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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, July 20, 2010

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 6, Issue 14, July 20, 2010




Finding a Job in a Third the Time
Computerworld, July 12

In this Q&A, David Perry, the co-author of Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0, explains how an unconventional search strategy can result in a new job in a third the time. Following his advice, job hunters should stop looking for jobs and, instead, start looking for employers and influencers. They should create a short list of 10 to 20 companies where they want to work and focus their efforts on making connections that lead to meetings that eventually lead to employment. Since technology professionals already have an understanding of networking and collaboration tools, they are particularly suited for these guerrilla marketing tactics.

Technology can be better utilized to create a better job search. The first place hiring managers and recruiters will go to find a potential candidate is ZoomInfo.com. The second is LinkedIn. If you don't have a profile, you can't be found. By creating a profile, you are basically putting your résumé on the Web. Better yet, ZoomInfo.com will update your profile with new career info whenever it appears on the Internet. Online tools can also be helpful in focusing your job search. Using FreshContacts.com, it is simple to put together a list of the companies you want to work for and the e-mail or phone number for the vice president or department head that is doing the hiring.


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Survey Finds IT Firms Optimistic About the Rest of 2010
Datamation, July 8

The near-term IT buying outlook looks encouraging, according to a study conducted by CompTIA. Nearly 60% of IT firms surveyed said they expect revenues in the third and fourth quarters to significantly or moderately increase compared to revenues from the first half of the year. Moreover, respondents expect the Business Confidence Index to increase 5.4 points over the next six months. However, while IT industry executives remain relatively confident about the tech sector and about their firm's prospects, they also continue to voice concerns about the chances for a “double-dip” recession for the U.S. economy.

The CompTIA survey focused on three areas: confidence in the overall economy; confidence in the IT industry; and confidence in their own company. CompTIA found that IT executives were least confident in the overall U.S. economy but had greater optimism for the IT sector and their own firms. Furthermore, their confidence has been growing. Fear of a stalled recovery fell from 58% in December 2009 to 46% in June 2010; fear of weak consumer demand fell from 56% to 40%; and fear about access to credit and capital fell from 41% to 26%. Even though IT buying all but stopped in late 2008 and through much of 2009, CompTIA expects an uptick this year.


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Consider Your Future Coworkers Before Taking a Job
Lifehacker, July 13

In a difficult hiring environment, it's tempting to jump at any job opportunity without thinking twice about your personal and professional development. However, keep in mind that the people who you'll be working with will play an important role in influencing job satisfaction. There are five questions you should ask before taking a new job, each of which focuses on the people you'll be working with and for. You should ask yourself whether you can learn from them, they're invested in your growth, you can trust them, and how focused they are on creating value for the organization. You should also consider whether senior leaders within the organization could mentor you and help you overcome potential problems.

People often worry about whether or not their new position will be interesting enough, prestigious enough, or pay enough in terms of compensation. While those are worthy considerations, instead take time to ask about the people at the company. Did you meet the team you would be working with? Do you think they are people you can learn from? Are your potential supervisor and future employer going to be invested in your growth and development? Are these people you feel good about working with day in and day out? How focused are they on value creation?


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Forget India, Outsource to Arkansas
CNN Money, July 8

With the national unemployment rate near 10% and cost savings still a priority, some companies are starting to look for workers in underdeveloped areas of the country for the kind of outsourced work that once would have gone overseas. “Rural outsourcing" is the practice of turning to rural areas of the U.S. for low-cost, highly skilled labor. It relies on two simple premises: smaller towns need jobs, and they offer a cheaper cost of living than urban areas. So businesses that outsource work to these areas can expect to pay rates that are often as much as 25% to 50% lower than if they were hiring elsewhere. In response, a new crop of outsourcing startups are popping up with development centers in rural areas all across the nation.

Compared with the estimated $60-billion-a-year offshoring industry, rural outsourcing remains relatively tiny. Yet the strategy is becoming a more popular option for businesses that are trying to stretch their budgets. Some rural outsourcers recruit workers from minimum wage jobs and give them intensive training in IT specialties. Others recruit experienced, older IT workers who are nearing retirement. At these outsourcing firms, turnover rates are low. For clients, the thought of outsourcing work to countries with different laws and business practices feels more risky than sending these jobs to companies in out-of-the-way destinations, so there is a natural bias to keep things onshore.


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IT Resumes: Think Twice About the Advice You've Been Given
CIO.com, July 1

While recruiters, professional resume writers and other career experts give out advice on how best to write a resume that will stand out from the competition, this advice doesn't always apply to IT professionals. IT resumes are different from resumes for professionals in other fields because IT workers have to capture a range of skills—both technical and functional—on their resumes. Because technology changes so rapidly and because so much IT work is project-based and involves so many moving parts, generic resume writing advice can do a great disservice to IT professionals. Generic resume writing tips lead to resumes that are too short on specifics about skills and experience, and may even confuse the recruiter if a job title does not accurately reflect job responsibilities.

The recession and the growing number of candidates vying for tech jobs have changed the nature of IT resumes. IT hiring managers aren't interested in short summary documents: they want details, and that means resumes that can be two or three pages in length. With so many people applying for IT jobs, hiring managers want to be able to make informed decisions about which candidates are worth interviewing based on a resume that communicates the technologies with which an IT professional has worked, the depth of experience they have with each technology, the size and scope of the projects on which they've worked, and how they achieved various accomplishments, she says. Moreover, the hiring manager may have another project coming up and may realize looking at your resume that you might be an excellent candidate for that other initiative.


