ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, February 18, 2020
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 16, Issue 4, February 18, 2020
The new Dice Tech Job Report for the first quarter of 2020 shines a light on which companies, jobs, and skills are providing the most career opportunities for tech professionals. Working with data from job analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies, Dice analyzed more than 6 million tech job postings in the U.S. from 2018 and 2019. Overall, 2019 witnessed the growth of tech hubs throughout the U.S., the continued emergence of data-oriented jobs and skill sets, and greater competition among businesses looking for tech talent. Moving into 2020, companies are expected to put even more effort into hiring tech professionals.
Software developer was the top tech profession, according to Dice. Companies across the U.S. are hiring software developers at a rapid pace. In fact, this role accounted for around 12 percent of all tech job openings over the past year. IBM, Amazon, and Accenture were the top employers for software development positions. The profession itself is projected to grow more than 30 percent over the next 10 years, according to Dice. Second on the list of top tech roles was network engineer, followed by systems engineer, senior software developer, software QA engineer, application developer, IT project manager, computer support specialist, systems administrator, and cyber security engineer.
Project managers, business analysts, and security and testing experts are seeing a rapid increase in salaries as the rise of new technologies such as cloud computing changes the skills that companies are seeking. In many cases, companies are now willing to pay a premium for candidates with these skills. According to analysis by recruitment firm Harvey Nash, the fastest-growing salaries included business analysts (up 28% over the last 12 months), security specialists (up 22%), project managers (up 16%) and testing engineers (up 11%). Unsurprisingly, CIO, CTO and VP roles still attract the highest salaries within the IT industry.
The growth in demand and salaries for both business analysts and project managers reflects a need by organizations to optimize their new technology deployments and improve their overall competitive position in the marketplace. The demand for security specialists has been increasing in line with the increase in threats that has occurred over the past decade. However, the rise in salaries for testing is perhaps the most surprising development. This area has been the most susceptible to automation, and certainly in the past salaries have remained fairly flat. That said, in recent years as systems have become more complex, and testing has had to extend to a range much wider than before (including privacy, security and even customer experience), testing has re-emerged as a key skill. Developers are paid an average of $61,000 according to the report, which surveyed 1,200 UK workers. Project managers earned an average of $115,700, with the top earners making $143,000.
Companies are on a hiring spree for people who have a background in augmented or virtual reality. In the past few years, major tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple have been investing in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Better hardware and more advanced smartphones will undoubtedly unlock a lot of transformative potential for virtual reality, and even more so with augmented reality. Rumors suggest that Apple will release its first AR headset in 2023, while Facebook sells its own line of Oculus virtual reality headset products and is investing heavily in the VR field.
New data from Hired shows just how much companies have been staffing up. The growth in AR/VR job listings and companies seeking interviews for those jobs took off in the past 12 months. By way of comparison, jobs in those categories barely registered on Hired in previous years. Facebook currently has more than 3,000 jobs on its career page with the term AR/VR. Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google have a total of about 1,000, depending on what variations of AR/VR keywords you use. Facebook says it currently employs thousands of people who work on AR/VR and plans to move its AR/VR teams to a new campus that will seat approximately 4,000 employees. There has been a 1,400 percent growth in interview demand for AR/VR engineers in the past year, according to Hired. The company conducted a study that analyzed thousands of listings and companies in its annual state of software engineers report. The overall number of listings has grown exponentially, too. The average salaries for these positions in major U.S. tech hubs range from $135,000 to $150,000.
How To Empower Yourself In the Job Search and Fight Back Against AI
Forbes, February 10
As part of streamlining the hiring process, companies are beginning to rely heavily upon artificial intelligence (AI) and sophisticated software, such as applicant tracking systems (ATS). The combination of the ubiquity of job listings and the easy means to apply to a job listing creates a scenario in which human resources and talent acquisition professionals are inundated with resumes. It is nearly impossible for them to review and respond to each and every applicant. Most major corporations have deployed ATS platforms to screen candidates, and that is increasing pressure on candidates to find new ways to show they possess the required background, skills and experiences for the job.
