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CareerNews: Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Volume 1, Issue 1: Tuesday, February 8, 2005

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

Don't Flee From IT, Career Expert Says

Tech Internships: The New Must-Have

Be Careful of Counteroffers

Globalization and the American IT Worker

Is That Your Best Offer?

After 125 Years of Electronic Relations, Workplaces Face a Growing Disconnect

Welcome to the Network

Employment of Women in Science and Technology: Mixed Results

Is Your Job Just Work?

Re-examining Your IT Career Options

Linux IT Jobs Increasing, Outsourcing Showing Signs of Weakness

IT Students Can Get Leg Up

"Don't Flee From IT, Career Expert Says", January 25

Matthew Moran, author of the new book "The IT Career Builder's Toolkit: A Complete Guide to Building Your Information Technology Career in Any Economy," discounts the notion that now is not a good time to pursue a career in IT. In addition to offering some tidbits of advice on ways to build a successful IT career, Moran also emphasizes the types of realistic expectations that employees must have about working within the IT sector in today's economy.

Moran explains that it is no longer possible to expected a "linear path that moves from end to end" for an IT career. Instead, job seekers must be able to find several different paths to get the same results as someone else. For example, Moran points out that not all IT careers begin and end in an IT department. In addition, it's important not to overlook the opportunities available in small businesses: "I'm a big believer in that small business market. From a career standpoint, you're not just one of 25 technologists running around. You are the person they go to."

In addition to having strong technical skills, job seekers should also have a certain level of business savvy or business acumen. According to Moran, a strong understanding of business concepts and business practices will allow one's technical skills to advance more rapidly and get better overall. Moran also offers advice on how to find career opportunities in smaller market spaces and how to avoid thinking solely in terms of titles and positions.

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"Tech Internships: The New Must-Have"

Technology internships offer recent graduates without an offer of a full-time paid position a productive way to build up skills, contacts and references within the IT industry. Some companies, too, now view these internships as "must-haves" when recruiting new employees. While recent college graduates once expected multiple job offers upon graduation, the newest crop of graduates now views internships as a creative way to put their IT degrees to work.

There are a number of "post-boom" trends in the world of IT internships. Most notably, students are increasingly willing to take unpaid internships simply to gain experience or to avoid resume gaps. In addition, companies support the idea of internships since they offer them a "try-before-you-buy" approach to recruiting top talent. In fact, internships are becoming such a competitive weapon that many companies see no internships on a resume as a warning flag.

Not surprisingly, these two factors make landing an internship increasingly more competitive for college students. The good news, though, is that companies with tight IT budgets are now more likely to hire interns to pick up the slack. While many internships are unpaid, if graduates have not found the right full-time work opportunity, internships can often offer a way to "get a foot in the door" of a hiring company. Plus, companies that do not pay their interns often feel as though they must offer something valuable in return for a student's unpaid time.

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"Be Careful of Counteroffers"
Network World, January 17

Steve Hall, the director of recruiting at South Carolina-based professional search firm Find Great
People International, explains why highly-qualified IT professionals should think twice before accepting a counteroffer from their current employer. As Hall points out, accepting a counteroffer - no matter how attractive - could jeopardize one's future career or destabilize relationships with peers if not done properly.

By working through a number of worst-case scenarios that might play out if an employee decides to stay with his or her current employer, Hall illustrates why counteroffers may be dangerous for future career growth. After all, "a resignation is the business equivalent of holding your boss at gunpoint," so even if an employee winds up with a promotion or more money as a result, the culture of the company will be changed forever.

In addition, by accepting a counteroffer, an employee will implicitly change the expectation levels for future performance, meaning even minor missteps or miscalculations will be magnified. Even worse, the act of presenting a boss with the chance to make a counteroffer might be misconstrued as an act of corporate disloyalty, says Hall. It's important to address any misgivings and dissatisfactions with the boss before announcing a decision to consider employment elsewhere: this gives the company a fair chance to rectify them without jeopardizing your future career.

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"Globalization and the American IT Worker"
ACM Queue, December 2004 - January 2005

In the most recent edition of ACM Queue, University of California-Davis professor Norman Matloff weighs in on the IT outsourcing debate, emphasizing that the globalization of IT inevitably has negative consequences for U.S. programmers as well as the overall U.S. economy. Suggesting that current solutions to address the loss of U.S. IT jobs, such as worker retraining programs for displaced workers, are not working as planned, Matloff proposes several remedies that can be taken to address these problems.

According to Matloff, labor importation under the H-1B visa program is a bigger problem for U.S. IT workers than overseas IT outsourcing. Thus, any remedy should pay as much attention to this aspect of IT globalization as to the more obvious problem of overseas IT outsourcing. After citing dire estimates about the number of U.S. IT jobs moving overseas within the next five years and documenting why current remedies are not working, Matloff takes a closer look at some solutions that might work better.