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Promoting Your Job Search When You're Employed
Career Journal, July 8

If you are planning to advertise yourself on LinkedIn when you are already employed, you don’t want to be too overt, since people from your present company are likely to see your posting. If colleagues or your supervisor learn of your search, they may get the impression that you are unhappy with your current employer or manager, even if you are not, and cause the employer to question your commitment to the organization. Fortunately, there are ways you can subtly let it be known that you are open to opportunities. The article considers several ways to promote your job search without advertising your availability to your current employer.

Use your LinkedIn profile to detail you prior work experience and to emphasize your present job position title, job responsibilities and future career aspirations. Solicit professional recommendations for posting on your LinkedIn page and direct prospective employers accordingly. Join groups in your specific field of interest, since savvy recruiters generally seek out potential candidates through these groups. When job hunting in "stealth" mode, get comfortable using your account settings, so that your connections won't be notified each time you update you status or make changes to your profile.


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Seven Tips for Making the Most of Your Coworking Space
Web Worker Daily, July 12

Coworking is one of the hottest new trends for independent IT workers looking for a professional workplace environment without the commitment of a full-time position. If you’ve decided that you need to get out of the house and are looking for a coworking space, there are seven important ways to make the most of the experience. You should choose your space carefully, get to know the other members, learn to work in the cloud, and find ways to use the space to its fullest potential.

If you live in a large city with a choice of coworking spaces, it’s worth looking at more than just the facilities that the space offers. Check out the current mix of members, and see what activities and social events the space offers. One of the main reasons to join a coworking space is the community. Spaces with a very diverse membership can spark creativity. Try working at your chosen space for a day or two to see how you get on with the building, the facilities and the current members before taking out a full membership. Part of the reason for joining a coworking space in the first place is the social aspect, so talk to people when you can. Go out to lunch with the other members. It’s worth getting to know everyone, because you never know what business opportunities could arise out of your conversations.


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Community College Surge: IT Education on a Budget
IDG (via Computerworld), July 12

Today’s community college graduates are more prepared for their IT careers than at any time in the past 40 years. Today’s community colleges are taking steps to ensure that computer science students pursuing associate's degrees and certification training are prepared for the jobs they will be doing with real-world skills. The article looks at the changing campus; the changing curriculum; and steps taken to make community colleges more responsive to market conditions. The goal is for the U.S. to remain competitive in the world economy with proactive educational institutions that develop, adapt and augment technology capabilities more quickly and more frequently than is possible with a traditional, four-year approach.

Community colleges are rapidly evolving, with more than ever before featuring dorms, honors programs, bachelor's degrees and more. Of the 1,100 colleges represented by the American Association of Community Colleges, more than 270 offer some on-campus housing. Community colleges are also adding honors programs, which are seen as recruitment tools for students who hope to someday apply to highly selective four-year institutions. A few community colleges even award bachelor's degrees. In the Florida College System, 14 of the 28 community colleges have the authority to offer at least one bachelor's program.


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Cultivating Cultural Diversity in Information Technology
Communications of the ACM, Vol. 53 No.7, July 1

Valerie E. Taylor, the Department Head of Computer Science at Texas A&M University, weighs in on a new way to promote cultural diversity within IT. As she points out, the current lack of cultural diversity is especially evident with respect to the following ethnic groups—African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans—as well as people with disabilities. A number of organizations within higher education and the professional workplace are already focusing on providing support and programs to minorities and people with disabilities. A new, complementary effort in which groups, companies, and organizations focused on underrepresented cultures in IT have a forum to develop synergistic activities - the Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in IT (CMD-IT), launched in March 2010.

CMD-IT, created by five people experienced with enhancing diversity within the IT field, facilitates synergistic activities among industry, established organizations, and local projects related to ethnic minorities and people with disabilities in IT. The organization grew out of an NSF-sponsored meeting on Diversity in IT held at Texas A&M University in April 2008. That meeting identified the following goal for CMD-IT: To ensure that underrepresented groups are fully engaged in information technologies, and to promote innovation that enriches, enhances, and enables these communities such that more equitable and sustainable contributions are possible by all communities. That goal is made operational through objectives that include providing relevant resources; providing a leadership initiative that promotes leadership; and facilitating national-scale projects.


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Tierney in the New York Times: No Gender Bias in STEM?
MentorNet News, July 2010

MentorNet CEO David Porush responds to New York Times columnist John Tierney, who recently suggested that there is no real gender bias in math-related sciences. Tierney suggested that all disparities between the number of women and men in these fields can be explained by biological differences in the brain and by personal preferences. Tierney critiques legislation by the Senate funding an NSF initiative to enhance gender equality in academic science, defends controversial Lawrence H. Summers' remarks about biological differences between men and women, and refers to studies that find little evidence of gender discrimination, preferential differences, or physiological differences between the brains of men and women. After Porush examines Tierney’s remarks, he provides a more constructive way to think about gender bias in STEM fields.

According to Porush, the "personal preferences" argument to explain the gender gap is trivializing since preferences can be influenced and changed. Anecdotally, women and minorities continue to mention the personal discrimination and discouragement they faced as they strove to enter IT disciplines. Even if biological differences between men and women accounted for significant cognitive effects in their practice of science and engineering, such effects are easily trumped by social and political forces. Scientific journals and major research universities aren't monoliths, but evolving institutions maintained by humans in service to humanity.


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