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CareerNews: Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Volume 3, Issue 5: Tuesday, May 8, 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

Going from CIO to CEO

More IT Jobs, Less Filling of Them

Where Are All the Workers?

IT Execs Search Far and Wide for Financial Skills

Feeling Stuck? Getting Past Impasse

Job Ads That Do Not Meet the Job

Telecommuting: Not Just For Disaster Response

What Every Manager Should Know About Feedback

Recognition Makes Dollars and Sense

Directors Now Favor Internal Candidates for CEO Positions

"Going from CIO to CEO", May 2

The CIO position is a great stepping stone to the role of CEO, but only if top tech executives can re-focus their attention on a broad understanding of the business, rather than a single-minded focus on technology. Since it is the rare CIO who is actually able to do this, it is perhaps not surprising that many industry insiders talk of a supposed glass ceiling for IT executives. The CIO has probably one of the broadest perspectives of anyone in the organization, yet is often overlooked when it comes time to locate a potential successor to the CEO. The article takes a look at the skills and traits that a CIO needs to make the transformation to CEO before elaborating on the tactical steps needed to move from tech guru to high-flying chief executive.

In order to be successful, the CIO needs a number of skills, talents and abilities that are highly sought-after within any organization. For example, the CIO needs a solid understanding of all the business processes of the organization, as well as an appreciation for the needs of the key stakeholders in the organization, including clients and suppliers. In addition, the CIO must be intimately familiar with accounting details and the process of drawing up quarterly reports. They also have to manage people and projects.

However, instead of focusing on these broad-ranging responsibilities, the CIO too often focuses on new technologies. This gives the impression that they do not have any real views on the success of the business. In order to survive as a CIO, and to advance beyond that position, executives must make a deliberate decision to abandon their focus on technology. Instead of focusing on technology, they should focus on information. As such, a CIO needs to become the custodian of all sources of knowledge that could help a business, as well as the data used to support decision-making processes. Simply stated, if the answer to every question posed to a CIO is technology, then he or she will quickly be seen by the rest of the business as too narrow-minded in focus.

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"More IT Jobs, Less Filling of Them"
Computerworld, May 1

According to several recent reports on U.S. employment trends, the hiring environment for IT workers is showing signs of an upturn. However, since many workers are reluctant to switch jobs after having been burned during the dot-com boom and bust, it may actually be getting harder to recruit people to fill job openings. As IT recruiters point out, this is creating a situation in which the demand for IT workers far outweighs the supply of these workers. The article provides an overview of the types of IT jobs in greatest demand and highlights employment trend data from three recent studies.

According to The Conference Board, about 4.37 million online job advertisements were placed in April, a 24% increase from the same month a year ago. Of that total, approximately 323,000 advertisements were in the computer and mathematics category, which includes occupations such as computer programmer and database administrator. In addition, an annual report on high-tech employment trends issued by a Washington-based trade group hinted at an improving employment situation. According to this report, high-tech jobs in the U.S. totaled 5.8 million last year, up by 3%, or 146,600 jobs. Finally, a recent Robert Half Technology survey showed that 16% of tech executives planned to hire additional IT staffers in the first quarter of 2007, compared to only 2% planning to make cutbacks. The net of 14% was the highest figure since the fourth quarter of 2001.

With more employment data showing year-over-year improvement, experts hint that we could be witnessing a real change in the job market. The increase in online advertising may also be an indication of a tight labor supply, forcing companies to advertise more aggressively because of the smaller number of people looking for jobs. For IT workers with certain skills, demand is high. For example, business analysts and enterprise architects are in high demand, as are information security administrators and administrators with forensics skills. In general, companies are getting very specific about the workers they want. For instance, a company may want someone who has experience on a specific SAP module or with the Information Technology Infrastructure Library.

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"Where Are All the Workers?"
Business Week, April 9

Around the world in locations ranging from Bulgaria to Vietnam, employers are reporting trouble filling jobs. Moreover, this global labor crunch appears to have intensified in recent months, spurred by relatively low unemployment rates in places like Europe and the U.S. In fact, according to a recent Manpower survey of nearly 37,000 employers in 27 countries, 41% of companies are having trouble hiring the people they need. In response, companies are changing how they recruit and retain highly-skilled workers, experimenting with new ways of sourcing workers in the global talent market and paying closer attention to the impact of demographic trends.

With the global economy showing no signs of cooling off, there is increased competition for talent around the world. The seemingly inexhaustible pools of cheap labor from China, India, and elsewhere are drying up as demand outstrips the supply of people with the needed skills. Across Asia, even highly populous nations are struggling to fill jobs. For example, Japan is dealing with major demographic changes created by an aging population, while China is no longer able to create jobs for the millions of workers pouring into cities. While India produces 400,000 engineering graduates a year, few have the skills and language abilities to work in multinational corporations.

