ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, September 4, 2018

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Volume 14, Issue 17, September 4, 2018

Growth of the Gig Economy
Tech Republic, August 29

Nearly half (46%) of Generation Z workers are freelancers, a number that is projected to grow over the next five years. The report, which was conducted by Edelman Intelligence and commissioned by Upwork and Freelancers Union, surveyed 6,000 U.S. working adults over 18 years of age. With 61 million Gen Zers expected to be joining working America in the next few years, it appears many will be opting for a freelancing gig instead of (or along with) a more traditional job. Not only are more members of Gen Z freelancing, but also 73% are doing so by choice rather than necessity, while only 66% of Baby Boomers and 64% of Millennials can say the same, according to the report.

As members of Gen Z enter the workforce, they are increasingly choosing non-traditional ways of working that are better suited to their desired lifestyle than a traditional 9-to-5 job is. More than any other generation, members of Gen Z are seeking work they are passionate about that also affords them freedom and flexibility. It is important that companies adjust their hiring strategies in order to work with the best young talent in Gen Z, which accounts for more people than Gen X and the Baby Boomers and will be the majority of the workforce in the next five years.

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6 Must-Have Skills For Anyone Exploring a Career in Machine Learning, August 15

Careers in machine learning are expanding rapidly, making the field an attractive destination for anyone interested in transferring their current programming skills or beginning a new career. Machine learning (ML) is the latest evolution in data science, promising to help businesses convert big data into insights that can make them more profitable. ML is rooted firmly in areas of statistics and data mining, resulting in artificial intelligence solutions that think like humans, with the ability to learn continuously and improve. The benefits of ML are so enticing that businesses are actively searching for programmers who can help them take advantage of big data to give them a competitive edge. And that is leading to the creation of a new short list of skills that are most in demand within the ML sector.

Online educational tools have made it possible to learn machine learning programming skills at minimal cost. These online platforms include Coursera, EdX, and Udacity, and they give you the opportunity to learn at your own pace. Learning the language is just one component of the skills ML programmers need, however. There are other skills to develop if you want to learn to code for ML, such as morality and ethics. Programmers who can ensure that programs are fair and equal and can create solutions to keep these algorithms safe are in high demand. Moreover, ML solutions are rarely created in isolation and require teamwork. Information systems teams are groups of people who work closely with entire departments to solve a specific technological problem.

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Try Freelancing Your Way Into Your Dream Company
Forbes, August 27

Employers are expanding their use of contractors and freelancers to reduce cost, increase flexibility, and limit potential liability, and that is increasing the number of different career paths into some of the top companies in the world. For example, Google parent Alphabet has approximately the same number of contractors and freelancers as regular employees. Apple contractors are estimated to provide 90% of the total workforce. Accenture recently predicted that within a decade a Fortune 500 company would rise with only the C-suite as traditional employees. This new trend has enormous implications for ambitious young men and women who want to make it in Corporate America.

Some pundits are suggesting that the start-in-the-mailroom approach, popularized in both bestselling novels and Hollywood films, has been replaced by a start-as-a-freelancer approach. In many companies, freelance projects have replaced the mailroom job. Companies like to use staffing agencies as recruitment tools, and often will offer attractive candidates temporary employment until a permanent job opens up. Some staffing agencies will even train their candidates in computer programs and other skills so they can seek a higher position on the corporate ladder.

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You Do Not Need To Be a Hacker To Get a High-Paying Cybersecurity Job
CNBC, August 9

There are many career paths into the increasingly high-demand and lucrative cybersecurity field, and some may require only small tweaks in skills and experience. The reason for this is that corporations in the U.S. and globally are seeing a major shortage in qualified applicants for cybersecurity jobs, meaning more people with transferable skills will need to be trained into them. Today, the U.S. Department of Commerce estimates there are around 350,000 cybersecurity jobs currently unfilled in the U.S. Cybersecurity analytics and research company Cybersecurity Ventures released data that indicate 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs are likely to go unfilled globally by 2021, making this an excellent career path.

Cybersecurity jobs can pay exceptionally well. Top cybersecurity jobs, like chief information security officer (CISO), which is typically the highest-ranking cybersecurity employee in a company, often fetch salaries above $300,000 in top metropolitan areas such as Washington, D.C., New York and San Francisco, according to cybersecurity recruiting firm SilverBull. Salaries for cybersecurity staff range from $90,000 to more than $200,000 for more experienced employees, including jobs such as information risk managers and security engineers, according to career information company Glassdoor.

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STEM Worker Shortage At a Crisis, Survey Shows
U.S. News & World Report, August 23

Despite years of initiatives to recruit skilled foreign workers or increase interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) among students in the United States, a new study shows Americans feel the need for additional STEM workers is critical. The fourth annual STEM survey by Emerson shows that 2 out of 5 Americans say the STEM worker shortage is at a crisis level in the U.S. and there is a need for more individuals to take on such roles. In short, there is definitely a problem for employers when they are trying to hire people with high-tech skills and engineering degrees, even outside of the tech sector.

The survey also showed that students are now twice as likely to study STEM fields compared to their parents, and 52% of parents surveyed said they think there will be more and more STEM jobs in America in the next 10 years. This is a good thing in the long run because the jobs in STEM will pay better. Thus, we need to be encouraging people right now, especially at college and high school age, to get those skills because we need positions filled. The shortage affects various industries, with the manufacturing sector alone predicted to need about 3.5 million jobs by 2025. However, up to 2 million of these positions might go unfilled due to the difficulty of finding qualified workers.

