ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, June 23, 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 12, June 23, 2020

Five Cities With the Highest Tech Salaries
CIO Dive, June 19

Tech salaries grew in each major U.S. city last year, averaging $146,000 compared to a global average of $130,000, according to the fifth annual State of Salaries report from Hired. The company analyzed more than 425,000 job offers and interview requests for software engineer, product manager, DevOps engineer, designer and data scientist positions. San Francisco ($155,000), New York ($143,000), Seattle ($142,000), Los Angeles ($137,000) and Austin, Texas ($137,000) ranked as the top five U.S. cities for the highest tech worker salaries. Of these cities, Austin led in terms of tech worker salary growth, seeing a 10 percent year-over-year boost.

More than half of tech workers said they would likely or very likely move to a more affordable city if their employers implement a permanent remote workforce because of the coronavirus. This figure supports current projections that people will begin moving away from big metropolitan hubs toward smaller, less densely populated cities. As such, the Hired salary report could be an indicator of the tech trends and salaries to come in the next year. The tech industry has been subject to rapid change since the pandemic began. Amazon, Netflix and other companies have seen usage soar, while Uber, Lyft and Airbnb have laid off thousands of employees. The cities where these tech workers live and work could change dramatically within the next year as tech giants make remote shifts permanent.

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With More Employees Working From Home, Companies Could Diversify Workforces
MarketWatch, June 15

With the shift to remote working within the tech industry, top IT professionals are now exploring new opportunities in tech hubs located far from Silicon Valley. In some cases, job candidates are migrating to these tech hubs for a better work-life balance, a lower cost of living or a greater sense of community. And, in other cases, they are attracted by the greater diversity found in these tech hubs. For example, about one in four tech workers in Atlanta are black, according to a Brookings Institution study, compared with 2.5 percent in San Jose and 6 percent in San Francisco. According to experts, the migration of talent leaving Silicon Valley could accelerate, with long-term repercussions for multiple local economies, hiring habits in tech, and a more diverse workforce in the industry.

A confluence of factors tied to COVID-19, the thriving work-from-home economy, and social justice protests could be accelerating hiring momentum in Atlanta and other destinations far from Silicon Valley. Recent events have put a spotlight squarely on the hiring patterns of U.S. corporations during a period of time when the physical location of prospective employees is not crucial, and when most organizations are actively supporting social causes with donations, pledges of support, and vows to do more on diversity and inclusion. Momentum appears genuine and real after years of empty promises and slow progress, black tech workers say with cautious optimism, especially as more of them flee pricey cities like San Francisco, New York, Boston, and Seattle for opportunities in cities like Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, and Baltimore.

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How to Land Your First Data Science Job
Built In, June 18

Not surprisingly for a field that requires such specialized knowledge, breaking into a data science career can be difficult. Before beginning, you have to devote time to learning about the field and understanding algorithms. Later, you need to constantly upgrade your skills as the market progresses while still staying up to speed on old, conventional techniques. You also have to work on understanding the problems you will be solving for businesses and develop the acumen to frame business problems as data science problems. On top of all this, you will need to deal with searching for a job and preparing for interviews.

In landing a new data science role, it is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a giant leap forward only to stumble backward. This rule is especially true if you are coming to data science from a different stream or if you want to make a lateral career switch. Many people bite off more than they can chew when they start and then inevitably get so frustrated and disheartened that they abandon the field altogether. For example, instead of becoming an expert on deep learning right away, a small step in the right direction would be learning some basic linear algebra or working to understand a basic model like linear regression first.

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IT Careers: Planning Your Future When the Future Is Uncertain
Information Week, June 10

While the pace of technology innovation initially created the need for IT specialists, faster technology obsolescence means technologists have to prioritize learning and be willing to evolve their careers as technologies and their use cases evolve. Also, in the wake of the pandemic, some IT professionals will find their careers disrupted, with a need to re-focus around employer priorities. As a result, the key to navigating uncertainty for IT professionals is going broad and wide, and being able to connect the dots between specialties, rather than focusing on specialized IT careers.