In order to fight back against the rise of AI, job candidates must embark upon a different strategy. In short, they need to find ways to bypass the system. If you are only filling out long, glitch-ridden applications that invasively ask for personal information, sending resumes into the black hole of the internet and then hoping that it gets past the robots and the review of a person who may or may not understand what you do, the odds are stacked against you. The key is to take control and empower yourself to network. If you notice a job listing that you feel is appropriate, find someone who works at the company. Disclose to them your high level of interest and ask if they could get your resume into the right person’s hands. Provide your ally with talking points, so they can sell your attributes to the hiring manager. The manager is probably as frustrated as the job seeker. They are not seeing a flow of relevant resumes, especially in this tight labor market. The supervisor is likely to strongly desire someone to quickly fill the open role, as the work is piling up and the rest of the team may be getting overwhelmed. By finding personnel within the company to champion your candidacy, it gives you more leverage. Studies show that companies prefer candidates who are recommended by internal employees.
Reasons Why You Should Work For a Startup
Tech World, February 5
If you are seeking a new job opportunity that has plenty of room for career development, a startup might just be the best place for you. Although the starting salary may not be as high as found elsewhere, there are many perks at startups, like a more relaxed culture and flexible working options. However, it takes a certain type of character to flourish in the environment. You need to be independent, adaptable and a quick learner. If you are the type of person who looks for stability and process, then it is probably not the place for you. There is value in working in such a high-growth environment that goes beyond adding experience to your CV. For engineers and developers, the startup environment provides the perfect conditions to grow both their technical ability and those all-important soft skills.
Although financially the salary may not be as high as that of a larger company, there are a number of perks that startups will often offer their employees that you might not get working for a large firm. This includes shorter working weeks and flexible hours, employee discounts, free breakfasts or lunch, and access to the gym and health facilities. Another benefit to note is the casual working environment. Startups tend to work in a shared office space, or you may even work from home, so if you are not a fan of the corporate office then this could be the route to go down. Working for a startup can also help build your professional network. By necessity, startups tend to get involved in a lot of industry events, like local meet ups, conferences, and pitching competitions. This makes it possible to meet new people working in your field, and further build your professional contacts. This can, of course, also open doors for career opportunities in the future.
Important Trends About the Future of Work Every Leader Should Know About
Inc.com, February 11
Several macro-level trends are having a huge impact on the future of work, including the rise of automation and the implementation of AI. While these technologies are helping companies find more efficient ways to deal with repetitive tasks, they are also leading to a shakeup in the employment market. Another big macro-trend is the aging of populations in developed and industrialized nations. The most successful nations will be those that can maximize the previously overlooked talent of older workers, especially given the IT skills gap many of these countries are now facing.
The IT skills shortage across developed and industrialized nations is highlighting the need for these nations to tap into the skills of previously ignored demographic groups. For example, the United States has a jobs surplus of more than one million open positions, and there are record-high labor shortages across 12 of the 15 largest world economies. At the same time, two large demographic groups are underutilized in the workforce: people with disabilities and people over age 55. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, people are living longer and retiring later, and workers 65 years of age and older are the fastest-growing cohort in the United States. According to the United Nations, the U.S. Census Bureau and the ADA National Network, 1.5 billion people, including 40 million Americans and 30 percent of Americans over age 65, live with a disability. While employers have struggled to fill open roles, people in these groups face higher rates of unemployment around the world. In 2020, organizations must make a concerted effort to reach into these untapped talent pools and create accessible, inclusive environments where these employees can thrive. Welcoming these populations into the workforce demands that executives reconsider diversity, inclusion, and accessibility.
Are Annual Performance Reviews a Relic of the Past?
Silicon Republic, February 12
Within the HR industry, annual performance reviews are no longer as popular as they once were, and some recruiters have suggested they may be entirely outdated for the fast pace of the modern tech industry. In short, the practice of strategic performance management is shifting, with some organizations taking more of a lead than others to find new alternatives. GE, for example, famously eliminated annual performance management reviews, while other companies such as Google and Apple never deployed them in the first place. Ever since 2015, there has been a massive change from traditional performance appraisal systems to new strategic performance management.
The effectiveness of having a performance appraisal with an employee just once a year, with little to no feedback in the interim, is being called into question. Many organizations are now switching this practice for more regular feedback sessions. A recent survey conducted by Hays of 1,516 people across Australia and New Zealand found 67 percent of managers prefer another form of feedback. Most agreed that some form of annual feedback is still important, but that other more regular feedback must be provided too so that areas for improvement are addressed as they arise. This allows an employee and employer to change behavior before it becomes embedded. Performance and productivity improve because feedback is not held off for the annual review, and managers spend less time managing issues that could have been avoided. Performance management also needs to be based on the concept of coaching. It is more about finding the resources for the employee so they can then figure out the process themselves, which is what coaching is about.
