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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, April 5, 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 7, April 5, 2011




Silicon Valley Hiring Perks: Meals, iPads and a Cubicle for Spot
New York Times, March 25

Amidst an intensifying war for talent in Silicon Valley, companies are offering new perks and incentives to attract the most prized new job candidates. As the competition heats up, smaller start-ups are experimenting with new ways to lure candidates away from deep-pocketed, entrenched competitors. Free meals, shuttle buses and stock options are the rule rather than the exception. Other new incentives include free haircuts, iPads, and personal food and drink orders that are filled automatically. In addition, Silicon Valley companies are ramping up compensation for computer science majors just out of college. In some cases, salary offers have risen as much as 20% in just the past several months.

Despite relatively high unemployment rates across the rest of the country, the shortage of qualified engineers with ever more specialized skills has grown acute in the last six months. In Silicon Valley and other tech hubs like New York, Seattle and Austin, start-ups are sprouting by the dozen, competing with well-established companies for the best engineers, programmers and designers. There has also been a psychological shift: many of the most talented engineers want to attract financing and launch the next great start-up, not work for it. Start-ups are acknowledging this phenomenon by recruiting ambitious engineers with promises to help them to leave someday to start their own, potentially competitive companies.


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Women Working to Expand in Tech Industry
Tech Careers, March 30

From coders to venture capitalists, women remain a small minority in most tech-related businesses. In fact, of the 20 leading occupations of employed women surveyed by the U.S. Department of Labor in 2009, none of them included technical jobs. At the same time, only 3% of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies were women. In order to combat this trend, new groups have formed to help women find mentors and build their confidence in the technology field. At the recent SXSW Interactive festival in Austin, for example, there were many women-only events and panels that attempted to address the issue of women in the tech industry.

Nonprofit organizations are doing their part to encourage more women to enter the technology field. For example, the Austin-based Girl Start, a nonprofit based in Austin, provides science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programming for girls outside of the classroom. These organizations are making sure that more girls feel that they have access to STEM jobs. They also point out that having more women in the field is important for long-term U.S. innovation.


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Hire a Great Startup Employee
Business Week, March 29

The world of a startup is fast-paced, exciting, and full of unknowns, requiring a special candidate to fill that role. While the requirements for specific positions vary, there are some overriding traits that define someone who will work well in a startup environment. Most importantly, candidates should have relevant prior experience so that they can hit the ground running. They should also be unafraid to take risks, possess a mix of diverse skills and viewpoints and be savvy problem-solvers.

Hiring candidates with relevant experience cuts down on training time. This is important since, at a young startup company, there is little time for training. You need someone who can make an immediate impact. Startups also thrive on people who are willing to make tough decisions and try things that have never been tried before. Candidates who show willingness and ability to take on new challenges are good targets. They must also show the wisdom to know when not to take risks.


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IT Jobs: More Vacancies Than Applicants
Silicon.com, March 30

According to industry body e-Skills UK, the number of advertised IT jobs is now slightly greater than the number of people looking for work in the sector. A survey by e-Skills UK shows that advertised vacancies in the IT sector rose to 101,000 positions in the third quarter of 2010, while the number of IT staff looking for new jobs declined to just over 100,000. As a result, there were more vacancies in IT than applicants for the first time since 2008.

The number of IT workers claiming Job Seekers Allowance fell to 29,000 with the IT unemployment rate falling to 3.1%. That figure compares with an overall unemployment rate of 8.3% for the workforce as a whole, suggesting individuals looking for work in IT are better off than those looking for work in other industries. The report found that increased demand for IT workers has not yet had an impact on overall pay for IT staff. Average permanent salaries remained unchanged from the second quarter to the third quarter of 2010, while contractor salaries experienced an increase of just one per cent in the same period.


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Communication Skills More Important Than Technical Know-How for IT Jobs, Say IT Graduates
Computer Weekly, March 31

Most IT graduates think technical skills are the least important qualification for IT jobs, according to a survey of students conducted by CA Technologies. More than half (51%) believe IT technical skills to be the least important for a career in IT compared to 45% who think communication and team skills were the most helpful. The survey also shows 85% of students feel prepared for a job in IT but only 50% of employers believe IT graduates have the right skills for its job vacancies. This growing perceptions gap between students and employers could influence the future trajectory of hiring in the IT sector.

Now more than ever, both universities and employees should be doing more to ensure that young talent has both the technical and business skills necessary to secure and forge a successful job in IT. The demand for IT staff in recent months has fuelled concerns of a shortage of graduates with technical ability. A recent study by The Open University (OU) finds 43% of employers reported a lack of suitable candidates for IT and telecoms roles due to a lack of business knowledge surrounding relationship management, business process analysis and design, project and program management.


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Building an Effective CIO Resume
CIO.com (via Computerworld), March 28

For experienced C-level IT executives, creating an effective technology leadership résumé requires thinking about company-level contributions, rather than merely listing technologies employed or the projects your teams have completed. In contrast, the résumés for typical midcareer roles such senior solutions architect, deputy of MIS or even IT manager feature specific technologies as their centerpiece. The article highlights the three key components of a CIO résumé that demonstrate effectiveness at the IT executive level.

