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CareerNews: Tuesday, January 8, 2008

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 4, Issue 1, January 8, 2008




8 Ways to Boost Your Career in 2008
Computerworld, December 21

Within the technology industry, companies are looking for IT workers who possess highly-developed technical know-how, in addition to more general business knowledge and enhanced analytical skills. In 2008, recruiters are advising IT workers to take a number of proactive steps in order to update their skills and experiences to help employers fill these needs. In particular, IT workers should become more aware of trends within their respective industries, work to develop intangible skills and focus on new responsibilities that may be far removed from IT.

Security issues, especially those related to business continuity and disaster-recovery planning, are permeating all levels of the organization. As a result, it is important for IT workers to understand how business processes, technical requirements and security needs intersect. Secondly, IT workers need to learn how to re-engineer business processes and workflow, not just technical processes. The conventional wisdom is that IT is somehow responsible for keeping everything running and developing new systems, and this now applies to business processes.


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The Executive Woman’s Guide to Self-Promotion
CIO.com, December 12

A group of professional IT leaders from the CIO Executive Council suggest ways that executive women can improve their chances for career promotion. They agree that, in order to move up in any organization, women IT professionals need to engage in a little marketing and self-promotion. By gaining the interest and attention of others, they can then build their reputation and earn respect and trust over time. With that in mind, the article examines two approaches that have been used effectively by a number of women IT executives to become more visible within their organizations.

For executive women, volunteering for visible assignments is a great tool for self-promotion. Volunteering for a high-profile assignment has a visible effect on the organization and also gives you the opportunity to shine. Become known as a problem-solver and as the go-to person in your discipline. Your reputation and your character are what sell you for the next big job, and sometimes that means you have to stretch yourself and take on a role that challenges you. You do not have to wait for opportunities to come to you.


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More than One Road to the C-Suite
Business Week, December 10

For IT workers, there are now a number of non-traditional paths for becoming a future C-level executive. The highest-level executive positions require more than just a basic understanding of business, paying your dues and following a narrowly-defined route. Company boards are beginning to place more emphasis on new types of skills, competencies and experiences. In order to maximize your chances of becoming a CEO or CIO, it helps to understand the future strategy of the company and pay attention to the types of managers that are rising quickly through the ranks.

Understanding the future strategy of your company is an important first step in preparing your career as a future C-level executive. Be aware of unusual choices for promotions, as these may signal a shift in the underlying strategy of a company. These signals can be particularly strong at companies that place a great emphasis on creating long-term succession plans. Even though conventional wisdom suggests that to get ahead you have to move around the organization, the reality is that rising stars will often be promoted from within even if they lack the standard level of experience.


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The Change Agent CIO
CIO Insight, December 19

Futurist James Canton explains that the CIO must become a motivational change agent for the rest of the organization, especially as the pace of change accelerates within the IT industry. It is now the role of the CIO to integrate technology innovation with business strategy and lead the rest of the company into the future. In a wide-ranging conversation, Canton explains what he foresees for the future and goes into greater detail into how a CIO can predict change, identify trends, and motivate others to change accordingly.

As things become even more disruptive, complex and competitive in IT, the number of challenges facing the CIO will increase as well. The CIO will need to be able to better predict the future and help their organizations adapt to these new changes. This means understanding where the business is going and how to shape this future. The difficulty, however, is seeing this fusion of business and innovation as a tool for establishing competitive advantage. Every CIO is really the visionary in the organization and should be the one looking out over the horizon to see what's emerging next.


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8 Signs It's Time to Look for a New Job
Computerworld, December 19

If you have been passed over for promotions, or if more exciting assignments are routinely handed to your peers, you may have already missed the signs that it is time to look for a new IT job. Keep in mind that subtle shifts in the structure and functioning of an IT organization can have a significant influence on your career development. With this mind, a number of career experts, headhunters, recruiters, and IT staffers weigh in with some not-so-obvious signs that you should be looking for a new job.

If you feel like you're no longer contributing, there's a good chance you may not be. If you’re not learning every day, if you're not doing new things, and if you're not improving, it may be time to move on. The most obvious clues are if you've effectively been in the same role for two or three years and haven't taken on any significant new challenges during that time. At the end of the day, if you have reached a crossroads where you've become disenchanted with your employer for one reason or another, and you've received a job offer from another company, it may be the right time to consider a move.


