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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, December 4, 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 23, December 4, 2012




House OKs STEM Visas for Foreign Students Getting Advanced Degrees
Mercury News, November 30

As the next step in a controversial battle over immigration policy, the House voted to make green cards accessible to foreign students graduating from U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math. But even this limited step, strongly backed by the high-tech industry and enjoying some bipartisan support, is unlikely to go anywhere this session of Congress, dramatizing how difficult it will be to find lasting solutions to the nation's immigration system. Republicans, eager to show that they have softened their hard-line immigration policies, voted 245-139 in favor of the STEM Jobs Act. They also added a provision that will make it easier for those with green cards to be reunited with spouses and children now living overseas.

For many Democrats and the Obama White House as well, the proposed visa change does not go far enough to fix the nation’s immigration system. Democrats assailed the legislation for offsetting the 55,000 new permanent residency visas by eliminating the Diversity Visa Lottery, a program that provided green cards to people with traditionally lower rates of immigration. The White House, in a statement opposing the GOP-supported bill, said it does not support narrowly tailored proposals that do not meet long-term objectives of achieving comprehensive reform. That comprehensive approach to reform includes supporting the young people brought into the country illegally, creating an effective border enforcement system and worker verification program and deciding by what means those living in the country illegally can attain legal status.


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Outlook for IT Bonus Pay Murky
Network World, November 29

As hiring shortages continue to appear within the tech industry, bonuses have become an effective hiring and retention tool for companies, especially since they are less expensive than salary increases. In fact, 37% of bonus-eligible IT workers believe they're in line to earn a bigger bonus than they did in 2011, while another 33% said their bonus would be unchanged. Only 12% of IT workers do not expect to get a bonus at all. Bonus eligibility tends to increase based on years of work experience: after six years of experience, approximately 50% of IT workers were getting some sort of bonus.

Generally speaking, people view bonuses as a personal achievement -- but that's not the case in the IT world, where bonuses are often gained and lost due to company performance. Dice asked IT pros whose bonuses are expected to decrease why they think it's shrinking, and 46% cited company performance as the main reason while just 4% attributed it to personal performance. Likewise, more IT pros with unchanged bonus expectations said it's due to company performance (39%) rather than personal performance (7%). Even among the respondents getting bigger bonuses, company performance (35%) trumped personal performance (24%) as the main reason for the boost.


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The 10 Non-California Tech Companies You Wish You Worked For
WIRED, November 12

Outside of Silicon Valley, tech hubs around the nation are home to exciting new companies that are shaping the future of the tech industry and providing inspiring workplaces for their workers. Ten non-California companies, selected by veteran Silicon Valley venture capitalist and Stanford Graduate School of Business instructor Andy Rachleff, are at the forefront at creating the type of innovative work environment needed to attract the best tech workers. Despite the hype surrounding many startups in Silicon Valley, working for a company in a tech hub outside of California often offers the same potential for rapid career growth.

Chicago-based 37signals has attracted the attention of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and has set the industry benchmark for a minimalist, practical and pleasing approach to Web design. It is also at the forefront of clever thinking about the future of collaboration on the Web, while the two co-founders of the company are authors of a bestselling book called “Rework.” New York-based Etsy, founded seven years ago, has become synonymous with a certain artisanal aesthetic that has enjoyed surprising staying power in hipster neighborhoods across the country. The company's growth and lasting popularity have leveraged the long-tail effect made possible by the Internet, in which independent artisans with a very particular style can reach a worldwide niche audience with equally specific tastes.


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How to Hire, Manage and Even Appreciate Millennial IT Workers
CIO.com, November 20

In response to the growing perception that Generation Y has turned into a job-hopping generation with a sense of entitlement, IT industry experts suggest new ways that organizations should hire, manage and promote these workers. As a recent survey regarding Generation Y and the hiring process illustrates, negative perceptions about Generation Y are holding back some organizations from hiring younger workers. In fact, the survey results revealed that hiring managers are three times more likely to hire a mature worker older than age 50 than a millennial. With that as backdrop, the article considers the type of practical changes that can make organizations a better fit for members of Generation Y.

When it comes to hiring younger workers, a good place to start is by examining current perceptions about Generation Y. These younger workers are viewed as being tech savvy, but without the long-term commitment that older workers typically have. One complaint is that members of Gen Y have issues taking direction from those older than them. This kind of age friction is something to be aware of, because it certainly cuts across the workplace in general. It is also important to note that Gen Y needs more constant feedback and validation on their work than preceding generations. These workers also put more emphasis on a workplace that values work-life flexibility and meaningful work.


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Women in IT: How Deep is the Bench?
Computerworld, November 19

While the IT industry has had a number of role models – most recently Marissa Mayer at Yahoo – there is a growing concern that not enough women are making it to the senior leadership ranks of tech companies. That’s despite the fact that more female CIOs than ever are leading the technology charge at Fortune 500 companies like Exxon Mobil, Boeing, Dell, Walmart, Bank of America, Xerox and GE. According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011 women made up 57% of the country's professional workforce but held just 25% of the jobs in professional computing occupations. Moreover, Fortune 500 female CIOs still account for just 12% of the total. The general consensus is that IT has come a long way in its attitudes toward women, but there's still a long way to go.

The persistently lopsided male-to-female ratios distress pioneering women in the tech industry like Nora Denzel, a former senior vice president at Intuit and Hewlett-Packard who graduated with a B.S. in computer science in 1984. At the time, the perception was that women would account for the next great wave of talent within the tech industry. Yet, thirty years later, Denzel is now a member of the board of directors at the nonprofit Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, talking in public about the lack of women in computing. Her take is that women were making progress until the mid '80s, when the supply of women peaked at 37% in '85. By 2010, only 18% of CS undergrads were women.


