Here we are in the midst of the biggest economic downturn in decades. Sounds scary. But what does the economic climate mean for employment and hiring in the interactive and technology worlds? By now we all probably know at least one person who has been laid off, and many of you also must know the CEOs and company presidents who have to make some very tough calls. Are you one of these executives feeling the pressure now?

While the media reports detailing massive corporate layoffs probably concern or frighten you, maybe they shouldn’t. If you are talented, there’s plenty of room for you even in this job market — many companies are looking to upgrade their human capital and give smart people a bigger seat at the table.

Rather than offer another piece about how to survive this employment climate, I thought it would be helpful to reach out to a few industry leaders for their thoughts on the current market and employment. Here are perspectives from four different business leaders, in their own words, that should give you some guidance.

Thomas Charlton, CEO, Shunra

As we move into the second quarter of 2009, I see malaise as the major barrier in this economy. It’s creating an air of sluggish pessimism in the technology market; it is a slow stream of negativity that is holding us back. I believe in self-fulfilling prophesies to a certain extent, but by always seeing the glass half or completely empty, we are all overlooking new opportunities for hires and employment.

The decision to lay off good people is short-term and short-sighted — it is not a long-term strategy. However, it remains to be seen if layoffs will hurt the technology sector, especially where there is a surplus. The old adage — if you remove your hand from a bucket of water, it leaves no hole — is doubly true now.

But that’s not the end of the story, of course.

There are three elements that drive business in any industry — the marketplace, execution, and good products and/or services — and people are the drivers of these last two elements. While there are a number of factors that go into growing a successful company, success really is defined by the people who understand how to grow and scale your company.

During the course of my career as a CEO at three companies, I have learned that once my company is established, the single most important contribution I make is the team of people I bring to the organization. The common denominator in every one of my success stories has been the hiring and development of the best talent. Good leadership means making good hiring decisions. Assembling and enabling the right talent represents good decision making for any true business leader.

If you find yourself in the position of looking for another job, stay positive. People like me continually count on finding the best talent in the market. Keep in mind that your best bet is probably at a smaller company. Lots of good people who leave big companies find that a smaller company is just as secure, or even more secure, because they have more control over their work and a greater impact on the business. If that sounds like you, relax; this market represents an opportunity and an open door, not a pink slip.

Thomas Charlton is president and CEO of Shunra Software, a market leader in testing the performance and behavior of services across today’s complex global wireless networks.