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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, June 18, 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 12, June 18, 2013




Emerging Technologies Are Changing the IT Job Market
Wired, June 5

Emerging technologies as well as changing approaches to technology – everything from “the cloud” to the enterprise BYOD movement – are placing new pressure on IT job candidates to have the types of relevant skills now required by employers. The good news is that IT job opportunities remain plentiful across the nation. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, the number of U.S. employees working in applications and systems software developer jobs increased by 5.5% from 2011-2012, while the number of employees working in database, network and computer systems administrator occupations increased by 2.6% in the same year. The bad news, though, is that you have to be competitive about applying for these jobs and keep up with the industry’s pace.

In the current IT job environment, you must be flexible, adaptable and willing to learn. The market is no longer looking for “networking” or “server” or “storage” specialists -- it’s looking for people who understand them all and who understand why they’re important. With the talent gap widening in certain fields, many companies are making generous offers for qualified job candidates, including large base salaries, bonuses, stock options and many other perks. The IT market is as rich with opportunity now as ever in the history of technology, mainly because of the growing complexity of some fields. For example, the hot area of “converged infrastructure” is the combining of server, storage, networking, virtualization, and automation software into a single platform.


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IT Jobs: A Specialist Economy or Reign of the Polymath?
ZDNet.com, June 6

Career experts are mixed on whether specialists or generalists are better equipped for the current IT employment market. On one hand, IT staffing firms tend to argue that the economy is becoming a specialist job market where people with specialties and coveted niches will rake in all the most desirable jobs at the expense of generalists. On the hand, anecdotal evidence appears to support the argument that we’re entering a job market that will require more the skills of a polymath — someone who knows business as well as technology, can tell a story, and has a dose of emotional intelligence to manage people. Even a field like Big Data will need more polymaths and folks who can talk tech as well as statistics and science.

The problem with the argument in favor of specialists is that many of those specialties will be automated at some point in the near future, if not outsourced before then. The argument of staffing firms is that workers can reposition and market themselves based on various specialties and buzzwords, such as cloud, Big Data or social. While network and database administrators are in demand today, will they be a decade from now?


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Data Scientists Most Sought After
Bloomberg, June 11

There is a growing demand by U.S. employers for data scientists who can analyze and manipulate the mountains of information generated and stored in the Internet era. In fact, in most areas of the modern economy, math and statistics have never been more important, leading Harvard Business Review to call this profession “the sexiest job of the 21st century.” As firms become more and more data-driven, there will be fewer and fewer careers that don’t require those skills. Unlike statisticians of a previous generation, data scientists work with information sets so big that they need to write extensive computer code to extract the right data.

Today, data analysts are among the most commonly advertised positions in the technology sector, based on an analysis of online job postings. The national security industry is among the biggest employers of Big Data professionals. However, almost every company has a need for data scientists -- from news sites that need to know which stories are keeping readers most engaged, to marketers and advertisers, who want to know how specific campaigns are performing.


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Despite Uncertainties, 46% of IT Employees are Looking
CIO.com (via Computerworld), June 6

The percentage of IT employees interested in getting a new job is rising, even as they lose confidence in the broader economic outlook. According to a recent survey, 46% of technology workers are likely to look for a new job this year, compared to 41% one year ago. One sign of trouble among IT employees concerns "discretionary effort," or the extra effort above what workers are required to put into their jobs. Discretionary effort has declined from last year's high of 18.2% to 16.5% in the first quarter of 2013. This means that over 8 in 10 IT employees are not going above and beyond to serve the organization beyond what is expected of them.

A measure for determining employee interest in staying with their current employer is to assess their intent to stay at their current job. Nearly 26% of IT employees have "high levels" of intent to stay, which is a decline of 1.7% from the prior quarter. Of the approximately remaining 75%, they are either undecided or display strong signs of leaving. However, these job seekers aren't overly optimistic about their prospects. In the first quarter, 38% were confident in their ability to get hired; a year ago it was 42%. In fact, more than one-quarter of IT employees (26%) felt they were likely to lose their jobs, an increase of 3% from the year ago quarter.


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Tech Firms Call for Mandatory Computer Classes
Boston Globe, June 11

Executives from Google, Microsoft, and other leading technology firms want to require all Massachusetts public schools to teach computer science, so that local tech companies won’t have to rely on foreign workers to fill future programming and engineering jobs. The plan would compel the teaching of computer science classes as early as the eighth grade, add computing questions to the state’s standardized tests, and create a statewide curriculum for technology instruction throughout high school. While the plan has the potential to boost the state’s IT workforce, it has attracted its fair share of doubters, who believe that the program would be too resource-intensive, requiring millions of dollars in new spending, as well as the retraining of hundreds of teachers and the hiring of new ones.

While state education officials agree with tech executives that Massachusetts graduates should be better equipped to pursue computer science careers, they argue that a better approach would be to incorporate computer teaching in existing course work, or to work with individual school districts to develop their own specific curriculums. Moreover, the state is currently revising its standards to increase the amount of engineering and technology that public schools must teach, and additional computer science education is under consideration. Meanwhile a Massachusetts state senator earlier this year filed legislation that would mandate more computer science classes in public schools. Currently, high school students in Massachusetts are taught a core group of math and science subjects, including algebra and geometry, and engineering topics such as electronics and electronic communications.


