ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, June 6, 2017

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Volume 13, Issue 11, June 6, 2017

You Don’t Have to Major in Computer Science to Do It as a Career
MIT Technology Review, June 1

An extensive new study from the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project indicates that students are making use of less obvious career pathways than majoring in computer science to land software and programming-related jobs. The study used U.S. Census Bureau data to track the career choices of 1.2 million college graduates over the period from 2010 to 2013. Among its findings: many people working as computer scientists, software developers, and programmers used their college years not to major in computer programming or software development, but instead to major in traditional sciences or other types of engineering.

Among graduates with degrees in physics, math, statistics, or electrical engineering, as many as 20% now work in computing-based fields. At least 10% of people who majored in aerospace engineering, astronomy, biomedical engineering, or general engineering have made the same migration. Even geography, nuclear engineering, and chemistry departments send as many as 5% of their undergraduate majors into software development or similar fields, the Hamilton Project reports. For example, bioinformatics companies may be ready to hire biology majors who picked up coding skills without majoring in computer science. And manufacturing companies are now recruiting math majors for jobs as software testers and software developers.

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The 10 Best Cities to Live In When You’re Starting Your Career
CNBC, May 30

For recent college graduates thinking of starting a new career, a new survey suggests that the three best cities in terms of both job potential and affordability are Houston, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Washington, D.C. The report ranked the top 50 biggest metro areas based on several factors young people would find important, including employment rate for people ages 22 to 26, cost of living, median salary, number of entry-level jobs and number of parks. As it turns out, New York ranked No. 8 and Los Angeles ranked No. 20 on the list. Both cities, among other factors, ranked low in affordability.

Houston topped the list of top cities for its job potential and affordability. In this Texan city of 6.7 million people, the median full-time pay for recent college grads is $43,500 a year, according to the report. At the same time, rent is affordable, costing the average person only 22.% of his or her income, one of the lowest among the nation's 50 largest metro areas. If you're looking for a job, the Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul) is one of the best places to go. An incredible 88% of people ages 22 to 26 are employed. The median income for recent college grads is $45,000 in Washington, D.C. The multiple colleges near the city make it a great place for a young person, as you'll find plenty of free and low-cost art and entertainment events in the area. Milwaukee, at No. 4, ranks high for its employment rate for young people.

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Top Storage Skills To Boost Your Salary (via Network World), June 2

Demand for skilled storage pros is on the rise as enterprise IT teams attempt to address increased storage capacity requirements and evolving business needs. In particular, companies are looking for people with experience migrating from hardware-based storage to cloud storage – and that’s resulting in higher-than-average pay increases. The tech career hub and job-search site Dice released its annual guide to U.S. tech salaries, which finds that overall average pay in the industry fell slightly last year to $92,081, down from $93,328 in 2015. On the raise front, 61% of tech pros received a salary increase from a year ago, and 9% reported a decrease.

Skills that were used a year ago may not be as prominent today. Likewise, skills that are relevant today will evolve tomorrow. This creates a marketplace where both tech professionals and employers must keep their fingers on the pulse of skills training and demand. The skills areas which garnered salary increases indicate where professionals and employers should focus their training and recruiting efforts. The biggest salary gains, percentage wise, are associated with the following skills: Compellent (11%), Drupal (9%), JCL (7%), FCoE (7%), Nimble (6%), Hbase (6%), MariaDB (5%), Pure Storage (5%), vCloud (5%), and T1 or T3 (5%). The biggest salaries are associated with the following skills: HANA $128,958; MapReduce $125,009; Cloud Foundry $124,038; Hbase $123,934; Omnigraffle $123,782; Cassandra $123,459; Apache Kafka $122,728; SOA $122,094; Ansible $121,382; and Jetty $120,978.

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Blind Skills Challenges Help Vet True Tech Talent, May 31

Using blind skills challenges during the hiring process is proving to be a win-win for candidates and companies alike. Blind skills challenges, in which candidates’ names and email addresses are hidden, place the focus squarely on talent and accomplishments. For new grads looking to gain an extra edge in a competitive tech talent marketplace, skills challenges can be a great way to refine technical chops and show potential employers they’ve got what it takes. For organizations looking to hire, especially internships and entry-level positions, skills challenges can help vet true talent free of biases, enabling you to fill openings more quickly and confidently.

The pressure of interviewing and being put on the spot can sometimes work against a top candidate, making it hard for him or her to articulate the right skills. However, a gamified, skills-based recruiting platform can actually help developers stand out in a crowd. CodeFights and similar platforms, such as HackerRank, allow developers to practice their skills against blind coding challenges and “bots,” and release their results to selected partners, all of which are looking to find developer talent to fill internships or full-time roles. The process can help to consolidate your knowledge base and strengthen your coding skills, especially when it came to thinking of test cases for your code. This helps to avoid the stress and pressure of the interview altogether.

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IT Staffing: When to Retrain, When to Hire Fresh
Computerworld, May 30

As companies transition from the traditional IT model to a new digital, cloud-based model, they are being forced to make difficult decisions on staffing. IT managers gearing up for such projects say they particularly need experts in big data, analytics and cybersecurity -- the very skill sets that are in acute short supply. Even if they are able to find candidates, there are usually not enough or not exactly the right match. And training existing staff for in-demand skills is challenging and takes time. To make matters worse, companies aren’t very good at workforce planning. According to a 2010 Gartner study, less than one-third of IT organizations had a formal process to make informed decisions on when, where and what types of IT skills they will need.