In response, corporations are adjusting their hiring tactics. Some are doing more in-house training so they do not have to recruit expensive talent on the open market. Some are lowering their standards for new hires or tapping talent in unexplored areas, such as Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Finally, others are hiring temps full-time or rehiring retirees. In general, the strategy of outsourcing work to emerging nations is no longer as successful as it once was, given the increased strain on global employment resources.

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"IT Execs Search Far and Wide for Financial Skills"
Computerworld, April 30

Over the past few years, many organizations have improved their ability to integrate IT and business functions. However, even as the IT side of the house strives to improve its business acumen, managers are finding it difficult to develop or recruit enough people with a strong mix of financial and technical skills. According to recruiters, it is more difficult finding someone who understands the financial side of IT than it is to recruit someone with highly desirable technical skills. The article illustrates this idea with examples from a number of different businesses.

At a recent conference dedicated to IT and financial management, participants complained about the lack of professionals possessing both IT and financial know-how. In general, there appears to be a low level of financial acumen within the labor force. In response, some organizations are creating special IT financial management courses for in-house staff, or providing time for IT managers to take business leaders within the organization out for meals. Other companies are dedicating more training resources to financial job functions such as portfolio analysis and project management.

Sometimes, organizations have success in finding the right mix of financial and IT skills by focusing on people from other parts of the organization outside IT, especially those with some form of project management experience. According to experts, this will be a more successful strategy than grooming people from areas such as IT maintenance. Other companies look for people with a specific mix of skills for project management. The best candidates often have a consulting background, as well as the ability to speak with managers and executives. Sales skills and project management skills are also highly desired.

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"Feeling Stuck? Getting Past Impasse"
Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, April 25

Timothy Butler, the Director of Career Development Programs at Harvard Business School as well as the author of a new book on overcoming career challenges, discusses the particular problem of the career impasse. Most people at one time or another feel as if they are just spinning their wheels, unable to gain traction either in career or in life. As Butler points out, this feeling of being stuck in one place is part of a necessary crisis leading to personal growth. The impasse forces us to grow, change and live more fully. In an interview with Harvard Business School, he explains how and why business professionals are often confronted with a sense of psychological impasse and then details a six-step program for resolving the crisis.

There is a difference between simple day-to-day frustration and the real experience of being at a career impasse. At one point or another, every worker has a unique experience of impasse. For most people, the recognition that we are at an impasse, whether it is a career situation or a broader life situation, creeps up rather than presents itself suddenly. It may evidence itself through feelings of being frustrated or stuck, and then progress to a mild form of depression. While impasse is usually first expressed as a failure or a sense of inadequacy, it is a hint to change our way of thinking about ourselves and our place in the world.

There are six key steps to recognizing and overcoming impasse. The first phase is the arrival of a crisis. The typical response, of course, is to keep on plugging. Phase two is a deepening of the crisis. We realize that our old ways are not working. The third phase is when we finally realize that our old cognitive model is not working. In the fourth phase we begin to listen better and are open to new types of information. The fifth phase of the impasse process is a deepening of insights into the self. The sixth and final phase requires taking action and resolving the crisis in a definitive manner.

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"Job Ads That Do Not Meet the Job"
Network World, April 25

When organizations rely on the HR department to write job descriptions for new openings, there can be a significant gap between the descriptions in the job ad and the actual tasks and responsibilities required of the employee. Even the best-intentioned HR representatives are often behind the curve when it comes to understanding how IT qualifications, skills, experience and certifications fit into the broader picture. Moreover, HR professionals are often obliged to write job ads that are as generic and non-discriminatory as possible. Instead of casting a wide net for the best talent, they fall into the trap of attracting candidates with specific qualifications or a certain amount of experience. The article provides some insights into the recruiting process, including a few tips on how candidates can land more interviews with hiring managers.

During the hiring process, line managers typically forward a basic job description to the HR department, which is then responsible for finding candidates whether by advertising or connecting with a recruiter. However, the job description is often too generic, listing the qualifications required of candidates, education levels, work experience desired, scope of the job and size of the environment, along with a mix of buzzwords. When these job descriptions inevitably attract thousands of resumes, the HR department is faced with the very real problem of how to sort through them all. As a result, HR reps are forced to sift through applications according to whether someone meets the education level, certifications, years of work experience, and other requirement listed in the ad.

Unfortunately, if an application or resume does not read like the ad, it will not get through. For job workers attempting to deal with this system, there are some options. Instead of applying for a job that may or may not suit you and hoping for the best, it is probably best to attract the attention of decision-makers in other ways. Your goal is to get the interview, and that means being able to cut through or avoid the HR process altogether. Instead of tailoring your resume to the job advertisement, it may be more effective to get in front of the line manager through networking. By networking via local IT groups and user associations, you will be able to find out who is hiring and get the names of the decision makers.

