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CareerNews: Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Volume 3, Issue 15: Tuesday, October 9, 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

Challenging Telework Myths

Baby Boomers Tap Nest Eggs to Fund Ventures

Ten Tips for Achieving a Better Work-Life Balance

States Face IT Retirement Crunch

Offshoring Evolves Beyond American vs. Indian

The New Me Generation

Love the Offer, Hate the Money

What Have I Done?

Desperately Seeking Virtualization Skills

CIOs Feeling Unloved and Ignored

"Challenging Telework Myths"
Web Worker Daily, October 1

While telecommuting is now an established part of American corporate culture, a number of persistent myths may impede the uptake of flexible work arrangements at more companies. The good news is that there are a number of ways to challenge these myths and convince senior management to experiment with telework arrangements. Once you can show that telecommuters actually work harder and more productively than their office co-workers and that the cost of setting up a new arrangement is relatively cheap, it becomes easier to make the business case for telecommuting. With technology providing connectivity and access to the home office at all hours, a broader range of companies may be willing to experiment with telework arrangements.

The first telework myth is that people work harder in the office where they are supervised than at home. The reality is that people in the office get paid for every hour they are physically present, whether they are working or not. In contrast, people working from home only get paid for actual productive work hours. The second telework myth is that it costs too much to set up computer equipment for every teleworker. The reality is that teleworkers only need a computer and a network connection, while office-based workers need office space, furniture, office supplies, and any additional extras. The third myth is that telecommuting represents an unacceptable security risk. The reality is that standard-issue computers, remote management, and strong authentication products can all help keep telecommuters as safe as office workers.

The fourth myth is that teleworkers are never available when you need them. In fact, teleworkers use email, telephones, instant messages, VOIP, videoconferencing, and an expanding array of Web 2.0 services in order to remain as connected as traditional office workers. The fifth myth is that telecommuting is for other businesses. The final myth is that you will never see the teleworkers again once you un-tether them from the office. When geography allows, many teleworkers spend the occasional day in the office, ranging from once a week to once a month.

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"Baby Boomers Tap Nest Eggs to Fund Ventures"
Wall Street Journal Online, October 3

Deciding to start a new business is becoming an increasingly common step for Baby Boomer entrepreneurs. Despite the inherent risks of starting a new business at an older age, these Baby Boomers are often funding 100% of the new venture themselves with their retirement nest eggs. The article outlines the typical risk profile of a Baby Boomer entrepreneur and outlines the various financing strategies that are possible, focusing on the ways that cash can be deployed to fund new ventures.

If you are thinking about starting a new venture, the first step is to figure out your overall risk tolerance. The decision of how much cash to invest in the venture depends on factors such as how much you have, what your business requires and how much you are comfortable with losing. The worst case scenario, of course, is that you will lose a significant portion of your retirement savings. As a result, it is often helpful to solicit the advice of professionals who can help you make the right decisions. Before you start writing checks to finance the venture, for example, you might need help from a tax advisor in order to tap any retirement account without incurring any associated tax penalties.

The amount that you are willing to contribute to the venture is based to some extent on the cash flow needs of the business. You might consider using your savings for a limited set of expenses, such as paying for inventory. To stretch your dollars, you might think about franchising opportunities. Entrepreneurs are generally expected to put up some of their own money to start a franchise, and boomers have generated significant savings. Generally speaking, entrepreneurs should expect to pay about 15% to 30% of the total cost of starting the franchise out of their own pocket, including the franchise fee and working capital.

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"Ten Tips for Achieving a Better Work-Life Balance"
Computerworld, September 18

With the average workweek for software programmers, engineers and technicians ranging from 43 to 62 hours, more IT professionals than ever are looking for ways to achieve a work-life balance. At the same time, in order to attract the best and brightest talent, companies are realizing that they need to offer benefits such as flexible schedules, job sharing arrangements, shortened workweeks and telecommuting options. With that as context, a number of IT executives and experienced IT professionals share their strategies for finding the right balance between personal life and professional life.

In order to establish a true work-life balance, it is important to establish and enforce your own priorities. After you have set your priorities, publicize them with your co-workers. Next, build a business case for your better life. You might be able to request a flexible schedule as part of the compensation package when offered a new job. Obviously, people with in-demand skills have more leverage in getting this kind of special treatment, but that does not preclude others from negotiating additional vacation time, limited overtime hours or flexible start and end times before signing on with a new company. You need to demonstrate, based on your previous performance, that you will be able to deliver the same results.

There are other steps you can take to establish a work-life balance, such as seeking out a mentor, working more efficiently and sharing your knowledge with other co-workers in the office. If you are the only person who knows something, others may not be able to step up in your absence. In addition, mobile devices can be used to get work done from offsite locations, especially when they are tied into the office network. Above all, maintain perspective since it is easy to feel your life is out of control when a looming deadline or major crisis forces you to work long hours.

