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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, November 16, 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 22, November 16, 2010




Is the Silicon Valley Talent Shortage Getting Worse?
Tech Crunch, November 9

Anecdotal evidence continues to suggest that the war for talent in Silicon Valley is only intensifying. At the center of the talent war is Google, which is offering its employees increases in salary as well as year-end bonuses as a way of retaining its best talent. At the same time, start-up companies that have only been around for months are getting acquired solely for the talent of their employees and highly-regarded workers are getting job offers via Twitter as soon as it becomes known that they are looking for new jobs. By some estimates, job postings in the IT industry have actually increased 69% since October 2009, driven primarily by greater availability of venture capital funding and a freewheeling culture where starting your own company is the thing to do.

A bidding war for talent between Google and Facebook is the primary reason for the growing gap between supply and demand. By some estimates, nearly 1 in 8 employees at Facebook used to work at Google. Among the companies that are expected to hire more over the remainder of 2010 are Facebook, Google, Zynga and Twitter. Also, a multitude of smaller startups like Square and Dropbox are throwing their hats into the hiring ring. In the arms race for talent, certain companies have been stockpiling talent and finding ways to retain them with great benefits. With smaller startups competing with the giants and the giants competing amongst themselves, the job market has become highly competitive, and this, in turn, is leading to higher compensation levels.


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Tips on How to Use Social Media to Job Hunt
Wallet Pop, November 7

With the IT job market showing signs of improvement, now is the time to leverage social media to make the job hunt as easy as possible. As many IT professionals have discovered, firing off resumes and hanging out on online job boards and business conferences are no longer enough. With that as background, two career experts weigh in on how today’s job hunters can use social media to get noticed. Maintaining an active networking presence on Facebook or LinkedIn can get you noticed. It can also keep recruiters engaged by becoming a place to highlight your work across different social media platforms and create a place to connect one-on-one.

Focus on using your expanded social media presence to sell your skills rather than yourself. Potential employers want to know what you can do to help them solve their problems. While it won't get you a job right away, it'll make you more attractive and hence shorten the time you are searching for work. Second, go beyond traditional methods of networking to leverage all the social media tools at your disposal. You can also highlight your expertise by exploiting social media tools such as YouTube to create content that demonstrates your knowledge within an industry. This serves as a much better way to showcase your skills instead of a resume.


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The Pros and Cons of Making a Tech Career Change
InfoWorld, November 9

In response to an open letter from an architecture professional looking to transition into the IT industry, a career expert lays out the argument for and against making a mid-career change. In order to make a successful career transition, consider the areas of IT that are most promising for long-term growth and that provide the best match with your skills and experience. From there, consider the education and training programs that would be most appropriate to build additional expertise and continually look for ways to use these new skills to solve the problems of prospective employers.

Simply focusing on the availability of new work opportunities within the IT industry is not a good enough reason to transition to a new field. A potential career changer should reflect back on the reasons for choosing his or her original career path, and see if these reasons have changed significantly enough to justify a career change. It is also important to think about the transferrable skills that could be used in an IT career. Typically, you should know enough about IT to know what transferrable skills you have. The final question to consider is whether or not you would be willing to take a significant cut in compensation to change careers.


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What Web Workers Want (And Feel They’re Not Getting Now)
Web Worker Daily, November 2

Now that the hiring environment has started to improve, Web workers are being contacted routinely about potential new job opportunities. They are constantly receiving tweets, emails, IM and calls from companies that are interested in their skills. From a hiring perspective, this presents a potential quandary: Web workers can secure work in any industry, with employers of any size. This means that potential hiring organizations must compete on both the basics (pay, bonuses, training) as well as all the intangibles (company culture, flexible working hours, casual working environment). At the end of the day, there are five primary benefits that Web workers are looking for in their next job, and companies must be able to provide them.

Stability is a major lure for Web workers, who are tired of restructures, layoffs and retrenchments. Stability implies that projects will run on time and that workers will not be called on to work unpaid overtime at the last minute. In terms of perks, having pool tables at the office and distributing iPhones to workers is no longer sufficient. While perks are cool, many Web workers would like to have some idea of where they’re headed, career-wise. If they can’t see a career progression through your organization, they may well begin to listen to the job-seeking hubbub in their social networks, whether online or off. The swift growth of Web companies means that often, human resources essentials like periodic performance reviews, career goal-setting, and so on, can be neglected, leaving Web workers with little idea of where they might be headed with their current employer — or whether that employer even cares.


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Why Do We Chase Management Stars?
HBS Working Knowledge, November 4

Many organizations looking to make an important senior management change pursue an external hire with a reputation for, and track record of, high performance. They are willing to pay a premium, thereby potentially disrupting a their compensation scheme, and also discouraging promising internal talent that isn't considered quite ready for the job. When the outsider fails to perform up to inflated expectations, the recruiting process starts again. Based on a comprehensive, multi-year study of the portability of performance across employers, it appears that chasing management stars is not an optimal strategy for organizations.

The study of performance found that companies should avoid paying the "winner's curse" of overbidding to get talent without a clear picture of how they fit into a longer-term strategy. Companies who hire new star talent tend to pay a high price in performance. For those organizations intent on hiring stars, the evidence strongly suggests the wisdom of hiring from firms with similar orientations and characteristics, from firms that are of equivalent quality as one’s own. Employees who took over, built, or implemented management systems that resembled their former employer’s were more successful, while those who went to different industries, those who moved solo (rather than with a team), and those who joined companies whose needs called for different skills performed poorly.


