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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, December 15, 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 24, December 15, 2009




Computer Science, Engineering Job Ads Increase in November
Science Careers Blog, December 7

In November 2009, the number of online job ads for computer scientists, mathematicians and engineers increased, while opportunities for other science-related jobs remained flat or decreased. Online postings for computer scientists and mathematicians increased by 35,400 in November, an 8.6% increase. At the same time, online job ads for engineers and architects increased slightly by 2,600 to 116,100 in November, that category's first monthly gain since July. The data, provided by The Conference Board, concurrently found that the number of unemployed science and engineering job-hunters generally declined.

The Conference Board report also includes a ratio of online ads to the number of unemployed workers in the job market for these categories, which is an indicator of job-market competitiveness. Among the science, engineering, and related groups tracked by Science Careers, the number of unemployed job seekers declined in October, as they did in September. For computer scientists and mathematicians, the number of unemployed job-hunters in October dropped by nearly a third to 159,400. Meanwhile, the number online ads increased by 7,500 for these workers, which made this market one of the tightest for any group in the country: more than 2.5 computer scientist or mathematician jobs for each unemployed person looking for work.


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H-1B Demand Spike May Signal Improving Outlook for Skilled Pros
CIO.com (via Computerworld), December 2

Two trends may be early indicators of an improving employment outlook for skilled IT professionals. Most importantly, demand for H-1B visas has accelerated over the last six to eight weeks after being flat for months. At the same time, the number of companies planning to increase college hiring is also on the rise. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, the period between October and December has resulted in a sharp spike in H-1B petitions. The article takes a closer look at the possible factors driving the increase in H-1B petitions, with an emphasis on underlying economic factors.

An improving economic outlook and confidence in hiring may be driving the increase in H-1B applications. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE said that in its member survey for November that 28% of respondents planned to increase college hiring, compared with 17% in August. Career experts concur that college hiring has started to look better. The unemployment rate for college graduates holding bachelor's degrees in October was 4.7%, down from 4.9% in September. There has been a clear correlation between H-1B petition increases and student hiring, with companies that have workers on student visas applying for H-1B visas in anticipation of improved budgets.


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Seeking Great Candidates Online
Business Week, December 9

Auren Hoffman, CEO of Rapleaf, provides some tips for using the Web and social media to find and recruit passive job seekers. While most companies would prefer to make hires through employee referrals, it can be difficult to elicit employee referrals on a large enough scale. Instead of only relying on employee referrals and active job seekers, companies should spend more time identifying, nurturing and recruiting passive candidates. While these candidates might not have the same qualifications as employee referrals, they can be found more easily. In a best case scenario, argues Hoffman, organizations will be able to transform their applicant mix to 30% active job seekers, 60% passive job seekers and 10% referrals.

Companies can seek out talented candidates on sites such as LinkedIn, XING, and other professional social networks. These sites house millions of passive candidates and include tools that let would-be employers search for candidates by geography, skills, interests, and a host of other criteria. It may be time-consuming to message each person you consider a good candidate, but it is among the most effective strategies. Instead of posting a job announcement that will only get read by active job seekers, companies can try to find passive candidates while they are surfing the Web through keyword advertisements. By purchasing ads that will appear when people search for keywords associated with a certain technical skill, a company can find qualified candidates.


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Entrepreneurs Buck the Economy
Management Issues, November 24

Entrepreneurial businesses and new start-ups have been surprisingly resilient throughout the economic downturn. Far from stagnating, entrepreneurial activity in the United States actually increased in 2008 compared to the previous year, although new ventures tend to be smaller and the risks of failure greater. According to the annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) National Entrepreneurial Assessment for the United States, produced by Babson College and Baruch College, total entrepreneurial activity increased from 9.6% in 2007 to 10.8% in 2008. Interestingly, just 13% of entrepreneurs started their ventures out of necessity, compared to 87% that did so because they had identified an exciting business opportunity.

The continuing strength of entrepreneurial activity means that the U.S. ranks near the top of the world's innovation-driven economies in terms of early-stage entrepreneurial activities. According to a recent report from the Kauffman Foundation, since 1980, net new job creation in the U.S. can be linked to firms less than five years old. In 2007, for example, new firms created nearly two-thirds of new jobs. The net impact of this job growth by entrepreneurial companies has been to add around two million new jobs to the U.S. economy each year. On the flip side, however, the GEM report found that the size of the ventures entrepreneurs are thinking about is getting smaller and the number of jobs they expected to create decreased from 2007 to 2008.


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The Best Jobs for IT Compensation
Computerworld, November 16

When there simply aren't enough qualified applicants to fill all available IT opportunities, the imbalance in supply and demand often leads to compensation higher than firms anticipated paying. In the case of the most highly sought-after skills, the time to fill a position may take as long as one year. According to the findings of Computerworld's 2009 Salary Survey, the title of information security manager had the highest total compensation increase, followed by network engineer, business intelligence analyst, software developer and storage administrator. Although the salary increases for these jobs are modest, career experts say the increases are reflective of current trends in the market.

A lack of adequate supply for some popular IT skills will fuel salary demands. In 2009, the title of "information security manager" topped the list of biggest compensation increases. It's a growing field internationally and has undergone a great deal of maturing, so there has been tremendous growth as a career option for experienced candidates. Information security jobs have also become elevated in organizations, putting upward pressure on pay. Based on CIO surveys, information and network security is a leading concern. In a recent Robert Half Technology survey, seven out of 10 respondents said that they will invest in IT initiatives in the next year, with 43% saying that information security projects top their lists. Virtualization (28%) and data center efficiency (27%) were next.


