ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, May 5, 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 [email protected]

Volume 16, Issue 9, May 5, 2020

The Top Flourishing and Fading IT Careers
The Enterprisers Project, April 22

Top IT careers on the upswing include those that focus on product management, cybersecurity, analytics and data science. Over the long term, say recruiters and hiring managers, IT workers should attempt to align themselves with business and technology trends that can propel their careers forward. In order to do this, it is important to look beyond job titles that do not always describe what people actually do in the workplace. In order to have a productive conversation with a hiring manager, you first need to do some background research to find out what they really want and need.

One of the most popular IT roles right now is the product manager, also known as the product owner. They play a role in digital transformation by helping to create digitally enhanced products and digitally enabled revenue streams. While a CTO may be the ultimate product owner in an organization, product managers attend to the details of agile, scrum, software development and issue tracking to get the work done. Product managers also do a lot of the work previously assigned to business analysts, making sure to ask the right questions and solve the right problems so whatever software is produced meets the business requirements. In addition to product managers, cybersecurity professionals are a very sought after role. Demand for cybersecurity talent has been growing for years, even more so now that securing remote work arrangements is a priority for every company. Given these uncertain times, and with all of the remote work taking place, information security talent at all levels will continue to be in high demand for the foreseeable future.

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Inside the Blockchain Coronavirus Hiring Spree
Forbes, April 24

Through the first four months of 2020, the number of job postings for cryptocurrency and blockchain jobs have continued to increase on popular job platforms such as Indeed. With a newfound focus on remote hiring opportunities, companies are hiring for positions such as software engineer, software architect, senior software engineer, full stack developer, front end developer, developer, transformation manager, product manager, and operations engineer. Overall, this new hiring spree could present new opportunities for IT workers looking to change careers or transition to new roles in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cryptocurrency exchanges represent one type of company that is looking to bolster its workforce with blockchain professionals and cryptocurrency experts. The article highlights this expanding sphere of the tech industry with a closer look at Kraken, the San Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange. The company originally planned to hire 250 people in 2020, largely due to events surrounding Bitcoin. As coronavirus led to people looking for alternative assets, Kraken increased that number to 350, and moved up their hiring timeline. In short, increased customer demand is going to mean increased business for cryptocurrency exchanges like Kraken, and that is going to mean increased hiring. Originally, Kraken was expecting to do most of the hiring in the months after the Bitcoin halving, a pre-programmed event on the Bitcoin blockchain scheduled for May. However, coronavirus quickly became the reason to hire earlier than expected.

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Demand For Cybersecurity Jobs Declines But Still Outperforms Other Sectors
Information Week, April 23

Employment and hiring in the tech sector has weathered the coronavirus pandemic much better than other areas of the economy, especially in areas such as cybersecurity. For example, the share of job postings on for tech jobs has increased about 11 percent since the beginning of February, while the share of clicks on those postings has increased at least 23 percent. While job postings for cybersecurity-related jobs are down nearly 30 percent on a year-over-year basis, job postings elsewhere are on a much steeper decline, meaning that cybersecurity job postings account for a greater overall share of total jobs available.

The forced move to remote work has changed the economic landscape because only about one-third of jobs can plausibly be accomplished from home, with high-tech jobs the most suited to remote work, according to a study by the University of Chicago. Because technology workers and cybersecurity professionals are part of the one-third of workers who can work remotely, areas like Silicon Valley (where 48% of jobs can be done remotely) will likely weather the pandemic better than other locales. In March, for example, technology professionals fared better than the economy overall with unemployment in computer and math-related occupations rising to only 2.4%, while salaried employees in the information economy essentially maintained full employment with a 1.8% unemployment rate. Yet, since that March report, conditions have worsened and workers at many companies have felt the effect. In some cases, companies have been laying off or furloughing employees and figuring out how to function with a smaller workforce.

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What Should I Be Looking For When Hiring a Developer?
IT Pro (UK), April 27

When it comes to hiring a developer, recruiters are less focused on technical skills and programming languages, and more focused on soft skills such as communication and curiosity. In fact, a rigid focus on technical training is likely to rule out some of the best candidates in the first sift, leaving those who are technically excellent, but sometimes a poor fit, without a chance to interview. As a result, say recruiters, developers need to understand far more than frameworks, schema and version control.