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How a Coding Boot Camp Works
Lifehacker, August 1

There are as many ways to learn to code as there are ways to use your coding ability, and that has led to a corresponding growth in the number of coding boot camps with very different approaches. Most coding boot camps start off with an initial period, in which students learn to think like a computer, mostly by becoming familiar with core concepts such as loops, functions, variables and object-oriented programming. The next stage is spent on learning specific languages, and how each language handles those core concepts. Differences between boot camps can arise when it comes to the amount of time dedicated to theory and lectures, and the amount of time dedicated to hands-on assignments and coding projects.

Some coding boot camps claim they can train developers in a new language in as little as 3-4 weeks, which represents a significant time savings of 6-9 months if they were to learn on their own. The reason for this is that most of the work is done in assignments, not lectures. One reason college courses do not work for many these days is that they involve long lectures. People only retain about 20 minutes of lecture. Thus, there needs to be an emphasis on learning by doing, which is learning by coding. It is also important to imbue a fun factor, so that each class feels less like another school subject and more like a fun project. In fact, learning to code becomes a game in itself.

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How To Get a Job When Relocating
Silicon Republic, August 29

Making the decision to relocate abroad for a new career opportunity will pay off if you approach your job search in your new destination in the right way. Before you do anything else, it is essential that you research the local job market to get a feel for what you are working with. You do not want to start your search by looking for roles that are scarce, will not pay enough money or are called something completely different in a foreign country. Remember that you are not the first person to move abroad, so, even if you do not have personal connections in your new environment, figure out where more experienced expats gather, and turn to them for knowledge and advice.

When relocating, you can find out how in demand your skills are from your recruiter and by doing some research online. Taking into consideration the fact that many countries are facing skills shortages, you might be pleasantly surprised to find that your skills are highly in demand. In any case, it is important to understand your own unique selling points. What is it that makes you valuable and what can you offer to a company that is special in the local market? You should also brace yourself for the opposite scenario: while your expertise may have been highly sought after in your native job market, you might be on the back foot abroad. This is not the end of the world but it may mean up-skilling, or taking on temporary or contract roles or a more junior position in order to learn the ropes.

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Ageism Is Hurting the Hiring At Your Tech Company More Than You Realize, August 29

When it comes to hiring new candidates, the tech sector may hold an unconscious bias against older candidates, and that is putting pressure on Generation X tech employees to re-think how employers really view them. In fact, a 2017 Indeed survey found 43% of tech workers worry about losing their jobs due to their age. Ageism is not just a problem for older candidates: it has more far-reaching implications for businesses that are giving up the advantages of a more diverse workforce. With that in mind, the article suggests multiple ways that companies and candidates can remove unconscious ageism in the interviewing process.

There are several subtle signals worth paying attention to throughout the process, starting before the candidate ever walks through your door or gets on the phone with a recruiter. All productive interviews start with preparation. Hiring managers might be tempted to make assumptions before they get ready to interview a candidate. Instead, plan to ask questions to see whether those assumptions are actually true. Your first reaction might be to dismiss a candidate with a long list of Fortune 500 executive roles who seems overqualified or too expensive for a position at your startup, for example. But, do you know the real story? The experienced candidate may have earned a lot from a past role and now want a second career or a passion project. If you are using a recruiter, ask them for context about career goals. This may explain why a candidate older than your average employee is interested in the job.

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Irrational Exuberance and the Fate of Technology
Blog @ CACM, August 20

Irrational exuberance may be clouding expectations about what is possible with technology, especially when it comes to emerging fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. Nowhere is this irrational exuberance more evident than in the field of self-driving cars. The problem, quite simply, is that many of the initial success stories are oversold, leading to media hype. And that hype, in turn, leads to new investors and startups trying to enter the space. If this happens too quickly, this is when the top talent in science and engineering may begin to become disillusioned about the realities of exponential growth in computing.

The reason for this irrational exuberance may have its roots in the exponential growth in computing and storage technologies predicted by Gordon Moore five decades ago. The fact that just over a decade ago, smart phones, cloud computing, and ride-sharing seemed like science fiction and technologies like 3D printing and DNA sequencing were prohibitively expensive, has led to a culture of extrapolation that has been fueled by exponential growth. But unfortunately, from this comes the extrapolation that it is only a question of time before we conquer general intelligence. There is at least one argument that says that we are not making significant progress in understanding intelligence if we take into account the exponential growth in computing.

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Move Fast and Break Things
Communications of the ACM, August 2018

The theory of disruptive innovation has been a touchstone of the technology sector for more than 20 years. But is it finally time to re-think the concept of disruptive innovation for a new generation? After reviewing the basic theory of disruptive innovation, the article takes a closer look at some of the arguments raised by critics of the theory, suggesting that even if the theory does not have predictive power, it is still a very useful tool to describe the rise and fall of tech companies. And, more importantly, it has led to the current notion that tech companies should move fast and break things if they want to stay ahead of the innovation curve.

By now, the concept of disruptive innovation is deeply embedded in the psyche of Silicon Valley, and the term disruption has become a mantra of Silicon Valley business plans. Because people believe the disruptive innovation story, it shapes their behavior. Over the past 20 years, the disruption ideology has further mutated into the need to move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, the thinking goes, you are not moving fast enough. Unfortunately, this approach can lead to companies paying very little mind to societal norms, not to mention actual laws on the books. In their speed to be first to market, they may be overlooking certain key steps along the way.

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