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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, May 22, 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 10, May 22, 2012




Software Engineer: 2012’s Top Job
Information Week, May 15

Based on criteria such as salary, stress levels, hiring outlook, physical demands and work environment, software engineer came out as the top job of 2012, beating out other tech positions such as Web developer and computer programmer. In 2010, the median pay for software engineers was $90,530 per year. Moreover, the demand for software engineers is on the rise, with an estimated growth rate of 30% between 2010 and 2020, more than double the 14% average growth rate for all occupations. In addition, the collaboration, creative thinking, and hands-on experimentation required of software engineers can lead to an interesting, ever-evolving career path.

The first advantage of a software engineer career path is flextime. Creative Web designers aren't the only IT professionals who get to think outside the box and work outside the cubicle. Being a software engineer can be a creative job, with a lot of freedom around workplace hours. Moreover, a lot of the work can be done remotely from home. A big part of software engineering is constant trial-and-error--an experimental spirit that's likely to attract those who enjoy theoretical problem solving rather than IT professionals from more traditional IT roles like systems administration. As a result, some people who interview for a position may not have even studied to become a software engineer, but maybe wrote a game that's available in an app store.


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IT Workers Are Happy, But Will Still Leave for Something Better
CIO.com, May 10

The majority of IT employees are engaged at work, loyal to their employers and inspired to do their best everyday. However, more than half (53%) of these IT employees are open to new employment opportunities. The takeaway for employers is clear: they should use whatever means to create a strong bond with their employees by engaging, recognizing and empowering them in order to minimize attrition later.

Many IT employees have positive attitudes and perceptions about their companies. For example, 76% of IT employees are proud to work for their company; 63% of IT employees enjoy going to work every day; 75% of employees feel inspired to do their best each day; 68% of IT employees feel their efforts at work are recognized and valued; 67% indicate they trust their company leadership to make good decisions for the workforce; 67% of employees believe their company shares their values. In addition to this job satisfaction, 80% feel secure in their jobs; 77% believe their company has a great future; 64% believe their company is making the right investments in their workforce for the future; and 60% report being only a little or not at all concerned about having to take a pay cut.


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Silicon Valley Needs Humanities Students
Washington Post, May 16

At a time when technology companies place the greatest value on hires with STEM backgrounds and venture capitalists prefer to back companies started by engineers, what is the relative value of a humanities degree? The answer may be surprising. According to a recent survey of U.S.-born CEOs and heads of product engineering that was conducted by Duke and Harvard, only 37% held degrees in engineering or computer technology, and just 2% had a degree in mathematics. The rest have degrees in fields as diverse as business, accounting, finance, healthcare, arts and the humanities. As the article suggests, a bachelor’s degree – combined with a passion to change the world and the confidence to defy the odds and succeed – are the most important traits of today’s tech workers.

Humanities majors sometimes make the best project managers, the best product managers, and, ultimately, the most visionary technology leaders because they do not get too wrapped up in features that are useless for most people. Humanities majors can more easily focus on people and how they interact with technology. Even for people with strong tech backgrounds in fields such as artificial intelligence, going back to school for an advanced degree in the humanities can lead to a transformational shift that opens their eyes not only to key foundational arguments and theories. It can also lead to improved capabilities in strategic vision, creative problem solving and other critical traits.


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Three Ways to Create Your Personal Brand Without Sounding Like An Infomercial
Forbes, May 14

Lessons from the world of branding and marketing can help candidates create a positive impression on hiring mangers, letting them know, in a compelling way, that they have something great to offer as an employee. Quite simply, a personal brand in the workplace is the promise of a superior experience. As a result, candidates should be able to focus on doing what they can to make themselves distinctive, state what they are better at doing than anyone else, and explain not only what they do, but also “how” they do it that adds value.

First of all, candidates need to show how they are distinctive, and how they can deliver value to prospective organizations. What is it specifically that you are better at doing than anyone else? If you’re a web designer, it could be something as simple as being able to design fast websites that are easy to navigate because of a simple user interface. It’s OK to promise what you are when you’re at your best, such as if you say that you’re uniquely good at managing complex projects to completion on time and on budget, as long as you can deliver this consistently.


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Tried And Tested Ways To Get Hired To Do Something You Actually Love
The Young Entrepreneur’s Council, May 1

Whether you’ve lost your job, or you’d like to trade your current position for one that better matches your qualifications, the article provides three strategies to help you receive an offer for the job that you actually want. A common problem for many IT workers who lose their jobs and are then hired elsewhere is that they are more likely to consider themselves overqualified for what becomes their new position. In addition, they are less likely to get a sense of identify from their work. To overcome these problems, the article suggests ways to get hired to do something you actually love.

The easiest way to get hired to do something you actually love is to go back to school. It’s not necessary to re-enroll in a trade program or work toward a four-year degree. Look into a local community college or adult education program: some schools will allow you to “audit” the course so you can fully participate without receiving a final grade or transcript. Take classes that brush up on forgotten skills or teach you new ones. In addition to keeping your mind sharp, you can also develop your network with fellow students and instructors. Depending on the course, your current employer may cover part or all of education costs, encourage your networking and support your endeavors to become a better employee with your company. Consider taking classes for fun if they can provide an avenue of stress relief and a break from constantly refreshing your email for new job opportunities.


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Projects Are the New Job Interviews
Harvard Business Review, May 10

Companies are increasingly supplanting resumes, references, brainteasers and interviews with real-world projects, where candidates show their ability to perform on sample projects. Some even claim that these mini-projects are the real future of hiring, especially when it comes to hiring knowledge workers. World-class talent will engage in bespoke real-world projects testing their abilities to deliver real value on their own and with others. Examples of these projects include redesigning a social media campaign, documenting a piece of software, producing a webinar or reviewing a CAD layout for an overseas tech manufacturer.

