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ACM CareerNews for Wednesday, November 7, 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 21, November 7, 2012




Demand for Software Engineers Keeps Climbing and So Do the Salaries
InfoWorld, October 18

For software engineers, skyrocketing demand across the nation is leading to higher salaries and improved career prospects. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 30% job growth in coming years, while CareerCast recently deemed software engineer the all-around best job for 2012. Software engineers with Java, mobile and .Net developer experience are in particular demand. The national average for a software engineer's base salary is currently $92,648, according to Glassdoor, marking an increase of 2.5% compared to 2011. However, in some geographic locations, the base salary is higher than $100,000 per year.

According to recent data from Glassdoor, Google currently offers the highest average salary among 15 major tech companies at $128,336 per year. Ranked second is Facebook, which pays its software engineers an average of $123,626 per year. Notably, the salary gap between Facebook and Google is closing. In 2011, Google offered an average salary of $114,595 to its developers, while Facebook offered $107,744. Third on the list is Apple, which offers a base software engineer salary of $114,413. In the fourth spot is eBay with $108,809, followed by Zynga at $105,568. Other companies offering more than $100,000 on average include Microsoft ($104,362), Intuit ($103,284), Amazon ($103,070), Oracle ($102,204), Cisco ($101,909), and Yahoo ($100,122).


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Desperately Seeking Cybersecurity Pros
Federal Computer Week, October 26

While the demand for IT workers with cybersecurity backgrounds is rapidly increasing, there is still a nationwide shortage of students with the appropriate skills who can fill these positions. This is leading to a sense of urgency within the federal government, forcing government leaders to unveil a range of initiatives designed to educate, train and incentivize work in the cybersecurity field. They emphasize that it is not just computer science majors and IT professionals they seek – they are also looking for candidates with very specific expertise within fields that can be applied to security-related projects. Every person who uses a computer is in some way associated with the cybersecurity domain, due to the number of disciplines and standards associated with protecting against threats.

The U.S. Department of Defense, like the rest of the federal government, is experiencing a cybersecurity shortage. That gap between supply and demand has deep roots, and the problem begins with defining and then empowering the cyber workforce. It’s a big challenge just to define the skills of the cyber workforce, which can include a wide range of functions and duties. The scarcity is reflected throughout the education system, from primary schools to universities. There are fewer graduates in STEM areas, and women are particularly underrepresented – a big problem for a field that already lacks diversity. At the end of the day, experts say it is a pipeline issue, not a desire or capability issue.


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Software Services, Engineering Boost IT Jobs Market
eWeek, October 26

According to a new TechAmerica report, the IT industry added nearly 100,000 jobs between January and June of this year, a gain of 1.7%. As a result, with the economy still struggling, the technology sector has been one of the few consistent bright spots on the employment landscape. During the 18 months examined in the report, the U.S. tech industry saw monthly job gains in 16 of the 18 months, with employment growing from 5.8 million to nearly 6.0 million, an increase of 3.3%, or nearly 200,000. The report found job growth in three out of the four high-tech sectors—tech manufacturing, communications services, software services, and engineering and tech services—that it focused on.

The communications services industry was the only tech sector to experience a decline. That sector lost approximately 10,700 net jobs during the period, which TechAmerica attributed to the wired telecommunications industry’s continuing efforts to adjust to changing market conditions. Technology employment grew in software services (adding 50,800 jobs), engineering and tech services (adding 49,900 jobs), and technology manufacturing (adding 9,200 jobs) during the first half of 2012. A strong and vibrant technology industry is critical to supporting an economic recovery and¸ while the tech industry has weathered the downturn better than most, we can’t take its strength for granted, especially against the backdrop of steady global economic competition.


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Big Data to Create 1.9 Million IT Jobs in U.S. By 2015
CIO.com (via Computerworld), October 22

Big Data is becoming an engine of job creation as businesses discover ways to turn data into revenue, according to Gartner. By 2015, Big Data is expected to create 4.4 million IT jobs globally, of which 1.9 million will be in the U.S. Applying an economic multiplier to those jobs, Gartner expects that each Big Data IT job added to the economy will create employment for three more people outside the tech industry in the U.S., adding six million jobs to the economy. Against this backdrop, this is simply a shortage of skilled IT workers, meaning that only a third of the Big Data jobs will be filled.

Experts point out several reasons for the talent gap in Big Data, including the fact that educational institutions are not doing enough to prepare students for Big Data careers. In general, it is difficult to fill data analytics jobs, and that task is made even more difficult by the fact that entirely new sectors, such as healthcare, are now in search of IT workers with data analytics skills. This push by businesses to make money from their digitizing efforts will lead to new types of jobs in the next few years, specifically, chief digital officers. By 2015, Gartner predicts that 25% of organizations will have a chief digital officer.


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U.S. Seeks Patriotic Computer Geeks for Help in Cyber Crisis
Chicago Tribune, October 31

The Department of Homeland Security is considering setting up a Cyber Reserve of computer security experts who could be called upon in the event of a crippling cyber attack. The idea came from a task force the agency set up to address what has long been a weak spot - recruiting and retaining skilled cyber professionals who feel they can get better jobs and earn higher salaries in the private sector. Based on initial comments from the DHS, the plan is to create a working model for a Cyber Reserve within a year, with the first members drawn from retired government employees now working for private companies.

The United States has become increasingly vocal about the need to beef up cyber defenses as foreign hackers have repeatedly attacked over the past year, raising the stakes in a long-running battle to protect the nation from digital attacks. Yet, against this backdrop, the Department of Homeland Security has had trouble attracting and retaining top cyber talent since it was created after 9/11 in a massive merger of 22 agencies. In its early days, the DHS farmed out cyber work to contractors so it could quickly get systems running to improve national security. As a result, the agency tends to award the most coveted cyber jobs to outside contractors. Those positions include forensics investigators and posts on "flyaway teams" that probe suspected cyber attacks and intelligence liaisons.


