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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, February 19, 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 4, February 19, 2008




Recruiting 3.0: Web Advances Change the Landscape
Wall Street Journal, February 12

New Web-based technology is changing the way that both candidates and employers approach the job search. Employers are experimenting with innovative strategies for spreading their recruitment messages and screening candidates online while job hunters are utilizing new Internet resources that help them make better career decisions. The article highlights some of the new advances in video, interactive media and online job boards, focusing on the ways that both employees and employers are benefiting from innovations in Web-based technology.

For employers, Internet video is emerging as an effective way to address a variety of job hunter interests on sites ranging from job boards to company career sites to video-sharing sites like YouTube.com. More employers are conducting first interviews with candidates over the Internet, while others are creating employee podcasts on career-related topics. To captivate and engage job hunters, more employers are also adding interactive media to their online career portals in the form of blogs and real-time chat services. During the application process, more employers are adding the types of assessments typically reserved for the interview stage as a way to learn more about intangible qualities.


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The Global IT Talent Crunch
CIO Insight, February 14

A new study recently released by the IT Governance Institute suggests that there is currently a worldwide IT talent and skills shortage. Of the 749 CEOs and CIOs surveyed, 38% were experiencing problems with inadequately skilled staff and 58% with too few IT staff. In addition to this staffing and skills shortage, CIOs also must contend with problems delivering IT services, high IT costs relative to ROI and problems with outsourcers. Going forward, the IT talent crunch will likely endure as long as IT labor costs continue to increase and organizations remain unwilling to invest in the training that's needed to transition IT workers to new roles.

The study from the IT Governance Institute has plenty of good news for IT workers. A majority of respondents (63%) now say that IT is "very important" to strategy, up from 57% in 2005 and 52% in 2003. IT also appears regularly or always on board agendas at 70% percent of the companies represented in the study. Moreover, self-assessment regarding IT governance has increased and is quite positive. Of the survey respondents, 54% gave their company a positive or very positive rating, up from 38% in the 2005 study.


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Are Career Paths the Best for Professional Advancement?
CIO.com, February 4

A number of experts are now advising that the concept behind the traditional career path within the IT sector needs to be reconsidered. Whether we change jobs or careers, most of us will alter our career course several times throughout our lives. As loyalty to organizations weakens, individuals are looking for new ways to define themselves that take into account their innate abilities, goals, creativity and attitudes toward others. People are more willing to experiment with new careers before they settle on something they are passionate about. Instead of thinking in terms of a fixed career path, workers should be thinking in terms of a career journey that will provide them with many different types of experiences.

A growing number of workplace advisers agree that there is no longer a defined path to the top IT positions. The entire notion of the career path, in fact, needs to be re-thought. More commonly, most people will travel several paths in the course of a lifetime. The early years of a career are spent gravitating toward professions or vocations that are in tune with our personalities. Career adjustments, whether they happen early or in mid-career, are normal and natural. Every accomplishment and failure prepares you for what lies ahead. Simply put, there is no telling how your life will work itself out, because there are so many things that are beyond your control.


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Tech Salaries: The Good News (And the Bad)
Datamation, February 6

The latest salary survey from Dice.com contains mixed news for IT professionals. While the general consensus is that 2008 should be a reasonably good year for U.S. IT workers, some jobs will experience more demand than others. Thus far, the tech sector has not been impacted by the slowdown in the economy, so it is likely that unemployment will remain low over the near-term. As employers hunker down for a possible economic recession, though, there may be some downward pressure on salaries. After reviewing the data from the Dice.com survey, the article also offers some insights into the current hiring environment for tech workers.

On the positive side, IT wage growth in major metropolitan areas shows no sign of letting up. Moreover, certain IT specialties, such as project manager and MIS manager, are still enjoying healthy increases. Overall, tech workers are still some of the best paid workers across a wide array of professions. The 2007 average tech salary was $74,570. Based on U.S. Bureau of Labor data, the unemployment rate for IT professionals remains historically low, at 2.1%, compared to a national average of around 5%. On the negative side, however, the average IT salary grew by only 1.7% between 2006 and 2007. Moreover, IT workers with less than 1 year of experience suffered a 2.2% decline in average salary during that time period.


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Nicholas Carr: The Future of IT Jobs
Network World, January 10

In a recent live chat sponsored by Network World, Harvard academic and noted author Nicholas Carr discusses the future of IT employment by highlighting the changes already occurring within both small and large IT organizations. Carr, of course, is famous for his assertion that IT is simply a commodity that no longer provides a competitive advantage for organizations. While Carr contends that massive disruption is heading toward the IT job market, he also notes that IT is becoming increasingly important to the global economy. For those with the right IT skills, especially in areas related to virtualization and utility computing, opportunities will remain plentiful.

Nicholas Carr’s central point is that IT, defined in its narrowest sense, no longer provides a competitive advantage to organizations. Instead, IT is a commodity that is provided by service providers. According to Carr, this shift toward the commoditization of IT will continue to occur over the next 10 years. Already, consumers are well on their way to relying on Web-based applications, while smaller companies are experimenting with the advantages of utility computing models. Over time, larger organizations will also ramp up their reliance on external service providers. Given this context, Carr discusses which types of organizations are adopting the new business model, outlines the types of difficulties they will experience, and provides insights into the key differences between small and large IT vendors.


