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CareerNews: Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Volume 3, Issue 1: Tuesday, March 13, 2007

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

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Technology Leaders

Five Old School Skills for the New Age CIO

IT Departments and Their Employees Reap the Benefits of Job Rotation Programs

The Rise of the Female Entrepreneur

Computing Degrees and Careers

Five Tips for Making Progress in Your Career While Staying Put

Quiet Techies Can Be Groomed to Be Leaders

What Older Job Hunters Need To Stage a Career Comeback

A Fresh Look at Offshoring

ICT Back in Favor with University Students

"The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Technology Leaders"
Communications of the ACM, March 2007

As a result of the ever-changing challenges within the IT sector, a business school professor at Villanova advises that technology leaders should think in terms of acquiring specific skills that impact business processes and outcomes. As he points out, there are seven habits that technology leaders practice on a regular basis that extrapolate on their existing technical skills. For example, leaders should learn how to build business scenarios; track technology trends that matters to business; identify points of pain within the business; organize adaptively; manage infrastructure cost-effectively; communicate well and often, and learn how to market their role within the company. The article further describes the changes that define current IT leadership challenges and outlines the value of specific leadership skills to technology professionals.

According to the Villanova professor, business technology leaders need to focus on business models and processes before they focus on technology infrastructure or applications. By understanding different business scenarios, they can identify ways to optimize existing marketplaces. While these business models and processes can not be developed independently of technology-enabled opportunities, they can lead the process. Since business technology leaders are able to understand technology, they are in a good position to exploit the business technology intersection. In doing so, they will be able to differentiate between operational technology and strategic technology. In simple terms, operational technology refers to commodity technologies, while strategic technology refers to technology-related investments that can drive competitive advantage.

In addition, business technology leaders are able to identify and prioritize areas of business pain, as well as approaches to pain relief. This pain relief might come in the form of improved business response and control, or even revenue generation, organic growth, acquisitions and increased profitability. Business technology leaders are also able to optimize the value of shared services in centralized and decentralized companies, and are able to track important trends that impact the organization. In addition, business technology leaders manage computing and communications infrastructure professionally and cost-effectively through negotiated service-level agreements and measurement best practices.

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"Five Old School Skills for the New Age CIO"
Computerworld, February 19

While job titles and functions continue to change within the IT sector, the types of fundamental skills that have always been a foundation for top IT jobs remain relatively unchanged. For example, the CIO must still have a hands-on understanding of the technological infrastructure of the organization. Over time, this understanding can serve as the basis for the acquisition of all other skills. The five most important skills for a CIO include financial management skills, superior communication skills, the ability to interact with clients, leadership and vision, and recognition of how the technology and business sides of the organization interact.

First and most importantly, a CIO must possess superior financial management skills. By understanding how to manage money, the CIO will be able to increase revenue and margins and boost overall service levels. Combined with a deep knowledge of technology, this ability to work with different business units on important financial goals will lead to a competitive advantage for the organization. The CIO must also have the ability to connect with clients and team members, which is usually the product of good listening, communication, and relationship building skills.

Other key skills for the CIO include the ability to lead others, a clear vision for the future, and extensive knowledge of the business. A successful CIO must possess and practice strong leadership skills. By learning to think across disciplines, the CIO can become the visionary of the organization, enabling people to move forward in a more coordinated fashion. A successful CIO is someone who has developed a strong relationship with all the business constituents at a senior level and can help align the IT organization with the most important business strategies. Drawing on top-notch technical skills and a deep experience within the IT sector, the CIO can place the business and technology goals of the organization within the proper context.

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"IT Departments and Their Employees Reap the Benefits of Job Rotation Programs"
Network World, February 22

For young IT workers, job rotation programs represent an excellent way to evaluate the wide range of career opportunities offered by different businesses and functions across the organization. IT workers can obtain an encyclopedic knowledge of the operations of the organization while, at the same time, experimenting with different leadership styles and corporate cultures. This is particularly important at companies that may have a number of strategic business units scattered around the country or even the globe. Noting that the typical time period for a job rotation program varies anywhere from 6 months to 24 months, the article offers a detailed look at two different IT job rotation programs.

