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CareerNews: Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Volume 3, Issue 4: Tuesday, April 24, 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

Specialists vs. Generalists

Web 2.0 Provides New Opportunity for Recruiters to Find Tech Talent

Expanded Online Books and Courses for ACM Members

Weekend Warriors Win Jobs

Young CIOs

London is the Place to Be in IT

Why Corporate Web Workers Look Unproductive

Indian IT Outsourcing Firms Plan To Keep Staff with Double-Digit Salary Raises

Becoming Your Own Boss

Senior Managers Shun Training

Can Pay Policies Create a More Diverse Workforce?

The Most-Praised Generation Goes to Work

"Specialists vs. Generalists", April 5

Many organizations tend to express a preference for specialists rather than generalists, yet many managers acknowledge that generalists are more likely to provide management with a big picture view of the business. According to a new global survey by NFI Research, more than half of senior executives and managers say that over the past several years their organization has favored specialists over generalists. Moreover, when it comes to advancement and reward, the majority of businesses have given more attention to specialists than to generalists. In contrast, generalists are favored in only one-third of organizations, with only 20% saying their department or organization would be more effective with more generalists than specialists. As IT workers look to advance in their careers, they must understand the trade-offs between specialists and generalists at each stage of career advancement.

Before making the transition to a generalist role, many workers must first develop a specialization within a certain area. This is especially true within the IT sector, where specialists, not generalists, are most often rewarded at the vice president level and below. However, more specialized knowledge and experience becomes less important the higher the position. Higher-level executives need exposure and knowledge of a breadth of topics, while lower-level workers need more detailed knowledge of a narrower range of topics. Thanks to their broad perspective, generalists are able to drive innovation within the organization and often become responsible for long-term planning and corporate vision.

Planning a career within the IT sector, then, necessarily involves a realization of the trade-offs between specialization and generalization. This is one of the most challenging issues facing individual workers and mid-level managers as they review their career goals. In IT, everyone has to be something of a specialist who also possesses a general knowledge and understanding of technology. When a person may find himself in a position of specialization, it is important to keep in touch with areas outside that area of specialization. In order for organizations to remain lean and flexible, they should ensure that all personnel, including managers, have a broad perspective and a broad range of skills.

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"Web 2.0 Provides New Opportunity for Recruiters to Find Tech Talent"
Network World, April 12

To find the top network professionals and managers, recruiters need to embrace the growing power and reach of Web 2.0 tools. Increasingly, recruiters are finding that there is more to recruiting online than simply posting jobs and searching resume banks. In its broadest form, a sophisticated online search takes specific parts of a traditional search and moves them online. By some estimates, corporate recruiters are using online resources to find more than 40% of their senior-level management and executive candidates. In addition, recruiters are finding nearly 10% of their candidates using search engines and another 3.5% through online social networking sites.

Looking beyond Web sites that target job seekers is a good way to find so-called passive job-seekers, those who are putting their energy into working, not job-hunting. Often, blogs and social networking sites can be ways of discovering these passive job seekers. Since many blogs include personal notes, these sites can be useful for recruiters trying to build rapport with a potential candidate. Social networking sites such as LinkedIn are great for the recruiter trying to compile a list of candidates who have a particular job title or who have worked for a specific company. Finally, discussion forums are a way to discover candidates with particular knowledge or expertise.

There are other ways to find passive job seekers online. For example, reading book reviews of technical books can help find reviewers who make intelligent comments on books about specific technical areas. In order to make the search for new candidates less time-consuming, hiring managers are learning to tap into the full power of the Internet. For example, in place of formal background checks, hiring managers are doing Web searches about candidates even before the interview stage. Even with the obvious advantages of the Internet, though, hiring managers should not lose sight of the importance of making a personal connection with any potential hire.

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"Expanded Online Books and Courses for ACM Members"
ACM, April 2007

ACM has expanded its free online course offerings to a total of 2,200 IT and business courses from SkillSoft for ACM Professional and Student Members. In addition, ACM has added to its free collection of more than 1,100 online books, giving ACM members enhanced, unlimited access to cutting edge computer tools and technologies as well as practical business skills. Both offerings are part of a broader effort to deliver lifelong learning opportunities to ACM Professional and Student Members.

With the new course offerings from ACM, Professional and Student members can enhance their career potential with IT professional certification courses on the latest technologies from IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle, SUN, the Linux Professional Institute and others. They can also sharpen their business skills with course offerings that include project management, time management, leadership and team building. The courses include tools and forms to complement the online content, condensed summaries of instructional content, interactive practice sessions and downloadable content for easy and convenient access.

In addition, the online virtual library now includes a total of 1,100 selections for ACM members to broaden their understanding of current computing technology and management trends. They can search, bookmark, or read these references in their entirety. The Safari Books Online selections include more than 600 books from publishers like Addison-Wesley and Prentice Hall. The Books24x7 selections include titles by leading authors from publishers such as Wiley and McGraw-Hill.

