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CareerNews: Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Volume 3, Issue 8: Tuesday, June 19, 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

Finding Your Happy Place in IT: Ten Jobs

How Working with Venture Capitalists Can Help Your Career Take Off

How a Tiny Start-up Company Attracted Big-Company Talent

The Contingent Workforce

IT Labor Experts Tout Near-Shore Potential of Canada

Put Job Hunting on Auto-Pilot

All on Board

Are Gamers and Corporate IT Workers Interchangeable?

Five Warning Signs It Might Be Time to Look For a New Job

Encouraging More Job Creation

How to Expand Your Network beyond Your Work Group

The Changing Face of Office Politics

"Finding Your Happy Place in IT: Ten Jobs"
Datamation, June 12

In addition to searching out jobs that emphasize strong programming and coding skills, IT workers might consider positions that tap into emerging new opportunities within the U.S. economy. With more software development work being outsourced to cheaper labor markets, there is less of a need for pure developers in the U.S. With that in mind, jobs such as business analyst, enterprise architect or systems engineer may provide a better career fit. The article profiles 10 jobs that offer both an opportunity to apply traditional IT skills and an attractive future career path.

Some of these dream jobs build directly on programming skills. For example, if you like being around people and problem solving, the analyst position would give you the opportunity to interview users and collect requirements, while still making use of your programming skills. Working in quality assurance as a tester can be very rewarding if you enjoy detail oriented work, finding bugs in code and making sure that the final code meets the original requirements. As a technical writer, you will be able to leverage your writing skills and knowledge of technology. Since it is hard to find a good technologist who can also write solid technical documentation such as user guides and training manuals, these writers are often in demand.

Other dream jobs allow you to explore other career paths, while staying close to the technology field. If you enjoy teaching, evangelizing about products and public speaking, then being a trainer and delivering technical training classes could work for you. If you are interested in sales, being a sales engineer can be a financially rewarding career option. You have to enjoy pressure situations, helping the sales team close deals in front of expert customer technologists who are scrutinizing every aspect of your software product. Finally, as a systems engineer, you ensure that software has a reliable system to run on, while also being exposed to the latest in servers and networks.

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"How Working with Venture Capitalists Can Help Your Career Take Off", May 30

There are four ways that working with venture capitalists can help senior technology executives catalyze their career growth. Just as these IT executives have much to offer venture capitalists in need of customer feedback on the product potential of their portfolio companies, venture capitalists also have much to offer technology executives. Based on first-hand knowledge of the VC industry, the article outlines how working with a venture capitalist might be able to teach you more about emerging new technologies, give you experience on the Board of Directors of a young tech firm and provide you insights about general management roles within new start-ups.

Most importantly, you can learn more about the current technology landscape by working with venture capitalists. This is important since technology knowledge is still a primary differentiator for any CIO. Knowing which technologies are on the horizon can help you understand your own business better and see how you can apply emerging new technologies to advance your company. You can also gain experience as a director on the board of a start-up company. For any CIO who is looking to secure a CEO position someday, experience on a board of directors is a critical item on the resume.

Next, you can learn more about potential general management roles at new companies. Since start-up companies often see CIOs as risk averse and as possessing experience running large, complex organizations, not agile product development teams, these general management positions are hard to land. Finally, you will be able to test-drive a VC career and find out whether you enjoy experimenting with emerging new technologies. If you have built your career on being a conservative mainstream adopter rather than a futurist, you might find that the VC role is not the right one for you.

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"How a Tiny Start-up Company Attracted Big-Company Talent"
Computerworld (via Career Journal), June 12

Small start-ups strapped for cash and without the name-brand recognition of their larger rivals are embarking on a number of innovative recruiting campaigns for the best talent within the IT industry. For example, California-based online video game maker Red 5 Studios recently rolled out a new campaign to attract workers that involved free iPods, highly personalized messages direct from the CEO, and a customized Web site. The new recruiting campaigns have largely been successful, and have generated buzz around upstart challengers offering unique opportunities to the most talented IT workers. The article highlights lessons learned from these recruiting campaigns, hinting that more companies may be tempted to use them as the war for IT talent heats up.

Companies are experimenting with these new types of recruiting campaigns because the traditional postings on industry Web sites did not generate enough resumes. Placing ads next to those of big companies or setting up booths at industry fairs also have not been effective recruiting tools for small companies with limited resources and little or no name recognition. As a result, companies have focused in on ideal job candidates and courted them in attention-grabbing ways, rather than casting a wide net with job listings and waiting for candidates to come to them. This approach is exemplified by Red 5, which turned around its recruiting program by focusing on a list of dream candidates, creating a highly individualized pitch for each of them and then offering a number of highly attractive incentives.

