Industry June 2016

Golden times in IT security

Chances lie ahead for skilled staff

  • Frequent career moves in IT accepted, given demand
  • Large foreign firms investing in training of junior staff
  • Less candidate sourcing from abroad than in other sectors

With the growing proliferation of mobile phone use, globalisation of business operations and expansion of the Internet of Things, the IT security industry is becoming part of everyday life. Organisations across the board are increasingly realising the importance of protecting their information and that of their customers.

As a result, there has been a dramatic increase in demand for IT security professionals. Such is the thirst that it extends from candidates with general experience in the industry to security engineers and others with high-level skill sets.

Hiring trends

Typically, workers in Japan tend to stay in a job for longer than their counterparts in the rest of Asia, reflecting a historical work ethic based on career stability that is valued by employees and employers alike.

However, there is such a lack of talent in the security sector that suitable candidates can change jobs frequently—even yearly—without negatively impacting their reputation. These frequent job changes allow the specialised pool of talent to continue to improve not only their job prospects, but also their salaries.

Some candidates, particularly young ones with network engineering backgrounds, are finding themselves able to move into the security space. As relevant measures become ever more critical to operations, job seekers are trying to improve their prospects by expanding their skill sets. At the same time, those with engineering specialisations are often seen as good investments by larger firms.

While it is generally expected that experienced candidates seeking a security-related role come from a background in security, there is such competition for talent that firms may need to relax their expectations in order to secure candidates.

Invest in staff

One option for firms is to invest to a greater extent in up-skilling their IT and technology workers by equipping them with capabilities in combating security risks.

Foreign businesses operating in Japan, however, tend to have a sales and business development focus, which limits the resources they can dedicate to formal training programmes. That said, large foreign firms are increasingly investing in talent management, developing junior workers with a long-term view while addressing skill gaps and creating a strong and capable workforce.

Due to the long-term investment required to develop and implement training programmes—along with the risk of loss if employees then leave—there is resistance among firms in Japan to the widespread adoption of training programmes.

Current demand

Operating in the Japan market requires a high degree of literacy in Japanese, and an ability to liaise with local clients. This means that firms are less likely than those in other markets to source candidates internationally, unless they are fluent in Japanese.

This is particularly true of Japan’s multinational firms, due to their focus on servicing local clients and building business. Local firms may be more amenable to international talent in IT and technology functions, but they only represent a small portion of the market.

Recruitment in the IT and technology sectors is currently at a four-year peak. Considering the current demand for talent in the information security sector—and the lack of available candidates—it can be expected that this trend will continue, while also becoming more pronounced in other high-impact areas of IT and technology, including enterprise cloud software, business intelligence and analytics software, Big Data technologies, advertising technology, as well as augmented and virtual reality.

Both augmented and virtual reality, in particular, look set to experience an explosion in growth as other sectors such as digital media, marketing and retail increasingly use technology to gain an edge in the market and compete on a global scale.