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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, August 21, 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 16, August 21, 2012




Top Five Cities for Big Data Jobs
Network World, August 10

The Big Data movement, which has spurred IT departments across the nation to find the right people to collect, analyze and interpret data, is creating a hiring boom across North America. Five cities in particular are showing the most promise for Big Data professionals: San Francisco; McLean, Virginia; Boston; St. Louis and Toronto. The roles that companies in these cities are competing to fill include data scientist, data analyst, business intelligence professional and data modeling/data modeler. Business intelligence and data analysis have been core enterprise disciplines for a long time, but they are in the forefront now that businesses are struggling with a significant increase in new data that’s being collected.

Qualified Big Data professionals can be particularly difficult to find since many roles require a complicated blend of business, analytic, statistical and computer skills -- which is not something a candidate acquires overnight. In addition, clients are looking for people with a certain level of experience, who have worked in a Big Data environment. There aren't a lot of them in the market. As a result, companies often have to compromise and prioritize their wish list -- technical expertise, industry experience or quantitative statistical analysis skills, for experience -- to find available Big Data candidates.


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Computer Science Becomes Cool Major Again
IT Business Edge, July 31

Computer science has become the most popular major at Stanford, part of a swell of popularity of the discipline over the past three years. Much of this popularity can be traced to the expanding number of employment opportunities in an otherwise tight job market, but then there's also the cool factor. Today's students have grown up using many computing technologies, including Web search engines, social networks and smart phones. The computer science major affords them the opportunity to go from being consumers of computing technology to producers of it, and that is attracting young students who may not have otherwise considered the major.

Stanford already enjoys a stellar reputation for training computer science professionals as well as up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Other universities in California are also reporting a surge in popularity around computer science. Meanwhile, the University of Washington has been gaining distinction in that arena as well with the rising demand for tech talent in the Seattle area. Despite the demand for engineers, the university turns away about three-quarters of the students who apply because it lacks the capacity to teach that many, a problem mentioned in a 2011 report by the Computing Research Association, which tracks trends for the computer science field.


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Khan Academy Launches the Future of Computer Science Education
Tech Crunch, August 14

As educators struggle to motivate more students to take up technology-related majors, online education startup Khan Academy is developing a novel approach for teaching computer science. Khan Academy has a new education portal that teaches Computer Science fundamentals through interactive drawing. The approach aims to inspire young children and get them excited and motivated to explore CS further. Instead of just tweaking the current educational approach to computer science using digital tools, the new Khan Academy Computer Science project has come up with a unique design and pedagogy for students that offers an interactive, personalized education.

The new Computer Science site from Khan Academy focuses on the critical early adolescent years, where children broaden or narrow their interests and identity before high school. The lessons don’t get much more complicated than basic algebra, and how these intuitive mathematical concepts can create powerful artistic, video game, and website experiences. This means that anyone with minimal knowledge of Computer Science could get really excited by the field, no matter what their age or situation. One of the most advanced lessons, for instance, is a replication of Pac-Man that stops short of a university-level Computer Science course.


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Where are the Women CIOs?
CIO.com, July 24

For the second year in a row, the number of women CIOs in the United States has declined, according to a recent survey of CIOs and senior IT executives. To find out why women are still having a difficult time getting into the C-suite, CIO.com interviewed three well-respected women CIOs, representing three different industries. As these leaders point out, women as CIOs do face unique challenges. No matter how far women have advanced up the corporate ladder, it is still a man's world at the top level of most organizations. With this in mind, these female CIOs suggest several ways that young women leaders can prepare for a future CIO role.

Women who aspire to a future CIO role need to have a specific goal and go after it, while hiring great people to work for them and then empowering these people to be successful. In addition, they need to form strong strategic partnerships along the way and possibly volunteer for assignments outside their specific area. To understand the business and what the challenges are, they need to be a business leader first and a technologist second. They need to market themselves within their organization and publish their success stories, backing them up with analytics. Two skills that can be helpful in a career are finance and marketing, even if you are on the technical side of IT. It is no longer the case that you absolutely have to have some kind of background in analytics or analysis or math or software development or software engineering.


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Conquering the Job Search After a Long-Term Absence
Harvard Business Review, August 13

Returning to work or restarting a career after an extended absence is difficult. Your network is stale, your expertise is rusty and people wonder whether you're committed. Moreover, the usual job search tactics are no longer applicable. After a long-term absence, the goal should be simple: pursue a specific target, retune your skills, recreate your network and be transparent. By developing a personal value proposition and using that to help target specific opportunities, you will be able to impress employers with your passion and dedication to your career.

Taking on additional coursework and gaining experience in your chosen field, even if it is non-paid or part-time work, can help you make up for lost time. It will show employers that you’ve kept up in your target field and that you understand the skills needed to be successful in your field. This is important to show that you’re serious, capable and excited. You can also gain an online certification that shows you are serious about becoming an expert. All job seekers' targets must be plausible and typically in a field related to their prior work experience. An unrelated target will make a difficult job search much harder. Retuning your skills in the target area shows you haven't gone soft and that you can reengage aggressively at work.


