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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, January 8, 2013

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 9, Issue 1, January 8, 2013




IT Jobs Light Up Top 100 Careers for 2013
InfoWorld, December 20

According to a recent U.S. News and World Report ranking of the 100 best jobs for 2013, systems analyst, database administrator, software developer, and Web developer are among the top 10 overall careers of the year. In addition, three other IT jobs -- computer programmer, IT manager, and systems administrator -- made the top 25. U.S. News and World Report based its rankings on several key factors: salary, job prospects, employment rate, and growth potential.

Computer systems analyst was ranked fourth on the top 100 list with an overall score of 8.2 out of 10. According to the report, the median salary for systems analysts in 2011 was $78,770; the highest-paid 10% of systems analysts earned $120,060 and the lowest-paid took home $49,370. With a score of 8.0, database administrator was ranked the sixth best career for 2013. The median salary for DBAs was around $75,190 in 2011, with the top 10% netting $116,870 and the bottom 10% bringing home $42,360. Number seven on the list of top 100 jobs with an overall score of 7.9: software developer, a position earning a median salary of $89,280 in 2011.


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Big Data, Big Salaries
Computerworld UK, January 2

As businesses embrace the value in analyzing Big Data, they are also realizing the need to hire data analysts, business intelligence specialists, business analysts, insight analysts and consultants. Given the sharp increase in companies looking for these types of experts, companies must offer attractive compensation packages in order to remain competitive. Gartner now predicts that there will be 4.4 million IT jobs globally to support Big Data by 2015. The article takes a closer look at the types of Big Data jobs in greatest demand, as well as the factors leading to the explosion of new Big Data job opportunities.

For those with a computer science background looking to up-skill quickly, the first step in a Big Data career is to take a SAS training course, some of which just take a few days. Or, you could take a slight salary drop and skill-up while on the job, which could mean that despite the immediate salary decrease, your pay could accelerate quickly as your career progresses. For recent graduates, companies typically look for those with economics, statistics or business degrees. This is because companies are not just looking for technical experts, but employees that are strategic business thinkers and good communicators too, as they will be required to use the data to unlock, and communicate, valuable trends and insights that will impact the company’s bottom line.


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Nine IT Career Resolutions for 2013
Network World, December 26

Even if you are happy with your current IT job or role, there is a chance you might find yourself looking for a new position this year due to downsizing, outsourcing or reorganization. This is especially true since IT workers can no longer expect to work for one employer – or one IT department - for their entire career. So what can you do to shield yourself from the turmoil and layoffs that swirl through IT? Tech workers need to be ready for anything, and that means evolving along with new technology or risk getting left behind. The article provides a list of nine career-related resolutions to make for 2013.

Your first resolution should be to work better to understand your own industry. Know specifically how and where you fit in it, where and how you can help. Then you'll be considered invaluable and you’ll have a leg up over your competition. Also, build a career map. Many companies today don't have well-defined career paths for their IT workforces. That's why creating your own can be helpful in determining your strengths and weaknesses as well as in identifying clear career objectives. Having your resume up-to-date and ready to go can do wonders when it comes to setting your mind at ease. Occasionally checking in to update your resume is a lot easier than having to do an overhaul of your resume in crisis mode.


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LinkedIn: Three Resolutions You Should Make
CBS MoneyWatch, December 31

There are several ways to use your LinkedIn social networking profile to jump-start your career in 2013. Although in-person meetings are still a crucial part of networking, social media can get you in touch with new people, fast. Now is a great time to make changes to your LinkedIn profile because it's a new year, with new possibilities. When you update your LinkedIn profile, your network will see that you're actively building your career and pay attention to you. With that in mind, there are three things to do now to extend your reach in 2013.

Especially with new contacts, building a rapport before asking for anything is vital. You would never go up to someone you don't know and ask, 'Do you have a job for me?' and the fastest way in is a point of common reference. This could be someone you know in common, a fellow alumni, or even a mutual admiration for his/her talent. Season's greetings are a way to re-connect and pave the road for further conversation. While your workload is still relatively quiet this month, use the time to polish your profile. Review your 'Summary' and 'Experience' to make sure they're up-to-date and request recommendations from former colleagues and clients to help beef up your professional credibility for 2013.


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How to Take Control of Your Own IT Career
Computerworld, December 17

In an attempt to advance their IT careers, tech staffers are migrating into new roles -- frequently with non-IT job titles -- throughout the enterprise, working on an array of projects that require tech savvy in addition to business and process knowledge, management skills and more. For tech workers, it’s all about exiting their comfort zone and actively seeking out new and different opportunities, rather than relying on traditional organizational charts or human resources for guidance. As veteran IT professionals point out, your very career and livelihood depend on the out-of-the-box thinking that goes into formulating and then executing such a strategy.

Check first to see what kind of career tools or development programs your potential or current employer may have on the books. Find out if they're going to invest in your career and ask about movement of IT people into different roles. While most IT professionals are indeed on their own, an increasing number of companies have or are developing detailed plans for rotating and advancing employees through different roles. Secondly, time your moves. You can't think too far out. It's more important to be flexible enough in the three-to-five-year time frame. It's more important to be open to a wide range of roles that could broaden your knowledge and help you acquire experience that will serve you well over the long term. It's all about looking at what's available and adjusting things and stretching yourself. You have to be comfortable and willing to move into the opportunities that are out there.


