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CareerNews: Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Volume 3, Issue 12: Tuesday, August 21, 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 careernews-request@acm.org.





Three Nuggets for Talent Gold





Irresistible IT Skills




Nearly Half of Interns Have Shot At Full-Time Work




How Industry Associations Can Benefit Your Job Search




Revenge of the Frosh-Seeking Robots




Technological Know-How Opens Up Plentiful Job Options




Discretion, Tools Help Hide a Job Hunt From the Boss




Keys to Career Success from the former CEO of Gillette




Leading for the Next Act: Why CEOs Must Evolve or Step Aside




Indian Outsourcers Likely To Acquire More U.S. Firms




Poor Interviewers Driving Away Talent




"Three Nuggets for Talent Gold"
Network World, July 31

According to a research study from Deloitte Canada, the Canadian public sector should take several steps to prepare itself for a future IT talent squeeze. While the IT skills shortage will not be as dire as some are predicting, it will nonetheless require government employers to take a closer look at how they recruit, retain and deploy their IT workers. The article reviews the primary demographic trends that are impacting the Canadian public sector employment picture and then presents a three-part framework for creating a successful talent strategy. Contrary to the conventional wisdom that the public sector can not compete as an IT employer with the private sector, Deloitte Canada argues that salary and stock options incentives are largely overstated, and that there are other ways to attract the best and brightest Canadian IT workers.

Demographics, certainly, are an important consideration when evaluating the future state of the Canadian labor force. An aging workforce means that Baby Boomer IT staffers will begin retiring soon. This trend is even more important for the public sector than the private sector, since public sector employees tend to retire at any earlier age than private sector employees. However, there are other factors at play. Deloitte Canada points to four factors that will impact the long-term employment picture, including the changing nature of government IT staffing, gradually increasing demand for IT personnel, and the growing cost of hiring and retaining key IT staff members.

The public sector does not have to lose its most senior or valuable IT employees to the private sector. With that in mind, Deloitte has developed a new HR paradigm for the retention and acquisition of key employees. Employers must develop, deploy and connect their talent. In other words, it is important for HR professionals to do more than simply raise salaries or offer stock options to employees. Talented staff members are motivated by money, but that is only a necessary and not sufficient condition. They also require an environment where they can learn, end up on an optimal career path and have access to the people around them.

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"Irresistible IT Skills"
Computerworld, August 6

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the market for IT talent is heating up, especially for those candidates with the right skills and an understanding of how those skills fit into the broader business framework of an organization. If the predicted IT talent squeeze materializes, these competencies and skills will experience even higher demand from IT recruiters. The article reviews the key areas of IT expertise and suggests ways for job seekers to tap into the growing demand within these areas. In areas including business intelligence, mobile applications, open-source programming, network convergence, and human-computer interaction, the future IT employment outlook will continue to be strong over the next six months.

As companies work to build software applications related to spam-filtering and fraud detection, there is growing demand for IT professionals with the ability to design and develop algorithms and techniques that improve the performance of computers. In addition, the race to deliver content over mobile devices is leading to increased demand for expertise in mobile applications. With the proliferation of new wireless standards, wireless security is also emerging as a primary concern for IT employers. Companies are concerned about how these wireless technologies all fit together and the security risks, which are greater than on wired networks.

In addition, there will be growing demand for skills in designing user interfaces for Web and desktop applications. Project management is another hot skill, especially when project management experience is coupled with a deep understanding of the business. A solid grasp of networking is also highly desirable. At the very least, IT professionals should brush up on the basics and have a working knowledge of distributed and networked computing. Finally, with more companies implementing voice over IP, there is increasing demand for network administrators who understand the basics of network convergence.

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"Nearly Half of Interns Have Shot At Full-Time Work"
Information Week, August 14

A majority (61%) of hiring managers indicated they will hire college students or recent college graduates for internship positions in the fall, and 44% said they would likely hire college interns as full-time employees, according to a new survey from CBcampus.com. Overall, the employment outlook is bright for college interns. In fact, 84% of hiring managers said they would begin hiring college interns for the fall between June and September, and 59% of hiring managers said they either have recruited interns in the past or are currently recruiting interns. As the article illustrates, it is never too early to start thinking about internships, and there are a number of opportunities that exist as long as students take the time to search and apply.

