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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, January 24, 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 2, January 24, 2012




Google's Marissa Mayer Says More Women Needed in Tech
Computerworld, January 13

During the Women in Technology panel at CES in Las Vegas, Google VP Marissa Mayer commented on the progress of women in the high-tech industry over the past ten years. As Mayer and other female tech executives pointed out, there’s still a lot of room for growth, but the momentum is in the right direction. The problem is that we're just not doing enough to get more women into the IT industry. One solution might be getting more young girls taking computer science at the secondary school level and placing more emphasis on preparing women for specific fields that rely on computer science knowledge, such as product design.

Part of the problem, according to Mayer, is that the United States is not producing enough computer scientists. Quite simply, the country needs more people to keep up with all the new technologies and all the new gadgets and devices that are creating new possibilities and the jobs of the future. Among the women executives attending CES, the consensus is that, while more women need to be working in high-tech, the industry is doing better than ever before. For example, at two of the largest tech companies today, IBM and HP, have women CEOs and there are many women in tech who have made progress in their careers over the past 10 years.


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UK Adds Computer Science to National Curriculum
Gamasutra, January 11

The UK's Department for Education will replace its widely criticized ICT curriculum in schools with a new national curriculum program that includes rigorous computer science courses. Education experts, game industry associations, and even UK Prime Minister David Cameron have previously criticized the current ICT program for failing to provide computer science courses and to adequately prepare students for the growing number of jobs with technology requirements, especially in the game industry. The goal of the unprecedented curriculum change is to prepare British students to work at the very forefront of technological change.

To make this curriculum change as easy to adopt as possible, UK educators are proposing an open source approach that would allow schools to adopt pre-made or customized curriculums developed by leading academic experts and businesses. By withdrawing the current Program of Study, the goal is to give schools and teachers freedom over what and how to teach. Universities, businesses and others will have the opportunity to devise new courses and exams. In the best case scenario, universities and businesses will create new high quality computer science GCSEs, and develop curricula encouraging schools to make use of the computer science content available on the Web.


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The Care and Feeding of Gen Y Employees
The Globe and Mail, January 5

Generation Y employees, most of them younger than 30 and highly proficient in new web and mobile technologies, are forcing organizations to re-think their approach to career development. According to some, Gen Y employees have the lowest level of engagement within most organizations. Among other things, they become frustrated when technology at the office doesn’t work as efficiently as the computers and smart phones they use as consumers. Gen Ys also have a high need for feedback and recognition from their bosses. While they comprise only 5 – 20% of workers in a typical organization, they can have a disproportionate impact on workplace culture. So what should organizations be doing to attract and retain their Gen Y employees?

Employers have to do more to create passion and loyalty among their young workers. Acknowledgment and support are the keys. Gen Ys expect to be consulted on decisions that affect them, not simply told the new rules that the higher-ups have set. That doesn’t mean giving these younger workers a veto over, say, a scheduling decision. But they can try to take their needs into account where possible. To keep them engaged, companies can run a trainee program where new hires who show leadership potential can be trained and fast-tracked for other supervisory positions.


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What the Recruiter’s Really Asking You During the Interview
Mashable, January 15

During the interview, there are ten key questions that will determine whether you pass through to the next stage of the hiring process. The recruiter or HR employee will determine if you’re the right fit for the job if you can prove that you can do the job, that you have the motivation to do the job, and that you will fit in with the company culture. By asking “the question behind the question,” hiring managers have a better chance to making the right hiring decision. As job seekers, your task is to answer them honestly and fully. With that in mind, the article provides the 10 top questions that the interviewer might ask, along with the hidden agenda behind each one.

As you reflect back at your last position, what was missing that you are looking for in your next role? This question gets at the heart of why you’re leaving the current job or, in the case of a reduction in workforce, it helps the interviewer understand what was missing. What qualities of your last boss did you admire, and what qualities did you dislike? This is precarious territory because your answer needs to have a balance of positive and negative feedback. It will show if you are tactful in answering a tricky question and if your leadership style is congruent with the admired or disliked ones. How do you like to be rewarded for good performance? As simple as this question is, it helps the interviewer get a sense of what motivates you, whether it is money, time off or more formal recognition. If you’re interviewing for a management role, the follow-up question could be: How do you reward the good performance of employees who work for you? The interviewer is looking for congruency in behaviors, because if you don’t practice what you preach, then it might not be a cultural fit.


