ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, July 5, 2016

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Volume 12, Issue 13, July 05, 2016

Big Data Jobs Are Out There – Are You Ready?, June 20

The big data industry is growing fast, with the market predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 23.1% over the 2014-2019 period. That’s leading to new big data career opportunities, from network security companies to financial institutions, as organizations look for ways to use big data to enhance their effectiveness. Companies are looking for people with the ability to work with very large data sets. Big data is a growth industry and people from a variety of academic backgrounds can find successful careers in this area.

Even if you didn’t major in “big data,” your academic background shouldn’t be an inhibiting factor when you start to contemplate becoming a big data professional. People working in fields such as physics, bioinformatics, statistics, political science and psychology are already heavy users and analyzers of a large amount of data. Transition from these types of disciplines to big data analytics could be relatively smooth. If your original education and training didn’t focus on data, that’s not necessarily a problem. Your own discipline-specific knowledge, insights and perspectives can be valuable when figuring out how to leverage big data in the most sensible way. The only catch is you need to be willing and able to acquire the technical skills necessary to either analyze or work with big data.

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5 Ways to Beef Up Your Resume Over the Summer, June 23

If you're an IT professional looking to land a new role or a professional looking to make a career change, summer's the perfect time to add new skills on your resume. The good news is that the availability and affordability of online learning has made it easier than ever to add critical hard and soft skills to your resume. If you're looking to beef up your IT resume, here are five core areas to consider: computer science; business and management (including entrepreneurship); Java programming; data science and analytics; and agile software development.

IT is one of the fastest-growing and most lucrative industries, so for professionals looking to brush up on basics or to make a career change, an introduction to computer science is a great place to start. For example, Harvard University's CS50x course, developed with edX, is a comprehensive introduction to computer science and the art of programming for majors and non-majors alike, with or without prior programming experience. This entry-level course teaches students how to think algorithmically and solve problems efficiently. The User Innovation course from MIT encourages students to identify a problem, develop a solution and then work to monetize that through a business plan. It helps students to think of ways they can supply others with the novel product or service they have already developed.

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Obama Administration Releases $150M in Grants for TechHire
eWeek, June 28

At the end of June, the U.S. government released $150 million in Department of Labor grants for 39 tech-related partnerships across the country. Using these TechHire grants, awardees will launch innovative training and placement models to develop tech talent as a way to keep and create jobs in local economies. These new career options will include boot camps, online learning options and competency-based programs. Having a pipeline of tech talent can be an important factor in bringing new jobs to local economies, facilitating business growth and lifting more local residents into the middle class. Moreover, these grants will enable more communities to expand their own local tech sectors.

As the White House pointed out in announcing the new programs, tech jobs are a pathway to the middle class. Tech jobs pay one and a half times the average wage of a private-sector job. Studies have shown that these opportunities are also accessible to those without college degrees—men and women with non-degree certificates in computer or information services earned more than 65 percent of men and women, respectively, with more traditional associate degrees. There is a large and growing unmet demand for tech workers. At the present time, there are more than 600,000 open IT jobs across all sectors—more than two-thirds in fields outside the tech sector, such as manufacturing, financial services and health care. Across the country, employers are struggling to find skilled talent for these positions. New innovations in training and hiring can help meet the tech job demand.

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Tech Pros Share Advice For New Computer Science Graduates
Network World, June 20

Computer science graduates are in demand, and that’s leading to record placement rates for new graduates. Last year, 76% of computer science graduates were working full time within six months of finishing school - the highest full-time employment rate among new college graduates and well above the 58% average across all majors, according to a new report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). However, earning a degree is just the beginning of a new professional’s education. In order to navigate the transition from academic life to the professional world, you have to focus more on just your technical skills. You also need to master all the soft skills – such as problem solving and people skills – that will pave your path to success in the tech sector.

The best advice for a satisfying IT career is to have fun and ask questions. There is nothing better than getting up each morning looking forward to your day at work. Once you’re on the job, never be afraid to ask questions. Accept the knowledge gap and be ready to learn. Also, learn to embrace old-school networking. Even in the young, hip, tech space, the best way to network is still old school: build a network of peers. Go to hackathons, engage on social networks, participate in forums, etc. Everyone you talk to and meet can be an asset whether it's now, five years or maybe even 10 years from now. A fellow developer will be an ally when you are looking for your first job or a new job down the line when it's time for something new.

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Two Ways to Land a Job With a Top Tech Company — Even If You’re Not an Engineer
LinkedIn Pulse, June 29

Even if you’re not an engineer, it’s possible to land a job with a top technology company. The key is to understand how your skills in people management, operations, sales or strategy translate into future success for a technology company. The tech industry, though powered by engineers, has created thousands of companies, large and small, with jobs and career opportunities for every kind of professional. All you have to do is figure where and how your skills intersect with technology. Moreover, you have to learn to act and think like you belong in an engineering culture; you have to take advantage of every opportunity to learn more about a company and its role within the tech sector.

The key to landing a job is finding the intersection of your skills with the needs of a tech company. If you’re a writer or editor, or in HR, sales, or marketing, for instance, most tech companies clearly have a need for your skills. The same is true for people adept at supply chain management, manufacturing, and logistics. However, your skills alone are not enough. You need knowledge. Knowledge about what different tech companies make and sell, knowledge about tech customers and market challenges, knowledge about tech trends and advances coming down the pike. You need, in other words, to embrace a mindset of continual learning. This means filling your tech gap with voracious reading and education. Sign up for classes, attend meetings, ask questions, tune into analyst calls, and realize how your work matters.

