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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, September 7, 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 17, September 7, 2010




Launching Your Job Search 2.0
Second Act Work, September 2

By upgrading their online presence, job candidates will be better prepared to launch a comprehensive job search using social media to strategically find the right opportunity. That means using LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and understanding how recruiters are using social media networks to find qualified job candidates. According to the 2009 Jobvite Social Recruitment Survey, 80% of recruiters and employers use or plan to use social networking to source candidates; 77% use social networks to find passive candidates; 76% plan to invest more in employee referrals; 46% will spend more on social networking; and 36% will spend less on job boards. These findings represent a significant change over the past five years, with social networking becoming much more important than broad-based job boards in the recruitment process.

Job seekers must be willing to put themselves out there using social media to expand their professional networks. Know what you're looking for in a job so your network can help you. Don't be afraid to contact people you don't know online. Many job seekers make the mistake of jumping right to available positions posted on job boards. A better starting place is using tools like LinkedIn to identify companies you want to work for. Look for companies that are aligned with your values, have a work environment that's in line with your needs, and that have a solid reputation when it comes to how they treat their employees.


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How to Save U.S. IT Jobs
CIO.com, September 1

Responding to recent activity in Washington, where Congress has been considering H-1B and L-1 visa reform measures, a number of technology industry leaders weigh in with their own plans for saving U.S. IT jobs. The plans vary on the scale and scope of government intervention, depending on the extent to which the IT leaders view Congress's recent efforts to curb offshore outsourcing as a form of political posturing meant to appeal to the protectionist lobby. In interviews with CIO.com, leading academics and analysts, consultants and IT services executives weigh in on what the federal government ought to do to help create IT jobs and maintain U.S. competitiveness in the global technology market.

The U.S. government can play an important role in saving IT jobs. For example, Congress can make the domestic workforce priority number one by acting to reduce business taxes and cultivate the available domestic workforce first. Congress can approach H-1B as a temporary fix to cyclical shortages, rather than a long-term supply of preferred workers who are tied to their employer. Federal funds can be used to address the supply side of the problem by encourage more U.S. college students graduating in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) areas. In addition, given the federal government's purchasing power as the largest customer of IT services in the country, they can require their suppliers to meet certain onshore U.S.-citizen hiring requirements.


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Silicon Valley’s Dark Secret: It’s All About Age
Tech Crunch, August 28

Vivel Wadhwa, an entrepreneur and noted academic, weighs in on an interesting paradox in the technology world: there appears to be both a shortage and a surplus of engineers in the United States. Technology companies are finding it hard to find qualified talent; at the same time, there are tens of thousands of unemployed engineers who can’t find jobs. As Wadhwa points out, one explanation is that tech companies prefer to hire young, inexperienced, engineers. For companies, it is more cost-effective to hire and train younger, inexperienced engineers, even if they have no skills. With that in mind, Wadhwa suggests a few ways that older, experienced IT candidates can make themselves more attractive to employers.

According to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics and census data for the semiconductor industry, salaries increased dramatically for engineers during their 30s, but these increases slowed after the age of 40. Salaries then started dropping after age 40, dependent on the level of education. After 50, the mean salary of engineers was lower—by 17% for those with bachelors degrees, and by 14% for those with masters degrees and PhDs—than the salary of those younger than 50. Salary increases for holders of postgraduate degrees were always lower than increases for those with bachelor’s degrees. The same dynamic is at work in the software and Internet industries. For tech startups, it usually boils down to cost: most can’t even afford to pay $60K salaries, so they look for motivated, young software developers who will accept minimum wage in return for equity ownership and the opportunity to build their careers.


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Thirteen Ways to Stay Sane in Your Job Search
U.S. News & World Report, September 2

Managing the psychological aspects of staying positive during the job search is just as important as executing on the mechanics of writing a perfect resume or answering a tough interview question. During a period of career transition, how you feel has a big impact on how effective you can be in your efforts. So, in addition to building all the requisite job search skills, focus on developing a plan for keeping the stress from building beyond a certain point and keeping your outlook as positive and optimistic as realistically possible. With that in mind, the article provides thirteen different ideas to integrate into your job search strategy.

An exercise program is one of the best things you can incorporate into your life when you are in a high-stress situation. When you have more energy, you have more of a buffer zone to deal with the challenging feelings that arise during a job search. The people you surround yourself with make all the difference in the world, so focus on surrounding yourself with positive people. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support. That might come from family, but it might also come from outside your immediate circle, such as a job search group. Meditation can also make a difference in how grounded you feel and how much better you are at not letting challenging circumstances tilt you over.


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Data Week: Becoming a Data Scientist
O’Reilly Radar, September 2

With data visualization and statistical data analysis entering the mainstream of the technology sector, what opportunities are there for starting a career in this area? There is an increasing number of websites and blogs based around data and the art of data visualization that provide access to new research, new techniques and relevant resources. By keeping up with these websites and blogs, it is possible to track the most prospective areas for career development. The article looks at recent contributions from new data-focused community sites that can help you become a data scientist, as well as practical advice that can help you break into the data scientist profession.

In order to become a future data scientist, start by identifying some of the community sites that offer rich information about data-driven careers. For example, the community Q&A site Quora is rich with information about data science, analytics and computing. On other sites, community members will often provide answers about the current background required, as well as papers, websites, and technologies that can be leveraged for future success. Keep an eye out also for upcoming events, such as the O’Reilly Strata conference, which will focus on the business and practice of data, with an appeal to practitioners and data vendors.


