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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, March 16, 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 6, March 16, 2010




IT Adds 25,000-Plus Jobs in 2010
Computerworld, March 8

According to a new survey from the TechServe Alliance, IT employment grew by 14,000 jobs from January to February, representing one of the strongest month-to-month gains since 2008. While IT employment still remains nearly 200,000 jobs below its 2008 peak of 4 million jobs, hiring managers and recruiters point to the jobs numbers as evidence that the employment outlook is improving. As demand for IT employees increases, they expect to see a slight uptick in hiring throughout 2010.

Consulting firms are already seeing increased hiring demand among some of their customers, while IT executives are hearing from recruiters about rising demand for IT workers. The uptick in jobs growth, while noticeable, is not dramatic. This reflects the fact that some companies continued to hire throughout the downturn. During the first two months of the year, there has been an increase of over 25,000 IT jobs. The data suggests renewed optimism and indicates that businesses are reversing recession-driven cutbacks.


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IT Industry Job Satisfaction Double UK Average, Survey Shows
Computer Weekly, March 10

In its recent survey of IT professionals in the UK, Loudhouse Research found that job satisfaction in the IT industry is nearly double the overall average. In fact, 81% of IT professionals in the UK are happy in their job; in contrast, only 42% of overall respondents to the latest quarterly Employee Outlook Survey reported that they were happy in their job. The majority of those in the industry see IT as a long-term career choice, with 67% of respondents expecting to be working in the sector for the next decade. Almost half of respondents (47%) also said that they have ambitions to become an IT director or tech entrepreneur.

Job satisfaction surveys help to outline the motivating factors for people who work in IT. For example, virtualization is ranked as the most exciting type of IT project for this year, followed by mobile and cloud computing. Interestingly, the areas IT professionals are focused on and excited about are the same areas technology suppliers are concentrating on. IT professionals have a positive view of technology and believe it can help businesses during the recession. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents said they can help their company steer through the recession and 81% said technology could change the world for the better.


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Personal Branding: IT Professionals' Four Pain Points
CIO.com, February 9

Personal branding as a career enhancer continues to resonate in the IT workplace, especially as the competition in today’s job market remains high. Landing a new IT job requires a lot more effort than searching the web and sending out resumes, and personal branding can be the extra something that makes you stand out from everyone else applying for the same job. Personal branding is equally important to IT professionals who want to advance their careers with their current employers. With that in mind, two personal branding strategists who have experience working with IT professionals outline solutions to four problems that IT professionals experience around personal branding.

Some job candidates do not understand why personal branding matters in their career advancement. After all, in the world of academia, intelligence and hard work leads to good grades and academic recognition. However, in the business world, intellect and hard work aren't always enough to yield a promotion or job offer. Candidates often need to showcase exceptional soft skills and have good reputations as well. Secondly, job seekers don't like the idea that a personal brand is inextricably linked with one’s appearance. Yet, there's a lot of evidence that packaging and presentation play a strong role in how people view you.


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E-Skills Launches UK Manifesto
Network World, March 5

Major IT employers have partnered with skills council e-Skills UK to launch the e-Skills Manifesto, which calls for additional investment in developing needed technology skills. The manifesto hopes to improve productivity in the UK by increasing the ability of organizations in all sectors to use technology. Estimating that 110,000 new people a year will be needed to enter IT careers, e-Skills UK has gained the support of twenty-three companies across a wide range of industry sectors. Four recommendations were made in the manifesto, including reforming IT-related education, helping companies innovate and increase productivity, ensuring government policy reflects the strategic importance of technology and incentivizing all individuals to increase their e-skills.

The e-Skills Manifesto pledges to support sector-backed work to transform the attitudes of young people towards IT. There is a particular focus on girls in order to address the gender imbalance in the industry, where just 17% of IT professionals are female. Changes are also needed to the IT-related school curriculum, to make it more exciting and relevant for students, to encourage them to pursue IT in academia and industry. The manifesto recommends that industry become more involved in this, such as by providing access to industry expertise and resources for IT teaching. It also encourages industry to get more involved in higher education, by extending the delivery of work-based programs, and co-investing with government in higher-level technology skills through the National Skills Academy for IT.


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What’s the Next Step in a Freelancing Career?
Freelance Switch, March 8

In order to maximize their long-run career potential, IT freelancers should understand the basic career paths that are available to them. Career paths change and have to remain flexible, especially if you’re freelancing. However, having goals gives you a reason to keep moving forward and finding new opportunities. The article maps out several possible career scenarios for freelancers, including the launch of their own creative agency or the development of a new product.

One career alternative for freelancers is forming a creative agency of your own. A creative agency allows you to take on more and bigger projects. Once you get to this point, it’s relatively easy to continue to grow. Another option that many freelancers seem interested in is creating some sort of a product out their freelancing skills, shifting their income from being based on their services to being based on a product. Such businesses can look very different: your product could be a web application, a book or dozens of other things. The switch can make it easier to increase your income, but also can take a whole new set of business skills beyond what freelancing requires.


