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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, November 20, 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 22, November 20, 2012




IT Employment is Still Soaring, and So are Bonuses
InfoWorld, November 15

With unemployment in the IT industry at historically low levels, companies are increasing their payments of bonuses as they scramble to fill open positions and retain their best workers. Bonus payouts throughout the industry averaged $8,769 last year, and it's likely that bonuses will climb even higher this year. IT workers in Silicon Valley already do better than the rest of the nation, with bonuses averaging just under $12,500, according to a survey by Dice. Across the nation, approximately one in three IT workers can expect to receive a bonus this year, and those that do not may decide to jump ship and find a higher-paying job elsewhere.

Hiring in IT has been remarkably strong, even as the rest of the economy struggles to keep unemployment under 8%. At the beginning of November, Dice listed 86,731 job postings in IT, compared to 81,680 a year ago. Listings for nearly every month of the last 12 months have been for 80,000 or more jobs. Those aren't all new positions -- with tech unemployment so low, it's likely employers are taking a significant amount of time to fill vacant slots. The Dice survey highlights another important tech employment trend: the growth of contract positions. Of the jobs listed for November, 52,870 are full-time, permanent positions, while 37,169 are contract jobs. More than 17,000 jobs were added in technology consulting during the third quarter of 2012. Through September, that category has had more than 56,000 new positions.


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Eight IT Healthcare Trends for Tech Job Seekers in 2013
Network World, November 13

Opportunities abound within the healthcare sector for IT professionals with skills related to mobile, cloud computing, virtualization and big data. There are several factors driving this growth within the healthcare sector, such as new privacy and data security rules at the federal level as well as the overriding need to grow and update healthcare infrastructure. When these factors converge with new technologies that are already growing rapidly - such as mobile - healthcare IT could become one of the fastest-growing areas within the IT sector in 2013. The article highlights eight healthcare IT trends for 2013, emphasizing how they could impact job prospects for IT professionals over the coming year.

By far, mobile is the leading trend for healthcare IT job seekers. Devices such as smart phones and tablets are helping doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers get their jobs done on the move. Not only are CIOs faced with growing and updating infrastructure for the mobile era, they also have to find a way to do it while saving money and resources. Virtualization is one of the ways IT professionals in healthcare are trying to achieve this goal. It has been becoming more and more common and will likely continue, making IT workers with skills in cloud and virtualization in demand in 2013. Cloud computing is still being held back due to HIPPA privacy and security concerns, but as the cloud industry matures and security catches up, companies will likely move more and more systems to the cloud, so they can focus on their core business objectives.


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Moving to a Career in IT Security
Computerworld, October 31

As more companies turn their attention to network security, it is opening up new opportunities for IT jobseekers with skills related to IT networking. As experts within the IT industry point out, having a good understanding of networks in general is the single best prerequisite to landing a security-related position. In addition, it helps to interact with other professionals already within the IT security community to understand the current concerns of employers as well as the impact of emerging technologies. Finally, it helps to be familiar with IT security qualifications and standards, in order to understand what employers are looking for in new hires.

Experts point out that knowing how to build a network and knowing how to secure it are really one and the same, so anyone planning a career in IT security should be well prepared for interview questions aimed at network engineering candidates. Just as network engineers should be able to draw out a network diagram, IT security professionals should be able to do this and then describe how it could be secured. If you don't have access to switches and firewalls, there are a number of ways you can build your own network at home. Make use of technologies like virtual desktops and free network simulation applications. If you can get access to a cheap PC with two network cards, you can easily install your own firewall for test purposes.


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How to Reduce America's Talent Deficit
Wall Street Journal, October 18

Brad Smith, executive vice president and general counsel of Microsoft, weighs in on what academia and industry can do to produce more graduates with the IT skills needed in the marketplace. The problem, as he points out, is that American companies are now creating more jobs for which they can't find enough qualified applicants. Despite the fact that the national unemployment rate for computer-related occupations was only 3.4% this summer, there are simply too few Americans with the necessary science, technology, engineering and math skills to meet companies' demand. Against this backdrop, Smith outlines the key ideas in a new proposal for closing the U.S. IT talent deficit.

Unfortunately, the talent deficit problem is likely to get even worse. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. this year will create 120,000 new jobs requiring at least a bachelor's degree in computer science. But all of our colleges and universities put together will produce only 40,000 new bachelor's degrees in computer science. In addition, the BLS forecasts that this demand for new jobs will persist every year this decade. And when one adds the high multiplier effect of engineering jobs, it is clear that this problem affects everyone. If we don't increase the number of Americans with necessary skills, jobs will increasingly migrate abroad, creating even bigger challenges for our long-term competitiveness and economic growth.


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Big Data Education: 3 Steps Universities Must Take
Information Week, November 15

With Big Data emerging as one of the hottest areas within the tech world, higher educational institutions need to be doing a better job of creating the courses and experiences that will prepare new graduates for future data science roles. Not only is Big Data growing faster than ever before, but also traditional tools that have been used to extract and analyze 20th century data don't work with Big Data. As a result, incredibly few people have the skills necessary to translate this data into meaningful information. Yet, even with all this demand for Big Data skills, no university in the nation yet has a program in data science. There are three ways that universities can close this talent gap and bring Big Data analytics to the classroom.

First of all, universities should not transform data science into an undergraduate degree. It's too broad, too nuanced and too demanding for an 18-year-old student to understand. Undergraduate students who are interested in eventually pursuing data science should study mathematics or computer science and take elective courses in some content area like finance, biology or sociology. During their undergraduate degree studies, students should be developing the absorptive capacity necessary to develop the deep and wide skills required to be competitive in this space.


