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CareerNews: Thursday, December 6, 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

Volume 3, Issue 19: Thursday, December 6, 2007

Ten Tips for Recruiting Entry-Level Technical Talent, November 13

There are 10 simple ways to nurture, develop and recruit entry-level IT talent. Each of these steps, however, requires that companies adopt a long-term view of talent acquisition. Forward-looking companies understand that talent acquisition requires participating in the development of that talent and taking the time to understand the needs of recent graduates. A small investment of time and resources, such as offering internship programs or re-establishing ties with alumni, can result in a significantly enhanced ability to attract young graduates.

Many of the tips outlined in the article are based on the assumption that hiring managers are willing to get to know the colleges and universities in their area. As a first step, they should review the academic program offerings of these institutions and take the time to understand the skill sets of graduates from these programs. They can also host faculty members and deans, provide internships to outstanding students and develop challenging projects for their interns.

Other steps include providing real-world projects for senior classes and inviting students on a field trip to your company. Many students may have never been in an IT company or even in a business environment and will greatly enjoy the experience of a field trip to your company. You can also sign up as a guest lecturer at a local educational institution, host a regional academic competition, participate in college job fairs, and engage with alumni groups.

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The Inexorable Rise of the New CIO
Information Week, November 17

Based on anecdotal evidence from senior-level IT executives, the role of the CIO is undergoing a transformation. The old CIO role focused only on technology and IT integration issues, while the new CIO role focuses on addressing business process and aligning IT with the business goals of the organization. Business units are already aware of the value of technology, but it is up to the CIO to provide the influence and guidance for organizations to adopt innovative new IT solutions on a timely basis.

Now more than ever before, CIOs are questioning their roles within the organization. As it currently stands, the CIO is in a unique position to become the leader in business-process transformation and the optimization of certain business processes. Since the idea of integrating IT with the underlying business units has already been ingrained into most organizations, great CIOs can use this widespread awareness and advocacy to create even greater value for the company and its customers. CIOs need to exercise influence rather than control, refocusing the IT culture to focus on business value, better alternatives, and rapid change.

If handled properly, the CIO role can become an incredibly dynamic, exciting job that creates value for the organization. In too many situations, however, the person who was so right for the job in the recent past because of certain skills or experiences is now out of place and out of touch. By some estimates, nearly one-third of current CIOs do not possess the business skills, mental outlook and interpersonal skills demanded by the position. These mismatches are occurring at a time when IT projects and expenditures and priorities and leadership are all being called into question, making the current time period a difficult one for many individuals unable to adapt to the new role of the CIO.

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Guide to IT Headhunters
Datamation, October 31

With employment prospects for the IT sector picking up, technology headhunters are once again making their presence felt. However, how do you separate the good headhunters from the less experienced and less talented headhunters? Before any IT professional enlists the services of a headhunter, it is helpful to understand the rules of the game. The article provides a few tips for jobseekers on selecting a headhunter before discussing the various types of headhunters.

First and foremost, an IT professional should never pay a job recruiter for introductions to new job openings. Employers should always pay the headhunter fees. This sounds obvious, but in practice, some firms attempt to charge jobseekers hefty fees in exchange for putting together a resume. Since IT job seekers pay nothing to headhunters, it is in their best interest to get their resumes into the hands of as many headhunters as possible. However, be careful of distributing your resume to too many recruiters, since no organization wants to receive the same resume from a multiple number of sources.

The term "headhunter" is used to describe a wide array of individuals and firms. To fully understand the job placement industry, realize that there are three tiers of job placement firms: the million-dollar firms that focus primarily on senior executives making more than $500,000, the mid-market firms and the broad market firms that address the market of jobseekers making less than $125,000. Within this third level of headhunters there are, again, three sub groups: contingency search organizations, retained search organizations and consulting firms that do job placement, and consulting firms that do job placement, usually on a short-term basis.

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How to Use Social Networks to Find Gigs
Employment Digest, November 26

Amidst the increasing popularity of social networks, it is perhaps no surprise that an increasing number of IT workers are now tapping into them for networking opportunities. Social networking sites like MySpace, LinkedIn, FaceBook and Xing can be a place to line up new assignments and network with like-minded individuals. While LinkedIn is currently the most popular site for business networking, FaceBook became an important new source once it expanded outside the student world.