Proponents of programs that rotate IT professionals into temporary assignments handling a different technology or business function of an organization say they offer benefits for both employers and employees. They significantly boost advancement opportunities for individual employees who participate and gain valuable business insights. For companies, they can help IT departments develop a better understanding of the business challenges of the organization and disseminate technical knowledge throughout the business. In order to help with this integration of business and IT, some organizations rotate as many as 20% of their IT employees annually.

Despite their documented benefits for both employees and employers, IT job rotation programs are still relatively uncommon. A recent Forrester Research survey of 281 IT decision makers found that fewer than 25% of organizations offered job rotation assignments within their IT departments. Moreover, only 12% of the organizations surveyed by Forrester rotated their IT staff into business functions. Finally, only 7% of companies also rotate business professionals into the IT department. Business to IT rotation is perhaps the most challenging for IT organizations to implement, but the payoff is often very high, say experts.

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"The Rise of the Female Entrepreneur"
Management Issues, March 6

According to a new study published by Babson College, women now comprise one-third of all entrepreneurs around the world and are increasingly likely to strike out and set up their own businesses. The so-called entrepreneurial gender gap between men and women is narrowing, the Babson study found, particularly in low to middle income countries such as Russia and Brazil. In contrast to their male counterparts, however, women are much less likely to launch their own businesses if they do not already have a part- or full-time job. In addition to being more cautious than men, women also tend to be less confident than men about whether they will be successful. In its study of patterns in global entrepreneurship, the Babson researchers took into account factors such as age, educational level, and income level.

The report examined entrepreneurial activity in 40 countries around the world and found that low to middle-income countries such as Russia and the Philippines tended to have the highest rates of female early-stage entrepreneurial activity. In contrast, high-income countries such as Sweden and Belgium reported the lowest rates of female entrepreneurial activity. In fact, Russia was the only country where the rate of female early-stage entrepreneurship was significantly higher than the male rate. When it came to age, the distribution pattern was similar regardless of geographical origin. In low and middle-income countries, women generally became early-stage entrepreneurs between the ages of 25-34 and established entrepreneurs between the ages of 35-44. In high-income countries, the age groupings were slightly higher.

There are several factors, such as education and income, which influence female entrepreneurial activity. Globally, entrepreneurial activity was highest among women who also had access to another source of income and the highest educational levels. By maintaining a paid source of employment, women were better able to access the resources, social capital and ideas that helped them in establishing their entrepreneurial ventures. In addition, education plays a key role in the decision to start a new business. Across all geographies, women with higher levels of education were more likely to transform their new ventures into established businesses. In low and middle-income countries, more than a third of early-stage women entrepreneurs and nearly half of established women business owners had less than a secondary degree. In high-income countries, this dropped to 25% of early-stage women and nearly 30% of established women business owners.

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"Computing Degrees and Careers"
ACM, March 2007

A new guide to computing careers helps high school students develop a better understanding of which career opportunities are available after graduation, as well as which academic concentrations will lead to those career paths. The guide, available via download as a PDF document, was prepared by ACM, the IEEE Computer Society, and the Association for Information Systems. In an effort to inform high school students and their parents, the guide points out that the computing field is one of the fastest growing sectors of the global economy. Moreover, computer science remains at the forefront of exciting breakthroughs related to gaming, Internet search, mobile devices, medical imaging, and online content distribution. A companion website provides additional details on computing degrees and careers, including a comprehensive list of skills that can learned by anyone who studies computing.

A central point of the brochure is that there are more jobs in computing and information technology today than at any point in the recent past. Almost every major field of human endeavor is turning to computing for a solution, from conquering disease to eliminating hunger, from improving education to protecting the environment. By broadening their awareness of the opportunities available to them, students will be able to understand how specific workplace roles contribute to exciting future developments. For example, consider the gaming area. Computer engineers produce faster, more powerful chips, while computer science experts work on artificial intelligence solutions. Information technology professionals support networks and infrastructure, while information systems professionals create systems for keeping track of customer feedback, behavior and demand.

According to educators at the high school and university levels, there is a growing need for information about computing and specific details on what computing professionals do all day. The brochure details the major fields of study within computing, with a focus on computer engineering, computer science, and information systems. While computer engineering students study the design of digital hardware and software, computer scientists take on roles such as the design and building of software and the creation of efficient solutions to real-world problems in fields such as robotics and digital forensics. Through a series of question and answers, the brochure works students through various academic disciplines and how they relate to specific, real-world job responsibilities.