For example, Matloff suggests legislative changes that can address the issue of labor importation, such as tightening up the "prevailing wage" requirement of H-1B law and regulations. In addition, Matloff suggests that businesses should assess offshoring more carefully, taking into account factors like quality, time to market, and overall costs. In conclusion, Matloff warns that existing remedies "will not work, leading only to frustration and disappointment by U.S. IT workers and missed opportunities by U.S. businesses." The only possible response is "genuinely thoughtful, realistic solutions to the problems."

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"Is That Your Best Offer?"

The importance of negotiating salary in an interview can not be underestimated. Yet, at the same time, negotiating a salary can be one of the most difficult and stressful issues for job seekers. Since the time-tested rule of "Never bring up the issue of salary, let the interviewer say it first," provides little or no guidance with how to think about the salary question, Debbie O'Halloran provides twelve key steps to negotiating a salary during an interview.

The most important tip, says O'Halloran, is to do some preliminary homework before heading to the interview. It is essential to research the company and salary range for the position you are applying for persons with your background and experience. Job seekers should also establish an absolute minimum salary that they are willing to accept, be able to emphasize the various reasons why they should get the offer, and avoid talking about the salary issue until they have a firm job offer.

Negotiating a salary will be less intimidating if a job seeker remembers to let the employer bring up the issue first. Even when questioned about a desired salary, it's best to let the employer establish a target salary range or explain what the typical salary is for a comparable position. It's best, too, to avoid disclosing a current salary in order to maintain the negotiating edge with an employer.

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"After 125 Years of Electronic Relations, Workplaces Face a Growing Disconnect"
Boston Globe, December 19

Cyber-relationships at the office may seem new, but many of the problems and questions of social etiquette that affect today's virtual workers actually date back as far as 125 years ago, when early telegraph and telephone users experienced the same types of issues. Without the benefit of face-to-face communication, virtual workers must take special steps to avoid classic miscommunication miscues.

The 1879 novel "Wired Love" by Ella Cheever Thayer, a Boston telegraph operator, foreshadowed many of today's problems faced by virtual workers. The novel outlined the relationship problems faced by two telegraph operators who communicate via Morse code but never meet face-to-face. In much the same way, today's Internet workers must often create and develop cyber-relationships without ever meeting face-to-face. However, the question ultimately arises: "Just how faceless do we want our bonds with colleagues, family, and friends to be?"

Today, only 17% of employees for the most part work and deal with people in one office, according to a Massachusetts consulting firm. The remaining 83% of workers are a mix of road warriors, virtual team members and teleworkers. For now, e-mail and other forms of Internet-based communication are the easiest and most common options. However, a growing body of research shows that distance isn't as easy to overcome as we think. It is substantially harder to build and maintain social relations electronically than it is in person, say experts. According to one study, in fact, rates of communication fall sharply as distance increases, even within the same building.

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"Welcome to the Network"
Graduating Engineer & Computer Careers Online

For many professional women in the IT sector, online networking has changed their careers and lives for the better. A number of online networking options, such as listservs and technical forums by and for women, can help female IT professionals boost their careers, connect with a community and receive practical career advice.

When women IT professionals need answers about careers, they increasingly turn to a mix of local, regional, national and international forums that put them in touch with women of similar interests. The only question, say women, is how to create the right mix of online networking opportunities: "Too many lists and you never have enough time; too few and you may miss making valuable connections."

Local, regional and national networks all have their advantages, say women within the IT sector. The key is connecting with the right community of women, based on interests, career goals and shared demographics. While women may still have limited access to the traditional "good ol' boys" network, they now have a growing number of online resources. According to women interviewed for the article, the future will only lead to more technologies gaining widespread acceptance, and more ways to interconnect and collaborate.

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"Employment of Women in Science and Technology: Mixed Results"
Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology, October 7

A report released by the Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology (CPST) in fall 2004 analyzes the growth in the employment of women in scientific, technological, engineering and mathematical (STEM) occupations over a twenty-year period (1983-2003). The report, the second in a series from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation-funded STEM Workforce Data Project, concluded that there have been only "slight changes" in the employment of women in engineering and a relative decline in the share of positions held by women in mathematics and computer sciences. The report also analyzed salary data for women in STEM occupations, finding that women are having a difficult time closing the salary gap with men.

Since the employment of women in the U.S. science and engineering sectors has been a high priority of many STEM-related nonprofit organizations for nearly 25 years, the mixed results were viewed as disappointing by many policymakers. On one hand, the proportion of women in STEM-related occupations actually increased during the twenty-year period studied. For example, In 2002, women comprised anywhere from 23 to 26% of most IT-related disciplines; by comparison, in 1983, the proportion of women in these jobs ranged from 16% to 19%.

