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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, September 23, 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 18, September 23, 2008




Tackling the IT Talent Crunch
CIO Insight, September 15

Recruiters are still finding it difficult to find truly qualified IT workers with the right skills for new job openings in the tech sector. In fact, according to the annual survey conducted by the Society for Information Management, attracting and retaining skilled labor is still one of the primary concerns of CIOs. While there are many strategies for managing the IT talent gap across a number of different industries, the skills shortage will remain a top priority as long as the number of young people pursuing careers in technology fails to keep pace with the number of Baby Boomers who are retiring.

There are lessons to be learned from industry leaders who are taking action now to address the IT talent gap. The first lesson is getting the best applicants to apply for the job by emphasizing more than just a competitive salary in job postings. Equally attractive to talented workers is training, opportunities to develop professionally and a good work-life balance. Another way to address the IT talent gap is to find an IT staffing firm which can provide skilled talent on an as-needed basis and provide access to new training. Businesses can use this new talent to develop a new project or maintain existing projects while the permanent staff works on a new project.


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Women and Science: How to Achieve the Right Balance
The Independent (U.K.), September 10

Women still face obstacles to successful careers in technology, science and engineering, despite efforts by many organizations in both the for-profit and not-for-profit worlds. Currently, women comprise just 18.7% of the overall SET (science, engineering and technology) workforce, and for senior-level SET positions, the percentage is even smaller. The article considers how an influx of women into SET jobs can help make up the shortfall in talent over the next few years and examines the concrete steps that organizations are taking to increase the number of women in the IT workforce.

Women still need to overcome a number of obstacles as they establish their careers in the IT world. While the gender gap at lower levels of organizations is improving, a recent survey by the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (UKRC) provides some unsettling information about SET career paths. 33% of engineers believe women don’t perform as well as men in all fields and at all seniorities, while 38% are unconcerned that women are under-represented in engineering. In general, a lack of proactive HR policies – such as re-training programs - means that although many women return to work after having a child, only one-third of them go back to their SET careers.


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Project Manage Your Job Search
Computerworld, September 15

In coordinating a thorough IT job search, it is sometimes helpful to think like a project manager. In short, the skills and discipline that project managers utilize to bring in major IT projects on time can also guide the search for a new job. By learning to set targets and milestones, and then adjust to changing market conditions, you will improve your odds of getting a better job at better pay.

At the start of your job search, set project objectives. Sit down in an organized way and think through the kinds of work you've done in the past five to 10 years, what you enjoy most and get the most meaning from, and why. As in any project, get input from those close to you who can give you objective insights to those questions. Establish a project timeline and milestones, the same way you would create an implementation schedule and delivery date for a project. Once you commit to that time frame, establish some milestones that include tasks such as finishing your résumé and researching companies. Along the way, build in possible compromises and revisions to your plan, such as those related to pay and geography.


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Dealing With a Job Search When You Least Expect It
Wall Street Journal, September 15

Ramping up to land a new job quickly after a layoff, a downsizing or a takeover takes thoughtful planning and considerable coordination of efforts. Despite the urgency of the task, the key to a successful transition is not to panic. Instead of sending out resumes haphazardly, it pays off to conduct a highly tactical job search that positions you in the best possible fashion. The article features advice from the CEO of a Philadelphia-based HR consulting and professional staffing company.

After an unexpected layoff, be sure to take stock of your finances. Identify and prioritize your bills and debt. If you have an immediate need for cash flow, consider taking on a temporary assignment. Also, map out a search strategy. Despite the need to mobilize a quick job search, you don't want to send out resumes into the marketplace without any thought behind them. Take some time to create a thoughtful and measured approach to your job hunt, being specific about the position you want and the types of companies where you want to work. You may need to consider a smaller company or another industry that requires your skills.


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One in Five Employers Use Social Networking Sites to Screen Applicants
Web Guild, September 11

While many hiring managers already use Google to vet potential hires, a growing number of them are now also using social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace as part of the screening process. In a recent survey conducted by CareerBuilder, 22% of hiring managers and HR professionals screened potential staff via social networking profiles in 2007, compared to only 11% in 2006. Inevitably, some candidates stand to lose out on employment opportunities as the result of inappropriate content posted on these social networking sites, while some candidates will be able to bolster their value in the eyes of recruiters.

Approximately one-third (34%) of the managers who used social networking sites to research additional background information about candidates discovered online content to make them drop that candidate. Managers were especially concerned about candidates posting information about them drinking or using drugs or posting provocative or inappropriate photographs or information. In addition, hiring managers formed negative opinions when a candidate had poor communication skills; bad-mouthed a previous company or fellow employee; lied about qualifications; used discriminatory remarks related to race, gender or religion; or shared confidential information from previous employers.


