ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, November 7, 2017

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@hq.acm.org

Volume 13, Issue 21, November 7, 2017


According to Robert Half’s 2018 Salary Guide, the current IT talent gap will continue to put pressure on businesses in 2018, incentivizing them to provide better compensation and more attractive workplace conditions to potential job candidates. The report, which surveyed over 8,000 technology professionals in North America in order to assess current salary and hiring trends in tech, found that the fight for talent has companies offering tech workers generous perks, incentives and competitive salaries. Moreover, these companies are taking steps to ensure that tech work itself has become a more satisfying, less stressful pursuit.

The talent shortage for tech workers is no longer just an inconvenience for any employers — it’s quickly becoming a significant business problem. And when companies do find tech talent, they often can’t afford it. According to Robert Half, 44% of CIOs say they miss out on top talent because candidates are seeking higher salaries than they’re able to offer. As a result, there’s been an increase in companies hiring less experienced workers who must be motivated to learn new skills quickly. To get the best talent during a shortage, businesses need to speed up the hiring process. The study found that, while it’s understandable business want to be thorough, many companies are dragging out the hiring process. That’s a problem because around two-thirds of the non-executive technology professionals surveyed said they would lose interest in a job if there were no follow-up within two weeks of an interview.

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More Than Half of Employed Data Scientists Learned Skills on Their Own or Via a MOOC
Tech Republic, October 30

The majority of employed data scientists gained their skills through self-learning or a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) rather than a traditional computer science degree, according to a new survey. Some 32% of full-time data scientists started learning machine learning or data science through a MOOC, while 27% said that they began picking up the needed skills on their own. Some 30% got their start in data science at a university, according to a survey of more than 16,000 people in the field. More than half of currently employed data scientists still use MOOCs for ongoing education and skill acquisition, demonstrating the potential of these courses for helping people gain real world skills.

Data scientists are relatively few in number and high in demand, and recruiting can be difficult. However, there are several tips for finding qualified data scientists. First of all, it is important to target computer science studies because some 30% of employed data scientists have an undergraduate major in computer science, compared to 18% who majored in math or statistics. You could also try to hire them from another organization since some 39% of qualified candidates spend at least one to two hours per week looking for a different job. And 12% of these workers are spending three to five hours per week doing so, meaning that many data experts may be looking to make a career move to a new data science role.

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We're In the Worst Talent Shortage Since 2007
Inc.com, October 26

Organizations are facing one of the most challenging talent shortages since 2007. In fact, by some estimates, 40% of employers are having a difficult time filling positions. In a market where many organizations are vying for the same talent, the companies that consistently come out on top will differentiate themselves above and beyond their job descriptions. This process of creating a favorable impression of your organization through the talent acquisition phase is known as the candidate experience, and it’s getting a lot of attention from companies these days.

One of the easiest ways to design a great candidate experience is to put yourself in the shoes of your prospective candidates. Back when you were applying or interviewing, what were some of the thoughts coursing through your mind? What were some of the moments that mattered the most to you? Overall, it's a vulnerable time for many. Candidates are outside their comfort zones and are looking for validation that they made the right decision. Also, try to foresee any issues that could happen along the way. No matter how hard we try, no process will be free of mistakes. It's important to have a system in place that can quickly adapt to and address problems as they surface. Planning for the wide range of possibilities will give your organization a series of options to craft potential solutions.

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AI Hiring Frenzy Leads to Brain Drain at UK Universities
The Guardian (UK), November 2

As UK private sector firms ramp up their hiring of artificial intelligence (AI) experts, they are naturally turning to the world of academia for the very best talent. This is leading to a brain drain, and potentially hampering research and disrupting teaching at some of the country’s leading institutions. Scores of talented scientists have left or passed up university posts for salaries two to five times higher at major technology firms, where besides getting better pay, new recruits can take on real-world problems with computer power and datasets that academia cannot hope to provide. In short, many top institutions are struggling to keep up with the demand from tech firms that are aggressively expanding their AI research groups.

One university executive said AI researchers were courted by industry on a routine basis and that departments regularly missed out on the best talent when companies made better offers. The creates a unique set of challenges because universities exist, in part, to meet the needs of industry, but the fierce demand for skilled AI researchers is heavily outstripping supply, according to universities who took part in the survey. The picture is supported by data from the global job site Indeed.com, where the number of AI jobs in Britain had soared 485% since 2014. It means there are more than two jobs for every qualified jobseeker.

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How to Increase the Value of Your Freelance Career
Baseline Magazine, October 6

If you've started a freelance career in the tech industry, you must learn how to stand out from the crowd in order to earn a competitive salary and attract as many clients as possible. In order to increase your professional value, you first need to create a personal brand. There are many people with your skills in the freelance marketplace, so you must know how to leverage your strengths and technical skills. Use these to attract a cluster of clients who are looking for those specific skills. Then invest in the quality of your services, including how you present yourself and how you deliver a project.

Diversifying your portfolio is an important step to take because clients and projects will require various skills and know-how. For you to increase your employability rate, you must have a wide portfolio that helps you stand out in different search filters. Reading widely will also give you a competitive edge, so keep informed on telecom and other technology advances. You must also invest in your interpersonal skills. These will help you interact more successfully with your clients. Having strong interpersonal skills will increase your success rate in both your freelance career and your personal life. Learn to inform clients when you will be away, when there are changes to a project or if you need more time to complete a project. Also, ask your clients to give you honest feedback, and learn to take criticism constructively and use it to improve your future projects.

