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Trendy technology leads to new jobs

The technology industry is always looking for the next new thing, and that’s helping drive the latest hiring push.

Such initiatives as green technology and “cloud computing” could even fuel an overall economic comeback, technology analysts say.

“After three long years of putting off technology investments, companies inevitably want to take advantage of the new technology that’s available,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive of outplacement consultant Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

He said computer companies would be among the first to benefit as the recession wanes, and cited a Forrester Research report that said spending on information technology was expected to rise 6.6% this year after falling 8.2% in 2009.

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“Tech will be one of the sectors that will lead the economy out of the recession,” Challenger said.

“We’ve seen this happen before,” said Sharmila Shahani-Mulligan, marketing vice president at Aster Data Systems Inc., a Silicon Valley company that helps firms manage and analyze the data that come from users’ activities on their websites. “There are areas of tech that are big opportunities. Data management is one. Mobile is a big one, with things like Google’s device and the iPhone. People are developing applications, and advertising is growing.”

The emergence of new start-ups and an enthusiasm for such areas as green technology and cloud computing -- in which programs and data are stored on remote servers instead of users’ own machines -- have people dipping their toes into the labor pool again.

John Purrier, 49, a Microsoft Corp. veteran, spent about a year as chief technology officer at Global Market Insite Inc., which helps companies do market research. Then, in fall 2008, “the nuclear winter for funding forced GMI and many other venture-backed companies into a very defensive posture of cash conservation,” he said, “and we agreed to part ways.”

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Last fall he landed a new gig in San Antonio as director of software development for the Rackspace Cloud, which helps companies manage their technical operations over the Internet. The Rackspace Cloud is also opening offices around the country, including in Los Angeles, and is hiring for all of them.

An interest in green technology is also fueling job growth, said Andy Lewis, a principal at executive placement firm Levinger Lewis.

The green sector can use talent from the IT industry.

“There’s a lot of people who can move from the semiconductor world to the green world,” Lewis said. “The solar business is all about thin films, materials science and chemistry. Those kinds of skill sets transfer over well.”

SimplyHired.com, a job search engine with more than 5 million listings, reports that its listings for green tech jobs have ballooned 141% since March 2008, largely because of the federal stimulus package.

Another area of growth is in outsourcing. Many people who were unable to land permanent jobs have established themselves as freelancers instead. More employers are looking to shed in-house staff and replace them with contract workers, who don’t receive benefits.

“Anything that can be done in front of the computer” is getting outsourced, said Gary Swart, chief executive of ODesk Corp., a Silicon Valley firm that helps companies hire freelancers. “We’re seeing massive growth, not only in Web development and technology, but also in marketing, blogging, writing, support, translation -- any kind of business outsourcing work.”

business@latimes.com

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