ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, June 4, 2019
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Volume 15, Issue 11, June 4, 2019
Even as automation and new technologies like AI lead to the disappearance of some tech jobs, new IT jobs will appear to take their place in fields like robotics and data analysis. According to the Cognizant Jobs of the Future Index, there are a growing number of niches where the rapid technological progress of recent years is leading to some futuristic-sounding job titles. The list of roles includes cyber calamity forecaster, augmented reality journey builder, and master of edge computing. Cognizant, which has been tracking these Jobs of the Future since 2016, pulls data from both company websites and aggregator sites such as Indeed and LinkedIn.
The category of Algorithmic, Automation, and Artificial Intelligence jobs is the largest in the Cognizant index, containing 16 of the 50 jobs of the future. As expected, roles include many current technology-focused jobs that will continue to grow in importance as organizations digitize, such as chief information officers, computer scientists, and robotics engineers. The category increased by 66% in 2018, adding more than 127,000 job openings, with a jump from 194,000 in Q4 2017 to 321,000 jobs in Q4 2018. All 16 of the roles within this family experienced growth in the past year, ranging from 28% to 121%. Robotics technicians experienced the biggest growth in job postings, with a 121% leap since 2017, followed closely by robotics engineers. Demand for data scientists experienced the next biggest increase (88.5%).
Many IT workers are understandably concerned about the effects that AI will have on their jobs and their careers in the relatively near future. While there is some uncertainty about what the workplace of the future will look like, embracing a proactive approach can make all the difference in preparing for the arrival of AI in the workforce. There are multiple AI waves happening simultaneously, though the one that directly affects the workforce is a form of artificial intelligence that is trained to sort through data sets and use deep learning algorithms to help make better business decisions and maximize efficiency. This form of business AI encompasses many of the systems that are threatening jobs since they can complete many tasks with great speed and accuracy. However, there is flexibility for workers to fit in this new ecosystem, as long as they are willing to ride the AI wave.
One way to prepare for the AI future is by improving your soft skills. For the next few years, AI will likely remain incapable of replicating the human factor of working a job. So if you are an ambitious problem solver or an excellent team player, those are strengths that you should explore and develop. You can begin to rely on these traits to carry you in your work, even as AI may automate some of the tasks that were once integral to your job. Despite how daunting automation seems, there is still much you can do that a machine cannot. The World Economic Forum released a report listing the top 10 most important skills for the workplace by 2020. In comparison with the traits listed for 2015, it reveals that distinctly human traits such as complex problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity rank at the very top, while skills like cognitive flexibility and emotional intelligence appear on the list for the first time.
While the diversity problem in the tech sector is well documented, there is at least one niche where diversity is not a problem: virtual reality. For example, within the UK, women make up less than 20% of the tech workforce but account for nearly two-thirds (64%) of all VR leadership roles. This is somewhat surprising, given that women do not have any kind of technological head start on their male counterparts. As users of the technology, only 16% of women had used VR compared with 30% of men in the UK and U.S. For women working in the male-dominated and white-majority world of tech, VR provides an opportunity to do something spectacular, to allow an audience to sit within a scene and experience what it is like to feel different.
For many women, a strong stimulus for joining the VR field is the ability to expand the range of content offerings and innovative applications that are available for users of virtual reality. Until recently, VR primarily appealed to young males, who used the VR headset for gaming purposes. In contrast, women are taking a much broader view of VR, especially when it comes to finding new audiences for VR content. In some cases, women are launching new initiatives that have the potential to attract even more women to the field. The goal is to make VR a more inclusive place, both for women and minorities. One way to do this is by creating new experiences that enable people to see what it is like to be a member of a certain demographic group.
The New Hiring Challenge in Silicon Valley
EE Times, May 23
According to some veteran IT analysts, Silicon Valley is losing some of its allure in the eyes of recent college graduates, including those from some of the most prestigious universities in the UK and U.S. This is occurring, even as Silicon Valley continues to be at the forefront of trends such as AI, VR, AR and automated vehicles. Some see Silicon Valley as a less attractive place to work due to privacy concerns at the biggest tech companies, while others cite the high cost of living in the region. This shift in mindset will be important for Silicon Valley tech companies to monitor as they attempt to recruit and retain the best and the brightest.
