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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, November 18, 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 22, November 18, 2008




The Most Influential Women in Web 2.0
Fast Company, November 2008

While women are still underrepresented within the broader computing field, a growing number of women are emerging as influencers within the world of Web 2.0. With the goal of finding the most influential and innovative women changing the way that we interact online, Fast Company profiles some of the biggest names in the social media space – including entrepreneurs, technologists, and technology evangelists. Some are leaders at established companies such as Google, while others are superstar executives at emerging start-ups in Web 2.0 areas ranging from blogging to social networking to video.

Within Silicon Valley, one of the best-known names is Marissa Mayer, Google’s Vice President of Search Products and User Experience. During her ten-year stint at the company, she has been a major player behind many of the company’s most popular products and services. Within the social media space, Caterina Fake is the co-founder of Flickr (now owned by Yahoo), which pioneered the online photo-sharing model, while Mena Trott is the co-founder of blogging company Six Apart. Other influential women include Leah Culver, founder of social networking site Pownce; Rashmi Sinha, CEO and co-founder of SlideShare; Dina Kaplan, co-founder and COO of blip.tv; Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post; and Gina Bianchini, co-founder and CEO of social networking platform Ning.


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The Hottest IT Skills To Survive a Cool Economy
Computerworld, November 10

Gretchen Koch, director of the Education to Careers program for the Computing Technology Industry Association, shares her viewpoints on which IT skills employers will be looking for during the current economic downturn. As Koch points out, companies across virtually all industries are taking a closer look at next year's tech spending because of the uncertainty created by the economic downturn. With budgets flat or shrinking, companies will need to be more creative in maximizing their existing IT staff, especially in areas such as security and wireless.

Web developers, network administrators and information security managers will continue to be in high demand in 2009, even with an economic recession. Security credentials are in especially high demand among employers across a broad spectrum of industries. Among respondents from nine countries with established IT industries (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, the U.K. and the U.S.), 73% of the respondents identified security, firewalls and data privacy as the IT skills that are most important to their organizations today. In contrast, just 57% of the same group said their IT employees are proficient in security.


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How to Land a Top Tech Job
PC Pro (UK), November 14

A number of experts from academia and industry weigh in with tips and advice on how to find a job with a six-figure salary within the British IT industry. The good news is that the British economy will need 140,000 more IT workers every year over the next five years, and many of these jobs will be in high-level, well-paid roles. The best way to find a secure, rewarding job in an industry that employs nearly 5% of the British workforce is to focus on matching your skills and education with those positions most in demand by employers. Whether you're planning for the future, returning from a career break or switching into IT from another industry, there are practical steps that you can take to improve your value to potential employers.

Choosing the right subjects at every level of the educational curriculum can have a major impact on your job prospects. According to most experts, that starts with realizing what you want from IT - whether it's vocational training to become a developer or administrator, or pure skills that apply in many areas, but may not make you instantly employable post-graduation. Instead of concentrating on areas like security and networking, many universities and employers prefer students to concentrate on more traditional subjects like computer science. Employers also favor students who know multiple computer languages and who have taken courses related to business or communications.


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Five Tips for Charting Your 100 Day Plan
CIO.com (via Computerworld), October 28

For IT workers, creating a 100-day plan before starting a new job is one tactic that is no longer just for senior-level executives. Not only can this plan serve as a preparation process for job interviews, but it can also serve as a career framework once you get the new job. The greater your vision of how you're going to accomplish certain goals, the more successful you're going to be, even at a junior level. With that in mind, the article provides five action items to use as a guide for creating your own 100-day plan.

The first step in creating a 100-day plan is to find out what your company needs in order to move forward. This might mean launching a new project or fixing an old project. If you don't know your organization’s priorities, you could be working on the wrong things for your first 100 days. Consult with your peers, your team members, your supervisors and any other stakeholders to help you set and manage expectations. You need to know how your boss defines success for your position.


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When to Work for Nothing
New York Times Shifting Careers Blog, November 9

Michelle Goodman, the author of the newly released book “My So-Called Freelance Life” as well as an advocate for the rights of independent workers, weighs in on the controversial question of whether freelancers and consultants should ever work for free. Most offers – even if they come from companies that promise to become “the next Google” -- are usually too good to be true. Getting paid in exposure (“PIE”) can be a tempting proposition, especially when the economy is in weak condition, but the projects usually turn out to be more hype than substance. Moreover, when you agree to work free, you reinforce people’s misguided ideas that the self-employed are “independently wealthy hobbyists.”