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Decoding the Value of Computer Science
The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 7

The now-familiar story of how Facebook launched in a college dorm and became a billion-dollar company is leading to greater interest among students to embark on a career in computer science. This is welcome news, given that far fewer students are studying computer science in college than once did. Moreover, the number of high schools teaching computer science is shrinking. With that as backdrop, the article explores the true value of a computer science education – especially in relation to potential career choices - and surmises that a failure to teach the basics of computer science to an expanding number of students will have spillover effects in later years.

While America remains the center of global innovation, especially within computer science, the number of people choosing this career path is in decline. According to the Computing Research Association, the annual number of bachelor's degrees awarded in computer science and computer engineering dropped 12% in 2009, declining to 10,000 students. This trend has an impact on the future of education, since a formal education in computer science teaches logic, the value of brevity, and attention to detail – all skills required for programming and debugging. The modern glut of information made possible by technology has made the need for clarity and conciseness more acute. Even in a non-IT career, the same thought processes help to create ordered, rational solutions that are easy to understand.


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Finding Talent: Using the Web to Hire a Team of Peers
Web Worker Daily, November 8

Based on his experience hiring for a new startup, Andy McLoughlin, co-founder and EVP Strategy at Huddle, comments on the most effective ways to hire a team of peers. Growing from five to 65 employees within 18 months, Huddle scaled up quickly despite the inherent difficulties of building a great team. As McLoughlin explains, making sure that you get the right people for the job can be a lengthy, expensive and sometimes painful process. This is especially true for a startup, which needs to attract the best talent without having the recruitment budget and resources that large organizations have. Fortunately, there are numerous online networks and tools that can help you find the ideal candidate so you don’t have to over-spend on recruitment.

Facebook can be a powerful tool for identifying new talent and tapping into the power of our own networks for recommendations. Advertise available roles on your profile and encourage your colleagues to do the same, even if there are only a few of you. Build a Facebook page for your organization that highlights your company culture, promotes available job openings and keeps people informed of your latest news and views. Make sure you keep the profile up-to-date and respond to any comments. Twitter has proved particularly successful for many startups when hiring a tech team. As well as targeting people interested in and following your company, you can tap into your teams’ followers. It’s likely that staff will be followed by people in their industry, past colleagues, employees and others with the same interests as them. You can also track relevant industry conversations and events thanks to hash tags and keep note of who is participating in discussions.


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Help Recruiters Find Your Resume on Google
Simply Hired Blog, November 9

During a job search, it is important to manage your online reputation so that if a potential employer searches for you on Google, information that makes you stand out as a candidate will show up in the top results. One relatively easy way you can display yourself in a professional manner and possibly increase your exposure to recruiters and employers is to publish your resume online through Google Docs. This will also allow you access to a web version of your resume at any time, simplifying the process of sharing your resume. Most importantly, Google will be able to index your resume, so that a search of your name will get your resume in front of the right people.

After detailing step-by-step instructions on how to host your resume online using Google Docs, the article suggests ways to share it across the Web. By using a URL shortener such as Bi.tly, you can create a personalized link to your resume and track clicks to that link. These steps will save you time and a lot of wasted time during your job search. When a potential employer looks you up online, they can find your resume showing you in the best light. Most importantly, by creating a customized link to your resume with Bit.ly, you can track when someone clicks to view your resume.


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K-12 Computational Learning
Communications of the ACM, Vol. 53 No. 11, November 2010

Computational thinking is conventionally defined as the process of abstraction, guided by various engineering-related attributes including efficiency, correctness, maintainability, usability and modifiability. Some have interpreted computational thinking as an attempt to capture the set of computer science skills essential to virtually every person in a technological society. Others view it as a new description of the fundamental discipline that represents computer science and its intersection with other fields. The article takes a closer look at the characteristics and traits of computational thinking, resulting in a richer, more nuanced view of the computer science field.

The standard definitions of computational thinking are not especially useful when considered in the context of K–12 education, and, more specifically, K–12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. After all, computer science does not appear within the core topics covered in high school, and tends to be available as an elective only within wealthy suburban school districts. The article proposes an alternative to the common definition of computational thinking that is appropriate for using in K–12 education and then considers its broader implications. Rather than considering computational thinking as a part of the process for problem solving, it is possible to use a model of computational learning that emphasizes the central role that a computer (and possibly its abstraction) can play in enhancing the learning process and improving achievement of K–12 students in STEM and other courses. Computational learning becomes an iterative and interactive process between the K–12 student and the computer. The article also makes explicit the two consequences of the human cognitive process, namely, the capacity for abstraction and for problem formulation, and two strengths of the computer, namely, their ability to present complex data sets, often visually, and their capacity for storing factual and relational knowledge. These four elements frame and establish the boundaries of the iterative interaction between the human being and the computer.


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Introducing the New Ubiquity
Ubiquity, November 2010

As Peter J. Denning, Editor-in-Chief at Ubiquity, explains, the online publication has a new scope and expanded content dedicated to the future of computing and the people who are influencing its direction. Its peer-reviewed content and interactive website have been redesigned to enhance access and understanding of the rapidly expanding computing field that touches people’s daily lives, especially as related to technical, economic and educational perspectives. The new Ubiquity, launched after a successful 10-year run that included 165 interviews and 415 commentaries, includes updated features and thought-provoking commentary that offers conversation-inducing perspectives on core computing as well as developments at the periphery of the field.

Ubiquity is a new online destination for evaluating technology trends, airing provocative issues, and introducing influential people in the field. A new feature in the redesigned Ubiquity is the Symposium, a series of articles on a preselected topic authored by renowned leaders in computing. To probe the pervasiveness of computing and its evolving role in the digital age, the first symposium explores "What Is Computation?"


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