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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, July 8, 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 13, July 8, 2008




High-Tech Job Growth Heats Up New York, Seattle
Network World, June 24

With the IT job market continuing to improve, 50 of the 60 largest metropolitan areas within the U.S. reported high-tech job growth, according to the American Electronics Association’s Cybercities 2008 report. Seattle added the most jobs at 7,800, followed by the New York metropolitan area, which added 6,400 and Washington, DC, which added 6,100. Of the cybercities covered in the report, Riverside-San Bernardino saw the fastest job growth in 2006 at 12%. The article reviews the key numbers from the 148-page report on employment data within the high-tech industry, giving a national view of the IT job market.

San Jose/Silicon Valley leads the nation with the highest concentration of tech workers, with more than 25% of private sector workers employed within the tech industry. Boulder, Colorado (23%) and Huntsville, Alabama (19%) had the next highest concentrations of private sector tech industry workers. The New York metropolitan area led the nation in overall high-tech employment, with nearly 317,000 tech workers in 2006, followed by Washington, DC; San Jose/Silicon Valley; Boston and Dallas/Fort Worth. Washington, DC led the nation in jobs added between 2001 and 2006 at 7,500, followed by Riverside-San Bernardino and Huntsville.


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Professional Certifications Drive Up Compensation Levels For IT Pros
TechCareers.com, June 25

Adding a professional certification to a master’s degree can increase an IT professional’s compensation up to 10%, according to recent studies. Over the past decade, there has been a growing preference for employees with a master’s degree and professional certifications, leading to an upward trend in compensation. More people are looking into education to stay current in their job and to stay competitive in their fields, especially in hot areas such as information security and wireless communications. The article reviews the types of individuals who are pursuing technology-related certificate programs before diving into additional detail about increases in compensation.

A number of studies have indicated a pay differential for IT professionals with relevant technical certifications. According to a joint study by TechRepublic and Global Knowledge, for example, the growing demand for IT professionals, combined with an ever-changing set of IT skills in demand, is leading to higher compensation rates for job candidates with up-to-date education and training. As a result, when looking for a job, a master’s degree and certifications can provide a point of differentiation. Optimal salary is achieved by combining formal education with certification and skills-based training.


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St. Louis Gets Serious About Tech Talent
Information Week, June 28

While many employers are having trouble attracting and retaining IT talent, the St. Louis business community has reacted proactively to the growing IT talent gap and put in place programs to assist employers in finding the right talent. The St. Louis business community, having identified tech talent as a shared concern, recently launched a program called Greater St. Louis Works. The program, which could become a model for other regional economic development efforts, is dedicated to assuring local companies, as well as those relocating to the area, that they'll have access to enough talented tech professionals when they need them.

The program's organizers, led by the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association (RCGA), brought together a broad cross-section of local constituencies: IT organizations, vendors, and professional associations; staffing and HR groups; colleges and universities; and state and local government agencies. The participants discussed improving workforce diversity, improving communications, charting career paths, and helping those who've been outsourced or laid off to bounce back. Importantly, the group of business leaders spent time understanding the root problems before embracing a full range of solutions that would increase the size of the IT talent pool in St. Louis.


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Coaching Style Matters in Managing Millennials
CIO.com, June 24

For millennial workers, the primary concern is having a job that challenges them and gives them responsibility early on for shaping the organization. As a result, companies need to shift their focus from compensation for superior performance to new issues and values. Challenging responsibilities was cited by 64% of respondents, compared to 48% for compensation and 45% for work-life balance. All other attributes, such as contribution to society, ethics, travel and collegial interaction, rated no higher than 25%. In short, feeling tested and empowered matters greatly to millennials.

In managing millennials, there are a number of different approaches to tapping into their experiences and opinions. For example, coaching-based dialogue is a learnable technique that offers a method for you to tap into a desire to contribute without risking outcomes critical to your organization's performance. There is a difference between supervising, mentoring and coaching. Coaching is when employees are invited to explore a challenge or situation with the assumption that they are capable of unearthing new possibilities and that they need only to be given time on the path to uncover great ones. As a generation focused on their own sense of potential, it is easy to see why coaching appeals to the best and the brightest.


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Never Mind the Years: What Did You Do?
Business Week, June 5

Workplace expert Liz Ryan suggests that hard work and loyalty are not enough in today’s fast-changing global workplace. Instead of emphasizing how many years of experience they have, workers should focus on getting out and making things happen. This means focusing on the types of experiences that make the workplace a better and different place. The article reviews the types of traits that are highly valued in today’s workplace and offers a guide to challenging the status quo and making things happen.

Over the past decade, there has been a change in workplace priorities. Whereas employers used to highly value employees who came to work on time and did what they were told, most organizations now rely on people who can move quickly, make decisions based on minimal data and jump into action with limited supervision. Loyalty to the organization is still important, but not as important as intellectual curiosity, energy and the overwhelming desire to improve a process, system or relationship.


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Measuring Your Personal IT Value
Computerworld, June 24

To ensure that they are appreciated and valued by their organizations, IT workers need to understand the idiosyncrasies of their workplace culture and adjust their day-to-day behavior accordingly. Once they understand the behaviors and skills that are valued within their business group, they will be able to overcome perceived shortcomings. With that in mind, the article offers practical tips on how to start earning the “currency of acceptance” with key decision-makers within the business. Generally speaking, this means creating value for the business and then communicating this value in terms that other business decision-makers understand.

