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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, November 4, 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 21, November 4, 2008




Hard Times? Not for iPhone Developers
Wired Gadget Lab, October 30

With the growing popularity of the Apple iPhone, there has been a corresponding interest in developers with iPhone programming skills. Over the past six months, in fact, the demand for iPhone developers worldwide has grown 500%, according to IT outsourcing firm oDesk. Companies are seeking app developers, software engineers and other programming and consulting talent to build iPhone apps. In addition to the U.S. market, employers are also searching out talent from Russia, India, Ukraine, China and many other countries.

In September, just two months after the App Store's launch, Apple reported that iPhone apps hit a milestone of 100 million downloads. Some independent developers are striking it rich with their iPhone apps and some music labels are finding that iPhone apps give them new ways to sell music online. Some universities are already aware of the business opportunities the iPhone has created and are already teaching courses on iPhone application development. Stanford was one of the first to offer an iPhone course as part of its computer science program. And more universities will follow, as Apple recently launched iPhone University, giving schools free resources and software to teach iPhone development.


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Colleges Learn to Make Games Work
Seattle Times (via Los Angeles Times), October 31

More students at the university and graduate-school level are taking advantage of new academic opportunities in the video gaming field. In many ways, the success of the video gaming industry has helped re-ignite interest in computer science as an academic discipline. Video gaming has become a truly interdisciplinary academic pursuit, with programs and courses popping up at unexpected places – such as fine art colleges, film schools, music schools and even drama programs. Currently, more than 200 institutions offer some form of video-gaming degree program.

Over the past decade, video-gaming has steadily become a more accepted part of the curriculum at many institutions of higher learning. Now that game companies recruit students directly to work in studios all over the world, the type of person creating games is no longer just a computer hobbyist but a well-trained professional. A blockbuster game can easily require more than 100 developers, each working for two or more years, to complete. Over the past six years, there's been a boom in the number of programs cropping up to train future developers. Because the field of study is so young, there is little agreement among schools over the proper curriculum.


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The 2009 IT Salary Guide
Datamation, November 1

According to the 2009 IT Salary Guide, average starting salaries for IT professionals will increase by 3.7% next year, down slightly from 5.3% in 2008. The modest decline in salary growth is due primarily to the weakening outlook for the U.S. economy. The IT Salary Guide, published by Robert Half Technology, suggests that two key demographic trends – the declining number of college graduates heading into IT and a surge in the number of Baby Boomers headed into retirement - will create the foundation for a robust job market in the near future. Already, 77% of CIOs agree that it is becoming more challenging to find skilled IT applicants.

In most companies, skilled IT talent continues to be at a premium, particularly in areas like Java, SQL Server, SharePoint and .NET development. It’s not unusual for these experts to receive multiple job offers. As more companies embrace Web 2.0, there is also emphasis on technologies and skills that help companies extend their Web presence. A Robert Half survey of 1,400 CIOs reveals that the following IT skills are in greatest demand: Network administration (70%), Windows administration (69%), Desktop support (69%), Database management (58%), Wireless network management (47%), Telecommunications support (44%) and Web development/Website design (42%).


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Recruiters Offer Advice for Finding IT Management Jobs
CIO.com (via Computerworld), October 30

At the 2008 CIO Executive Leadership Summit, recruiters from The Cambridge Group, Halbrecht Lieberman Associates and Heidrick & Struggles answered questions about the IT recruitment process and suggested the best ways to advance IT careers. Participants discussed how to get on the "A" list for a high-profile job opening, the pros and cons of reaching out to executive search firms, and the types of critical information that should appear on every candidate’s resume. In addition, they offered advice on the three different ways to progress along the CIO career track.

According to the recruiters attending the Summit, there is a best way to reach out to search firms. IT executives should contact them through a source that both parties know and trust, such as a friend or colleague. To get on the 'A' list for an IT executive search, there are certain critical skills that recruiters consider, such as strong communication skills. Recruiters and employers also look to see how job candidates package themselves in their résumés. Another "A" list factor is the candidate's current or previous employers, since some companies are well-known for developing strong talent.


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Next Year's Paycheck Looks Safe -- if Your Job Survives
Wall Street Journal, October 23

Based on 2009 salary budget projections from nearly 200 midsize and large U.S. firms, consulting firm Mercer LLC concludes that there will not be significant changes to next year’s salary budgets. Despite the economic uncertainty heading into 2009, many organizations had already created their salary projections earlier in the year before the credit crisis picked up in intensity. However, the Mercer study warns that employers may adjust their compensation costs in other ways, such as by trimming their work forces, cutting back on hiring and reducing bonus payouts.

The majority of firms surveyed by Mercer (58%) said they haven't changed their budget projections from April. Another 24% said they have changed budget projections, but plan to reduce their budgets by only one-half of a percentage point. Another 18% said they expect to increase their budgets from the spring by one-tenth of a percentage point. Overall, employers said they expect to boost salaries for all workers in 2009 by an average of 3.6%. Mercer's latest findings are similar to those in new studies also to be released from Hewitt Associates and Watson Wyatt Worldwide.


