Dotcoms: new titles for a new industry

There are lots of interesting job titles in the new Internet economy, Roisin Woolnough meets the workers behind them and asks...

There are lots of interesting job titles in the new Internet economy, Roisin Woolnough meets the workers behind them and asks what they actually do

Look through the job ads these days and half of the positions listed leave you scratching your head. Job titles appear to be getting longer and they are certainly getting fancier. In some cases, it is only once you have read the description of what the job actually entails that you understand what the title means.

This shift can partly be attributed to the burgeoning e-business market. As organisations leap onto the e-business wagon, a lot of new roles have been created. Perhaps more important though is the way the e-revolution has influenced our working culture. Dotcoms are famous for doing away with corporate structures and some allow employees to choose their own moniker, encouraging them to pick something that expresses their personality and what they do, rather than a title that gives their status within a company.

However, dotcoms are not the only source of new titles. Many traditional companies are also giving employees a bit of creative licence. For example, that hallowed IT institution IBM offers some weird and wonderful roles, including process liberator, pattern diviner and four dimensional navigator.

Rob Lawrence, creative director at IBM's e-business centre for innovation, thinks employees should have some say about their title. "It is an empowering thing to allow people to choose their own job title," he says. "But maybe people should have two - an official one that allows them to be found within an organisation and one that expresses their personality."

Of course, it all depends on the company but, according to a new study commissioned by Anderson Consulting, the Internet will create three million Web-related jobs in Europe's five largest economies by 2002, so the chances are that we will see a lot more new titles springing up. One thing is for certain, e-business does not just attract people from IT backgrounds. In fact, to work in e-business, a person needs a diverse mix of skills to cope with a role that often comprises many different elements. Unless it is a purely technical role, a lot of people make their way in by having a niche skill that can be commuted to the Web.

Here we take a look at five titles that are increasingly common to see exactly what they mean and what kind of people they attract.

Tom Parker
Security architect

Pay: about £50,000

The architect is the person that holds all the pieces of string. You have to come up with a total solution that is architecturally sound.

If you look at everything as separate matters, it will not work because things will not be compatible. What you are doing is laying down the overall scheme of things. It is not a line manager job, but one of technical design authority. You need to know the technologies people will use to attack you.

You have to be an expert. I started by writing and implementing security products. From individual security solutions you move forward by looking at products on the market. I write architectural specifications and get involved in things like security standards. I spend a lot of time talking to suppliers to find out what they can and cannot do.

Quite a lot of time is spent in meetings because we have to discuss the solutions with the people who implement them to find out if it is realistic. It is a team effort, working with the implementors and negotiating with suppliers. The job is very people orientated and I spend a lot of time persuading and convincing people.

The whole security area has a skills shortage and architects are no exception. You can take someone with security experience and grow them into being an architect.

Julie Plumb
Web architect
Capital One

Pay: about £53,000

It is one of those mystical job titles, and job roles tend to vary from company to company. My job is looking after the Web server - Unix system administration, setting it up and maintaining it.

I do a lot of security stuff. When I get in, the first thing I do is check that the Web site has been on all night and that there was no downtime. I do a lot of policing of the site to ensure that the content is up to date and accurate.

When I am working on any new areas I produce content in conjunction with marketing teams. They might have an idea for a new segment of the Web site but often we have to be pulled in to see if it is feasible and how long it would take.

On a typical day, half of my time is spent in meetings, and a lot of time is spent looking ahead to new things to go on the Web site and the new technologies that will enable them. Looking at new site monitoring tools is one of the things I am doing at the moment.

I started off 10 years ago as a Unix systems administrator. You need solid experience of working with a Web site to be a Web architect and you need to have very up-to-date skills. As well as technical skills, you need a mix of business skills and people skills because I have to liaise with a lot of different departments.

Gary Raime
Chief technical officer
Halycon Internet

Pay: salaries for CTOs vary greatly. £90,000 is an average sum, but they have been known to go as high as £200,000

The chief technical (or technology) officer is the head of programming or a manager, but it varies from place to place. I don't really manage people where I am. A lot of my job is appraising new technology and looking at Web sites.

I have to have a technical opinion and I do an awful lot of explaining about technology and where I see things going. Other staff use people like me to keep them up to speed with important changes because technology moves so quickly. I spend a couple of hours a day on the Internet, chasing down a rumour, cobbling together sites and getting a view.

I am an accountant by profession and a lot of what I do is assessing the value of something and trying to put a practical spin on it. I talk to clients, go to trade shows and conferences. There are people under me with very specific areas of interest and I have to collate them.