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"Weekend Warriors Win Jobs"
California Job Journal, April 1

James E. Challenger, president of recruitment firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, suggests that job seekers should focus more efforts on the weekend as a critical time to jump start their job search. In a best case scenario, a new job lead may come from a chance meeting at a party over the weekend. More likely, though, the weekend is a great opportunity to check newspaper stories about possible hiring leads, to practice for interviews, or to plan appointments for the coming week. The bottom line is that those who suspend their search efforts over the weekend will likely miss out on opportunities and could lengthen their joblessness by weeks or even months. With that in mind, Challenger provides several steps jobseekers can take each weekend to improve their chances of finding employment.

In this job market, jobseekers need to tap every possible source for good job leads, even if it means working weekends to cultivate new relationships. Since losing a job is no longer taboo, workers have less reason than ever before to be embarrassed about seeking out new jobs. The first step is to expand your social network by calling friends and relatives, either local or out of town, to see if there are any job openings. Have business cards made, with all of your contact information available, and hand them out to every new person you meet, whether in a business or social gathering. Look for new social, cultural and religious groups to join in order to expand your network of contacts. Be with people and make sure new contacts know you are looking for work.

Finding work needs to become your full-time job. Check weekend newspapers for stories about local businesses expanding and stories about companies out of town expanding. If you had interviews during the past week, take time to address questions you were not prepared to answer. Take time to review, write out and practice your responses. Plan the next week for at least the first two days of the week, scheduling interviews or appointments. Look over your past interview call records to find companies that said there may be openings in the future and plan to call them after the weekend ends.

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"Young CIOs", April 10

Young IT professionals in their late 20s and early-to-mid 30s are starting to make their mark within Corporate America, moving into positions of authority and responsibility far more quickly than their older predecessors. Increasingly, age is no longer a barrier for the CIO position, with organizations increasingly willing to inject new youth into their technology management team. Companies are less hierarchical, and more open to the idea that credibility comes from what a person can do, rather than years spent in a certain position. The article profiles three young superstar IT professionals and considers the various reasons why younger, less experienced candidates are now emerging as serious candidates for the CIO role in other companies.

Companies are considering less experienced candidates for the CIO position for several reasons. These organizations are more interested in developing bench strength and finding individuals who will be team players for the next 10 to 15 years. Companies want access to great talent that can be nurtured and grown to the next level. In addition, organizations want individuals who will have the drive and passion to work long hours and come up with innovative new solutions. Younger IT executives are perceived to carry less intellectual baggage when it comes to contemplating what will or what will not work in terms of IT solutions. These younger executives are more adaptable to current trends in technology than are earlier generations, and are better prepared to take on other responsibilities within the organization.

Three young executives featured in the article have already made their mark. Each of them moved up the corporate ladder quickly because they had mentors and sponsors at current and previous employers who saw their potential early. In addition, each of the three executives has been able to blend technical skills with business acumen. For example, Timothy Campos, the 33-year-old CIO of semiconductor manufacturer KLA-Tencor, stepped into the CIO position when he was 32. Robert Walden, at age 36, is the CIO of TXP, a growing provider of original design manufacturing services to the electronics and telecom industries. Finally, Brad Friedlander became the CIO of Lightning Golf and Promotions at age 25.

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"London is the Place to Be in IT"
Business Week, April 13

In London, the IT sector is currently growing at approximately 6% per year, making it one of the leading centers for IT talent and development within Europe. With that in mind, many Silicon Valley-based firms are expanding their London operations and investing heavily in the London IT and telecom sectors. There are several key reasons for the standout performance of London, such as its international focus, deep talent pool, and a thriving business ecosystem that has embraced media, marketing and finance in addition to technology.

According to foreign investment experts, London continues to grow in size and importance as a business and investment destination. This is easiest seen in the convergence of a number of important industries, including the technology, advertising, marketing and media industries. In addition, there is a world-class R&D sector that spurs innovative thinking within these industries. Finally, since London is a leading international financial center, businesses have easy access to investment capital.

London is among the global IT leaders in addition to being a leading IT hub for Europe. Other major international cities such as New York and Tokyo are attempting to keep up with the breadth of business found in London. The city plays a significant role as the gateway into the European market but also possesses a very cosmopolitan and diverse business community that is attractive to companies thinking about expanding beyond Europe. While London will not be able to compete with cities in India or other developing countries in terms of cost, it will continue to offer the best in IT infrastructure and people.

