AdaIC News Spring/Summer 1996

Ada Jobs

Ada & Jobs -- A Hot Market

| The Ada Job Market | Good News in the Papers |
| Good News on the Web | For the Product the Dollars Favor Ada |
| Thinking About Your Future |

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"...Programmers with Ada, C and C++ expertise are in the highest demand..."

McDonnell Douglas Corp.
Ada Job Market Are you thinking of changing jobs? Are you thinking of hiring new people?

The "job situation" is probably a continuing interest -- whether you see yourself on the applying side or on the hiring side. There's a certain tension between the two sides, of course. If you're applying, you'd like to have more jobs looking for fewer applicants; if you're hiring, you'd like to have lots of applicants for every slot you have. The market will almost always tilt one way or the other; either way, however, both sides need a healthy Ada job market.

Right now, the job market is tilted toward the job seekers, but not so far that projects will feel cornered. In other words, the market is healthy.

That health has been gaining increased attention in the computer press lately, and Ada and software engineering have been coming in for their share of good news. But there are still some questions to be answered. Where do you find Ada jobs? Where do you find applicants? How does a career in Ada stack up against one in some other language? To answer these questions, we asked some of the people who want to get applicants and projects together. We also took a look at what is becoming an important tool to help in that job: the World Wide Web.

In reading this, of course, it's best to remember that there are things neither we nor those we spoke to can give you in an article like this. As ever with the AdaIC News, report of a product, service, or event is for information purposes and does not constitute an endorsement by the AdaIC or the AJPO. Moreover, whether you're an employer or an applicant, everyone has a different focus. Some are looking for short-term contracts, some are looking for long-term, and some are looking for permanent positions. Those considerations are frequently the most important, and you have to check them out on a case-by-case basis. The position or the person that may be great for you may be ill-suited elsewhere -- and vice versa.

Good News in the Papers

The economy in general is now in rebound, and the software market has felt that upswing. In articles in the computer press, people being interviewed have offered Ada as an example of what the market is looking for. Back in June, ComputerWorld covered "Jobs in Space". James Diller, administrator of professional employment at the McDonnell Douglas Corp., commented, "Even though we've had some layoffs, we're always hiring for particular skills. Specifically, programmers with Ada, C and C++ expertise are in the highest demand." (Bryan Scanlon and Amy Bermar, p. 107, June 5, 1995). More recently, in a Federal Computer Week supplement, Federal Integrator, N. Gus Siekierka, vice president of human resources with Computer Sciences Corp.'s Systems Group, and a number of other integration executives pointed out that people with Ada programming skills are in high demand ("Federal Integrators Are Hiring," John Moore, Oct. 23, 1995).

To look behind comments like these, we went to two people who are similar in that they've both been working in Ada since the early/mid-eighties. They're somewhat different in their role in the job market, however.

Paul Morris started Paul Morris Associates in 1984 as employment counselors specializing in Ada.

Patrick McDermott of Quality Researched Personnel wears two hats. QRP provides employment recruiting for permanent and consultant Ada software-engineering opportunities, and the company bids on off-site work such as (V&V testing, software development, etc).

Both Morris and McDermott, however, without getting into any crystal-ball gazing for the future, were equally enthusiastic about the current situation. Morris called the market "very strong"; McDermott called the market "hot", saying the "candidate is king".

Neither, however, tried to make it look as though Ada were somehow a unique opportunity that left all others in the dust. The software economy is growing. All languages are benefiting.

"All ships rise with the tide," Morris observed. "So, employers that were laying off or weren't hiring or weren't paying fees are now calling -- 'Hi Paul! Remember us?'"

In December, Morris did a search of his active files. He checked the numbers: "Six employers each seeking 50-100 Ada software engineers"; besides them, "another half a dozen are looking for ten or 20." Altogether, there were over 109 active individual Ada postings representing 89 individual employers as of December. And the numbers have increased since then.

Good News on the Web You can get a feel for those numbers by checking out the Ada employment homepage on the World Wide Web. You can link to it through the AdaIC host. Sponsored by the Association of Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Ada (ACM SIGAda), the page recently listed opportunities from 25 sources, most with multiple openings. (Also, more and more companies with Web homepages now have a regular link to their job opportunities.)

Note But Morris insisted that no one source -- not even a free one, like the Web -- should be regarded as a panacea. Personal contacts, recruiters, direct mail, phone contacts, and print media, all are important. And the employment pages in the newspaper don't always seem to have a strong Ada presence, even when companies are actively recruiting.

Again, neither Morris nor McDermott "oversold" the market. "It's not a "broad" market," Morris points out, "there aren't hundreds of companies." Moreover, he indicated applicants should be realistic in their expectations: He has openings in 30 states; but if you really want to work only in Idaho, what are the chances that your skills will match the needs of a particular employer there? The big centers -- Boston and Los Angeles, say -- are still more apt to have the position you're looking for, if not the location.

On the other hand, they both agreed that Ada practitioners are frequently more apt to have qualifications that put them ahead of the pack. If you're writing in Ada, you're more likely to have worked on large, complex, demanding projects. Both this experience and the language improve the software engineer.

A more skilled developer is in a better bargaining position.

For the Product, the Dollars Favor Ada

In fact, there is one category of software engineer that is in a better bargaining position than the skilled Ada engineer: the skilled Tip C++ engineer. That may seem like a downside for the Ada market -- but it points to a very important factor from the project side. If a project wishes to tell their bosses and the market that they're developing "object-oriented" code (C++), then there's a cheap way to do it: Write C, and pump it through a C++ compiler. It won't be software engineering, it won't be object-oriented, but they'll be able to use "C++" as the buzz word of the day. If they want real C++ programmers, however, then they're going to have to pay more. And they're going to have to pay a lot more, for one very simple reason: There just aren't very many real C++ programmers.

From the project point of view, then, the question is whether they want software engineering -- whether they want code that's more apt to be modifiable and reusable. If that's the case, and if language choice hinges on the availability of skilled practitioners, then message of the market is clear: It's more economical to do the job with Ada.

Thinking About Your Future

Altogether, this seems to be a very good time to be an Ada software engineer.

"I can't find enough people," Morris said, "and anyone who wants to keep the faith, they'll have the opportunity. "The reason we formed QRP," McDermott said, "was because there was such a demand for Ada software engineers and we knew where to get them." He added, "the opportunities are out there, you've just got to put your ear to the ground."

Morris sees this as an ideal time for Ada engineers to take stock of their position, to figure out their priorities, and look at the long term. The buoyancy of the market will let them balance their priorities.

"Now is the time they can leverage their experience in the market and essentially trade for a balance of location, stability, access to experience, and compensation."

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