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Eight Things Millennial Job Seekers Do That We All Need to Try
U.S. News & World Report, November 14

Workers of all ages can learn a lot from members of Generation Y when it comes to finding a new job within the tech sector. As members of Generation Y embrace new social networking tools, older workers should think about the ways that they can also use these tools to win over hiring managers. And, for younger workers, who often complain that their accomplishments don't get the attention and respect they deserve, they can also learn from Generation Y, especially when it comes to transforming passions into job opportunities. Overall, traits such as being able to collaborate with others and being flexible in the face of change - both of which are attributes of Generation Y - can be leveraged to find new job opportunities.

While some criticize Gen Y for sacrificing in-person conversations and preferring to communicate via text and Facebook, everyone could learn something from this generation's ability to extend their networks via online and technical tools. After all, approximately 92% of companies in the United States use social networks and media to find talent this year, up from 78% five years ago. Most people would also agree that Millennials are some of the most agile workers. They're known to be able to manage several projects simultaneously and to easily shift from one thing to the next with ease. Hiring managers value flexibility, and if you can demonstrate this skill, you'll be more competitive for positions. Moreover, Millennials are not locked into limited, linear patterns of thinking about industry issues or challenges. In today's knowledge economy, the ability to innovate will attract hiring managers.


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Keeping the T in STEM
Washington Post, October 21

A technology specialist with Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia discusses how to make technology more inviting and less intimidating for young girls. Based on her earlier experiences - such as founding an after-school club to encourage girls to experiment with technology - it has become obvious that girls need new opportunities to become technology creators, not just users. It's important to focus on technology as a key STEM component, and not just as a tool to get a job done. As a result, experiences and activities within schools need to focus on helping girls understand how technology works.

Bringing in a brief science or engineering activity to an after school club can be easily managed, given the vast number of ideas and resources available in these fields. But teaching a new skill, program or technology tool usually requires more than one session and much more equipment than the average group has. In addition, borrowing school or community center equipment can be fraught with difficulties, such as administrative rights on computers to install software, Internet filters blocking Web sites, and the need to spend significant amounts of time on the program to master it. These real barriers present obstacles to teaching technology in extracurricular activities. That needs to change. Early exposure to IT can build confidence in girls, and encourage them to pursue future educational opportunities in the field.


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Diversity in IT is About Business Objectives
CIO.com, November 8

When many companies evaluate their recruiting and hiring efforts to diversify their IT workforce, it's important to keep in mind that simply broadening the racial, ethnic or gender base of the workforce should not be the ultimate goal, but rather a strategy that's part of the team's business goals. In general, diversity is important for companies because it leads to diversity of thought and diversity of experiences, both of which can impact business strategy. As companies broaden their efforts to reach out to underrepresented groups within the tech startup scene, they should make it easier for members of these groups to interact with every part of a city's tech ecosystem.

On the business side, diversity as a stated goal is fading from the agenda of many young startups, owing in part to a generational transition. Many young entrepreneurs are focused foremost on attracting top talent, but this may fall short of future diversity goals if they only recruit from within their own communities. Companies need people with talent and people with passion, and that's very much ingrained in the tech culture of people under the age of 35. However, they don't always think about specific demographics, and probably because of that they need to be reminded to consider making diversity a more central concern.


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The Career Path of a Software Engineer
Computers in Entertainment Blog, September 4

Based on his own personal experiences, a software engineer in his mid-30s explains how to approach career planning over the medium- and long-term. As he points out, career plans often change, which means that tech professionals need to be able to adapt flexibly to new opportunities as they arise. As a result, you have to be able to examine your strengths and weaknesses and determine which of them can propel your career forward. Over the long-term, you should develop communication and leadership skills that will make you a better manager. Whatever you're going to do, the most important thing is try to find something you enjoy doing.

By analyzing previous experiences as an R&D Animation Programmer, Senior Application Engineer, and Lead Software Engineer of an R&D team, it's possible to track the evolving skills and experiences needed at each career step. As a career progresses, there is more emphasis on building teams, communicating with team members, and highlighting overall team performance. There's also more consideration of the traits needed to become a manager, director or senior executive of a company. There is always a need, however, to keep updating technology skills, as well as analyzing, communication and decision-making skills. By doing that, it's possible to land a position that leverages strong technical skills as well as great leadership experience.


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Will MOOCs Destroy Academia?
Communications of the ACM, Vol. 55 No. 11, November 2012

Moshe Y. Vardi, editor-in-chief of CACM, weighs in on the development of massive open online courses (MOOCs) and their ability to shape the landscape of higher education. As Vardi points out, MOOCs have become the hottest topic of discussion in higher education in the U.S., even though no business model has emerged for MOOC-based education. While early rhetoric about the educational value of MOOCs was quite lofty, the absence of serious pedagogy in MOOCs is rather striking, their essential feature being short, unsophisticated video chunks, mixed with online quizzes, and accompanied by social networking. While there is much we could undoubtedly do to improve our teaching, MOOCs do not appear to be the answer to our pedagogical shortcomings.

To understand the real significance of MOOCs you must first consider the financial situation in which U.S. colleges and universities have found themselves in the aftermath of the Great Recession. The financial crisis dealt a severe blow to U.S. higher education. Private institutions saw their endowments take significant hits, while public institutions saw state support, which was already shrinking, decline even faster. While outstanding student debt has exceeded the $1 trillion mark, students are facing a highly constrained job market, challenging their ability to repay their debt. After years of college tuition escalating faster than inflation, the very value of college education is being seriously questioned. In this environment, the prospect of higher education at a dramatically reduced cost is simply irresistible.


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