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How Job Hopping Can Hurt Your Career
CNN.com, January 17

While moving from job to job is becoming increasingly routine for IT professionals, having multiple jobs in just a few years can actually hurt your career. Many high-potential and ambitious employees don't stay long enough at a position to give it a chance and to gain the necessary skills and maturity required to succeed in business. It's imperative that professionals view companies as potential career incubators, where they can grow into new roles and develop new skills. Spending twenty years at a single company isn't likely these days, but leaving a company after six months can do more harm than good.

Most importantly, workers need to learn how to customize and build a career. In different positions within an organization, learn to gather new skills, expand your network and get a better sense of the company based on your experiences. If you jump to multiple companies during that time frame, you would have had to rebuild your network, visibility and go through months of additional training for each job. It can take up to six months just to adapt to a new work environment. Employers want to see your progression at a company, whether it's up or across an organization. There's nothing wrong with making a lateral move into a different business function. If you believe in your company's mission and enjoy being around your co-workers, you will naturally stay longer.


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Your Guide to Job Searching After Fifty
The Work Buzz, January 9

Tucker Mays, co-author of the book “Fired at 50: How to Overcome the Greatest Executive Job Search Challenge,” weighs in on tips and advice for older workers to find new employment. Many employers have preconceived notions about older workers. Among the most common: Their salaries are high, their energy is low and they’re not up-to-date on the latest technologies. To overcome these misperceptions, says Mays, workers need to show that they are flexible in their management style and agile enough to learn new technologies. If you’re over 50, the key to a successful job search is to show employers the benefits your extra years of experience can bring them.

There are a number of ways job seekers over 50 can counter employers’ subconscious, age-related stereotypes. Foremost, it’s essential to make a good first impression, which includes demonstrating a high energy level. Also important is emphasizing a flexible management style, technological proficiency, ability to learn new skills and the willingness to work for a younger boss. After decades in the workforce, older workers possess life skills, talent and abilities that younger workers don’t have. Emphasizing these strengths can set experienced job seekers apart. Experienced workers are usually able to solve problems faster by identifying them quicker and finding the right ways to solve them, for example. They can use their success stories in these four key areas to help prove their age is an asset.


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2012 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Opens Call for Participation
Daily Disruption, January 17

The 12th Annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC), which just announced its Call for Participation, will take place from October 3 - 6 in Baltimore, Maryland. The annual conference, a program of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, is the world’s largest gathering of women in computing. The theme of this year’s Grace Hopper Celebration - “Are We There Yet?” - recognizes that technology and the culture of technology are continuously evolving but there are also concrete goals that the computer science industry is striving to achieve.

In many ways, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is looking to change the negative perceptions of women in the computer science field. A change in the way women view the field can lead to a future increase in the number of women represented in undergraduate computer science education and the IT workforce. Particularly in computer science, there has been a dramatic drop in women earning bachelor’s degrees, primarily due to the image of computer scientists sitting in a cubicle writing code for the duration of their workday. The “geek factor” affects both male and female high school students, but it seems to have more of a negative effect on the female students.


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An Interview with Stephen A. Cook, Winner of the 1982 A.M. Turing Award
Communications of the ACM, Vol. 55 No. 1, January 2012

This interview with A.M. Turing Award recipient and ACM Fellow Stephen A. Cook, which offers details about his influential work as well as career experiences, is part of a broader oral history project for computer science. Cook is considered one of the forefathers of computational complexity theory. After describing his background, including his influential 1971 presentation on "The Complexity of Theorem Proving Procedures," Cook discusses his move to the University of Toronto in 1970 and the reception of his work on NP-completeness, leading up to his 1982 A.M. Turing Award for contributions to the theory of computational complexity.

Through a series of interview questions, Cook traces his introduction to computing, focusing on the steps that led him to attend Michigan in 1957; his early influences within engineering science and electronics; his first introduction to programming; his first impressions of working with a homegrown algebraic programming language; the role of mentors in getting him to take an accelerated mathematics program; and how he ended up at Harvard as a graduate student. Cook also talks about influential problems and research at the time. In 1966, he received his Ph.D. for a thesis on the complexity of multiplication and was hired as an assistant professor at Berkeley. In 1970, he went to Toronto as an associate professor.


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