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Invent Your Next Job
Forbes, March 9

For experienced workers, one way to shorten a job search is to create your own job description that responds to the needs of potential employers. Instead of making a career change or accepting a lower salary after building a very successful career, creating your own job taps into your unique strengths and talents. Since every company is trying to generate more revenue while decreasing its costs, approach a company with a project that you can implement to help increase profits. Since a job hasn't been posted for the project, you'll have very little, if any, competition.

To invent your next job, you first need to understand your area of expertise and your value. Review your past positions and the projects you were part of that produced quantifiable results by increasing revenues and decreasing costs for your employers. A profitable project at one company can often be just as valuable for other companies in the same industry. Once you've identified your proven value, develop an impressive, results-oriented résumé and online reputation. Typically, you can create an impressive résumé and enhance your brand by maximizing the power of professional networking Web sites like LinkedIn.


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Are You Hiring the Wrong People? Five Steps to Picking Winners
Bizmore, March 8

A hiring expert deconstructs the typical mistakes made during the hiring process that result in hiring the wrong people. While skills and experience may be accounted for, factors such as attitude, organization, efficiency and innovative thinking ability are not always factored in to the hiring decision. By re-thinking the hiring decision, companies can select better candidates with the core skills and other attributes that help them make an immediate contribution to the workplace. In short, hiring today is best done by creating a profile of a high performing employee for the role that details the talents, skills, experience and passions the ideal employee will have.

Organizations typically encounter three problems in the way that employees are hired. First, skills and experience may be used as exclusive criteria to identify viable candidates, without any outside verification of the impact or the success the employee had in this previous role. Second, an organization fails to complete an assessment of attributes, attitude and passion for the work; this makes it difficult to determine who would be a good fit for the role and in the workplace culture. Third, performance expectations for the role are not reviewed with the applicant to level-set expectations at the outset. As a result, organizations end up with average or low-productivity employees.


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A War for Talent or for Dead Wood?
Management Issues, March 9

The steadily improving outlook for the global economy means that companies could begin to experience retention problems as high-performing employees look for jobs elsewhere. Nearly two-thirds of executives and more than four-fifths of line managers believe their employees are disengaged from their work and would be more than happy to leave if they had another job alternative. As a result, recruitment firms are warning firms to brace themselves for a new war for talent in the coming months. If they choose not to replenish their talent pipeline, firms risk suffering deep talent erosion, declining morale and long-term underperformance from those that are left.

Increasing demand for executive talent, combined with a sharp drop in graduate recruitment, means that companies without the right talent strategies are at risk of developing a major skills shortage. Nearly one-third of the business executives surveyed in a poll for recruitment firm StepStone said employee engagement in their organization was low and that they expected to lose key people as demand for talent grew. Four out of 10 added they already have a shortage of talent in their organization. Overall, just 16% of line managers felt their staff members were fully engaged with the business.


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Too Much Programming Too Soon?
Blog @ CACM, March 1

Mark Guzdial, a professor at Georgia Tech, weighs in with ideas for teaching programming to students in introductory computer science classes. As Guzdial suggests, the current approaches for teaching programming, which rely on extensive programming practice and problem-based learning, may be better suited for more experienced students. In short, expecting students to program as a way of learning programming may not be as effective as once thought. The article proposes a number of alternative teaching approaches based on successful real-world examples, from using tools like intelligent tutors to focusing on program “completion” problems.

Guzdial argues that students need the opportunity to gain knowledge first before programming, just as with reading. Later, there is an expertise reversal effect, where the worked example effect disappears, then reverses. Intermediate students do learn better with real programming, real problem-solving. There is a place for minimally guided student activity, including programming. It's just not at the beginning. Unfortunately, the literature doesn't offer a lot of obvious answers for how to do computing education better. It does, however, provide strong evidence that what we're doing is wrong, and offers pointers to how other disciplines have done it better.


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Thacker, Founding Member of Three Major Research Labs, Linked to Tablet PC and Other Major Innovations in Computing
ACM Press Room, March 9

ACM named Charles P. Thacker the winner of the 2009 Turing Award for his pioneering design and realization of the Alto, the first modern personal computer. Thacker was also cited for his contributions to networked personal computers, the Ethernet local area network, multiprocessor workstations and the tablet PC. The Turing Award, widely considered the “Nobel Prize in Computing,” recognizes Thacker as one of the most distinguished computer systems engineers in the history of the field. The ACM Turing Award continues to encourage continued research in computer science, and the related technologies that influence the course of computer history.

Thacker created and collaborated on what would become some of the fundamental building blocks of the computing industry. The Alto computer, developed in 1974, included bitmap displays that enable modern graphical user interfaces (GUIs). He was the co-inventor of the Ethernet local area network, introduced in 1973, the “interconnection fabric” that allows multiple digital devices such as workstations, printers, scanners, file servers, and modems to communicate with each other. Thacker also designed the Firefly multiprocessor workstation before moving on to Microsoft Research in 1997 to help establish its Microsoft Research Cambridge laboratory, where he also oversaw the design of the first prototypes of today’s tablet PC.


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