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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, April 7, 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 7, April 7, 2009




Top 10 Technology Skills
Network World, March 30

Despite the worst job market in nearly two decades, the outlook for IT hiring is holding steady. Most CIOs are maintaining their current staffing levels, while others are even hiring specialists who have in-demand IT skills. The result is that IT remains a safe, interesting and high-paying place to be. According to David Foote, CEO of Foote Partners, which conducts quarterly assessments of IT pay trends, IT departments are continuing to hire talent in certain areas, such as business process modeling and project management. Foote provides a list of 10 technology skills that are in greatest demand.

According to Foote, the leading skill in demand is business process modeling. In fact, business process management, methodology and modeling is one of the few IT niches that saw pay gains in the fourth quarter of 2008. Database expertise is another area where pay is on the rise, up 2.9% in the last quarter. Companies are looking for IT workers with experience in Microsoft SQL Server and the Oracle Developer Suite. They're also willing to pay for workers with database certifications. Messaging and communications is also an area with improving prospects. Companies are particularly interested in hiring employees with experience in VoIP and IP telephony.


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Five Things to Do If You Lose Your IT Job
Tech Careers (via Information Week), March 24

While it's only natural to feel apprehension about IT job security, some are discovering opportunity in the wake of unemployment. The most successful job seekers are making looking for a job their full-time job. By doing so, they are uncovering new opportunities and tapping into connections that are already within their social networks. Since even the most aggressive job hunt won't take all your waking hours, most career experts advise that it’s important for unemployed IT workers to find other outlets for their physical, intellectual, and emotional energy. This might mean signing up for new training courses, volunteering in your community or even starting a new venture.

Most importantly, take the time to learn about leading-edge technologies that might help you land a job in a hot new area. There are many opportunities to pick up new skills, including classes, books and Web sites. Even IT workers that have jobs might think about taking a little time during their current workday to learn new skills that will insulate them from future layoffs. For free, using nothing but time, you can become a master of a skill like CSS or HTML. Launching a new venture is another option. Although there's less financing available from venture capitalists, opportunities with Web 2.0 technologies, new handheld devices, and other innovations are bountiful. Moreover, the tools to develop these ventures are plentiful and many of them are free.


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Computer Science Needs More Good Women
Red Orbit, March 31

Women involved in computer science say more girls should consider a career in this field. One of their role models should be MIT professor Barbara Liskov, who received the prestigious Turing Award from ACM earlier this year after a career filled with innovations and achievements. On one hand, educational institutions are finding it difficult to increase the number of young women pursuing a computer science career. On the other hand, women already working in the field describe a career as challenging, interesting and innovative. The article takes a deeper look at the barriers and obstacles to getting more women involved in the computer science field.

Despite signs of progress in the computer science field, one stubborn fact remains the same: relatively few women are selecting computer science as their academic major and future career path. According to the National Science Foundation's Broadening Participation in Computing program, women receive fewer than one in five of all computer science degrees that are awarded. There are a lot of reasons for this, including a curriculum that does not express the full opportunity set for women. Another problem is the stereotype that women aren’t good at math and computer science. Perhaps the biggest barrier is the perception that the field itself just isn't very fun or social.


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Avoid Getting Reorganized Out of Your Company
Wall Street Journal, March 30

Reorganizations grab fewer headlines than job losses, but they are common in a recession, and often precede or follow layoffs. Learning to deal with these reorganizations is key to moving forward in your career. It can be difficult to figure out where you fit in as management changes are made, new work groups are formed, and you find yourself working for a new boss. To survive, you'll need to adapt, while also assessing the future of your job. With that in mind, the article offers some advice on steps for workers to take when their companies are undergoing a reorganization.

After any reorganization, make the most of early team meetings. Rather than being timid, ask for details about your new manager's priorities, what he or she plans to keep or change in the department, his or her preferred style of working and communicating, and whether cost cuts are part of the changes. The more you ask, the more information you will have about the future. Next, take the time to do a self-assessment. Think about what you have to offer to the new team. The focus should be on the skills that have value for the organization, as well as the new skills or expertise that you will need in order to be more valuable. You need to be flexible and nimble in this economy, and that sometimes means doing things that you don’t want to do.


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Will Your Talent Pool Fix You Or Ruin You When Growth Returns?
Information Week, March 25

With the national unemployment rate now above 8% and many companies dealing with frozen or slashed IT budgets, it's a pretty long stretch to imagine a shortage of IT people anytime soon. Yet, it’s exactly this shortage of talent that IT leaders should be thinking about now. Once more companies refocus their energy from cost-cutting to new business growth plans, CIOs will be scrutinizing what types of talent they'll need to drive the IT projects that will fuel those new-business initiatives. This is especially true for the emerging pockets of opportunities in areas like healthcare and green IT, where strong market players are already ramping up their hiring.

