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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, September 21, 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 18, September 21, 2010




Tech Jobs Grow During First Half of 2010
CIO.com, September 14

According to the TechAmerica Foundation, the U.S. high-tech industry is showing signs of job growth and economic recovery after adding more than 30,000 technology jobs during the first six months of 2010. Three of four tech sectors reported net new job gains for the first half of the year. The tech services sector added the most jobs (29,700) during that period, followed by the software services sector (14,200) and the technology manufacturing sector (9,100). The communications services sector, which includes Internet and telecom companies, was the one sector of the technology industry that lost jobs (22,800) during the first half of the year. Given the broad-based gain in jobs, though, the IT industry now appears to be turning the corner with the rest of the economy.

While these hiring trends are promising, employment in the tech industry still has a ways to go before it gets back up to even early 2009 levels. As of June 2010, tech industry employment reached 5.78 million workers, compared to 5.99 million in January 2009. The reason tech employment was still relatively high in January 2009 is because the technology industry didn't start to feel the effects of the financial crisis and economic recession until well after both started. While economists cite December 2007 as the official start of the recession, the technology industry continued to add jobs until the last quarter of 2008, by which time much of the rest of the private sector was already well into recession.


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Security and Mobile IT Offer Better Job Prospects
ComputerWeekly.com, September 6

In the UK, security and mobile IT are two of the most promising career areas for recent computer science graduates. A recent survey by a UK recruitment website found 87% of 1,300 IT professionals believe security or mobile IT jobs offer the greatest opportunities for computer science graduates. In addition, graduates should consider unpaid work experience, joining industry associations, and social networking as ways to boost their career prospects.

While job prospects within the tech industry are starting to improve, certain sectors such as telecom and software are still showing signs of softness. As a result, it is essential that graduates emerge from university fully equipped with all the knowledge and guidance possible. This knowledge can then be applied to opportunities in the most promising tech sectors. In addition to computer security and mobile, approximately one-half (52%) of 1,300 IT professionals believe web development, and related skills in Java and SQL, were growing areas of job opportunity.


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Looking For a Job? Throw Away Your Resume
Huffington Post, September 15

Fauzia Burke, the Founder and President of FSB Associates, weighs in on the best way to create awareness about your skills and experiences amongst possible employers. As she explains, a resume is no longer enough to get the attention of hiring managers or recruiters. In fact, it may be helpful to pretend that you don’t have a resume and then consider what online tools you could use to get someone’s attention, and how you would tell employers your story. More so than ever before, social media enables you to develop a personal story and a personal brand, while at the same time, standing out from other job candidates.

Your online personal brand can be much more valuable than your resume. Before launching your personal branding campaign, consider your goals, think about what you enjoy doing, and consider the unique set of skills that you possess. You need to be able to parlay these specific talents and interests into landing a fulfilling job for yourself. Make sure that you are able to talk about your individual goals and aims, especially in reference to the question: “Tell me about yourself.” Brainstorm about the ways in which you can communicate your assets to potential employers or clients. Maintaining a social media profile is an effective way to present your past work experience and professional connections to potential employers.


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Employers Favor State Schools for Hires
Wall Street Journal, September 13

A Wall Street Journal study found that U.S. companies largely favor graduates of large state universities over Ivy League and other elite liberal-arts schools when hiring to fill entry-level jobs. In the study—which surveyed nearly 500 of the largest public and private companies, nonprofits and government agencies—Pennsylvania State University, Texas A&M University and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ranked as top picks for graduates best prepared and most able to succeed. Of the top 25 schools as rated by these employers, 19 were public, one was Ivy League and the rest were private. By focusing solely on the needs of recruiters and hiring organizations, the Wall Street Journal study downplays traditional measures - such as student test scores, college admission rates or graduates' starting salaries – as a way to rank and measure undergraduate institutions.

Recruiter perceptions matter all the more given that employers today are visiting fewer schools, partly due to the weak economy. Instead of casting a wide net, big employers are focusing more intently on nearby or strategically located research institutions with whom they can forge deeper partnerships with faculty. The research highlighted a split in perception about state and private schools.


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Count on the ‘College Premium’
New York Times, September 13

Stephen J. Rose, a professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, provides a big-picture overview of why educational background will continue to play a vital role in landing the best-paying jobs. Rose refers to the higher earning capability of college graduates as the “college premium.” If anything, this premium will only become larger over the next three to five years, as the U.S. economy begins to create new types of jobs that require more advanced educational backgrounds and more sophisticated skills. Rose emphasizes that the current high unemployment rate in the U.S., while troubling, is not a long-run structural trend.

Many forecasters believe that in the next three to five years, employment will grow to replace all of the lost jobs, and the unemployment rate will fall to 6% or lower. At the same time, the economy is shifting, as the share of the workforce with some post-secondary education rose from 20% in 1960 to 60% today, while the share of workers with a bachelor’s degree tripled from 10% to 30%. In 1979, those with a four-year degree earned 40% more than high school-educated workers; in the last decade, this “college premium” rose to nearly 75%. This jump in relative salary suggests that there has been a shortage of college-educated workers.


