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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, September 8, 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 17, September 8, 2009




IT Hiring Expected to Grow Over Next Three Months
Network World (via Computerworld Canada), August 26

There are encouraging signs about job growth emerging from the Canadian technology industry. According to a new survey from Sapphire Technologies Canada and IBM Canada on hiring intentions in the IT sector, demand for IT positions is expected to grow over the final quarter of 2009 and into 2010. An overwhelming majority (87%) of directors, vice-presidents and CIOs surveyed across Canada expect to maintain or increase their IT staffing levels over the next quarter. Of this group, 49% expect staffing to stay the same, while 38% anticipate new hires. Of the survey respondents planning to increase their IT staff, 37% expect to hire full-time permanent positions, 21% expect to hire contractors and 37% expect to hire a combination of both.

There are several factors that are accounting for the increase in demand for IT staff, including the installation of new enterprise-wide applications (26%); increased workload (23%); increased customer/end user support (16%) and organizational growth (15%). Application development will be one important area of growth, with 33% of respondents expecting IT staff increases citing it as a skill they will be looking for over the next quarter and into the following 12 months. Infrastructure technology skills were second at 26%, while 34% of respondents reported plans to seek a combination of both. Applications that will attract the most attention include .Net (27%) and Java (25%). In general, the size of company impacts the types of opportunities available: Web development/design and desktop support skills are greater in small to mid-sized companies; network administration is the most sought-after skill in mid-sized companies; and larger companies see more value in IT security and telecommunication support.


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Re-Entering the IT Workforce
Computerworld, August 18

Dave Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology, weighs in on what to do if you are planning to re-enter the IT workforce after a temporary hiatus. As Willmer points out, IT professionals who have taken a hiatus for family or health reasons may find it intimidating to reinsert themselves into the fast-changing IT landscape. Many others find themselves in the unexpected position of coming out of retirement to work additional years. Whether your return to the workforce was planned or unplanned, it's important to deal with potential stumbling blocks, such as unfamiliarity with emerging new technologies, directly.

In returning to the workforce, focus on refreshing your skills. For some roles, you may discover that you need additional education or training in order to compete. To stay up to date on recent trends, technologies and in-demand skills, make a habit of reading IT publications and participating in professional associations. You will also need to refocus your résumé. Your résumé primarily determines whether you get invited for an interview, so make sure yours clearly conveys what you can do for the employer in the specific position at hand. A combination functional/chronological résumé, which first lists your most relevant skills and then presents your work history, may be the most effective choice. Also, be sure to emphasize any leadership, negotiation or communication skills you've gained in unpaid or volunteer roles, as well as professional organizations you belong to or industry events you've attended.


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Five Methods I Used To Get A Job Through Twitter
TwiTip.com, August 22

There are five ways to leverage your use of Twitter during a job search. Instead of just using Twitter to respond to and connect with people when you have the time, start putting Twitter to work. Attend Tweetup events so that you meet interesting new people and can talk about new projects. By talking about new projects and thinking about how you can help others with them, you may be unable to unearth new opportunities. Even if Twitter doesn’t lead to full-time job offer, it will enable you to find clients and explore new knowledge and training that is needed for a specific industry.

Going to Tweetups can be more than just a fun way to hang out with people - it can be one of the best ways to get people interested in your work. If you have an interesting concept, people may be willing to discuss possible joint ventures on new projects. Providing advice for free, such as through DM’s with ideas for potential projects, is another way to spark interest. By working for free and providing stellar advice, you can soon develop a strong reputation. This works especially well for people building a portfolio. Make sure you get testimonials. You can do this by favoriting the tweets that compliment your work and by seeking LinkedIn recommendations.


