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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, June 9, 2009

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 5, Issue 11, June 9, 2009




IT Buoyed By Expected 2% Net Hiring Increase in Q3
Information Week, June 2

According to the most recent IT Hiring Index and Skills Report, there will be a 2% net hiring increase in the third quarter of 2009. The IT Hiring Index and Skills Report, which surveys more than 1,400 CIOs nationwide, found that 8% of CIOs are planning to add to IT staff, while 6% plan staff cutbacks. The new hiring activity results from an increased need for customer end-user support, as well as rising workloads. Companies are adding staff at a steady but moderate pace. Managers are watching budgets closely and concentrating hiring activity primarily on customer-facing roles such as help desk and desktop support.

While approximately 85% of the respondents from the Robert Half Technology survey plan to keep staffing at current levels, there are still many tech positions in high demand. As has been the case over recent quarters, LAN and WAN network administration positions are most in demand in IT departments, with 73% of respondents citing that category as their most pressing need. Other major needs were for desktop support, cited by 69%, and Windows administration, needed by 68%. Networking was picked by 16% of the respondents as the sector experiencing the most growth, followed by applications development, selected by 11%.


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The Way We’ll Work
TIME.com, May 25

As part of a comprehensive look at the major trends having an impact on the U.S. workforce, TIME magazine highlights ten key ways that work will change over the next decade. In addition to the appearance of new sectors and industries related to technology, the U.S. economy will experience demographic changes, which will lead to new thinking about values and measures of career success. Given the rapid pace of technological change, there will likely be more emphasis on complex knowledge work in technology-related areas that are just now emerging, from cloud computing to nanotechnology to biotech. Moreover, the changing composition of the workforce means that new values and skills will shape everything from the work-life balance to worker perks.

As a result of the financial crisis, many of the best and the brightest will turn away from jobs in finance over the next few years to consider positions that prize technological savvy and analytical aptitude. According to consulting firm McKinsey, nearly 85% of new jobs created between 1998 and 2006 involved complex knowledge work. This trend is likely to expand, to include jobs in the sciences, mathematics and engineering. The U.S. Department of Labor spotlights network systems and data communications as well as computer-software engineering among the occupations projected to grow most explosively by 2016. Over the next seven years, the number of jobs in the IT sector is expected to swell 24%. Emerging areas such as cloud computing, nanotechnology and genomics are possible areas of growth. Additionally, green jobs tied to the environment will be another source of new employment opportunities. Over the next three decades, green employment could provide up to 10% of all job growth.


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Indian Software Companies To Hire More Foreign Engineers
TechCareers.com (via EE Times), May 12

Indian technology services companies are planning to hire more foreign engineers as they seek to position themselves as job creators in overseas markets where they have operations. For example, both Infosys Technologies and Wipro Technologies want to increase their foreign workforce to as much as 15% of their total workforce. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) reportedly wants to double its foreign engineering workforce from the current 10,000 in five years. For Indian IT firms, this reflects a realization that, as a result of the significant revenues they derive from overseas operations, they need to increase the percentage of non-Indian foreigners on their payrolls.

Wipro has been one of the most active Indian technology services companies in terms of hiring foreign workers. Wipro Chairman Azim Premji has said the company has been investing in near-shore centers, including in the U.S. and U.K., with plans of scaling them. There is a strong push to hire and deploy locally where competitive local talent is available. Wipro said it would launch a second U.S. center after its Atlanta development center becomes fully operational in a few months. It expects to have about 750 U.S. workers at its Atlanta center. Currently, TCS employs the most foreign workers among the top Indian tech companies, totaling about 9% of its total workforce. Foreign workers make up about 5% of the workforce at Wipro and Infosys.


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Personal Branding: 8 Tips That Will Help You Stand Out
CIO.com, May 18

Catherine Kaputa, a brand strategist and the founder of a personal branding firm, says that, in order to be successful in business today, workers need to have a distinct personal brand. As she points out, personal branding starts with articulating a simple, clear statement of who you are. In order to create a brand that is different, relevant and valuable, you will need to take a compelling concept, and then package this brand idea with a strong visual identity and a well-stated message. Whether you're a recent victim of a layoff or you're employed but worried about job loss, personal branding can make all the difference in your future job security and career success. By making yourself known for something special (e.g. a unique skill or problem-solving approach), you can make a stronger impression on prospective employers or demonstrate to your existing employer that you're indispensible.