IT Talent: The Perfect People May Be Hiding Inside Your Organization
The Enterprisers Project, February 12
To extract business value from technology these days, companies must have the ability to assemble highly adaptive teams. If companies do not have IT teams capable of continuously adapting to new tools and technologies, they will not be able to move fast enough to keep up. As a result, IT leaders who want to be on the winning side of the talent equation must consider new strategies to deal with the shortage of technology talent and still assemble the best teams. From a talent perspective, the winners and losers will be separated by their ability to keep their talent engaged with ongoing training and new, internal growth opportunities. Thus, training and re-skilling will play a critical role over the next few years.
It takes more than a compelling company mission to keep your best talent engaged. The organizations that will win the battles for the best talent will be those that can provide dynamic work environments where their employees have the opportunity to apply the skills they are developing in new contexts. Another tactic is to help your existing talent build the skills needed for advancement even if they are not getting those opportunities in their current roles. This type of environment requires visibility of talent and opportunities across the entire organization, with the ability to constantly connect employees to new full-time roles as well as part-time engagements such as projects, gigs, rotations and mentoring. The companies that can operate this way provide meaningful and accessible opportunities to their employees and deliver against their business mandates faster and more consistently. Recent research on the future of IT talent strategies underscores the advantage that will belong to organizations that prioritize training. Winning the current talent battle with a focus on current skill needs will not be enough. CIOs must take a more expansive approach and think about how skill requirements will evolve if they want to thrive in and beyond the next decade.
There is More Than One Way to Become a Good Programmer
Blog @ CACM, February 11
Coding academies have sprung up in recent years to provide intensive training in programming and deliver software engineering talent to the industry. While some may dismiss these academies for their rigor or focus, the reality is that they now cover diverse areas of software engineering and are increasingly being relied upon to provide talent to the tech industry. Coding academies make no claims of replacing multi-year university computer science education. Instead, they simply fill a need left out by those institutions. Not everyone will have the privilege of learning to program at an elite university and receiving an advanced degree in software engineering, but that it does not need to be the end of the story anymore.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are another example of an approach that has drawn, along with hype, much unjustified criticism. Similar to a coding academy program, these courses do not replace a university education. Instead, they provide a valuable addition to the available collection of educational tools. In order to become a programmer, almost everyone needs the repeated interaction with instructors and fellow students that only an intensive hands-on program with personal coaching can provide. Good universities themselves accept that the 4- or 5-year model is not a panacea, since they usually offer extension courses for professionals. Three months for a coding academy seems a short time compared to 4 or 5 years, but those years are not spent on programming alone. In contrast, the three months of coding academy programs are dedicated full-time to programming. A traditional computer science program lets you choose many topics in the discipline, and you can graduate without writing much actual code past the obligatory introductory course. As a result, a university CS program is not the one and only path to becoming a software engineer. For some CS students it is not a path to software engineering, and for some software engineers it is not the right path. Three months of intensive programming is hardly negligible.
Talented Programmers Do Not Tolerate Chaos
Blog @ CACM, February 11
There are several defining traits of top programmers, and one of the most important of these is that they know how to structure things via code. Talented coders want that structure to be as close to perfection as possible. Mediocre coders simply care that the program works. At first, any working program seems like results, but poorly coded software is a poor result. And the goal is not just any results, but instead, top-notch results. To find these talented programmers, then, one approach is to ask candidates to analyze a small piece of code during the interview process. Talented programmers immediately home in on the structural problems, some obvious, some a bit more nuanced. They are on the constant lookout for unstructured chaos and the problems it can cause later.
When evaluating programmers, results are just as important as talent. The underlying skills and aptitudes are important, but so is the ability to put all of this talent to work in delivering results. Companies need programmers who can consistently deliver great code. In many ways, this type of thinking now informs the way companies interview programmers. If you are interviewing potential programmers and you want to find someone who is really talented, there needs to be some way to determine this. The lazy way to evaluate a candidate is to look at their resume, check some references, and see how much their current employer is paying them. A better way to find talented programmers is to find people who can produce results.
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