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"Five Tips for Making Progress in Your Career While Staying Put", March 1

Instead of thinking in terms of changing jobs every few years, IT professionals should think in terms of exploring new challenges and opportunities at their current positions. By taking on new assignments in your current position, you can expand your skill set and develop your leadership capabilities without expending too much time and effort job-hunting. As the article points out, the key to making progress in the workplace is being able to identify and take on developmental assignments. These are roles and activities that provide opportunities to learn new skills, expand your knowledge base, try new behaviors and improve on weaknesses. Since they usually involve an element of challenge or risk, they stretch you out of your comfort zone and might lead you to work broader in scope than what you are used to. The article provides some tips and strategies for identifying the right types of developmental assignments and maximizing the value from them.

For IT employees, it is important to find the right types of developmental assignments and workplace challenges. Before you jump into a new role or task, clarify what you are trying to learn. Ask yourself what skills, behaviors or actions you need to develop to be more effective. Second, look for opportunities to reshape your current job. There are a number of ways to go about doing this. You could trade tasks with a coworker or volunteer for a task that would normally go to a more experienced person. For example, if you are a programmer, you could take on more project management responsibilities. Moreover, you could take on the challenge of managing a high-visibility client account.

You can also consider temporary assignments outside your job description or department. This might mean contributing to a new project, task force or event that will improve skills in areas such as project management. If you have a boss who is open and interested in your development, be clear about the skills or behaviors you want to learn or improve. Together, consider which assignments have the most promise and are mutually beneficial, and leave the discussion with a game plan for your developmental assignment. Along the way, be realistic. Your goal is to integrate new experiences while you maintain your current role and commitments. By taking on challenges with the goal of learning, you gain a broad portfolio of experiences that enhance your performance in your current job and prepare you for the next one.

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"Quiet Techies Can Be Groomed to Be Leaders"
Computerworld, March 5

At a meeting of a chapter of the Society for Information Management (SIM), panelists discussed the types of leadership qualities that can be learned by all IT employees, even those who appear to lack charisma and other leadership intangibles. In contrast to those who claim that great leaders are born, not made, the panelists felt that introverted technologists possessing strong technical skills, high self-confidence, and an intuitive grasp of business could eventually be groomed into high-performance leaders. While there was consensus on this issue, the panelists were mixed on whether an employee from the IT or business side of the organization was best positioned to become a future CIO. Generally speaking, it is more risky for a business executive to make the transition, unless he or she already understands how technical issues can impact the business.

Potential IT leaders are usually able to develop a sense of quiet self-confidence. With this as a starting point, effective IT leaders can establish and communicate a vision for the IT organization and then sell that vision to IT staffers and business executives. A good leader does not have to be charismatic, but he or she must be able to inspire people, demonstrate success, and advance the careers of others within the organization. It also helps to have an intuitive grasp of the business, as well as the ability to seize on and appreciate new trends and concepts before they enter the mainstream.

The SIM panel also debated whether it is best to hire a new CIO from the IT or business side of the organization. Hiring a business executive for the job may be a risky approach. After all, at many companies, the technology team has to deliver quickly and efficiently. With time-to-market pressures a constant, business executives attempting to make the transition to CIO must be extraordinarily tech savvy in order to keep pace. Failure to understand technical issues could have an immediate impact on the performance of the organization. On the other hand, if an IT veteran is tapped to become a CIO, he or she must be able to talk to business executives in business terms.

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"What Older Job Hunters Need To Stage a Career Comeback"
Wall Street Journal (via MarketWatch), February 28

For older Americans thinking about re-entering the job market, a major factor in their job search success will be their ability to quickly ramp up their technology skills to the level demanded by employers. For the millions of mature people who had dropped out of the labor force for several years, perhaps to raise their children or pursue other interests, the current period of relatively low unemployment and well-paced economic growth represents a unique opportunity. However, due to the transformational changes that have taken place in the workplace due to technology innovation, many of them will have to make substantial adjustments to their skill sets in order to survive and succeed. The article profiles the types of basic technological skills needed to re-enter the workforce.