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"States Face IT Retirement Crunch", October 2

According to a new report from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, nearly 27% of state IT employees could retire within the next five years. Despite the sizable impact that these retirements would have on the IT workforce, most states lack any kind of HR plan to address a potential labor shortage. The article reviews the workforce recruiting challenges facing many state agencies, summarizes a few workforce initiatives under consideration and provides an overview of the skills most at risk of being affected by the impending IT skills shortage.

Despite the potential labor shortfall, more than 65% of state employers lack a well-defined contingency plan to deal with future job vacancies. Of those states with a plan, many said workforce initiatives have yet to be fully implemented. With this job shortage looming, states already view recruiting IT workers as a challenge. Nearly 80% of respondents to the survey reported difficulty recruiting new employees to fill vacant IT positions, especially in areas such as project management, security, architecture, mainframe support, and application development and support. If a staffing shortfall does materialize, states will likely seek out alternatives to IT outsourcing, including the rehiring of former employees to perform certain tasks on a contractual basis.

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"Offshoring Evolves Beyond American vs. Indian"
Datamation, September 27

The continued globalization of the world economy is leading to a significant re-thinking of how IT outsourcing arrangements affect employment growth in the U.S. In the base case, of course, technology jobs are either sent to low-cost locales like India, or kept here in the U.S. However, as American IT companies expand to India, and as India IT firms open American offices, the line between what is American and what is Indian is starting to blur. Within the next five years, experts expect to see the creation of global IT services companies that operate across global borders. The article explains the changing shape of the IT outsourcing dynamic, pointing out how large Indian IT outsourcing firms are evolving in response to global competitive pressures.

To be competitive today, an IT services firm must be a truly global firm. For example, consider IBM. The company has 127,000 U.S.-based workers and 53,000 other workers employed in India. Or consider the example of Accenture. The firm is based in Bermuda, with a CFO in Frankfurt, and a marketing chief in San Francisco. As American firms hire more Indian workers, Indian companies are hiring more Americans. Increasingly, IT outsourcing firms like Infosys and Wipro are moving people to on-site positions in the U.S. and hiring Americans. Over time, Indian firms may actually become seen as job providers, especially as they ramp up hiring in the U.S. Over time, the continued globalization of IT services will mean that firms like Tata, Infosys and Wipro will be viewed the same as EDS, IBM or Accenture.

Despite the fact that the future of IT will be less about America vs. India than about global firms competing globally, it remains clear that Indian companies will be driving the pace of change over the next few years. It is the large pool of well-educated Indian developers who are the dominant force, and it is Indian firms that influence even contracts they do not win by providing a lower cost alternative. While India already accounts for perhaps 30% of all outsourcing work, these numbers will increase significantly as along as Indian IT firms are able to maintain their pricing power with existing clients.

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"The New Me Generation"
Boston Globe, September 30

Jake Halpern, author of Fame Junkies, explains why the members of Generation Y may hold the key to the future of innovation and entrepreneurial creativity within the U.S. economy. While members of older generations may view these up-and-comers as self-centered, brash and even narcissistic, Halpern believes that the self-confidence and willingness of Generation Y to challenge the status quo will lead to future benefits. Through a number of examples of super-achieving individuals, including one who launched and later sold an Internet business to ESPN for $40 million before entering Harvard, Halpern argues persuasively that the types of jobs that new entrants to the workforce are willing to accept and the types of attitude they bring to their businesses are worthy of respect and admiration.

After describing why members of this new generation appears narcissistic to outsiders, Halpern explains why traits like extreme self-confidence can pay big dividends in business. Generally speaking, businesses that rely on innovation, new technology, and globalization require bold leaders who can take risks and challenge the conventional wisdom. Moreover, these hard-charging individuals are best able to accept new ideas and then propagate these ideas within an organization. Members of Generation Y are developing the foresight and the charisma to motivate entire organizations to succeed.

When a number of these people are gathered together within an organization, great things can happen. According to Halpern, these young super-achievers are starting risky and revolutionary new technology companies, launching world-changing nonprofit initiatives, and shaking up the management status quo at companies that they join. In closing, the article looks at the types of educational programs that might produce the next generation of leaders and outlines why America remains an attractive incubator for idealistic entrepreneurs.

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"Love the Offer, Hate the Money"
Business Week, September 20

What can you do when you would like to accept a job offer, but are concerned about the size of the compensation package being offered? Sometimes, even when you establish a target salary range in your job interview, an organization will come back with an offer that is 10% lower than expected. According to salary negotiation experts, you need to determine whether this lowball offer was a conscious choice or whether there is room for negotiation. Once you have determined that the offer was made in good faith, you can look for creative ways to improve the overall compensation package, such as a signing bonus or additional paid vacation time.