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"Why Corporate Web Workers Look Unproductive"
Web Worker Daily, April 19

Within business organizations, there is a growing culture clash between traditional office workers, who place a premium on face time and looking busy, and the new generation of corporate web workers, who work in short, highly-productive bursts. The problem is that many workplace practices favored by these corporate web workers can be misinterpreted, leading their older workers to dismiss them as lazy, detached and uncommitted. For example, constant Web surfing may be misconstrued as a lack of attention to the old rules of work, rather than an effort to stay abreast of new trends and developments. The article compares and contrasts the so-called busy economy with the new-style burst economy, arguing that both approaches to work are ultimately useful. Companies interested in achieving new milestones in growth and productivity would be well-served by paying more attention to the hyper-productivity resulting from the new burst economy.

The so-called busyness economy works on face time, incremental improvement, strategic long-term planning, return on investment, and hierarchical control. In contrast, the Web-enabled burst economy is based on innovation, flat knowledge networks, and discontinuous productivity. Burst workers are able to take advantage of networked, social-based opportunities that propel their companies forward at a rapid pace. Yet, there is still a culture clash between the busyness economy and the burst economy. People who use new Web 2.0 tools heavily, who post frequently to an internal blog, edit the corporate wiki, or trade heavily in the internal prediction market, will be perceived as not spending enough time on their real jobs.

By nearly any traditional standard, the burst worker appears to be at a disadvantage when measured against their busyness peers. For example, the busy economy relies on face time as a proxy measure of real work, while the burst economy relies on the flow of output that a worker creates. Another example is the perceived need to respond to every email as soon as possible. Web workers, however, realize that there are better ways to communicate when available including blogs, wikis, IM, chat rooms, SMS, and RSS. Instead of attempting to manage the hierarchy inside their companies, burst workers attempt to connect laterally outside their departments or company.

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"Indian IT Outsourcing Firms Plan To Keep Staff with Double-Digit Salary Raises"
Information Week, April 17

Two leading Indian IT outsourcing firms are highlighting the size of the salary raises they expect to give in order to retain valued IT workers. Faced with the constant threat of losing their best workers to competitors, Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys Technologies have told company stakeholders that they plan to give India-based employees raises of 12% to 15% in the coming year. The examples of Tata and Infosys could provide the impetus for far-reaching changes in the hiring and compensation practices of other firms within the rapidly-growing Indian technology sector.

In its most recent fiscal year, Tata reported a relatively low employee attrition rate of 11.3%, thanks primarily to its flexibility with compensation. The company hired 32,462 people, retained 22,750 of those hires, and ended the fiscal year with 89,419 employees, for a net 30% increase in employees. For the coming year, Tata has a planned wage inflation rate of 12% to 15% for India-based workers. Infosys gave the exact same range for wage increases, and like Tata, retained just about two out of three people it hired in the most recent fiscal year. The company reported an attrition rate of 13.7% and said it hired 30,946 employees during the year, but kept 19,526, for a total workforce of 72,241.

Even with salary increases of as much as 15%, India-based IT professionals still command much lower salaries than their U.S. counterparts. An IT professional in India is still lucky to land an annual salary of $30,000, a level that is far lower than what a U.S. tech employee earns. The wage increases, then, are a reflection of the fact that it is getting harder for all companies doing business in India to hire and keep the number of employees they need to meet demand. Demand for world-class workers continues to grow in India, with companies like Accenture and IBM adding India-based employees at a record rate.

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"Becoming Your Own Boss"
IEEE Spectrum, April 2007

If you eventually plan to launch your own company or run your own business, you need to start thinking in terms of the skills and characteristics that will be essential for this new position as soon as possible. While some workers are able to launch new start-ups immediately out of college, it is more likely that you will first need to gain experience in your chosen field before you can consider breaking away from a traditional corporate job. The article considers the various questions you must be willing to ask yourself as you consider a new move; provides a list of the key traits and experiences that will be needed to launch your own business; and offers a rough timeline of when to start preparing for a new start.

There are probably already ways that you control your career. In your current job, you might responsible for certain activities, supervise a number of people, or have budgetary authority in certain areas. These are all measures that show you are accountable for results, with some degree of independence. Ask yourself what you like and dislike about having responsibility, and then consider whether or not you have the inner drive and motivation to be successful on your own. If you are still unsure, you can start a side project at work or a home business to try out new ideas and experiment with the freedom of being your own boss.

Next, assess the skills that you would need to be a boss. For example, you need to be able to work long hours. You need to know how to delegate effectively, so that you can leverage your goals through your staff. You need to understand business planning and the basics of microeconomics. You need a fundamental knowledge of business management, so you can develop your business as well as work with accountants and lawyers. You need to be well-organized and have the ability to set priorities and follow them. Great interpersonal skills are also a major plus. Last, but not least, you will need to be able to manage increased stress in your life.