At a certain level, it comes down to optimizing the dollars and resources spent on recruiting talent. Firms lacking a significant recruiting budget can still create highly-personalized recruitment campaigns. For instance, a company could offer gift cards or an invitation to a company-hosted event. Attracting talented candidates could be as simple as sending flowers and a note or a birthday card. Also, small firms have an advantage in being able to reach out from the office of the CEO, in order to wow prospective candidates. In addition to the increased flow of candidates, these types of campaigns can also help boost the visibility and reputation of a firm within a certain industry.

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"The Contingent Workforce"
Business Week, May 23

According to Doug Berg, the CEO and co-founder of a company providing workforce solutions for the recruiting and staffing industry, the current demand for contract workers within the IT industry is likely to increase over the next several years. In fact, according to some estimates, the contingent staffing industry has already doubled in size over the past five years, and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. In a wide-ranging interview about the changing composition of the U.S. workforce, Berg discusses the rise in contract-based workers, the rate of growth within the contingent-staffing industry, and the types of workers that are seeing the highest demand as contractors.

According to Berg, a major shift in the IT employment market in the U.S. has already taken place. As a result, the old way of doing business no longer works, especially in the area of workforce planning and recruiting. To succeed in the future, those working in corporations and staffing firms, as well as the workers themselves, have to understand the forces at play. The most important of these are an emphasis on cost, the desire for on-demand access to short-term labor, and rapid technology innovation. Over the next 10 years, the contingent workforce will become more important. IT companies that once might have had a mix of 90% full-time employees and 10% contract employees are now moving to a mix of 60% full-time employees and 40% contract employees.

Most of the growth in the contingent workforce is going to come from two areas: the use of standard temp workers and the use of highly skilled professionals on a contractual basis. Professional, non-clerical workers are one of the biggest areas of growth for contract services, followed by consultants in the creative, design, and engineering fields. In addition, the health care and legal fields are growing rapidly. The article concludes with a discussion of the major obstacles facing contract workers and a look at the various ways that the Web is helping companies streamline their staffing.

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"IT Labor Experts Tout Near-Shore Potential of Canada", June 5

Amidst the popularity of the overseas IT outsourcing trend, Canada is re-doubling its efforts to win near-shore outsourcing work from U.S. companies. Recognizing that it may not be able to compete on price with the likes of China and India, Canada instead is highlighting the various characteristics that would make it attractive for U.S. companies, such as English-language ability and a familiarity with the U.S. business environment. By raising awareness of Canada as an attractive near-shore alternative, Canadian IT labor experts hope that Canadian IT workers will gain access to a large number of U.S.-based employment opportunities.

While the U.S. remains the largest source of outsourcing contracts in the world, Canada has yet to truly benefit. Canadian IT developers have advanced skills and exposure in client facing tasks that involve voice services and application support, but are often overlooked because of cost constraints. Because of geographical proximity and minimal differences in culture with the U.S., Canada could become an important IT talent pool for project management and face-to-face operations. There are signs that U.S. companies are starting to look to Canada, as companies like IBM, CSC, EDS and Accenture have made Canadian cities a base for their IT services facilities.

In order to increase its near-shore outsourcing business, Canada will need to overcome certain obstacles, such as cost. India and China will remain attractive offshore destinations as long as they can offer U.S. firms cost savings that are 30% to 40% lower than those offered by North American firms. Within these low-cost outsourcing locales, technological advances have improved the reliability and productivity of offshore operations, while better education has brought down the traditional language barrier. There is also a growing sophistication of services offered at offshore locations in China and India. Complicating matters, Canada has a rapidly-aging workforce and a declining enrollment rate of students in fields related to technology and computer science.

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"Put Job Hunting on Auto-Pilot"
Datamation, June 14

By automating the job search, you can ensure greater access to the types of new jobs that just might result in a higher salary, a better work situation, or enhanced career opportunities. An automated job search relies on tools such as automatic e-mail updates and RSS feeds from specific Web sites to deliver updates about new opportunities on a regular basis. The article provides five tips for reducing the time commitment it takes to constantly search for new opportunities. At job sites that cater to specific professions or geographic areas, these tools are largely already available, reducing the hassle of discovering and then signing up for them.

