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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, March 10, 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 5, March 10, 2009




Silicon Valley Jobs Dip, Green Tech Grows
CNET Green Tech, February 17

Green tech jobs are providing a positive boost to Silicon Valley's future employment outlook, according to a recently released economic report. In fact, green tech jobs have grown 23% from 2005 to 2007, as venture capital investments in the sector have soared. Last year alone, venture capital investments in Valley clean-tech companies increased 94% compared to the previous year. Within the green tech sector, jobs involving energy generation accounted for the largest component.

Until the final quarter of 2008, Silicon Valley seemed to be weathering the global financial crisis and economic recession better than the rest of the nation. This is no longer the case. Since November, the region has experienced a spike in job losses. That’s the bad news. The good news is that, in the two-year period from 2005 to 2007, jobs involving green buildings climbed 424%, jobs involving green transportation rose 140%, and jobs involving advanced materials increased 54%.


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IT Layoffs: Not as Many as You Think
CIO.com (via InfoWorld), February 11

While a number of high-profile technology companies have recently announced layoffs, the situation may not be as dire as one assumes. The numbers reported by tech industry leaders do not always reflect actual people losing their jobs. Rather, they reflect planned future cutbacks and eliminations of some vacant positions. IT executives have been relatively conservative in their IT spending growth, so when the economy took a downturn last year, they did not have to cut as much as expected. In fact, despite the downbeat economic prognosis, some experts still project that 2009 will bring salary increases for certain IT skills.

As the economic outlook continues to deteriorate, IT vendors are taking necessary action to protect themselves against what they assume will be a weak market in 2009. As a result, January saw a raft of layoff plans from high-profile vendors like no other in the portion of the tech industry that supplies business IT. Even companies that recently reported positive earnings have confirmed layoffs. In January alone, just from the major tech vendors, as many as 35,600 jobs were lost, not counting the thousands of rumored layoffs elsewhere.


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Becoming an IT Consultant: Do's, Don'ts and Disasters to Avoid
Computerworld, February 19

A group of former CIOs and other senior IT professionals weigh in with advice and practical suggestions for becoming a successful independent consultant. They discuss what it takes to strike out on your own, where to find clients, whether or not you should specialize, and how to stand out from a crowded field of other would-be consultants. To make the transition to consultant, they suggest finding a niche where you can quickly gain a reputation as a specialist and then actively networking with industry contacts to line up new client work.

Whatever your depth and breadth of experience, simply switching your title and business card to "IT consultant" isn't likely to land you a single client. Specialization is absolutely critical, according to successful CIOs-turned-consultants. It's important to specialize, and you should lead with those two or three things that you are best at. If you specialize in everything, people won't know who you are. In addition to specializing, would-be consultants need to frame their services in the context of real-world needs and particular problems faced by organizations.


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Smart Recruiting Through Social Networks
Network World, February 23

Online social networks are growing in importance as a way to recruit top talent. In order to make their company attractive to the best and the brightest, employers are experimenting with social networking tools in new ways. In fact, employers who fail to use social networking sites in recruiting initiatives miss out on an opportunity to target a specific demographic. The findings reflect the new job search reality, in which job candidates looking for work turn to the Internet first rather than looking in local newspapers.

Social networking sites differ widely in terms of their capabilities and audience. Thus, a company’s recruiting needs should determine which ones to focus on. For instance, from an IT perspective, MySpace may not be the ideal location to look for new hires, as its audience is very young. Some companies use Second Life, but Facebook and LinkedIn are more popular. Employers can use social networking sites to target who they want to apply for a role, especially for positions that attract younger prospective employees. More than 70% of undergraduate students and IT professionals in North America maintain a social networking profile, partly to track potential job opportunities and extend their professional network.


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Why Skilled Immigrants Are Leaving the U.S.
Business Week, March 2

Based on a study of Indian and Chinese immigrants in the IT sector, Vivek Wadhwa suggests that highly skilled immigrant workers are returning home for brighter career prospects and a better quality of life. As Wadhwa points out, if we don't want the immigrants who have fueled our innovation and economic growth to leave, the U.S. must provide them with the types of options and opportunities they are finding elsewhere. The article discusses the reasons why immigrants are returning home to India and China and highlights why these immigrants are critical to the long-term growth of the U.S. economy.

Based on a survey of 1,203 Indian and Chinese immigrants who had worked or received education in the U.S. and had returned to their home countries, it appears that many of these immigrants are young, well-educated and eager to succeed. In many ways, America’s loss is the world’s gain. The average age was 30 for Indian returnees, and 33 for Chinese. They were highly educated, with degrees in management, technology, or science. 51% of the Chinese held master's degrees and 41% had PhDs. 66% of the Indians held a master's and 12.1% had PhDs. They were at very top of the educational distribution for these highly educated immigrant groups, precisely the kind of people who make the greatest contribution to the U.S. economy and to business and job growth.


