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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, March 2, 2010

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 6, Issue 5, March 2, 2010




Intel Chief Otellini Unveils $3.5 Billion Jobs Initiative
Datamation, February 23

Intel recently announced an ambitious private sector job-creation initiative that includes a commitment from more than a dozen leading IT firms to ramp up hiring. Intel CEO Paul Otellini described the job-creation initiative as an investment in sectors of the economy poised for rapid growth, such as IT, clean energy and biotechnology. The effort, which combines VC investment in start-ups with increased hiring of IT workers, aims to complement the current efforts underway in the federal government to stimulate the economy and create jobs.

Under the framework of the Invest in America Alliance, Intel's global investment arm, Intel Capital, is partnering with 24 VC firms committed to investing $3.5 billion over the next two years in technology startups. Of that total, Intel plans to contribute $200 million. Additionally, Intel has secured commitments from 16 other leading tech firms to accelerate their hiring of recent college graduates. Many of the firms on board, which include Dell, Microsoft, Cisco and Google, plan to more than double their hiring rates for new entrants into the workforce in a push that Otellini said would create more than 10,500 jobs this year.


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For IT Jobs, an Untapped Vein of Talent
Network World, February 24

In an effort to replenish their pipeline of entry-level staff workers, companies are tapping into a previously invisible source of talent: untrained workers between the ages of 18 and 25 who have little in the way of formal education and are living below the poverty line. Matching the most promising of these young people with IT training and internships solves two problems: it meets the pressing need for new technology workers and provides an opportunity for people to emerge from poverty. The article highlights the efforts of progressive CIOs who have been working closely with nonprofits to recruit candidates to train for IT careers.

Underprivileged young workers are eager to parlay training and internships into full-time opportunities. In some cases, managers are so impressed with the aptitude of participants that they quickly expand their duties. After explaining how the programs work, the article highlights what participants can expect to learn beyond IT skills, such as how to work in a team and how to observe workplace norms. Teaching potential IT employees these skills so that they can do largely unglamorous entry-level jobs is part of the appeal nonprofit training programs have for CIOs. Moreover, these potential IT employees are less expensive to recruit and can be remunerated more in experience and contacts, less in salary.


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Landing Your Dream Job
Business Week, February 19

Martin Zalewski, an executive education expert at London Business School, weighs in with some practical career advice for mid-career executives. As Zalewski points out, the key step in landing your dream job is creating an annual “growth playbook” for your career. Create a plan, revisit it at least twice a year to make sure you are on track, and stick to it. By testing and fine-tuning this plan, you will be able to think strategically and tactically about how you will achieve certain career goals. After thinking about where you are today and what you hope to achieve, you can map out the specific steps for hitting those targets.

The first step to landing your dream job is preparing your own annual growth playbook, similar to what companies prepare as part of their annual strategy planning process. Prepared at the start of each year, the playbook creates a framework for thinking strategically about where you should be at a particular point in the future and what hitting those targets would require. This planning process should encompass where you are today, what you are capable of achieving, where you want to be and how you are going to get there. If nothing else, the playbook will help you avoid falling victim to complacency and help you sustain optimum performance.


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Want a Job? Get a Computer Science Degree
CIO.com, February 22

The top U.S. computer science programs are seeing rising enrollment and applications as more college students decide that their job prospects are better and starting salaries higher if they have a computer-related degree. Enrollment in computer science and engineering courses is up significantly this year among students pursuing computer science majors as well as those studying other subjects, such as science or business. With help from the government, which has made it clear that computer science is a growth field, corporate recruitment of top computer science grads has remained steady throughout the economic downturn. The financial services sector is hiring computer science students, as are defense, software development, computer networking and healthcare companies.

The message about solid job prospects and high starting salaries for computer science majors is resonating with college students and their parents. At some universities, the number of students declaring themselves as computer science majors is up 40% from last year. Especially in these challenging economic times, students consider computer science a safer choice. Students realize that having some computing skills will be useful in other fields. The interest in computer science courses is especially strong among students pursuing science-related majors, such as biology or chemistry. In some cases, computer science is emerging as the discipline of choice for students who once may have pursued jobs in business.


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Tech Industry Searching for Girls Gone Geek
MSNBC, February 21

In the wake of Mattel’s announcement of a new computer engineer Barbie, technology experts have been buzzing with ways to entice more women into computer science careers. The Barbie announcement points to a key issue today when it comes to women and professions in science and technology. There is a need for more females in the STEM professions (science, technology, engineering and math), yet fewer and fewer young women seem to be gravitating to such jobs. With that in mind, the article takes a closer look at how companies and educators are trying to overcome the “geek factor” in making tech careers attractive for women.

Even after showing some initial interest, some young women never pursue a career in computer science because of negative perceptions. Complicating matters, some parents do nothing to dissuade this mentality. The problem is one of reputation: scientists of all sorts suffer from negative perceptions, especially on TV, which tends to rely on stereotypes to portray scientists. Indeed, only about 17% of girls take advanced placement tests in computer science while in high school, the lowest level of females among all such exams, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology. In 2008, women earned only 18% of computer science degrees, compared to 37% in 1985.


