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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, January 6, 2009

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-request@acm.org

Volume 5, Issue 1, January 6, 2009 plone_rss.gif




How Many IT Jobs Will Obama Help Create?
CIO.com (via Computerworld), December 12

With President-elect Barack Obama widely expected to sign a significant federal stimulus bill shortly after taking office in January, the IT industry is hopeful that the new measures could create as many as 300,000 new IT jobs. These jobs would represent about one-eighth of all new jobs created within the U.S. economy. Keeping in mind that offshore outsourcing may be accelerating as companies seek to cut costs during a difficult economic period, the article examines in greater detail how many tech jobs might be saved or created by a federal stimulus package.

Obama has already released a broad outline of a plan that calls for heavy IT investments in schools, health care, broadband networks and energy. In 2009, the details of those plans could determine which tech industries fare well and which ones don't. The incoming administration will need to determine whether it will favor older or newer technologies. In a base case scenario, IT consultants predict that stimulus spending could result in between 50,000 to 200,000 tech workers. However, if Obama's "pro-tech agenda" is pushed forward in its entirety, the nation could see a 10% gain in tech jobs, or nearly 300,000 new IT jobs.


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IT Future Will Be Golden
Atlanta Journal Constitution, December 21

The latest employment projections from the U.S. Department of Labor suggest a positive outlook for careers related to information technology. In spite of offshore outsourcing and the malaise facing the U.S. economy, experts predict significant demand for graduates in IT. In fact, five of the nine fastest-growing jobs that require a bachelor’s degree are in IT, with more than twice as many new jobs as in all sciences and engineering combined. Business and industry continue to embrace IT, leading to a renewal of interest for recent computer science grads.

Universities across the country have been experiencing a renewed interest in computer science. Enrollments, which had dropped by about 50% since 2000, are beginning to stabilize. New courses emphasizing subjects such as robotics and virtual worlds are increasingly being used to add variety to introductory computing classes. The end result is that incoming freshmen once again say they want to major in computer science. Moreover, the push for traditional IT jobs -- programmers, network analysts, database managers, software engineers – are being supplemented by IT-related jobs throughout the economy.


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What Will It Take to Be a Web Worker in 2009?
Web Worker Daily, December 22

Heading into 2009, there are at least six ways that web workers can improve the way that they manage their careers. Web workers need to learn how to collaborate with less tech-savvy colleagues, become more familiar with ways to market their services offline, and establish points of competitive differentiation as they look for new work. In addition, they need to focus on enhancing the loyalty of existing clients and become more aware of the information and content they consume in order to stay ahead of the curve.

Since web workers need to collaborate with co-workers who aren’t up to speed with current Web 2.0 practices, knowing how to communicate with them effectively while bridging the tech gap will be a priceless skill. In addition, web workers need to become more familiar with the many effective offline marketing tactics that can help attract new clients. With more and more people are looking for part-time or full-time work online, especially with many layoffs going on, existing web workers need to strengthen their personal brands and ensure that they’re delivering a consistent message about the work they provide and the products they create.


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Ways Job Seekers Can Find Old Contacts
Wall Street Journal Online, December 16

Attempting to expand your personal network after getting laid off can be a difficult, but not impossible situation. Even reconnecting can be difficult, as previous coworkers move on to other positions and contact lists become stale. In today’s environment, you have to be ready to move at a moment's notice, and that means having a well-prepared contact network set up in advance. Experts recommend networking be done consistently and be nurtured throughout a career. With that in mind, the article lists ways to jump start an outdated network rebuild rapport with former friends and colleagues.

To rebuild a network, you actually have to find these people and deal with the dead ends. This requires emailing former colleagues, doing Internet searches and asking ex-coworkers to reconnect you to people they have stayed in touch with. With that in mind, social- and business-networking sites such as LinkedIn and Plaxo are good ways to find old connections. Once you've re-established your relationship, you can also view the friends of your connections, and request an introduction to people at companies that interest you. If you already have a LinkedIn account, keep it current since updates can lead to job opportunities early.


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Landing Contract IT Work Through Staffing Agencies
Computerworld, December 16

IT professionals who've recently been laid off are lining up at staffing agencies in search of temporary and contract IT work that will provide them with a paycheck as they look for full-time, permanent IT jobs. While short-term contract work can be an effective way to connect with employers and gain new work experiences, there are potential drawbacks as well, such as long lags between client engagements and negligible benefits. Seasoned IT professionals who have worked with staffing and consulting firms provide tips and advice on what to watch out for and how to avoid difficult situations when they partner with IT staffing firms.

Accepting a temporary IT job can be a quick fix, but getting additional contract work on a regular basis can be tricky. As the time between assignments lengthens, workers could be tempted to accept contract positions for which they are either over-qualified or unsuited. Moreover, some IT staffing firms may attempt to oversell you to a client, just to get someone on a job and so they can start billing the client. Another problem is that IT contract work may end up limiting your career flexibility. It can become difficult to decline or exit engagements, even if they are not right for you.