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"Senior Managers Shun Training"
Management Issues, April 20

Senior managers in many organizations place less emphasis on their own training and development needs than do less experienced or middle-level managers. According to a new survey from Boston-based consulting and training firm Novations Group, nine out of 10 first-line managers will receive training this year, compared to only six out of 10 senior executives. The survey of senior HR and training & development executives also found that 80% of entry-level employees and 75% of experienced non-management employees and middle-level executives would receive some sort of training this year. The article considers the various reasons why junior- and middle-level employees receive a greater share of available training and development resources, hinting that many organizations are under-estimating the challenge of transitioning to a senior management role.

Organizations still place far more emphasis on training for their first-line managers compared to their senior managers. This is a reflection of the fact that organizations consider the transition process to be the most difficult for lower-level managers and employees. In addition, it is easiest to make an impact on retention and engagement by offering training to more junior employees.

However, recruiting and HR professionals are starting to recognize the challenges of moving mid-level managers into higher-ranking managerial or executive roles. The rate at which senior-level people receive development support is probably greater than at any time in the past. Organizations are more concerned about bench strength and retiring boomers, and more aware of the special concerns of older workers. Since only 18% of respondents believe the transition to senior management is the most difficult to make, it is likely that organizations are underestimating the size of the challenge. A senior executive plays a qualitatively different role in the company and has to have a broader perspective. He or she has to make critical business decisions, set company strategy, allocate resources and give direction to the whole organization. Consequently, developing a senior person has to be a deliberate and structured process that integrates the right kind of experiences and training.

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"Can Pay Policies Create a More Diverse Workforce?"
Career Journal, April 16

Over the past decade, a growing number of companies have linked management compensation to workplace diversity efforts. However, there is vigorous debate as to whether these new diversity policies actually work. While some compensation and diversity experts say that such policies are helping to create more-diverse workplaces, their critics point out such policies often are vague, are not strictly enforced, do not provide enough incentive or fail to support women and minority workers once they are hired. Moreover, while the number of companies employing such policies is growing, it remains small. By some estimates, of U.S. corporations with at least 100 employees, only 5.5% of the firms linked executive bonuses to diversity performance. The article considers the pros and cons of establishing workplace diversity policies and considers the various ways that companies can make themselves more accountable.

Companies are searching for ways to make their diversity policies more accountable. For example, both Texaco and Coca-Cola have put in place measures tying diversity to executive pay that have been successful. However, critics point out that other companies have been much less successful in linking diversity with bonuses and compensation. At times, companies only put these policies into place in the wake of negative PR or costly employee lawsuits. Critics point to a number of flaws that might account for the ineffectiveness of some programs, such as the inherently subjective nature of judging diversity performance or the failure to put clear, measurable goals in place.

Yet, evidence is building that diversity policies can have a great impact, especially when companies are serious about tying anywhere from 10% to 25% of manager bonuses to diversity performance. General Mills is one such company that has been successful after instituting a policy of requiring diversity performance to have a significant impact on the size of the annual bonus. These hard targets tied to compensation are superior to less precise goals, such as requiring executives to attend a certain number of conferences or training sessions.

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"The Most-Praised Generation Goes to Work"
Wall Street Journal, April 20

The current generation of twenty-something workers, accustomed to receiving praise on a near-constant basis from authority figures, are now bringing these expectations into the workplace. Unlike older workers, who considered a regular paycheck to be the ultimate form of praise, these younger workers often expect rewards in the form of trendy, name-brand merchandise and constant praise via e-mail or text messaging. In some cases, companies are enlisting the services of consultants to handle recognition and reward programs for their employees, in the hopes that they can placate the demands of these self-proclaimed praise-junkies. The article considers the growth of praise and recognition programs in the workplace, highlights the modern pressures that are leading to the current situation, and profiles the types of praise and feedback that are most valued by young workers.

In general, workers under age 40 require far more attention than their older colleagues. Young adults who were over-praised as children are apt to be narcissistic at work and more self-centered than previous generations. That being said, employers believe that cultivating new praise and recognition techniques can help them with job retention efforts. Employers are finding ways to adjust to the psychological and emotional needs of their workers. While there are still plenty of surly managers who offer little or no positive feedback, many withholders are now experimenting with praise methods in order to hold on to young workers. In some cases, they are enlisting the services of employee-retention consultants, who help them craft the appropriate types of workplace rewards.

Companies have created a staggering number of different reward programs to meet the demands of the younger generation. For example, The Container Store estimates that one of its 4,000 employees receives praise every 20 seconds, through efforts such as its Celebration Voice Mailboxes. Since 2004, the Bronson Healthcare Group in Michigan has required all its managers to write at least four thank you or praise notes to subordinates each month. Universal Studies Orlando has established a program in which managers give out Applause Notes, praising employees publicly for work well done. Bank of America has several formal rewards programs for its 200,000 employees, allowing those who receive praise to select from over 2,000 gift selections. The bank also encourages managers to start every meeting with informal praise of employees.

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