There are a number of ways of turning an internship into a real job. Displaying enthusiasm, taking the initiative to tackle more than is assigned, and being on time are keys to getting hired. College students and recent college graduates need to take advantage of this opportunity so that they can gain hands-on experience and start building a professional network. Nearly one-third of employers say the biggest mistake college interns make that would cause them not to hire on a permanent basis is not showing enthusiasm for the job. Nearly 20% of employers say not going above and beyond the assigned task would be the biggest mistake a college intern could make that would cause them not to get a job offer. While some managers are flexible when it comes to start times if the work is getting done, others expect interns to be on time every day. More than 13% of employers say arriving late to work is the biggest mistake college interns make that would cause them not to hire the intern permanently.

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"How Industry Associations Can Benefit Your Job Search"
Career Journal, August 14

Recruiting firms are increasingly tapping into the membership lists of industry associations in an effort to identify and attract the best IT talent. In fact, this strategy has become the most common way for recruiters to find potential candidates who are not actively looking for a new job. Recruiters and company hiring managers say they also often seek out potential hires at the meetings, conferences and other events that professional groups sponsor. As the results from a recent survey from the Society for Human Resource Management illustrates, becoming a member of an association is one way to become more visible to recruiters and demonstrate your commitment to staying on the cutting edge of your field.

Recognizing that recruiters like to find new talent via these industry associations, you can increase your odds of attracting the attention of a recruiter by participating in association events instead of just attending them. If you are somebody who comes to chapter meetings and always asks outstanding questions, a recruiter will definitely take notice. Another way to boost your exposure to recruiters is to get involved in the management team of a professional group or local chapter. Yet another path might be to run for a board seat, volunteer to be on a committee or offer to speak at a seminar. You are likely to get to work closely with the leaders of the organization, as well as gain opportunities to showcase your skills.

Many associations post job ads on their Web sites, and some limit access to the ads to members. Corporate hiring managers and recruiters say they like to advertise on these sites, sometimes exclusively, to target trade group members. Job seekers say belonging to a professional association also allows them to easily connect with others in their field, which often results in job referrals and provides useful insights. While most groups charge an annual fee, it is typically far less than the cost of a career coach or other expert. Networking with fellow members is also easier than networking with other professionals who do not have the same industry connections.

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"Revenge of the Frosh-Seeking Robots"
The American, August 2007

In an effort to attract the best and the brightest to the IT field, companies like Microsoft are developing new educational programs in cutting-edge areas. Aware that they are competing not only amongst themselves for IT talent, but also with investment banks and venture capital firms, these tech companies are realizing that they must tilt the playing field in their favor by reinvigorating a sense of excitement around technology. One area that has attracted special attention is robotics. The article reviews the steps leading up to the creation of a groundbreaking Microsoft robotics program and highlights the various ways that this program could reverse recent trends in science and technology enrollment and coax young students away from higher-paying jobs in areas like finance and banking.

The impetus for the new robotics program came from the research division of Microsoft. At first, these researchers were puzzled over what was driving the decline in interest in computer science. While the negative impact of IT jobs being sent offshore played a part, as did the dot-com collapse, the researchers realized something more fundamental. Computer science, as it is currently taught in U.S. colleges, was not getting students excited about a possible future career. As they found out, it is critical to make the first experience students have in computer science compelling and linked to real-world results. Instead of spending a year learning basic theoretical concepts and code syntax, it might be more exciting for students to have practical hands-on experience.

With this in mind, Microsoft Research formed partnerships with Bryn Mawr and Georgia Tech. The three created a $2 million pilot program called the Institute for Personal Robots in Education. The program is developing an easily programmable tabletop robotic device to introduce to first-year computer science students. Within the first weeks of a class, students will be able to write elementary code that prompts the robot to do simple tasks like drive forward or back. Eventually, students can write more complex code, programming their personal robots to do creative tasks. In 2007, the team expects to have 1,000 students using the robots, and in 2008 the developers hope to have the personal robots in hundreds of American computer science departments.

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"Technological Know-How Opens Up Plentiful Job Options"
Job Journal, August 5

Help desk support and other technical support positions can provide a springboard to future job opportunities within the IT sector. These positions are consistently in demand by IT recruiters within every geographic area, and are likely to experience a continued increase in demand during the remainder of 2007. A good place to start looking for these opportunities is by contacting a specialized staffing firm, looking at Internet job postings, and tapping into the networks of family and friends. The article reviews the types of skills required for a typical IT support position, and suggests a few ways to attain these skills through training programs and certifications.

In general, there are three different tiers of expertise for an IT support specialist, depending on the size and complexity of the company. Tier I duties would include answering phone calls to troubleshoot problems for personal computer users. Tier II duties could involve basic hardware/software installations and regular maintenance functions supporting servers and workstations. Tier III duties involve more complicated programming and network activity. In addition to technical skills, an IT support assistant needs to have good customer-facing skills and the ability to address and solve problems in a timely manner.

