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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, July 21, 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 14, July 21, 2009




Five Ways to Make Your Company a Best Place to Work
Computerworld, June 15

As part of Computerworld’s annual Best Places to Work in IT feature, an executive recruiter has compiled a list of five ways that companies can become one of the future best places to work. These will be the organizations that are best able to tap into the IT talent pool to find the highest-skilled workers that are critical to the ongoing success of their operations. Most importantly, these organizations will create a positive work environment that motivates and respects employees, rewards and cultivates their skills, and fosters their growth and professional development. Even in a down economy, an organization can create the type of work environment that will attract and retain high-level talent.

By emphasizing the core values of your company, you can provide an opportunity for employees to connect with the organization on another level, particularly when company values coincide with the values of the employees. Moreover, by organizing or participating in community events, a company can give back to the local community and bring employees together in a non-corporate atmosphere. By encouraging company involvement in charitable causes, an organization can create an exceptionally strong multiplier effect in terms of publicity and building an employment brand.


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New IT Job: Virtual Infrastructure Architect
Network World, July 13

According to Forrester Research, the position of virtual infrastructure architect is one of the most important new job categories emerging within the IT workforce. With so many companies adopting virtualization technology as a way to cut costs and optimize resources, there is an increased demand for IT workers with virtualization expertise. The VI architect, Forrester says, would be responsible to oversee the operation of both the physical and virtual platforms across server, storage and network infrastructure domains. The position requires a range of virtual skills, including a broad knowledge of virtualization platforms and tools.

Relevant experience is just as important as any certification for the VI architect position. Employers will not discount a candidate just because he or she isn’t a VMware Certified Professional or Citrix Certified Administrator. Forrester advises employers to seek a VI architect with several years of hands-on virtualization experience, such as playing the role of technical lead on a large-scale server consolidation or virtualization initiative involving physical-to-virtual migrations. Not only will virtualization experience be required, but IT managers should also be looking for a technology generalist with experience and background in several areas of infrastructure, including networking and storage systems. The VI architect will help the network and storage teams, for instance, understand how virtual elements should perform and how to troubleshoot problems in the virtual realm.


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IT Job Market Improving, Gradually
Information Week, July 14

Sparked by the Obama Administration's interest in healthcare and cyber-security, the long-term employment trend appears to favor robust growth in the IT market. Federal, state, and local governments are all expected to increase spending on technology over the next five years, creating jobs across a wide range of industries and government agencies, according to a series of new reports. Over the short-term, however, the hiring outlook is not as robust. Although a small number of corporate chief information officers expect to be hiring this quarter, many are still cautious as they deal with flat or falling IT budgets and the need to cut costs.

As a result of new initiatives by the Obama Administration, the Federal government is expected to boost spending on IT to $90.3 billion, up 3.5% by 2014. State and local governments, meanwhile, are expected to boost spending by 3.9% to $60.1 billion by 2014. Chief areas of interest for the federal government are healthcare, cyber-security, energy and government transparency, according to Input, a Virginia-based consultancy. Cloud computing initiatives in particular stand to grow as U.S. government agencies are forging ahead with plans to adopt cloud services or build their own. States too are interested in healthcare, but are also looking at technology for education, public safety, social services and transportation.


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Web 2.0 Can Recruit New Workforce
Federal Computer Week, July 9

Several government agencies, including the CIA, NASA and the Defense Department, are realizing the value proposition of social media and have taken a comprehensive effort to attract and hire talent from a range of sources. The need to embrace Web 2.0 is gaining in urgency as many government agencies prepare for a wave of large-scale retirements and search for new workforce acquisition tools. Social media initiatives (also referred to as Gov 2.0 initiatives) enable the government to reach out to the largest pool of viable candidates with a messaging strategy that conveys the benefits of government service. One of the central tenets is to make government service attractive, and sharing information via social media is an effective way to inform the next-generation workforce.

The General Services Administration is among the U.S. government agencies at the forefront of investing in technologies to execute the agency's social media strategies. The GSA uses social media to share information with staff members and customers. That engagement in social media can have a direct effect on how effectively an agency reaches a receptive audience with its targeted messages. Leadership is vital to help craft the culture’s comfort level with Web 2.0 technologies and risk-taking, in addition to creating a social-media strategy centered on the capabilities and skills of the target audience.


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Tips for IT Job Hunting
Datamation, July 13

Career coaches and counselors from the IT sector share some tips and suggestions for improving the success rate of tech-related job searches. During a time when the number of applicants for most IT jobs has more than doubled, candidates need to work harder than ever to set themselves apart from the pack. With this in mind, candidates need to focus on results from past jobs, rather than just supplying a laundry list of skills and experiences. The article also details how IT job candidates should approach resume preparation and provides suggestions on how to approach the job interview.

When preparing your resume, highlight your achievements and how you helped the business. Instead of focusing on technical lingo, focus on the real value that you brought to the company. Sometimes this means creating a resume that extends beyond one page, so that you can go into the appropriate detail to describe your technical skills. How far back in time you go depends on your experience level and how that experience has changed over time. Just as importantly, learn how to use your network to identify opportunities. Talk to people about the ideal job you’re looking for and ask if they know anyone who does that whose brain you could pick. Prior to going in to the interview, research the company. Go online, find out about their business, the products they make and the department you’d be working for.