The first thing to do when offered a lower than expected salary is to stay calm. Instead of being upset that the organization does not recognize the fair market value of your IT skills, you need to think clearly about the intentions of the organization. Before you accept a job, find out whether or not turnover has been a problem at the organization. Companies who treat people fairly will have an easy time answering your questions. However, companies that rely on continual hiring to replace the continual outflow of workers who can not live on the salaries the company is paying will never see your value.

If you think that there might be room to negotiate the salary, there are a few potential approaches to maximize your chances. Take the time to put together some concrete ideas so that the next time you talk, you will be prepared. Instead of asking for more money, ask whether a signing bonus might be possible, or whether the company can move your normal one-year performance and salary review up to become a six-month review instead. In addition, you can ask whether the company can guarantee a performance bonus in your first year or whether you can receive extra paid vacation time. At the end of the day, you may not receive exactly what you want, but you will have the confidence that the company has heard your requests and has engaged in a good faith effort to meet them.

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"What Have I Done?"
California Job Journal, September 16

According to some surveys, as many as 25% of workers regret taking a new position within the first year of accepting the original offer. In most cases, it is best to leave before your dissatisfaction starts to impact your overall job performance. After all, there is nothing to gain by staying in a position you regret taking, but there is a lot to lose. By trying to stick it out, it is likely your performance will decline and your attitude will worsen, both of which could tarnish your reputation and damage future job prospects. The article highlights the steps that you should take if you are feeling unhappy with your new job and provides some tactical advice for avoiding the wrong job.

It is natural to have second thoughts in the first month or two of any new job. However, if the feelings of regret persist after six months, it is time to sit down with your supervisor and discuss the situation. This would also be a good time to do some in-depth soul searching about what matters most to you in a job. Write down all the aspects you can think of where your current position succeeds or fails at meeting your expectations. If the gap between the pros and cons is significant, the job may be impossible to salvage.

Attempting to assign blame for a position that does not work out has very little value. It is very difficult to determine through a handful of interviews whether an individual will be a good fit for the company or if the position/will be a good fit for the individual. Accepting a job that is not a good fit can be avoided. The biggest challenge for jobseekers is taking the time to step back and reflect on the job offer. In order to avoid a job that is a bad fit, identify the must haves of the new position and talk to friends and family in order to solicit their honest opinion about the situation. Above all else, be yourself during the interview process and do not compromise on the must-haves for the job, especially if they are related to compensation.

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"Desperately Seeking Virtualization Skills"
Computerworld, October 1

IT executives are concerned that the increasing popularity of virtualization technologies is making it harder than ever to find qualified workers. Even at conferences and events dedicated to virtualization technologies, it is common to find conference attendees who are new to virtualization and largely self-taught on the technology. With that in mind, the article discusses how companies can boost the overall skill level of their virtualization employees and highlights the types of training programs and skills that are emerging as the building blocks for working with virtualization software.

In order to take advantage of new job openings in the virtualization area, IT professionals can seek out new training programs that will help them work with virtualization software. They also need to develop a broad base of data center skills and other related IT skills. Recently, IT professionals really just needed to understand the server. Now they have to understand not just the server, but also the command lines of the Linux operating system, networking, how switches work, storage and fiber connections.

The introduction of virtualization technology within companies has led to server consolidation, the removal of old hardware, and lower power and cooling costs. As a result, employers are increasingly convinced that virtualization has become a technology that IT workers need to know. For firms willing to make the necessary investment, it is possible to find the right types of qualified candidates and then enroll them in the requisite training programs.

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"CIOs Feeling Unloved and Ignored"
Management Issues, October 2

In the U.K., chief information officers are now feeling increasingly marginalized and unhappy about their roles. Despite the growing pervasiveness of technology within the workplace, there is still a gap between the business and IT sides of the organization. According to a study by recruitment consultancy Harvey Nash, nearly 10% of CIOs and senior technology professionals feel that their role has become less strategic within their organizations. As a result, nearly 50% of them expect to switch employers within the next two years.

While nearly 50% of chief information officers now sit on the boards of their organizations, just one-third report directly to the CEO. While 60% of those surveyed felt that the role of the CIO was becoming more strategic, this represents a 15% decline from the year-earlier period. Nearly half of chief finance officers said they now viewed IT solely as a support function with no need for a seat on the board of directors. According to survey respondents, there has been a perceived failure by the CIO to deliver on innovation. Even when organizations did innovate, more than 75% reported only reasonable or limited success with their overall process.

As a result, more and more senior IT professionals now appear ready to change positions, with more than 25% claiming they would leave their current role in order to have more hands-on involvement in business strategy elsewhere. In fact, nearly 30% of those surveyed said they were already actively looking for a new position. The eroding of the strategic influence of the CIO position has created the conditions for increased turnover. In 2007, there has been a 15% increase in the number of CIOs occupying their current position for less than 12 months. Going forward, the most effective and satisfied chief information officers will be those who are embraced by their boards, and those who can demonstrate the critical influence of IT upon the business success of the company.

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