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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, April 17, 2012

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 8, Issue 8, April 17, 2012




The Six Hottest Tech Careers of 2012
Chicago Tribune (via U.S. News & World Report), April 6

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the tech sector will create more than one million new IT positions by 2020. While overall demand remains high across nearly every functional area, there are some job titles that are doing better than others. Software developers top this year’s list of the best technology jobs, followed by database administrators and computer systems analysts. As a result of this increased demand for IT professionals, compensation is also trending higher for 2012.

Software developers, who write code and design or customize computer applications, top this year's list of best technology jobs. The U.S. Labor Department reports that software developers earned a median salary of $87,790 in 2010. The second most popular jobs are database administrators, an occupation that is on track to experience 30.6% employment growth over the next decade. Web developers, who spend much of their days designing and maintaining websites, can expect a 21.7% employment increase over the next decade. Computer Systems Analysts, professionals responsible for configuring hardware and software as well as designing and developing computer systems, can see employment growth as high as 22.1% by 2020.


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As IT Picks Up the Pace, Can Tech Workers Keep Up?
Computerworld, April 9

IT workers saw another year of modest salary increases, while reporting significantly fewer pay cuts, hiring freezes and layoffs. Average salaries increased 2.1% this year, while average total compensation rose by 1.8%. In all, 56% of the 4,337 respondents reported an increase in their base salary this year, while only 9% reported a decrease. Hiring is also up, with 87% of hiring managers who responded to the survey saying that they expect IT staff head count to increase in the next 12 months or remain the same. Negative indicators such as salary freezes, budget cuts and layoffs are also retreating to the background, with only 25% of the total respondents reporting hiring freezes, compared with 39% last year.

A closer look at the compensation data reveals IT professionals struggling to accept the fact that they might never regain the salary ground lost during the downturn and grappling with heavy workloads, added responsibilities and demands to learn new skills. Often, there is a gap between the recent pay boost and the earlier cut, particularly since the modest raise is more than offset by the rising cost of health benefits. Only 20% believe their salary is keeping pace with business growth and demands, and 71% said that they have either stayed flat or lost ground financially in the past two years. Technology professionals are being asked to do more for less. Some IT workers worry that they will be left behind compensation-wise and skills-wise -- and even energy-wise, as they tackle what appears to be a permanently increased workload. Just over half (51%) of survey respondents said they had been given an increased workload in the past 12 months, and 68% said that they anticipated additional workloads and responsibilities in the next 12 months. Meanwhile, 85% said that they have felt more pressure over the past year to increase productivity or take on new tasks, and of that group, 90% said their salary had not been adjusted to reflect the added work.


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On the Hunt for Tech Hires
Wall Street Journal, April 10

Without the cachet of a Silicon Valley address or the allure of a hot technological innovation, Fortune 500 companies are experimenting with new tactics to convince sought-after technology professionals to accept a job offer. At tech conferences and other high-profile networking events, companies want to show potential tech hires that they are a place where opportunities for innovation and creative thinking are ripe. For a company not located within Silicon Valley, it needs to prove to prospects that it is imaginative, dynamic and offers intellectual rewards. As a result, companies are getting creative with their recruitment tactics, everything from hiring street teams to hosting Meetups to handing out unique gifts that appeal to tech workers.

Even Fortune 500 companies with global brands have their own challenges convincing would-be candidates that their firm is a good fit. As a result, recruiters and executives from these companies are finding new ways to put themselves directly in front of IT professionals at events and conferences. For example, GE promoted its tech-friendly image at last month's SXSW conference in Austin, Texas, a tech and culture festival. Nokia, in its hunt for engineers sent recruiters for the first time to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas as well as the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, hoping to convince techies that the company is the right place for them.


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How to Land an IT Security Job
Information Week, April 9

With IT security emerging as one of the hottest jobs available within the tech field, what are the concrete steps an IT generalist can take to become a security specialist? First and foremost, IT professionals need to convince companies that they can help them enforce security policies, outwit hackers, prevent data breaches, and snuff out cyber threats. They should also show their ability to understand the new security threats posed by mobile devices. As security threats become more complex, compensation levels are also starting to rise: IT security pros earned a median pay increase of $7,000 this year. Against this backdrop, the article outlines concrete steps that you can take to transform your generalist IT experience into a long-term cyber-security career.

An IT security certification, such as Certified Information Systems Auditor, can be one way to change your career. However, the value of certification can vary from year to year: the certifications that are going to be really important in the coming year or two may not even exist yet. For this reason, aspiring IT security personnel should select their certification programs carefully, and never depend on a particular certification to help them land a job. You can also go back to school for an advanced degree like an MBA, since an understanding of business principles can help round out an IT professional's understanding of today's security issues. An MBA in information systems, for example, can teach future security executives about data communications and systems analysis, as well as the impact security breaches can have in the areas of finance, marketing, and accounting.


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IT Contractors Help Companies Meet Changing Work Needs
Infoworld (via IDG News Service), April 9

Whether companies require specific tech talent for a project or need extra help meeting a business uptick brought by the recovering economy, corporate IT departments are placing greater emphasis on creating the contract workforce. For CIOs, temporary staffers offer the experience required to complete a specific task without the need, and cost, of permanently keeping them on the payroll. IT staffing firms see contractors as helping companies stay flexible and meeting the work peaks and lulls that accompany a recovering economy. As a result, contractors have been, and will continue to be, in demand for enterprise IT hiring managers.

