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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, October 23, 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 20, October 23, 2012




Acqui-Hire Trend Turns Startups Into IT Talent Pools
CIO.com, October 10

For the past two years in Silicon Valley, the largest technology companies have been buying smaller startups in order to acquire key employees with software and engineering knowledge and the capacity to lead innovative new product launches. They aren't looking to buy the intellectual property, the products or even the customers of the acquisition target: their primary concern is getting access to a relatively few number of top employees. By acquiring startups rather than poaching talent outright, they hope to minimize the potential litigation risk associated with non-compete clauses and IP. This method of acquiring new employees has become so popular, in fact, that it is now known as the “acqui-hire.”

For startup founders and venture capitalists, the payoff from these deals is tied to the bottom line. When a startup is at the end of its financing and not making profits, acqui-hire is a good way to save face. Entrepreneurs and venture capitalists get to say they were bought by a major tech giant as opposed to having to close its doors. As a result, the typical targets of these buy-outs are smaller startups with a small group of engineers that have worked together for a decent amount of time and have a good team dynamic. The past couple years have seen a few high-profile examples, such as Google buying Milk from Kevin Rose, Twitter buying Whisper Systems and Facebook acquiring Gowalla.


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Grad Schools Add Big Data Degrees
Computerworld, October 8

Colleges and universities are moving swiftly to create advanced degree programs to help meet what's expected to be significant demand among employers for specialists who can manage and analyze Big Data. According to a recent McKinsey study, a coming shortage of analytical experts could leave as many as 190,000 Big Data positions unfilled by 2018. These educational institutions are also responding to appeals from big employers that have been lobbying college administrators to set up such programs. Schools have offered analytics training for years, but the emerging advanced degree programs add instruction in the use of analytic and business intelligence tools to produce useful information from the data collected from social media sites, sensors, transaction records, mobile applications and other sources.

A common element of all of the new Big Data programs is that they're designed for students with strong quantitative skills gained either academically or through work experience in fields related to math, computer science, engineering, life sciences or finance. For example, the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas will launch a master of science in business analytics program in the fall of 2013. North Carolina State University launched what may have been the nation's first advanced degree program in analytics in 2007, and the school recently finished expanding its facilities to meet surging demand. Meanwhile, Northwestern University recently launched a new 15-month, full-time master of science in analytics program.


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How to Get Your First Cloud Computing Job
InfoWorld, October 12

As the cloud computing field continues to expand rapidly, there is an accompanying need for top IT talent to develop and implement this technology. That translates into many new jobs chasing very few qualified candidates. As a result, many IT professionals are attempting to figure out how they can adapt for a career in the cloud. For now, there are two basic types of cloud jobs: cloud technology specialists, who focus on a specific cloud technology and how to develop or implement it; and cloud planners, who configure new systems in the cloud or lead the migration of existing systems to the cloud. The article takes a closer look at how jobseekers can land both of these cloud jobs.

In most instances, the listings for the cloud planner positions are filled by existing IT staffers who understand full well that having cloud computing experience on their CV translates into larger paychecks going forward. Those looking to break into cloud computing will have the best luck by learning a specific technology, then taking a cloud technology specialist job. The trick is getting the initial experience. The most ambitious candidates will begin their own "shadow IT" projects using a hot cloud computing technology, then soon find their way to a formal and high-paying cloud gig. Cloud computing is filled with stories about self-taught successes, due to the lack of formal training offered.


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Is Social Entrepreneurship Transforming Millennial Talent Acquisition?
Forbes, October 10

Social entrepreneurship is beginning to drive a major shift in the hiring strategies of corporate America, as companies respond to the desire of millennials to balance their career goals with the ability to make a social impact. There is a growing trend in business school and the university for students to search for opportunities to create social impact, whether it is courses offerings, entire programs or internship opportunities. According to a recent study from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, 90% of MBAs were willing to sacrifice financial benefits to work for a company that demonstrates a strong commitment to social good. Against this backdrop, employers need to re-think what they can offer job applicants.

Fortune 500 companies have found that potential employees recruited from top educational institutions ask specifically about volunteering and community service, indicating that it is one of the criteria for an “employer of choice.” Furthermore, a survey on volunteering conducted amongst national college graduates listed some of the professional benefits millennials are looking to gain, such as experience in strategic planning, improved understanding of government policies, connections with community leaders, and exposure to social patterns. It has an impact on entrepreneurs, as well, who are trying to hire the most talented people. In some cases, applicants are willing to turn down well-paid internships with Fortune 500 companies to join a young social impact powered startup.


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How Games Have Grown Up to Be a Serious Career Aspiration
The Independent (UK), October 16

The game design industry, once viewed as the purview only of hobbyists and the self-taught computer scientist, is emerging as a viable career path and as a serious academic field. In fact, the last few years have been regarded something of a golden age for video games, with sales records shattered regularly and critical acclaim at an all-time high. While it is still very difficult to land jobs within the biggest gaming companies, the industry needs game designers more than ever: not just directors who orchestrate the entire game, but also junior-level employees who design systems and individual set pieces.

To get a start in the games business, either as an indie developer or as an employee of an established studio, there are a number of skills you need: technical skills, creative skills, analytical skills, team-working skills and entrepreneurial skills. There are many people who now want to work in games, but few who measure up to the requirements of the industry these days. There are even fewer who have the creative talent, technical know-how, vision and entrepreneurial savvy to really contribute to the ever-changing face of an evolving medium. You also need knowledge -- not only knowledge of the games industry and how it works, but also knowledge of a wide variety of fields that inform game design and development.