One way to land an IT support position is by taking online courses or finding training courses for specific professional designations, especially those that are widely recognized within the industry. It is also possible to sign up for computer certification courses. Career planning experts advise studying for certifications via online courses or through training offered by junior and four-year colleges. Although academic training is the foundation of any career, practical training is essential to increasing your competence. If you are unable to land a job at a large company right away, you can always put a notice in a community newspaper advertising your freelance services. After building a small client base, you can return to your job search with practical experience on the resume.

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"Discretion, Tools Help Hide a Job Hunt From the Boss"
Career Journal, August 6

Understanding that discretion is one of the most important elements of conducting a successful job search, many online recruiting sites are now rolling out new functionality designed to keep the resumes of job seekers from falling into the wrong hands. Some sites, for example, enable job seekers to block certain companies from viewing their resumes or keep certain parts of their biographical information anonymous from recruiters. In addition to protecting their privacy online, there are a number of other steps that job seekers can take, such as not responding to blind ads, conducting the job search at home, and creating private email accounts to correspond with potential employers.

There are a number of ways that online job boards are responding to the needs of employed job seekers. For example, some of them now allow job seekers to block certain companies from viewing their resumes. In some cases, job seekers can block as many as 20 companies from viewing their resumes. However, this feature does not block recruiting firms from viewing your resume, unless you enter the name of the recruiting firm. In some cases, these sites may allow job seekers to keep parts of their resumes anonymous. For example, executive recruitment site TheLadders.com created a biographical confidentiality feature, enabling users to keep their name and current or previous employers anonymous.

Overall, job seekers need to exercise a certain amount of discretion when launching a job search. For example, it may not be worth it to apply to blind ads, where the name of the company is not specified. If the ad describes a position with responsibilities similar to yours, it is possible it could be from your current employer. There are other things that can give away your job search to your current employer. For example, if your company is business casual and you show up at work in a suit on days you are interviewing, it can raise some red flags. Finally, candidates should be sure to separate their current job from their search. Try creating a private email account for a search and using a cell phone or home number on a resume. According to career coaches, it is best to conduct all correspondence from home.

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"Keys to Career Success from the former CEO of Gillette"
CIO.com, July 30

James Kilts, the former chairman and CEO of Gillette, outlines nine essential factors for managerial success. Most importantly, executives and managers must have a continuous dissatisfaction with the status quo and a willingness to effect change. Another key factor is the ability to build relationships, especially with mentors and other experienced advisors. Based on his experience at Gillette and a private equity firm, Kilts outlines factors such as doing the right thing, creating and maintaining the right ream, and building the loyalty of workers. In a Q&A format, Kilts shares his lessons for current and aspiring leaders on what really matters, especially for the CIO who would like to become CEO one day.

In a wide-ranging interview, the former chairman and CEO of Gillette focuses on advice for the CIO who wants to become CEO one day. First and foremost, says Kilts, executives should have some line experience where they are responsible for the ultimate profitability of a division or department. Success stems from intellectual integrity, enthusiasm, the ability to get an organization to take action at the appropriate times and a deep understanding of customers. It is also important to know your subject and understand where the business needs to go to be successful. Create an organization that is able to carry on after you move onto your next assignment. In terms of building teams, the most common mistake that people make is not supporting people on a consistent basis, saying one thing to them and another to someone else.

As a CEO, Kilts placed great emphasis on the ability of the CIO to communicate with other functions and act as a gatekeeper for the organization. A CIO has to help the organization prioritize what has to be done when. Instead of adopting a short-term focus, a successful CIO gets things done in the proper sequence. From the perspective of a CIO, the most difficult thing is the ability to deal with the operational managers in the company and get consensus on priorities. Kilts also comments on the importance of mentor relationships, shares a few of his early life lessons, and riffs on the importance of creating and maintaining the right team. By giving people enough responsibility and the opportunity job growth, they will remain satisfied contributors to the organization.

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"Leading for the Next Act: Why CEOs Must Evolve or Step Aside"
Knowledge @ Wharton, August 8

At the Wharton Leadership conference, consultant David Nadler outlined the various ways that a new CEO must adjust to changes during the lifecycle of a company. The CEO may be hired for one task, but then face an entirely different task years or even months later. As a result, the secret to long-term CEO success is conceiving of CEO tenure as a performance with a series of distinct acts. Each act requires the CEO to lead, think and behave in fundamentally different ways. The successful CEO is one who is able to make these transitions and assess his or her performance within a wider business context.

