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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, October 4, 2011

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 7, Issue 19, October 4, 2011




 

Nine Hot IT Skills For 2012
Computerworld, September 26

Many U.S. companies are ramping up plans for IT hiring and are looking to add new workers to bolster business growth in the year ahead. According to a new Computerworld survey, nearly 29% of IT executives said they plan to increase IT staffing through next summer, up from 23% in the 2010 survey and 20% in the 2009 survey. Altogether, recruiters have been seeing strong hiring across the board, among organizations of all sizes. There has been pent-up demand for infrastructure upgrades and investments that had been put on hold over the previous three years, leading to demand for specific IT skills.

The IT skill most in demand is Programming and Application Development, with 61% planning to hire for this skill in the next 12 months, up from 44% in the 2010 survey. Employers are looking for a variety of skills in areas ranging from website development to upgrading internal systems and mobile application development. Another hot area is Project Management, with 44% planning to hire for this skill in the next 12 months, up from 43% in the 2010 survey. Big projects need business analysts who can identify users' needs and translate them for the IT staffers who have to meet those needs and complete projects on time. Help Desk/Technical Support is perennially strong, with 35% planning to hire for this skill in the next 12 months, down from 43% in the 2010 survey. As long as technology is used in the workplace, there will be a need for support staffers, be they internal or remote.


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Prepare to Fill One of 1.5 Million Data-Savvy Manager Jobs
Web Worker Daily, September 22

According to a recent McKinsey study, by 2018 the United States faces a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts to analyze big data and make decisions based on their findings. As a result, IT workers and educators should be thinking about the opportunities that this shortage presents and how workers can become data-savvy managers. There has been an explosion of information in almost all organizations and functions, and much of it is unstructured data that is difficult to analyze. Not only that, but the amount is doubling every two years. There is a void of skills, both deep analytical skills required for data mining and the knowledge needed to make sense of this data for everything from finance to marketing.

Workers in a variety of functional roles are starting to understand the value of being data-savvy and how the different kinds of data and analyses can be used to influence behavior, improve organizational policies and practices, or make better decisions. Predictive analytics uses past and current data to answer questions about the future. Scorecarding tracks business metrics against strategic and operational outcomes for better decision-making. Dashboards provide real-time presentations and aggregations of relevant data. Social analytics provide metrics from social media and networks. Content analytics provides an assessment of available content and how it is used. Web analytics tracks traffic and key words used to find particular sites.


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Obama Pushes for Jobs Bill in Silicon Valley Forum
USA Today, September 26

President Obama pressed his case for a $447 billion jobs bill in the heart of Silicon Valley, where there aren't enough engineers and tech leaders talk about the need for more math and science education. At a digital town hall meeting at the Computer History Museum, Obama held a one-hour meeting similar in structure and tone to one held at Facebook in April. Obama took questions about job creation and the economy from about 300 employees and members of LinkedIn. He emphasized the potential of the digital economy, pointing out that, unless America better trains its workforce, builds infrastructure and invests in research and education, the U.S. cannot effectively compete with China and India.

The American Jobs Act relies heavily on slashing the Social Security payroll tax for an extra year. This would give employees more money to spend and employers an incentive to hire, but it would further deplete a program that is already in the red. The plan also calls for spending on roads, bridges, school construction and other infrastructure. Obama said the jobs plan would prevent discrimination against the long-term unemployed, and he vowed the Defense Department and others should help veterans get credentials to leverage their skills. Tech leaders are closely watching Obama, as they continue to cope with a shortage of engineers and shrinking R&D budgets.


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Salaries Rise for Engineers Despite Higher Unemployment
Network World (via Computerworld), September 27

Salaries for engineers have been increasing, despite a weak economy and a higher than normal rate of unemployment for this group, according to the IEEE-USA. For all engineers, median income, including salary, commissions, bonuses and net self-employment income, increased from $113,500 in 2009 to $118,000 in 2010, or by 3.96%. For software engineers, the median salary grew from $104,000 in 2009 to $109,000 in 2010, a 4.8% increase. That increase included making up some lost ground from 2008, when salaries were at $105,210.

This increase in wages happened despite an increase in unemployment among engineers last year. The unemployment rate in 2010 for all engineers was 4.5%. For software engineers it was 4.6%, and for all computing professionals, 5.4%, according to U.S. Labor Department data analyzed by the IEEE-USA. Those figures are about double the normal rate of unemployment for engineers. In explaining the salary increases during a period of higher than normal unemployment for this profession, the IEEE-USA noted that engineers who still have their jobs have generally received annual raises, as in the past.


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How to Conduct a Job Search: What You Need to Know Today
CIO.com, September 26

Initiating a job search by social networking represents a significant change in the way savvy IT jobseekers look for work today. Rather than spending the bulk of their time trying to find their next job via a job board, sophisticated IT job seekers have made face-to-face networking, online social networking (using LinkedIn in particular) and personal branding as the cornerstones of their job searches. Their focused efforts are bearing better results, in terms of more interest from hiring managers and actual interviews.

Jobseekers and career experts alike say that today’s job search requires more focus, networking and personal branding than ever before because the recession changed the way employers recruit new employees. Today, 14 million people are unemployed. Add the people who are working part-time either because their hours have been cut or they can't find a full-time job, and you have 22.8 million Americans looking for work. By some estimates, there are only 3 million jobs currently available, meaning that there are at least seven times as many people are searching for work as there are jobs. All of these people are overwhelming corporate recruiting and HR departments with resumes and applications. Further complicating recruitment matters is the fact that because employers also downsized their HR departments during the recession, there are fewer people available to process all of the résumés hitting them today.