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The Secret to Articulating Your Value
Simply Hired Blog, August 2

It takes more than a sterling resume and an impressive degree to land a great position: you have to be able to define your value in a succinct, benefit-driven way that tells those in your sphere of influence why you and the work you do matters. Crafting a value proposition means thinking about the two or three sentences that you can use at the beginning of every interview, on your bio and LinkedIn profile and shrink down to 140-characters on Twitter. To make an unforgettable impression, your value proposition should contain your mission, unique skills and expertise and how those things serve your target audience.

To create your personal value proposition, think about your hiring manager’s pain points and the solutions you provide. If you’re not sure what those points are, ask them to tell you their single biggest challenge. Then use these helpful tips to deliver your value in a way that solves their problem. First, convey your mission statement, which is why you do what you do. Next, share your point-of-view and declare what makes you unique. After that, tell them how you’re the solution to their pain. Offer some credibility that gives them reasons to believe you. Keep it simple – be conversational and don’t use confusing terms. Finally, make sure you whet their appetite so they’ll want to hear more.


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Don’t Let Technology Disrupt Your Career Path
Washington Post, August 12

Keeping up with advances in technology is critical to surviving and thriving in the business world. You need to keep up with changes happening within your own industry, as well as understand how new technological advances can shape the future of your specific business. If you don’t, there are plenty of other individuals who will be waiting to sweep past you. This means more than keeping up with tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube — it means keeping abreast of new advances in technologies that are specific to your particular industry. The article provides several examples of embracing technology for career advancement.

Avoid jumping to the conclusion that a new technology will not affect you. Don’t get hung up on the way you’ve always done things. That means thinking ahead and not relying on a history of success to save you in the future. Your job history has led to your present position, but if the nature of your business changes because of a new technology, that history may have little bearing on your future success. Have a vivid imagination and think about all kinds of different possibilities for the way technology could impact your position and your industry. Embrace change. It is always frightening to change, especially if you have been successful in what you are currently doing. But with the waves of technology that are sweeping across different industries, change is becoming the norm. A tech mentor can provide advice on how to engage actively with a new technology.


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Laid Off More Than Once, and Seeking a Career
New York Times, August 10

Given the current economic environment, a growing number of professionals are attempting to overcome multiple layoffs, as well as the shrinking of their profession. Recognizing that it can be extremely hard to transition after two or more layoffs, the article looks at the survival strategies of several different professionals who have attempted to remake their careers. Some strategies require freelancing until a better opportunity opens up elsewhere, while others require a transition to a completely different field. This could mean spending time at a nonprofit or going back to school for more education. Often, it’s not just the lack of jobs, but the way the profession has shrunk and changed, that must be taken into account when developing a strategy.

Being forced to make a career change because of multiple layoffs is not always a bad thing. Instead of making you disillusioned or frustrated, this unfortunate turn of events can actually motivate you to start your own business and not worry about getting fired. Most career counselors will tell you to look at alternatives and find ways turn around a bad situation. Up until now, there has been little, if any, research on the issue of multiple layoffs and the negative effects. But much of what applies to those who have been fired once would be true for those facing the situation a second or third time. It may sound simplistic, but keeping structure to one’s day, staying active, having social support and keeping healthy are crucial. That can separate out people who are successful at finding jobs from those who are not.


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Computer Science Jobs and Education: Presentation Slides
Blog @ CACM, August 10

John White, ACM Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, and Robert Schnabel, Chair of the ACM Education Policy Committee, lay out the case for increased computing enrollments in universities and K-12. Their presentation deck incorporates data from the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Science Foundation, and the National Center for Education Statistics, as well as AP data from the College Board, survey data from CSTA, and a recent ACM-CSTA report. Based on this data, the career outlook for computer science majors looks promising: computing ranks in the top 10 fastest-growing major occupational areas, growing 22% annually and outpacing the nation’s overall growth of 14%.

With 1.5 million computing jobs to fill by 2020, the growth of the U.S. economy relies on the ability of employers to obtain qualified employees with computing skills and its ability to ensure that graduates are educated for the needs of 21st century jobs. Expanding computer science and related programs at American universities will improve our ability to prepare students to use, understand, and apply the computational knowledge, skills, and core competencies considered essential by employers across a variety of industries. It also will create opportunities for further revenue-generating activities, such as industry partnerships and collaborations, research commercialization, and education training programs to upgrade the high-tech skills of the current workforce.


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Turning Gamers Into Citizen Scientists
Computers in Entertainment, August 7

As part of a multi-part series on gaming, CNN investigates how everyday gamers are making huge contributions to science and medicine. One example is EteRNA -- an online video game in which players solve puzzles that also happen to mimic the way strands of RNA will behave in nature. The game has become a digital hotbed for a group of citizen scientists as willing to publish their findings in a scientific journal as they are to share videogame exploits. EteRNA is one of a small but growing cadre of games that seek to deploy video gamers -- virtually none of whom have backgrounds in the sciences -- to help solve riddles that could lead to major medical breakthroughs. In some cases, they are helping to crack the molecular code of viruses that have stumped scientists for decades in a matter of days.

Often, humans competing against each other within a gaming environment are able to trump the raw computing power of machines. The gaming results, one day, might provide fodder for a researcher on the verge of solving one of the world's medical mysteries. The value of the players' contributions boils down to human intuition. While scientists have built computer programs to decipher and build new strands of RNA, none can pick up on the subtle, emerging patterns quite like a dedicated human brain. In short, a computer algorithm may be good at telling you what's already happened. But unlike a curious human, it will be really bad at guessing what's going to happen next.


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