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College Class of 2009 Holds Ground With Average Starting Salary Offer
National Association of Colleges and Employers, July 15

Despite instability in the overall job market, the college class of 2009 held its ground with its overall average starting salary offer, according to a new report published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). NACE’s Summer 2009 Salary Survey report shows that the average starting salary offer for new college graduates now stands at $49,307, which is off less than 1% from the average $49,693 that 2008 graduates posted last year. According to NACE research, the resilience of the average starting salary is evidence that many employers are reluctant to experiment too much with starting salaries, even in a tight economy.

The average offer to recent college graduates within the broad category of computer science-related fields (computer science, computer programming, computer systems analysis, and information sciences and systems) increased by 1.9% compared to last summer, to $59,418. This marks a rebound from spring 2009, when the group experienced a 5% decline in the overall average offer compared to spring 2008. Among the specific disciplines in this group, computer science grads saw their average salary offer rise 1.6% to $61,407. Information sciences and systems grads, however, saw their average offer slip slightly to $52,089, down less than 1% from last year at this time.


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Is Social Networking a Career Safety Net?
MyGlobalCareer.com, July 13

Creating and maintaining a large social network of professional contacts can be a safety net during lean economic times. During a recession, jobs are typically the slowest part of business spending to recover, so this is the time to develop or revise an escape plan to insulate you from possible downturns or unforeseen changes at work. Having a strong social network can help if you if you are looking to move into a new career or if you are looking to expand your customer or partner base. Even though the economy is slumping that doesn’t mean you should stop expanding your web of online contacts.

Most social networks are the sum of many groups, specialized around regions, companies, alumni networks, plus personal and professional interests. It’s relatively easy to tap into these groups on Facebook and LinkedIn using the functionality available within these social networks. While identifying and joining a community is fairly easy, the reality is that one generally needs to invest a bit of time and energy building a community presence. This requires an investment of time, usually two or three months, before your comments in discussion boards become familiar and respected by the group.


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Only the Employed Need Apply
Wall Street Journal, June 30

With the U.S. unemployment rate at 9.4% and rising, hiring organizations are showing a preference for “passive” job seekers who are already employed. Partly this is a result of the numbers game, as each available position receives dozens, if not more, responses. Other employers are bypassing the jobless to target those still working, reasoning that these survivors are the most talented top performers. This employer bias extends from front-line workers to senior managers, adding another hurdle for those who have recently been laid off. According to a recent survey, 59% of jobseekers agreed or strongly agreed that employers gave preference to candidates that are currently employed.

For many employers, the top candidates usually are people who are employed elsewhere. In some cases, these employers are resorting to “guerilla” tactics, in which they attempt to poach employers from other firms who appear to be strong performers. They may also target candidates at industry events, presentations or other gatherings. There are still jobs to be had if you can calm an employer’s biggest worry about out-of-work applicants: that your termination was the result of poor performance. Arm yourself with strong letters of recommendation from your previous employer and references from senior-level employees at your prior company. Also, be flexible about your salary or title.


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How Many Twitter Followers Does it Take to Get a Job?
CIO.com, July 10

With the growing adoption of social networking within the workforce, some employers are beginning to experiment with specific benchmarks, such as the number of followers on Twitter, as a way to weed out candidates for Web-related positions. For example, a recent job posting for a senior-level social media marketing position on Best Buy’s Web site listed two preferred job qualifications: a graduate degree and 250+ followers on Twitter. By highlighting the specific number of Twitter followers, in addition to the educational and skill-based experience required for the job, Best Buy was signaling that it wanted candidates who could demonstrate real knowledge and expertise of the social media space.

Recruiters agree that companies need a quick and effective way of quickly assessing the Web 2.0 skills of a candidate. However, they also point out that the specific quantity of Twitter followers is not necessarily the best metric to use. For recruiters, it is much more important to look at the quality of engagement levels rather than pure quantity. Scale is important from a certain standpoint, but presence and frequency are much more important than building scale online. If you are in marketing, public relations, communications, digital media, the Web world or any related discipline, it’s essential you pay attention to your online footprint. This includes not just the number of followers you have, but also what your online reputation looks like.


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Globalization of Knowledge-Intensive Professional Services
Communications of the ACM, Vol. 52 No. 7, July 1

Knowledge-intensive professional services such as accounting and legal support are starting to move offshore in the same way that software services did a decade ago. It is useful to examine the reasons behind this trend and the associated implications. The main motivator for using offshore providers, common across all types of services, is wage arbitrage. Indian software firms have already perfected a more cost-effective delivery model for IT services, and now this model is being extended to other professional services. For the offshore outsourcing of legal services to succeed, there are major challenges ahead, most notably the decomposition, iteration, and disaggregation of work processes.

A prerequisite for offshore outsourcing is the breaking up of the value chain into a sequence of tasks, each with clearly defined interfaces. This poses a challenge because lawyers generally believe that decomposition of tasks in this manner may not work well. Traditionally, a client entrusted a particular lawyer to carry out an integrated service, which consisted of three separate steps: knowledge and information management; consultative advice and representation; and client relationship management. In the last two decades, information and communication technology (ICT) has enabled the separation of knowledge management from advisory work. This use of technology is a first step toward making legal work more repeatable, scalable, and capable of being performed offshore.


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