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What Will Eat Your IT Job?

HCL says virtualization and cloud technologies are automating the roles that it used to fill with lots of H-1B workers.

InformationWeek Now--What's Hot Right Now
Need any more of a wake up call that virtualization and cloud computing are automating some of yesterday's lower-level IT jobs? When InformationWeek's Paul McDougall sat down with Krishnan Chatterjee, head of global strategy and marketing at HCL Technologies, last week, he mentioned those technologies automating the roles that his company used to fill.

That's one reason that HCL, Chaterjee says, is trying to do the pricier kind of strategic consulting these days--the kind that's IBM's specialty, the kind that HP and Dell would like to dominate, too.

"You can look at the early signs that the Indian IT model is over," Chanerjee told McDougall.

"Many of these engagements--such as building a digital supply chain to support an e-commerce initiative--require onsite specialists with skills in project management and architectural design," McDougall notes. The kicker: HCL says that going forward, more of these jobs will go to people living in the United States.

[ Want to boost your social networking and professional appeal to recruiters and potential employers? See 10 LinkedIn Tips for IT Pros. ]

But consider the overall numbers: "To meet demand for onshore services, HCL is building out its presence in the U.S. Company officials said about 8,000 of the their 83,000 employees are now in the United States, and that number will grow," McDougall writes. "Ultimately, it wants more than 12% of its employees to be based in the U.S. or Europe by 2015. About 40% of HCL's current U.S.-based workers are Americans or green card holders; the rest are on H-1B and other temporary visas. Officials say they also want a larger percentage of their U.S.-based workers to be citizens or permanent residents."

How much of this is public relations? How many jobs will actually play out for non H-1B applicants? Those are wait and see questions. Check out the still-hot debate around InformationWeek Editor-in-Chief Rob Preston's recent column, Foreigners Don't Take IT Jobs, They Create Them.

But those old babysit-a-server-or-database jobs? There's no career path there, HCL is saying.

As for tomorrow's IT jobs, some of them are a far cry from caring for servers or tweaking databases. For instance, let's talk Ford. Yes, Ford. As my colleague Chris Murphy explains in an intriguing column, Ford just became a software company.

"Sometime early next year, Ford will mail USB sticks to about 250,000 owners of vehicles with its advanced touchscreen control panel. The stick will contain a major upgrade to the software for that screen. With it, Ford is breaking from a history as old as the auto industry, one in which the technology in a car essentially stayed unchanged from assembly line to junk yard," Murphy writes.

Who does Ford need to design and keep revising its own software platform? Traditional software developers, plus human-machine interface engineers "who study how people interact with technology," Murphy writes. "Ford has been cultivating these people from within since the early 2000s. HMI engineers come from a range of backgrounds, from software development to mechanical engineers. They're people who can live in worlds of art and science at once," Murphy notes.

Not exactly your image of a Ford assembly line? Mine either. But if I was a freshly-minted technology or engineering grad, I'd like the sound of those jobs. That type of artist gets an interesting canvas--and doesn't sound easily replaceable.

Laurianne McLaughlin is editor-in-chief for Follow her on Twitter at @lmclaughlin.

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