Fort Myers Florida Weekly


Information technology jobs increasing as online security concerns deepen



Every weekday, George Taylor drives about an hour to and from the Immokalee Technical Institute, where he is completing coursework and certifications in computer systems and cyber security.

The commute from Clewiston is worth it for the job opportunities waiting on the other end of about six more months of school, he said. He’ll have many options along with competition.

The information technology sector keeps growing along with businesses’ use of digital platforms — everything from electronic health care records to a grocery store’s smartphone app.

Positions for computer specialists in South Florida are projected to grow by more than 20 percent through 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates. That’s well above the 12.4 percent average growth rate of all occupations and equates to 3,000-plus jobs in Palm Beach, Lee, Charlotte, Collier, Hendry and Glades counties.

Hospice of Palm Beach County IT manager Richard Hernandez.

Hospice of Palm Beach County IT manager Richard Hernandez.

Future growth will be driven especially by cloud computing, security, and healthcare needs, IT business owners and administrators predict.

Wages for entry-level titles such as help-desk support specialist averaged $20.37 per hour in Southwest Florida and $23.77 in Palm Beach County.

In Southwest Florida, information security analysts were paid the most on average in the computer specialist category last year, at $50.93 per hour. In Palm Beach County, systems software developers averaged the highest income, at $48.42 hourly.



Mr. Taylor, who is 56, may look for work at a sugar mill or a veterans hospital, helping keep their computer systems running smoothly, safely and securely.

Businesses depend on IT experts of all levels to work out kinks in technology as it surges ahead. The higher paying jobs generally require more long-term education, but some employers are more interested in realworld experience and certifications for specific areas such as security. There is also more competition among job candidates.

“My goal is to leave (school), get in to a good job,” said Mr. Taylor. “Once I know the ins and outs of it, I plan on opening my own little business and working from my house.”

IT health and human services

If the federal government’s healthcare. gov insurance website fiasco was any indication, the health-care industry will need more IT help going forward.

Other care providers have made recent transitions more smoothly. Hospice of Palm Beach County recently finished the process of turning paper into electronic medical records, allowing doctors or nurses to access the information on tablets.

“The technology required us to bring in developers and programmers and other types of system administrators to support that infrastructure that went with this new EMR system,” said IT manager Richard Hernandez.

Security is a top priority for the new system. There is also a new sensitivity to how the ubiquitous tablets could be perceived by hospice’s 1,200-some patients. Nurses restrict using them during patient visits.

“We have the tablet, but then we put it down, we put it away,” said hospice communications director Jennifer Whiting. “We pick it back up after we’ve given them some one-on-one time.”

Customer service is also a priority for Publix Super Markets, which continues to update its smartphone app as consumers demand more mobile information. “Every facet of our business is impacted by a computer system in some way, from evaluating possible locations for future stores to ordering and transporting products to associates submitting vacation requests,” wrote a spokesperson for the grocery chain in an email.

Meanwhile, work never ends for IT employees who help Southwest Florida International Airport function smoothly.

“An airport is a lot like a small city in that we have all the normal departments — finance, human resources — but along with that we also have police and fire, that kind of thing, so we provide services for all the departments,” explained Phillip Murray, IT director for Lee County Port Authority.

Their job includes syncing SWFL International’s own IT network with those of airlines; just one example is keeping departure and arrival boards updated accurately. With non-stop air traffic and unreliable factors such as the weather, the job is “never dull, never boring,” Mr. Murray said.

Certified experience

As an employer, Jordi Tejero values hands-on experience over education.

He fell in love with computers as a kid working when a family member gave him the now-legendary Apple II. And it was real-world work coupled with computer certifications that prepared him for his current job, owner of CRS Technology Consultants, a firm working in Lee and Collier counties.

Bachelor and associate degrees are required for some IT jobs, but experience may be worth just as much or more, depending on the employer. Mr. Tejero warned that some students leave school out of touch with rapidly changing technology.

Immokalee Technical Center provides the best of both worlds, suggests advisor Karyn Kenner. Partnerships with local businesses and a focus on current industry certifications keep students fresh as they complete classes in computer systems information and cyber security. As a pair, those courses of study take about two years to complete.

“We like to see an information technology degree,” said Mr. Murray of Lee Port Authority. “And just as important to me, I look for experience. We don’t take a lot of people right out of school. We like to see people who have worked in the industry a little bit and have established this skill set and understand IT jobs.”

Mr. Tejero started early, becoming “a typical computer nerd” in elementary school.

Later, he spent a year in college before deciding it wasn’t for him. Instead, while living in Seattle, he took boot camp-style computer certification courses. He gained experience as a subcontractor and later worked for a larger company.

“The light bulb went off for me when I understood the impact IT could have on a business,” he said.

Mr. Tejero moved back to Fort Myers, where he lives with his wife and two daughters, to be closer to family. He became a partner at CRS, eventually taking ownership in December 2012.

His clients are diverse: legal, accounting, health care, nonprofits, “pretty much you name it we’ve got a business in that sector,” said Mr. Tejero.

Cloud computing

Security and cloud computer services will see the biggest growth in the coming years, Mr. Tejero predicts.

“It’s the way of the future,” he said of cloud computing. “Not even the way of the future, the way of the now.”

Unlike Mr. Tejero, the first computer Jim Desjarlais remembers using was a Commodore 64. But Lee County’s information technology director agrees the cloud is “the wave of the future.”

“(The cloud) is having all of your software and your servers located elsewhere,” explained Mr. Desjarlais. “And you can access data from those servers on any kind of machine, for instance, Apple iPad or Windows it doesn’t matter because it’s in the Internet format, if you will and, you can access all that data through the Internet.”

With cloud computing, information accessed online in the cloud still takes real form somewhere, and businesses must rely on a new set of security measures. Some worry that it’s not yet safe enough.

“I wish they’d call it something else,” said Connie Kantor, interim CEO of the nonprofit Charlotte Community Foundation in Punta Gorda. “That image of a cloud doesn’t seem secure. You can poke your finger through it. You can fly a plane through it.”

But like other businesses, the community foundation has come to rely on computers and Internet service. They pay bills, keep records, facilitate communication, turn on the lights when someone walks into the lobby or into an office, help Ms. Kantor research information for potential donors and control the blinds and projector in a room designed for presentations.

“It’s all tied together,” Ms. Kantor said. “If our computers are down we’d be out of business.”

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