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Positioning Yourself for a Promotion
Computerworld, October 20

Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology, outlines seven different ways for IT professionals to seek out and win a promotion at their organizations. With the current economic situation leading many employers to focus on making the most of their existing IT staffs, there are plenty of new opportunities to take on new challenges. Taking advantage of these opportunities, however, requires a strategic approach. Most importantly, IT professionals need to understand fully the requirements of any new position, possess a solid understanding of which skills and abilities they can leverage, and consider how they will raise the promotion topic with their boss.

Most importantly, understand the requirements of the new job opportunity. For example, find out what extra responsibilities are involved, what additional compensation or perks you might receive, whether the work will require more than just technical skills, and any supervisory role you might be expected to play. Secondly, take a candid inventory of your skills and abilities to check whether your technical skills are current. For IT promotions, soft skills such as communication and leadership are sometimes more important than technical skills. Think of creative ways to showcase these skills, such as by volunteering to lead a project or interacting with co-workers outside of your IT job function.


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Gen Y Gets a Recession Reality Check
Management Issues, October 23

Nearly one-half of Generation Y workers in the U.K. are complaining that managers are now putting them under greater pressure to work longer hours. According to a survey by the UK Association of Graduate Recruiters, the work-life balance is so important to these young professionals that they would consider leaving their jobs as a result. As a result, the association is advising managers to address the work-life balance issue as quickly as possible, so as to avoid a possible talent drain as workers look elsewhere for meaning and fulfillment.

A U.S study earlier this month suggested that the downturn, rather than encouraging people to stay put and work harder, in fact simply sent levels of loyalty and trust plunging to new lows. Long hours, increased anxiety, uncertainty and stress mean that managers are going to have their work cut out maintaining the morale and engagement of those left behind, particularly top performers. The AGR survey of 40 graduates found that, once enthusiasm for and engagement with an employer brand was lost, it was very hard to recover. As a result, getting the work-life balance right in the current economic climate is going to take effort from both employers and workers.


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Women in IT Believe They Are Paid Less Than Men
Computer Weekly, October 31

More than half of women in IT believe they get paid less than their male colleagues, according to a survey by the IT trade association Intellect. Indeed, the 21% pay gap within the IT industry is larger than the 17% national average. A survey of women in the industry found 53% of them either believe their pay is not comparable to their male colleagues, or do not know. The Perceptions of Equal Pay survey also hinted at possible reasons for the persistence of the IT wage gap between men and women.

As part of Intellect's Perceptions of Equal Pay survey, 57% of women surveyed do not think their company has a transparent pay structure. There was a slight increase in the number of companies carrying out equal pay audits. 8% of respondents said their company had carried out an audit, which was double the figure in the last two years. According to the chair of Intellect's Women in IT group, there is still a pay gap of 17% for full-time women in all industries, and that gap is wider, at 21%, for women working in the IT industry. While many women still believe that they are paid less than their male colleagues, they are aware that their companies are starting to do something about it.


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Government Study Finds 21% of H-1B Applications Violate Rules
Information Week, October 20

The U.S. government estimates that 21% of H-1B visa petitions are in violation of H-1B program rules, based on a representative sample study of 246 cases involving H-1B petitions filed between October 2005 and March 2006. The study, drafted by the Office of Fraud Detection and National Security, cites one of the most common violations as businesses that did not pay a current market wage to the H-1B beneficiary. The study also uncovered a number of troublesome violations, including nonexistent job locations, fraudulent and forged documents, and visa petitions filed by nonexistent businesses.

The report's estimates are based on a sample study of 246 cases out of a total of 95,827 H-1B petitions, filed between October 2005 and March 2006. The sample cases included only those in which a business was looking to extend an existing H-1B visa for someone already in the United States, or hire someone under the H-1B program who came to the United States on a different visa. Out of the 246 cases investigated, the government office determined that 51 cases, or 21%, were in violation of H-1B program rules. Extrapolating this overall violation rate to the total H-1B population, a total of approximately 20,000 petitions may have had some type of fraud or technical violation during that time period.


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Women and Technology in Pakistan
ACM-W Council Women in Computing News Blog, October 10

While women account for almost 50% of Pakistan’s potential workforce, their full economic potential has not yet been realized. Compared with other economies, their participation levels in business and technology activity is relatively low. To overcome the limited socio-economic opportunities for women in Pakistan, a new program called the Women’s Virtual Network is attempting to jump-start opportunities for women entrepreneurs. The goal of the program is to create an environment and culture that encourages more women to start and grow businesses.

After reviewing the problems and challenging facing women in Pakistan, such as a lack of access to capital and technology, the article reviews the potential of ICT for stimulating economic growth, social development and political participation. Pakistani women are increasingly taking advantage of ICT in all spheres of life, thus confirming that ICT can be a tool to promote gender equality and enhance the economic, political and social empowerment of women. The challenge ahead is to encourage the spread and use of this technology to a larger number of women in order to speed their integration into a true knowledge-based economy.


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