IT workers should focus on creating business value in one of three ways. They can help to reduce costs, grow revenue or increase profit margins. Everything they do on a daily basis must address one of these three key areas. Other issues – such as the number of lines of code that were written or the number of errors in a program – may be important questions, but none of them have anything to do with creating business value. If workers feel marginalized and underappreciated in their work, and yet spend the day concerned with issues unrelated to the creation of business value, they should not be surprised if there is a disconnect with management.


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Should Remote Workers Earn More Money?
CIOInsight.com, June 25

With more workers than ever before telecommuting, it is perhaps only natural that the blurring of the line between work and personal life has led to a broader debate about compensation. For example, should an employee get paid for reading a BlackBerry message, sending an office e-mail or posting a job-related blog at home? A recent dispute at ABC News, in which writers were not paid for checking their BlackBerries on their own time, marks the possible beginning of a new wave of unresolved and potentially heated cases to come in the United States.

The growing technical ability to work remotely has led to the growth of a new category of work-related legal disputes. Even the very notion of what constitutes “work” continues to raise issues within the workplace. At ABC News, the broadcaster proposed that three new writers would not be compensated for checking their office-issued BlackBerries after working hours. The writers guild, however, objected. A compromise was reached that allowed writers and producers to be paid for using BlackBerries after hours but only under certain circumstances. The concern is that the routine checking of e-mail outside of work hours will grow into a major work commitment that people don't get paid for. What starts with composing a brief message on a BlackBerry can lead to writing articles, posting blogs, drafting documents, researching the Internet or signing contracts, all on a tiny, mobile, handheld gadget.


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Three Quarters of New Managers Lack Skills to Do Their Job
Management Issues, July 2

According to new research from a U.S. HR consultancy, barely a quarter of new managers in America get the training they need to do their job properly, resulting in organizations full of people who do not feel confident in their management abilities. The reality of modern-day management is that people who are great at what they do are promoted into management and then flounder because the role is so completely different. While it's never easy to make the transition into a management role, employers are not helping by failing to offer new managers the sort of management coaching they need to hit the ground running.

Only 23% of new managers receive effective coaching or training when they step up into a leadership role, according to the poll by HR consultancy Right Management. Its survey of 656 HR professionals in North America found that while organizations did consistently provide coaching to employees as part of leadership development initiatives, it was normally focused on a small core of high-achievers. Approximately 30% of "developing leaders", or vice-presidents, directors and managers received coaching, and only 35% of chief executive officers, department heads and senior vice presidents received coaching. While organizations see value in providing coaching to strategic and developing leaders, coaching is not offered as frequently to new leaders.


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The Status of Women in Computing in the United States
ACM’s Committee On Women in Computing News Blog, June 11

United States Women in Computing News Ambassador Mary Anne Egan shares insights related to a report on the status of women in computing in the United States. According to the most recent Taulbee survey for the academic year 2006-2007, 19.1% of new Ph.D.s and 22.6% of the Master’s degrees were awarded to women. However, the enrollment percentage of women in bachelor’s programs has dropped to 11.8%, with many bachelor’s programs reporting an enrollment percentage of less than 10%. As Mary Anne Egan points out, this decrease in the number of female computer science majors could have a serious impact on gender diversity within the industry. With that as context, she proposes a number of national programs that could address curriculum deficits and encourage more women to enter the computer science field.

The decrease in the number of female computer science majors is concerning not just because women should share in the formation of the field’s future and participate in its rewards, but also because the absence of women in the field is a foreboding omen for the technological future of our country. Eventually, the same factors driving women away will eventually drive men away as well. As the Taulbee survey points out, the downward trend in undergraduate degree production should bottom out within the next two years. However, signs of recovery from the sharp decline that has lasted several years have yet to materialize, leading to concerns about the future of the technology talent pool within the United States.


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Stereotype Threat: Causes, Effects, and Remedies
MentorNet News, July 2008

According to a phenomenon known as "stereotype threat," members of certain minority groups, such as women in the sciences or engineering, face the possibility of confirming the stereotype about their group. The phenomenon is even stronger when a test is introduced as a diagnostic of one's innate ability. For example, a woman in a largely male engineering classroom might feel as though any deficiencies in her test performance might negatively reflect on the abilities of all women, leading to underperformance on tests due to stress and test anxiety. In a worst-case scenario, this could create a psychological barrier to academic performance for women and other minority groups within certain academic disciplines.

Stereotype threat has been measured under several conditions by a number of different researchers. For example, in one study, male and female math-identified students were asked to take a challenging math test under one of two conditions: the stereotype threat condition, where participants were told that the math test had shown gender differences in the past. In the second condition, no threat was introduced. Consistent with their expectations and with the theory of stereotype threat, women's math test performance was worse than men's under stereotype threat. Stereotype threat effects have now been shown to emerge with a host of stereotyped group members, including African-Americans; Latinos; students with low socioeconomic status; and white men on a test of mathematical abilities when reminded of Asian-Americans' superior performance in mathematics.


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