ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, March 10, 2020

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Volume 16, Issue 5, March 10, 2020

The 5 Top Tech Skills Companies Want in New Hires Right Now
Fortune, February 6

Nearly seven in 10 companies are planning to expand tech hiring during the first six months of 2020. While tech hiring across the board is on the upswing, demand is particularly high in areas such as cybersecurity, cloud computing, and database management. Given this hiring environment, job candidates should carefully match their own skill sets and experiences with those being demanded by employers in order to maximize their opportunities. Based on data from Indeed, the 10 most widely available IT jobs now are software engineer, senior software engineer, software architect, system engineer, developer, systems administrator, full stack developer, technical support specialist, front-end developer, and product manager.

The top two tech jobs, software engineer and senior software engineer, are the biggest categories by far, accounting for almost 11 percent of total job openings (including non-IT jobs) posted on Indeed. Software engineers now need to be expert in at least one, or preferably several, programming languages. The most useful language to know depends to a large degree on the specific job in question. The six languages most mentioned in recent software engineer job postings are Java, C++, Python, JavaScript, C#, C, and NET. Even if you have all the right skills at the moment, what employers need can change fast, so people who want these jobs must be quick and agile about spotting trends and picking up new skills as they go along.

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Mid-Level Developers Are In Highest Demand
Tech Republic, March 5

Big data and analytics are the top drivers of tech hiring, followed closely by cloud computing and artificial intelligence, according to the new HackerRank Tech Recruiting Benchmark Report. For companies of all sizes, mid-level developers are in highest demand, followed by senior developers and entry-level developers. Teams struggle the most to find qualified full-stack developers, machine learning engineers, DevOps engineers, systems architects, and data scientists.

The HackerRank report provides insight into how companies can compete against tech giants like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google as they hire and retain talent. In order for smaller companies or non-traditional tech companies to compete with the tech giants, they need to sell on the impact and potential upside in equity. You cannot really change the culture of a big Silicon Valley giant, but you can for a startup. You can have a material social impact on the world when you join a startup. It is even more important for smaller startups to hire for skill over pedigree. Google and Facebook have their pick of engineers from every school, while everyone else is left competing for the same engineering talent, or trying to understand how to find and attract the millions of other skilled developers around the world. These companies should look to their data to tell them where and how they need to improve, and be willing to make real changes. Among the key takeaways in the report is the need for agile, adaptive hiring teams to keep up with tech hiring demands.

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Three AI-Powered Jobs For Non-Techies
Forbes, February 21

Despite all the concerns over the loss of IT jobs due to automation, the rise of AI is actually creating entirely new job opportunities, even for non-techies. Augmented intelligence jobs, for example, combine the strengths of humans and machines to deal with the onslaught of data being generated in the modern age. If you are looking to jumpstart a career in tech, but lack a degree in computer science, there are several new AI-powered jobs to consider: junior threat hunter, analytics translator and conversation designer.

Threat hunters proactively search networks for advanced cyber threats that evade existing security solutions. Most threat hunters have extensive experience in cybersecurity and are often former ethical hackers or hackers trained in attacking a network in order to test its defenses. However, given the cybersecurity skills gap, some companies have turned to internally developing junior-level threat analysts with little or no background in security, or even in IT. These individuals are trained to track down threats in computer networks with the aid of machine learning. The solutions that these junior employees use can automatically detect unusual activity, such as internal data transfers to unknown servers, giving threat hunters a head start on investigations. One soft skill that makes individuals well suited for this role is the ability to communicate. While technology can be used to automate many of the data and malware analysis needed for this role, the ability to concisely and clearly communicate the impact of a potential threat is valuable.

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IT Recruiting: Competing with the Googles and Amazons
Information Week, February 25

In the current strong economy, there is a lot of competition to recruit the best talent. The problem is that, for companies without a lot of name recognition, it can be a challenge to attract in-demand IT professionals. In an age of digital transformation, when so many traditional companies are working to become tech companies, the competition to recruit IT talent has gotten even hotter. As a result, these companies are coming up with innovative new approaches to IT recruiting that go beyond just posting to job boards.

With the competition for skilled IT workers expanding, companies need to step up their game in how they recruit talent. Hiring areas of particular concern include developers, information security professionals, and cloud specialists. Plus, many companies are now seeing their data management and analytics program grow as well. To meet the challenge, companies must distinguish themselves as not just a technology company, but also as a leader in technology. It is about changing the narrative about what a company is and what it has to offer to ambitious technology pros. The recruitment strategy for IT jobs must be deeper and more thoughtful than posting to job boards.