Most organizations have learned the hard way that no amount of interviewing, reference checking or testing is a substitute for actually working with a candidate on a real project. For example, a fast-growing software company might have potential hires participate in at least two "code reviews" to see what kinds of contributors, collaborators and critics they might be. Sometimes, these sessions effectively pit a couple or three candidates against each other. Within organizations, there is now an understanding that people only get hired if and only if they deliver something above and beyond a decent track record and social graph. For candidates, it's worth something to know what it's like to really work with one's colleagues on a real project as opposed to perceptions from personal interviews.


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Stanford Dean on Teaching the Skill Set of Innovation
Wall Street Journal, May 16

Garth Saloner, the dean of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, discusses how to teach innovation to today’s current generation of workers. A longtime faculty member at the university, Saloner took several years off from teaching to plunge into Silicon Valley's start-up scene as an adviser to companies and as a director on their boards. In 2006, Saloner also helped overhaul the business school's curriculum to embed more teaching of innovation into core classes. Saloner, who has been dean of the business school since 2009, says innovation comes from people being "change agents" and by deploying a mix of leadership, analytical and management skills to any problem.

According to Stanford’s Saloner, innovation skills can be nurtured. It’s all about educating students as change agents. In order to be effective as a change agent, you need to identify problems and you need to identify solutions to a problem. At another level, there's a creative component. And the third piece you have to figure out is how to get this done—that's an implementation piece and that's a leadership piece. It's working with teams and groups. With this mind, Stanford has broken it down into the analytical, creative and personal leadership pieces. Teaching someone to be creative draws heavily from Stanford’s design school. Being creative starts with customer empathy and talking to them and understanding their perspective.


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Millennials in the Workforce
Forbes, May 16

Even though young workers in the millennial generation are less likely than previous generations to actually be in the workforce, they have very strong opinions about the workplace—how it should be run, and what their place should be in it. Unemployment and underemployment, especially among teens and 20-something, have impacted their sense of self, as well as their expectations about employers. According to a recent poll on the workforce, millennials are looking for instant gratification, access to new technologies, mentoring and constant feedback. They also believe in less informal work environments and place greater emphasis on non-financial forms of compensation, such as flexible work hours.

The millennial generation has been working in groups collaborating with each other since they were very young. The immediacy of the social media technology they use has made it possible for them to interact almost instantaneously. Unlike Boomers who want their objectives and to be left alone to execute, Gen Y wants an almost constant stream of feedback. 80% of millennials said they want regular feedback from their managers, and 75% yearn for mentors. Semi-annual reviews are frustrating to this group, they want to know how they’re doing now, not every six months. The study found that 79% of millennials think they should be allowed to wear jeans to work at least sometimes and an overwhelming 93% of millennials say they want a job where they can be themselves at work, and that includes dressing in a way that makes them comfortable. This trend will only accelerate as the line between work life and personal life becomes blurred.


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Hot Job Market for Computer Science Graduates
Blog @ CACM, April 19

Despite many perceptions that U.S. computing jobs are in danger of being off-shored, the reality is much different: the job market for computer science graduates is actually stronger than it’s ever been. Based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics employment projections and data on bachelor's degrees awarded from sources such as the National Science Foundation, the hottest jobs within computing appear are: Software Developer; Systems Analyst; Computer Support and Network/System Administrator. In addition, Network Architect, Web Developer and Computer Security Professional will all see strong growth in coming years. The abundance and variety of computing jobs over the next decade should make it relatively easy to find a career that is stimulating, fulfilling, and highly-compensated.

The new U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projections predict that the already hot job market for computing professionals will become even hotter this decade. These projections predict that the following careers within computing will show the most growth: Software Developer (314,600 new jobs); Systems Analyst (120,400 new jobs); Computer Support (110,000 new jobs); Network/System Admin (96,600 new jobs). Taken as a whole, these projections predict that computing careers will make up 73% of the new jobs in STEM careers this decade compared to 16% in (non-software) engineering, 9% in the natural sciences, and 2% in the mathematical sciences. To try to predict how competitive the job environment will be, it’s possible to divide the total projected computing jobs per year by the number of computing bachelor's degrees awarded in the most recent year yields. The jobs/grads ratio is now 3.5 for those holding a bachelor’s degree in computing, compared to 2.9 just two years ago.


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The Classroom in the Palm of Your Hand
eLearn Magazine, May 2012

In an increasingly mobile society where nearly one-half of individuals between ages 18 and 24 have smart phones, educators are looking for ways to deliver classroom learning experiences to students on the go. Already, nearly one-quarter of smart phone owners mostly use their phones to go online and about one-third of these individuals use their smart phones as their only high-speed Internet connection. Against this backdrop, educators are looking for innovative ways to reach students between all those unpredictable free moments throughout the day. To create a true mobile classroom, they must motivate students to use the same social media and connectivity tools to do coursework as they use to connect with one another throughout the day.

It’s clear that mobile learning delivers effective learning moments. For younger students, it's not about learning something until it sticks in long-term memory -- it's about being able to find the resource to answer the question when needed. Mobile learning allows educators to build more spaced, repeated learning into the curriculum. Rather than relying on placing repetition into homework assignments or quiz questions, they can provide reminders of concepts and opportunities for practice in mobile exercises. Mobile also allows the opportunity to “flip” the instruction model. The more material a student covers outside of class, the more time they can spend in class collaborating or discussing.


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