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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, May 20, 2008

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 4, Issue 10, May 20, 2008




Hottest IT Job Market: Virtualization
Datamation, May 14

Despite signs of a possible economic recession on the horizon, certain segments of the technology industry are experiencing increased demand for certain IT skills. For example, on IT job sites such as Dice.com, job openings calling for virtualization skills have increased dramatically over just the past six months as more companies begin deploying this emerging technology. As companies become more familiar with virtualization technology, and as larger technology companies enter the market with new offerings, the need for virtualization skills will grow over time. The article also takes a look at other high demand IT skills and surveys the key geographical areas where demand for these IT skills are highest.

According to some forecasts, the global virtualization market will become an $11.7 billion market by 2011, including hardware, software, consulting and training. This rapid growth will create a full range of IT jobs related to the virtualization trend. While there are only 1,500 virtualization-related jobs currently posted on Dice.com, this figure is 40% higher than just six months ago. Most of these jobs call for VMware experience, but tech companies such as Microsoft and Citrix are slated to launch new virtualization products soon. According to a recent poll by Dice.com, 61% of organizations have at least begun the process of virtualization, and another 10% plan to launch new virtualization initiatives within the next 12 months.


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Revenge of the Gamers: World of Warcraft is Honing Tomorrow's Leaders
Computerworld (via Harvard Business Review), May 12

Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) such as World of Warcraft, Eve and EverQuest may play an important role in the education of tomorrow’s business leaders. According to emerging academic research from Stanford, these games closely mirror the needs of the business world in the form of distributed decision-making, rapid response, risk assessment, and leadership through collaboration rather than authority. As a result, a number of high-tech companies are taking a closer look at how to integrate elements of these role-playing games into real-world business training sessions.

Companies have already commissioned studies to analyze collaboration and leadership in these massively multi-player online role-playing games. Realizing that many young people may have experience playing these games, companies are attempting to figure out what factors are shaping the next generation of workers and contributing to their expectations for software within the workplace. The studies found that leadership within these games has less to do with the special qualities of the person doing the leading and more with the environment itself. By learning more about leadership within games, organizations hope to learn more about productivity and worker loyalty.


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Indian Workers Don't Want U.S. Jobs, Survey Reports
Network World, May 7

The current generation of Indian IT workers would rather work in India than relocate to the U.S. or other foreign countries, according to a recent survey of graduates of Indian Institutes of Technology. Since 2001, there has been a significant drop in the percentage of Indian citizens who opted to leave the country for education or work. For example, among those high-tech workers that graduated between 1964 and 2001, 35% moved to countries other than India. Among those graduating between 2002 and 2007, only 16% decided to pursue opportunities elsewhere. With this as a backdrop, the article takes a closer look at the reasons why Indian nationals are choosing to remain in India, and the consequences of this decision on the controversy surrounding the U.S. H-1B visa program.

One key factor is that fewer recent Indian IT graduates believe other countries such as the United States provide greater opportunities for career growth than India. 60% of those graduating between 1964 and 2001 said they thought the United States and other developed countries provided better education and career opportunities. However, that percentage dropped to 51% for recent graduates. In general, Indian IT workers believe they can succeed best in their own country, particularly over the next 10 years. 72% indicated that India held the most promise for success over that time period, with only 17% mentioning the U.S. and 5% Europe.


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The Power of Peer Referrals
Web Worker Daily, May 12

For freelance IT workers, peer referrals may represent an untapped source of work leads, especially when these industry peers are already well-established and can refer you to potential clients with whom they have strong relationships. If handled properly, any work they don’t have time to do can be directed to you instead. After explaining the three key steps in getting peers to refer you, the article goes into greater detail on why peer recommendations can be such a powerful stimulus to future job success.

There are three steps to get peers to refer you to potential clients. Peers need to know who you are, they need to know what your specialty is and they need to know that you’re good at what you do. One way to introduce yourself to peers is by joining relevant industry mailing lists and forums and contributing to discussions. You can also attend industry events so that you are top of mind the next time a work opportunity comes up. Since you are competing with hundreds of other freelancers, you need to establish yourself as an expert in a particular niche. If you promote yourself as the go-to person for a particular type of work, you’ll have a better chance of getting that referral.


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How to Identify Employee-Friendly Companies During Your Job Search
CIO.com, May 6

Most IT employees aspire to work for a company or organization that values their human capital as their most important asset. A prospective employer's attitude toward its employees can make all the difference in whether you decide to work there as well as the future trajectory of your career. With that in mind, the article takes a closer look at the characteristics of human capital-centric companies and the specific benefits to employees of participative management and decision-making structures at organizations that place a high value on the professional development of their employees.

Edward Lawler, a business school professor at USC, has outlined the key characteristics of human capital-centric companies and organizations that derive their competitive advantage from their employees. These companies are committed to attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining top quality talent, making them great places to work. As Lawler points out, there are two types of human capital-centric organizations: high involvement ones, which are characterized by their participative management and decision making structures and their commitment to their employees' professional development, and global competitors, which offer challenging work at high salaries in return for little in the way of job security.


