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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, November 2, 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 21, November 2, 2010




Tech Hiring Up Almost 50% Since 2009, Dice Says
Network World, October 14

According to the latest monthly report from tech recruitment site Dice, the number of available full-time tech jobs has increased 46% over the past year, and contractors' hourly rates are rising in response to the ongoing IT skills shortage. The number of full-time positions advertised on Dice.com rose from 29,101 in October 2009 to 42,502 in October 2010. Total tech jobs, including full-time, contract and part-time positions, rose from 51,439 to 70,798 over the past 12 months. Throughout the tech sector, both full-time and contract hiring have risen in lock-step with recruitment activity, with both up about 50% since the lows reached in mid-2009.

The tech hiring outlook has been especially robust in places like Silicon Valley and Seattle. Silicon Valley posted its highest job count on Dice in two years, with 4,567 jobs, up 64% from a year ago. The Seattle region, home of Microsoft, Amazon, Nintendo and others, saw open tech positions double in the past year to 2,355. Despite the increase in job availability, hiring managers are finding it difficult to locate skilled applicants, potentially making it difficult to fill open jobs. Java developers, database administrators, virtualization specialists and project managers are among the most in demand IT pros.


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Valley Companies Fighting for Talent
Mercury News, October 24

In Silicon Valley, there's a hiring frenzy going on among startups, social networking companies and established technology giants. Companies such as Google and Apple are competing with nimble, fast-growing social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Startups are eagerly recruiting for top hires, offering the thrill of creating something new instead of big salaries. While a hiring boom may seem a contradiction when so many people are unemployed, recruiters are still finding it difficult to find the skills they are looking for, especially when it comes to hiring engineers, software developers and research scientists.

The hiring boom began in late 2009, and really picked up steam at the beginning of 2010. This October, Silicon Valley posted its first year-over-year job increase in nearly two years. Overall, tech job listings are up 38% nationally from last year on Dice.com, but they have jumped 64% in Silicon Valley. Bay Area companies are looking for Java programmers, network engineers, network security analysts, cloud computing specialists, virtualization programmers, user interface engineers and mobile technology specialists. One of the reasons for the spike in demand for key talent has been the rise of angel and micro-venture investing. As a result, there has been more engineers starting more companies, so that on a per-company basis there are fewer engineers available.


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How to Keep Your Star Employees
CNN, October 25

Companies are exploring a number of alternatives to attract and retain their highest-performing employees. They are offering perks ranging from extra vacation days, to bonuses, to gift cards, as a way of showing top performers how much they matter. Yet, experts say that these perks aren’t always enough to keep your best people when things improve. According to a recent survey, nearly 27% of employees deemed "high potential" said they plan to leave within the year – and the rate of job dissatisfaction continues to rise as the economy stabilizes. In addition to higher compensation, high performers are looking for a mix of recognition and challenges that stretch them without completely stressing them out.

High-potential employees want to feel connected to corporate strategy, yet many corporate managers turned inward when the economy sank, giving fewer employees the chance to influence the company's direction. Another way to get your stars involved is to involve them in employee-referral programs. Such programs can actually boost loyalty for those doing the recruiting. To make a smaller bonus pool go further, fine-tune your timing. Rewards handed out at tough times can have a major impact. It's also smart to rethink your selection process. More companies are paying bonuses to those with hard-to-replace skills instead of just top performers.


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The Future of Work: Who Needs an Office?
Datamation, October 19

The concept of a traditional office environment is being replaced with one that features mobile connectivity and remote access anywhere in the world. According to a new global study sponsored by Cisco, approximately 60% of respondents no longer feel that they have to be in the office to be productive. The shift to a mobile connected workforce also has had an impact on employee attitudes about work itself. Two-thirds of employees expect to be able to use any digital device they want to access their corporate networks. With mobile and borderless networking technology at their fingertips, they also expect to work from anywhere. With the added flexibility, though, comes additional pressure: nearly 45% of respondents noted that they were actually working two or three more hours a day.

For many workers around the world, the ability to work remotely is not seen as a perk, but rather, as a necessity. The idea of a mobile office means that work flexibility, not salary or total compensation, is now one of the overriding factors in job choice. According to the study's findings, 66% of respondents would accept a lower paying job with more flexibility than a higher paying job with limited flexibility. As a result, organizations are facing more pressure to integrate mobile solutions into their workforce.


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IT Jobs Rank High on List of Best Jobs in America
CIO.com, October 18

Based on factors such as compensation, opportunities for growth, job satisfaction and quality of life, Money magazine and Payscale.com recently presented their list of the 100 best jobs in America. Of the jobs that made the list, 26 of them were in IT, which ranked second only to healthcare (27 jobs) for the greatest number of jobs on the list. The top job on the list was software architect, while six other IT jobs—including database administrator, information systems security engineer, software engineering/development director, IT manager, and business analyst—ranked among the top 30 best jobs in America.

On one hand, nearly one-quarter of all jobs on the list are IT-related. On the other hand, much of the data that went into compiling the rankings are highly subjective. Consider, for example, job satisfaction: for every IT professional who loves his or her job, it’s possible to find other IT professionals with 60-hour work weeks or high-stress work environments. At the same time that job security rankings were high, there are still high-profile technology companies that are laying off employees or consolidating positions. IT salaries, while still pretty generous compared to other fields, have faced increasing downward pressure over the last decade as companies turned to low-cost centers of labor offshore.


