ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, May 23, 2017

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 13, Issue 10, May 23, 2017


Midwest Is A Growing Hot Spot For Tech Jobs
Detroit Free Press (via USA Today), May 12

According to technology association CompTIA, the highest tech employment growth can be found in places like Kansas City (Missouri), Memphis and Detroit. In general, the Midwest is turning into a growing hot spot for tech jobs, especially for jobs requiring cybersecurity skills or Internet of Things skills. Based on research detailed in the organization’s 2017 Cyberstates report, it appears that tech jobs are thriving nationwide, especially in areas that have embraced entrepreneurship and have put in place a solid broadband infrastructure.

The booming U.S. tech jobs market grew 2% to about 7.3 million workers last year. In large part, that’s because the digital economy continued to flourish, according to Cyberstates 2017, which was released in April. The areas that are thriving have a strong culture of entrepreneurship, good broadband infrastructure, good educational pipelines and are looking to the future of smart cities and the Internet of Things. Skills most in demand are for cybersecurity, including help desk professionals, network engineers and cloud computing specialists.

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Why AI Careers Can Start With a Degree In Linguistics
CIO.com, May 2

Companies in the AI industry are turning to those with linguistic backgrounds to help aid in things like product development and customer service, and that’s leading to increased demand for recent graduates with a linguistics degree. Linguistics is important to better understand users and how they're communicating with a company. There are also applications in voice recognition, search and automatic language translation. And the good news is that, it's not necessary to have hardcore technical or programming skills. Often, these skills are trained or taught on-the-job. Obviously, if you have linguistics and programming skills, that's the best possible combination.

In terms of AI, the job of a linguistics expert is to represent human language in a way that complex computing systems can understand. For example, this might mean developing new models for interaction with chatbots. While there's obviously an incredible amount of technical acumen involved in these projects, there's also a place for linguistics skills and human interaction. After all, some tasks just aren't suited for a machine and need a human's nuanced understanding. If we want to have computers achieve the same level of skills to acquire new information, then we start by modeling how humans communicate, person to person, and how they acquire new information and context just by talking.

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Career Advice: Moving Into DevOps
Computerworld, May 4

IT workers thinking of moving into DevOps should have general knowledge of the overall technology landscape, as well as specialized knowledge about software development, systems integration and operations. However, there is still no industry-accepted definition of what a DevOps engineer does. Rather, DevOps is an approach to develop and deploy the highest-quality software possible, with the goal of achieving continuous customer satisfaction. If you already have experience in programming, you should first develop your infrastructure knowledge, including virtualization, the cloud, networking, load balancing and platforms. Second, you should learn about application life cycle processes such as source code management, test and problem management, configuration management, orchestration and deployment, and monitoring.

In addition to DevOps, another hot area for IT workers is data: managing it, mining it and learning from it. The importance of data analysis is increasing day by day. A career plan leaning toward data mining and data analysis is a very good choice for a DBA. First of all, you need to know big data processing platforms such as Hadoop and know how to manage unstructured data. Also, in-depth knowledge of at least one analytical tool is a critical technical skill. But you need to develop some important nontechnical skills as well. The first of these is to sharpen your business orientation, which means gaining a better understanding the industry you work in and a wide perspective about business development and problem solving. The second skill is the ability to communicate well and translate technical data findings for a nontechnical team.

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3 Tips To Spot a Fraud Coding Bootcamp and Choose the Right One
Tech Republic, May 11

Coding bootcamps have increased in popularity across the nation, with thousands of people flocking to these schools each year, to gain the skills needed for high-paying jobs in the tech field. However, bootcamps are not accredited institutions of higher education, and some have been accused of making false claims about the number of students that are placed in jobs after graduation. With that in mind, the National Consumers League (NCL) recently launched a website and consumer-friendly guide to help people identify fraudulent coding bootcamp job placement claims, and choose the best education option. It's become exceptionally common to see bootcamps boasting job placement rates of well over 90% with guaranteed high incomes upon graduation, but not all of them are able to follow through on these claims.

Coding bootcamps first emerged in 2012, promising to quickly teach people tech skills needed to work for major tech firms. These bootcamps last an average of three months, and cost an average of $11,451, according to Course Report. In 2016, 91 bootcamp providers were operating in 69 U.S. cities, compared to 67 schools in 2015. An estimated 17,966 students graduated from bootcamps in 2016, according to Course Report. In comparison, there were 61,408 undergraduate computer science graduates from accredited U.S. universities in 2015.

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Here’s What Recruiters Are Really Looking For With Your Resume
Fast Company, May 12

A top recruiter offers insights on how to create the perfect resume that will attract the attention of a hiring manager and differentiate you from the rest of the other applications. It’s important to keep in mind that there isn’t one acceptable format or approach to creating an awesome resume. There are, however, a few key strategies that can make your resume more effectively do what you intend it to: catch someone’s eye, clearly communicate your qualifications, and help move you on to the next stage of the hiring process. You’re selling yourself and the value you can bring to an organization. Above all, your resume should offer a clear, concise marketing message.

Recruiters review very large numbers of resumes and will likely make an initial determination about your fit for a role based on a quick scan. If locating the relevant information about your background requires turning the page, they might very well might miss it and move on. No matter what, strive to keep your resume short, clean, and relevant to the position for which you’re applying. If the one-page rule is proving challenging, start by making some simple formatting changes. Narrow your margins, restructure your header to span fewer lines, and reduce the indentations of any bullet points. Speaking of which, to make sure your key skills and experiences jump off the page, organize your content into brief, bulleted sentences or phrases instead of paragraphs.

