IT Career JumpStart

Apr 16 2010   1:27PM GMT

A Freewheeling Conversation with Chris Pirie of MS Learning

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

At the invitation of Microsoft Learning, I spent about forty minutes on the phone Wednesday with Chris Pirie, General Manager, Worldwide Sales and Marketing for that division within the company. We talked on a number of topics, most of which were centered around career start and career development, and I learned numerous interesting things that I’d like to share with you here.
Although IT may not yet have turned the corner (it’s one of only three sectors to continue losing jobs in the US as of the latest US BLS Employment Situation Summary, for example), Microsoft Learning sees ample indicators of an upturn ahead. Windows 7 is among a handful of key tools and technologies (also including Microsoft Exchange and Windows Server 2008) that is providing learning and skills development opportunities that should in turn lead to improved employment prospects for IT professionals, as well as career advancement or other positive job changes.
Pirie reported that Microsoft Learning had its best month in 8 years in July 2009, when they witnessed a huge increase in uptake of courses, exams, and other revenue-generating activities within the division. Since then, demand has tempered somewhat, but Microsoft Learning is still ahead for the current fiscal year (Microsoft’s FY runs from July 1 of Year-minus-One to June 30 of Year, so the current one started on July 1, 2009 and will end on June 30, 2010) and they expect it to be a very good one for their operations and activity levels, as well as for their bottom line.
In describing why this would ultimately be good for IT and IT jobs, Pirie alluded to an IDC report dated July 2009 entitled “The Economic Impact of Microsoft’s Windows 7, Worldwide.”  As with any analyst report commissioned by the vendor whose products reported on, it’s probably worth treating this treatise with a bit of well-informed skepticism, if not the proverbial grain of salt. Nevertheless, this piece makes some interesting observations and arguments about the impact of Windows 7 on the entire IT economy (or the “Microsoft ecosystem” that this report uses as its term to describe that portion of IT most likely to be affected by Windows 7’s introduction and adoption). Some interesting numbers emerge from this piece, including support for as many as 7 million IT jobs worldwide and some staggering revenue numbers ($17.2 B in direct revenue to MS by the end of the 2010 calendar year, along with another $300-plus B in revenue for directly-related products and services).
Of course, the percentage of new jobs in this mix is not addressed, so we have no way of knowing what kind of dent it might make in the 12 percent unemployment in IT in the US, and the probably somewhat higher global number for IT unemployment that goes with it. But that’s where some other elements of my conversation with Pirie do shed some interesting light. Microsoft’s huge numbers for the current FY show the biggest growth vectors outside Europe, North America and the developed countries of the Pacific Rim. In fact, said Pirie, fully 25% of their 2009 numbers came from India (that is, one quarter of all the individuals who earned some kind of MS certification in 2009 were Indian). Other big growth areas include Africa, the Middle East, and South America, where IT is finally starting to assume the kind of role and importance it has long enjoyed in other more developed economies.
I ask Pirie: “What does all this mean to IT professionals?” and he comes out with some interesting answers. He sees leading edge technologies, including Windows 7, virtualization, and cloud-based development and services as what he calls “the sharp and pointy edge of things.” This is where learning and skills development will do IT pros the most good, and the topics from which they can reap the biggest rewards. He also believes it’s time for IT professionals to “step up their game” and pursue advanced training to position themselves for future trends and economic improvement. Although I know his ultimate aim is to sell training courses and certification exams (all of which also benefit from this exhortation) I have to agree that staying ahead of the curve is the right place for IT professionals in search of improved employment opportunities and enhanced job security as well. There is some gold in these remarks and reports, and it’s probably wise to give his exhortations some credence along with some genuine attention and consideration.

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