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How To Catch Recruiters' Eyes On LinkedIn
Information Week, September 27

Through savvy use of LinkedIn, IT pros may be able to improve their career prospects. Surprisingly, one of the things that many people are missing, say recruiters, is a complete LinkedIn profile. Complete LinkedIn profiles utilizing all key sections increase your odds of being found in a recruiter searches. Not only should your profile be complete, but it should also be optimized for search. Recruiters search on keywords when looking for candidates, and it's important to know the terms that are hot in your industry and specialized field so that you can include those terms in your profile.

IT professionals should review job postings in their primary area to determine the keywords and terms that keep coming up. The words may be technical, like 'web' or 'cloud.' They may be organizational, like 'team player,' 'innovative,' or 'director.' Where appropriate, make sure keywords are included in your LinkedIn profile. Use the words as often as you can in headlines and in the text." Another way to determine the most effective keywords is through the use of Google Trends. This free tool allows users to compare interest in different topics. You can enter up to five topics to see how often they have been searched on Google over time. You can also use the tool to determine whether, say, "SaaS expertise" is better to include in your profile than "cloud experience" based on the way in which the terms are being searched on.


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Gender and Competition: What Companies Need to Know
Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, September 21

Pressure to not compete against men, rather than an innate preference for cooperation over competition, may keep women from earning what they're worth in the workplace, according to preliminary findings by three Harvard researchers. What they found in their early research on cooperation and competition in the workplace is that how women and men perform at work may be strongly linked to the gender of the person they are competing against. Drawing on previous studies of gender gaps and inequality in the workplace, they analyze the competitiveness of women in particular work environments or groups. This research could provide insights as to why women are paid less, have trouble being promoted in certain work environments, and hold a small percentage of top corporate management positions.

The goal was to answer questions on gender, competition, and cooperation that have not been addressed in previous research, such as whether men and women react differently to diverse sorts of pay schemes. To answer these questions, they used cooperative and competitive scenarios in which participants performed both a verbal and a math test at Harvard Business School's Computer Lab for Experimental Research. Interestingly, the researchers didn't find a significant difference in performance between the cooperative and the competitive payment schemes for either men or women. There's a strongly held assumption that men are competitive and women aren't, and these results show otherwise. In addition, past studies mostly utilized tasks that would stereotypically advantage men, such as math or maze tasks. The Harvard research team built on that research by asking participants to complete tasks that were stereotypically female as well.


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How Facebook Timeline Could Influence Your Next Interview
PC World, September 23

At its f8 developer conference, Facebook unveiled the Facebook Timeline, which marks a significant departure from the traditional Facebook Profile page. The Facebook Timeline, combined with other changes unveiled at f8, may influence your ability to get a job by making it easier to share every aspect of your life with your social network in real-time. The problem is that prospective employers will be checking out your Facebook Timeline as well, so you'll need to devote some effort to making sure it creates the portrait of you that you want others to see.

When your current profile is converted to a Timeline, it might reveal pictures, events, and status updates from your past that you forgot about. Facebook will run through your Facebook existence to extract relevant bits to populate your Timeline. If you've been using Facebook for a while, there's no telling what sorts of smoking guns and skeletons in the closet might be revealed. Thankfully, Facebook gives you an opportunity to identify the information you want to promote on the Timeline, and to hide or delete entries you'd rather not have exposed to the world. The information displayed on the Timeline will have the same privacy controls and restrictions as the same information currently has on your Facebook Profile and Wall. You can choose to allow some elements to be seen by the general public, while limiting other entries to just family and close friends.


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Senator, Congressman Introduce Measure to Address Crisis in K-12 Computer Science Education
ACM Press Room, September 22

The Computer Science Education Act is a new legislative initiative that is part of a continuing effort to address the growing crisis in K-12 computer science education. The legislation will bolster computer science education programs across the country, and help ensure that the education pipeline will produce a 21st century workforce for the nation. The Act targets a variety of factors that currently work against quality computer science in K-12 education, such as uneven or nonexistent computer science learning standards across the states and the declining number of K-12 computer science courses. The Computer Science Education Act has a goal of ensuring that computer science remains a fundamental discipline in our nation’s classrooms.

Major stakeholders in the computing field, ranging from industry to non-profit associations, including ACM and the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), support the legislation. With significant job creation over the next decade in industries fueled by computer science, better K-12 instruction in this STEM field is critical to our economic competitiveness. This legislation will give more students the opportunity to study computer science and position themselves for the jobs of the future. The central part of the Act proposes grants to assess the current condition of computer science education in the states, and create state plans and actions for reform. It also calls for the formation of a commission to review the national computer science education environment, and create strong teacher preparation programs at institutions of higher education.


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Somebody's Eating Your Lunch
Blog @ CACM, September 28

Stanford University's new mass teaching experiment in classes for AI, Machine Learning and Databases is drawing attention as a possible new online teaching method. The university, drawing on computer science expertise within the university and tapping into the excitement around technology start-ups, is a natural for this type of serious online teaching experiment. With nearly 100,000 people already registered for the AI class alone, this places the new mass teaching experiment on the same scale as the number of computer science undergraduate students each year in the US.

It’s too soon to say how successful these classes will be and there are many easy criticisms to make. The first criticism is that simply registering for a class does not imply learning. Yet, if only 10% complete these classes, the scale of teaching still surpasses the scale of any traditional process. The second criticism is that 1st year excitement is difficult to maintain over time. Yet, if only 10% take future classes, the scale of teaching still surpasses the scale of any traditional process. Online teaching misses out on other aspects of education, but for students not enrolled in a high quality university program, this is simply not a relevant comparison. There are also benefits to being online as well, as your time might be better focused.


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