Recent concerns about data privacy, platform censorship and surveillance technology at some of the top companies in Silicon Valley is leading some graduates to look elsewhere for a new job. As they see it, these companies are more concerned about making a lot of money than making the world a better place. In addition, many young graduates are more aware than in recent years about some of the quality of life problems impacting Silicon Valley, such as high housing prices and traffic congestion. Right now, the median price of a house in San Jose is about $1.3 million. Even with high salaries being paid out to young grads, this $1 million price tag seems too expensive to even consider a job in Silicon Valley. Quite a few said their negative view of Silicon Valley is what would drive them to other companies outside of the region. Given these views, we may be starting to see a real problem attracting top talent to Silicon Valley now and in the future.
15 Tips On How To Become an IT Consultant
Tech Republic, May 20
The gig economy is fundamentally changing the IT workforce, providing workers with the flexibility to choose their own hours and work outside of the office environment. By 2025, the majority of the workforce will be a part of the gig economy, working as consultants, contractors, temporary, or freelance employees, according to the Workplace 2025 study by Randstad. Consulting work can be particularly lucrative for tech experts, but it is important to find the right type of work for your unique skills and experience. With that in mind, there are 15 tips you can follow for becoming a consultant in the modern gig economy.
Some assumptions that people have about consulting are not necessarily true, so try to dispel some of these myths about consulting before starting the job. Many people assume with consulting that they will make a lot of money right away, will have more free time, and will avoid office politics. Over time, that might be true, but perhaps not at initial launch. Also, be aware that working alone can be hard for some people. Experts recommend meeting up with other consultants or regularly having lunch with friends as ways to combat loneliness. You cannot rely on your area of expertise to be a successful consultant. Consultants must also know how to run a business and be an entrepreneur. Take a test drive before you commit to being a full-time consultant: If you are not ready to dive into consulting head first, keep your full-time job and do consulting on the side. Begin your consulting businesses with a solid plan (including business model, marketing, and financial details) or else the business will likely fail.
Modern Developers Do Not Sit Behind Walls
Information Week, May 24
Because developers have a critical impact on the success of a business, they must no longer be defined by what they know, but rather, how they apply this knowledge to meeting customer demands. Empowering developers to deliver such innovation requires a focus on creating a new and improved developer experience. This can be difficult because it completely disrupts the status quo. In the past, enterprise application developers were pure coders with niche expertise. They made changes to familiar programs on compartmentalized platforms before throwing changes over the wall to IT operations teams. The work was systematized to maintain the quality of large programs powering back-end data processing and internal services, not customer experiences. Today, great customer experiences are dependent on the quality and speed with which an enterprise can deliver value to customers.
Developers must have a direct connection to customer feedback and be given ambitious goals to solve mission-critical issues. This will inspire them to experiment and iterate on new ideas that can be transformed into innovative deliverables that make a difference for customers and change business outcomes. Collaboration tools and apps that keep distributed as well as co-located developers constantly in sync and abreast of feedback, issues, ideas, and progress are critical here. Even physical workspaces should be redesigned to encourage impromptu brainstorming or problem-solving sessions that produce a free flow of creativity and knowledge sharing. All of this requires the elimination and replacement of silos with processes that support collaboration, communication and transparency across platforms.
How to Become a Great IT Freelancer
Techworld, May 30
The IT industry continues to attract employees who prefer to work outside of the traditional nine-to-five work environment. Tech giants like Google already have more contracted than in-office workers, with thousands more between the likes of Amazon, Facebook and Uber. Freelancers make up 32% of the tech industry at present and are predicted to be 45% by 2028. But while the idea of being your own boss may sound enticing, there are a lot of practical considerations that come with being self-employed. The article highlights some tips for those starting out a career as an IT freelancer.