Not all career growth is upward, say experts. They recommend planning for several possible futures as opposed to one singular future, and then doing scenario planning for each possible circumstance. The problem is that a lot of people have thought of career paths as climbing corporate ladders. Instead, it might be wiser at times to make a lateral move in order to shift your career to a different track. Alternatively, one might consider what appears to be a temporary digression as part of a longer-term strategy. Some IT organizations have already restructured themselves into hub-and-spoke organizations that combine centralized resources and satellite resources dedicated to a specific line of business or department. In that case, experts recommend rotating the roles so that everyone can benefit from the broader perspectives and experiences. Although the idea of job rotation may seem foreign to IT professionals, the breadth of experience makes them more effective organizational leaders.

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Just Graduated? Here Is How To Start Looking For a Job
Fast Company, June 18

Students and graduates around the country are grappling with the loss of IT job offers and in-person internships. So you are not alone if you have just graduated and are wondering how to land your next opportunity. New job seekers are certain to face novel challenges. For parties on both sides of the job hunt, things are changing quickly. Many college students and graduates finished their classes online and participated in online graduations. HR and recruiters are leaning more heavily on virtual tools. Moreover, the entry-level industries most in demand are changing, too. If you are searching for a new job and trying to demonstrate your best skills, it is not only about emphasizing your academic achievements, but also how well rounded you are.

Students should take advantage of their learning mindset when researching job opportunities. After the dust has settled from the current crises, students who have established strong connections during this uncertain period may secure a full-time opportunity. That being said, entry-level hires should demonstrate a few key characteristics. These new employees should show they are willing to learn, possess a strong work ethic, and are interested in the work of the company. Candidates who can demonstrate they are flexible and positive-minded are more likely to stand out. To stand out in an applicant-heavy field, pay special attention to how you can provide value. Think about how what the company desires matches up with some of your biggest achievements, and then emphasize how you could help.

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Tips for HR Interviews in Cybersecurity
Forbes, June 4

With the shortage of talent in the cybersecurity field, interviews are perhaps even more important in finding the right candidates. It is estimated that by 2021, there will be 3.5 million unfilled positions in cybersecurity. With the COVID-19 pandemic shifting the world more toward remote working and cloud-based services, Gartner estimated that there has been a 65 percent increase in demand for cybersecurity professionals. As a result, organizations need to build a strong team that will all work together seamlessly and stay together for the long term. Interviews are the key to getting the right person for the role.

Finding the right talent starts before you have begun interviewing candidates for the job or reviewed any resumes. It starts with your job description. One of the most important aspects of great security teams is the ability not just to work well with one another, but also to be able to create a team that challenges one another to find and eliminate blind spots. In the cybersecurity field, women make up about 20% of the overall workforce. One of the reasons for this is that many job descriptions include very specific requirements for experience, certifications, or background. According to reports, women apply only if they meet 100% of them. Thus, a statement in your job description that encourages people to apply even if they think they are not a perfect fit could go a long way to changing the dynamics of your team. When it comes to certifications or degrees, it might be best to remove all official requirements. This could open up a much greater pool of candidates.

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How to Network During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond Remotely
The Enterprisers Project, June 20

As businesses adapt to the new reality of remote work brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, so too will we adapt the social behaviors that enable us to stay in touch and forge new relationships with coworkers, partners, customers, and potential clients. The good news is that virtual networking can sometimes foster strong ties even more quickly than face-to-face interactions. In some cases, companies are adding virtual morning coffee breaks, lunchtime trivia sessions, and other events that enable employees to socialize and rekindle relationships. The pandemic has forced us to appreciate the value of social capital and our ability to interact with one another. The antidote to this forced social experiment is leveraging collaborative productivity technologies to connect with colleagues, foster job satisfaction, and even build new relationships.

The first principle of networking, whether virtually or in person, is to understand that networking is not synonymous with selling. The second is to ask what you bring to the relationship. Ask yourself: Why would this person want to connect with me? If you reach out only when you need help, others will withdraw. Cultivate relationships in good times so that people will be there when you need them. Ask the people in your network what you can do for them. Before you make a new connection, make sure you are clear on your purpose. For instance, do you want to learn about a company, an industry or a technology? Find out who the leaders are in that area. Then determine whom you already know in this area, and whom they might be able to introduce you to. Your personal contacts and LinkedIn are two great sources for this.