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"Telecommuting: Not Just For Disaster Response"
Web Worker Daily, April 30

Whenever a natural or man-made disaster strikes a region, people inevitably talk about the value of telecommuting in helping businesses overcome the temporary crisis. However, it is time to start thinking about telecommuting as something more than just a disaster response mechanism. By marginalizing the notion of telecommuting, businesses fail to appreciate the various ways that web workers are contributing to the value of their organizations, and not just at the fringes. With that in mind, the article highlights four key breakthroughs, in areas ranging from technology to government policy, which would make telecommuting a more viable option for a greater number of IT workers.

Most likely, changing popular perceptions about telecommuting will require a number of advances in different areas. It would be helpful to have companies and executives who are aware of the real value provided by workers in the so-called burst economy. In such a way, Web work can be transformed from a fringe career to a viable career option. Special tax incentives for telecommuters would also go a long way towards making the telecommuting option more mainstream. There also needs to be improved technology for maintaining a connection between telecommuters and individuals back in the home office. As the Internet continues to evolve, it will become easier for telecommuters to interact with their peers, and so remain a part of the team even though they happen to be physically in another place.

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"What Every Manager Should Know About Feedback", April 19

Managerial feedback, if handled properly, can lead to improved business results as well as strengthened working relationships. When it helps people see their blind spots and understand the impact of their behavior, feedback can change the trajectory of a career. Unfortunately, many managers are uncomfortable with giving feedback, or feel that their feedback attempts are unsuccessful. With this as context, the article takes a closer look at the feedback process, focusing on what factors impact the feedback mechanism and how managers can give better feedback to their workers.

There are certain basic rules about feedback. First of all, there is a crucial difference between feedback and evaluation or judgment. Feedback is specific information about behavior or results that a person can choose to change, rather than a label or value judgment. Secondly, the feedback has to be offered in such a way that workers will be unable to disagree with the data. When possible, it is best to go with descriptions in neutral language. In addition, avoid giving secondhand feedback and keep in mind that performance is a function of the person and the environment. It is the job of management to create an environment for people to succeed and to support them to reach their best performance.

Effective feedback has three critical elements. It starts with an opening that sets the stage, provides a clear description of behavior or results, and helps the person understand the impact his or her behavior has on others. An opening lets people know that you have something important to say. Clear descriptive data and examples help people recognize themselves in your feedback. Finally, describing the impact helps the feedback recipient understand the effect of his or her behavior, and why it would be useful to change.

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"Recognition Makes Dollars and Sense"
Fast Company Expert Blogs, May 2

According to leadership consultant John Baldoni, leaders need to create the appropriate conditions for people to succeed, and that typically means being able to recognize their workers for a job well done. Yet, very few managers actually follow through on that principle, preferring to use the stick instead of the carrot. According to researchers, people will work harder and more enthusiastically for an appreciative boss, and companies that praise superior performance are more profitable and more efficient than those that do not. For managers, the lesson should be clear: recognize your workers for a job well done, and you will be rewarded with superior performance and a more positive workplace.

A manager should be able to demonstrate the power of recognition on a regular basis. For example, he or she can thank people for doing the grunt work on any project. When they interact with senior executives, they can talk up the contributions of their team. Pick out something that they have done well, such as overcome an obstacle, shown restraint in a crisis, or developed a key insight that benefits the entire team. Finally, do not compliment for the sake of being nice, do it with meaning and conviction.

On a regular basis, managers should focus on giving people additional responsibility or a measurable task they can handle, and praise them when they accomplish it. When workers feel good, they respond even more. When you have an office full of people who generally feel good, you create a positive environment. Recognition, when it is applied well, can transform people and the organizations they work for. Even if productivity improves only moderately, you will make your work environment a more pleasant place.

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"Directors Now Favor Internal Candidates for CEO Positions"
The Wall Street Journal, May 3

The boards of directors of some of the largest companies in America are increasingly looking within their organizations for CEO candidates rather than pursuing high-profile outside candidates. In 2005, 40% of the CEOs hired by companies in the S&P 500 were outsiders, compared to only 15% in 2006. The article takes a closer look at the key factors affecting the decision of where to look for CEO candidates, highlighting anecdotal evidence from companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Boeing, Home Depot and Ford Motor.

The shift in hiring philosophy can be partly attributed to some high-profile CEO failures at major American companies. However, it is also true that directors, kept off balance by corporate scandals, Sarbanes-Oxley regulations and activist investors, are working more diligently than before. Hiring an outsider is often an admission by the board that it has failed to complete a key task, that of identifying and grooming the next generation of leaders. Boards have stepped up to take charge of succession and are taking it more seriously. While some notable companies continue to recruit outsiders, the pendulum is swinging toward internal hires, reversing the pattern of recent decades.

Part of the decision to hire insiders is based on potential cost savings. Quite simply, outsiders get paid more than insiders, sometimes a lot more. On average, CEOs hired from the outside made 22% more than internally promoted chiefs, even after excluding hiring bonuses and the like. Thus, the resurgence of internally promoted CEOs has the potential to curb runaway executive compensation. In the world of CEO recruitment, curbing a handful of overly generous compensation deals can have a ripple effect, leading to a situation in which boards no longer feel the same pressure to pay outsized salaries.

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