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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, February 17, 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 4, February 17, 2009




Digital Archivists, Now in Demand
New York Times, February 7

Given the amount of content that still needs to be digitized – such as newspapers, court records and corporate documents - the role of the digital archivist is growing in importance and demand. After adapting non-digital content for computer databases, the digital archivist spearheads the process of arranging it alongside newer, digital material in a way that enables people to find what they need. Known also as digital asset managers and digital preservation officers, these digital archivists are finding positions in both the public and private sectors. Profiling a group of digital archivists at UCLA, the article highlights the changing roles, duties and dimensions of the position.

While familiarity with information technology is a prerequisite for the digital archivist job, most organizations that are hiring also want people with wider experience, such as knowledge related to digital copyright. As one expert points out, people with IT-only backgrounds tend to focus on storage solutions, rather than on making information more accessible. By some estimates, 20,000 people work in the field today, and that number could triple over the next decade. Many work for public institutions, but a growing number of businesses, including law firms- are employing them also.


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Companies Are Hiring But Will They Hire You?
Computerworld, February 9

Dave Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology, weighs in on the current hiring environment for IT professionals. Despite fears of economic recession, companies are still moving forward with key IT initiatives and hiring to fill specific needs. In fact, during 1Q 2009, 12% of CIOs polled by Robert Half Technology still plan to hire new employees, while only 4% anticipate personnel reductions. As Willmer points out, by learning about some of the bright spots in the IT sector and the in-demand skills that employers value most, job candidates will have the best chance to succeed under challenging conditions.

Companies are still pursuing critical IT initiatives, which are helping to bolster the IT hiring environment. In addition to embracing the virtualization of servers and storage, CIOs continue to invest in information security in an effort to protect data and intellectual property from vulnerabilities. IT executives are also increasing their investments in wireless and mobile applications. IT hiring activity is especially brisk in a number of IT specialties, including help desk and desktop support, networking, applications and Web development, network engineering, and systems and data security. Demand is stronger for certain skills, such as .Net, SharePoint, Java and SQL Server development. Certain industries (e.g. health care and education) and certain geographic regions (e.g. the Mountain region and New England) are the most optimistic about hiring.


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Certain IT Skills in Demand Despite Economy
CIO.com (via IDG News Service), February 2

According to a recent study by IT staffing company Veritude, the overall weakness in the U.S. economy is forcing employers to become more tactical in their hiring approach. While cost-cutting remains a priority, certain IT skills remain in high demand. In fact, the new survey found that 38% of companies intend to add staff in key technology areas that will drive growth in the business. The article takes a closer look at the job titles and functions that provide the best opportunities for job seekers in 2009.

The study points out that workers with business-intelligence skills and expertise in C, C++ and C# programming should fare especially well in the weakened job market. Also, 17% of companies are now looking for Mac developers, more than tripling the previous survey's finding of 5%. While staff cutbacks are being considered at one-third of companies, the anticipated cuts do not appear to be especially deep. For example, 22% of those who plan to reduce staff said they would only eliminate between 1% and 5%.


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Tech Is a Safe Career Choice Today
InfoWorld, February 4

Despite the rising concerns about job security in the IT sector, technology remains a respected profession with relatively high compensation and solid job prospects. The problem, however, is that young people in high school and college exploring new career options tend to have a less than optimistic view of future job prospects. After exploring the new approaches that educational institutions are taking to fill the tech talent pipeline, the article analyzes the compensation and job stability numbers for technology careers.

Educational institutions are working hard to encourage college students to consider possible tech careers. As a result, enrollment in college STEM programs has seen an uptick lately. In regions such as Silicon Valley where technology companies are still willing to pay top dollar for recent grads, there has been an increase in student interest in computing-related studies. Other colleges are re-thinking their curriculum to attract students, such as by migrating coursework related to artificial intelligence and social networking to freshman-level courses. They are also introducing students to a wide range of possible careers beyond just software development.


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New Research Reveals Highest-Paid IT Skills and Certifications During the Recession
CIO.com, January 29

The new Foote Partners IT Skills and Certifications Index highlights the individual IT skills and certifications that increased and decreased most significantly in value during the final quarter of 2008. This latest data reflects for the first time the impact of the financial crisis and economic recession on IT skills and what companies are willing to pay for them. The article provides a line-by-line review of the non-certified and certified IT skills that increased and decreased the most in value during 4Q 2008, as well as a summary of the highest-paid non-certified and certified IT skills.

The specific non-certified IT skills that increased the most in value during 4Q 2008 include: NetWeaver Portals (SAP EP), PHP, Apple OS X/Tiger/Leopard, ITIL and Java/J2EE, SE, ME. Of the IT skills that increased the most in value during the fourth quarter, NetWeaver, SAP Solution Manager, Oracle Developer Suite, Microsoft SQL Server, database management and master data management skills ranked among the highest paid non-certified IT skills. Though not among the highest-paid IT skills, PHP, Apple OS X, ITIL and Java/J2EE/SE/ME skills showed some of the biggest pay increases. Pay for IT professionals with PHP and Apple OS X skills jumped 16.7%, while pay for ITIL and Java/J2EE skills rose 11%. On the other hand, the pay increases in some non-certified skills were offset by pay decreases for other skills.