When it comes to your personal brand, you will need to be able to explain your big idea clearly in a couple of sentences, so that people know what's different, relevant and special about you. The more specifically you define who you are and what you do, the better chance you'll have of selling yourself. If you promise too many things, people will wonder how good you are at any one thing. You will also need to differentiate your brand from the competition. Being like everyone else will stunt your success, so find a brand positioning that you can own, that's not associated with anyone else. To shine the brightest light on our credentials, think about ways to express your accomplishments using stories. Also, work on your communication skills, whether it comes to making stellar presentations or being able to develop a quick elevator pitch as a personal commercial for prospective employers.


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Ready to Be the Boss?
Wall Street Journal, May 24

During the current economic downturn, a higher than average number of Americans are deciding to become an entrepreneur. A 2009 survey by FindLaw.com indicates that 61% of Americans have either started or thought about starting a small business. According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses employ about half of all U.S. workers and have generated more than half of the net new jobs over the past decade. If the recession continues, the number of Americans who explore new entrepreneurial ventures will likely increase as workers grow disenchanted with corporate America. With that in mind, the article outlines the key mindsets and attitudes that are needed to launch and promote a new venture in today’s business environment.

There are certain personality traits and work habits that are necessary to becoming an entrepreneur. When you have your own business, no one is giving you direction, and circumstances are always changing. As a result, entrepreneurs are wired to be comfortable with open-endedness and ambiguity. Self-employed professionals also are known for being optimistic, competitive, creative and organized. They tend to have a head for business, understand what their customers want and act with integrity. And if they're passionate about their venture, they work as many hours as it takes to get results.


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Help Wanted
Business Week, April 30

Despite the worst recession in a generation or more and an unemployment rate closing in on 9%, there are still approximately 3 million jobs that employers are actively recruiting for but so far have been unable to fill. This is evidence of an emerging structural shift in the U.S. economy that has created serious mismatches between the skills provided by workers and the skills demanded by employers. This technology skills gap has been made more acute by the collapse of the housing market, which has reduced the mobility of workers to move to new geographic locations for job openings. The article explores the underlying reasons for the skills gap, maps out several scenarios that could exacerbate this gap, and explains why employers may be forced into bidding wars to recruit the workers who are qualified for new openings.

In order to avoid problems caused by a lack of flexibility in the U.S. labor market, both employers and governments will have to step up retraining. Meanwhile, workers and employers will have to accept imperfect fits for employers filling vacancies. That being said, a lot of relatively skilled full-time workers are losing jobs that are just not going to be there again. Quite simply, the U.S. economy has changed dramatically over the past couple of years and the workforce has been unable to adapt. As of March, 2.2% of all jobs in the U.S. were open, 3 million altogether. While there will always be a surplus of unfilled jobs, the surprise is how many unfilled jobs there still are given that, in the same year, the unemployment rate shot up from 4.8% to 8.1%. Just as the unemployment rate measures problems in the labor market from the workers' perspective, the job openings rate measures the difficulty that employers have filling slots. While economists usually focus on the unemployment rate, in many ways the job openings rate is just as important.


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Workers Need to Adapt
Boston.com, May 19

MIT Professor Daron Acemoglu suggests that IT workers should adapt to the changing needs of their employers during an economic downturn by boosting their skill sets sooner rather than later. While the U.S. economy will eventually improve, not all IT workers will benefit equally from a labor market recovery. Thus, technology workers should be taking steps now to boost their skills through courses and training programs in order to prepare for the cyclical growth of new industries like biotech and healthcare. As Acemoglu explains, the trends of the past 75 years clearly show that workers with greater skills and education benefit the most from any economic upturn.