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Computer Knowledge Undervalued
BBC News, December 14

Within the UK, computer skills are increasingly undervalued by senior managers within business organizations. Microsoft recently surveyed 500 UK business leaders and found that knowledge of IT ranked as only the seventh most important workplace skill, behind other factors such as the ability to work in teams and strong interpersonal skills. In response to these findings, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates pointed out that technical skills are still needed at every level of the organization, and that these skills will only become more important as complexity and globalization continue to impact the IT industry.

As computer knowledge becomes nearly ubiquitous within the business world, the role of the knowledge worker is more important than ever. As Bill Gates of Microsoft points out, people use software and work with information on a daily basis to enable their organizations to operate more effectively. This computer knowledge must be combined with the ability to work in teams. After all, software innovation, like almost every other kind of innovation, requires the ability to collaborate and share ideas with other people, and to sit down and talk with customers and get their feedback and understand their needs.


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How to Lose Your Job on Your Own Time
CNET News.com (via New York Times), December 30

Organizations are taking a more active role in monitoring the online activity of their workers outside of office hours, especially as the line between personal and work life continues to blur. Discovering information about the social activities of employees is now easier than ever, thanks to the proliferation of self-publishing tools on the Internet. In addition, employment law in most states provides little protection to workers who are punished for their online postings, even if the content was never intended to be viewed by colleagues at work. The bottom line is that employees should draw a true boundary between their work and private lives and be careful about the type of content they post to the Internet.

In the absence of strong protections for employees, poorly chosen words or even a single photograph posted online can have career-altering consequences. Despite several high-profile cases of employee dismissals, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 60% of Internet users are not worried about how much information is available about them online. This, despite the fact that tight privacy settings will not always keep personal information placed on social networking sites safe from the oversight of an employer. Until people become comfortable with the idea of total disclosure, people should be cautious about engaging in online activities away from the office.


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Volunteering as a Benefit
Entrepreneur.com, December 27

Companies are increasingly willing to offer employee volunteer programs in order to motivate and retain current employees as well as attract new ones. Both companies large and small are focusing their attention on becoming better corporate citizens and offering employees new opportunities to become involved in community outreach programs. The benefits of company volunteer programs include improved relations with the surrounding community, an enhanced public image, greater cohesion between departments and an engaged, motivated workforce.

Within Corporate America, volunteering continues to grow in popularity, recently reaching a 30-year high, according to one estimate. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates more than 60 million Americans volunteer each year. As a result, companies offering volunteer opportunities to employees could have an advantage in recruiting Generation Y talent. According to a recent study, 62% of Gen Y respondents said they would prefer to work for companies that give them opportunities to contribute their talents to volunteer programs. For these workers, the programs are proof that the company cares about more than just making a profit.


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Indiana University Informatics Dean Leading National Initiative on Importance of Computing Education
Indiana University News Release, December 19

A high-level committee of computer scientists and educators, led by the dean of the Indiana University School of Informatics, is leading a new initiative to make computer science an integral component of U.S. education policy. With the support and sponsorship of ACM, the new Education Policy Committee will be developing initiatives aimed at shaping national education policies that impact the computer science industry. The Indiana University School of Informatics will play an important role in helping to define the strategic thinking and tactical steps needed to advance computer science education within the U.S.

The decision to create the high-level committee coincided with the newest report on how students around the world are performing in key subject areas. According to a study released in 2006, students can benefit significantly by expanded opportunities for quality computer science education. Moreover, in the long run, national education policy that leads to a first-rate computing and information technology workforce may lead to competitive advantage for a country. Experts point out that computer science education plays a vital role in preparing the workforce for needed 21st century skills, but it is often overlooked, particularly at the high school level.


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More CSTA Podcasts
The CSTA Advocate Blog, December 17

The Computer Science Teachers Association has created a new series of podcasts called CS Snipits that will enable teachers and practitioners to participate in interesting conversations about the future of the computer science field. These podcasts feature educators, industry leaders, and CS students who talk about their passions and share some of their strategies and activities for making computer science a more dynamic discipline.

In one podcast, Myra Deister, a computer science teacher in Fullerton, California (and a member of the CSTA Board), describes how she and other CS teachers have found a way to combat the isolation that many CS teachers face as the only or one of very few CS teachers at a school. She also provides details about the Southern California Java Education Support Group and describes an online Java learning tool for students that she plans to use as homework practice for a variety of programming concepts.


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