Most days, I spend the first half hour talking to clients, and for two or three days a week I am out with clients. Briefing sales staff is also a key part of my job. I have a lot of brainstorming meetings, usually every other day.

About eight years ago, I was working as an accountant for a company that introduced a new accounting system. I got involved in that, doing implementation and talking to the supplier and really enjoyed it. Then they asked me to be a consultant. I've been involved in the corporate finance at Halycon recently because we have just floated.

Kevin Fitzgerald
Content manager

Pay: about £100,000

My job entails building a new kind of bridge to our clients in both a marketing and an information sense. I have to deliver content to customers. There is an element of strategy to it, plus I have to identify different customer groupings and their content needs.

For our information content, I begin with market research, identifying which client profiles would use our Internet service and, through focus groups, design the type of content they would wish to see and how it should be presented. I decide whether or not to create content internally. If not, I research alliances with third party groups to provide that content. Organisation and prioritisation are key or I would not be able to deliver.

I start at 7.30-8am and spend most of the day in the office. It normally begins with half an hour on e-mails and from 9-10am I typically have briefings with members of my team. Monday is entirely a communication day. I meet the team leaders and then they go and brief their teams until lunchtime. Then I go through things with each team leader individually.

Most days I have a series of meetings with team leaders and various suppliers, mostly in the office. It is a very people-centric business. I rely on expert members of my team a lot and they have to be motivated as they are always working to near impossible deadlines. Once it is over, they have to be ready to start it all over again the next day with a new set of deadlines.

The foremost skill I need is a real understanding of market requirements. I have been with for three years and was in travel publishing before that. A marketing background is very useful, as is understanding the principles of mark-up languages like XML and HTML.

Rob Evans
UK Webmaster
Mattel Interactive

Pay: about £35,000

People earn about £35,000 for being a Webmaster, give or take a bit, but they fall into two categories: project manager type and the heavy duty programmer type who does very hands-on Web development.

I fall into the former category and instruct others as to what technical work I need done. Having some background in programming is a great help though, as I do know what the developers are talking about.

I came in through publishing, which is unusual for Webmasters. Usually, they have many years in Web design. Webmasters need to have skills in project management, people management, asset management, resource management and, to a certain degree, business management. You have to constantly think of what you are trying to achieve in terms of business principles. You need good people skills as it is a role where you have to convince people of what they need to do. I talk to pretty much the whole company, responding to the needs of quite a few different parties and briefing departments.

What I do is very much a team effort, with me as team co-ordinator. At the moment, for example, my team is working on the launch of a new shopping site, so I am co-ordinating developers, designers, service providers, product managers, the finance department, sales team, technical support, etc. If any department has a need for something Internet-related, they come to me. It is a constant case of crisis management and you have to be able to do at least three things at one time. It is very pressurised. I start my day by checking my e-mail as I have to respond to four different boxes, relating to various Web sites. If anyone has any problems or complaints they send them to me.

Matthew Stewart
Brand Strategist

Pay: depends on company

Brand people need to have solid, proven skills and have managed their own products before.

You need to have good client skills, research and analytical experience and presentation skills. You have to be able to give presentations and lead meetings so that you get what you want. Brand experience is very useful, although not necessarily essential if a person has related experience such as marketing. Creativity is also important.

Where I am, 60% of branding is a strategic process and the other 40% is creativity. As well as this, people have to have an understanding of what the company is doing, what the culture of the organisation is and the target audience. They have to understand the business strategy and work with the teams of people building the product to make sure that the brand is connected. You are involved right from the development of strategy to the final product and you have to define identity systems and logos and build them into products such as Web sites and Wap (Wireless Application Protocol) solutions.

The model that you use to understand and define the brand is different from traditional ways. We use a more holistic approach. It used to be that you just slapped the logo on the package, but you can't do that anymore.

The way that people interact with the new products is different to how they interacted with the old brands. They are more fickle and have a greater range of choice. Also, it is very easy to copy other people nowadays, so differentiation is vitally important. In addition, the time to market has become much shorter so people have to be level headed and be able to work under pressures to meet deadlines.

And now some titles that are downright silly

Job titles found on company staff lists in the past month:

  • Process innovator

  • Flow accelerator

  • Web ferret

  • Interface alchemist

  • The plant

  • Entrepreneur in residence

  • Director of intimacy

  • Morale officer

  • Chief visionary officer

  • Ambassador of strategy

  • Woman with cheque book

    uChief pudding maker

  • Java evangelist

  • Head of people

  • Information saviour

  • Read more on Business applications