisions quickly. CIOs also indicate more than did any other IT role that they are responsible for a large part of the company’s budget. One CIO in Asia notes that, “making sure technology is put to good use keeping [the] company’s cost in mind” is a typical always-on situation.

4. IT Manager/Director
Professionals in this role might be called on to put out fires or do routine work at any time, including nights and weekends. One IT director for the banking/finance industry in Europe says, “A security breach meant I had to miss a night out with my wife. I do weekend work on upgrades and other projects. The IT manager/director job also scores second highest on being a public leader.

5. IT Operations
Those in IT ops report working on stressful projects with constant time pressure and responding to after-hours incidents. A senior computer operator says: “Server uptime has to always be on 24-7/365 days a year. So if you get paged that a server went down, you have to try to get to work to fix the problem. Also, when performing monthly operations you have to enter the data perfectly. If you don’t, interest calculations could be off for thousands of people.”

6. Data Centre Manager
This group of IT pros falls in the top three for “dependencies/multi-tasking,” the top four for “availability” and the top five for “quick response.” They also scored more than 30 per cent higher than average in agreeing they don’t control their own schedule. Some even compared themselves to servers, data centres and systems!

7. Engineering
Perfection, quick response, good communication and time management skills, and the ability to work on structure and design are cited as job demands. A consulting engineer said: “Received a sudden call from one of our corporate customers to solve their software and networking problem instantly, as their national conference was adjourned for one hour due to the problems. They were using at least 80 computers at the conference. I received the call at around 11am, and the problem had to be solved by 1pm.”

8. IT Security
Making emergency decisions is a typical demand of the job, though this group scores lowest on quick response. 61 per cent agree or strongly agree they quickly respond to all inquiries, but the average across the jobs in this list is 76 per cent. More than half of IT security respondents agree that success depends on things out of their control.

9. Applications/Software Development
Professionals in this role are able to concentrate on their work and do the job well. One-third or less report having no time for quality work and no time to think things through. Demands of the job include developing new applications for the workplace or industry, some involving highly complex issues.

10. Database Management
Database professionals express some frustration, saying, for example, “I have to work under pressure while troubleshooting any number of issues that come up on a daily basis,” and “there are strict timelines to finish projects while still working to put out fires.”

Do you agree with this survey? Or, should some jobs be ranked higher in the list? Let us know in the comments!

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