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The Secret to Getting Your New Job in the New Year
LinkedIn Today, December 28

While resumes are still essential in helping candidates get the initial interview, it’s the ability to tell a compelling story that often gets you to the next round and, eventually, a new position. According to experienced executive recruiters, the lack of a purposeful and compelling story is the number one reason why candidates fail to win over prospective employers in job interviews. This is especially true at the highest executive levels, where the ability to tell a purposeful story helps to convince hiring managers they can lead organizations, persuade customers, manage employees and sell products.

Quite often, arrogance and self-righteousness can mislead potential candidates into thinking they don’t need to prepare for an interview. However, doing the advance work helps shine a light on a can-do attitude. While aptitude is in the written word on the resume, attitude is in the story and how candidates tell it to persuade others of their passion, purpose, and capability. Failing to realize that the emotional resonance of the conversation is what HR execs, recruiters, managers, and every other decision-maker who you need to convince to hire you remembers, rather than the facts, data, and information on your resume will be the fatal flaw in your interview.


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Job Applicants' Cultural Fit Can Trump Qualifications
Bloomberg Businessweek, January 3

The key to building a creative, modern workforce and hiring the right candidates is asking personal questions about favorites, likes and hobbies – not questions about technical skills. In order to evaluate the cultural fit of a candidate, companies are increasingly making hiring decisions in a manner more closely resembling the choice of friends or romantic partners. As a result, job interviews are becoming more like first dates, as hiring managers feel free to ask about things such as favorite movies, favorite websites, or favorite books. Yet, as “cultural fit” becomes a popular buzzword with hiring managers, are employers still hiring the most skilled candidates?

Many job seekers now cite company culture as their second-highest priority, trailing only salary considerations. In an employment market in which many first-time employees relocate for work, offices are becoming surrogate families and social communities. New hires, especially young workers, want like-minded colleagues who share their values. These trends are being driven by younger workers because they care about culture: they’d rather have meaningful work over more pay, or work for a company that gives back or cares about the environment. They want a culture that’s less hierarchical, more flexible, and more understanding of differences.


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Would Tuition Discounts Get More Students to Major in Science?
TIME, January 3

In an experiment to steer more students into science, technology and engineering careers, the state of Florida is investigating whether tuition discounts could provide a strong enough nudge for students to change majors. Governor Rick Scott’s task force on higher education recently suggested freezing tuition at state schools in areas like engineering, science, health care and technology, while letting the cost of humanities rise. The key question, of course, is whether a differential of as little as $1,000 per year in tuition – and an increasing likelihood that they will find a high-paying job after graduation - will convince students to make the switch.

The Florida proposal is a new twist on an old idea. Instead of increasing tuition across the board, many universities over the past decade have started charging more for majors with courses that are more costly to provide. Degrees in biology and engineering, for example, typically involve smaller class sizes, higher faculty salaries and cutting-edge labs with expensive equipment, so universities look to students to foot more of the bill. Today some 45% of large public research universities differentiate their pricing this way. Researchers who have studied the outcomes of differential tuition have found that higher prices tend to dissuade students. The generally accepted consensus is that a $1,000 change in costs is associated with a 5% change in enrollment rates.


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Is It Time to Change How Software Developers Are Hired?
Blog @ CACM, December 18

The typical way to evaluate candidates for software development positions – having candidates meet key members of the existing team in a group setting - may actually reinforce hidden gender biases within the IT workplace. Certainly, employers want to get a sense during the hiring process if a candidate will work well with the current members of the development group. However, as previous experience in the classroom illustrates, it may also make it harder for women to make inroads into a traditionally male-dominated workplace. So, what’s the best way to recruit and retain women developers?

On one hand, there is the argument that women’s voices are more likely to be heard and they have a greater chance to contribute if they participate in women-only groups. But there is also the argument that diversity should be spread around because workers benefit by being exposed to diverse problem solving approaches and styles. Instead of having a woman candidate interviewing with an all-male group with their own hobbies and interests, surely there are better ways to determine whether someone can explain things clearly and succinctly. We can make lots of arguments why it would be good to diversify software development groups. Research shows that diverse groups have benefits: better decision making, reduction in "group think," and increased group effectiveness.


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After All, Why Should I Learn Computer Graphics?
Computers in Entertainment, December 20

A Brazilian professor of computer graphics weighs in with several good reasons why students should be inspired to study computer graphics at the university level. One of the main motivators in learning computer graphics is the beauty and ease that visual communication provides. We live in a visual era, where we see the displays of computers, cell phones and mobile devices in various aspects of our daily routine. Yet, even given this, the most common question in the classroom is: “Why should I learn computer graphics?” What was once seen as just a prelude to a career in the videogame industry is now entering the mainstream, and that could offer greater insights into how graphics are influencing the future of computer science as a discipline.

Computer graphics are not just for the kind of person who loves playing video games all the time. As instructors point out, the study of computer graphics is for the type of person who wants to understand the mystery behind each pixel on a screen. However, this type of curiosity is actually rare amongst students of computer science: most students prefer a more rapid and less painful way to get knowledge. And they get it through more intuitive programming languages, APIs that facilitate all the work, or even interactive work environments with tools for self-correction.


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