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With Future Full Of Jobs To Fill, Training Programs Take Aim At Skills Gap
WBUR Boston, November 2

The vitality of Boston's booming tech sector can be traced, in part, to a number of innovative new training programs. For example, Year Up is a nonprofit whose mission is to train young adults who lack opportunities for professional careers. These trainees tend to come from low-income and underserved communities. It's free and students even get a stipend. They’re offered classes in sales, finance, project management, quality assurance or IT. Students also take classes in communications and workplace readiness, learning essential skills like how to write a resume or build a network. Classes go for six months, then students do an internship for an additional six months.

Many of the classes at Year Up aim to prepare students for jobs that are expected to see major growth in the future. For example, after completing the program, they will be able to change a motherboard, change hard drives, troubleshoot issues with computers and upgrade them. There are many companies eager for Year Up students, especially those that are anxious to fill entry-level IT jobs. About 90% of the program's grads are in full-time jobs or enrolled in college. Many companies looking into the program say there aren't enough qualified workers to take up available jobs, especially in the tech world. According to a recent poll, 75% of business leaders in Massachusetts say they struggle to find qualified candidates for open positions. Many business leaders say applicants lack a range of skills, the same poll found. This skills gap will likely get worse in the future as technology continues to change the workplace.

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These 8 Moments Will Shape Your Professional Life
Fast Company, November 2

There are certain moments in every person’s career that can set the tone for each new stage in that career. If you’re prepared for them and see them for the important moments they are, you can make your career, not break it. One of these moments, for example, is your first one-on-one meeting a new boss. Your first private meeting with your boss will set the tone for how you two work together: it is a chance to learn what is important to your boss and ensure you meet and exceed his or her expectations.

A big moment for any recent graduate is his or her first performance review. Whether you’ve been asked to complete a summary of your year’s performance or proactively arrange a meeting with your manager to discuss your accomplishments over the past year, it’s up to you to make sure you take credit for your work. Keep a running list of the big and small achievements you’ve had and update it at least once a month. Not only will this help you track your success, it can be useful for regular meetings with your manager as well as the annual review.

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How to Avoid the Biggest Career Mistake Young People Make
CNBC, October 26

According to Simon Sinek, a bestselling author who has created a number of popular videos about finding your purpose in life, one of the worst mistakes that young millennials can make is simply quitting when they are no longer happy with their job. He says that too many young people feel they have to quit to improve their careers when in fact, it could be simpler than they realize to find satisfaction. While changing jobs to figure out your passion, grow your skills or get out of a bad work environment isn't a bad thing, doing so too quickly can prevent you from learning valuable lessons and exploring opportunities to grow at your current company.

If you're not sure whether you want to be in your current role or are feeling tempted to quit, Sinek suggests you first of all ask for critical feedback. Sit down and have regular talks with your boss, who's probably interested in your career if they're a good boss. During these meetings, don't just look for positive feedback, look for negative feedback too. Get in the habit of asking for criticism because negative feedback is actually how we learn. Often, people go into the workplace with the feeling like they have to have all the answers, and they have to look like they know everything and look like they have everything under control. But doing so could communicate to your boss that you're not willing to learn.

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Try to See Things from a Manager's Perspective
ACM Queue, October 31

One key attribute of being a great manager is being able to see the big picture. You might not know everything about the work of each person on the team, or about each new feature in the final product, or even about which problems caused the biggest challenges for the team, but you will have an understanding of how all these factors fit together. Simply stated, your perspective as a manager will be very different from your perspective as a software programmer. The view at the top is different, mostly because you are much more aware of how important it is to empower everyone on a team to do his or her very best.

In terms of becoming a better manager, the first lesson is that there are only a few levers to effect change. It is the leader's job to guide employees and to trust them to make the right choices. This means allowing them to make mistakes. Frequently there are no right answers, and sometimes managers can go down the wrong path. When things aren't going right, these senior leaders have a limited number of options to make a change. Long term, it is not effective to step in and micromanage their direct reports, or even worse, the people on their direct reports' teams. This is not scalable, and it is expected that these experienced people shouldn't need that level of management and direction. Instead, leaders look for ways to get high performing, trusted managers in a position to help them reach their goals.

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Updates From the Heidelberg Laureate Forum
Communications of the ACM, November 2017

The fifth annual Heidelberg Laureate Forum, which awarded the ACM Prize for Computing, attracted a large number of representatives from the computer science industry. At the event, quantum computing and machine learning were major topics of conversation. In addition, mathematical and computational models of biological processes found their way onto the agenda, reinforcing the notion that we might someday understand better how these processes work by modeling them and predicting some of their behaviors.

In terms of machine learning and artificial intelligence, impressive results were outlined during the Heidelberg Laureate Forum for image recognition, speech understanding, machine translation, and self-supervised learning. Multilayer neural networks are producing interesting results such as the ability to turn an ordinary photograph into one that inherits the style of various well-known artists or schools of art. The question of transparency of machine learning (in which it is made clear where the deep learning takes place and what has been learned) remains unanswered, as does an easy way to explain how the system has reached its conclusions.

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