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Is It Really That Hard to Find Great Employees?
Entrepreneur.com, May 17

The hiring process can be difficult to navigate for many IT companies, both in terms of attracting the right types of candidates and in getting the best candidate to accept an offer of employment. Unfortunately, there can be breakdowns at any stage of the hiring process. Even a single breakdown can be enough to prevent you from hiring the candidate you want to hire. If your hiring process has multiple breakdowns, then the chances of finding good employees is greatly diminished. The starting point for most companies should be writing clear job postings, since unclear requirements lead to unqualified candidates.

Nearly half of hiring managers say that they don’t have enough candidates from which to choose. Of course, what they’re really complaining about is not having enough quality candidates from which to choose. This is a matter of quality, not quantity. So how do you get more of these quality candidates, the type of candidates who will turn into good employees? You have a few options. You might have a person or two (or a whole team) within your organization dedicated to attracting and finding quality candidates. You might also advertise your job openings on the Internet, and there are plenty of ways to do that. Or, you could enlist an experienced recruiting firm that specializes in your industry. Or all of the above. Whatever you do, you must ensure get plenty of quality candidates. Make sure you can be happy with your second or third option.

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Bill Gates Tells College Students What Careers He'd Pursue Today
CNET, May 15

Microsoft’s Bill Gates recently tweeted out a stream of advice for new college graduates, suggesting that AI, energy, and biosciences are promising fields where they could make a huge impact. In addition, Gates reflected on lessons learned in his tech career. He also emphasized the need for the tech sector to address the inequities in the world, both on a local and global basis.

Via Twitter, Bill Gates delivered a version of an online graduation speech, musing on what he's learned since his own college days (he famously dropped out of Harvard in the 1970s after two years). One thing that he has learned, he says, is that intelligence takes many different forms. It is not one-dimensional and not as important as he used to think. He also regrets that, when he left school, he knew little about the world’s worst inequities. It took him decades to learn. But with growing awareness, he says, today’s new graduates can start fighting inequity, whether down the street or around the world, sooner.

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Why Today’s Job Candidates Want a Smart Workspace
Inc.com, May 18

A business is a living entity, and if it is not constantly creating new dynamic opportunities, job candidates won't want to work there. As a result, there is a new focus on creating a smart workspace that is dynamic and flexible and can be molded to fit the needs of its workers. It exudes energy and makes job candidates want to be a part of it. As smart technology becomes intertwined with nearly every aspect of our lives, it is naive to expect job candidates not to require some level of smartness in the workplace; after all, adults spend, on average, nearly a third of their week working. In short, being able to offer a smart workspace is a necessary part of the recruiting message.

A smart workspace supports the recent shift toward breaking down the division between our personal and professional spaces. At first, this seems counterintuitive to recruiting and retention -- after all, today's workforce demands work-life balance. But when you consider our 24/7 connectivity and the need for flexible modern workspaces, you can begin to see that rather than work-life balance, we are moving toward work-life fluidity. In an always-on culture enabled by the power to work from mobile devices anywhere at anytime, job candidates need your organization to give them the ability to seamlessly transition from their personal spaces to their professional spaces. In other words, job candidates assume the way they utilize their smart technology while working will mirror they use it in their free time.

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Older Adults Learning Computer Programming: Motivations, Frustrations, and Design Opportunities
Blog @ CACM, May 15

There is now tremendous momentum behind initiatives to teach computer programming to a broad audience, yet many of these efforts target the youngest members of society: K-12 and college students. However, there is also demand at the other end of the age spectrum: older adults aged 60 and over who are now learning to code. There has been extensive research on how older adults consume technology, and some studies of how they curate and produce digital content, but so far nobody has yet studied how older adults learn to produce new technologies via computer programming. The starting point for discovering older adults' motivations and frustrations when learning to code was a 10-question online survey.

In terms of older workers learning how to code, there were several common motivations. For example, 22% wanted to learn to make up for missed opportunities during their youth. 19% wanted to keep their brains challenged, fresh, and sharp as they aged. 5% were directly motivated by younger relatives such as children or grandchildren. What got the respondents frustrated as they were learning to code? There were three most commonly reported age-related frustrations. Here, 14% were frustrated by perceived cognitive impairments such as memory loss and difficulty in concentrating. 11% were frustrated by lack of free time since they often had other duties such as being a spousal caretaker. 10% were frustrated by lack of human contact with tutors or peers, since they must learn online and do not have convenient access to in-person classroom environments.

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Conversations with Technology Leaders: Erik Meijer
ACM Queue, May 10

In a wide-ranging interview, Dutch computer scientist and entrepreneur Erik Meijer shares some lessons about working in the tech sector and become a leader. As he points out, being a great developer is hard. It requires constant learning and a passion for technology and science. The same thing is true for great technical leaders. There are a lot of important lessons, but perhaps the most important one of all is always to be pushing yourself. It’s also important to learn how to work smarter, such as by using better tools or better systems. Whether you are a leader, a programmer, or just someone aspiring to be better, there are some smart takeaways from this conversation that will help you grow in your role.

As Meijer points out in the interview, you should always be on the lookout for ways to work smarter—better tools, intelligent systems, and new sources of help. Focus your mental energy on the task with the most dividends. Our world today is very complicated—we are dealing with distributed systems, all kinds of models, neural nets, frameworks, new languages. We don't have the mental power to keep on top of every new innovation and idea. Mental power is our most precious resource. Part of this is being able to leverage the power of abstraction—focusing on what is important and leaving out the unnecessary details. Sometimes details are important; other times they are not. We cannot talk about everything in absolute terms. A good engineer knows how to handle leaky abstractions and can swiftly go up a level or dive deeper down when needed.

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