First of all, sign up to receive job listings via e-mail and RSS feeds. A wide variety of free services will e-mail job opportunities that may interest you. As a bonus, you will get them immediately, while the majority of other users will see them only later when they get around to visiting the site. Some of these services let you set up searches based on a range of specific factors, including location, salary range, and other features. You can have multiple RSS readers running on your system, so regardless of whether or not you already have an RSS reader gathering news, it makes sense to set up a dedicated RSS feed that delivers to you relevant job opportunities in one central place, and check it daily.

Also, be sure to post your resume online. Once posted, you can forget about it until the information on your resume changes. Until then, somebody might call you with the ultimate opportunity. Finally, join social networking sites such as Linked In. Once you set up your network and invite a few colleagues, it takes on a life of its own. Finally, send a regular e-mail to all colleagues. Keep a list of everyone you have worked with, met or who might be in a position to recommend you for a better job. Set up a twice-annual note in your calendar to touch base with everyone on the list and remind them you are out there. When something comes up, you will be more likely to be top of mind.

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"All on Board"
Fast Company, June 8

As the current wave of recent graduates prepares to enter the workforce, forward-thinking companies should be thinking of ways to bring these new workers onboard as quickly and effectively as possible. Within any organization, there needs to be a systematic focus on how to orient, train and motivate these new hires. By following through on industry best practices for onboarding, companies can ensure that their new employees will be able to deliver results quickly, while establishing a foundation for long-term success. Overall, there are four steps to creating a powerful and effective onboarding process, each of which is geared to the needs of new employees.

For IT organizations, the onboarding process should focus on building the right types of relationships with new employees. In an always-on world, where technology has reduced the need for personalized human interaction, organizations need to reach out and spend the kind of time that makes employees feel valued. At the end of the day, great content in orientation and training programs can never replace personal interaction. Building enduring relationships requires mentoring programs, face to face meetings and networking beyond the business. It takes every leader, manager and supervisor to be involved, not just HR, for onboarding to be a success.

Overall, there are four steps to an effective onboarding process. Step one is creating an orientation program that is engaging and interactive. Step two is developing a training plan. Step three consists of mapping out of meaningful goals that can be evaluated at the end of the 90 days. The final step is keeping on course with the 90-day review. This review process can become an important retention tool to keep your new hires on board.

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"Are Gamers and Corporate IT Workers Interchangeable?"
Computerworld, June 4

According to some recruiters within the IT industry, video gaming specialists and traditional corporate IT workers need to possess many of the same skills in order to succeed within their careers. For example, both need to possess the ability to collaborate and understand end-user needs, as well as an understanding of social Web technology and mobile networks. In terms of experience, both sets of workers also need an undergraduate degree in computer science, experience in project management and scheduling, and experience in network server technologies. The article focuses on the skills that are unique to the gaming industry.

As some recruiters point out, a programmer in the gaming industry may need skills not commonly required by a corporate IT department. For example, some gaming companies prefer that their programmers have expertise in areas such as 3-D graphics, artificial intelligence, console programming and assembly language. Game makers want developers who not only know the technology but also have experience building games, so they typically hire from a more specialized subset of IT workers.

However, on the other hand, some IT executives still think that gaming technologists are not able to move seamlessly to other areas of corporate work. There is the perception amongst recruiters that developing games all day long lacks a certain amount of rigor. Despite that lingering bias, the tight IT skills market may push both gaming companies and corporate IT departments to appreciate that there may be more of a skills overlap than they previously realized. For programmers, that could open up new opportunities.

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"Five Warning Signs It Might Be Time to Look For a New Job", June 5

It is a far better strategy to start your job search early and interview from a position of stability than to wait until you need the job. With that in mind, the article provides five warning signs that it might be time to start looking for a new job. For example, if you are reporting to the CIO instead of the CEO, it may signal that IT is no longer strategic to the long-term goals of the organization. In response, you should expand your social network, update your resume and send out feelers to other organizations.

The first warning sign is that you report to the CFO now, not to the CEO. Once the CEO restructures and puts you under finance, he or she is sending a clear sign that IT is not strategic to the future of the business. Another sign is that your company is being shopped to potential acquirers. If the parent company announces its intention to sell your division, your future will most likely result in being downsized, being asked to take a package and leave, or being replaced by someone in the acquiring company.

