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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, April 19, 2011

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 7, Issue 8, April 19, 2011




Silicon Valley Experiencing New Hiring Boom
CNN, April 5

Graduates with science and engineering degrees are about to enter the hottest Silicon Valley job market since the dot.com crash a decade ago. Some recent graduates are even turning down interview requests from the best-known companies in the technology world in order to launch their own Internet start-ups. Not surprisingly, competition is growing among Silicon Valley companies to hire the best young engineering talent. All of this is leading to a Silicon Valley hiring boom, as big players expand and medium-sized companies advertise a steady stream of job openings.

Despite these signs of a vigorous hiring environment in the Bay Area, Silicon Valley still has a 10.6% unemployment rate -- higher than last month's national average of 8.8%. However, Silicon Valley produced 1,200 jobs last month, and its biggest companies are on track to add thousands more in 2011. Some high-profile companies are even planning to double their workforce over the next 12 months. All these rosy hiring forecasts, mixed with new infusions of venture capital, have even created talk of another dot.com "bubble" like the one that appeared in 2000.


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Computer Science Enrollments Rebound, Up 10% Last Fall
Computerworld, April 12

For the third consecutive year, computer science enrollments have increased, ending the significant decline in enrollments that followed the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000-2001. When that speculative bubble burst, the subsequent shakeout and unemployment in the tech industry sent enrollments plummeting, raised concerns that the U.S. competitiveness would suffer in the long run. Enrollments are heading up, but are still well below the peak reached nearly 10 years ago. According to the Computer Research Association (CRA), enrollments in computer science programs were up last fall by as much as 10%.

The current numbers on computer science enrollment reflect the changing fortunes of the industry over the past decade. The dot-com era increased demand for programmers, engineers and analysts and prompted many students to enroll in computer science programs. At its peak in 2001, the average enrollment in computer science departments was 398, but by 2007, it had declined in half. Enrollments now average at about 253 students per department. The interest today in computer science careers appears to be a more reasoned response to a field that seems positioned at the hub of just about every national priority. If you want to do work in science, engineering, health care, national security or finance, a computing degree can help.


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Mentorship Key for Women in IT, says Collaborate Panel
Network World, April 13

Mentors can play an important role in helping women advance their careers within the information technology field. Mentors are especially important because women continue to be heavily outnumbered by men in the technology workplace and still need to contend with lingering perceptions about their abilities. As a result, they need to not only constantly push themselves forward but also find someone who can help them. Women need to take ownership of what they have done and make sure they are letting people within the organization know what they have accomplished.

For women in IT, it is useful to find someone to mentor and sponsor them within the organization. If you have someone willing to promote you to others, it can be good for your career. For example, someone could actively promote you throughout the organization by talking about the things you can do, becoming a very strong sponsor for your abilities. Women who are already in influential positions need to be willing to sponsor and mentor those that are just breaking into the field. At the same time, it's important for women to support others who are above them in the hierarchy. Mentoring can be especially useful in organizations where the women are not organized into any groups or have any sort of interaction with each other.


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Yes, You Can Make Performance Reviews Worthwhile
Business Week, April 8

According to John Berry, the head of the federal Office of Personnel Management, performance reviews can be improved to the point where they help, not hinder, career progression. Building on some of the teachings of legendary management guru Peter Drucker, he suggests that, when it comes to setting employee standards, giving appraisals, and rating and compensating people, the processes now in place across the government are no longer effective. Most importantly, assessing an employee's performance should always begin with someone's strengths, not with his or her weaknesses. The article takes a closer look at how traditional appraisal systems can be updated to reflect this fundamental management insight.

Among the reforms Berry is calling for the government to implement are detailed yardsticks that are objective, aligned to agency mission and goals, and have true employee buy-in. The goal is to measure employees against specific performance expectations. After all, the federal performance-management system largely rewards employees based on longevity in a job. As a result, there is a lack of transparency and consistency in how people are evaluated. For many employees, performance standards are too unclear and subjective: you don't fully know what's expected of you or how you're doing.


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How To Know If You’re Ready To Move Up The Corporate Ladder
Glassdoor.com, April 13

How can you prepare yourself for a senior management position? As a panel of career experts pointed out, the key is to keep your eyes open and train yourself to always evaluate how each opportunity can contribute to your long-term career success. In many cases, the ability to find an opportunity that will put you at the top of your career starts in an unlikely manner. Panelists pointed out that high-profile postings sometimes start with jobs or projects that are perceived as a “backwater” assignment.

Seek out the most senior person you know that is in the position that you aspire to reach and ask them what jobs they wish they would have become involved with that would help them to better prepare. Also ask what skills and areas are most important to know to succeed in their job. What you hear back may be the jobs you want to look out for in the next few years. Then, lean towards what seems hard and risky. There are certain jobs that are just harder than others, or so they might appear at first. It may not be that they are difficult, it could be that they are the job that no one wants because others haven’t succeeded or just don’t like them.


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Turning Federal Workers Into Successful Teleworkers
Federal Computer Week, April 6

Despite the passage of the Telework Enhancement Act last year, efforts to implement telework policies in the federal government continue to encounter managerial resistance. Supervisors and managers have been less likely to telework than rank-and-file employees, so they lack the firsthand experience that could make them better advocates for home-based work arrangements. On the other hand, modeling telework behavior sends a clear message of support and may provide one effective strategy for efforts to expand federal telework. With a few accommodations and the appropriate mix of discipline and flexibility, federal managers can even thrive despite the reduction in face-to-face time with their employees.