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How to Create Paths to Career Advancement That Matter to Your Employees, June 29

According to a 2014 Global Workforce Study conducted by Towers Watson, career advancement opportunities matter most to employees when deciding to join or leave an organization. It’s a great benefit to advertise, but how exactly are companies delivering on internal talent mobility? Companies need to create and define specific career paths to retain top talent and attract the best of the best. For example, they can establish formal training programs and outline specific criteria for each job function, so that employees have a clear roadmap of the future. They can also encourage feedback at each step of an employee’s career, ensuring that managers are doing all they can to help them along their career development path.

To maximize recruitment and retention, organizations should establish training programs and criteria for moving along a career path. Before recruiting, define goals and expectations for each role. Knowing what is needed informs hiring and results in better cultural and competency fits. Align each employee’s goals with organizational goals. For example, if the goal is to improve customer service, incorporate training on conflict resolution for customer service representatives. Cater modules to each individual employee. This requires an evaluation of everyone, looking at how their skills align with company expectations. The best way to develop career paths, tailored to each person, is by gathering feedback to create career development plans. Employees should also have a voice in their career paths. If they’re hired in product research and want to move over to sales, help them develop an action plan.

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With new technology comes new ways to search for jobs, and as more candidates search for job leads on their mobile devices, there are now a growing number of apps that are available to help you along in your job search. The best job apps help you track everything that’s relevant to your job search, and then connect with people who can help to give your career a boost. Six apps that you can use during the job search include JibberJobber, SnapDat, CardDrop, PocketResume, Interview Pro, and In the Door.

The JibberJobber app acts like a filing cabinet or personal assistant right inside your phone. The app keeps track of everything that is relevant to your job search: where you applied, who your contact for each company is, jobs you want to apply for. This is good if you have a hard time keeping organized or just want to go that extra mile. SnapDat is an app that allows you to send an e-business card to anyone on your contact list. This is a great app to have if you are working on your networking and are going to new events to make contacts. CardDrop is an app that is similar to SnapDat in that it uses e-business cards. However, it uses your business information in a different way. With the app you can create your own e-card. Then, you can “drop” your business card at a specific GPS location.

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Perfect Icebreakers: 8 Smart Phrases That Will Make You Better at Networking, June 29

Networking events are a great opportunity to make valuable contacts, professionally and personally, so you should always have a few icebreakers available when meeting new people. But many people stress over the pressure of trying to connect quickly and impressively with complete strangers. Some even stay away because they can't get comfortable with the idea. However, if you prepare well, you can know that you won't be caught in a long weird silence or trying to think of something to say that doesn't sound awkward. Then you'll be ready not just for networking events but for company events, conferences, cocktail parties, and any other social events that take you outside your circle of family and friends.

One icebreaker to learn and practice is perhaps the easiest to master: Put out your hand, flash a genuine smile, make eye contact, and introduce yourself. From there the person you're talking with will almost certainly share their name, and you're already off to a good start. Another good icebreaker is to ask, “What do you do?” People love to talk about themselves. If you're inquisitive and curious, most people will pick it up from there and carry the talking. Again, it's a question of starting with the basics. “What business are you in?” is a slightly different version of "What do you do?" Either can be appropriate, depending on the event and the person. You may even want to use both.

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Changing the Game: The World of Sports Analytics
Ubiquity, May 2016

Sports analytics, or the art and science of gathering data about athletes and teams for analysis to create insights that improve sports decisions, is seeing a boost in popularity, and that’s creating new career opportunities for IT professionals with data analytics backgrounds. Dave Schrader, a big data and business analytics expert, explains how and why sports analytics are being used today, and gives examples of how they are being used by both front- and back-office staff to improve athletic performance. According to one study, investments in analytics will go from $125 million per year in 2014 to $4.7 billion by 2021.

Sports analytics informs decisions such as deciding which players to recruit, how much to pay them, who to play, how to train them, how to keep them healthy, and when they should be traded or retired. For teams, it involves business decisions like ticket pricing, as well as roster decisions, analysis of each competitor's strengths and weaknesses, and many game-day decisions. Front-office analytics include topics like analyzing fan behavior, ranging from predictive models for regular season ticket sales, to scoring tweets by fans regarding the team, athletes, coaches, and owners. Back-office uses include analysis of both individual athletes as well as team play. Team analytics include strategies and tactics, competitive assessments, and optimal roster choices under various on-field or on-court situations.

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The Ritual of Academic-Unit Review
Communications of the ACM, July 2016

Periodic review of academic units is a standard practice in academia, but there’s still a lot that can be done to optimize their performance. The goal of such review is to contribute to quality enhancement by providing the unit and the institution with a clear assessment of the unit's strengths and weaknesses. Typically, such a review consists of a thorough self-study by the reviewed unit, which is followed with a visit by a committee of experienced academicians. After the visit, the committee submits a report, which combines incisive analysis with advice for unit improvements. It’s what happens next that’s the problem – often, very little actually changes. The article outlines three ways to improve the results of academic-unit reviews.

The first reason why academic unit reviews usually accomplish so little is due to cultural barriers. Culture is usually defined as a way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs of a particular group of people at a particular time. Each academic unit has its own unique culture. Culture usually creates social cohesion by means of shared expectations, but it can also be a barrier to change. Quality enhancement requires an academic unit to change the way it runs its business, but culture is persistent and change is difficult. Calling for changes that run against an entrenched culture are almost impossible to implement.

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