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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, March 18, 2008

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 4, Issue 6, March 18, 2008




Help Wanted: Tech Companies Feel Skilled Labor Shortage
Network World Fusion, March 10

Technology companies have thousands of jobs they can’t fill because there aren’t enough U.S. workers with the skill sets they need. According to the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), technology, defense and financial services companies have the greatest need for skilled workers. For example, the average U.S. technology company has 470 high-skilled job openings. Microsoft topped the list of companies with the most available positions with 4,005 job openings as of January 2008, followed by defense companies Northrup Grumman and Lockheed Martin (each with more than 3,900 job openings listed), General Electric (3,078 job openings), JPMorganChase (2,164) and Cisco (1,500).

Technology companies have more job openings available than other large companies in the S&P 500. For example, companies that are members of the trade association TechNet (Google, HP, CA, Cisco, Juniper, Sun and Amazon) accounted for more than 18,816 job openings. Information Technology Industry Council members (Accenture, AMD, EMC, Apple, IBM, Time Warner, Texas Instruments and Vonage) had more than 21,972 available positions listed as of January 2008. Members of the American Electronics Association (Adobe, BMC, Citrix, Symantec, Dell, eBay and Intel) accounted for another 12,784 job openings.


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Hot Jobs in IT for 2008
Datamation, March 10

Despite the imminent threat of recession, many firms are planning to increase their IT hiring activity in 2008. At the same time, unemployment is still historically low for college-educated professionals, making it challenging to find highly-qualified IT employees. In order to land the best available candidates, many employers are starting to ratchet up compensation packages. According to the Robert Half Technology 2008 Salary Guide, average starting salaries for the IT industry will rise 5.3% in 2008. With that as backdrop, the article details the job positions that are seeing the greatest increase in hiring activity.

The Robert Half Technology survey outlined some of the positions experiencing the greatest talent shortages. For example, the lead applications developer role is forecast to have the largest increase in starting salary of any IT position, with base compensation rising 7.6% this year to between $80,250 and $108,000 annually. Messaging administrators also will see solid gains in starting salaries in 2008 as companies recognize the need to keep their employees, customers and clients connected. Base compensation is forecast in the range of $55,000 to $77,750 per year, a 7.1% increase over 2007.


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Web 2.0: The Skills Behind the Buzzword
Computerworld, March 10

The continued buzz around Web 2.0 is creating new opportunities for IT workers who have experience with particular programming languages and tools. Many firms are embracing Web 2.0 to create and improve their Web-based applications and Web sites so that Internet visitors have a much richer and more dynamic experience. Employers of all sizes are seeking IT professionals who have expertise with Web 2.0 design, programming and applications creation. As a result, candidates with Web 2.0 development skills are typically offered higher starting salaries than their counterparts who lack that expertise. The article takes a closer look at the Web 2.0 skills and experiences most in demand.

For job seekers who have not yet developed Web 2.0 skills, there are a number of training options available, as there are with most IT skills. Universities and private providers offer formal on-site classes and online training courses. Entire Web sites are devoted to Web 2.0 development, offering resources ranging from research articles to frequently updated message boards. Since experts in this area are still in short supply, some firms are willing to invest in training for promising employees. Getting up to speed may require less work than you might anticipate. AJAX, for instance, is not a new technology, but rather a new take on established ones.


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Woes Aside, Some Businesses Expect More IT Hiring
CIO Insight, March 4

A new survey from Robert Half Technology suggests that IT hiring could start to pick up in 2Q 2008, despite constant worries of economic recession. Approximately 20% of CIOs at larger firms expect to hire new workers in 2Q 2008. The new hiring survey also found that a net of 12% of businesses will add workers during the upcoming quarter, a slight increase from hiring levels in the current quarter. Companies with more than 1,000 employees foresee the greatest hiring increases, with a projected net rise of 19%. Within the IT sector, networking jobs continue to be in high demand.

Deloitte surveyed more than 150 technology and telecommunications companies in North America to understand their most significant talent issues and what they are doing to address them. Nearly two-thirds of respondents expect their workforce to grow by at least 6% over the next 12 months, and only 6% expect their workforce to shrink. Technology and telecommunications companies surveyed are generally less worried than companies in other industries about a prolonged global labor crisis. Generally speaking, companies that have younger workforces will be less affected by the coming wave of Baby Boomer retirements and are better positioned to adapt.


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Employers Must Learn to Love Social Media
Management Issues, March 12

Employers that embrace Web 2.0 and social media can create better workplace communities, improve worker engagement and boost overall communication. As consultancy Watson Wyatt points out, social media technology can become a key tool in promoting employee engagement. At the moment, however, many companies are only focused on the risks of social media. Instead of blocking employees from accessing the most popular external social media tools, though, these companies should be exploring ways that these tools can improve internal communication and create a more vibrant working environment. One area of particular interest is using social media tools on corporate intranets, thereby enabling employees to actively participate in creating and sharing information.

Just as employers drew up policies surrounding the use of the Internet during the mid-1990s, they now need to develop policies and guidelines around the use of social media technologies. This needs to include setting clear guidelines for acceptable use while, at the same time, adopting social media for a productive, internal purpose. Companies need a plan to introduce these new technologies into the workforce and ensure that sensitive information is not disseminated inadvertently or inappropriately. Employers that avoid social media technologies altogether are missing an important opportunity and running the risk of alienating Generation X-ers and Millennials.


