ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, May 19, 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 10, May 19, 2020
One industry likely to thrive as a result of the coronavirus pandemic is artificial intelligence (AI), which had already been tabbed as one of the fastest rising careers of the future. In early 2020, AI has been deployed sweepingly to help tackle the pandemic. Hospitals use the technology to diagnose patients, while governments employ it in contact tracing apps and companies rely on it to support the biggest work from home experiment in history. And that demand is only set to rise. In fact, the number of AI jobs globally could grow 16 percent this year. That could create new opportunities in an otherwise challenging jobs market.
The tech industry has been making progress lately in getting more women to join the AI workforce. In a recent report, IBM found the majority (85%) of AI professionals think the industry has become more diverse over recent years, which has had a positive impact on the technology. Of the more than 3,200 people surveyed across North America, Europe and India, 86% said they are now confident in the ability of AI systems to make decisions without bias. However, more still needs to be done to encourage women into the industry and keep them there. Attracting and retaining women are two sides of the same issue supporting a greater balance of women in AI. Issues such as career progression and barriers to career advancement hold the keys to helping women stay in AI careers, and ultimately attracting more women as the status quo evolves.
According to a top Facebook executive, employees can create their own application programming interfaces (APIs) to maximize their career development. The idea is the brainchild of Andrew "Boz" Bosworth, vice president of augmented and virtual reality at Facebook. Just as APIs are used by developers as building blocks for their own apps, IT workers can also use the same thinking to define their careers and set parameters for how others should best interact with them. By doing so, they will enable colleagues to get the most out of their abilities.
As a first step, IT workers need to take control of their career progression by engaging their manager. Rather than being a passive participant in the relationship, you should be actively steering it. In order to make your manager into your sponsor, you should make it easy for them to be sharing your narrative with others in the organization. Tell them what kinds of problems you would like to be working on and check up with them regularly on their progress finding you more opportunities. Create opportunities for collaboration by mastering the art of the streamlined biography. When you meet a new colleague, introduce yourself and add a sentence about what kinds of things you love to work on and maybe give an example. The goal here is not to impress them but rather to enlist them so they are able to funnel interesting work your way if they see it.
Despite constant warnings of a gender gap in the IT industry, women continue to enjoy rewarding careers as software developers, web developers, security experts and tech company leaders. In short, software development is the right career choice for many women looking to get a start in the tech industry. Women in tech make great money, routinely express themselves creatively, and often get to set their own schedules. Software development, in particular, offers many rewards and benefits for recent university graduates with the right mix of technical and soft skills.
The tech industry, including software development, is experiencing a talent shortage, in part because companies in every industry are bringing in more technology to support their efforts. Because of that, many companies hiring within it do not require a specific degree. Instead, they require in-depth coding knowledge, which can be self-taught or learned through non-traditional sources. So, if you have a liberal arts or other non-technical degree, you may still qualify for many software development positions. The good news is that technology occupations are projected to grow 12 percent between now and 2028, much faster than the average occupation. This means your career as a software developer could go in many different directions. You could end up leading a team of other developers, becoming involved with another part of a technology company such as research and development, marketing, or sales, or launching your own startup. You can even take a shot at a leadership position.
Only Cyber Security Jobs at IT Firms Are COVID-19 Virus-Proof
Economic Times (India), May 13
IT vendors catering to the banking, financial services and insurance sector are hiring more cyber security professionals even as there is freeze on all other technology positions, according to staffing firms. As companies continue the remote work model and look to improve the security of their networks, demand for cybersecurity roles is on the upswing despite uncertainty over onboarding employees amid a lockdown to combat the COVID-19 virus outbreak. In fact, in the wake of some high-profile cybersecurity incidents, demand has gone up by as much as 15 percent.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were a lot of open positions for cybersecurity. Now there has been an increase in demand, particularly from the Big Four consulting companies and the IT services companies catering to the banking and financial services sector. While demand for regular developer skills has fallen, hiring for cybersecurity roles will be a priority for companies after the lockdown is lifted. The nature of cybersecurity professionals will change. People who have more knowledge of video conferencing, for example, will be more in demand, especially as many organizations find creative ways to engage remote workers.
5 Ways to Attract Top IT Talent
The Enterprisers Project, May 12
In a world of rapid innovation and technological breakthroughs, enterprises are scrambling to attract and retain top talent. Building a compelling employer brand that attracts talent may seem like a daunting task, especially at the current time. Factors to consider include how your organization will stay ahead of the competition and how to ensure your culture is attractive to the younger generation while also attracting those with more experience. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to attracting and retaining top talent, there are five tips that can help position your business to recruit the best talent the industry has to offer.
Now more than ever, young talent is savvy to social and global challenges, and candidates want to work for an organization that mirrors these ideals. Many feel a stronger sense of purpose when their everyday work is helping to make the world a better place for future generations. If your organization is not already aligned with a specific initiative or cause, take this opportunity to find a natural connection between your brand and the outside world. Perhaps your company protects data while also leveraging it to solve challenges such as helping buildings achieve carbon neutrality. No matter what industry you are in, tech can make a difference in the world, and highlighting that connection is important.
How to Hire During a Pandemic
Inc.com, May 12
Despite the pandemic, many industries continue to hire, including technology, health care, and financial services. The challenge, of course, is hiring remotely, without onsite meetings and face-to-face interviews. How can a hiring manager get a sense of an applicant over video? How do you communicate daily life at your company without an on-site visit? And how can you ensure that the person you brought on to work remotely during this crisis will fit in well once you are back in the office? All of this requires some re-thinking of how to hire during a pandemic.
