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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, June 17, 2008

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 careernews-request@acm.org

Volume 4, Issue 12, June 17, 2008




Many Tech Workers Would Accept Pay Cut To Telecommute
Information Week, June 10

According to a new survey from Dice, nearly 40% of U.S. IT workers would accept a slightly reduced salary in exchange for the option to telecommute. The survey defined "slightly reduced salary" as up to a 10% reduction in salary. Currently, only 7% of respondents to Dice's survey are already working remotely, with many of those jobs limited to consulting firms where telecommuting is a necessary part of the job. As the Dice survey suggests, offering the ability to work from home can be a good way to attract and retain talented workers, especially at a time when commuting costs are on the rise.

Telecommuting has several advantages for workers, especially the flexibility of working from nearly any location. Thanks to improvements in portable computers, videoconferencing, and bandwidth capabilities, many remote workers can handle almost all their tasks from a home office or other offsite location. With the price of gas marching upward almost daily, many private and federal offices are implementing plans that let workers work remotely, or have a compressed four-day workweek to reduce commuting costs. According to an estimate from Sun Microsystems, employees who choose to telecommute can save more than $540 per year on gas purchases (assuming the price of gas remains close to $4 per gallon).


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Fear of Offshoring Worse than the Reality
Management Issues, June 9

Despite the popular consensus in the media that the emerging nations of Southeast Asia are siphoning away thousands of high-quality European jobs through offshoring, new research suggests otherwise. A new study by an Ireland-based European Union agency, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, has concluded that, between 2003 and 2006, just 8% of jobs lost were the result of overseas IT outsourcing arrangements. While some European nations, such as Portugal and Ireland, were particularly hard hit (where 25% of total jobs lost were to offshore competitors), other nations reported job loss totals of less than 5%.

The results from the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions are similar to those from a study conducted by the British think tank The Work Foundation in July 2007. That UK study found fears that large numbers of high-quality Western jobs were being lost to rapidly developing offshoring sites were overstated, suggesting an average of 5.5% of jobs had gone this way, little changed on the 3.4% recorded in 2005. The Eurofound survey also pointed out that it was in high- to medium-tech sectors rather than in low-tech sectors that offshoring had the biggest effect. In fact, the banking and insurance sector accounted for nearly 25% of all EU jobs lost through offshoring.


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If You Are Looking for Contract Work, You May Need to Relocate
Network World, May 28

Despite signs of a weakening economy, the market for IT contract jobs shows no signs of deteriorating, according to a review of IT employment opportunities by recruiting firm Sapphire Technologies. Out of 18 cities tracked by Sapphire over the first four months of the year, the number of IT contract jobs decreased noticeably in only four: Atlanta; Fort Lauderdale; Philadelphia; and the Washington, D.C. metro area. Moreover, salaries remained steady in nearly every region. Overall, Pittsburgh and Houston were among the cities reporting particularly strong demand for IT contract positions.

The data from Sapphire highlights which job titles are the most sought-after contract positions in each region. Software development is the most in-demand job around the country, particularly in Austin, Texas, where 59% of jobs filled by Sapphire were in that category. But software developers are far from being the most popular workers in some areas, illustrating vast differences in demand based on region. In Chicago, 53% of jobs went to project managers and just 16% to software developers. In Los Angeles, the hot job is desktop support, with 33% of positions being filled in this area.


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Ten Ways to Use LinkedIn to Boost Your Career
Tech Careers, June 10

There are ten ways to optimize LinkedIn as a social networking tool in order to find a new job within the IT sector. While many IT professionals are members of LinkedIn, only a handful are actually deriving real value out of the networking website. With more than 20 million business professionals already on LinkedIn, job candidates are missing out on countless business opportunities and the chance to build long-lasting relationships without taking advantage of tools to find out more about potential employers and future colleagues.

First of all, realize that your LinkedIn Profile is actually the same as your online resume. In addition to the information it provides, it also boosts confidence in your credibility and can act like a qualified reference all by itself. Secondly, take steps to increase your visibility on the site, so that people will have an easier time finding you. By adding the right keywords in your profile, such as words related to your IT expertise, you're much more likely to appear at the top of search results. Thirdly, take steps to expand the size of your network. Aside from being able to easily import your entire address book from most email clients and automatically view who is a LinkedIn member, you can search for other members by companies you used to work for, people you used to work with, and people who went to school with you.


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India's Next Big Job Grab: Engineering Services
Computerworld, May 29

Technology companies in India, many of them having already established their reputations within the IT outsourcing sector, are now branching out into the engineering services business. According to a new study conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton and commissioned by the Indian IT trade group National Association of Software and Service Companies, India possesses significant potential to gain a larger share of the offshore engineering services business, going beyond software engineering to a wide range of other industries, including automotive, aerospace, utilities, construction and industrial. However, as Booz Allen Hamilton points out, India must address two key problems to make it happen: the quality of its infrastructure, including ports, roads, airports and telecom, and the quality of its educational system.

The global market for engineering services is currently close to $750 billion, with the figure expected to reach $1 trillion by 2020. Of the amount now spent on engineering services, only $10 billion to $15 billion is done by offshore vendors, with India getting about 12% of that offshored work. Currently, about 35,000 engineers in India work in engineering services, but by 2020, the country may need as many as 250,000 to reach its potential as an engineering services provider. The need for offshore engineering services in India will be driven by demand from places like Western Europe, where aging workers and attrition are creating a gap in available engineering skills.