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Internal Hires, Referrals Were Most Hired in 2009
Career Journal, February 19

According to a new study by CareerXroads, last year employers filled more than half of job openings with existing employees. Internal transfers and promotions accounted for an average of 51% of all full-time positions filled in 2009, up from 39% in 2008 and 34% in 2007. For the 49% of jobs that were filled with external recruits, referrals accounted for the most hires (27%) - about the same number as in 2008. In addition, company Web sites and job boards accounted for 22% and 13% of external hires, respectively.

Networking continues to be the most effective strategy for landing employment. Job seekers should use job board and corporate sites to find information about openings, but they should use their network to apply. Among the job boards, CareerBuilder.com came out on top, accounting for 42% of external hires, while Monster.com resulted in another 12%. Job board aggregation sites, which advertise openings from multiple job boards, added another 10%. Classifieds provider Craigslist.org accounted for 2.8% of external hires. Job boards that specialize in advertising open positions in specific categories also fared well. For example, Dice.com, a job board for the technology sector, netted 0.8% of external hires.


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Developing a Personal Brand for Your Job Search
CIO.com, February 23

Creating a personal brand and then putting it to work in the job search can lead to new career opportunities. Kim Seltzer, a 25-year IT veteran who was forced to reinvent herself after being laid off from her job, demonstrates how to build a personal brand from scratch and then put it to work. Personal branding can be an effective way for job seekers to stand out in the current marketplace. Personal branding provides job seekers with a process for identifying their unique value and the types of employers to which they'd be best suited. It helps them run more effective and targeted job searches, and it can help them tap into the "hidden job market" more easily.

The first part of a personal branding process requires you to focus on your career and life goals and to articulate your values and passions. If you don't know what your goals are, you will not know where to point your brand. It’s best to identify short- and long-term goals that align with your values and personal and professional interests. Once your goals are clarified, you can focus specifically on your personal brand. Consider your strengths and what makes you unique and then find out how others perceive you. At the end of the day, good branding is externally focused. Your brand is held in the hearts and minds of those around you. When you market yourself for a new position, you need to market yourself the way you are seen.


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Your IT Career: Talk Your Way into a Raise, Even Now
Computerworld, February 23

While pay for IT employees has been flat for a few years now and nearly one-half of IT staffers expected to see no bump in pay in 2010, there are still ways to talk your way into a raise. Even when salary freezes are in effect, good employees can always get salary increases. IT staffers who want a raise despite tough times need to build a strong business case and then execute the right strategy. The article walks through the basic steps of asking for, and then receiving, a raise.

From the moment you take a job, know what you must do to earn raises and promotions. Have a clear job description, and make sure you and your supervisor agree on what it means to be successful in your position. Ask for extra assignments and find ways to help your boss solve whatever problems he or she is facing. Also, benchmark your salary. Even when salaries are stagnant, your pay should be on par with that of other professionals in your region and field of expertise. Look at surveys and job postings to calculate the salary range for your position in your region. Discreetly ask co-workers and colleagues in your professional network what they're hearing about the average salaries and raises for your type of position. All this will help you understand what you should be earning and how big a raise you can expect.


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Clay Shirky: Doing work, or Doing Work?
Blog @ CACM, February 8

In a keynote delivered to this year's ACM conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), author and academic Clay Shirky outlined the distinction between work and Work. Work (with a capital W) is the traditional notion of what a job entails: your boss tells you to do something, you do it, and you get paid. In contrast, work (with a lower-case w) is motivated by inherent interest and generally unpaid. Big Work drives the economy; little work drives the Internet. Big Work builds skyscrapers; little work generates a half million fan-fiction stories about Harry Potter.

Companies must continually ask themselves: What are the tasks in the workplace that workers actually want to do? Clay Shirky argues that the techniques and benchmarks developed over the past 25 years for Work (capital W) no longer apply for work (lower-case w). We shouldn't be asking, "Can you complete the task?" but rather "Are you motivated to do it in the first place?" Especially within the technology space, work needs to understand users' underlying motivations.


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Social Change: Women, Networks, and Technology
Interactions Magazine, January/February 2010

In 2009, only 11.8% of computer science bachelor’s degrees were awarded to women, but that could change as more women embrace social media and social networking. Women, particularly older women, are some of the fastest growing groups in many social networks. The surge in women’s participation in content creation in the social media space is interesting not just for its cultural implications, but also for what it means from a professional perspective, especially when considering young girls and women. Social media involvement could lead to the acquisition of critical coding and programming skills young girls need in their technical careers.

According to surveys and statistics, girls possess superior communication skills, whether it is in-person communication, cell phone use, instant messaging or journal writing. As a result, girls think of social media as simply new tools for broadcasting and publishing. In the social media space, girls are extremely active on blogs and in social networks. For example, 66% of girls have a social networking profile compared with 50% of boys, and 34% percent of girls keep an online journal or blog, compared with 20% of boys. Teenage girls have embraced the Internet and transferred these skills to social media at a time when the technology itself is going through radical changes. In fact, the convergence of the social Web with open-source development has enabled an entire generation of girls to make the leap from content creation to coding.


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