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Three Ways Recent Grads Can Leverage LinkedIn for Long-Term Success
LinkedIn Blog, June 6

Whether you’ve landed a new job or are still weighing your options, LinkedIn can be an invaluable tool for your next steps post-graduation. There are three simple things you can do now to successfully transition from campus to career. First and most importantly, you can use LinkedIn to take charge of your professional identity, making it a place where potential employers can learn more about your skills, interests and experiences. You can also use LinkedIn to extend your professional network beyond just family and friends as well as follow the careers of your school’s alumni within your chosen field.

Your LinkedIn profile makes it possible for employment opportunities to find you, rather than you actively looking for opportunities. This means that you need to have a standout profile that goes beyond just replicating your online resume. For example, you can use the Summary section on your LinkedIn profile to tell people who you are professionally and who you want to become in your future career. You can also define your skills and expertise and follow the companies, influencers and groups that relate to the industries you’re interested in.


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Making the Most of Social Media in Your Job Hunt
Computerworld, June 3

As IT employers become savvier in the use of social media during the hiring process, they are experimenting with established social platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to find candidates. They are also exploring new sites and communities that cater to IT professionals with deep domain expertise. With that in mind, the article suggests five ways you can hunt for new IT jobs on both popular and lesser-known social networks.

Social media is changing how job candidates discover open IT positions. For example, when new IT positions become available, many companies post them on their Facebook pages, meaning that people who follow the brand on Facebook will be the first to know if something opens up. It’s also important to optimize your Facebook profile. For example, Facebook's new search tool, Graph, makes it easier for others to find public information about you, and that could be a good thing if you're in the market for a new job. Third, search hashtags on Twitter since progressive companies will often post open jobs on Twitter with appropriate hashtags that are easy to search.


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Didn't Get the Job? You'll Never Know Why
Wall Street Journal, June 4

During the job search process, rejected candidates want to understand why they didn't get hired, but employers, fearing discrimination complaints, keep silent. And those who do speak up offer little more than platitudes that do not give specific guidance to applicants. Without specifics, candidates are left to repeat the same mistakes, while hiring managers complain they're swamped with applicants who miss the mark. Such exchanges frustrate job seekers, especially those who have been searching for long periods and desperately want some insight into how they are viewed by hiring managers.

Some companies have a policy to keep candidates apprised at every step of its hiring process and scores candidates on a range of criteria to keep its decisions as objective as possible. But when the reasons for a rejection can't be boiled down to more clear-cut measures like experience or education, HR managers attempt to minimize those conversations. That may mean offering a vague response, adding that the company will reach out if appropriate positions arise in the future. Most of it is trying to protect against potential litigation: once you cross the line between objective and subjective, it gets very, very challenging. Employers were put on notice in late 2012 when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission identified discrimination in hiring practices as one of its priorities for the next three years, partly out of a recognition that few job seekers have the resources to hire a lawyer and press their claims through civil courts.


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Progress on Computing in Schools: 2 Countries, 2 States
Blog @ CACM, May 21

The movement to bring innovative new computer science curricula into schools, at both the secondary and primary school levels, is starting to take off, both nationally and internationally. In April, Informatics Europe and ACM Europe released a joint report calling for more computing in secondary schools. Then, in May, the state of Washington became the 10th state to count computer science towards high school graduation requirements. Based on insider observations from computer science events both in the U.S. and Europe, the article looks at lessons learned from different steps to bring computer science offerings to primary and secondary schools around the world.

It's easier to have a curriculum element in place and then improve it, than to convince others that computer science should be squeezed in. If there’s already an "ICT" (Information and Communications Technologies) in the curriculum, then it’s easier to decide how to make it better. In some states, such as Maryland, they have to make the difficult argument that CS should be fit into an over-packed curriculum. Industry voices matter: the spark towards computing in schools in the UK can be attributed to Eric Schmidt of Google making critical comments about ICT on a visit in 2011.


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Giving Students Real-World Experience via Virtual-Reality Learning
eLearn Magazine, May 2013

In the future, more academic programs may experiment with virtual reality learning as a way to give students the types of real-world experiences that are not possible in the classroom. One example comes from Chicago-based Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, which launched a new Immersion MBA program (iMBA) in 2012. The program combines an immersive virtual-reality learning experience with personal faculty guidance, career mentoring, real-world application projects and online peer-to-peer collaboration. After outlining how and why LFGSM created its iMBA program, the article focuses on key insights that other learning professionals and institutions might consider when working to create their own online education offerings.

For LFGSM, the decision to offer the immersive version of the MBA was intended to meet the needs of individuals who can't commit to a full-time MBA program or are too young to enter a traditional part-time executive MBA program. Thanks to innovations in online education technology, LFGSM was able to meet the needs of this set of students. The iMBA program includes a number of features that differentiate it from other MBA programs, such as scenario-based learning, guidance from real-world practitioners on the faculty, and an online discussion community. The virtual-reality element is central to the school's objective: To help students rapidly gain the business "street smarts" that will help enhance not only their MBA experience, but also their ability to apply new skills in the future.


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