ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, June 21, 2016

ACM CareerNews is intended as an objective career news digest for busy IT professionals. Views expressed are not necessarily those of ACM. To send comments, please write to careernews@hq.acm.org

Volume 12, Issue 12, June 21, 2016



Computer Science Salaries Rise With Demand For New Graduates
Network World, June 13

Competition for new tech talent is leading to higher salaries for recent grads with computer science degrees. As college graduates hit the job market this summer, their employment prospects are more promising than those of last year’s graduating class. In short, computer science leads to the highest-paying, fastest-growing jobs in the U.S. economy. There are currently over 500,000 open computing jobs, in every sector, from manufacturing to banking, from agriculture to healthcare, but only 50,000 computer science graduates a year. As a result, IT unemployment is around 2.5%, and 80% of IT professionals are willing to listen to offers for new job opportunities, even when they're happily employed.

With supply and demand conditions in their favor, many of today’s computer science graduates are entering the workforce with high starting salaries and multiple offers of employment. The overall average salary for bachelor's degree graduates earning computer science degrees is projected to be $61,321 this year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). That’s the second-highest starting salary, behind only engineering graduates, who are projected to earn $64,891. Additionally, NACE reports that among the 2015 crop of new graduates, those majoring in computer science enjoyed the highest full-time employment rate (76%) within six months of their graduation.

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5 Soft Skills Young Cybersecurity Professionals Need to Get Ahead
Dark Reading, June 14

Today's employers aren't looking for recruits who can just maintain firewalls and mitigate risk. They also want well-rounded professionals with soft skills who can apply security expertise across the business to yield bottom-line results. For recent graduates seeking career paths in this fast-growing field, professional success starts with making sure your skills stand out among the competition. Mastering identity management and device encryption techniques are just the start for landing a cybersecurity job today. Though technical skills are prerequisites, it’s the soft skills – including communication and a knack for problem solving – that will differentiate candidates from the pack.

The first soft skill aspiring cybersecurity gurus need to get ahead is strong research and writing instincts. That’s because one of the most important tasks enterprise cybersecurity teams take on is policy creation and enforcement. To establish sound policies, cybersecurity staff must be equipped to conduct exhaustive research into industry best practices and work with end users to understand how they use technology on a daily basis – and then synthesize those insights into a thoughtful policy. Along with crafting policies, cybersecurity pros must be able to educate their colleagues about safe technology habits, and instill awareness about the risks of poor IT habits.

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Are Skills-Building Boot Camps Worth The Bucks?
TIME, June 16

When coding boot camps provide the specific skills employers want in their new hires and that may not be part of the regular college curriculum, they can provide a valuable career boost. However, since oversight of these programs is still developing, experts caution that candidates should vet them carefully to ensure that they deliver on their promises. If you are considering one, you should take a closer look at the overall costs, the types of skills they offer, and their ability to place you in a full-time job after completing the program. The consensus opinion is that the best coding boot camps can offer training that complements the type of learning found in traditional degree programs.

The first question to ask is whether the boot camp is affordable. Even if the tuition is manageable, don’t forget extra living expenses. A full-time, three- to six-month program could mean added housing and food costs of $5,000 to $10,000, as well as cutting into the hours you could earn money by working. You also have to ask whether they offer the right skills. There’s extreme specialization across the top boot camps. You want to make sure you go to a boot camp that’s teaching the languages that are in high demand in your community. Check job listings to see what specific skills local employers are looking for.

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Why Coding Is Still the Most Important Job Skill of the Future
Fast Company, June 14

Apart from companies in the technology sector, there are an increasing number of businesses looking to ramp up their hiring of programmers and other tech professionals. In fact, eight of the top 25 jobs this year are tech positions, according to Glassdoor. That means a software engineer could just as easily work at a major tech company, as he or she could in a hospital, or at an automotive manufacturer. A new report from Burning Glass, a job market analytics firm, found that there were as many as 7 million job openings in 2015 in occupations that required coding skills. They also found that programming jobs overall are growing 12% faster than the market average.

The researchers broadened the scope of their analysis to include coding skills across five major job categories: information technology (IT) workers, data analysts, artists and designers, engineers and scientists. The skills were defined as using a computer program to write instructions to a computer as opposed to using established applications. The researchers looked at programming languages including JavaScript and HTML for building websites, statistical programs R and SAS, AutoCAD programs for engineers, and other all-purpose programming languages such as Java, Python, and C++. The report used data drawn from 26 million U.S. online job postings collected in 2015 and other data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It turns out that half of all programming openings are in industries outside of technology, such as finance, manufacturing and health care.

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Is Open Source a Clear Path to Success For New Grads?
Network World, June 16

Open source is a great career direction for newly minted computer science and IT graduates. That’s because getting involved in open source projects solves one of the major problems facing new college graduates: you need experience or a portfolio of completed work to prove your competency to a potential employer, but it's hard to get that tangible proof of your skills without having had a job first. In short, working on open source projects enables a candidate to develop a marketable, visible, demonstrable portfolio. And that’s particularly useful to have during a time when technical talent in open source is tight.

A work portfolio is one of the most important things employers look for when hiring open source talent, along with a strong, committed presence in the open source community. Almost every open source company or client that's looking for open source talent wants to see contributions to the code base, or a profile on GitHub. Having a portfolio of successful projects and an active GitHub profile is a great advantage to have, especially in the midst of a hiring boom. According a recent report, 65% of hiring managers say open source hiring will increase more than any other part of their business over the next six months. With even traditional companies tackling digital transformation, there's more code than ever before in areas like home automation and automotive, and much of that code is open source.

