ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, January 21, 2020
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Volume 16, Issue 2, January 21, 2020
According to LinkedIn, blockchain is now the most sought after tech skill of the year. Blockchain is the most in-demand skill in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, and Germany, even more popular than cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and UX design. Blockchain has emerged from the once shadowy world of cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin to become a business solution in search of problems. This means that you do not have to be in financial services to be seeking new hires who have background and expertise in putting blockchain to use. As a result, recruiters should start familiarizing themselves with how blockchain works and what its perceived benefits are.
Companies seem to be saying that the potential of blockchain is still worth exploring. Blockchain has become a line of business for top players in the corporate world, including IBM, Oracle, JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, Amazon, and American Express, to name just a few. In terms of skills that are most in demand, LinkedIn notes that employers are looking for a mix of hard and soft skills. Hard skills are those that pertain to an aptitude for executing specific tasks, mostly technical abilities and specialized knowledge (such as programming languages). Soft skills include communication skills and other skills related to how employees perform their tasks.
Tech-related career fields continue to hold a strong position when it comes to remote jobs, with computer science and IT ranking among the top career fields for remote work. Thus, it is worth taking a closer look at the newest rankings from FlexJobs, which creates an annual list for remote workers based on analysis of more than 54,000 companies with the most remote job openings. The most popular remote jobs include IT analyst, software developer, application architect and software engineer.
Overall, the number of people working remotely in the U.S. has increased by 159 percent since 2005. The list of the Top 25 remote-job friendly tech companies includes Appen, LiveOps, TTEC, Dell, and SAP. Other companies ranking in the Top 100 include Red Hat, VMware, Salesforce, Jefferson Frank, Accruent, Twilio and GitHub. Many of these companies have a long history of enabling remote work. As a result of embracing remote work, these companies have access to a larger talent pool, stronger retention rates, higher productivity and cost savings through the integration of remote workers into their workforce. The categories of healthcare and IT are the two strongest categories for remote workers, but education has had sustained growth, with sales and customer service as strong prospects as well, according to the FlexJobs report.
The Hays Tech Start-Up 2019 Report recently highlighted some of the major obstacles that tech start-ups are having when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. In competing with tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft, it can be hard for these smaller companies to get the attention of not just engineers and developers, but also sales and marketing talent. It can also be difficult for these companies to compete with the salaries and benefits offered by some of the biggest names in tech. Of the 114 start-ups surveyed by Hayes, 71 percent said that they had difficulties when hiring or trying to hire staff over the last 12 months, with 14 percent saying that these difficulties were extreme.
In the Hays survey, nearly half (48 percent) of tech start-ups cited friends and former colleagues as a main source of employees and candidates. A similar number (46 percent) said that specialist websites and job boards are the way forward for hiring, and one-third said that staff referrals are the best source. Although personal and professional networks seem to be the most popular source for candidates, 65 percent of respondents said that they prioritize having a diverse workforce and use inclusive candidate attraction and selection strategies. Hays noted the benefits of sourcing candidates through existing networks but also highlighted the potential pitfalls. Using such a limited channel to procure candidates can lead to two problems: missing out on excellent talent outside your network that could make a tangible difference to your business, and, in seeking to create a seamless workplace culture, you could create an overly homogenous workforce. Start-ups and scale-ups rightly pride themselves on being innovative and creative, with employees who are unafraid to think outside the box. Casting a wider net to find candidates and therefore building a workforce that better enables diversity of thought are therefore quite important.
Top Factors Shaping the Future of Work in 2020 and Beyond
Inc.com, January 14
According to a 2019 McKinsey study on the future of work, at least 30 percent of job activities in about 60 percent of all occupations are capable of being automated. Therefore, workplace automation will continue to be one of the biggest drivers of change in the workplace for the foreseeable future. However, there are a number of other factors driving the future of work, such as the growing popularity of flexible working hours. For example, according to a Robert Half survey, 47 percent of workers would accept a lower salary in exchange for flexible working hours.
At one time, remote work appeared to be just a fleeting trend. However, for the tech sector, it has turned out to be a way of working that allows people to be productive and work at their peak energy times. A study by FlexJobs found that remote work has grown more than 91 percent over the past 10 years. What flexibility boils down to is trust and autonomy, and building that trust is a two-way street. In the same survey, 76 percent of respondents said that they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options, making the case that remote work is empowering employees to work how they want, where they want. And not only does remote work increase trust and loyalty, it also widens a candidate pool, making it easier for leaders and managers to hire top candidates amidst the current war for talent.
5 Tips for Surviving Your First Year in Tech
Dice Insights, January 15
Whether you are a recent computer science graduate or an older career-changer just out of a coding bootcamp, navigating your first year in tech can be challenging. To make sure you thrive in your first year in tech, one major factor is learning to accept the fact that you are going to have a steep learning curve. To put it simply, sometimes there is just so much coming at you, you are probably going to feel like an imposter that does not know anything. While you may experience a loss of confidence, remember that nobody expects you to know everything, especially during your first year or two.
To survive your first year in tech, resist the urge to hunker down in your cubicle when you are feeling overwhelmed or insecure. Instead, leverage your fear of failure to learn as much as you can about the development process, and the impact of your work on others. You will be surprised at how supportive your team will be if you demonstrate an eagerness and willingness to learn. While you need to take care of your health and emotional wellbeing when you are under stress, the fact is that you may need to spend a few hours every night brushing up on core skills and software development fundamentals to increase your on-the-job performance. Putting in some extra time and effort in the first year is one of the best ways to accelerate your learning curve.