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How Apple, Google, Twitter, and YouTube Are Pushing for Racial Equality
Dice Insights, June 17

The recent Black Lives Matter protests across America have driven the largest tech companies to respond in a variety of ways. For example, YouTube announced a multi-year $100 million fund dedicated to amplifying and developing the voices of black creators and artists and their stories. Meanwhile, Google is granting $12 million to organizations working to address racial inequalities, Apple is devoting $100 million to a Racial Equity and Justice Initiative, and PayPal will launch a new $530 million initiative to help black- and minority-owned business. Overall, these efforts could help to remove the systemic barriers to opportunity for the black community and open up new hiring opportunities for racial minorities.

However, many of these firms (and the tech industry in general) have quite a long way to go in order to make their technical workforces most diverse. According to the latest edition of the Stack Overflow Developer Survey, which queried 38,257 professional developers about their race and ethnicity, people of color made up a relatively small percentage of the overall developer community. Although many tech companies have very publicly pledged to improve their talent pipelines to create more diverse workforces, the results are not always encouraging. Over a five-year period, the percentages of black and Latino workers at some firms barely budged, despite those modified HR practices and talent pipelines. While companies have pledged to refine their pipelines still further, some have work to do when it comes to actually following through on diversifying their workforces.

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The Advantages of Teaching Soft Skills to CS Undergrads Online
Blog@CACM, June 8

Despite the current pandemic, teaching an online course on soft skills is possible, and may even have several advantages over a traditional face-to-face classroom environment. This online teaching format opens up new opportunities, and this medium can even foster several soft skills that may not be possible in the face-to-face format. One key component is the use of the breakout room option available in Zoom, though additional advantages of online teaching exist as well. These include the ease of inviting of guest lecturers, who are spared the need to travel to the campus, and the easy use of the chat option which enables all participants to talk and express themselves in parallel and, consequently, to listen and be exposed to many opinions, rather than to a limited number of selected opinions.

The built-in breakout rooms option available in Zoom enables the creation of teams by dividing the meeting attendees into any number of rooms, either manually or automatically, according to the choice of the host instructor. After the room allocation is executed, each team finds itself in a virtual room in which the team members can communicate the same as in a regular Zoom meeting. The instructor can visit the rooms one at a time, listening and observing the teams at work and, if needed, answering questions. Beside the learning process of the soft skills-related topic on which the task focused, it turns out that the students practiced additional soft skills while in the breakout rooms. Furthermore, the students felt comfortable working in the breakout rooms and were actually aware of the soft skills they practiced in this working mode. Teamwork was the soft skill most frequently mentioned by the students as being implemented in the breakout rooms.

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Helping Students with Learning Disabilities Through Video-Based, Universally Designed Assessment
eLearn Magazine, May 2020

If assessments that attempt to measure student learning are not universally designed, those assessments could pose barriers or obstacles for students with learning disabilities. And these obstacles could interfere with their ability to demonstrate what they have learned. The problem is that K-12 students with learning disabilities can often go undiagnosed because they cannot be easily identified with tests used to assess students with intellectual disabilities, and they do not have noticeable physical or sensory deficits. As a result, students with learning disabilities are often not identified for special education services until after attempts to provide these students with extra help in small group and individualized settings have been unsuccessful.

While students with learning disabilities are prone to struggling in school, these students with appropriate supports can achieve at levels similar to students without disabilities. Some of the roots of their struggles are related to difficulties with memory and processing, more specifically, with working memory, which is the processing, storing, and integration of multiple pieces of information. Schools are increasingly using computer-based tests as a means for accommodating students with learning disabilities because of low-cost features such as read-aloud or text-to-speech functions. Utilizing text-to-speech with assessments, for example, can minimize singling out students with disabilities, diminish potential embarrassment, and allow students the choice of rereading questions multiple times.

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