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Always Away From the Desk
Wall Street Journal Online, December 15

Two New Zealand researchers analyze a new class of IT worker that they refer as nanobots: Nearly Autonomous, Not in the Office, doing Business in their Own Time Staff. Empowered by their mobile devices and boasting remote access to the corporate network, nanobots put in long hours but usually do not keep in close contact with managers. Entrusted with personal freedom, nanobots are usually self-starting high achievers who produce strong results with a minimum of supervision. The article looks at what it means to be a nanobot, as well as the challenges this new breed of worker poses to organizations and managers.

After pointing out that nanobots are different from other kinds of mobile workers, the article examines their distinguishing characteristics. Organizations trust nanobots with the freedom, technology and other resources to do their jobs without coming to the office. Nanobots are not only technologically self-sufficient, they also have the maturity to exercise their autonomy in the best interest of their company and clients. They are highly talented and show positive attitudes toward achieving goals for their employers. They are highly self-motivated, and will often create their autonomous and flexible roles themselves. For many nanobots, success is defined in highly personal terms, such as problems solved, or influence wielded as a consequence of personal credibility.


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How to Ask for a Raise During a Recession
CIO.com, December 16

Salary negotiation is rarely easy, but it's especially fraught with difficulties during a recession, when companies are scaling back to save every penny. Asking for a raise when the economy is bad can make you look out of touch with reality and insensitive to your employer's business challenges. According to compensation experts, however, it is possible to ask for a pay increase if you are an irreplaceable employee or if you offer special skills or experiences not broadly available in the employment market.

Recruiters are cautious about workers asking for a raise, pointing out they must build the case that they are making less than market value. Before requesting a raise, you need to determine your market value, based on your skills, experience, role and location. You can get salary information from salary websites, by talking with recruiters, and by asking friends who've been on your team but who are no longer with your company what they think you should be earning. If you’re already making more than market value, you will need to show that it would be extremely difficult or expensive to replace you.


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Engineers Confront The Rising Tide Of Job, Economic Fears
TechCareers.com (via EE Times), December 16

The 2008 Annual EE Times Salary Survey presents a seeming paradox. At the same time that engineers all over the world are concerned about their job security and future compensation levels, they are also still clearly satisfied with their careers in engineering. More than two-thirds were satisfied not only with their career but also with their employers and nearly 90% were either "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" with the engineering profession. The article examines how factors such as globalization and outsourcing are eroding confidence among engineers through their impact on staffing levels, compensation and job security.

Consistently, 70% and above of the engineers responding to the EE Times survey say they "are satisfied with my career," believe "my situation is as good as or better than other professionals" and that "my company gives us a good place to work." Even though they grumble that society does not appear to respect engineers like it once did, engineers are generally not looking to relocate from their home countries in search of opportunities elsewhere. Moreover, annual compensation packages are rising across the profession. Nearly 65% of the North American engineers who took the EE Times survey said they earned $100,000 or more in the last year while 23% reported total compensation packages of $70,000 to $99,999 per year.


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The Future of HR and IT Will Be Offshore
Management Issues, December 10

With the threat of economic recession looming, many experts are pointing to a fundamental change in the way that organizations handle HR functions. According to research by U.S consultancy Hackett, the economic slump is likely to lead to an acceleration of HR and IT functions being outsourced overseas. Over the next two years large companies will almost double their offshoring of these processes, largely spurred by the prospect of cost savings. The article explores the factors that are responsible, such as a shift in the global balance of power between developed and emerging economies, and then examines their impact on overall competitiveness at organizations.

The world is experiencing a shift in the balance of power between developed, Western nations and emerging economies such as India and China. As these emerging economies account for a greater share of world economic activity, more than 360,000 jobs could be moved overseas by 2010. IT would bear the brunt, with the remainder coming from finance, HR and procurement. Approximately 15% of transactional HR jobs at big firms would be offshored by 2010, up from about 10% now. Over the same time period, as many as 25% of IT jobs could be moved offshore.


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ACM Wants Computer Science in on Obama's K-12 Education Plan
Ars Technica, December 24

The Association for Computing Machinery has called on the incoming Obama Administration to re-think the way that computer science is taught in the K-12 public education system. With the goal of improving and expanding national computer science education, ACM suggests the integration of computer science into earlier phases of education, making it an essential part of any pre-college education. Since computing education benefits all students, not just those interested in pursuing computer science or information technology careers, there should be additional opportunities to engage in rigorous computer science study at the K-12 level.

Despite increasing demand for computing skills on the job market, enrollment in computer science has declined in recent years. In order to attract greater participation from women and minorities, the public education system needs to change the way that computer science is taught. At the high school level, for example, computer science courses are generally treated as optional or electives, rather than a college prep course. Partly as a result of a lack of standards, and partly as a result of a lack of public understanding of computer science, many computer science classes only focus on IT literacy and technology basics.


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