Concerned about a future talent shortage, some companies are already thinking ahead. While many competitors may be focusing primarily on cost cutting these days, not all are. Sectors such as retail and health care are moving new IT projects up the priority list. Healthcare is a particularly attractive area since tens of thousands of U.S. hospitals and doctors will begin to deploy new electronic-health record systems and other IT-focused applications over the next several years. Tech vendors selling these solutions to the medical sector are ramping up their hiring efforts for the IT talent to train and support these efforts, while hospitals and clinics are also beefing up talent to deploy these projects.


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Find Your Job by Going to a Conference
Forbes.com, March 24

At a time when the IT jobs outlook has become more uncertain, networking at professional conferences can be the best way to find a new job. While potentially intimidating at first, these conferences can be an ideal place to meet new contacts in your industry, find out which firms are hiring and get the inside scoop on interesting new companies. When attending conferences, you will need to show up prepared with an elevator pitch as well as a list of people you’d like to meet. While asking for a job outright is not the best approach, you should focus on picking up useful information and insights from attendees and organizers of the event.

When attending conferences, it’s best to show up prepared. Have a 30-second "elevator pitch" ready and practiced out loud. In these 30 seconds, you should be able to articulate what you do professionally and the types of things you're looking to move into. Think about who you’d really like to meet at the event and prepare some questions in advance for these people. After handing out your business cards, ask if it would be okay to get in touch in the next several days to continue the conversation. Also, think about connecting with them via social networking sites such as LinkedIn.


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They’re Hiring in Hong Kong
The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 3

A sudden wave of hiring in East Asia, especially in Hong Kong, could lead to a brain drain of computer science talent away from America. Talented IT professionals and academics are finding that they can land high-paying tenure-track positions in computer science and similar types of positions relatively easily by packing up and moving to Hong Kong. The reason is that Hong Kong's eight public universities have recently begun to invest in the research necessary to turn them into global powerhouses. If Hong Kong’s ambitious plans for higher education take off, this career path could become increasingly common.

Over the past several years, Hong Kong has made a determined effort to raise its profile by positioning its universities to compete globally for students, scholars, and research projects. In the process, it is transitioning its higher-education system from the British three-year model into a four-year system aligned with those of the United States and mainland China. The overhaul includes pumping millions of dollars into research, retooling undergraduate curricula to inspire creative thinking, and hiring more professors. By investing nearly 6% of its annual budget in higher education, Hong Kong has ambitions of evolving into an educational hub for the region.


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How to Stay Upbeat in a Down Economy
CIO.com (via Computerworld), March 17

Despite the difficult hiring environment in 2009, it’s possible for IT professionals to improve themselves and even bolster their professional credentials during these tough times. This is true whether you're laid off and looking, or left behind and overworked. With this mind, Computerworld gathered tips from leading IT career experts - including Boston-area career coach and author Naomi Karten and Computerworld columnist Paul Glen - who share their thoughts and ideas on how to pick up new skills, leverage existing social networks and tap into local university and business community resources.

To remain upbeat about your career prospects, try to regain some of the enthusiasm of when you first entered the IT field. Instead of only focusing on tasks to do, do something just for the sheer technological challenge of it. Write a new program, fix one that's been broken, master a whole new programming language, or use your tech skills to connect with the world. At the same time, expand your social networking efforts. Take full advantage of social networking opportunities via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other online communities. A network of contacts can yield advance notice of a company that's hiring -- or laying people off. More broadly, social networking can help you understand key trends within various markets.


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Plan Your Web Working Career Path
Web Worker Daily, March 24

For full-time Web workers, one of the primary challenges is finding and establishing a career path. Since there is no clear or pre-determined career path to follow, it can be hard to determine which step should come next, or even if one exists. There are no road maps, and it’s completely up to you how to progress professionally. With that in mind, the article provides advice and insights on how full-time Web workers can guide their professional development.

In order to plan a Web-working career path without making too many mistakes or following too many false leads, it’s best to chart your course as early as possible. This might mean simply taking a pen to paper, or using sophisticated mind-mapping software. Start with your current position at the center, then brainstorm a number of possible directions your career could take. You could do this by comparing yourself with others in the field, by taking a survey of existing professional goals you might have, or by asking friends, colleagues and relatives what they imagine in your professional future. Use your career goals and directions as endpoints surrounding your current position.


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Don’t Be Typecast as a Software Developer
ACM Queue, February 1

Most people understand typecasting in terms of television or movies, where an actor plays the same role so often that that's the only role the actor is ever offered. Yet, as Kode Vicious explains to a concerned IT professional, the same analogy is true for the software industry as well. Being typecast as a developer is what happens when you keep taking the same jobs and doing the same things that you have always done. While it is always difficult to get a job doing something that you have no experience with, there are a few things you could do to avoid this dilemma without stretching the truth or padding your resume.

The most important thing that all engineers need to do is to keep learning about their craft. This does not necessarily mean attending conferences or classes. One of the easiest and most effective things you can do is to join a professional society. Especially for students, memberships can be affordable. IT workers should subscribe to a journal or two and read the abstracts of papers in areas they're interested in. If you read the majority of most abstracts, you'll have an idea of what's going on in your area and you'll also discover new fields to study.


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