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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, June 19, 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 12, June 19, 2012




How to Prepare for the Coming IT Skills Revolution
Computerworld, June 4

As the result of a persistent skills gap within the IT industry, employers are desperate to find people with expertise in emerging areas like mobile app development, cloud computing and business analytics. At the same time, employees, exhausted from staff reductions and increased workloads, wonder what more they must do to keep current. This skills gap could widen over the next five years, as more and more companies outsource IT operations to service providers or move traditional IT jobs to other business units. Against this backdrop of rapid change, the article considers the true extent of the current skills gap and the size of the looming IT exodus, summarizes the advantages of being an IT generalist in today’s environment and describes how IT employees can prepare for lifelong learning.

Most experts agree that there is a clear gap between the talent that employers are seeking and the talent that's available. It's very difficult to find people who have deep skills in security on mobile devices, infrastructure, network security, advanced persistent threats or mainframe skills. People who have those skills are becoming a smaller percentage of the overall population. The debate is whether there is a gap in deep technical skills, or the types of strategic skills related to business analysis, relationships and understanding the value of IT to the organization. At the same time, companies are getting leaner and leaner. Starting in 2008, they downsized and streamlined, and they haven't replaced those positions. If you're the hiring director of one of these very lean teams, you want only A+ workers. In the past, someone could get away with being a solid middle-of-the-road employee.


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Skills for the CIO Class of 2015
CIO.com, May 30

By 2015, the successful Fortune 500 CIO will need a mix of technical, management and leadership skills that draw on experiences both inside and outside the organization. With that in mind, Peter High, author of World Class IT: Why Businesses Succeed When IT Triumphs, weighs in on the most important skills and qualifications for future CIO candidates. As a baseline, the aspiring CIO should have an undergraduate degree in engineering or computer science as well as significant experience managing the IT function. The future CIO should also have a mix of soft skills, such as team leadership skills and experience managing the natural ebbs and flows of a business cycle.

Core technical skills should also be complemented with other skills. For example, future CIO candidates should have vendor management experience, with at least some knowledge of how to develop outsourcing contracts. They should also have a solid understanding of development lifecycles, project management and managing both internal and external resources. They should have financial expertise, from understanding the ROI on technology investments to knowing how amortization schedules change with cloud computing. As well, they should have team leadership skills, including the ability to surround yourself with people smarter than you are.


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Is There Reason for Optimism for Women in Technology?
Women in Technology (U.K.), June 12

Within the global technology industry, men are still more likely than women to become CEO or become a member of the board of directors. However, there could be cause for optimism that times are changing as the industry opens itself up to women. Technology start-ups and angel investors are helping to promote gender equality in Silicon Valley, and that’s leading to new types of companies and business models. By some estimates, women already dominate the digital economy, led by a growing number of young female technology founders who are taking advantage of an emerging market opportunity in the Internet economy for women.

Since women control nearly 70% of global online purchases, there is now a need for more commerce websites that specifically target women. That places greater pressure on companies to hire skilled female software engineers to develop products that attract female visitors. Female users, too, are the unsung heroines behind the most engaging, fastest-growing and most valuable consumer Internet and e-commerce companies. A poll by Women 2.0, a resource for aspiring businesswomen in the US, suggests that the number of women starting up their own technology companies has doubled in the past three years. Female role models are helping to fuel this trend, inspiring other women to have technology careers and raise a family.


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Finding a Job That’s Just Right for You
U.S. News, June 6

While each job seeker is different, many still overlook a very important step: identifying the job that is the right fit for their skills and experiences. In order to avoid this mistake, today's job seekers need to energize their search for a job in creative ways. Employers want to be assured that the candidate fits within their company and culture. At the same time, you want to be sure you will work in the right environment. The article offers a variety of suggestions for job seekers who want to be sure to land a position that may become their true calling, including an experimental “try before you buy” approach.

First, know what you want and be loyal to your own interests. If you know what you want, are able to express yourself and your unique talents, and you understand how your skills fit into your target employer's needs, your search will be much more successful. Take the time to go through all of your work-related abilities and talents and ascertain the level of skill and talent you have. Determine how motivated you are to use each of these abilities and skills. Match your findings against what would make you happy and fulfilled every day in a career. Secondly, identify the right type of employer. Remember, even if several jobs require similar skills, the type of organization where you work will make all the difference. For example, you may want to use your strong writing skills or work in a fast-paced environment. Identify your passions and skill sets and match them with potential jobs. Don't forget to find and connect with people who work at your target organizations via social media tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+.


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The Office Is Shrinking as Tech Creates Workplace Everywhere
USA Today, June 5

As more companies stress collaborative, team-oriented work environments and smaller but smarter offices as a way to cut costs in a difficult economy, they are reducing the amount of office space available for each worker. In some cases, they are even designing entirely new types of workspaces to accommodate the needs of flexible workers. A number of factors are responsible for this change: powerful networking technologies, the popularity of green sustainability initiatives, an increase in telecommuting and a generation of workers who grew up with smart phones and laptops. The article considers the various reasons why both younger workers and employers welcome these changes as part of the future of work.

The move back to cities and to urbanized suburbs close to city centers is a key factor fueling this trend. Space in developed areas is more expensive and harder to find, but that's where younger workers want to be. Cities around the world are competing to become creative digital lifestyle centers. Young workers are into culture, parks, working closer to home, having dogs in the office. By being located near urban services, companies are saving space. Not as many workers drive, so fewer parking spaces are needed, and eateries and fitness clubs are nearby, so there's no need for a large cafeteria or on-site health club. As the trend picks up momentum, it could help lead to a rebirth in some of America’s older cities.