The valuable thing about social networks is that clients can actually find you. They have the capability to search for skills they need and can limit their search to a specific area. They can find you through the people you know or through the people they know. They have the capability to find you in specialized groups, discussions or while browsing a random contact. Without any effort on your part, they can stumble across your profile. That being said, you need to represent yourself accurately online and list the appropriate skills and project experience in your profile. Keep in mind, though, that an endless list of tools, programming languages or general buzzwords will make you look like someone who is desperate to make contact.

A social network is also a place to publish your needs. While you need gigs, your next client needs certain skills. In the same way clients can look for you, you can search for them. However, do not fall into the habit of just collecting friends. Having several hundred people in your network does not guarantee an endless supply of new projects. Be careful that you do not overwhelm your social network by confusing signal with noise. A social network is a valuable tool when used appropriately. Care for your network, expand it, keep in touch with the people in it and it might turn up new opportunities for you.

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Welcome to the Virtual Generation
Web Worker Daily, November 27

As defined by research firm Gartner, Generation V ("Virtual") is a way of defining a demographic group in terms of interests, attitudes and behaviors rather than age. In an online environment, age is no longer the primary factor. Office workers who may rank low in terms of income, rank or popularity may at the same time rank high in terms of reputation and influence online. As a result, employers may want to think about ways they can tap into online reputation, prestige and influence within their workforce.

According to research firm Gartner, by the year 2015, companies will need to spend more time understanding the interactions of individuals online. From a hiring perspective, this change means that companies will need to shift away from collecting personal data about individuals toward collecting more complete and more relevant data around online behavior and influence on others. Instead of emphasizing demographic information, companies should be seeking out psychographic insights related to personality, values, attitudes and opinions. With that in mind, the article offers some advice for targeting members of Generation V.
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What Goodies Do You Offer to Techies?
Information Week Weblog, November 29

During the dot-com boom, IT employers relied on big paychecks and even bigger perks to attract and retain the best IT talent. In the current hiring environment, though, employers are no longer able to offer 20% raises and hefty signing bonuses. Instead, they are focusing on practical perks that can differentiate themselves from the competition. It may be too early to declare that job-perk programs are making a comeback, but it is clear that an impending IT skills shortage is making companies more willing to turn up the number of perks they are willing to offer.

For example, some IT firms are rolling out rewards programs to attract and retain their best consultants. These plans might include discounts and rebates on car rentals, cell phones, office supplies, computers, and gadgets as well as price reductions on training classes for skill certification programs. Other companies are partnering with retailers and offering private shopping events or exclusive discounts on brand name products and services. These companies are staying proactive, trying to stay ahead of the curve. While compensation also has been increasing for some skills, the discounts are an extra incentive, especially at consultants who are often on the road a lot and work on temporary gigs.

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Considering a Career Change?
Job Journal, November 11

At one time or another, experienced IT professionals can expect to make a decision of whether to stay in their current careers or make the leap to another. By some estimates, 74% of workers have changed careers at least once, and more than one-third of workers are currently interested in a career change. Such a career change, however, is necessarily fraught with uncertainty, both financial and psychological. With that in mind, career coach Katy Piotrowski weighs in with a handful of tips for workers thinking about switching jobs.

The biggest mistake, according to Piotrowski, is deciding to change careers without doing the necessary homework first. It can be tempting to make a hasty decision when a chance of a lifetime comes along or the thought of spending another day on the job seems impossible to bear. Any successful change, though, usually requires a series of smaller steps over a period of at least 12 months. This process usually starts with four to six months of gathering information and experimenting with activities that will act as a bridge into a new specialty. In order to do this effectively, you will need to know which alternatives will suit you best.

Another big mistake is forgetting to present a new image to recruiters. Sometimes, this will require the creative re-packaging of skills and experiences already on your resume or focusing on functions rather than job titles. When writing their resumes, career changers should include relevant information about their background that would appeal to the employer. When preparing for a new interview, make sure you have a few powerful stories to share that include reasons why your achievements and skills are directly relevant to the new career. If in doubt, think about creating a portfolio of training certificates and performance reviews that portrays the new image you are attempting to convey.

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Is the Office Becoming Irrelevant?
Management Issues, November 29

With more workers than ever before embracing the mobile office, organizations must adapt to the new way of doing business. For example, according to one recent poll, more Americans are performing at least part of their jobs outside of the office and outside of normal working hours, thanks to online and wireless technology. At the same time, approximately only 10% of workers find their workplace to be a creative and innovative environment in which to work. The article summarizes the impact of telecommuting on traditional work schedules before analyzing in greater detail the rise of a new class of mobile office professional.