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Enterprise Hunger For Custom Apps Equals Developer Jobs
Information Week, October 17

According to several recent surveys, application development is one of the fastest-growing trends in the enterprise market. As a result, IT budgets are shifting to either expand the number of in-house developers or to accommodate more contract workers. In short, now is a good time to be an application developer. While the consumer app ecosystem is robust, the enterprise app ecosystem is much less developed. Application developers have become a top IT commodity and a catalyst for aggressive hiring practices.

Although retraining current employees is one way to fill the need, a third of companies actually intend to bring in new talent. Among those who plan to hire, most intend to increase staffing by up to 10% over the next two years, with nearly a fifth of the group anticipating expansions north of 21%. What's more, this trend will accelerate over the next two years, by which point nearly three-quarters of app developers are expected to be in-house employees. The responses suggest contractors will comprise most of the remainder, with outsourcing left largely on the outside looking in.


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It’s Time To Take Your Job Search Offline
Fox Business, October 15

Finding a job in today’s competitive hiring environment means taking advantage of effective offline strategies, rather than focusing entirely on searching online and sending out electronic resumes. In fact, a new study recently reported that most job candidates are spending almost their entire time job searching online instead of offline, spending between five and 20 hours per week searching online and using job boards as their top resource. The study shows 92% of Gen Y only job hunt online, which means they are not using all the tools and resources available to aid their search. While it may be daunting to approach people directly with the confidence required to have a meaningful conversation or set up a meeting, that is often what is needed to gain the attention of recruiters.

To be more successful in landing a job, there are several ways you can improve your prospects by taking your search offline. This doesn’t mean ignoring the Internet completely. Use the Internet as a filter to find the right people at a company to reach out to and meet offline -- you can analyze their backgrounds and make connections with them online. Using LinkedIn and other online tools can help uncover openings, research companies, and find out more about hiring managers. Creating professional blogs or websites to promote skills is also a great way to meet contacts online and ease into a more personal relationship. Rather than expecting a direct return on time investment, you should think of it as a way to hone social skills, meet interesting people, and learn from others.


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Think Outside the Box to Get Your Resume Noticed
Lifehacker, October 17

If you want to get hired in today's job market, you have to stand out from the crowd, and that usually starts with a resume that gains attention. According to career experts, there are several different ways to think outside of the box to get your resume noticed. For one, you might want to consider re-writing your resume from zero, so that you can include as many of the key phrases and requirements that are mentioned in each job listing. By understanding how the social Web works, you can work to get your resume into the hands of influencers, or take advantage of other paid tools to promote your resume across popular Web sites visited by recruiters and hiring managers.

The first way to think outside the box is to “reverse write” your resume. Forget everything you already have on your resume. Open a new blank document, check the job description of the job you're seeking, and then write your resume in reverse chronological order. Focus exclusively on "what have I done that the people who wrote this description will like?" The process of building a resume from scratch that is targeted towards a particular job forces you to let go of the unnecessary material you have in your generic resume. You can also target and differentiate your application using colors and fonts, without being overly aggressive. The next time you apply to a company with a recognizable logo, for example, try using a bit of the color scheme somewhere in your resume.


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Computer Science and the Three R’s
Communications of the ACM, Vol. 55 No. 10, October 2012

As they consider how to attract more students to study computer science at the university level, educators are coming to the conclusion that the solution is to be found at the K-12 level. Quite simply, if young students decide they’re not interested in computer science by the end of high school, there’s not much that can be done to entice them at the college level. Yet, over the past 20 years, the percentage of students who take computer science in U.S. high schools has dropped from 25% to 19%, and in many schools, the subject is simply not taught. What’s needed are for K-12 educators to adopt recognized education standards for computer science instruction, as well as to better integrate computer science into all aspects of the K-12 educational experience.

Fitting computer science into the curriculum is a particular problem in the U.S., where each state defines its own academic standards. That is why many educators have focused their attention on the computer science course offered by the Advanced Placement (AP) program. Approximately 20,000 students take the end-of-year AP computer science test, as compared to the several hundred thousand who take the AP calculus exam. To increase participation and attract new students to the field, educators are developing a new AP course that focuses on principles rather than programming. The idea, proponents say, is to attract a more diverse student body by concentrating on computational thinking, and to get the course into more schools using the cachet of the AP brand.


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A Recap of the Sloan Consortium Conference on Online Learning
eLearn Magazine, October 2012

At the 18th Annual Sloan Consortium Conference on Online Learning in Orlando, participants discussed the changing face of online education, including the appearance of new massively open online courses. The Sloan Consortium conference attracted a diverse group of instructors, administrators, support services providers, technology experts, and instructional designers working in a range of education and training settings. This year more than 1,500 attendees participated directly, while 1,300 joined streamed sessions online.

Thus far, 2012 has been the year of the Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) and vastly expanded online offerings at a variety of institutions. There are more possibilities than ever before for making learning opportunities available to large groups of learners. Distance education refers not just to geography, but also of access. Through continued exploration of different models and approaches applied to a variety of contexts in our complex world, we may find the future of online learning in a host of new directions, not just one path, moving forward. And it will be our shared experiences and collaborative efforts that lead the way.


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