One way employers can ensure they find the right people during this unusual hiring period is doing more due diligence, especially since it may be harder to get a read on a candidate solely over video or the phone. As a result, references are emphasized more than ever now. Since clients are saying that they are very concerned about culture fit, recruiters now recommend asking open-ended questions during an interview. The answers may reveal how self-directed a person is or how flexible he or she may be, qualities that may serve the company well in a work-from-home world. Before they get down to the work of interviewing candidates, organizations have to be sure they know who will be a fit for their organization. They can begin the process by knowing exactly the kind of candidate they are looking for and relying on screener questions and multiple rounds designed to engage candidates and encourage unqualified candidates to opt out.
COVID-19 IT Layoffs and the Future of Work
Information Week, May 13
IT organizations have been busy in early 2020, equipping and supporting office workers who quickly transitioned to a work-from-home environment in the wake of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Yet, IT has not been spared from the massive pandemic-related layoffs that have hit the U.S. economy in the shockwave of so many businesses shutting down all at once. In April, job losses for the technology sector totaled 111,900 positions, or approximately 1% of the 12.1 million tech-related jobs in the country. The data suggests tech job losses skewed more toward business services positions and not skilled tech personnel.
To cut costs, companies will likely first forego sales, marketing, and similar positions while preserving the technical expertise of the organization in positions that are developing and deploying technology products. This is especially true in companies providing critical remote work technologies. If anything, these companies will be looking to expand their technical staff to meet increased customer demand. Technology, particularly jobs with in-demand skills, will remain relatively safe in the COVID-19 economy when compared to many other jobs. According to forecasts, there are four categories of jobs that will add workers in the next decade, including cross-domain knowledge workers. Most likely, the COVID-19 crisis will not change the trajectory of this forecast, but it very well may accelerate moves to automation.
8 Ways the Crisis Will Forever Change the Future Workforce
Entrepreneur.com, May 12
The return back to normal after the pandemic will change the way we think about education, jobs and even entire industries. But perhaps the biggest changes will affect the future workforce, known as Generation Z. Members of Generation Z (those born after 1998) grew up in a post-9/11 world and during the Great Recession. Now, during the most formative time of their lives, they face a challenge like no generation before them. This unprecedented event will have an influence on their behaviors, decisions and expectations.
Despite many headlines about how younger generations are disregarding the threat of the pandemic, 93 percent of Gen Z and millennials are being impacted by its spread. Overall, Gen Z and millennials report feeling anxious and cautious right now. Going forward, they are likely to form an even deeper dependence on technology. They will turn to digital platforms and tools to remain socially connected. They will also become more comfortable with unconventional educational backgrounds. Due to the crisis, 290 million students around the world and 4.9 million U.S. students are impacted by school closures. Forced into virtual learning, teachers find themselves in unfamiliar territory, as 70 percent of teachers have never taught a virtual course. Yet, 62 percent of Gen Z would choose no college degree and unlimited Internet access over a college degree and no Internet access. In addition, only 26 percent of Gen Z perceive education as a barrier to workplace success and 90 percent of employers say they are more open to accepting nontraditional candidates who do not hold four-year college degrees.
Students Get the Idea They Are Unwanted When There Are Enrollment Barriers
Blog@CACM, May 2
While the recent technical symposium of the ACM Special Interest Group on CS Education in Portland was cancelled in March due to pandemic concerns, all of the papers from SIGCSE are posted in the ACM Digital Library. One of the best paper awardees for CS education research looked at the enrollment barriers to first-year students, and how those barriers might impact overall perceptions of CS education. In short, overly competitive enrollment policies in CS departments negatively impact the sense of belonging of first-year students. If you send students the message that they are unwanted, they are going to feel unwanted.
The research paper on CS education looked at a dataset from the Computing Research Association based on a survey of more than 1,200 first year students. They looked at four outcome measures: perception of department, sense of belonging, self-efficacy and growth mindset (which is a sense that you can always get better at something through effort). They defined a department as having competitive enrollment if students had to apply to become a computing major, or if a student needs to meet grade threshold to become a computer science major. They found that students in departments with competitive enrollment had a lower sense of being welcomed and a lower sense of self-efficacy.
Toward the Vision of Equitable AI
Ubiquity, April 2020
In a wide-ranging interview, Akhil Mathur, a principal research scientist at Nokia Bell Labs, reflects on his biggest concerns about the future of computing, as well as his long-term vision for the AI field. His goal is to see AI technologies work equitably for users around the world. While new AI-based technologies are undoubtedly promising, it is important to ensure that they work universally for users around the world and not just be limited to a subset of the population. His primary focus now is improving the robustness and scalability of AI solutions deployed on mobile and wearable devices.
One challenge in fulfilling this vision of equitable AI involves the data used to train artificial intelligence systems. Many current AI solutions, such as those based on supervised machine learning, require collections of large-scale labeled data to train an AI model. Moreover, a fundamental assumption behind these solutions is that the distribution of the data will remain the same between training and deployment stages. If there is any divergence between the training and test data distributions, the accuracy of supervised machine learning algorithms can degrade. Naturally, as AI technologies become more widespread, such divergences between training and test data are more likely to occur. For example, users in different parts of the world will have diversity in the devices they use, their environmental conditions, and their technology usage patterns. All of these are likely to introduce unique variability in the user data, thus making it different from the original training data. This dataset shift, in turn, can degrade the accuracy of the AI model when it is deployed in new scenarios different from those in which it was trained.
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