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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, May 6, 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 9, May 6, 2008




Four Secrets to Becoming a Rising IT Star
CIO.com, April 24

Recruiters and IT executives agree that there are several key behaviors that can help any IT worker become recognized as a valuable contributor within the IT workplace. Beyond possessing energy, enthusiasm and passion for their work, IT leaders understand how to interact with key constituencies within their businesses. They respect their end users and understand the relationship between business and IT as well as the culture of their organization. In addition, and have built strong relationships with their bosses.

IT workers should keep the needs and expectations of their end users in mind. When explaining issues to non-IT employees, be aware that your technical expertise can make others feel uncomfortable. Therefore, focus on being open-minded, making it a point to really listen to what someone is saying and process what you're hearing. To help you do this, you need to move beyond the walls of IT in order to learn the whole business. IT leaders who want to move up must become business-savvy. Without understanding the work flow of business users, it's impossible to deliver optimum technology solutions.


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Wage Gap Narrower for Women in IT
eWeek, April 28

A gender-based wage gap continues to exist within the IT profession, but the gap is narrower than in most other professions. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the wage gap between men and women has continued to narrow over the past 35 years. In 2007, for example, women could expect to be paid 80 cents on the dollar across all occupations. Within the IT profession, computer support specialists appeared closest to closing the wage gap, with women earning 87% of what men did in the same occupation, followed by computer and information systems managers and computer programmers (85%) and database administrators, computer scientists and systems analysts (84%).

According to the chairman of the NCPE, an organization based in Washington, D.C. that works to close the pay gap, it is not uncommon to see less of a gap early on in women's careers within the IT profession. However, this gap tends to widen over the course of their careers. According to a 2007 study by Dice.com, for example, women in the 18 to 24 age bracket earned nearly the same salary as men ($41,700 versus $41,722 respectively). In the next age bracket (25 to 29), there is a 7.6% gap ($55,480 versus $60,031 respectively). In all age groups over 30, this gap widens to at least 10%.


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Branding Yourself With a Blog
Tech Careers, April 24

Blogs are becoming important personal branding tools for IT workers. At the end of day, notes one recruiter, “You are the chief marketing officer for the brand called you, but what others say about your brand is more impactful than what you say about yourself.” In other words, branding yourself is just one part of the challenge, while building credibility is another. The article highlights examples from other IT employees who have taken advantage of the opportunities by blogging, made themselves more visible, and earned credibility in the process.

In creating a brand for yourself online, you need to make your blog visible. Post meaningful entries, comment on your industry’s top blogs, and strive to gain a regular readership. At the end of the day, visibility creates opportunities. The goal of personal branding is to be recruited based on your brand, not by applying for jobs. Once you know what you can bring to the table, actively promote your brand. As you write about software development and business, think about ways to encourage customers to care about what you write.


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Looking for Work on Facebook
New York Times, May 1

While social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace have always been an entertaining way to keep up with friends, they are now being leveraged by IT workers as a way to find a new job. With the looming threat of an economic recession within the U.S. economy, social networking sites are becoming for some IT employees platforms from which to network for job leads, to create professional contacts or even to announce to friends that they are out of work. Savvy users say the sites can be effective tools for promoting one’s job skills and all-around business networking, leading HR professionals and recruiters – not just jobseekers - to experiment with these social networking sites.

In a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, more than half of employers indicated that they will use social networking sites to connect with potential candidates. Job search sites like Jobster and CareerBuilder.com have created Facebook applications that enable companies to find candidates. Last year, Facebook itself began facilitating professional networking with the introduction of profiles for businesses or professionals that other Facebook users can become “fans” of and receive updates about.


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Communicating With Your Boss: Tips for Generation Y
Computerworld, April 28

Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology, weighs in with some communication tips for members of Generation Y to help them connect with their bosses. While Generation Y workers have many basic needs in common with their more experienced colleagues, there are some real differences in the communication styles of different generations. For example, 60% of Generation Y workers expect to hear from their managers on a daily basis, while 35% of them expect to touch base with their supervisors several times a day. With that in mind, the article provides some tips that will help you communicate better with your boss.

As a general rule of thumb, pay attention to how your supervisors and colleagues communicate within the workplace, and model these behaviors as appropriate. You can learn a lot by simply paying attention to office dynamics, such as the timing of meetings and the way that managers communicate to the team. If you're unsure of what approach will be most effective, express your communication preferences and politely ask your boss to do the same. Chances are you'll find some common ground. Especially among IT professionals, communicating well is often more about listening than talking. By practicing active listening, you can significantly minimize the need for redundant follow-up conversations.


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New Career, Same Employer
Wall Street Journal Online, April 21

With the goal of retaining their most talented employees, a number of firms are making internal career changes easier to make than ever before. In some cases, these companies have developed their career-change initiatives after reviewing exit interviews and finding out that many employees leave the company because they want to work in different fields and thought they could not explore internal options. The longer someone stays intrigued and challenged, the longer they're going stay with the firm. Employers that offer resources for career changers include Accenture, IBM, Verizon, Microsoft, Ernst & Young and Dow Chemical.