Technological and social changes have always transformed the U.S. labor market, even before the current problems on Wall Street sparked debate about current employment trends. Moving forward, the US economy will benefit most in those areas where the U.S. has a comparative advantage vis-à-vis its global competitors: innovative sectors such as biotech and computers and high-tech services such as healthcare. The demand for labor favors not only those with MBAs and other advanced degrees, but all workers with skills and flexibility. This is a good a time for workers to invest in themselves, to take advantage of the downtime in labor markets to learn new skills via vocational courses, training programs, and community college and university courses. In the future, there might not be plenty of high-paying jobs for everyone. But there will always be opportunities for those with the right qualifications and the ability to adapt to changing environments.


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How to Manage a Working Move Abroad
Times Online (U.K.), May 27

An overseas posting is usually a good career move, but you have to manage it carefully to get the most from it. With that in mind, the article summarizes 10 steps to take to make the transition abroad as easy as possible. The first step is to understand how the job will fit into your professional development before you accept it. Stay in touch with your home office and start networking internally to find your new job a year before your assignment is due to end. The article covers the major issues encountered in managing a working move abroad, including such practicalities as paying foreign taxes and maintaining the proper documentation.

After deciding to work abroad, getting permission to work in the new country is a critical next step. People transferring with their existing employer usually find that the company will organize this for them, but they may have to sort out other details on arrival. The next step is to take steps to ensure that your family members have the proper documentation for working or studying abroad. When overseas assignments go wrong, the problem is usually domestic rather than professional. For example, look at whether your partner will be able to get permission to work or whether the move will mean that your children leave (or return) in the middle of exam preparation. With the help of HR, assess the overall package. Look for allowances covering housing, moving, schools, health insurance and possibly even utility bills. Once you know what’s on offer, do your own research into the cost of living in the proposed destination and be prepared to negotiate.


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A Conversation with Arthur Whitney
ACM Queue, April 20

In an in-depth interview, legendary programmer Arthur Whitney, who designed languages such as A, K and Q, talks about his career development and his views on programming. Whitney began his Wall Street career in the 1980s, building trading systems at Morgan Stanley using a proprietary version of APL. Eventually he started his own company, Kx Systems, which today provides real-time and historical data-analysis software to many Wall Street investment banks. Whitney explains what’s behind his languages, what prompted his career changes, and his views on aesthetics and elegance in programming.

Whitney starts off with a discussion of his career trajectory, including his first introduction to computing at age 11. After his initiation into programming at the university level, his career path led him to summer consulting assignments for programming, a job with I.P. Sharp in Toronto, graduate school at the University of Toronto and then a job at Stanford, where he worked with an artificial intelligence company. It wasn't until about 1980, when he worked at I.P. Sharp that he really began using the APL language regularly. Whitney also highlights how he started to familiarize himself with APL; the kinds of problems people were using APL to solve at the time and his motivations for creating certain programming languages. Whitney says that his big break came when he joined Morgan Stanley in 1988, when he learned how APL could solve problems within the finance industry.


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NSF-Funded Study Confirms Low Interest Among Girls, but High Interest Among College-Bound African-American and Hispanic Teens
ACM Press Release, June 2

ACM and the WGBH Educational Foundation recently completed a study to examine the image of computer science among high school students. While 74% of college-bound males have a positive opinion of computing and computer science as a possible college major or career, college-bound females are significantly less interested in programming. The research, funded by the NSF, also found that opinions differed according to race and ethnicity as well. College-bound African American and Hispanic teens are more likely than their white peers to be interested in computing. Going forward, the New Image for Computing (NIC) initiative will seek to answer why interest in studying computer science in U.S. colleges and pursuing computer-related careers is declining.

The perceptions gap between genders applied to computer science as a potential career choice as well as a field of study. From a selection of 15 possible careers, computer science came in fourth among the respondents, with 46% rating it “very good” or “good.” However, while 67% of all teenage males rated computer science highly as a career choice, only 9% of teenage females rated it “very good” and 17% rated it “good.” In an unexpected finding, the research showed little differentiation in young people’s attitudes toward computer science according to race or ethnicity. College-bound African American and Hispanic teenage males hold computer science in high regard, despite the fact that these two groups remain underrepresented in both academia and the computer science workforce.


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