Oil boom boost for energy sector IT

Bolstered by a thriving oil market, energy companies are competing to attract the best IT talent, and offer attractive salaries and a wealth of opportunities

Bolstered by a thriving oil market, energy companies are competing to attract the best IT talent, and offer attractive salaries and a wealth of opportunities

The energy sector, and particularly the oil market, is booming. Oil prices are high and companies are taking advantage of the extra revenue to invest in IT. They are competing with blue chip companies and banks for qualified developers and managers, so rates and salaries are attractive. They also offer exposure to the newest technologies, and open the door to a wealth of opportunity.

This is good news for the best and brightest candidates, and the talent war for IT staff is heating up.

High-profile companies in the energy sector are challenging the leading investment banks in terms of new technologies and trading applications.

Better yet, more efficient systems give them an edge and help them gain market share. In a market with a limited supply of oil and gas, but growing demand and instability, increasingly sophisticated trading instruments are needed to reduce price volatility.

In addition to investment in upgrading applications and hardware, the industry is ramping up systems for front office trading, in particular commodities, derivatives, swaps and futures, as well as credit and market risk management. The back office is also a priority, with investment pouring into infrastructure and applications management and support.

What is particularly exciting for job seekers is the industry's forward thinking attitude to technology.

Development skills in C++/ Java and C#/.net, combined with business knowledge are in demand. Business analysts and project managers are also required to manage continued IT investment.

The energy sector is, therefore, an ideal place to gain experience with innovative technologies and projects. This in turn gives candidates the key to breaking into banking and financial services, which can be difficult without prior experience. The reverse also applies, with oil companies seeking IT candidates from investment banks.

There are downsides, too, of course. A dramatic slump in the price of oil could put a stop to the technological investment. As a result, the innovation factor might diminish, and ultimately, headcounts could be reduced.

For anyone considering this career move, a willingness to travel is a must, particularly in the early stages of a project. While many would relish the opportunity to see the world, it will not suit everyone.

However, candidates with the right mix of technical skills, ambition and an adventurous spirit will find that now is a good time to consider the energy sector.

Those taking the plunge will find a wealth of rewards and opportunities opening up to them, and play a role in maintaining global economic stability.

● Lisa Jobson is director, corporate accounts in Harvey Nash's ITpractice

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