There are some occasions when offering to work for free can actually be to your advantage. For example, if you have no clients or portfolio. If you left your staff position without any customer testimonials or work samples, you may have to do a freebie or two for a worthy small business to prove to paying clients that you’ve done this before. Also, if your dream client has shallow pockets, being paid in exposure may be worth it in terms of new deals and gigs. For business consultants, speaking at a highly publicized conference might yield similar results, in the form of new clients and paid speaking assignments. When donating your services to your favorite nonprofit or charity, try to find high-profile ways to make an impact so as to maximize your exposure.


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Technology Critical for Younger Workers
Management Issues, November 7

According to a new study from consulting firm Accenture, young workers expect to be allowed to use mobile phones, social networks, instant messaging and other new technologies at work. Moreover, this "millennial" generation of students and employees may look for employment opportunities elsewhere if employers do not allow -- or limit --how they use their own technology and mobile devices at work. The lesson for hiring managers is clear: they need to be receptive to the personal technology preferences of their young workers and find ways to integrate this technology into the workplace.

The Accenture poll of 400 workers found an increasing demand for high-tech devices to connect with colleagues, peers, friends and family. The most common technologies that are not supported by employers include mobile phones, open source technology, instant messaging, online applications and social networking sites. More than half said access to cutting-edge technology was an important consideration in selecting an employer. Younger millennials already in the workforce typically spend less time each week on email, preferring text and instant messaging and communicating on social networking sites.


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The New Commodity: Long Hours and Hard Work
Computerworld, November 4

To succeed within your IT career, it is no longer enough just to work hard. After all, the number of U.S. workers not using all their vacation days is on the increase, and more workers are recording longer hours than ever before. Personal technology, rather than helping us get more work done more quickly, has actually led to an increase in work-related demands. As a result, long hours and hard work is the latest commodity, and their value is declining. Your goal should be to transform yourself into a value worker, so that you will be able to work smarter, not harder. Value workers are the type of employee that organizations view as indispensable to business success.

At a time when companies are cutting their staff budgets, fewer people will have to do even more work -- all the while worrying that their jobs will be the next to go. The natural tendency, of course, will be to pile on the hours in order to work longer and harder. An alternative strategy is to develop your reputation as a “value worker.” Be the last person your employer would want to let go -- not because you'll work more hours, but because your contribution to the organization consistently produces the best business results.


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Seven Secrets for Surviving a Layoff in a Down Economy
CIO.com, November 6

A career coach offers his seven tips for surviving a layoff and finding a new job. Recognizing that few experiences are scarier than losing a job and the financial security it brings, he offers advice for dealing with the emotions that often accompany a layoff. Rather than viewing a lost job as a source of blame or guilt, a layoff should be viewed as an opportunity to improve yourself and to make a fresh start. Even in a bad economy, re-building your network and learning new skills will help you prepare for a new career path.

Before embarking on a job search, be sure to negotiate the best possible severance package to protect your immediate future. Your severance package is negotiable, so don't feel pressured to immediately sign on the dotted line. Next, work on dispelling any feelings of vulnerability. When you feel vulnerable, it's easy to second-guess yourself and to sink into depression. Resist those negative thoughts and remember that the fundamental reason you lost your job was because your employer was having trouble competing during an economic downturn.


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Easing Back to Work After You’ve Retired
Wall Street Journal Online, October 28

With the current financial crisis playing havoc with retirement savings, many retirees are looking to re-enter the work force in the hopes of rebuilding their investment portfolios. By leveraging their expertise and experience from previous positions, retirees are most likely to land jobs in their former professions. However, for retirees who are not enamored of the idea of picking up where they left off, it is also possible to aim for jobs that relate to their personal interests. The article provides advice for workers who are recently retired, as well as for those who have been out of the workforce for as many as five years.

Generally speaking, the longer you've been in retirement, the more difficult it can be to get back into the workforce, because employers may worry that your professional skills have gotten rusty. However, even if you’ve been out of the workforce for more than five years, there are ways to re-enter the IT sector. One option may be to join your favorite nonprofit, or to apply for a teaching job at a community or technical school. You can also offer to start on a part-time, commission or contract basis or as a consultant.


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Making a Case for Diversity in STEM Fields
MentorNet News, November 2008

The lack of diversity in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields is emerging as an important policy problem for America. At a time when STEM fields are increasingly important to our national security, health, and competitiveness, the nation needs to be supporting the conditions for the creation of a diverse pool of scientists and engineers. The article highlights the link between diversity in the STEM fields and national competitiveness, provides an overview of factors impacting diversity within the U.S. educational system, and provides practical advice for helping to address this diversity imbalance.

To maximize how educational institutions and society benefit from diversity, the first step is to consider the policies, practices and resources needed to reach certain diversity goals. This may call for a re-examination of factors like admissions, financial aid, faculty recruitment and faculty advancement. Second, we need to think more holistically about how undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty and staff members can be exposed to diverse ideas and worldviews. These ideas and views are especially important within the private sector, where they become the basis for new products and services.


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