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What Professions Are Going Remote the Fastest?
GigaOm (Web Worker Daily), June 4

The most dramatic increases in teleworking are occurring in computer-related positions and other jobs that depend on remote access to technical systems. For example, 6.1% of computer software developers now work remotely, a 127% increase over the past decade. Moreover, the profile of the average teleworker is changing. In 2000, employees of non-profit organizations were most likely to telework; by 2010, the for-profit sector had taken the lead. Steady technical refinement has made teleworking an increasingly attractive proposition for both employees and employers, as long as organizations have a framework for identifying and training eligible employees, backed by appropriate policy and support, effective management oversight, and timely reporting.

Based on survey results, teleworkers cite a number of obvious lifestyle benefits. Based from home, they gain the flexibility to adjust their schedules as job and personal demands arise. Likewise, teleworkers often note improved performance and higher productivity, with the ability to focus on work priorities free of the stress of distractions and office politics. However, this very autonomy can have distinct drawbacks. Teleworkers may feel cut-off from their colleagues and weakened in their ability to influence both day-to-day decisions and larger strategic plans. They often lack sufficient professional and administrative support and fear that being “out of sight, out of mind” keeps them from being properly recognized and rewarded by management. Finally, they may face difficulties setting boundaries between home and work time, setting the stage for potential overwork and burnout.


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Five Things to Consider Before Applying for a Job
Mashable, June 9

While your technical skills and experiences lend themselves to certain types of jobs, they aren’t the only things you should consider when applying for a new position. Your satisfaction in a new job goes beyond simply being able to utilize your skills each day. You also need to consider who you’ll be working with, what the company is like and whether you’ll be happy in the job, should you land it. The article runs through several key aspects of a new job you need to consider before applying, such as the type of management style within the work environment, the overall corporate culture, the company’s stability, and the overall work-life balance.

Everyone thrives in a different type of work environment, and much of that environment is about how you’re managed on a day-to-day basis. Do you need a manager who allows you to work independently? Or do you prefer someone checking in with you on a daily basis? If you’ll be working remotely most of the time, are you able to successfully self-manage? The second major factor is corporate culture. What is the office environment like? What values are important to the company? Do you agree with them? How do they affect the day-to-day environment at the organization? You can investigate these aspects of an organization by visiting its website or social media sites.


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Recognizing the Most Influential Women in UK IT
Computer Weekly, June 7

Computer Weekly has launched a new program to recognize the 25 most influential women in IT within the UK. The initiative builds on the success of the UKtech50 awards, which highlight the most influential individuals within the UK tech sector. In the previous year, however, only seven of these 50 individuals were women, a lackluster percentage that shows how under-represented women are within the IT profession. The problem is even greater at senior levels: a recent CIO survey found just 7% of its respondents from the upper echelons of the profession were female. The new awards for women in IT aim to focus on role models and create discussion around the vital role that female IT leaders will play in making a difference to the future of IT.

The list of the 25 most influential women in UK IT, selected by a judging panel of employers and IT leaders from across the industry, will be announced in London on July 12. Readers will also be able to vote for their choice of the most influential woman in IT through an online vote. The launch of Computer Weekly’s 25 most influential women in UK IT initiative is one step closer to achieving a gender balance within the IT and technology sectors. Experts agree that it is imperative that we do what we can to increase the number and raise the status of women in the tech community and to challenge the mindsets of women considering a career in IT.


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How to Be an Entrepredemic
XRDS Crossroads, June 2012

It is no longer the case that you have to choose between being either an academic or an entrepreneur. On one hand, academic research has become a highly entrepreneurial enterprise where big intellectual risks are taken to reach even greater societal benefits. On the other hand, startups work with financial benefits, but the actual mechanics are largely identical: You rise or fall on the combined strength of your ideas and your ability to realize them. The concept of the “entrepredemic,” which emphasizes the shared traits of the academic and entrepreneur, summarizes this shared dynamic.

The real choice is not between “academic” and “entrepreneur,” but between the world of the “entrepredemic” and the corporate world. The corporate world is substantially safer, but can also be extremely demotivating. Your choice will depend almost exclusively on your risk tolerance or risk aversion. For those with entrepredemic tendencies, a second-tier choice emerges: Where should I take up residence, at a startup or a university? Most people overestimate this distinction. The best academics behave like entrepreneurs and the best entrepreneurs behave like academics. Despite the similarities, the ultimate outcomes are different. No matter how similar the entrepredemic world is, ultimately, you will have to make a choice: Stay in academics, or venture out into startup-land. Some people make this choice prematurely, electing to drop out of the university to pursue a startup idea.


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What MIT Should Have Done With Its Courses
eLearn Magazine, June 2012

MIT’s successful launch of its MITx online education initiative, which attracted nearly 120,000 registrants in March, is part of a broader disruption of higher education. MITx has given anyone, anywhere, the chance to learn from a world-renowned professor at one of the top universities in the world and receive a certificate of achievement for so doing. Yet, in order to drive a true revolution in online education, these courses from MIT must take a more innovative approach not only to the type of coursework offered, but also to the delivery models of instructional information, the variability in learning styles and the unique ability to deliver learning anytime and anywhere.

As the article points out, MITx and similar online educational initiatives are still delivering a Learning 1.0 product in a Web 2.0 world. They have replicated all of the problems of the traditional model of lecture-based teaching and testing that has minimal linkage to student outcomes. Consider, for example, the 8% retention rate, calculated as the difference between the number of students who registered for the course and those that ended up taking the final exam. So long as online courses continue to be teaching-focused rather than learning-centered, it will be difficult to generate a transformation in online learning. The early success of MITx hints at the future opportunity to create a never-tiring, self-regulating, self-improving system that supports learning through formative on-demand feedback.


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