One important step to becoming a great IT freelancer is using a contract for every single client project, without exception. You will be able to find a template online. As you progress, you can refine and edit it to suit your needs. As part of this contract, you will need to decide on the best pricing scheme (such as an hourly rate or a rate for a completed job). Try not to undervalue yourself when negotiating a contract. Especially if you are new to the field, it is easy to accept a lower price, but take a realistic look at the market rate and evaluate your experience and skills. It is better to ask for more and then negotiate down than gift the client budget rates straight off the bat. Remember too, that freelancers command a higher hourly rate than in-house staff because you do not have the benefits (e.g. sick pay, holiday pay) that permanent staff do.
5 Digital Leadership Lessons From the Trenches
The Enterprisers Project, May 30
Success as an IT leader is all about your ability to work with people on cross-functional teams, in agile ways, doing fast experiments, without burning out talent. Thus, even if you have successful IT project experience and top-end data analysis skills, if you cannot inspire people at times of great change, you may hit a career wall. When it comes to people skills and other must-haves, there is lot to learn from IT leaders who have successfully faced many of these challenges and who are now convinced that rapid change will continue to define the IT leadership role for years.
The pace of change for top IT leadership roles shows no signs of slowing. For example, some have suggested that the CIO of the future will be the Chief Influence Officer, not the Chief Information Officer. This implies that how your organization influences customer experiences will be more important than ever before. It is also becoming more common for the CIO role to expand in nature to encompass the CDO (Chief Digital Officer) role. At the same time, the responsibilities of the CIO are shifting. Some organizations, for example, use terms like co-creation to explain how top executives are working differently with their employees, partners and vendors. There are three keys to becoming a digital leader: knowing the business, knowing the technology and being able to lead conversations about value.
Know When to Let Go of Emotional Attachment to Your Work
ACM Queue, May 19
It is important to feel strong ownership about your work, but problems can arise if you get too attached and are not able to let go. For example, you might have a hard time making logical, fact-based decisions if it means deprecating a project or system you have worked on for a number of years. Even though the best option might be to help another team create a replacement system, it might be impossible to entertain the idea because it would mean putting an end to something you had invested so much in. This behavior is more common than you might think within the tech world, so it is important to learn how to navigate those difficult situations.
Working on a software project can foster a great sense of ownership and responsibility. Sometimes, however, this sense of ownership can lead to emotional attachment, and that can have negative consequences. The longer you work on one system or application, the deeper the attachment. For years you might have been adding new features, updating functionality, fixing bugs, polishing, and refactoring. If the product serves a need, you likely reap satisfaction for a job well done. Perhaps you even received some raises or promotions as a result of your great work. When you have only a small amount of work, every little thing you do represents a lot of your career, and so it is easy to be attached. In addition to code, this can happen with ideas, proposals or projects. It is natural that people become very attached to things they have invested in, but unfortunately, that attachment can often make it hard to see your work objectively, as other people do.
Ethics in Technology Jobs
Communications of the ACM, June 2019
Many of the corporate protests that have occurred against Silicon Valley technology companies over the past year were often organized by, led, or coordinated with workers at the very companies being protested. The basis for these walkouts appears to be largely two issues: the presence of a culture of inequality at technology companies, and the use of technology for what workers consider to be unethical or harmful activities. Although there is precedent for tech workers protesting against their employers, such as when defense workers in the 1980s pushed back against participation in the development of the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars), the difference is that tech workers feel more empowered to speak out today. Workers actually see that their words and action can have a real impact on a broader scale.
Lack of diversity remains a problem in the tech industry. For example, nearly 70% of Google employees are men and 53% are non-Hispanic whites, according to the Google Diversity Annual Report 2018. Among leadership roles, the numbers within Google are even less diverse, as 67% are white non-Hispanic and 75% are men. The industry will never reach its full potential until this lack of diversity is addressed. However, Google is hardly the only company being subjected to protests from its own employees. At some companies, employees have protested how technology being developed by the companies they work for is being used by government entities. Representatives from Amazon, Salesforce, and Microsoft have signed petitions and held demonstrations objecting to how their work is being used for surveillance, or to separate families at the U.S. border. These protest actions are occurring because workers are more aware of questions of social justice and what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate behavior.
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