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Tech Culture Still Pushing Out Women, Study Finds
CIO.com, June 15

Social dynamics and culture fit are a big reason that female engineers tend to stay in the profession at a lower rate than their male counterparts, according to a recent study released by researchers from MIT, University of California – Irvine, Michigan, and McGill. The research was conducted by having more than 40 undergraduate engineering students keep bi-monthly diaries, providing the study with more than 3,000 entries to analyze. Particularly in the case of internships, summer work, and team-building exercises, the study found women feel excluded and marginalized with their male counterparts receiving better opportunities.

This workplace culture phenomenon, the authors of the report say, is why women account for 20% of engineering degrees awarded, but just 13% of the engineering workforce. Outside of formal instruction and class work, the less-formal atmosphere of these activities can be unwelcoming. For many women, their first encounter with collaboration is to be treated in gender stereotypical ways.

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The Two Questions You Need to Ask in Every Job Interview
Inc.com, June 14

What companies need and value in employees varies greatly, which means the best questions to get at whether a candidate has the right profile for the job also vary greatly. However, there are two job interview questions that absolutely every business owner or hiring manager should ask, no matter the role, industry, or level of experience required. The first question attempts to find out how much passion a candidate brings to the job; the second question attempts to find out more about the candidate’s authenticity and humility.

Any well-structured interview will dig into a candidate’s past achievements and failures, hopefully unearthing all the details of their actions and interactions with others. But while most bosses know how to assess skills in this way, some forget to ask a much more profound question -- not what a candidate can do, but why they want to do it at all. Thus, one of the most important questions to ask is, 'Why are you here?’ While this is one of the most basic questions to ask, it’s also one of the most difficult to answer. That’s because the majority of candidates will turn up well prepared to answer queries about their professional expertise and relevant experience, but won't have given any time to introspection and why they want to be associated with the organization in question.

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10 Things I Learned About People While Working in IT
Tech Republic, June 16

Understanding the workplace culture of the IT industry can be an important way to ensure that you have the right skills for your tech career and that you are working alongside the right type of people. Anyone who has worked in IT, even for a short period of time, can attest that it is a challenging and rewarding pursuit. Not only are you enabling businesses to function, you are helping bring people together and ensure that their days go smoothly. As you do that, you run into people from nearly every walk of life. That interaction can easily serve as a springboard to help you to understand and navigate your career path. In short, there’s a lot to be learned about people while working in IT.

The first insight about working in IT is that most people in an organization just want to get their work done. This is pretty obvious, but every IT pro needs to fully understand it. Just like you, all those end users really just want to get their job done with as little hassle as possible. The second insight is that your co-workers respect you more than you think. At the end of the day, users actually do hold IT in high regard. The average person does respect those with tremendous amounts of knowledge in the IT field. Another insight is that many people not in the IT field don't truly understand how technology works. This is why you find users who default to pushing random buttons when things go awry. Because of this, it is always in your best interests to help educate the technophobes in your company.

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Five Principles for Programming Languages for Learners
Blog @ CACM, June 14

There’s an important discussion going on in the computer science world about the right way to teach programming skills to young learners. Sometimes we hear the idea that the only real "coder" or "computer scientist" is one that programs in a language that is used in the tech industry. Yet we know that more than half of all programmers today are not in the tech industry. It's tempting to teach children the languages that are freely available, ubiquitous, and commonly used by professional programmers, but those professional tools are likely not good programming languages for learners. What’s helpful to have is a set of principles for understanding what we might want in a programming language that would be used in schools and designed well for learners.

The first principle is that learning about programming should connect to what students already know. Nobody comes to class as a blank slate. Learning is a process of making sense of the world. We make sense of new phenomena in terms of what we already know, and that’s especially true for children. The second major principle is to keep cognitive load low. That’s because human working memory, which we use when paying attention to something, is small and short-lived. We underestimate how much cognitive load our modern programming languages require, because much of our programming knowledge is tacit. We do it automatically without attending to the details, and without even being aware that we're doing it.

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The New Organizational Learning
eLearn Magazine, May 2016

A new book on organizational learning, “Teaming” by Harvard Business School’s Amy Edmondson, takes a closer look at how organizations learn, innovate, and compete in the knowledge economy. This book takes Edmondson's years of research into organizational success and distills down the results into some straightforward models. The book explains why there is a need to move away from Taylorism to more egalitarian models of management that tap into the power of people. The book also presents the types of actions leaders need to take to create those models.

Amy Edmondson starts her book with an analysis of organizational processes, characterizing a continuum from routine execution, through complex problem solving, to innovation in new areas. Edmondson acknowledges all organizations have pockets of all three processes, but you need to apply the right approach to the right situations. She returns to the structure to illustrate how her overall recommendations get mapped differently into each domain. She also makes a strong case that teams are the necessary structure at which organizations need to be thinking for learning and innovation. She talks about how individuals are unlikely to be the source for the necessary cross-pollination that will support a generation of new ideas and solutions. From there, Edmondson goes on to the core behaviors that organizations need to exhibit. She explains teams need people to speak up, collaborate, experiment, and reflect.

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