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My Virtual Summer Job
Wall Street Journal, May 16

With many companies cutting back on traditional summer internships, a growing number of teenagers with strong computer science backgrounds are pursuing lucrative part-time opportunities in Web fantasy worlds, where they buy and sell virtual items in exchange for real money. Tech-savvy young gamers are honing their computer skills to capitalize on growing demand for virtual goods and services by taking on assignments as online fashion designers, architects and real-estate developers in online worlds such as Second Life. For young entrepreneurs, these online worlds offer tremendous opportunity and a real-world application of their computing skills.

In the real world, summer jobs are in short supply. Only about a third of teenagers are expected to work this summer, the lowest levels in 60 years, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. Summer youth employment has fallen from about 45% of teens in 2000, a downward trend that has been exacerbated by the threat of recession. But money-making opportunities in virtual worlds have grown as such sites go mainstream.


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You Have to Make Them Love Their Jobs
Business Week, April 22

Management guru and best-selling author Marshall Goldsmith provides a number of tips for effectively leading and engaging knowledge workers. According to Goldsmith, managers hoping to coax peak performance from their workers need to encourage their passion, provide opportunities for them to update and refine their skills, help to build their networks and support their efforts to have a meaningful, rewarding career. By following each of these ideas, managers can boost job satisfaction rates, maximize productivity, and create a rewarding and challenging work environment.

The leaders of the future need to encourage the passions and interests of their professional employees. With the elongation of the traditional work week, professionals need to love their work and look forward to going to work in the morning. Leaders also need to lead by example and demonstrate the same passion in their workers. Leaders should also take steps to update and refine the skills needed for a global competitive economy. Finally, leaders need to respect the time of their workers. As professionals have less disposable time, the value of their time increases.


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Older Staffers Get Uneasy Embrace
Wall Street Journal, May 15

With many older Americans working longer before retirement, companies must adjust their expectations for a graying workforce. Approximately 60% of men between 60 and 64 are in the labor force, and 20% of men over 65, up from 55% and 17%, respectively, a decade ago. In a best case scenario for organizations, a slowing in the rate of growth in young workers will be matched by an acceleration in the rate of growth in older workers. However, the reality could be different, say economists, especially if employers find alternatives to aging Baby Boomers. The article looks at the key issues surrounding an aging workforce, focusing on the forward-looking companies that are actively recruiting older workers.

A number of companies are already starting to embrace "mature workers" as an integral part of the workforce. Companies such as CVS Caremark, Borders and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association are among those at the forefront. At CVS Caremark, for example, 18% of employees are over age 50, up from 7% in the early 1990s. About 18% of Borders' 30,000 workers are over 50, double the percentage six years ago, with that percentage increasing to 25% by 2010. At the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association in Chicago, 40% of 1,000 mainly professional employees are 50 or older and 25% are 55 or older. As recruitment becomes more difficult, these older workers are winning plaudits for their knowledge of business.


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HR Seen as a Necessary Evil
Management Issues, May 9

Within the U.S., many HR leaders may lack the key talent management and business skills needed to find and retain the best talent within the hyper-competitive global economy. According to a survey of more than 600 HR professionals and more than 100 non-HR managers, just 22% of HR leaders were considered experts at key talent management issues such as globalization, outsourcing, workforce integration and financial analysis. Going forward, HR leaders will need to adopt to the global challenges faced by their organizations and evolve their current skill sets if they hope to be perceived as more than just a “necessary evil” within corporations.

The ongoing transition to a global information economy is putting additional pressure on HR to become a hub of best-in-class talent management practices. While many HR departments understand the need to adopt best practices within talent management, they still fall short in becoming talent management facilitators, according to the Human Capital Institute. In short, the gap between understanding and effectiveness remains significant. On the plus side, two-thirds of respondents said that HR was important, respected or consulted on corporate strategy and almost six out of 10 of HR heads reported directly to the CEO.


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Gendered Innovations in Science and Engineering
Mentor Net News, May 2008

In a broad-ranging Q&A, Londa Schiebinger, a professor of the history of science at Stanford, shares her views on the role that gender plays within computing and scientific disciplines. Rather than focusing exclusively on the issue of gender bias, Schiebinger examines the impact of gender on the way that scientific questions are answered and reported, as well as on who leads research teams. After discussing how she uses gender analysis as a tool, Schiebinger explains how graduate education or the postdoc experience might change to encourage a more inclusive approach to science and highlights the main barriers to success for women in science today.

According to Londa Schiebinger, gender analysis can lead to greater insights in the areas of science, medicine, and engineering, while offering concrete insights into new research directions. By providing a scientific framework, gender analysis brings into focus previously unknown or misunderstood phenomena in three key areas: the history of women's participation in science; the structure of scientific institutions; and the gender basis of human knowledge. As Schiebinger points out, looking at bias alone will not solve the problem of women's under-representation in the natural sciences and computer science fields.


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