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Clash of the Generations: IT Vets and Fresh Talent Scramble For the Same Jobs
Computerworld, February 16

The current economic environment is leading to a situation in which experienced technology professionals and recently-minted graduates are competing for the same IT jobs. Older professionals with decades of experience in the industry are finding that they are suddenly out of step with cutting-edge IT, while younger graduates are finding that they lack the business savvy of their older counterparts. Recruiters are grappling with the fact that aging baby boomers and fresh-faced millennials are two distinct generations with differing work styles, conflicting cultures and different skill sets. Deciding whom to hire for certain positions is as much about technical expertise and business acumen as it is cultural preferences and career expectations.

A weakened economy has changed the dynamic between Baby Boomer and Millennial workers. As a growing number of U.S. workers age 50 or older look for work elsewhere, they are coming into competition with much younger candidates. As Boomers struggle to reinvent their careers and Millennials flood the workforce, IT managers are having to re-think what it means to be an IT professional and to weigh the relative value of traditional and new skills. A Millennial is more likely to communicate via Web 2.0 tools such as wikis and social networking sites, while boomers prefer conference calls, e-mails and traditional technologies.


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In Silicon Valley, Recruiters Are Sending Out Their Own Résumés
New York Times, February 24

Anecdotal evidence suggest that the same Silicon Valley technology recruiters who are experts on résumé preparation, personal presentation and interview skills, and using social networks are finding it increasingly difficult to find new positions. At networking events they once used to find job opportunities for their clients, recruiters are instead re-connecting with unemployed colleagues. Interviews with more than two dozen recruiters suggest that the recession has slammed the profession particularly hard. Scores of recruiters have been let go in recent months and new positions are virtually nonexistent. At the same time, rates paid to recruiters, many of whom work as contractors, have fallen by about 50%.

Even tech companies that had been impervious to other economic downturns are now making recession-related job cuts that impact recruiters. Since most recruiters in Silicon Valley work as contractors, they typically lose their jobs with little fanfare: there is no layoff announcement, just a contract that ends and is not renewed. And as contractors, many recruiters who find themselves jobless cannot collect unemployment. While recruiters have never been the elite of Silicon Valley, they have long played a vital role as foot soldiers in the Valley’s famous talent wars.


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Tech Workers Consider Their Options
CIO.com (via InfoWorld), February 25

IT professionals dealing with a rapidly-changing hiring environment need to reinvent themselves in order to remain competitive. Tech workers need to find new skills that might make them less expendable at their next job, or exploit opportunities for consulting work to help companies fill the gaps caused by layoffs. While focusing on the types of business and technology skills that can make workers more valuable to employers, the article considers the debate over issues like IT outsourcing, H-1B visas and the role of government in protecting U.S. workers from job losses.

The debate over offshore outsourcing and cheap foreign labor continues to roil the technology industry. Veteran IT workers, even those with multiple degrees and certifications, can become the victim of downsizing. To survive, they must discover and learn new business and technology skills. Offshoring and outsourcing are here to stay, and thus tech workers wanting to stay in this career need to find ways to make themselves non-outsourceable. A majority of technical skills are now easily commoditized and able to be shipped elsewhere, meaning that the day of the IT expert is a thing of the past. Business skills coupled with technical ones can guard against offshoring, outsourcing and even H-1B competition.


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How to Inspire, Recruit, and Retain Women for Computer Science Careers
AScribe Newswire (via Trading Markets), February 19

While women's representation in computer science has improved in some sectors, it is still far short of equal. In its cover story, the February 2009 issue of Communications of the ACM assesses the progress of women in the field over the last 15 years. In addition, the article presents successful strategies and promising initiatives to increase women's participation.

Computing professionals should be concerned that women and other groups are underrepresented in the field. After all, diversity within the computing field often leads to enhanced capabilities to perform tasks, greater creativity, and better decisions and outcomes. The article cites recent data that paints a decidedly mixed picture of progress for women graduates, undergraduates, professors and practitioners in computing. The authors provide an extensive list of initiatives that have shown success in overcoming the challenges to greater representation of women and minorities in the computing field.


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USACM Says Innovations in Computing Drive Economic Growth and Competitiveness
ACM Press Room, February 18

As Congress voted to approve the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, ACM’s Public Policy Committee (USACM) hailed the measure’s renewed commitment to science and technology innovation as a key driver of economic growth in the United States. USACM commended Congress’s intent to transform the economy with expanded investments in basic research and development for several key federal agencies and departments, and pointed to computer science as uniquely positioned to spur economic recovery. As USACM pointed out, the computing field has a long history of creating revolutionary technologies that have helped drive U.S. leadership in the world economy.

According to the USACM, innovation is the key to long-term economic security and strong technology leadership. Forward-thinking investments in science and engineering research, as well as in math and science education, will create a stronger, more resilient economy and a more highly skilled workforce. By investing in scientific research facilities, the U.S. will be able to create new jobs while also expanding the horizons of a whole generation of young scientists and engineers. USACM pointed to increased investment for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as recipients of funding that will directly support innovation.


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