IT Hiring Hits a Tiny Speed Bump
Information Week, January 15
While IT professionals continue to be in demand, and careers in the field are stable and pay well, December 2019 was a lackluster month in terms of hiring in the industry according to the Computing Technology Industry Association. The organization said that the U.S. technology sector added a modest 3,500 jobs in December 2019, which was the second lowest total for the calendar year. Across the whole U.S. economy, IT occupations grew by an estimated 3,000 jobs in December, according to comprehensive analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers.
A total of 54 percent of the new IT jobs are in non-technology companies, and another 46 percent of tech jobs are with technology companies. Overall, the technology sector is still the largest employer of IT occupations. A few factors may have come into play in December in terms of IT hiring numbers. For example, IT hiring has been historically light in December, albeit not in the same way that it is for the retail sector. The lull in hiring is probably due to fewer workdays during the month and organizations opting to wait until the New Year to bring on more staff. Over the last several months, talk of an impending recession may have spooked some IT organizations when it comes to hiring plans. This added uncertainty has probably affected the hiring practices of some top executives, but this does not appear to be the overriding factor.
How to Use These 7 Presentation Skills To Nail a Job Interview
Fast Company, January 16
Both job interviews and presentations are all about persuasion, so it makes sense that the same presentation skills you have learned throughout your career can also help you during the hiring process. Of course, mastering body language and eye contact matters, but if you really want to get the next job, you also have to understand your audience. Success lies in finding the overlap between their needs and your skills and experience. Go beyond researching the company by also researching the people who will interview you. Try to guess what kind of questions they might ask and prepare answers. Impress them and engage with them by tailoring your overall story to them and what they care about.
An effective presentation starts with thinking about its overall structure and creating a story line to guide the audience towards your goal. In an interview, your interviewers are your audience. Sit down and think about your past work experience, passions and interests. Find common elements that run through your past, personally and professionally, noting key milestones and crucible experiences. Tie all that together to create a consistent story line that connects the dots between your past and a future with your new company. You now have a story line that shows why you are the ideal candidate. Moreover, think about a call to action. This is what we want our audience to think, feel, or do at the end of an interview. Your CTA in a job interview boils down to the hiring decision, but you must explain why and tie it back to your story line. Create your CTA as an elevator pitch about you. Summarize your story line, in 30 seconds or less, to show why they should hire you. Just as a presenter should always control the narrative and make their CTA the last thing the audience hears, end your interview with your CTA.
IT Talent: Key Practices For the Decade Ahead
The Enterprisers Project, January 15
As digital transformation reshapes businesses, the talent needed for the next decade must continuously learn new skills, move to new roles as needed, and collaborate with peers across the business. This is true for IT roles at all levels, not just at senior leadership levels. Thus, many organizations now look for candidates who have skills in team development, strategic thinking, business partnership, and transformational leadership. Hiring someone with that kind of broad skill set requires a new talent strategy. In 2020 and beyond, adaptability will be king, learning cultures will thrive, and IT will play a key role in educating the entire business. As might be expected, businesses will pull out all the stops to hire those candidates with both top tech skills and critical soft skills.
First and foremost, IT leaders should align talent strategy with the needs of the business. The talent strategy adopted depends on many factors, including the business model of the organization and the philosophy of its leaders. While one company might rely on outside talent for the bulk of its IT work, another might double down on keeping and cultivating talent in-house. One thing most leaders agree on, however, is the need for flexibility and the ability to adapt to changing requirements. IT leaders should focus on hiring people who can learn and adapt. Traditional training and talent development approaches will not be enough, because 2020 and the decade that follows will demand flexibility and adaptability on a scale not seen before. Since these traits are harder to assess in job applicants, CIOs are looking for standout employees throughout their companies. With technology leadership requiring business acumen as much as technical depth, CIOs are finding that a rich talent pool exists right under their roofs, and are offering IT leadership roles to leaders in marketing, supply chain management, and finance.
Getting Your Team to Embrace Change
Blog @ CACM, January 10
On many programming teams, willingness to change can become a crucial success factor, regardless of how talented the programmers actually are. After all, most of the developers on staff probably have already learned a particular approach and rely on a specific set of tools. Things can become even more complex when a leader is an outsider or newcomer, in which case you may have little political capital, no pre-established relationships, and no mandate to institute radical change. With that in mind, the article takes a closer look at how to build up the appropriate resources and strike when the conditions are most favorable for change.
The long-term goal is to get the entire team to evolve and to embrace change. In the short run, that might mean building a smaller minority team capable of supporting a vision for change. Revolution, most likely, will be a threat to most of the programmers, and especially the ones with the most experience and seniority. This is quite understandable. Thus, the key question is how to build a minority team that will champion change. The first step is to reach out to the younger programmers. Newer employees are often less resistant to change and more open to revolution. In general, pick the most eager and willing to learn. Also, look for those with a clean slate, so that they are most receptive to your new ideas.
Cracks in Open Collaboration in Universities
Communications of the ACM, January 2020
Universities and the interchange of scholars and students in international collaborations have long played an important role in knitting a fabric of human relationships and shared understanding. Unfortunately, over the past six months, the situation has worsened with accelerating economic decoupling between China and the U.S., increasing political conflict, and the persistent reality that China is not evolving toward openness or democracy. Analysts increasingly opine that China lacks the internal civil stability essential to be a good global economic partner. The U.S. has moved to restrict technology flow and investment from allies to China. As might be imagined, this has led to some very important implications for open collaboration in universities.
Within the computer science and tech sectors, U.S. government actions to restrict technology flow are reducing the ability of universities to collaborate with some foreign corporations and organizations. Programs instituted to combat intellectual property theft create new reporting requirements. Collectively, these actions have a chilling impact on collaboration and create rising anxiety, especially with regard to China. In some cases, foreign companies appearing on restricted lists are being forced to wrap up their U.S.-based research programs. The resulting tensions produce covert and overt suppression of open communication and learning.
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