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Business World's Ambivalence Contributes to Continuing Pay Gap
ComputerWeekly.com (WITsend), August 19

The gender gap continues to persist in the technology sector, where women continue to earn less than their male peers, even when experience and skills are comparable. By extrapolating current IT salary growth rates for women and men and using current salary earning levels, the National Management Salary Survey came up with how long it will take women to earn as much as men. Female salaries in the IT sector increased by 2.1% in the last 12 months, compared to 1.4% for men. With male managers earning on average £17,736 more than female managers, it will take women 63 years to catch up with men -- unless something changes fairly drastically.

The general consensus is that women lose earning power when they take time off to look after children, thereby increasing the gap. However, the report also finds a disparity between men and women lower down the career ladder, with male junior executives receiving £1,119 more than their female counterparts. If women are getting paid less in entry-level positions, then something's gone a bit wrong. Women were also targeted disproportionately by last year's redundancies, with 4.5% experiencing the process compared to 3% of men. And those who managed to avoid redundancy were disproportionately more likely to feel wholly fed up with their jobs - at director level, 7.7% of women voluntarily left their posts last year, while 3.6% of men did the same.


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Living Self-Employed Online: The Manual They Forgot to Give You
Lifehacker, August 27

When it comes to career happiness, nothing compares to being your own boss. If you've just made the leap to working for yourself, currently run your own business, or you're looking to earn a living online in the future, there are numerous best practices for the best way to live a self-employed life online. Based on speaking with hundreds of entrepreneurs and living self-employed for the past 18 months, the author shares a number of lessons for optimizing performance as a self-employed Web worker.

As a first step, write a detailed mission statement that explains why you’re doing what you’re doing and what you hope to achieve. This isn't an elevator pitch or mission statement you need to share with anyone else. Instead, the aim of these sentences is to help you stay on track. Decide what you want your core focus to be, write it down somewhere and then internalize it. With that established, you can follow what works best for you. Instead of just looking to your mistakes and hoping to learn from them or tackling a huge project you want to overcome, why not look at what is working for you in other areas of life or on other projects, and see how you can apply those factors to other endeavors?


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How Do You Answer “Tell Me About Yourself” in a Job Interview?
Ask a Manager, August 21

For IT job candidates, one of the most stressful interview questions is the “Tell Me About Yourself” question. For employers, this question, when asked during a job interview, really means, "Give me an overview of who you are, professionally speaking." There's a reason this is asked at the very beginning of an interview -- it helps the interviewer understand the broad background before diving in to specifics. You want to be ready with about a one-minute answer that summarizes where you're at in your career, an overview of your most recent job, what you do, and what the strengths of your approach are. Depending on where you are at in your career, this response can be adapted to take into account your professional persona.

If you’re a more experienced IT worker, start by explaining why you got involved in your current career path. Mention the aptitudes, skills and experiences that led to your decision. You can also mention aspects of your job that you really enjoy, and how that passion and enjoyment has paid off for your employer. Finish by summarizing the various functional areas that you’ve been able to bridge, and how that makes you unique in the eyes of a potential employer.


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ACM President Chesnais Interviewed by ComputerWorld on Preparing for 2020
ACM Press Room (Computerworld), August 23

Dramatic changes in the technology sector over the next decade will impact the career plans of every IT worker, regardless of where they are at in their career. Emerging trends like mobile computing and virtualization mean that traditional IT organizations won’t look anything like they do now. As ACM President Alain Chesnais explains, these changes will also require new thinking about the appropriate curriculum requirements for undergraduate CS programs. He also offers suggestions for actions that IT workers at three distinct stages of their careers need to take to prepare for 2020.

Today’s college students who are getting degrees now will start to define the new workforce by 2020. Since they grew up in the era of the always-on Internet, they will in some ways be better prepared than previous generations for the pervasively mobile and services-oriented technology landscape of 2020. At the same time, colleges need to adapt their curricula to prepare students for the complexities of cloud computing and virtualization, and also provide real-world environments to see these concepts at work. They also need to help students understand business basics and how computing foundations apply to the real world. To address the gap between college and real-world experience, the ACM has introduced new curriculum guidelines for undergraduate IT programs that address how computing is manifested in industries such as law, health, finance and government.


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Degrees, Distance and Dollars
Communications of the ACM, Vol. 53, No. 9, September 2010

While new technologies have made online distance learning more accessible than ever before, the cost of this online education is not dramatically cheaper than the offerings of traditional educational institutions. There are two primary reasons for this inelasticity in price: elite schools that offer online learning programs want to avoid diluting their brands while for-profit universities find that price acts as a strong signal to students about program quality. Going forward, for-profit educational providers will focus on highly marketable fields like computer science, IT, business, health care and education. They will also cater to nontraditional students who want the convenience and ease of learning online. By doing so, these for-profit programs are helping to meet the needs of an audience that has been poorly served by traditional educational providers.

Online courses are rarely cheaper than traditional courses. Although online students save time, living expenses, and transportation costs, they typically pay at least as much in tuition as they would for a traditional education. The high price online reflects that good instruction is always labor-intensive. While it is true that technology enables a small team to design a course and a lower-paid army of instructors to deliver it, grade papers, and interact with students, that is not very different from what traditional colleges have been doing for decades. While some online programs have developed low-priced model, they remain the exception in online education rather than the rule. Sometimes, in fact, an online degree costs more than its brick-and-mortar equivalent—a price premium not just for convenience, but also for hassle-free admissions.


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