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Four Cynical Strategies for Protecting Your Job During a Recession
CIO.com, September 10

Stephen Viscusi, author of a new book that highlights simple career strategies to make it through an economic downturn, discusses the types of steps that IT professionals need to take to protect their job during a recession. Based on his experience as an executive recruiter in New York, Viscusi explains why creating personal relationships with senior managers and increasing your visibility at the office are among the most important steps that any IT worker can take.

The most important thing employees can do to prevent getting fired is to develop a personal rapport with their boss. It's easy for him or her to get rid of people he or she doesn't like, but it's not easy to say good-bye to employees that he or she genuinely enjoys working with. It is also important to remain visible at all times. Make sure your organization and your boss are aware of you, your work and your value to the company. If your boss doesn't know who you are, feels indifferent about you or is unsure of your contributions, you'll become an easier target.


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How to Save Your Job
Computerworld (via Harvard Business Review), September 8

As the threat of recession continues to surround the economy, many IT workers are starting to take proactive steps to safeguard their jobs, whether it is working longer hours or putting in extra work on side projects. Yet, as career experts Janet Banks and Diane Coutu point out, this knee-jerk response to the threat of a layoff may be exactly the wrong type of response. For IT professionals, the single most important thing to do when layoffs are looming is not hunkering down on relevant projects or engaging in new work but, rather, keeping a positive, upbeat attitude.

Having a positive attitude is one variable that you can control during a time of economic uncertainty. For employers, it is much easier to fire a negative person than someone who is constructive and creative. IT workers need to take risks and make themselves more visible, such as by offering constructive ideas. In contrast, many people hunker down and keep a low profile when layoffs threaten. In many ways, hunkering down is just an illusion. When companies need to trim costs, every project and every person is being assessed.


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Economy to Entrepreneurs: Turn Back
New York Times, September 13

Amidst the current economic turmoil, a number of small business entrepreneurs are being forced to close their doors and return to the corporate world. The situation is particularly recognizable in sectors where clients view certain products and services as discretionary rather than core, or where budgets are being slashed across the board. While the transition to the corporate world often entails a salary cut, this drawback is balanced by the relative safety of a job with an established corporation and guaranteed healthcare and retirement benefits. The article considers the pros and cons of closing down a small business, viewed from the perspective of different small business owners.

The percentage of employment accounted for by small businesses tends to be more cyclical than for large ones, so the current situation is not completely unexpected. In an economic downturn, small businesses tend to be hit harder. Suffering the most are companies in construction, manufacturing, retailing, finance and overseas travel. In terms of geography, small businesses have been hardest hit in areas where the housing crisis is at its worst. The biggest concerns of small-business owners now include the rising costs of fuel, supplies and health insurance. Small businesses can also be hurt by factors such as nonpayment by clients, or smaller order sizes from large customers.


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Eight Signs That You’re Not Ready for Outsourcing
Tech Careers, September 8

Blinded by the need to cut costs, many small and midsize businesses are finding out that outsourcing IT functions is not always the right step to take. With that in mind, the article provides eight telltale signs that a small or midsize business may not be ready for the increased costs and bureaucracy of an IT outsourcing relationship. For these outsourcing relationships to work, companies need to have the right systems in place, such as systems to perform due diligence on potential vendors and manage the complexity of new relationships.

It is ill-advised for small companies to enter into IT outsourcing relationships without first doing due diligence on potential vendors. Even if a vendor has high-profile clients, they may have had rocky relationships in the past with those clients. In addition, the vendor you contract with may outsource the work to another party. Another sign that a company is unprepared for IT outsourcing is if it doesn’t have any plans for managing the relationship on an ongoing basis. This is especially true for small and midsize companies, which usually do not have extra manpower to manage projects, track down issues and control the outsourcing engagement. If IT is broken at your company, it is highly unlikely that an outsourcing company will come on board and fix everything.


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World's Largest Gathering of Women in Computing Attracts Leading Researchers and Experts
AScribe Newswire, September 16

During the first week of October, the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing program will bring together more than 1400 participants to discuss the research and career interests of women in computing. The event, a program of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, is co-hosted by ACM. This year’s event, scheduled to take place in Colorado, will highlight the important role women play in creating and utilizing technology to improve world conditions.

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women attracts an international set of speakers and features more than 88 sessions across seven tracks covering technology skills and career opportunities. The program also includes new technical papers, Ph.D. forums, and achievement awards. The keynote speakers include Fran Allen (IBM Fellow Emerita and ACM's 2006 Turing Award winner) and Mary Lou Jepsen (founder and CTO of One Laptop per Child). In addition, Gloria Townsend, co-chair of ACM's Committee on Women in Computing (ACM-W) and professor of Computer Science at DePauw University, will chair a panel on organizing successful regional celebrations of women in computing.


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