Another sign is that you are a turnaround CIO in maintenance mode. If you thrive on change and gain gratification from bringing order to chaos, it is time to move on when you have steadied the ship and can put it on auto-pilot. If the person who hired you has left, and his or her replacement possesses characteristics and opinions that are very different from your own, it may make sense to begin a job search. Finally, if your industry is failing it may be time to move on, before your company fails in an effort to re-invent itself.

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"Encouraging More Job Creation"
Career Journal, June 12

After several decades during which they have awarded generous incentives to large corporate employers willing to relocate to a new geographic area, state and local governments are now re-thinking how they can stimulate economic growth while attracting and retaining as many employers as possible. Instead of simply handing out grants and tax breaks and then watching businesses move elsewhere after collecting their incentives, government officials are now working out a number of clawback provisions that will protect their economic interests and ensure the long-term viability of the arrangements. Using a number of examples from New Jersey, Virginia and Minnesota, the article illustrates how local government is changing the playing field when it comes to negotiating with large employers.

Despite their focus on holding employers to their promises about creating jobs, states and local governments have had a tough time breaking the cycle of easy incentives. With so many communities offering economic incentives, it is hard for neighbors to resist offering the same thing as another competitor. Also, companies have become more sophisticated in seeking incentive deals, often by hiring consultants that play one community against another to extract more money. As a result, states that do have clawbacks are often reluctant to enforce them because it can make them appear anti-business.

However, the playing field is changing as the size and scope of incentive offerings change. With more money on the line than ever before, elected officials in the public eye are looking for better ways to protect themselves. In New Jersey, Virginia and Minnesota, states are becoming more aggressive about enforcing their clawback provisions. Instead of giving money up front, many states have structured their incentive programs so that companies only get money after they have created jobs. One way of doing this is to parcel out a grant or tax break over a period of years, along the way requiring companies to meet certain milestone goals.

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"How to Expand Your Network beyond Your Work Group"
Web Worker Daily, June 14

For any full-time Web worker who relies largely on the Internet for connecting with other workers within an organization, there are at least four important ways to build connections with members outside of their immediate work team. As a starting point, you must make sure that others can quickly and easily get in touch with you so that you can share ideas, distribute and monitor tasks and interact socially with your peers. For example, you can widen your IM capabilities, schedule more time onsite, reach out to a wider group of people for advice, and send out requests for feedback and ideas at regular intervals.

The first step is to expand your instant messaging activity to include the full staff, not just the small group of workers with whom you usually collaborate. This can help you expand the number of people you can casually discuss things with. Also, make the most of your time onsite at the office. When you do make it into the office, schedule some walk-around time, so that you can visit with employees and renew your relationships through face-to-face meetings. Or, you can schedule some lunch meetings or social events outside of office hours.

Next, seek opportunities to reach out to more people. Being careful not to bypass your direct manager, you can make more contacts within your organization by going directly to the source for an answer. Finally, send updates to everyone about your projects, asking for feedback and ideas. Depending on how integrated your work is in the life of the office, many people may have no idea what you and your team are working on, particularly if they never get a chance to see your work space.

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"The Changing Face of Office Politics"
Management Issues, June 13

Within Britain, the hackneyed notion of office politics as a constant struggle for internal resources is undergoing an important transformation. As a new study by the Chartered Management Institute points out, the notion of office politics is being viewed in a new, more positive light by a growing number of managers. Whereas office politics once meant turf wars, back-stabbing or pursuing personal advantage, now the majority of managers see it as about building alliances and consensus. By the year 2012, in fact, the struggle for internal resources within an organization could be superseded by the need to build external partnerships that can react dynamically to a global business environment.

Taking a big picture view, this shift in focus from internal tension to external partnerships is good news for UK businesses, which are increasingly focused on skills such as collaboration. British business leaders are increasingly rejecting old-fashioned notions of office politics in favor of creating partnerships, building relationships and developing constructive political skills. The survey found that less than a third of the managers polled viewed politics as simply protecting their turf. Moreover, only 20% believed it was about pursuing personal advantage. More common was the belief that good political skills were about alliance building (60%), followed by interaction with government (40%) and reconciling differences (40%).

According to managers, enhanced political skills can lead to valuable external relationships as well as improved public perceptions of the business. In fact, 92% identified the impact of public opinion as a key factor behind relationship building. Nearly 90% suggested it was a way to benchmark against the competition and nearly 75% claimed partnerships could influence trade agreements. Despite recognizing the value of political skills, UK business leaders admitted there was significant room for improvement. Just 58% claimed they were good at politicking.

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