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Regional focus: Chicago's winds blow well for the IT professional

Chicago offers diverse employment opportunities for IT professionals.

Chicago's business landscape is blessed with tremendous diversity, boasting major employers in the retail, healthcare, financial services, manufacturing, insurance, publishing and food services industries. That bodes well for IT professionals, especially as the economy softens.

"Because the local economy is so diverse, it doesn't seem to go through the extreme highs and lows that a lot of other areas do," says John McNamee, director of operations at ASP-One, an applications services provider. "It isn't dependent on one type of business the way, for example, Silicon Valley is dependent on high-tech companies."

But the unemployment rate climbed more than a percentage point in only five months, rising from 4% in September to 5.1% in February, according to the Bureau for Labor Statistics ( February's national average was 4.2%.

Chicago's "New Economy" companies have experienced the same downturn as those nationwide. Following a number of earlier layoffs Ecommerce consulting firm MarchFirst announced on April 2 that it would cut another 1,700 employees. Sports Etailer, which shut down in January, is one among many dot-com closures.

Traditional companies also have had their share of layoffs, with the closing of Montgomery Ward and Co. and local job cuts by Motorola Inc., Lucent Technologies Inc., and others.

Nonetheless, IT professionals aren't going jobless, owing to the plethora of area employers. They include Sears, Roebuck and Co. (; The Tribune Co. (; Walgreen Co. (; McDonald's Corp. (; Abbott Laboratories (; Sara Lee Corp. (; Baxter International (, Allstate Corp. (

"Dot-commers here were lucky because of the diversification of industry here," says Marianne Marino, consulting services manager in the Northbrook, Ill., offices of IT placement firm RHI Consulting. "The IT market is still very big and any laid-off IT workers are quickly being absorbed into other companies. While the IT supply-and-demand gap is narrowing out somewhat, for strong technologists demand is still quite high." Marino predicts that IT professionals relocating to the Chicago area could have a job lined up within a month.

A search in early April turned up over 4400 IT positions through Flipdog, the job search partner for Career Center parent,

With its multitude of large companies, Chicago supports a healthy SAP-related job market, Marino and McNamee say. Marino notes that she is currently recruiting for a number of jobs on SAP Financials implementations.

"A lot of big businesses in Chicago use those specialized skills," McNamee says. "SAP is an ongoing nightmare for IT organizations. It never ends, it takes all the resources you can throw at it and more."

Among area employers with SAP installations are Abbott Laboratories, which had two SAP job openings on its Web site in early April, and Keebler Co., Elmhurst, Ill, which in January announced that it had implemented the mySAP E-procurement module. Keebler is also rolling out mySAP Business Intelligence and mySAP Supply Chain Management.

A quick look at ERP jobs in the Chicago area show a number of openings including SAP Administrator, SAP Business Analyst, SAP Security Administrator, SAP Developer and more. SAP-related jobs, include team lead and architect positions.

Chicago area at a glance:

  • Located along the shores of Lake Michigan, offering countless outdoor recreational activities
  • Chicago encompasses an array of suburbs in six counties: Cook, Lake, McHenry, DuPage, Kane and Will.
  • Public transportation includes the El, a network of elevated trains, and the Metra.
  • The metro area's population is 7,743,400.
  • 46 four-year colleges, 19 of which are within Chicago proper. Several offer nationally ranked techno-MBA and MBA programs.
  • Chicago is a heavy-duty sports town, with six professional teams.
  • Comedy improv group Second City and the renowned Steppenwolf Theatre Company are based here.
  • The blues scene, which has a long tradition here, continues to infuse the city with its own unique groove.

For more information about the city:

  • Chicago Tribune Online:
  • Chicago Sun-Times Online:
  • Chicago Fact Book:
  • Chicago on the Web:


About the Author

Leslie Jaye Goff is a freelance writer based in New York. She is a regular contributor to Computerworld, and her work has appeared in The New York Times, CIO, Red Herring and other national publications. For links to recent articles, visit her Web site at


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