Survival Instinct To Save E-Commerce Managers

Career planning in e-commerce is not for the weak-spirited. A struggling technology sector and an economy teetering on recession have severely limitedthe opportunities for middle- and upper-level managers.

“With the way the market changes so quickly these days, it is very difficult to speculate on what might or might not happen,” spokesperson Jim Bak of Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) told the E-Commerce Times. “What is sound advice today, may not be so sound tomorrow.”

Even so, hope is not lost for e-commerce professionals looking to advance their careers and for technology managers who find themselves among the unemployed masses.

To reach the next rung of corporate ladder or to re-enter the workforce, managers might be well-served to further their education, to investigate budding disciplines within or affiliated with e-commerce companies, or to probe sector leaders like eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) andMicrosoft.

To a Degree

Some say conditions could not be better for managers to return to school to earn advanced business degrees. Indeed, business school applications have surged at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management — especially last-minute applications — according to Margaret Andrews, executive director of the MBA program at Sloan.

“Typically, more than half of all applications come during our first round of applications in December,” Andrews told the E-Commerce Times. “But this year, we had roughly 60percent coming in during the second round (in early February).”

Current economic conditions likely spiked the surge, said Andrews.

“The foregone income cost is probably lower,” said Mannig Simidian, a member of Sloan’s class of 2003. “It hurts a lot less to be in school right now asopposed to a few years ago.”

Back to Basics

Managers returning to graduate school should make efforts to build a strong foundation of fundamental management skills, according to one university professor.

“A lot of [students] are now showing interest in accounting and finance,” Vijay Kanabar, professor of computer science and e-commerce at Boston University told the E-Commerce Times. “I think it reflects a correction in good business practice and focusing onthe basics.”

When the high technology job market rebounds next year, managers who have earned their stripes will fare better than those with patchy experience, said another professor.

“We should see an increase in high-technology startups next year, but not returning to the rate that we saw in the late 90s,” Vijay Gurbaxani, professor of information systems at the University of California, Irvine, told the E-Commerce Times. “Investors will belooking for seasoned managers with strong track records.”

Safety First

Looking ahead, one sector that may offer opportunitiesfor skilled managers is Internet security, suggested Kanabar.

“Companies dealing with security — encryption, spying — will do well, given the terrorist situation,” said Kanabar, adding that the U.S. Department of Defense is now dealing with technology warfare, such as fighting viruses.

Winners’ Wages

For the time being, since viable high-technology startups are few and far between, some managers may do well to gear their job searches toward industry-leading firms with relative stability, like eBay.

“We continue to hire across the board,” eBay spokesperson Kevin Pursglove told the E-Commerce Times recently. “We are in a fortunate position.”

Similarly, Microsoft has numerous e-commerce job openings posted on its Web site, said Bak.

A search of Microsoft’s job listings turned up hundreds of technical openings across the country, including an e-commerce architect in New York, a technology specialist in California, and a .NET developer in Pennsylvania.

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