ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, September 20, 2016

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

Volume 12, Issue 18, September 20, 2016

10 Tech Skills That Will Earn You More Money
Computerworld, September 9

According to data from, technology salaries in the U.S. rose to an average of $96,370 per year. That's a 7.7% annual increase and the biggest year-over-year jump in average tech salaries since Dice began tracking this data over 10 years ago. In addition, Dice also reports a jump in salaried positions, contract rates and bonuses from 2014. In seven major metropolitan areas, tech salaries averaged in the six-figure range for the first time in the past decade. Among the IT skills most in demand are those related to the cloud and security engineering.

The top 10 highest-paying and fastest-growing IT skills, according to research and data from, include Spark and Microsoft Azure. Spark is one of the more commonly used tools to process massive amounts of data, which is especially useful for companies that offer streaming services and need to manage heavy traffic. This skill is up 85% in market value year over year; the average salary for a tech worker with Spark skills is $113,214 as of August 2016. Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing platform that helps businesses build, deploy and manage apps and software hosted on Microsoft's data centers. According to Dice's data, the value of Azure skills has jumped 79% over the last year; workers with this skill report an average salary of $110,707 per year.

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6 Big Data Jobs You Can Get Today, August 29

With the massive proliferation of Internet of Things devices, organizations are scrambling to get a handle on their data—both structured and unstructured, and that’s leading to a huge spike in demand for big data professionals. According to a survey by PwC, 61% of companies said they believe their business should focus more on data analysis, and they are worried that if they don't, they're at risk of falling behind their competitors. To keep up with the competition, many organizations are hiring people to work with data. The most popular big data jobs include big data architect, big data engineer, data architect engineer and data analytics engineer.

Like architects who create physical structures, big data architects create blueprints for data management systems. The task is to assess internal and external data, then design a way to merge and organize the data. The job of a big data engineer is to work with organizations to develop, maintain, test, and evaluate big data solutions. Some of the nation’s best universities are on the lookout for top-notch big data workers and data scientists. For example, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) is looking for an IT data scientist.

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Micro-Credentials Could Be the Next Hot Ticket, September 14

Entrepreneurs and venture capitalists looking for the next big thing in learning should take a good hard look at micro-credentialing, which could be the future of American higher education. Micro-credentials, or nano-degrees, are already in place in some sectors such as technology and marketing. Already, there are plenty of these kinds of courses on sites like Skillshare or Udacity, and via technology certifications. This shift has the potential to disrupt the nation's entire higher education market. Imagine a scenario where an individual with perhaps 20 or 30 micro-credentials becomes much more marketable than someone with the traditional four-year liberal arts degree.

Higher education is ripe for a shakeup. There is broad agreement in America that our historic approach of educating students by sending them to a four-year university or a two-year community college is no longer a guarantee of success. For starters, the costs are too high. The average price for tuition at a four-year public university has increased nearly fourfold since 1975; today, that average cost stands at $37,640. Moreover, companies complain that new graduates leave college without the skills they need. Parents, students, employers and politicians all agree that the expensive qualifications offered by institutions of higher education today are not working for many Americans. The result has been intense pressure on U.S. colleges to overhaul their programs.

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Skills Shortage Means Salaries Soar As US Cities Vie For Cybersecurity Talent
Forbes, August 30

Skills shortages in any industry mean that salaries will always be high and cybersecurity is no exception. According to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 209,000 U.S. cybersecurity jobs without candidates and jobs are up 74% over the past five years. The same analysis says that demand for cybersecurity professionals will grow 53% through 2018. More data from the Black Hat USA conference reports that nearly 75% of security professionals say they do not have enough staff to defend their organizations against current threats. The demand for talent is so acute that U.S. cities are offering huge salaries to attract the right people and skills.

Naturally, the tech talent battle is not just about money. Professionals in cybersecurity also want a lifestyle that is congruent with their in-demand skills. As a result, it’s important to account for the cost of living in certain cities. This is leading to some interesting differentials between U.S. cities. According to the report, the city with the best-paid cybersecurity specialists is Minneapolis with an average salary of $127,757, which is 7% more in real terms than its closest competitor Seattle. Less surprising is the position of San Francisco in third place. There are several factors that determine rankings, with many of the cities based around the security needs of the military, the NSA or the country’s biggest companies.

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Ten Tips For Recruiting IT Talent
CIO Insight, September 12

Attracting the right IT talent isn't always easy and pitfalls abound. That’s the conclusion of a new study from TEKsystems, an IT staffing company that recently surveyed more than 2,000 IT professionals and 1,500 IT leaders about recruitment. The company's findings shed light on the IT hiring process and provide some valuable insight into what CIOs should do in order to ensure they're getting the best talent for the job.

Although CIOs might believe their employees are happy, it turns out that 54% of IT pros are actively searching a new job at least once per week. That means that companies need to present their own opportunities and openings that are just as attractive for those who are continually searching. The best way to keep employees happy is to deliver a semblance of a value proposition. However, just 8% of IT professionals see the value in staying at a company. It’s also important to consider what actually goes on a resume. According to 35% of IT leaders, resumes commonly contain lies. And even more contain exaggerations.

