SA ICT Professionals: Jacks of many trades, masters of none?
by Prof Barry Dwolatzky
Did you know that people doing technical work in the South African ICT Sector carry out, on average, 6 different job functions?
Over the past two years we at the JCSE have partnered with ITWeb to run an annual ICT Skills Survey. One of the most interesting results coming from this survey has been that South African ICT professionals are “jacks of many trades”. Respondents were given a list of the following 14 technical job functions:
- Technical advice and consulting
- Developing requirements and technical specifications
- Test/Quality assure
- Configuration management
- Operations (including DBA)
- Information security
- Manage/supervise technical activities/Team leadership
- Coaching/ mentoring
- Technical sales
They were asked which of these describe what they do. In both the 2008 and 2009 surveys almost all respondents indicated that they carried out a number of these tasks.
A positive interpretation of this result is that South African ICT professionals are multi-skilled – having a range of relevant skills and experiences.
An alternative interpretation is that many people are spending part of their day carrying out tasks outside of their area of competence. A skilled programmer may, for example, be doing jobs such as architecture, testing and training that require expertise that (s)he doesn’t have.
I believe that both of these interpretations may be valid in specific circumstances. What do you think? What have you observed in your own work environments?
We have just launched the 2010 Skills Survey (www.itweb.co.za/surveys/skills/2010). While I’m certain that we will again see that SA ICT professionals are “Jacks of many trades” I’m keen to see if we can extract evidence as to whether they are “masters of all” or “masters of none”.