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Young Mainframers Group Gains Momentum
Computerworld (via IDG News Service), January 31

ZNextGen, an organization started by and for young mainframe programmers, has gained significant momentum since it was created approximately two years ago. The group, which started out as an informal gathering of 30 or 40 people at IBM, has now grown to over 350 members from over 100 different enterprise systems companies in 12 countries. The article profiles the individuals who are spearheading zNextGen and offers insights into why IBM has become an active sponsor of the organization.

There are a number of reasons why people are getting involved with zNextGen. For some, it is the allure of the raw power that a mainframe possesses. For others, it is the chance to learn something new every day. Still others point to the opportunity to work with the very core of a company’s IT infrastructure. With that as context, the article recounts a number of stories of how young computer science students made the decision to start a career as a mainframe programmer.


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Canadian CIOs Avoid Offshore Outsourcing Model
IT World Canada, January 29

According to a recent survey of nearly 300 Canadian CIOs, only 12% of companies are actively taking advantage of offshore IT outsourcing opportunities. As Robert Half Technology points out, this percentage is neither small nor surprising because offshore outsourcing requires the necessary staff and established process to manage it. Only companies that have the appropriate processes in place and have performed the necessary ROI analysis are likely to try it. The article provides a closer look at the types of companies that are most likely to outsource, reviews the business areas that are most likely to be outsourced, and provides insights into best practices for managing the IT outsourcing relationship.

Among those Canadian organizations that do offshore outsource their IT operations, the majority were companies with more than 500 employees. In general, larger companies are relatively more likely to outsource their IT operations offshore than smaller companies because they have the size and scope to take advantage of economies of scale. Approximately 80% of respondents said the level of offshore outsourcing they currently engage in would not change over the next two years. Those that foresaw growth in their outsourcing practice were companies who are already engaged in the practice, not those new to the activity.


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Asian Workers Demand More
Management Issues, February 1

Across Asia, the booming economies of the region are leading to an increasingly aggressive war for talent. Asian workers are becoming more willing than ever to pursue new jobs and higher salaries, in the process creating a talent and retention crisis for both local and Western employers in the region. According to recruitment firm StepStone, companies looking to tap into Asia's rapidly expanding economies are reporting growing difficulties when it comes to recruiting and retaining skilled employees. Moreover, wages across the region are also rising sharply, eroding some of the cost savings of hiring Asian workers. The bottom line is that Asia is no longer a "low-cost utopia with an abundance of labor" for prospective Western employers.

Senior managers in Asia face four major recruitment and retention obstacles: rising wage and pay demands, a lack of suitable candidates and skills, a perceived lack of career opportunities among workers, and a greater willingness on behalf of employees to accept better pay and benefits elsewhere. The expectations of workers in the region are rising, with workers no longer prepared to settle for second best and feeling they deserved more than they were getting. Employees are now much more likely to jump ship if a better offer comes along. As a result, nearly 90% of business leaders agree that recruiting and retaining talented employees is becoming more difficult. Yet, despite this, only a quarter of organizations surveyed had a formal, company-wide talent management strategy in place and 16% did not have a talent management strategy at all. Moreover, nearly one-third of respondents said their organization was poor at forecasting talent requirements and retaining talent within the organization.


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Discovering Second Acts in Sustained Working Lives
New York Times, February 11

Bestselling author Marc Freedman has become an important voice for aging baby boomers who are ignoring traditional retirement for what he refers to as “encore careers.” Freedman coined the term “encore career” to describe work in the second half of life that combines continued income, new meaning and a significant contribution to the greater societal good. In a wide-ranging discussion, Freedman discusses key ideas from his recent book, focusing on issues such as the obstacles facing older workers, and why it is so hard to come up with language to describe this new period of work and life. By some estimates, there are now millions of people launching second careers in areas like education, health care, the nonprofit sector and government, as they pursue experiences imbued with meaning and purpose.

As Freedman points out, if you want to launch a significant second career in an area of social importance, you are often on your own. Partly, this is because it is still difficult to describe and even name this stage of life, which happens roughly when people hit the age of 60. Various terms – “seasoned citizens” and “working retired” – have been advanced, but none have stuck. Taking a big picture view, there are very few people who can afford to be retired for 30 years. As a result, people are having “false retirements.” They are retiring from what they were doing in their midlife careers because they are tired, need a break, or have deferred many priorities. Then, after a year or five, they are rested and restless and looking ahead to a period that might be 20 years in duration.


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Founder Reflections on Ten Years of MentorNet's One-on-One Program
MentorNet News, February 2008

Ten years ago this February, MentorNet opened its first Web site and access to a mentoring network that enabled one-on-one pairings of women studying engineering and related sciences as undergraduates and graduate students with working professionals in their fields of study. In a trial semester for MentorNet during that spring of 1998, just over 200 pairs of protégés from 15 universities were matched with volunteer mentors. Since that time, MentorNet has developed to add improvements, incorporate new demographic groups, include more features and offer new programs. Thanks to the rapid proliferation of the Internet and the growth of online communities, MentorNet has been able to scale in terms of size and geographic reach.

Over the past decade, MentorNet has extended on its original mission of providing new and beneficial mentoring relationships for underrepresented populations in the engineering and computer science fields. Programmatic success has led to a large and growing online community supported by a number of early adopters, internal champions and change agents. The long-term goal was to create a lasting, growing partnership to support the operations of a flexible mentoring program infrastructure aligned with many organizations' interests and needs. Thanks to the involvement of so many individuals, MentorNet has been able to leverage financial, human and technical resources during its development.


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