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Ten Cities Captured Nearly 50 Percent of the Growth in New Tech Jobs, March 3

U.S jobs in tech are increasingly concentrated in a handful of already prominent tech hubs, according to a new Brookings Institution survey. Brookings looked specifically at the distribution of digital service jobs in the U.S., such as those in software publishing; data processing and hosting; computer systems design; and web publishing and search. Since 2010, the overall number of jobs in these fields increased in numerous cities, but only a few cities increased their overall share of tech jobs. In short, the number of tech jobs is growing nationwide, but it is growing much faster in a few cities such as San Francisco, Seattle and Austin. The 10 metro areas with the highest shares of digital service jobs accounted for nearly half of these jobs nationwide in 2018.

The top 10 cities for digital services jobs also captured about half of the growth in nearly a million new tech jobs added since 2010. About one-third of the national increase was concentrated in San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Austin alone. The vast majority of cities, however, either lost tech jobs or saw no change in that time. The result is that tech companies, which are increasingly shaping the way people live and work, are potentially missing out on crucial diversity when it comes to who is helping them come up with new ideas and make decisions. The rest of the country also misses out on the economic windfall created by these companies.

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How IT Leaders Can Cultivate Their Personal Brand
The Enterprisers Project, March 3

It has become increasingly popular for IT leaders to talk about establishing a personal brand as a way to expand their access to future career opportunities, such as leadership positions in larger companies or board seats with publicly-traded firms. They also hope their brand will give them a competitive advantage in the escalating competition for IT talent. In many ways, this focus on brand building goes beyond just building a quality reputation, which is largely based on experience and accomplishments. Brands are often manufactured in a more intentional fashion and can include several different types, including internal brands, vendor brands, and external brands.

There are many dimensions to a personal brand, with the most visible of these being the internal company brand. IT leaders typically deal with a variety of business colleagues within their organizations. Over time they develop internal reputations based on their business knowledge, operational skills, and people management abilities. A strong internal brand can turn your business associates into your biggest supporters and materially enhance your external reputation through their interactions with their professional networks. Another aspect of a personal brand is the vendor community brand, since most IT leaders have extensive interactions with vendors. Vendor representatives freely exchange what they think about the ability of a leader to inspire their teams, foster innovation, and influence the thinking of their business peers.

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How to Keep Employees From Quitting, March 5

With the IT unemployment rate hovering near record lows, it is getting even more expensive to replace employees. Replacing workers cost employers $617 billion in 2018, compared with $331 billion in 2010. What this means is that even if the economy slows this year, it is becoming all the more vital to retain key employees. The good news is that there are four budget-friendly ways to keep employees happy and engaged, such as by providing more flexibility in work arrangements.

Workplace flexibility is one of the most important attributes sought after by workers. People want to work from home, come in and leave at different times, and not get into trouble for taking a two-hour lunch from time to time. As a result, companies should be looking at results and not just at time-in-seat. Another key factor in retaining top employees is having a team of top managers invested in the success of their workers. Regardless of how high the paycheck is, or how exciting the work is, a bad manager can turn a good job into an unpleasant experience. Companies should make sure their managers know how to manage. They should train them on feedback and be willing to fire them if necessary.

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Valuing the Quality and Not the Quantity of Work
Queue, February 12

How work is valued can have a significant impact on how computer science professionals view their jobs. Many metrics have been created to measure work, including the rate at which tickets are closed and the number of lines of code a programmer writes in a day. All of these measures, however, fail to take into account the quality of the output. If one person writes one thousand lines of impossible-to-read, buggy code in a day and another person writes one hundred lines of well-crafted, easy-to-use code in the same time, then who should be rewarded? Unfortunately, many companies have chosen quantity over quality, all in the name of productivity.

What management wants is maximum output for minimum input, and input in this case is the IT employee who is doing the work. When management implements irrelevant metrics for tracking this input, employees have only a few choices. The first choice is to game the system such that you can actually do minimum work to get the maximum benefit, usually by taking on trivial tasks that can easily be completed and will show at the end of each month that you accomplished more tasks than anyone else. After a while, that game becomes boring, but in large organizations you can do quite well with it, get promoted to management and then create your own new metrics to measure the performance of your subordinates more accurately.

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Advancing Computing as a Science and Profession
Communications of the ACM, March 2020

For more than half a century, there has been continuous debate about what it means to advance computing as a science and profession. In the broadest possible terms, it means using computing to help solve the future problems of the world, as practitioners use their knowledge and skills to advance the profession and make a positive impact. Overall, there has been a growing commitment to the public good. There is now a recognition that the actions of computing professionals can change the world. To act responsibly, they should reflect upon the wider impacts of their work, consistently supporting the public good.

The idea of science for the public good is based on the notion that scientific progress is essential to human progress. New products, new industries, and new jobs require continuous additions to knowledge of the laws of nature, and the application of that knowledge to practical purposes. Moreover, this essential, new knowledge can be obtained only through basic scientific research. This vision of scientific progress actually dates back to 1945 and the immediate post-war period. Over the past 75 years, new challenges, such as nuclear proliferation and climate change, have made the need for the application of scientific advances more relevant than ever for society.

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