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Must-Have Job Skills in 2013
Wall Street Journal, November 18

To win a promotion or land a job next year, experts say there are four must-have job skills that will attract hiring managers and recruiters in what is still an uncertain economic environment. Overall, companies want workers to show greater skills and results in four key areas: communications, personal branding, flexibility and productivity improvement. This means that hiring managers will need to adjust their approach as organizations consider expanding next year. As the economy turns around, companies will have to work harder to retain talented employees and hire candidates with the most desirable skills.

Whatever their level, communication is key for workers to advance. This is really the ability to clearly articulate your point of view and the ability to create a connection through communication. For job seekers in particular, clear communication can provide a snapshot of their work style to employers. Personal branding is also important, since HR executives scour blogs, Twitter and professional networking sites such as LinkedIn when researching candidates, and it's important that they like what they find. Workers also should make sure their personal brand is attractive and reflects well on employers. More and more employers are looking for employees to tweet on their behalf, to blog on their behalf, to build an audience and write compelling, snappy posts.


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Silicon Valley's Dirty Secret - Age Bias
Reuters, November 27

When it comes to hiring for senior executive positions, Silicon Valley may have an age bias, according to tech industry insiders. As a result, some older candidates are taking steps to appear younger – whether it’s dressing differently, owning the latest tech gadgets, or actually changing their physical appearance to look younger. Such are the pressures in Silicon Valley, where the start-up ethos extols fresh ideas and young programmers willing to toil through the night and many investors state bluntly that they prefer to see people under 40 in charge. The concern among many is that this emphasis on youth undercuts another of Silicon Valley's cherished ideals: that anyone smart and driven can get ahead in what the industry likes to think of as an egalitarian culture.

There are some disturbing indications that age bias is now part of the culture in Silicon Valley. This is especially visible in the cachet attached to the young entrepreneur, especially by investors who state their preference for 20-something founders. According to experts, the age discrimination is 100% due to the new, young, tech start-up mindset. Regional data on age discrimination are hard to come by, making it hard to establish precisely how Silicon Valley stacks up against other parts of the United States. Of the 18,335 employment cases filed in 2010 with California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing, one-fifth cited age. That puts age below retaliation as a discrimination claim, but above racial discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual orientation.


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Five Job Interview Mistakes to Avoid
MarketWatch, November 26

A recent survey of hiring managers found that only 18% of experienced job seekers have the required skills needed for job openings -- and that’s largely because job seekers aren’t communicating their skills effectively during the interview process. The article highlights five common interview mistakes to avoid, such as talking about the wrong skills, emphasizing general experience rather than specific skills, being unprepared to talk about salary expectations, being surprised by new interview formats, and simply not doing the research. Master all five of these, and you could convince hiring managers that you have what it takes for the job.

In general, there’s a disconnect between what hiring managers are seeking and what job seekers offer in interviews. Rather than generalizing about your work experience, tailor your responses to the job at hand. Job seekers should take a very, very good look at that job description. Make sure you’re including specific terms and skills that they’re mentioning, and be prepared to talk about how you’ve utilized those skills so they can immediately see how you can hit the ground running in that position. The second biggest mistake is talking about the wrong skills. Job seekers often are eager to talk about their integrity, strong communication skills and problem-solving abilities. But hiring managers are seeking senior-level applicants who will go beyond those basic traits to bring a strategic perspective, global outlook, and business acumen.


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Little Miss Geek
Blog @ CACM, November 15

A new book, Little Miss Geek, is part of a wider campaign to shift women's role in the technology sector from consumer to creator. The book is mostly aimed at technology business leaders, offering practical solutions to help them make their workplaces better at attracting and maintaining female staff in technical roles. It argues that the technology industry needs to have more female employees in the interests of equality as well as their own bottom line. After all, more women involved in the creation of new technology products will open up exciting new products tailored for an expanding female market.

The difficulty in attracting girls to IT starts at an early age and continues throughout a career. At a young age, girls begin to associate computers with boredom, math or typing. Then, at secondary school, girls find that they are in the minority when it comes to computing and may move on to other disciplines. Even for girls who decide to study computer science at university, only 18% of technology or science degrees are awarded to women. Then, even for girls who graduate with computer degrees and land tech jobs, they find that women comprise only 17% of the technology workforce. Ultimately, 41% of women leave tech companies after 10 years, compared to 17% of men. Women who stay beyond 10 years find that only 26% of women reach senior management or board-level positions, which could lead them to abandon a tech career for more opportunities elsewhere.


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Designing Learning in the Digital Age
eLearn Magazine, November 2012

By changing how and when people can access information, the Internet is also transforming and disrupting how education is designed and delivered. New approaches to learning are threatening traditional educational values by de-institutionalizing the educational system as we know it. As a result, we are seeing that education is as susceptible to tech disruption as other information-centric industries, such as media or entertainment. After covering some of the global digital trends that are changing education, the article highlights that educators need to be at the forefront of new and transformative ways of teaching and facilitating learning.

Freely available online education courses, such as university and corporate-led massive open online courses, are providing greater choice of when, where, and how people learn. Formal educational institutions are adopting more synchronous and asynchronous collaborative approaches to learning through readily available tools such wikis, blogs, and cloud services. Learners are now connected across a variety of platforms and devices. This means designing learning that is interactive and available anytime and anywhere. This needs to take into account the necessity in allowing learners to easily access their learning materials and experiences via mobile devices such as phones and tablets. Educators can take advantage of their connected learners by encouraging them to capture evidence of their formal, non-formal, and informal learning experiences on the run.


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