According to Computerworld’s Tech Forecast 2017 survey of 196 IT managers, directors and executives, the skills most difficult to hire for are security (25%), programming/application development (15%) and business intelligence/analytics (14%). Asked how they planned to manage around these shortages, 49% of survey respondents said they would outsource or hire contingent workers, 42% said they would increase current employee training, 28% said they’d re-evaluate their recruiting process, and 28% said they’d create flexible organizational/team structures and operating models.

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6 Traits to Look For When Hiring Your Next IT Project Manager
Tech Republic, June 1

Hiring IT project managers means more than just looking for candidates with the ability to manage a project – it also means searching for candidates with the requisite leadership skills. If a project manager is to successfully lead projects, he or she will need to have transferable leadership traits that can't be found in a classroom or a book and aren't project-specific or industry-specific. For example, being a fast learner is an important skill as a project manager. This means the ability to quickly understand the company's processes and the team's roles.

According to hiring managers, conflict resolution skills are key to being a top project manager. In order to ensure that teams are high-functioning, it often requires resolving conflicts. Exceptional verbal and written communication skills are also key. This means having the ability to talk with people at all levels of an organization. In this regard, behavioral questions can help to judge a candidate’s ability to interact with customers and different team members. The questions that candidates ask at the end of interviews are crucial — questions that are at least somewhat insightful and show that a candidate has done their research are key.

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AI in the Workplace: Augment, Instead of Replacing Humans
Information Week, May 29

To understand how artificial intelligence and machine learning will change the workforce of the future, MIT assembled a panel of five experts to give their thoughts on the role of AI. There were four key takeaways. The first of these is the most obvious - these advances in technology will cost some people their jobs, as has happened with most tech breakthroughs over the centuries. However, some new jobs will be created, although it's not clear what the bulk of them will look like. In general, machines won't replace most people, but they will augment those workers, helping them to work better. And, finally, we need some societal changes to deal with what technology brings to the workplace.

The key thing to keep in mind is that most AI applications today are based on pattern recognition. That means they are uniquely unprepared for when the unexpected happens. As long as AI applications and AI-powered robots can’t react quickly to these changes, there will be an important role for humans to play. As machines take over more and more mundane tasks, that would free up humans to do more interesting work that requires thought and reason. Some AI-based tools actually offer real-time coaching, with advice for humans on how to do their jobs better. The call center as a home for advanced analytics and AI makes sense, considering how many companies are using or plan to use analytics technology for customer service applications.

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Employees With Toxic Bosses Actually Work Harder and Stay Longer, June 1

A new study from consultants Life Meets Work looks at how employees deal with the problem of toxic bosses. In a perfect world, of course, these toxic bosses would meet swift punishment and the workplace would become a fairer place. However, not only do these bosses not meet swift punishment, the results show, but their bullying behavior is actually often rewarded with increased employee engagement. Eventually, though, the effects wear off, and in the long run, bad bosses do get their comeuppance. Sadly, though not before some short-sighted companies are convinced that hiring difficult bosses pays dividends.

When Life Meets Work recently surveyed 1,000 college-educated U.S. employees they found a whopping 56% of respondents described their boss as toxic. How is it possible that so many toxic bosses have thrived and risen in their companies? Maybe it's because employees of managers who display more toxic behaviors like belittling employees actually work harder than well treated workers. That's infuriating, but it's pretty much what the survey revealed. People who work for highly toxic bosses--managers with more than a handful of bullying or undermining behaviors--tend to be more engaged in their work than other employees. The study also found such employees stayed an average of two years longer in their jobs than other workers.

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Ten Years at the Helm of Communications of the ACM
Communications of the ACM, June 2017

Moshe Y. Vardi, the long-time editor-in-chief of Communications of the ACM, reflects on the changes that have occurred over the past decade and the steps that he has taken to boost readership for the publication. To turn Communications of the ACM around, it was important to understand first what needed to be changed. How had it evolved from a premier publication in computing to one that was of interest only to a narrow segment of the computing community? In answering the question, Vardi discusses the difference between curation and filtration, as well as the role of the publication’s editorial board.

The standard scholarly editorial model is that of filtration: authors submit articles, and editors filter them, with the help of reviewers, based on scope and quality. While the editorial process plays a critical role in shaping the face of a publication, the dominant factor is the nature of the submitted articles, which is determined solely by the submitting authors. Authors make submission decisions to a large measure based on articles already published. Thus, just as a neighborhood can change its character over a couple of decades, a publication can see its character change in just a few years. The key to the turnaround of Communications, then, was to change the editorial model from one mostly based on filtration to one mostly based on curation.

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The Ethical Problem of Software Neglect
Blog @ CACM, May 31

When thinking about ethical problems in the field of computer science, most people focus on the role of hackers and cyber security vulnerabilities. However, there is another problem, and that’s the problem of software neglect. Many important criteria in the design and testing of software have been abandoned or weakened. In some cases, developers produce no documentation at all and furthermore, during maintenance cycles, they do not correct the old source code comments, seeing such edits as risky and presumptuous. Unfortunately, these practices degrade the understandability of the program. Couple that with the complexity of modern programs, and in some cases it’s clear that programmers simply don't know what their code does.

As an example of software neglect, insiders point to typical software quality shortcomings, such as out-of-bounds values unchecked, complex conditions that identify the wrong cases, and initializations to the wrong constant. In many cases, no initial harm occurs as a result of these mistakes or shortcuts. By that time, the code has already been approved, and the programmer has moved on to the next assignment. But that software neglect can lead to problems in the future. Neglect doesn't attack security because it occurs behind the firewall. It doesn't attack ideals of quality because no one officially disputes those ideals. It is a failure of degree, a failure to pay enough attention and take enough trouble.

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