Managers who are undecided about teleworking should try it and see if it works for them. The first decision managers need to make is what kind of telework schedule fits their needs. A full-time telework arrangement might not be ideal for managers. They should outline how they’re going to work in a remote environment and consider what about their routine is going to change and what will stay the same. They should also seek online collaboration tools that can support and enhance the telework experience. Those preparations will help managers establish clear expectations for themselves and their employees. Managers also should be willing to test their telework arrangement for a few weeks and reassess their situation often to make sure it’s working.


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How to Network: Five Tips for Maximizing Your Meetings
CIO.com, April 6

Ford Meyers, a career coach and job search expert, shares five tips for making sure that both parties at a networking meeting walk away happy. When you're involved in a job search, meetings over lunch or coffee with contacts in your network—and with your contacts' contacts—can help you uncover job opportunities or lead you to people who work at desirable organizations. Depending on how you approach these meetings, your networking will be either tremendously productive or a waste of everyone's time. You want to prepare in such a way that your contact doesn't walk away wishing he could get that 30 minutes of his or her life back.

The first way to optimize your networking is to make sure the meeting is not one-sided. Assure contacts up front, when requesting a meeting, that you want the encounter to be mutually beneficial. Job seekers who set the expectation up front that they want to give back to their contacts get more out of their networking meetings than job seekers who don't. Second, have an agenda. Before you even request a meeting with a contact, you should know exactly what you want to get from speaking with this person. Your agenda might also include a list of questions that you'd like to ask your contact or a list of companies you're targeting in your job search. Send this agenda, along with a one-page professional bio, to your contact before your meeting.


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IT Superheroes Snag New Skills
Computerworld, April 4

Layoffs and hiring freezes have left many IT professionals with new tasks and additional responsibilities. Savvy IT workers are pushing past the negative vibes and learning to see opportunities in this rough economy. They're gaining new skills and raising their visibility as they take on roles that once would have gone to others. There is always opportunity in the midst of change in an organization. That's an important dynamic for people to know. The prospects for job growth are real, even if IT budgets are stressed and workloads are high. Companies still need to get on with technology projects, and employees who are willing to accept new responsibilities in order to get those projects done can advance their own careers in the process. That's because these high-octane workers are able to build relationships, become experts in specific technologies and demonstrate leadership skills that they didn't have a chance to showcase during better economic times.

For IT workers looking to get ahead, it’s not just about working more hours, it’s also about preparing for the future. In Computerworld’s 2011 Salary Survey, 44% of IT professionals said that taking on new tasks in their current positions is the best way for them to advance their careers and earn more money. Indeed, many IT workers are looking ahead to better opportunities: 40% of the respondents said that they expect to be promoted to a higher-level position five years from now. People who are capitalizing on opportunities in today's work environment will find themselves well positioned for advancement when the job market starts to expand. Display a good work ethic, fulfill your responsibilities, and demonstrate the ability and willingness to help achieve the overall goals of the organization.


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How Women Can Advance in Science and Technology
MentorNet Newsletter, April 2011

Women are still facing obstacles to career advancement within the science and technology fields. According to experts dealing with these issues on an everyday basis, there are a handful of effective solutions for overcoming these hurdles in the professional world. For example, creating a stronger, more appealing “brand” for science and technology could attract more candidates. In addition, there needs to be greater emphasis on female-friendly education, more emphasis on diverse hiring practices, and changes to the underlying culture of organizations.

Task force participants at the Wall Street Journal’s Women in the Economy Conference emphasize how important it is to re-brand the science and technology fields to attract more women. One top recommendation is to glamorize technology, make it a cool field for women to want to go into. Another suggestion is to have more female role models in media and in the news to captivate women’s attention to the fields. It is also vital to offer compulsory classes in science and technology in academic institutions. These classes are great way to catch and retain women’s’ interest in science and technology. Academic institutions should also create a greater supply of internships for women in these fields.


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Educating Computing’s Next Generation
Communications of the ACM, Vol. 54 No. 4, April 2011

Robert B. Schnabel, chair of ACM's Education Policy Committee and Dean of the School of Informatics at Indiana University, shares his thoughts on how we can better educate the next generation of computer science graduates. Policymakers and educators must emphasize that computer science knowledge and skills are among the most essential ingredients of a modern education, since they provide the foundation for modern competency in many others fields ranging from sciences to communications to entertainment. Computer science knowledge will enable the next generation to create, not just consume, the next wave of computing innovations. At a time when the current and projected demand for computing workers far outstrips any other area of STEM, educators and policymakers must act quickly to address this imbalance between supply and demand.

The Education Policy Committee was founded in 2007 to provide greater direction to the nation’s educators and policymakers. Unlike other sciences, such as physics or chemistry, the study of computer science only dates back about half a century. This means that, while the higher education system adapted fairly quickly to the existence and importance of CS, the K–12 system has not. Over the past decade, the U.S. has seen significant declines in the number of K–12 CS courses, the number of students taking the CS advanced placement exam, and the number of undergraduate CS majors. In addition, the participation of women and underrepresented minorities remains low at all levels.


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