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Hot IT Jobs: Why Location Matters
Computerworld Blogs, October 22

When it comes to an IT career, location matters: compensation for the same IT job can vary widely -- sometimes by $50,000 or more -- depending on where you decide to work. But the best paying job may not be the best value because cost of living factors can more than cancel out a higher salary. With that in mind, the article provides a quick analysis, in six charts, that shows just how dramatically the cost of living index and your choice of location can affect the relative value of job offers in two different cities. The takeaway is that you should consider salary offers in different cities within the context of the relative cost of living in each location.

As a general rule, the bigger the city, the bigger the salary. However, since markets are different in each metro area, you will need to apply local variance factors, or index numbers, for each city/metro area that are based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and information from prior IT job placements. For example, New York has a variance factor of 1.41 (141%), which means the going rate for an IT job that pays $100,000 on average nationally would command $141,000 on Wall Street.


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Engineering, Computer Science Viewed As Strong College Majors
NY1, October 9

If you’re looking to land a good-paying job out of college, the biggest demand and highest starting salaries can be found in two fields: engineering and computer science. In both fields, the average starting salary can be close to the $60,000 mark. Not only that, but also the unemployment rate is generally lower for workers within IT-related disciplines. That statistical evidence is borne out by the anecdotal evidence: at university career fairs, corporate recruiters are actively looking to fill positions related to computer engineering and computer science.

At recent career fairs on university campuses, the positions that are highest in demand are typically related to computer engineering and software development. Other popular roles include mechanical engineers, engineering management positions, and chemical engineers. At educational institutions with a strong focus on math and science, many graduates can expect to receive multiple job offers. The lesson is clear: in an otherwise lackluster economy, if you have an interest and a talent for math and science, make the most of that talent. The engineering degree is the degree that's most valued right now and it will be for the foreseeable future. Even if you do not envision a future in a technical engineering route, the problem-solving ability will help you in any industry.


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Ten Signs It May Be Time to Quit Your Job
Network World, October 31

The average IT pro will change employers at least a few times over a typical twenty or thirty year career. Moving on can often be necessary for professional development or financial reasons, but how do you know when it’s time to leave? Most experienced IT professionals can relate to having worked too long in at least one job over the course of a career, watching how a great job can seemingly change overnight into a difficult situation. Other times, the epiphany is more of a slow burn that builds up over time. With that in mind, industry professionals weigh in on ways to spot the warning signs that it may be time to quit your day job.

The first signal is when your company appears to be experiencing financial difficulties. Perhaps you notice vendor bills that are normally paid on time aren't any longer or maybe you notice the stock price tumbling. If you aren't getting paid on time, dusting off your resume and preparing for the worst can only be in your best interest. Another signal is if your company stops investing in its employees or stops offering guidance about a clear career path. When you feel like there is room for advancement and your company is supportive when it comes to professional development, it shows in your work. The opposite is true for companies that don't create clear advancement paths or don't help their employees grow professionally.


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Why Isn't There More Computer Science in U.S. High Schools?
Blog @ CACM, October 22

The fact that there is less computer science in US high schools right now than there should be may be attributed to several factors, including the relative difficulty of introducing CS into the typical high school curriculum. Moreover, if few states offer computer science classes and if CS doesn’t count toward graduation requirements, there is little demand for teachers with CS backgrounds. At a time when there are as many as 30,000 high schools in the US, there are approximately only 2,000 teachers of AP Computer Science in the United States -- and these teachers are not distributed evenly. To reverse that imbalance will require battling issues of perception and access, as well as finding new ways to involve math and science teachers in teaching computer science.

Getting CS into the high school curriculum is harder than it sounds, mostly because curricula are hard to change. There is no national curriculum in the US, which means that how educational decisions are made varies from state to state. In some states, the state defines the curriculum; in other states, each district can define its own curriculum, so getting CS into the curriculum requires many small battles. Another problem is that CS isn't part of the Common Core that the US governors are promoting, though there is an organized effort aimed at changing that. Only nine states allow CS classes to count towards high school graduation requirements. If few states have CS classes, and CS doesn't count towards graduation or core requirements, schools won’t be hiring a lot of CS teachers, which means there is little demand from teachers to learn CS.


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Learning at the Speed of Links and Conversations
eLearn Magazine, October 2012

Learning is more important than ever in today's hyper-linked, interconnected world where flows of information are accelerating. As a result, it's critical that we learn continuously and effectively in order to adapt, become more flexible and develop resiliency for a world of perpetual turbulence. This is an important change, since many of us have grown up and matured in an education-and-work system that offered us a structured educational experience, followed by entry and integration into a highly structured and hierarchical workplace. Everything is changing rapidly, however, in the era of the interconnected Web. We're transitioning into an era of "conversations" from which we extract useful information and knowledge.

It's mission-critical for individuals, groups, and organizations to be able to discern what types of personal learning strategies are necessary to survive and thrive in a world of permanent information turbulence. The capabilities offered by new tools and the conditions they generate are having deep impact upon how, why, where, and when we learn. In contrast to previous eras, we are not just hired for what we have already learned, but also for being able to demonstrate that we have learned how to learn. In the interconnected workplace full of continuous information flows, it is important to be able to assess context and issues in near real-time, instantly tap into what we already know or connect with someone who knows what to do, and then interact and exchange with others also focused on the issue.


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