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The Future of Work: It’s Data, Baby
Web Worker Daily, August 12

In the IT job market, significant opportunities only reveal themselves when examining both the available jobs and the underlying trends in demand for skills. Based on both of these factors, a number of experts are predicting that IT jobs that involve first-hand knowledge of data and statistics will be the wave of the future. For example, the New York Times recently suggested that a prominent job within the next ten years would be statistician. Meanwhile, experts writing about the post-Web 2.0 world talk about a smarter web extending into the real world through sensor applications, leading to a proliferation of data and the ability to manage it. The article takes a look at some of the important trends leading to demand for data-related jobs and suggests a few opportunities to exploit.

Thought leaders such as Google Chief Economist Hal Varian are predicting that statisticians will be the hot profession as their skills are increasingly in demand. As suggested by Daniel Pink, the ability to extract stories from a world of increasing and abundant data will be increasingly critical to many industries. Indeed, the opening of U.S. federal government data and the appointment of Sir Tim Berners-Lee to similarly open the UK’s data archive implies a new societal and cultural importance for workers who can extract meaning from data. For example, IBM is preparing to expand its data analysis employee base from 200 to 4,000. A significant portion of this new work force will be distributed widely across the globe, implying that one of the core skills for a new generation of web workers will be analysis.


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Some Career Tips for Joining the Start-Up Economy
Media Post, August 13

While job growth within the broader economy may be stalling, the good news is that we are starting to see a lot of “green-shoot” growth at small companies, especially nimble, fast-moving start-ups. Thus, for IT workers looking for jobs or thinking about career changes, particularly for those in any industry that generally lags the overall economy, the start-up sector is becoming increasingly attractive. With that in mind, the article shares some career tips for those who are considering joining start-up companies.

Success with a new start-up takes much more than desire to work in an exciting and innovative environment. People think that great relationships and a thick Rolodex are keys to success in transitioning from big companies to small, particularly if you are in sales or business development. It's not that simple. When you work for a big company, everybody wants to work with you. When you move to a small firm, the value that you provide is measured by the actual results that you can deliver for customers and partners. This requires really understanding your customers, their needs and your product and obsessing over customer service. You have to ask yourself every day how much real value you created that day, and make yourself essential.


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How to Find Out if Hiring Managers Are Checking You Out
CIO.com, August 13

Knowing when hiring managers or recruiters are checking out your blog, LinkedIn profile or website can give you an important informational advantage in the job search game. The information can help you gauge the effectiveness of your resume and job search activities, and give you confidence during follow-up calls and job interviews. Instead of fearing that your resume has disappear down a black hole or been ignored by a hiring manger, you will know that they are instead pre-screening you before they bring you in for an interview. By monitoring your web properties every day as part of your job search activities and studying your site traffic, you can learn who's visiting your websites and whether any of the visitors arrived in response to a résumé you’ve sent.

As a starting point, realize that LinkedIn and professional blogs are two ways that recruiters will check up on you on the Web. One of the reasons recruiters take so long to respond to a résumé is that they're doing background checks online. Hiring managers and recruiters are increasingly proceeding directly to Google and LinkedIn after finding a résumé that intrigues them. With LinkedIn, recruiters look for people they know who also know the candidate, and then ask them for their opinions. That's why tuning a LinkedIn profile and writing smart blog entries can make or break a potential job interview. Certain search keywords can direct people to your blog or website. Personal branding efforts begin to have a payback once you have enough activity and contacts to create a network of people you can talk to on a regular basis. The companies where you make a personal connection, people are more likely to visit your site and have interest in you.


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How to Be a Smart Protégé
Wall Street Journal, August 17

Three business school professors of management weigh in on the best advice for setting up a network of mentors. They argue that the old mentoring model, in which older workers take junior colleagues under their wings and guide their career progression, doesn't work anymore since senior workers change jobs too often and are too focused on their own careers to help out protégés. Instead, they propose a new mentoring model in which junior workers build up a network of advisers and confidantes. Based on a survey of people who had shown savvy in building up their networks, they found that savvy networkers were proactive in starting relationships and staying in touch with mentors, and often offered assistance in return whenever they could.

