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Pacific region: Higher salaries, good jobs for iSeries pros

Rolling blackouts, price-gouging utilities, ecoterrorists and conservative reactionaries -- are you ready for today's West Coast? Even as storm clouds hang over San Francisco's dot-commies, iSeries professionals can still find great jobs throughout the Golden State. According to search400's ongoing Interactive Salary Survey, the Pacific region leads the nation, with annual salaries over $71,000.

For a closer look, we talked recently to Victorio Sbrega, an Encinitas, Calif.-based AS/400 recruiter, and Dan Feldman, an AS/400 programmer living in the San Diego area. Sbrega's firm, AS/400 Personnel Agency LLC, recently placed Feldman in a programmer/analyst position at Denso Wireless Systems America Inc. in Vista, Calif.

SEARCH400: Have iSeries professionals in California been immune to the demise of the dot-coms that began six months ago?

SBREGA: In many ways, yes. Web development people are taking the brunt of that downturn. And although the AS/400 is used as a Web server, its primary use has been for managing databases and financial information. So even at dot-coms AS/400 programmers and operators may enjoy greater job security.

SEARCH400: Do you expect iSeries pros to be more vulnerable in other areas?

SBREGA: People can sense the slowdown in manufacturing -- in areas like Simi Valley (50 miles from Los Angeles). And healthcare, too, may be slowing down a bit.

FELDMAN: My last job was at an AS/400 shop that developed a software product for healthcare billing services. (The company went out of business late last year.) When the economy is slow, many medical billing services become timid about making purchasing decisions. That definitely affected us.

SEARCH400: And how have your prospects looked since then?

FELDMAN: Well, I can tell you that there were six of us (at the software company), and only one of us is still shopping around for the right position. I found opportunities at long-distance telephone providers, waste management firms, and in banking and financial services.

SEARCH400: But you took a job at Denso Wireless Systems America, which makes wireless telephones. What's the appeal of manufacturing?

FELDMAN: There's a lot happening in the wireless industry, and manufacturing is something new and interesting for me. I'm definitely being exposed to more SQL and ILE, as well as PC-based applications like (Microsoft) Access.

SEARCH400: Still, with manufacturing in a bit of a slump in California, shouldn't iSeries professionals in the state lower their expectations a bit?

SBREGA: Somewhat, but I think the problem goes a bit further back (and is not limited to one sector). H-1B visa holders flooded the California market prior to 2000, and many of them today will take any position -- for any amount of money -- to stay in the U.S. So AS/400 pros can expect to wait a little longer to find the right job.

About the author: Mark Baard is a contributing editor in Milton, Mass., who writes about technology and business issues.

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