For companies, supplementing full-time staff with contractors is a more cost-effective and faster way to grow an own internal workforce. For freelancers, contract work provides real benefits, such as flexible hours, training and financial benefits. Over the last five years, and especially in 2011, freelancer salaries have increased and are now comparable to full-time salaries. Since a company doesn't always know what its workload is going to be, a variable workforce allows the company to handle a burst that they have to scale up for. On an interim basis, companies have the ability to use contractors until they know what that long-term workload is going to look like. In rare cases, temporary work can serve as a potential gateway to full-time employment.


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For Freelancers, Landing A Workspace Gets Harder
NPR, April 10

As the co-working concept continues to go mainstream, the process is changing for freelance and independent workers in the U.S. to sign up to work at co-working sites. In some cases, they are being asked to fill out applications and provide other evidence that they will fit into the culture of the workspace. At a time when more than 30% of the nation's workers already work on their own, the number of nontraditional office workers — telecommuters, freelancers and contractors — could reach 1.3 billion worldwide by 2015. The article takes a closer look at new co-working approaches and their impact on the future of independent work.

The new rules of co-working are not meant to be elitist and exclusive, they are meant to encourage the creation of a strong, cohesive community. In addition to providing a well-lit office space with dependable Wi-Fi, these spaces offer a certain kind of collaborative workspace where a Web designer can get legal advice or an event planner can team up with a food writer. "Curating" ensures that there is a right mix of people for this to happen. This is especially true when the spaces include amenities like high-end furniture, a coffee bar or glass-walled conference rooms with LED screens. Ultimately, the real draw is the plugged-in networking that introduces members to each other.


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Independent Work: Not a Young Person’s Game?
Web Worker Daily, April 2

In contrast to the conventional wisdom, older freelancers and independent workers appear to be leading the trend towards increased independent work. While many think of the young and hip, toting their laptops to coffee shops and co-working spaces in urban hotspots, the reality is actually much different. According to a new research study from MBO, independent work is not just a young person’s game: nearly five million Baby Boomers make up 30% of this workforce and are taking greater advantage of independent work options for career expansion than their younger colleagues.

According to the latest research study, older Boomers are thriving more than younger freelancers. In fact, most Boomers (59%) actively chose to become independent. Of all those working independently, Boomers are among the most satisfied. 85% of Boomers report satisfaction and 70% report high satisfaction, versus 58% for all age groups combined. They’ve done well as independents. The average income of the Boomer independent is $77,000. The vast majority of Boomers plan to continue work in the independent workforce over the next three years, and only 8% plan to seek a traditional job.


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Schools Must Replace ICT Lessons With Business IT
ComputerWeekly.com, April 11

An influential group of IT directors is calling on the UK government to replace ICT education with business-related IT lessons. The Corporate IT Forum's Education and Skills Commission said it would be potentially harmful to the UK if the government continues to attempt to create the next Facebook or Google, without ensuring that grads have a strong grasp of IT skills that can be applied in business. This is especially the case since over 50% of UK IT professionals work in non-technology companies, where this “IT in business” education would have the greatest impact. The optimal educational mix will include the use of computing devices and basic programming skills, in addition to IT skills needed to build and improve business.

While schools teach basic business and economics, the UK’s Education and Skills Commission would like to see these lessons correlated with IT to enable young students to grasp how IT drives business. Technology is such an important component of business competitiveness that the UK must be able to provide a workforce with in-depth knowledge of computer science and technical skills, both at a strategic management level and in the form of specialist technicians. If they do not, businesses will locate IT centers elsewhere, where they can get the staff and that will result in a reduction in the number of IT innovators and entrepreneurs produced in the UK.


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MentorNet Adds Its Name to Mission-Critical STEM Conference
MentorNet, April 4

At a time when America needs to expand its workforce skilled in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines, a number of different companies and organizations are uniting to ensure that the nation gets the message. This summer, thousands of education, policy and industry thought leaders will convene in Dallas for STEM Solutions 2012, a leadership summit that will challenge the best minds in the nation to develop solutions for the STEM skills shortage. As one of the conference’s co-chairs, MentorNet will provide topical input, expertise and support throughout the planning stages, as well as during the conference.

With its role in this upcoming event, MentorNet continues to showcase how it is a change maker involved in shaping the future of the IT industry. MentorNet already connects students in STEM majors on campuses with their future careers by matching them to individual STEM professionals as mentors and guiding their relationships. MentorNet protégés are disproportionately women and underrepresented minorities, so this unique program gives thousands of students a year personal wisdom about their future careers and encouragement to finish their degrees that would not be available otherwise. Mentors and protégés meet and communicate via the Internet, an effective method that has helped 93.5% of students complete their STEM degrees.


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ACM China Council
Communications of the ACM, Vol. 55 No. 4, April 2012

The ACM China Council, launched in June 2010 as a key component of ACM's China initiative, has three main goals: to increase the number of high-quality ACM activities in China, to raise ACM's visibility throughout China, and to contribute to advancing computing as a science and profession in China. In each of these areas, the ACM China Council has made significant progress over the past two years. The first two major tasks for ACM China were educating the computing community about the role of ACM and recruiting more members in China. To accomplish these goals, ACM China initiated conversations with the China Computer Federation (CCF), which is similar to ACM in terms of its mission and focus on publications, conferences, and chapters.

During the China Computer Federation’s 2010 China National Computer Conference, ACM President Alain Chesnais delivered a keynote speech to 1,500 attendees, introducing ACM, its activities worldwide, and the nature of volunteer work within the Association. ACM CEO John White and CCF's Zide Du then signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two organizations that established a special 12-month joint membership in ACM for CCF members. The MOU also called for ACM and CCF to explore joint efforts in publications, conferences, chapters, and awards. One joint activity has focused on CCF's Young Computer Scientists & Engineers Forum (YOCSEF), an annual series of academic activities hosted by more than 20 cities.


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