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The Dangers of Being Under- and Over-Qualified During a Recession
Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang, February 4

The economic downturn is forcing many IT professionals to re-assess their job prospects, especially now that many companies are bowing under the pressure to downsize their workforce. In some cases, companies are cutting thousands of IT professionals at one time, regardless of skill level, tenure or seniority. As a result, over-qualified and under-qualified IT professionals face perhaps the most difficult prospects of re-entering the workforce. Companies want experienced workers, but often are not willing to take a risk that highly-qualified candidates will stick around once the economy improves. With that in mind, Jeremiah Owyang offers some practical advice of what these job candidates can be doing in order to succeed in a tough economy.

Many highly-talented IT professionals will be applying to positions that they’ve never thought of before. Some will even consider jobs in new industries that are only tangentially related to IT. On the surface, it would appear that these over-qualified professionals would be able to walk into any position and after the first interview land the job. The problem, however, is that employers will still want to hire the best fit for the job – not necessarily the most experienced or capable. From their perspective, someone with too much experience or too much education for the position may demand a higher salary or more perks. Employers feel that these overqualified candidates are likely to leave once the economy picks up.


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Involuntary Consultatude: A Between-Jobs Career
Computerworld, February 2

During economic downturns, the number of people exploring potential careers in consulting tends to grows dramatically. However, if you want to thrive as a consultant, you need to consider three key issues. For example, you will need to think about what type of consultant you want to be; what value you can offer clients; and with what types of clients you would like to work. In the process, you will need to examine why you want to become a consultant in the first place and determine the types of clients and technologies that provide the best fit with your previous experience.

First, you have to consider what type of consultant you want to be. There are three categories to consider: contractor, employee on audition and management or technical consultant. Contractors are typically temporary employees, devoted to a single client, working on the delivery of services. They usually work on a discrete project and stay with a client for a limited duration. Employees on audition are contractors who are really looking for a full-time permanent job. Management or technical consultants rarely work on long-term assignments as temporary employees. They remain outside of the organization and advise managers on how the companies themselves should work or on some aspect of how technology can be leveraged.


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The Minimalist Way to Launch a Freelance Career
Web Worker Daily, February 5

With so many freelancers now looking for work on the Web, it makes sense to keep things simple and adopt a minimalist approach to your freelancing career. A minimalist approach will allow you to focus only on the essentials, convey a clear message, and keep maintenance tasks to a minimum. For example, developing a minimalist, uncluttered website can help you attract prospects, while paring down the number of services that you offer clients can help you build expertise and credibility within certain areas.

While most Web workers are multi-talented, it’s best to start with just one primary offering for clients. Working on only one narrow field at a time will allow you to become known as an expert in that field because you won’t be distracted by other ventures. Also, try to serve one audience only. The problem with trying to communicate with too many types of people at the same time is that instead of doing a great job of reaching a select handful of prospects, you’ll do a mediocre job of reaching many prospects, with less work as a result. Whether you’re marketing directly or indirectly, the language you use should be intended for one niche market only. Often, this will lead to repetitive deliverables, processes, and client communication.


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Maintaining Employee Morale
Network World, February 10

Despite the deteriorating economic outlook, there are a number of steps that organizations can take to improve employee morale. Most importantly, organizations should consider how they can help employees shoulder additional work and provide ongoing assistance to leaders struggling to maintain productivity. In the process of interviewing managers and HR professionals about keeping workers engaged and focused, OnPoint Consulting has developed a mix of traditional and innovative ideas for maintaining employee morale.

Increasing disclosure of what’s happening to your company and your industry is one way to improve employee morale. Senior leaders should share timely information regarding the company’s financial health as well as the overall health of the industry. Companies can also rejuvenate recognition programs. Many firms have these programs in place, but don’t use them effectively. Consider gestures ranging from a simple thank-you note to monetary awards.


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ACM Names 37 Distinguished Members for Advances in Computing Technology
ACM Press Room, February 5

ACM has named 37 of its members as Distinguished Members in recognition of their individual contributions to both the practical and theoretical aspects of computer science and IT. The new ACM Distinguished Members include computer scientists and engineers from some of the world’s leading corporations, research labs and universities. Through their significant advances in computing technology, they have dramatically influenced progress in science, engineering and business. While these Distinguished Members hail from many parts of the computing field, they have in common a commitment to technology and a passion for progress.

Nineteen of the Distinguished Members represent well-known corporations in the high tech sector. Their multi-faceted achievements have resulted in a variety of innovations, including data mining, requirements analysis in systems engineering, memory and storage systems and processor designs, artificial intelligence, mobile services platforms, electronic commerce, usability research, process management technology, Web searching, and optical networking protocols. The other eighteen Distinguished Members were recognized for their academic and scholarly achievements in a wide range of areas including optimization techniques, programming languages, software engineering, artificial intelligence, information retrieval modeling, computational complexity theory, design automation, behavioral authentication data, neural network techniques, natural language programming, grid computing, fault tolerance, and computational electromagnetics.


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