The role of developer is changing almost as quickly as the technology. As a result, companies are looking to hire people who understand not only how to build software, but also how to actually deploy, monitor and support what they have built. Given the direction where tools are going in the AI and data science space, increasingly there will be an expanded role for citizen data scientists. These are people who fit into the marketing, strategy or finance team of an organization, but have at their fingertips powerful predictive models that they are using to interrogate and make decisions about their business. In this respect, the traditional role of developer is being shared with the end user, allowing those who code within the organization to become more specialized and shift their focus elsewhere.

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5 Essential Skills To Expand Your Job Prospects After Coronavirus
Fast Company, April 24

Newly unemployed and furloughed tech workers should utilize the current interruption in their careers to develop new skills that will help them find their next opportunity in an unpredictable post-coronavirus labor market. Even before the crisis, the world of work was undergoing a digital transformation, in which technologies like automation and artificial intelligence were changing the way people work and the skills necessary to do their jobs. This trend will likely continue. In addition, talent specialists in the IT industry point to the need for soft skills that cannot be replicated by robots or AI, such as emotional intelligence, problem solving, and communication skills.

For unemployed IT workers, proactively utilizing online courses to acquire new skill sets could make a dramatic difference in post-pandemic abilities to return to work or start a new career. One popular area right now is artificial intelligence. The World Economic Forum identified artificial intelligence specialists as the number one emerging data job in the future and LinkedIn Learning categorized artificial intelligence as a top hard skill for 2020. Problem solving and critical thinking are also essential skills to acquire. A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 37% of employers cited problem-solving and critical thinking among the top soft skills that candidates were lacking. Applicants who can prove that they are able to think critically and find solutions to business problems will have a much better chance of being hired.

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Data Analyst Interview Questions: Show Off Your Experience
Dice Insights, April 28

When applying for data analyst jobs, keep in mind that potential interview questions will focus not only on your analytical skills but also your soft skills such as communication, creativity and empathy. Granular attention to all job-posting details will inevitably pay off during the data analyst interview process, when employers will ask questions to see evidence of these skills. For example, if the job requirements include cleaning up the database, come prepared with stories of how you did just that in your previous roles and make sure to also come prepared with an optimized data analyst resume that highlights what skills or experiences that would make you perfect for this specific role.

Data analysts must be able to discuss how they handle day-to-day challenges in their role. Since data preparation for use by teams throughout the organization is vital, your answers to many data analyst interview questions will ultimately address that very topic. Datasets provided in college and most educational programs are clean and easy to use. In the real world, data is almost never ready to use, and oftentimes not even usable at all. A lot of effort goes into the unglamorous process of cleaning data and preparing it for use. In addition, one challenge is translating technical and statistical insights into business-ready analysis. The true superstars in data science are the ones who can not only build models, but also communicate their results effectively to the C-suite executives. This is one of the more challenging aspects of being a data analyst, and describing how you’re prepared for it is one of the key challenges during data analyst interview questions. In short, you have to describe, on a very tactical level, how you translate data into digestible content for others. Your ease with various tools and outputs is key to acing the data analyst interview.

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Tech Apprenticeships Promise a New Path For Diverse Candidates
Built In, April 29

Tech apprenticeships are growing in popularity within the tech sector, especially as a way to fill important skill gaps with diverse candidates. The best apprenticeship programs seek to fill any educational gaps with practical, on-the-job training. After the apprenticeship program, candidates typically go onto relatively high-paying jobs in areas such as software development. While apprenticeships have been around for centuries in trade industries, they are still a relatively new concept for the tech industry. Given the current IT skills gap and related problems hiring qualified candidates, apprenticeships hold a lot of promise as an alternative hiring source and a pipeline for diverse candidates with non-traditional backgrounds.