On the other hand, the percentage of jobs held by women in computer science category was lower at the end of the twenty-year period than it was in 1983. The report also showed an expanding wage gap between men and women in STEM occupations in the period 1995-2003. For example, in STEM occupations, pay for women was 81.0% of that for men in 1995, but only 78.7% in 2003.

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"Is Your Job Just Work?"
Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, November 15

Russell Muirhead, an associate professor of government at Harvard and the author of the book Just Work, explains why more professionals than ever before are searching out careers promising "more than a paycheck." A growing sense of career restlessness means that more U.S. workers are changing careers, going back to school or simply taking sabbaticals to think over their next move. It's all part of a generational change, says Muirhead, as employees re-think the very notion of work.

In an interview with Harvard's Mallory Stark, Muirhead explains the changing notion of work in today's marketplace: "Today, many of us want more than a secure job at a prestigious firm with a fat paycheck...
They want work they find fulfilling and meaningful." In developing this theory of generational change in the world of work, Muirhead raises questions about our expectations of work, the role of the employer in creating meaningful work for employees, and the whole notion of how work is distributed within society. Work should be more than "just work" - it should be fulfilling at the same time.

Muirhead delves into the double meaning of the title of his recent book, explains the concept of "fitting work," and analyzes why employers should be concerned about creating just work for their employees. Creating "just work" does not have to mean a break with the American work ethic, says Muirhead, as long as workers understand that the notion of "working hard" actually means "working hard for a reason."

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"Re-examining Your IT Career Options"
Computerworld, January 25

Contrary to popular opinion, the global IT outsourcing trend may actually open up opportunities for new careers within the IT sector. Since new jobs are being created at the same time as old jobs are disappearing, it is important to understand the structural changes taking place within the IT sector as well as the types of new jobs and new careers that will evolve in response to changing economic times.

Jobs that must be performed locally and any job involving creativity and innovation will likely remain within the U.S. For a number of reasons, the net loss of jobs may be smaller than originally predicted. It is important to remember that outsourcing does not have to be a threat -- it can also be an opportunity for rejuvenation and career growth.

So what types of skills will still be in demand? Systems analysts and business analysts, for example, will likely be in demand since they function as important links between users and the information services department of an organization. Key skills for both types of analyst include analytical thinking and problem solving. In addition, the business analyst must also have exceptional interpersonal skills and be able to work with a diverse clientele of internal end-user customers, and the systems analyst must have solid technical skills working with enterprise-wide systems.

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"Linux IT Jobs Increasing, Outsourcing Showing Signs of Weakness", January 27

The president of Foote Partners, a Connecticut-based IT compensation research firm, explains why the job market for Linux IT professionals could experience new growth in 2005. Over the next twelve months, the trend toward Linux and open source computing will continue, leading to a "hot jobs market" for Linux experts. IT salaries for Linux professionals will stabilize, especially as pent-up demand for professionals with certain skills intensifies and the backlash against IT outsourcing builds.

In 2005, the demand for Linux skills will build as more companies launch Linux and other open source applications. At some point in 2005, the supply of Linux-certified workers will catch up with demand, meaning that there will likely also be a stabilizing of salary levels for Linux professionals this year. One other factor is impacting demand for skilled IT professionals, especially those with Linux-related skills: the general backlash against IT outsourcing as companies reassess the types of positions they are willing to move overseas.

Going forward, a number of skills and IT specialties will be in demand: SAN/NAS storage, Web services and Linux/open source rapid application development. These are all hot, high-growth technologies that will require staffing changes at many companies. As competition heats up for certain IT professionals, it will lead to higher salaries for IT professionals with niche skills in networking, information security, applications development, Web services and systems integration.

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"IT Students Can Get Leg Up" (Arizona), January 17

The National IT Apprenticeship System, a new IT training program at schools such as Mesa Community College, is bringing the apprenticeship model to IT instruction. The new program - sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and administered by the Computer Technology Industry Association - enables IT students to get on-the-job training and mentoring advice at a local company. Over the long-term, these types of programs may provide an important competitive advantage to U.S. job seekers.

In addition to getting classroom training, each participant gets a permanent performance report, including training records, coaching records, hours of experience and certifications achieved. By completing the program, students also receive a valuable resume tool that verifies skills learned in the classroom. Each school offering the program is responsible for seeking out companies that want to become partners in the program, providing internships and supervisors to oversee and document the work of their apprentices.

The purpose of the National IT Apprenticeship Program is to make sure the United States continues to have a competitive information technology work force in a world where many IT jobs are being outsourced to foreign countries. The program is most likely to provide support for positions such as business analysts, hardware and networking support and database management. Students who might once have been wary of committing to an IT career can now receive an advantage over other peers, including those based overseas.

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