According to the model proposed by David Nadler, the tenure of a CEO follows a natural arc. It begins when the CEO takes the stage, prepared or not for his or her new role, and has to solve the problems presented. In almost every CEO succession, it is rarely the case that the CEO does not need to adjust to changes in the development of the company. Usually there is some crisis or strategic challenge, and the job of the CEO is to figure out how to respond. The problem comes after the CEO solves that first issue. Then it is act two and something else is needed. Many CEOs fail because of their comfort in doing things a certain way, and then charging ahead with this plan no matter how the context has changed.

What leaders who successfully transition from one act to the next share is an awareness of what kind of leadership is required at the right moment. After illustrating that point with examples from Hewlett-Packard and Merrill Lynch, Nadler delves into the various types of CEO failure. Some CEOs fail early in their tenure, while other CEOs fail late, unable to adjust and adapt their early success into long-term success. In some cases, the gap widens between the vision of the CEO and the reality of the company. This creates a self-reinforcing negative cycle, in which the CEO either ignores or fails to pay attention to the warning signs. The CEO must constantly assess him or herself as the business context changes.

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"Indian Outsourcers Likely To Acquire More U.S. Firms"
Information Week, August 14

After Indian outsourcing firm Wipro announced plans to buy U.S.-based IT services firm Infocrossing for $600 million, industry observers started calculating the probability of a number of similar deals in the near-term future. According to Nasscom, an organization representing the Indian IT and software industry, there are several reasons why Indian companies are looking to acquire U.S. rivals, including the fact that many of them have built up significant cash positions over the past few years. The article outlines the key drivers for these cross-border deals, highlights a few significant deals that have already occurred within the outsourcing industry, and points out a few obstacles that may stand in the way of future U.S. expansion.

Among the drivers for these outsourcing transactions is the cap on H-1B visas within the United States. Since Indian outsourcers are among the biggest recipients of the H-1B program, using the visas to bring foreign-born employees temporarily into the United States to work with American clients, they must find other ways to get around the cap. For now, that means an increase in merger and acquisition deals. As Indian executives point out, the visa cap means they are not able to fulfill as many orders as they would like. While Indian companies have no problem getting American business, they currently lack the proper number of workers to deliver their services within the U.S.

Still, while other Indian IT outsourcers could acquire American IT services firms in coming months or years, that strategy for U.S. expansion is not as easy as it might seem. Acquisitions in the IT services sector between companies in India and the United States tend to be more difficult than acquisitions in other industries, like manufacturing, because of the cultural differences. As a result, Indian companies may show restraint as they look into possible acquisition deals. Given the scale and scope of business activities within the U.S., though, it means that the lull may only be a temporary one.

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"Poor Interviewers Driving Away Talent"
Management Issues, August 9

Many organizations can improve their recruitment and retention efforts simply by educating their interviewers on how to make a strong first impression with job seekers. Two-thirds of job seekers report that the behavior of interviewers influences their decision to accept a position, according to a study released by consulting firm Development Dimensions International and Monster.com. While many companies are facing increased pressure to hire the best IT talent, many of them are their own worst obstacles when interviewing qualified candidates. Employers often do not know what motivates their employees to accept jobs or what drives them to look for a new one and leave. The bottom line is that the war for talent hinges on employers closing the gap between their perceptions and employee realities.

If there is a wide gap between what companies think candidates are looking for and what would actually motivate interviewees to become employees, the interview could actually harm the recruiting efforts of the organization. Among the sort of behaviors that adversely affect willingness to work at a company are acting aloof, withholding information about a position, turning the interview into a cross-examination, showing up late or appearing unprepared and asking questions unrelated to job skills. The interview is not only a crucial assessment touch point in the recruiting process, it is an important marketing and branding opportunity. As the war for talent escalates, successful interviewers will quickly determine the ability of organizations to maintain a coherent, unified marketing message for potential employees.

Hiring managers often struggle to identify what job seekers want in a new job and misunderstand the elements that are most important to potential employees. For example, while two-thirds of job seekers say that working in a compatible team is a significant factor in their job hunt, only around a third of hiring managers attach the same importance to this. Similarly, nearly 75% of job seekers view having a good line manager and working for an organization they can be proud of as among the most important things they look for in a new job. However, both factors are underrated by employers. Another gap exists between employees and employers in assessing whether job seekers misrepresent themselves when interviewing for a position. Although almost 60% of hiring managers say job seekers misrepresent their experience on a resume or during the interview, only 5% of potential employees admit to doing so.

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