Savvy networkers aren't shy about initiating and maintaining contact with people who can support their development. They constantly ask for information, help, feedback and advice. And they don't just talk to the peers and bosses they deal with every day, who have a vested interest in helping them along. They might talk to senior managers in other parts of the company, for instance, and ask to learn about their side of the operation. They often reach out to folks in volunteer and industry associations, as well as schools where they're getting graduate degrees. Savvy networkers are also expert at recognizing when colleagues are interested in becoming mentors, even when the colleagues aren't being direct about it.


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Is the Down Economy Inspiring Your Entrepreneurial Drive?
Management Issues, August 13

When unemployment numbers rise, people suddenly realize that neither the government nor corporate America can truly look out for their best interests 24/7, so they step up their entrepreneurial activities. For workers at larger companies, even those covered by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) act, layoffs can happen without warning due to loopholes. While starting a new business can be risky and hard work, it also has a payoff at the end. The article outlines several steps to take if you are thinking about launching a new entrepreneurial venture.

For anyone considering starting a business, there are numerous books and podcasts that will inspire you to consider entrepreneurialism as an option. There are interview podcasts with successful entrepreneurs, as well as books that contain the stories of successful entrepreneurs, each explaining what drove them into business for themselves and what they've done to achieve their success. For those who are already entrepreneurs, a weak economy is no reason to throw in the towel. By re-thinking a business approach, you can often find new ways to let people experience the product or service, and then let it practically sell itself.


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Questions to Ask When Choosing an Online Graduate Program
eLearn Magazine, July 9

If you are part of an increasingly large group of professionals who are either looking to change careers or shore up your existing qualifications by going to graduate school, the options have never been more numerous thanks to online education. However, it seems more complicated than ever to judge one program against another. To make sense of this complexity, an Instructional Designer specializing in e-learning and blended learning solutions discusses the most important questions to ask when starting the process of selecting an online graduate program.

When choosing an online graduate program, consider whether the chosen career is a good fit. To do this, start documenting parts of your work and life and how they affect your happiness. The things that revitalize you and keep you going should match up with your strengths and skills and prepare you for the daily tasks of your new career. Next, you need to think about why you want to get a degree online. Online alternatives may be the right choice if traditional graduate programs in niche areas are rare or unavailable. Online programs are also typically more convenient, even if they require every bit as much work as traditional programs do, if not more. There are, of course, disadvantages to getting a degree online, and isolation from your professors and peers is a big one. Any online program should maximize community benefits and in-person commitments, such as attending seminars or classes at the institution; working in cohort groups and building close relationships with a small network of peers.


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Computing: The Fourth Great Domain of Science
Communications of the ACM (Vol. 52 No. 9), September 1

Peter J. Denning, former president of ACM, and Paul S. Rosenbloom, a professor of computer science at USC, suggest that computer science should be viewed as the fourth great domain of science. Computing not only impacts the future of technology and education, it is now a pervasive and inescapable part of the world. Rather than thinking of computer science as merely everyday infrastructure that accompanies our lives, people should realize that computing is an important science with rewarding career options. Based on their observation that all the acknowledged sciences are grouped into three great domains - physical, life, and social – Denning and Rosenbloom argue that computing meets all the criteria for making it a great domain of science.

Science has a long-standing tradition of grouping fields into three categories: the physical, life, and social sciences. These domains share three common features: their foci are distinctive phenomena important in all sciences; the fields of each category have rich sets of structures and processes that evolve together through constant interaction; and their influence is extensive, touching all parts of life and providing unique and useful perspectives. Since computing does not fit neatly into any of the traditional domains, it is perhaps best thought of as a separate domain that satisfies the three basic criteria. It has a distinctive focus—computation and information processes. Its constituent fields—computer science, informatics, information technology, computer engineering, software engineering, and information systems—and its structures and processes are in constant interaction. Its influence is pervasive, reaching deep into people's lives and work. The core phenomena of the computing sciences domain apply universally.


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