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Are LinkedIn and HR Technology Suppressing Hiring?
PBS News Hour, September 14

At a time when the number of IT jobs nationally continues to grow, why are fewer people being hired each month? For example, even though the number of jobs available in July grew to 5.9 million, only 5.2 million people were hired into those jobs. If anything, the pace of hiring appears to be slowing down from earlier peak levels. One explanation, say experts, could involve LinkedIn and the new techniques used by HR departments to hire. Employers might complain about the lack of skills, but the employment infrastructure that dominates might suppress hiring. Employers are encouraged to add more and more criteria to job postings, but that just makes it harder to find the right candidate. And new technology makes it too easy to encourage the solicitation of resumes from people who aren’t qualified. When keywords are used to sort candidates, it makes things even more difficult.

The employment infrastructure could be the single biggest culprit in not enough jobs getting filled on time. The HR technology seems to encourage irresponsible recruiting — solicitation of too many people from untargeted pools of candidates. It also serves to promote automated, reductionist matching of candidate keywords to job keywords. The algorithms make it look like HR is recruiting when HR is doing nothing but filtering keyboards. This results in the rejection of good candidates because the keyword model is woefully inadequate. It also helps to rationalize poor HR recruiting results: “We’re doing our job incredibly well using state of the art technology, so there must be something wrong with the talent.”

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7 Tips for Making a Good Impression at Your New Job, September 6

There are seven things you can do to make your first month at a new job one of your best. You need to be ambitious, of course, but you also need to build relationships with your co-workers and learn about the company through informal conversations. The first month in a new job is arguably one of the most critical, as it can set the tone for your entire tenure with the company. Your actions and reactions can make or break your reputation at your new company and can impact your entire career. Preparing for your new role at the company, then, should take into account not just the right IT skills and experiences, but also the right soft skills.

Before you head into the office for your first day, you should have done extensive homework. You're trying to discover as much as you can about your new role, how it fits into the larger business strategy of the company and also learn about the culture. As you're introduced to your new colleagues, peers and superiors, ask informal, conversational questions to help you connect with them on a personal level. Don't forget how important understanding the culture is. Speak to people outside your immediate department, set up lunches, figure out how to make those connections and figure out how they do business. Once you have familiarized yourself with your role and feel more comfortable, ask for feedback. That way you can make sure you are fitting into the expectations and the cultural norms and, if you don't, you can make the necessary adjustments.

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8 Signs an Employee is Exceptional, July 18

We can all spot a great employee – he or she is dependable, proactive, hardworking, a great leader, and a great follower. This employee brings a wide variety of easily defined (but hard to find) skills to the table. Some employees, though, are exceptional. They have skills and qualities that aren't evaluated on performance appraisals but make a huge impact on that individual's performance, the performance of the people around them, and especially on the company's results. There are eight core traits of these exceptional employees.

The smaller the company, the more important it is that employees can think on their feet, adapt quickly to shifting priorities, and do whatever it takes, regardless of role or position, to get things done. When a key customer's project is in jeopardy, exceptional employees know without being told there's a problem, and they jump in without being asked, even if it's not their job. The best employees are often a little different: a little eccentric, sometimes irreverent, even delighted to be unusual. They seem slightly odd, but in a really good way. Unusual personalities shake things up, make work more fun, and transform a plain-vanilla group into a team with flair and flavor. They also know when to rein in their individuality. An unusual personality is a lot of fun--right up until the moment it isn't. When a major challenge pops up or a situation gets stressful, the best employees stop expressing their individuality and fit seamlessly into the team. Exceptional employees know when to play and when to be serious; when to be irreverent and when to conform; and when to challenge and when to back off.

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The Work and Inspiration of the International Association for Computing and Philosophy
Blog @ CACM, August 30

Computer science and philosophy may be two disciplines that appear to have little in common; however, that’s a perception that the International Association for Computing and Philosophy (IACAP) is hoping to change. The focus of the organization is on philosophical computing topics. The organization started with basic ideas related to logic, software principles, the computational model, and knowledge representation and has progressed to include neural networks and natural language processing. Don Berkich, associate professor of Philosophy at Texas A&M Corpus Christi and the Executive Director of the International Association for Computing and Philosophy, explains why philosophers are attracted to the computer science field, and how areas such as network structures and information processing are impacting the development of artificial intelligence.

One question that often arises is whether computer scientists and philosophers should even bother with one another. After all, philosophers are frequently dismissed outside the discipline as meddlesome, ill-informed, and technically unsophisticated dilettantes whose harping on about this or that arcane, readily-resolvable issue is safely ignored. Conversely, computer scientists are viewed askance outside their own narrow discipline as puffed-up, obsessive technicians whose work may be useful (or dangerous) in the way most of merely applied mathematics can be useful (or dangerous), but it is hardly of any fundamental interest.

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The Soft Side of Software: Fresh Starts
ACM Queue, July/August 2016

In technology and computer science, almost more than any other field, a growth mindset is mandatory for success. In this field the tools and best practices are constantly evolving—there is always something new to learn. For many people this high rate of change can be overwhelming, but for the right person this can mean opportunity. When you are willing to dive in and learn new skills, it puts you ahead of the game; and when you are strategic about what skills you learn, it can help you grow your career even faster. No matter where you are in your career, there is more to learn. All of us can always use an excuse to get more invigorated and excited by our jobs.

The first step in making a fresh start in your career should be creating a learning plan. When you have been doing a job for a while, there isn't as much for you to learn in your day-to-day. Sure, there are always opportunities to improve little things, but your rate of knowledge acquisition slows down the longer you have been in a position. This makes it even more important to have a learning plan. You should have a list of things you plan to learn with some concrete tasks associated with each. Look back over your past performance reviews. Are there any areas where you could continue to develop and improve? If you ask others for feedback, what would they say and how can you do better?

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