According to research from Citrix, nearly 25% of American workers and 40% of small business owners regularly worked from home or another offsite location last year. Such workers predominantly relied on Web technology, such as the Internet, e-mail or technology that allowed them remotely to access their office computers or meet colleagues online. Of those who did not have the ability to do their jobs off site, nearly two-thirds said they would like to be able to do so. Being able to work remotely or away from the office at least some of the time was now near the top of the list of the extra benefits desired by employees, even ahead of stock options and on-site child care. American workers aged 18-34 were most excited about working remotely, with 70% agreeing it would be a welcome opportunity.

With this as a backdrop, the article looks at the practical experience of Microsoft employees. One recent poll co-sponsored by Microsoft found that a majority of workers believed that working out of the office was the future of the workplace, and more than 50% said they would be happier if there was a greater element of mobile working in their jobs. In response, Microsoft has coined the acronym "Moofer" (Mobile Out of Office) for this new breed of worker, which sees the office as just one location that is key to their job rather than the only location. Moofers tend to place a premium on a better work-life balance and view the office as simply a place to build and maintain relationships. Office workers needed to prioritize their working day and use office time for face-to-face meetings and other interpersonal activities saving the reports and presentations for a quieter location better suited to total concentration.

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Telecommuting Found to Boost Morale, Cut Stress
Computerworld (via Reuters), November 20

According to a new report, telecommuting can be a big plus for workers and employers because it boosts morale and job satisfaction and cuts stress. Working away from the office by using laptops, cell phones or other mobile technology can have more pluses than negatives for people and the companies that employ them. Telecommuting has an overall beneficial effect because the arrangement provides employees with more control over how they do their work. In addition, telecommuting has mildly positive effects on employee morale, on work-family balance and on stress.

Telecommuting has been a growing trend in the U.S. since about 2000. Last year, an estimated 45 million Americans took advantage of telecommuting opportunities, an increase of 4 million from 2003. Most likely, the numbers will continue to grow as access to broadband Internet access increases. Over the last couple of years, there has been a spike, especially in the number of people who are regularly telecommuting. Within the category of workers who telecommute at least once a month, there has been a 60% increase.

Although some companies and workers feared telecommuting could dim career prospects or lead to a breakdown in relationships with managers and co-workers, there has been little evidence to support this viewpoint. Telecommuting by and large does not have any negative relational outcomes as had been commonly believed. Most importantly, there was no evidence that telecommuting slowed career development. Telecommuting also has added benefits for the environment, according to the researchers, because it cuts commuting costs and relieves congestion on inner-city transport systems, as well as traffic on roads.

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Mentors, Protégés Helping Each Other
MentorNet, December 2007

A new partnership between ACM and MentorNet is helping to promote e-mentoring relationships between professionals and students in fields related to science and technology. The partnership is yielding positives for both the mentors and the protégés. ACM Professional members are finding the experience rewarding in ways they had not expected, while students are learning about the real world of technology. Already, participants in the program are starting to send in their stories of how the program is helping them in their respective lives.

From the perspective of mentors, it can be a rewarding experience to help students navigate through their higher educations and early careers. In some cases, mentors learn as much from their students as their students learn from them. To help others with their careers, mentors need to better understand themselves and identify those behaviors that have contributed to their successes and failures. Mentoring also helps them to become better listeners.

From the perspective of ACM student members, the MentorNet program is a unique opportunity to explore new career paths with the help of an expert. This program can result in a lot of resources that they would not have found on their own. Mentors can also help with specific skills, such as learning how to write research papers and other technical papers.

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SIGCSE 2008 to Focus on Underserved Groups in Computer Science Education
SIGCSE, December 2007

At an upcoming event in Portland, SIGCSE, the Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, will look at ways accessibility to computer science education can be improved for minorities, women and other groups traditionally under-represented within the computer science field. In addition to the Doctoral Consortium and Student Research Competition, there will be a workshop on setting up a data repository for computer science education research. Guest speakers at the event will include Randy Pausch from Carnegie Mellon, Marissa Mayer from Google, and Ed Lazowska from the University of Washington.

The conference, which will take place in Portland, Oregon from March 12 to 15, will provide a diverse selection of technical sessions and opportunities for networking, learning and interaction. This symposium addresses problems common among educators working to develop, implement and evaluate computing programs, curricula, and courses. In addition, the symposium provides a forum for sharing new ideas for syllabi, laboratories, and other elements of teaching and instruction, at all levels of instruction.

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