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Engineers Take a Bad Year in Stride
Tech Careers (via EE Times), December 3

Despite the general weakness in the economy and continued concern about outsourcing within the tech sector, most electrical engineers still love their jobs, plan to stay in the field and do not regret their investments in the profession. According to the findings of the 2009 EE Times Global Salary & Opinion Survey, the average engineer -- whether in Asia, Europe or North America -- is a fairly contented individual, both personally and professionally. In general, engineers are satisfied with their career choices, future prospects and growth opportunities. However, the article outlines two emerging areas of concern for engineering employers worldwide, especially the perceived compensation gap between engineers in North America and Asia.

While interest in the profession remains strong, there is a strong belief within the industry that most employers are leaving positions unfilled in order to keep costs down, thereby squeezing current engineering staff. Engineers in China, Europe, India, Japan and North America are unanimous in their belief that employers are operating with fewer than the minimum number of engineers the business would seem to require, leaving many engineers with no option but to seek new opportunities. More North American engineers than European respondents (43% vs. 27%) said they believe there are many job opportunities to be found outside their own geographic regions, but only 19% of North American respondents expressed a willingness to move, compared with 38% of their European counterparts.


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When Your Rising Star Stalls
Career Journal, December 1

More U.S. workers are finding an anticipated promotion or advancement pushed back due to the incumbent's delayed retirement or an employer's declining fortunes, according to career coaches, leadership consultants, hiring managers and recruiters. Coping with a clogged promotion pipeline requires improving your skills and marketability in creative ways. For example, you can volunteer to perform aspects of the higher role, accept a lateral move within the organization or find new ways to discuss personal development needs with your boss. The article provides advice on what to do if your career is stuck in neutral, advising that candidates should align themselves with the corporate culture of the organization.

Stalled promotions are growing more common largely because depressed retirement savings have delayed Baby Boomers' exits. About 44% of individuals age 50 or older plan to postpone retirement, with half of those planning to work at least three years longer than previously expected, based on a poll by consultants Watson Wyatt Worldwide. The postponed promotion phenomenon is most evident in the manufacturing, media, retailing, financial services and medical supply industries. Frustrated by their slowed ascent, some people seek employment elsewhere. With the tight job market, however, people disappointed by a delayed promotion can't job hop so easily. In many industries, it has become harder to find companies and organizations that are actively hiring.


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Retirees Get Back to Work
Federal Computer Week, December 3

Agencies have new authority to hire federal retirees for part-time government work, resulting in new opportunities for a rapidly growing segment of the IT workforce. For retirees, it means new opportunities to apply their experience to pressing needs. Among several significant changes in federal retirement rules under the fiscal 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, agencies can now rehire federal retirees for limited, part-time government jobs without reducing their pension benefits or salaries. The provision takes effect immediately, but how quickly agencies act on the authority will depend on whether they have vacancies to fill, funding to use and a need for people with critical skills.

According to the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, increased ability to hire retiree workers is among many tools available to enable government agencies to respond to workforce needs and fill critical positions. The bill limits the number of hours a rehired retiree can work: no more than 520 hours in the first six months of service, no more than 1,040 hours in any 12-month period and no more than 3,020 hours as a lifetime limit. Some agencies already had programs that allowed them to rehire retirees with no reduction in salary to offset pension benefits, but they had to get a waiver from the Office of Personnel Management. The largest program of that type is at the Defense Department, which limits retiree appointments to 2,087 hours.


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ACM India to Launch in January
Dr. Dobb’s Journal, November 23

The first major event for the ACM community in India is set for January 21, 2010 in Bangalore, the day before COMPUTE 2010, the annual event of the ACM Bangalore Chapter. The ACM India Launch Event will be a full day event featuring speakers that include current and past ACM Turing Award winners, ACM officers, and Indian ACM chapter leaders. Invitations are being sent to ACM members in India.

Speakers at the ACM India event will include Rick Rashid (Microsoft); Professor Barbara Liskov (MIT, Turing Award 2008); Sir Tony Hoare, FRS (Microsoft Research, Turing Award 1980); Raj Reddy (CMU, Turing Award 1994); and P.J. Narayanan (Co-Chair, ACM India). The ACM India Council, a new organization within ACM, comprises a cross section of the computer science and information technology community committed to increasing the visibility and relevance of ACM in India. The council is focused on a wide range of ACM activities.


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ACM Leads National Effort to Connect Importance of Computing to Need for Stronger Computer Science Education
ACM Press Room, December 7

ACM and its partners recently hosted the first-ever Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) to bring greater attention to the need to improve computer science education at the K-12 level. The week recognized the critical role of computing and the need to expose more students to the opportunities computer science presents. Throughout the year, the recently-launched website for CSEdWeek will provide computer science curriculum guides, data, research, posters, brochures, videos, and the opportunity to join the conversation through social media.

While half of the top 10 fastest growing jobs in the U.S. are in computing-related fields, the percentage of schools with rigorous high school computing courses fell from 40% to 27% from 2005 to 2009. The innovation-based society of the U.S. is at risk if students are not learning fundamental computing knowledge in K-12 classes. As a result, CSEdWeek has been created as part of a national movement to raise awareness of the significance of computer science in daily life and in the economy. Organizers of the event plan to make a concrete connection in people’s minds between economic growth and innovation and the need to focus on computing knowledge in K-12 classrooms.


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