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Focus on Job’s Positives
Job Journal, February 24

At any workplace, little annoyances about your job can build over time until you find yourself feeling trapped. There are two paths people commonly choose when this happens. They either attempt to land a new job somewhere else, or they continue in their work, resenting every second they spend on the job. However, as the article points out, there is a third, more attractive option for workers: changing your attitude and work to make the current job something you can endure and even enjoy. The article provides tips and advice for focusing on a job’s positives.

There are four secrets to liking your work, according to authors Ed Muzio, Deborah Fisher, and Erv Thomas of a new book about job satisfaction. The authors call for a combination of self-assessment, attitude adjustment, job-task tinkering, skill building, and change of perspective that is useful for anyone trying to salvage an unbearable job situation. For the 70% of workers who would like to find other jobs because they are unhappy in their current positions, there are constructive ways of dealing with jobs they have to come dislike. Understanding the sources of stress and friction in your work can go a long way toward solving your at-work issues. Often it is not the type or the amount of work, but how they react to the people and systems they run up against each day. If you can figure a better way of dealing with those, then you stand a good chance of being happier in your work.


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Some Companies Rethink Telecommuting
Computerworld (via Career Journal), March 4

Although the telecommuting trend has gathered momentum over the past decade, a number of high-profile companies are now re-thinking their commitment to having employees work from home or at other locations away from the office. A few important promoters of home-based and mobile-office work arrangements, including AT&T, Intel, Hewlett-Packard and parts of the federal government, have called some home-based workers back to the office, causing some to quit. The callbacks are small and don't reflect a full retrenchment, but the underlying factors at work suggest that other employers could follow, especially if the U.S. economy tips into recession. The pushback against telecommuting is due, in part, to a broader effort to consolidate operations, improve teamwork, and provide greater flexibility in reorganizing work flows.

While the number of U.S. corporate employees working full-time from home has increased by 30% over the past three years, the fact that high-profile employers like HP and Intel can call telecommuters back to the office is a source of concern for many IT workers. Intel recently began requiring many telecommuters in its IT group to report to the office at least four days a week. Full-time home office workers now make up 1% to 2% of Intel's 5,500 IT, down from less than 4%. Hewlett-Packard, the company that invented flextime, called a significant number of home office IT workers back to the office in 2006, during a consolidation of its 85 data centers into six.


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HR Still Doesn’t Get It
CIO Update, March 8

Within the U.S., technology companies continue to view compensation as the primary factor in attracting and retaining workers, despite growing evidence that most employees place a greater emphasis on flexibility and freedom. As a result, there is a growing disconnect between the practices of HR departments and the priorities of IT candidates. In a new survey, Deloitte outlines the possible contradictions at work in recruiting new employees. If employers are unable to adjust to the needs of employees, they may experience difficulty in both their short-term and long-term recruiting strategies, especially when it comes to finding creative and innovative talent. While organizations would like to shift their focus to long term retention strategies, the urgency of winning an immediate war for talent leads companies to view financial incentives as a quick fix.

The small increase in IT hiring comes despite signs of a pending U.S. economic downturn. However, rather than hunker down and cut staff, companies are choosing to invest in IT throughout a difficult economic period in order to pave the way for long-term growth. CIOs cited business growth (29%) as the biggest driver for increased hiring, with customer and/or end-user support (19%) and systems upgrades (17%) also mentioned. Industries with the highest expected hiring rates include business services (22% net increase), transportation (15% net increase) and manufacturing and retail (13% net increase).


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How Does Your Workday Compare to Steve Ballmer’s?
eWeek, March 6

At the annual MIX conference, technology evangelist Guy Kawasaki interviewed Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. In addition to discussing his typical workday as the head of the largest software company in the world, Ballmer also shared insights about his goals at Microsoft, the tools he uses to communicate with other Microsoft employees and his plans for the future.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is motivated in his everyday work by three primary factors. Firstly, he loves what he does and loves the fact that the company is at the forefront of creating technologies that change the world. Second, he has the chance to work with some of the smartest, most energetic people in the world and, thirdly, he enjoys good challenges. Ballmer said he has three kinds of workdays: those where he is out of the office meeting with customers all day; those where he is in the office and has back-to-back meetings; and those that are quiet, with maybe one meeting, where he can do research, think about and follow up on things that are important to him.


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The Mentoring Gap for Women in Science
MentorNet News, March 2008

Differences between the ways male and female science students relate to mentors could have a significant impact on efforts to attract more women to certain fields. A recent study tracked the career development of those who graduated from top doctoral programs in chemistry during a five-year time period in order to determine what impact their interaction with mentors had on their careers. The study, which asked the graduates a series of questions about their experience with mentors, found significant differences between men and women. Going forward, there are plans to see whether these findings will be replicated in other science, engineering and technology-related fields.

The survey found that men were more likely than women to have benefited from mentoring during their undergraduate years. 62% of men and 54% of women remember receiving help from a mentor during college. Asked who helped them the most in selecting a graduate school, 83% of men and only 71% of women cited a professor. The percentage reporting that they helped themselves or that no one helped them was nearly double for women (15%) as for men (8%). Moreover, 79% of men and only 63% of women relied in part on advice from their dissertation adviser on selecting a postdoctoral adviser.


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