ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, September 19, 2017

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Volume 13, Issue 18, September 19, 2017

The Next IT Jobs Boom? The Internet of Things, September 11

Many companies are beginning to plan their IoT strategies and as these strategies become realities, they are now or will soon be looking to bring on skill sets to support IoT projects. This opens up new opportunities for technology professionals to secure these emerging positions or to retrain so they can gain the needed skills to benefit from IT’s next job boom. Gartner now forecasts that 8.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide this year, up 31% from 2016, and the number will reach 20.4 billion by 2020. As a result, companies will be investing significantly in people who possess skills related to IoT technology and the management of IoT projects, with many positions requiring a mix of skills.

A quick review of LinkedIn already shows thousands of IoT-related job postings and hiring opportunities. The IoT jobs listed include the need for senior solutions architects, IoT cloud systems engineers, big data engineers, and many others. It is fair to say that a good majority of the roles are of the purely technical type — architect, engineer, developer and programmer. Organizations need these roles due to the complexity of the various disciplines that are involved with IoT projects. The other factor is the myriad of skills that are required for a true IoT-enabled employee. The ideal potential employee should have expertise in hardware, networking, design and development, security, data analytics, and artificial intelligence.

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These 25 Cities Are Tops for Jobs
USA Today, September 13

Midwestern cities like Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Louisville are among the top cities in the U.S. for finding a job and being able to enjoy an affordable quality of life, according to a new study by job search site Glassdoor. If you weigh criteria such as salary and cost of living equally, cities such as New York and San Francisco lose some of their luster. As a result, tech hubs Seattle and San Jose were ranked No. 17 and 22, respectively, in the survey.

Pittsburgh ranked No. 1 in Glassdoor's rankings, with the median value of a home costing roughly three times the area's median base salary of $44,000. Civil engineers and project managers were in particular demand in the one-time manufacturing hub. Indianapolis and Kansas City (Missouri) ranked second and third, with openings plentiful in job categories ranging from machine operator to software engineer and audit manager. Meanwhile, the tech and finance capitals of San Francisco, New York and Boston didn’t even crack the top 25. When many people think about moving for work, especially young people, they think about big cities with brand names like New York and San Francisco. But while those cities have many jobs, they're also very expensive and competitive.

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13 Tips From Top CEOs on Hiring and Keeping the Very Best Employees, September 2017

CEOs of the nation's fastest growing private companies recently weighed in on how they reward and retain top talent. Answering a broad range of questions on everything from the benefits they offer to how they find and motivate their teams, it’s clear that companies are becoming very creative about how they attract and retain the very best employees. For example, some companies organize quarterly retreats round the world, while others establish personal development funds that enable employees to try out new endeavors.

It’s clear that the bar has been raised when it comes to hiring the best and the brightest. It’s no longer enough just to provide a fun, casual work environment with very flexible hours. Weekly in-office massages, weekly lunches paid for by the employer and department and company retreats are the new normal. One big trend is focusing on culture and morale. This can include a more relaxed dress code, as well as the elimination of formal office hours. It also means listening to employees, and putting a percentage of all earnings back into employee engagement initiatives.

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Machine Learning Skills for Software Engineers, September 13

The rapid pace of development of artificial intelligence means that machine learning skills are becoming more important than ever before. The good news is that acquiring these skills is getting easier – it’s no longer even necessary to complete a Ph.D. program or find companies specifically hiring machine learning experts. In fact, what would have made really good Ph.D. research 10 years ago is now a cool project for a weekend. There are all sorts of people, many of them not trained as data scientists, building cool bots to do all kinds of things. And an increasing number of developers are beginning to work on a variety of different, serious machine learning projects as they recognize that machine learning and even deep learning have become more accessible.

Developers are beginning to fill roles as data engineers in a “data ops” style of work, where data-focused skills (data engineering, architect, data scientist) are combined with a DevOps approach to build things such as machine learning systems. Building models is different from building ordinary software in that it is data-driven instead of design-driven. You have to look at the system from an empirical point of view and rely a bit more than you might like on experimental proofs of function rather than careful implementation of a good design accompanied with unit and integration tests. In problem domains where machine learning has become easy, this can be extremely easy. Right next door, however, are problems that are still very hard and that do require more sophisticated data science skills, including more math.

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Stanford Researchers Plan For Digital Companies and Workers’ Rights In an Online World
Stanford News, September 15

Through a series of projects in the Stanford Cyber Initiative, Stanford researchers in the program’s Future of Work focus area are investigating how best to develop online work platforms and how policy can mitigate their negative effects. The goals of the initiative are to envision what the future of work might look like, to build technology to empower new forms of organizing and to understand what impact these platforms (such as new crowdsourcing platforms) are going to have on people.

More work in the future will involve crowdsourcing, an already popular method of bringing together virtual workers to accomplish tasks. In the future, it is possible that a company’s workers will be comprised of flash teams – online groups of experts in specific fields. A new platform – Foundry – attempts to make that possible. Foundry’s ability to adapt to the varied requirements of its owners and its egalitarian model – allowing any of its members to make changes to their business platform – have proven effective in early testing. In fact, anyone with a web browser can create and lead an organization of globally-distributed, diverse experts within half an hour.