Older workers must react to the proliferation of technology throughout the office, especially the ubiquity of the personal computer. Even for many blue-collar workers, computer literacy is a must-have. According to a study by Forrester Research, 78% of working-age adults in the United States use computers, either at home or at work. Despite this fact, many people over the age of 50 are afraid of the computer, since they did not grow up with it. This may be changing, though. A survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project concludes that 54% of adults over 50 use the Internet, up from 38% five years ago. Moreover, retired people now spend an average of nine hours online at home each week.

Developing computer literacy, however, does not require any special academic knowledge related to computer science. In fact, for many older workers contemplating a return to the workplace, the ability to work with Microsoft Office programs, check e-mail, and browse the Web for information are just about all that is required. One option for older workers might be to enroll in one of the courses offered by local high schools, community education centers, public libraries and junior colleges. They can also take a test at a temporary employment agency in order to judge their current skills levels.

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"A Fresh Look at Offshoring"
Kansas City Star, February 22

According to a new report issued by the Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution, fears of overseas IT outsourcing may be greatly exaggerated. While many experts point to the continued loss of manufacturing and service jobs from the U.S. economy, it appears that this flow of jobs offshore is now slowing significantly. The Brookings Institution study estimates that, over the next 10 years, overseas IT outsourcing is likely to cause the loss of just 2.6% of jobs in metropolitan areas that have well-developed IT industries. In other metropolitan areas, the job loss will even be less, at 1.9%. The article provides a geographic breakdown of possible job losses, highlighting how certain metropolitan areas may avoid the worst of the overseas IT outsourcing effect.

The Brookings Institution report attempts to place the growing concern about jobs lost to overseas IT outsourcing into a broader context. During the fifteen-year period between 2000 and 2015, the U.S. is likely to lose 3.4 million jobs to overseas IT outsourcing, or about 227,000 jobs per year. In comparison, the private sector produces a net gain of 2 million jobs per year. Thus, a loss of 227,000 jobs per year may sound like a lot, but represents only 0.2% of total private sector employment, and only a small percentage of total jobs gained or lost each year. The aggregate number of jobs lost to overseas IT outsourcing over the entire 15-year period amounts to only about 2.6% of total employment.

As the Brookings Institution report points out, many metropolitan areas may avoid the brunt of the outsourcing trend. These regions may only lose 2.1% to 2.5% of their service jobs due to overseas IT outsourcing. However, other areas are not likely to fare as well. In particular, metropolitan areas in Colorado, Massachusetts, California and Connecticut may lose anywhere from 3.1% to 4.3% of their IT and service jobs. In some areas, an even greater percentage of computer programming, software engineering and data entry jobs are likely to be sent overseas. These job losses may be survivable, provided that state and regional work-force development and economic development policies respond in a timely manner. Local governments need to start tracking which jobs are most vulnerable to being sent overseas, and then work with employers to keep these jobs in the U.S.

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"ICT Back in Favor with University Students"
The Dominion Post, March 12

In New Zealand, universities and polytechnics are reporting an increase in enrollment in information technology and computing courses, reversing a slide that dates back to 2001. For example, there have been dramatic 20% increases in first-year numbers at Auckland and Victoria universities this semester, as well as less dramatic increases at polytechnics and technology institutes. Experts point to media reports on the ICT skills shortage last year as a possible explanation, as well as increased efforts by companies and educational institutions to encourage high school students to study technology.

There are several reasons for the surging enrollment figures. For example, Victoria University began offering a new bachelor of engineering degree, which attracted a significant number of new students. Another factor may have been the media, which has been relentlessly documenting the pending job skills shortage in fields related to computing and technology. Looking ahead, students and career advisers may now be encouraging high school students to consider technology careers. A final factor may be the greater willingness by IT companies to sponsor technology-related initiatives within educational institutions.

The enrollment numbers, while improved, are still recovering from the bursting of the dot-com bubble nearly five years ago. In the U.S., for example, first-year enrollments in ICT courses at the university level declined more than 60% between 2000 and 2004. In Canada, the figure was even higher, at 70%. Likewise, enrollment figures in Australia and New Zealand experienced a similar drop-off in student interest after 2000. However, Australia appears to be experiencing a turnaround this year, with an increase in the number of students applying for computer courses as their first choice in New South Wales, and a slower decline than in previous years in other states. With the situation in Australia improving, it is likely that the positive trend will continue in New Zealand.

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