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Unleashing Your Inner Entrepreneur
Bloomberg Businessweek, October 15

It’s possible to unleash your inner entrepreneur, even if you work at a large company that may not place as much of a premium on innovation as a smaller company. Creativity is key to being a successful entrepreneur—from how you run your business with slim resources to how you think about new business models. But creativity isn't enough. You need a vision, a business plan, and the ability to sell your ideas to others. The article provides an overview of practical steps to become more entrepreneurial at work, whether it’s leading a project, creating a product line or jump-starting a new business unit.

In order to become more entrepreneurial, first do your homework to research industry developments and demographic trends so that you can create the right market opportunity. You need to understand what the market is doing and what events are influencing it. That will give you insight into business needs and how the market is responding so you can shape it. If you can respond to changes early, you will be the first to capture the benefits. Second, test your idea with other people, especially those who will be completely honest about what they think. If you can convince naysayers, they will become your fiercest advocates and help you sell your idea through their own network and management teams. They will also force you to answer hard questions you may not have thought about.


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Four Steps to Taming the Job Search Beast
Glassdoor Blog, October 21

During a job search, it is important to take practical and actionable steps rather than wasting too much time agonizing over possible solutions. After all, the greatest worries rarely materialize, and the time you spend fixated on the problems, rather than working out solutions, is wasted. By investing your time and energy on the solution, working to achieve specific goals, you can minimize the stresses and worries inherent in a job search. Recognizing that some stress is needed to propel you to action and make good decisions, the article outlines several tools and tactics to taming job search worries so you can build positive momentum.

Whether you face a job search following a termination, or you simply quit your current employer, you should seek an emotional outlet to express grief, anger, shock, fear or sadness. Ignoring these emotions will infect your search with negativity, repelling job opportunities. You can join a job loss support group or seek out a career counselor or coach trained in managing the sentiments of job loss, but you should not “go it alone.” You will also need to design an office space in which you are committed to performing all job-search activities. Consider your job search a full-time job, and establish a schedule and professional environment that mirrors activities, contributions and goals at your future company.


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Employer Credit Checks on Job Seekers Draw Scrutiny
Career Journal, October 21

The common practice of checking the credit histories of job applicants is coming under greater scrutiny. Already, four states have passed laws in the past three years that limit the practice, and similar bills have been introduced in 20 other states and Congress. On one hand, experts point out that poor credit could become a barrier to landing a job or have a potential discriminatory impact on hiring. On the other hand, employers contend credit checks help them evaluate candidates and protect against fraud. The issue is a particularly sensitive one in the aftermath of the recession, which has left many unemployed workers with tarnished credit and attracted the attention of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Opponents of employer credit checks cite studies showing that minorities such as African-Americans and Latinos tend to have lower credit scores. They also dispute whether credit reports are an accurate way to measure an employee's qualifications, with experts pointing to studies that bad credit is actually a poor predictor of job performance. A recent Society for Human Resource Management study showed 60% of employers used credit checks to vet job candidates. Of those, 13% used them for all candidates, taking individual circumstances into account and looking for a pattern of careless financial behavior, not one-time events.


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Career Opportunities
Communications of the ACM (Vol. 53, No. 11), November 2010

At a time when the unemployment rate for recent U.S. college graduates is at its highest level since 1983, U.S. computer science graduates are finding more career opportunities than ever before. Many are receiving multiple employment offers as companies accelerate their hiring efforts in the wake of the recession. At some top-level universities, 95% of graduating CS students have jobs waiting for them. Moreover, college are returning to the field after a steep six-year decline caused by the dot-com crash, with the number of computer science majors rising 8.1% in 2008 and another 5.5% in 2009. The article looks at employment and compensation trends, while focusing on factors such as the recent popularity of computing technology in the mainstream public.

According to projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computing will be one of the fastest-growing job markets through 2018. Employment of software engineers, computer scientists, and network, database, and systems administrators is expected to grow between 24% and 32% through 2018. They account for 71% of new jobs among the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. Of the new jobs, according to BLS projections, 27% will be in software engineering, 21% in computing networking, and 10% in systems analysis. Software engineering alone is expected to add nearly 300,000 jobs in the next eight years. Computer programmers will fare less well, with a projected decline in employment of 3% through 2018 as a result of factors such as offshore outsourcing.


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How Government Policy Drives E-Learning
eLearn Magazine, October 12

While governments have always played an important role in designing a nation’s educational system, the rapid pace of technological development means that legislators and agencies that create public policy are having a difficult time keeping up. This creates a challenge for policymakers, who must try to write policy that won't become outdated. It's also a challenge for educators, who must coordinate their tactics with the larger strategy while recognizing the effects of emerging new technology. As a result, it is clearly important to educators, policymakers, and everyone involved in educational technology to examine current policies, to understand why these policies function as they do, and to try to predict how policy now being written will affect technology and learning over the next ten years.

In terms of education-related legislation, the current approach of US lawmakers has been to ensure that more students graduate with a high quality degree. Creating a growing pipeline of high school graduates who are fully capable of going on to college, however, complicates an already existing problem: brick-and-mortar institutions struggling to make room for the students they have. Classrooms, labs, and lecture halls have finite limits, and when those are reached, students will have to be turned away. The need to stretch seating capacity beyond the physical limitations of existing buildings has led to a new focus on e-learning, which is a powerful tool for tailoring curriculum to ensure that students have easier access to more kinds of courses. The document that specifies how the US will go about implementing technology to address these educational needs will be the National Educational Technology Plan. If the U.S. is to become the top nation in the world in college graduates by 2020, it must leverage technology and create the most engaging learning environment possible.


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