In many ways, the expanding role of apprenticeships is the result of growing awareness in the public and private sector of how they can be leveraged to meet specific goals, such as closing the skills gap. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, an apprenticeship must contain five components: an employer, structured on-the-job training with an experienced mentor, related instruction, wage with pay increases for attainment and a nationally recognized credential at the completion of the program. A traditional vocational apprenticeship would typically involve a student following a mentor on the job four days a week with one day for classes and it would take about three to five years to complete. However, apprenticeship providers in tech put a slight twist on the formula, placing all of the education in the beginning like a bootcamp. This suits the needs of the tech industry, which is looking to fill very specialized needs within a short period of time. Often, the program is free for applicants, and employers pay programs to facilitate finding, training and onboarding the apprentices. The employer pays the apprentice salary, but can qualify for a tax credit if they hire an apprentice.

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You Do Not Have to Be Young To Succeed As an Entrepreneur, April 15

The conventional wisdom that smart young upstarts just out of college make the best entrepreneurs is misguided, according to a new analysis of 102 studies of entrepreneurs. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) found that people who launch businesses in their 50s have greater financial success and higher satisfaction levels than younger entrepreneurs in their 20s. According to the data, older entrepreneurs have more capital, connections, and wisdom, while younger entrepreneurs are more adept at inventing new technology.

Contrary to the popular consensus, entrepreneurship is not only for young men or women. In fact, according to the data, women entrepreneurs grow particularly more successful with age. As a result, their chance of success increases as they move to later life stages, and their perseverance ultimately tends to pay off, says an associate professor of management at RPI. When you are in your 30s and 40s is not the right time to start a business. More success comes to twentysomethings and fiftysomethings. The researchers concluded that midlife is a challenging time to start a business due to childcare and eldercare obligations, noting that entrepreneurs do not typically have parental leave or daycare benefits.

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Holding a Conference Online and Live Due to COVID-19
Blog@CACM, April 21

Given the realities of the coronavirus pandemic, leading tech conference organizers now must reschedule, postpone and even cancel important events on the global tech calendar. Those that are still moving forward with plans are being forced to come up with creative new approaches involving online conferencing and other tech features that replicate live, in-person meetings. The article highlights this with a closer look at the joint EDBT/ICDT conference (International Conference on Extending Database Technology/International Conference on Database Theory), which is a popular conference series on data management with annual meetings in March.

Three weeks before EDBT/ICDT 2020 was planned to take place in Copenhagen, the rapidly developing COVID-19 pandemic led to the decision to cancel the face-to-face event. However, the conference organizers decided to move the conference online while trying to preserve as much of the real-life experience as possible. The goal, quite simply, became a fully synchronous online experience. This means that participants jointly listened to presentations, had live Q&A, and attended other live events associated with the conference. There are potentially important lessons to be learned for the broader computer science community looking to host or sponsor events in 2020 and beyond. For example, since the conference needed to be re-organized within a very short time and the effect on Internet services of millions of people working from home because of the pandemic was not clear, they used an important guiding principle: aim to minimize dependency on stable Internet connections.

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Partnerships Can Help Drive Gender Equality
Communications of the ACM, May 2020

Partnerships could be the key to addressing the lack of gender diversity and equitable experiences of women in the computer science field. The most successful partnerships will be those featuring organizations whose primary mission is to work toward an increase of women in the technology sector and to positively impact the experience of those women already in computing. Each of these organizations has a unique sphere in which it works. For example, some work in the K-12 sector, while others organize major professional events with a focus on celebrating and mentoring women. All of these organizations working together can do valuable work in helping to drive gender equality.

Overall, the investment of time and financial resources could become more impactful if organizations identify ways in which their work intersects, and build partnership programs in those spaces. One example of such a partnership involves the Computing Research Association Committee on Widening Participation (CRA-WP), which annually runs a program called Grad Cohort. This three-day workshop brings together women who are currently pursuing an advanced degree in computing with goals of encouraging persistence in the field and increasing the number of women who choose to pursue research careers. Because of funding restrictions, Grad Cohort attendees must be attending universities in the U.S. and Canada. For the past three years, ACM-W has sponsored faculty from several countries to attend the Grad Cohort workshop, with a goal of creating comparable programs internationally. As a result, Grad Cohort workshops have been held in such locations as Greece, Ireland, India, Kuwait and Spain.

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