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Five Tips for Managing the Messaging About Your Departure from a Company
CIO.com, May 22

When deciding to leave an organization, whether you leave on your own accord or are forced out, you should play an active role in controlling what gets said about your departure. Internal and external colleagues, subordinates, friends and contacts in your network are likely to speculate as to why you are leaving. To prevent this from happening, and to keep any rumors from damaging your reputation and hurting your chances of finding another job, you need to have a single, clear and concise message about your departure. The article provides a number of tips for managing the messaging about your departure, with a focus on lessons for senior executives.

Before you begin informing everyone in your network that you are leaving your company, take some time to consider what you would like others to know about the reasons for your departure. Obviously, colleagues and recruiters are going to ask you why you left your job, so when you're working on your messaging, start by answering that question. Follow up that answer with a statement explaining what you plan to do next, preferably in one or two sentences. Also, consider what follow-up questions people might ask you about your plans or your last job so that you can prepare responses to them. As a rule, it's better to be succinct and to answer precisely what the person is asking you than to go into too much detail.


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Using the Company as the Classroom
Business Week, June 4

The latest research from the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) supports the notion that corporate training courses may, in the long run, be less valuable for career success than on-the-job training. When it comes to career training, companies often put the emphasis on formal training courses as the means to build skills. Yet, as the Center for Creative Leadership points out, the reality is that training and coursework account for less than 10% of the knowledge that managers and executives need in order to develop critical skills. With that in mind, the CCL highlights ten types of on-the-job experiences, ranging from challenging start-up roles to first-time job assignments, that represent the best opportunities for learning and development.

Even across different industries, some jobs tend to be more developmentally useful than others. These jobs are typically high-impact and high-risk, and, as a result, provide great opportunities for learning. For example, a change management role entails leading important efforts to change or implement something of significance, such as restructuring a business or leading the cultural integration of an acquisition. A manager with a specific turnaround agenda must deal with serious people issues and morale problems. With startup assignments, the person is starting something new, whether it involves building a team or creating new systems, facilities, or products.


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Thinking of Referring a Friend for a Job?
Computerworld, June 10

Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology, shares her insights about what to keep in mind when referring a friend or colleague for a job. As more companies turn to employees for help filling open positions with the right candidate, the importance of these referrals will only increase. While the employment referral process may seem simple on the surface, the process holds some serious consequences if it's mishandled, including damage to your professional reputation. With that in mind, Katherine Spencer Lee provides some timely advice about common mistakes to avoid.

The first mistake in job referrals is recommending close contacts that you know well, like family members and friends, without truly understanding their job qualifications. Be certain that someone would be a good employee and colleague before making the referral. Also, keep in mind that if you consider only close contacts and don't tap into your entire network, you may overlook great potential candidates. Before making a referral, find out as much as you can about his or her background, preferences and abilities. Only then will you be able to gauge whether the individual is truly suited for the job opportunity and work environment.


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Revenge of the Nerdette
Newsweek, June 16

A growing number of young women are embracing technology and showing that careers in IT can be chic and challenging at the same time. In the process, they are shattering traditional notions about gender within the IT field. These women hardly resemble the typical geeks portrayed in film: in many cases, they are intentionally sexing up their tech personas, or combining their geeky pursuits and more traditionally female interests such as fashion. The group of young women profiled by Newsweek have modeled themselves after high-profile cultural icons who have challenged conventional notions of what female IT professionals should do and what types of activities they should prefer.

One of the big differences between Generation X geeks and girls in their teens now is really just an attitude that reflects a greater level of comfort with math, science and technology. Today's girl geeks are members of the first generation to have been truly reared on technology. They grew up on gender neutral movies, watched the development of female role models on TV, and observed as the geeky pursuits of technology and comic books transformed from fringe subculture to pop mainstream. As a result, among Internet users 12 to 17, girls dominate the blogosphere and social networking sites. They're also outnumbering boys when it comes to creating Web sites of their own and participating in other online activities.


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ACM Honors Randy Wang and Digital Study Hall Team for Improving Education in India
Ascribe Newswire, June 10

ACM will present the 2007 Eugene Lawler Award to Randy Wang and the Digital Study Hall (DSH) team for a new digital technology initiative that helps improve the educational experience of underserved children in Southeast Asian nations such as India. While at Princeton, Wang developed a system that collected community-generated videos of the best teachers at the grassroots level; in turn, these videos could be distributed to schools in urban slums and rural areas. Wang, currently with Microsoft Research India, described Digital Study Hall as "a bit like YouTube meets Netflix in a rural schoolhouse with a dirt floor."

The Digital Study Hall project, a collaboration between computer scientists and education experts, is a user-generated video sharing system intended to overcome the shortage of qualified teachers in poor schools. DSH provides tools to help local schools and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) make videos of the best teachers in actual classroom sessions teaching standard textbook materials. These videos are stored and shared in a network of "hub databases," and then distributed to underserved local "spoke schools" via digital video disks (DVDs) using the postal system and other couriers. Local teachers use these videos live in their classrooms as they interact with their students.


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