According to recruitment experts, employers are creating or expanding these programs to improve retention rates in a competitive job market, particularly as Baby Boomers begin to retire. The initiatives typically include Web-based programs for evaluating employees' career goals and suggesting relevant paths. For example, IBM offers a skills-evaluation tool that recommends areas where an employee might be a strong fit. Accenture's career-change initiative includes resources such as an online skills-assessment tool and a Web page featuring video clips of workers who have changed careers at the company. Every Accenture employee has an internal career counselor, who can then help develop a career plan or search internal job listings.


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Female Entrepreneurs Have It Tougher Than Men
Management Issues, May 2

A new study by the Center for Women’s Leadership at Babson College suggests that female entrepreneurs around the world experience a gender gap when it comes to owning and starting up their own businesses. In a study of 41 countries, the center found that, while women are hugely active in creating and running businesses around the world, a gender gap persists in new venture creation and business ownership. The study looked at new venture creation and business ownership according to factors such as income and geography in an attempt to discover broader themes about female entrepreneurship.

Regardless of gender, entrepreneurial activity was higher in low and middle-income countries, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean. These two regions also displayed the highest rates of female early-stage entrepreneurial activity. At all income levels, however, a gender gap existed for both early-stage entrepreneurship and established business ownership, with the gap greatest in high-income countries, where men were almost twice as likely to be early-stage or established business owners. Only in Japan and Peru in 2007 were women more active in starting a business than men. Interestingly, in high-income countries, there was no gender difference in the survival rate of women's businesses versus those of men. In low-income countries, women were less likely than their male counterparts to keep their businesses thriving beyond 42 months.


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Nine Things You Need to Know About Rescinded Job Offers
CIO.com, April 22

With a weakening economy, the threat of a rescinded job offer is becoming an increasing concern for many jobseekers. When a prospective employer offers you a job but later rescinds the offer before you start work, what are your options? In an extended Q&A, a lawyer specializing in labor and employment issues offers some tips and practical advice to protect you from such a contingency. Generally speaking, the risk of having a job offer revoked is even greater for executives than for lower-level workers, because executives are often hired so much farther in advance of their start date. Job seekers at all levels can protect themselves from being blindsided by a rescinded job offer by asking incisive questions about a prospective employer's hiring practices and by negotiating certain protections into offer letters and employment contracts.

Employees must realize that an employer can rescind a job offer at any time. Without a signed employment contract between an employee and an employer that provides for a specific term of employment and specific provisions for breach by either side, a job offer is essentially a contract for employment at will. Recognizing this, jobseekers need to be aware of the general circumstances when an employer might rescind a job offer. Typically, job offers get pulled off the table in situations where employers, for one reason or another, do not have the need for a job that they predicted they'd have when they first offered the job to a candidate. A typical situation is an employer interviewing on a college campus, extending offers to college grads for jobs that do not start for months later.


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ACM and WGBH to Launch Initiative to Reshape Image for Computing
AScribe Newswire, May 1

With a grant from the National Science Foundation, ACM and the WGBH Educational Foundation are launching a two-year project to research and design a new set of messages that will accurately portray the field of computing. The New Image for Computing project will create a "communications makeover" using extensive testing of messages that appeal to college-bound high school students, with a special focus on Latina girls and African-American boys. As an end goal, the project hopes to increase the number of high school students across all segments of society who pursue career opportunities within computer science, thereby ensuring the future competitiveness and prosperity of the U.S. technology sector.

According to the head of educational outreach at WGBH, the U.S. can't afford to have some groups within society absent from the computing field, whether it is business or academia. Building on its work transforming the image of engineering, WGBH plans to bring its marketing and communications skills to the project. The goal is to mobilize thousands of computer professionals to help deliver messages that illuminate the diversity of work in the computing field, not just in technology companies but in the many industries that rely on computing technology. The key target demographic is high school students who have not yet formulated career goals and who may have only a vague understanding of the computer science field.


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ACM and Infosys Foundation Announce Winner of New Award Honoring Contemporary Contributions in Computer Science
ACM Press Room, April 28

ACM has awarded the first-ever ACM-Infosys Foundation Award in Computing Science to Stanford University professor Daphne Koller. The new $150,000 ACM-Infosys Foundation Award recognizes personal contributions by young scientists and system developers to a recent innovation that exemplifies cutting-edge work within the field of computer science. Koller was selected for the award for her innovative approach to artificial intelligence that resulted in a revolutionary new way of thinking about how computers process vast amounts of diverse, uncertain, and often conflicting data to solve complex, real-world problems.

In bestowing the award, ACM President Stuart I. Feldman remarked that the work of Professor Daphne Koller has been important not only for computer science, but for a number of fields that use computing to advance society. Specifically, her research has been used as a framework to solve problems in such diverse fields as computational biology and epidemiology; language processing systems; robotics; and computer perception in understanding images. By using her models and algorithms to integrate small bits and pieces of data in systematic ways that produce stronger conclusions, her work offers a powerful way to think about the world.


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