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How to Make a Lateral Move
Alexandra Levit’s Water Cooler Wisdom, September 13

Making a lateral move within an organization can be one way to unlock new challenges and better position you for long-term career growth. Most companies encourage lateral moves because they are mechanisms for keeping good people happy and sufficiently challenged without promoting them or paying them more. Lateral moves also save businesses the cost and risk of bringing in new employees who are unknown commodities. If you are interested in stretching your wings and experiencing new things; if you feel you are at a dead-end in your current position; if you are at odds with your manager; or if you are being recruited by a manager you would love to work for, you may be the perfect candidate for a lateral career move.

If you think a lateral move is right for you, you should certainly go for it. Just keep in mind that, in order to learn about internal opportunities, you will have to do the upfront research. You may get lucky and have a savvy manager approach you with a job offer, but, in most cases, you’ll be on your own. Start by finding out if your company publicizes job openings to employees. If you see a position that intrigues you, discreetly follow up with the hiring manager. While this process is in motion, keep the prospects coming in by networking with as many senior managers as you can. Get to know them on a personal level, and ask them casually what they’re doing in their groups.


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How to Show an Employer You’re Relevant to the Job
Glassdoor Blog, September 10

Whatever the stage of your career, it is important you ensure you are perceived as being relevant to the company you work for or for those you meet during your job search. As a first step, take the time to research and understand your company’s goals. If they are not made available to you make the time and effort to ask. Not only will your efforts be noticed, you will understand how well you align with your work or the opportunity. After understanding these goals, you will be better able to understand your company’s position within the competitive marketplace and be empowered to create an effective career plan.

Make an effort to know the competition and where your company stands. Search out online resources that provide information about specific companies, and extend your research to your entire industry or market. You will find this effort extremely useful with peers and managers at lunch or in casual conversation and the value in an interview situation is obvious.


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Social Media, Sustainability Mark Future IT Manager
CIO.com, September 9

Based on the results of a new IBM global study of today's university and graduate students, the IT manager of the future will likely have a leadership strategy that is based around an affinity for social networking and a global approach to innovation. The Global Youth Study, conducted from September 2009 to January 2010, reveal that the leadership style of members of Generation Y is marked by an inclination toward social networking, multi-tasking, globalization, creativity and sustainability. As a result, future IT mangers will espouse new and creative ways to connect and collaborate using social networking.

Although members of Gen Y are identifying new leadership traits for the future, that doesn't mean hard skills like data center management will be of less importance. Interestingly, Gen Y students were twice more likely than CEOs to focus on globalization. They also voiced strong thoughts about the best ways to run a decentralized organization and the importance of keeping environmental concerns front-of-mind. While sustainability is in its early stages in most of today's business strategies, that definitely won't be the case when Gen Y leaders start running operations.


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How to Help Teachers Use Technology in the Classroom
eLearn Magazine, September 14

Despite the fact that teachers are entering the classroom with far more advanced technology skills than their counterparts of an earlier age, only 39% of teachers report "moderate" or "frequent" use of technology as an instructional tool. After examining possible reasons why teachers may be facing these difficulties – such as technology-related professional development initiatives that are more focused on software rather than the instructional process – the article lays out a basic framework for better integrating IT into the classroom. After 25 years of having computers in schools, we need an approach that ensures teachers truly understand the benefits and appropriate uses of computers for instruction and that teachers actually use technology as part of teaching and learning.

During the 1990s, the Austin-based educational organization, SEDL, developed a technology professional development framework called the "5Js." The five 'J's are: job-related, just enough, just in time, just in case and just try it. The approach was used successfully with 150 teachers in five states to help them integrate technology into instruction and assessment. Almost all these teachers were successful in this endeavor. Revisiting the 5Js might be helpful to consider how we might improve technology-based professional development and support for teachers. The value of the 5Js is in organizing best practices in professional development that helps educators focus on essential practices that promote quality implementation.


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Science Has Only Two Legs
Communications of the ACM, Vol. 53 No. 9, September 2010

Moshe Y. Vardi takes a closer look at how the discipline of computer science fits into a broader definition of the scientific method. The two traditional pillars of the scientific method have always been theory and experimentation. In 2005, however, the U.S. Presidential Information Technology Advisory Committee suggested that computational science constitutes a 'third pillar' of scientific inquiry. Recently, there has been discussion of adding a ‘fourth pillar’ to the scientific method: the usage of advanced computing capabilities to manipulate and explore massive datasets. Yet, as Vardi explains, these two new pillars are computational in nature, and do not reflect a fundamental change to the scientific method. The scientific method has not changed, only the way that it is being carried out.

Adding new pillars to the scientific method every few years runs its own set of risks. The "four pillars" viewpoint seems to imply the scientific method has changed in a fundamental way. At a time when it is as important as ever to explain science to the public, it becomes more difficult to explain when it grows a new leg every few years. A scientific theory is an explanatory framework for a body of natural phenomena. For a theory to be useful, it should explain existing observations as well as generate predictions, that is, suggest new observations. In the physical sciences, theories are typically mathematical in nature. Any application of a mathematical theory requires computation. Thus, computation has always been an integral part of theory in science. What has changed is the scale of computation: investigating theory today requires highly sophisticated computational-science techniques carried out on cutting-edge high-performance computers.


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