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There’s No Such Thing As a Remote Employee
Computerworld, September 16

In the decade from 2005 and 2015, the number of telecommuting employees more than doubled, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And now the search is on to find ways to better integrate those employees within their organizations, especially when it comes to security issues and management. The key to those efforts could be the mobile-first economy, which makes it easier than ever before for remote employees to keep up with what’s happening within the office. Young millennials are at the forefront at this trend for two reasons: they place much greater emphasis on the work-life balance than their older peers, and they are much more comfortable with mobile technology.

As Millennials enter the workforce, they are bringing with them their mobile-first habits and willingness to embrace the gig economy. With each passing year, a new crop of employees enter the workforce, and an older crop retires. This is really how big demographic shifts happen, through generational churn, rather than the learning of new behaviors by everyone in the middle. It’s also important to note that Millennials are quicker to change jobs than any previous generation, and that means they are now the "job-hopping generation.”

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This Job Site Wants to Match Developers and Employers Based on Culture and Values
The Next Web, September 6

The latest wrinkle in how the job hiring market works includes websites that focus more on making the right fit with the corporate culture of the organizations than with salary demands or technical skills. For example, Key Values is a job site that emphasizes corporate culture above all else. Job listings, for example, don’t actually list salaries. Instead, they talk about what employees can expect from the day-to-day grind. Companies can pick eight attributes they feel are particularly relevant, from a list that encompasses everything from work-life balance, to the organizational structure of the company. That makes it easier to match up the right candidates with the right hiring organizations.

Key Values was founded by a neuroscience Ph.D. dropout and software engineer who was fascinated by the way that culture impacts the working day. For example, some companies expect employees to work 80 to 90 hours each week, while others are much more focused on the work/life balance and expect significantly less time commitment. The issue of culture is just as important for hiring organizations, especially since it’s not uncommon to hear of technology companies letting go of someone, due to their perceived lack of “cultural fit.” By letting companies lay their cards out on the table, Key Values is letting them approach the recruitment process with a sense of radical transparency that you won’t typically find elsewhere.

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More Than 40% of People in UK Do Not Have Digital Skills Required For Most Jobs, September 15

The digital skills gap is set to widen as many in the UK are without the basic skills needed for most positions that require above-average digital skills. In fact, a new study by Barclays has found that 43% of adults in the UK do not have basic digital skills, such as word-processing, database, spreadsheet or social media management skills, that are required by around 63% of jobs – and this gap is likely to worsen as technology advances. People’s level of digital prowess is fast becoming a key determinant of their earning power, yet the UK today is a patchwork of digital skills.

Some areas in the UK are more digitally skilled, with those in London, Northern Ireland, Scotland and the North West having more digital skills than in other regions. Londoners were 6% more able to perform a range of digital tasks – such as using apps and devices, creating websites or sharing data on social platforms – than the rest of the UK. Digital skills are most in demand in London and Northern Ireland, with 66% of jobs in London and 70% of jobs in Northern Ireland asking for “above basic” digital skills. Wales and the South East, East, and South West of England are suffering from a significant lack of digital skills in comparison to the rest of the UK, despite the salaries for people with these skills being among the highest in the UK in these regions.

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Turing Laureates Celebrate Award's 50th Anniversary
Communications of the ACM, September 2017

ACM recently held a conference in celebration of the first 50 years of the A.M. Turing Award. In total, 64 people from around the world have received the Turing Award, recognizing work that laid the foundations of modern computing. The award was presented to its 65th recipient, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, at the event in June 2017. The conference included more than 20 Turing Laureates speaking on topics related to their fields of study.

At the event, 2008 Turing Laureate Barbara Liskov offered a presentation on the "Impact of Turing Recipients' Work" focusing on the impact of early Turing recipients, which she described as tremendous. A session on "Advances in Deep Neural Networks" featured 2011 Turing Laureate Judea Pearl, who spoke about an evolutionary advance 40,000 years ago that allowed Homo sapiens to advance past competitor species Homo erectus and the Neanderthals. The session on "Restoring Personal Privacy Without Compromising National Security" featured 2015 Turing Laureate Whitfield Diffie, who observed that calls by government agencies to incorporate "backdoors" in computing systems that would allow them to bypass normal authentication or encryption are not really necessary.

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Computational Design
Ubiquity, August 2017

A new term, "computational doing," has been gaining momentum among educators who once used to focus exclusively on “computational thinking.” The term “computational doing” means different things to different people, but it has as its focus a spirit of collaboration and the goal of doing useful work with computations. As the term gains momentum, it is going to have potentially huge implications for the way we think about computational thinking (CT) and the design of the modern K-12 curriculum. One possible way to bridge the divide between “computational doing” and “computational thinking” is by embracing the concept of “computational design.”

One problem for educators is that they have not yet converged on a common agreement defining computational thinking, on the basis of which they can firmly establish a curriculum and evaluate whether their students have learned computational thinking as a skill. The quest for a clear definition of CT has been complicated by a conflict between traditional CT and new CT. In traditional CT programming skill produces CT, whereas in new CT learning CT produces programming skill. The direction of causality is reversed. Without a doubt, teachers have been grappling with the new CT. They have found new definitions vague and fuzzy. They continue to ask for a clear definition of computational thinking and the skill sets they are supposed to cultivate in their students.

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