Most importantly, a CIO-level resume should have a strategic rather than tactical focus. Describe specific areas where you've added value to the organization and taken long-range business plans into account when developing the IT road map for the corporation. If your career has already a CIO role, you'll want to provide details on the contributions you've made, with special emphasis on the role of technical upgrades that support future growth. If you have yet to hold the title of CIO, take a closer look at when you have been asked to help determine the viability of upgrades at the enterprise level from an infrastructure standpoint, or assisted in planning application migrations from legacy systems. Add these examples to your résumé as proof of your ability to strategize at the leadership level.


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How to Quit Your Job the Right Way
Network World, March 29

If you are thinking about leaving your current position to purse another career opportunity, you should consider carefully how to quit your job the right way. Keep in mind that quitting your job in the wrong way could be a strategic career mistake – at the very least, you will not be able to rely on that employer for a reference. Leaving on bad terms can negate years' worth of building a personal brand. To make sure you end your job on a high note, the article offers advice from career and HR experts on four key matters: holding the final conversation with your boss, determining how much notice to give, writing your resignation letter and leaving a positive last impression with colleagues.

Whether you're leaving a good job or a bad one, telling your boss that you are quitting can be awkward. After all, your leaving will most likely create some hardship for him or her and remaining staffers. Your boss may also take the news personally, as an indictment of his or her management style. After detailing a possible script for communicating your news to a boss, the article covers possible approaches for dealing with a counter-offer or probing questions about your decision-making process. Announcing your resignation will be easier if you've had conversations with your boss about your career goals. Then, your decision to part ways may come as less of a shock, and your boss may not take your resignation as personally.


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Career Watch: A New Perspective on Older Workers
Computerworld, March 21

In this Q&A, Steve Watson, the managing director of the Dallas office of executive search firm Stanton Chase International, discusses the changing hiring environment for older workers. After explaining why companies have traditionally favored hiring younger IT workers, Watson points out that there is a growing openness on the part of employers to look at more experienced people who demonstrate energy and a willingness to travel and do what it takes to get the job done. In fact, people in their late 50s and early 60s have better opportunities today than they did 10 or 15 years ago, thanks to the demand for experience, leadership and good management skills.

While companies tend to hire younger to get a return on investment, they are also recognizing that if they can get five to 10 years of good performance, then the investment is good. This is different thinking than 15 or more years ago, when companies were really looking for more long-term commitment. Sometimes a company has a pressing need that can best be addressed by hiring a more experienced person. The company may need someone who can quickly grow revenue, enter new markets, take a new product to market, expand globally, develop and lead a young team, implement a new system, integrate a new business, or leverage new technology, and may feel that only someone with a wealth of experience can deliver what is needed. The company may also want the experienced hire to mentor and develop a successor.


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Reaching Future Computer Scientists
Communications of the ACM, Volume 54 No. 4, April 2011

One way to address the decline in undergraduate enrollment at the university level is to invest greater resources in university teacher-led workshops at the high school level. By holding teacher workshops, we may be able to update and enhance many of the ideas current high school faculty have regarding applications of computers in the sciences and the utility of computational thinking in high school. Classroom teachers who have attended workshops have changed examples or projects as a result of their workshop experience. Additionally, by including university students in their final year of study to become teachers, a new generation of teachers is provided with demonstrations, lessons, and applications of technology that can be used in the classroom to engage students in computational thinking and excite the next generation of computer scientists.

Getting students excited about careers in computing may require a new paradigm shift, in which the emphasis of university and college faculty moves from engaging high school students to engaging their teachers. High school teachers have the potential for tremendous impact on their students, and do not leave a high school with the four-year predictability that students do. This is what worked to inspire prior generations. If we could engage today's high school teachers, and include university students studying to be math, science, and computer science teachers, we might be able to influence countless future generations of high school students. The impact of working with high school teachers and education majors has the potential to be far greater than working with high school students directly.


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ACM, Infosys Foundation Honor Innovator in Software System Performance and Security
ACM Press Room, March 29

Frans Kaashoek of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is the recipient of the 2010 ACM-Infosys Foundation Award in the Computing Sciences. The ACM-Infosys Foundation Award, established in 2007, recognizes personal contributions by young scientists and system developers to a contemporary innovation that exemplifies the greatest recent achievements in the computing field. Kaashoek’s advances have enabled efficient, mobile, and highly distributed applications of software systems, fostering wider use of portable embedded and distributed systems. He also used information flow control techniques to address a major security challenge in broadly deployed commercial systems. In addition to his groundbreaking research, Kaashoek has founded a number of noteworthy commercial ventures.

Kaashoek and his collaborators at the MIT Parallel and Distributed Operating Systems group defined a new operating system structure, which moved functionality out of the operating system and into applications without significant loss of performance. Their goal was to eliminate constraints on how application designers can use a computer’s resources, giving applications direct control over functions that allow hardware and software to communicate. In papers describing the building blocks for peer-to-peer applications, Kaashoek and his colleagues showed how these apps could be used to enhance both the scalability and robustness of distributed systems, including peer-to-peer file sharing systems and content distribution systems. It also resulted in the creation of the Infrastructure for Resilient Internet Systems (IRIS) project, which used this technology to address vulnerabilities of the Internet and other mission-critical networked applications to malicious attack.


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