ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, July 21, 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 14, July 21, 2020
Jobs in the tech industry are slowly coming back after a notable decline in April and May, according to a new jobs study from trade association CompTIA. Overall, the June 2020 study revealed that for the tech occupation, IT jobs across all industry sectors increased by an estimated 227,000 positions. The tech manufacturing sector specifically led the way with a net increase of 7,300 jobs that included technical and non-technical positions. The data processing, hosting, and related services sector saw a 5,600 bump in job gains while the information services category, which includes search engines and portals, experienced an increase of 2,200 positions. The latest employment data for tech was generally positive, with continuing signs of momentum for areas such as software development, IT support, cloud infrastructure, cybersecurity, and certain emerging tech fields.
The IT industry is still recovering from job losses in April and May. In February 2020, the IT sector reached its peak at nearly 4.8 million positions. However, by May it was down to about 4.6 million and stayed steady in June, signaling that things are only slowly recovering. For example, the IT and software services sector experienced a loss of 20,400 jobs. IT job postings also saw a precipitous drop as companies tried to weather the economic storm caused by the pandemic. February and March saw 350,000 IT job postings but that figure fell to almost 200,000 by May. June saw a slight rebound to over 250,000, with positions like software developer, IT support specialist, systems engineer, systems analyst, and IT project manager seeing the biggest increases in demand.
Just as jobs like data scientist, driverless car engineer and drone operator did not exist ten ago, entirely new types of IT jobs will likely appear over the next decade, all driven by rapid advances in technology. By 2030, automation is expected to hit a midpoint, with nearly one in six of all occupations automated to some extent. Artificial intelligence, spatial computing (augmented and virtual reality) and brain-computer interfaces are all set to substitute labor or complement it in some way. At some point, job ads for these professions will begin showing up on job boards and social networking sites like LinkedIn.
One futuristic IT role to keep an eye on is Autonomous Car Licensed Specialist. Today, autonomous vehicle drivers are required to have a special license (even if they are not driving), so that they can operate the autonomous vehicle in case it needs to change its autonomous direction for one reason or another. While some states say they will not require licenses for driverless cars, there are five levels of autonomous vehicles before we get to completely driverless, autonomous vehicles. Another IT role in future demand might be Augmented Reality Life Designer. This person will work with individual clients to design their augmented reality life of choice. This person must be people-oriented as well as an expert in augmented reality applications and social media. They will connect clients to brands, fashions, and events to match their desired lifestyle and be able to discover new, unique AR experiences to help clients set themselves apart.
Having significant work experience is essential to get recruited in a technical field like data science, which makes it hard to begin your career if you do not have any experience. This is especially the case if you are coming straight out of academia or switching careers. Prior to starting in data science, you need to give time to learning about the field and understanding algorithms. Afterwards, you have to continually update your skills as the market advances while keeping up to speed on current procedures. You likewise need to understand the problems you will be solving for organizations and build up the insight to outline business problems as data science issues.
First and foremost, candidates should ensure their technical skills are on point for new data science roles. They will need the proper basis of computer science and statistical studies. Most candidates that get into data science do so by means of a quantitative study, for example, an undergraduate or advanced degree in a STEM field. Online learning platforms and real-world bootcamps also offer data science programs. To boost your candidacy, you should also create a data science portfolio. The reason a data science portfolio is helpful is that it exhibits that you can do the things that a business needs to hire you for. It is a viable substitute for the job experience that you lack. As a candidate, your job is to exhibit to them that you have what it takes and the characteristics they require for that job. A strong data science portfolio consists of a few medium sized data science projects that exhibit to the company that you have the key abilities that they are searching for.
How to Get a Job as a DevOps Professional
The Enterprisers Project, July 10
When technology companies are on the rise, DevOps engineers and managers are among the roles in highest demand. DevOps promotes smooth communication between technical teams in the company that are responsible for creating the product and delivering it to the client. The best DevOps professionals have a mix of soft skills and technical skills, as well as an overall knowledge of how certain technologies can be used by a business or organization. To stand out in interviews, they should be able to discuss recent job roles and achievements, and not just skills that they possess.
In addition to technical skills, DevOps professionals need a mix of soft skills, including curiosity, openness, and willingness to learn. In DevOps jobs, it is important to know how to validate and potentially implement new technologies. DevOps should keep up with trends and best market solutions and have a desire to keep improving and developing implemented systems. Because DevOps professionals work closely with development and data science teams on ongoing projects and deployments, they also need great communication skills to succeed in their role. Finally, they will need analytical thinking skills in order to investigate and triage ongoing issues. In terms of tech skills, DevOps professionals require the ability to administer, monitor, and maintain global server infrastructure. They also should be able to design and build scalable, highly available, and redundant infrastructure for company products.
Entry-Level Career Advice for Aspiring Cybersecurity Professionals
Tripwire, July 6
By 2021, the shortage of qualified cybersecurity professionals could expand to 3.5 million unfilled positions worldwide, leading to new opportunities for both skilled cybersecurity professionals and entry-level workers on the lookout for prospective new fields. Experts describe the cybersecurity jobs market as having zero percent unemployment, as organizations offer high salaries amid fierce competition for top talent. Entry-level salaries also run significantly higher than in many other industries, attracting new talent to the field as a growing number of industry certifications and advanced degree programs work to help develop the pipeline of talent at all levels.
The world of cybersecurity has a language all its own, so you will need to be fluent in the highly technical vocabulary spoken by cyber professionals, and that means a solid grasp of essential industry terms and acronyms from A (Advanced Persistent Threats) to Z (Zero-Day Attacks). To help master these terms, there are several helpful resources, such as the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies, an online resource for cybersecurity training under the Department of Homeland Security. In addition to unfamiliar terminology, there is a constant flow of news and new trends and techniques, developments and advancements. Reading blogs and exploring influential industry websites is one of the best ways to get your virtual finger on the pulse of the industry.
Google Expands Certificate Program For In-Demand Jobs
Fast Company, July 13
Google recently announced that it is expanding its skills certification program to help more people land high-paying tech jobs without a college degree. The Grow with Google Career Certificates will be available soon for in-demand jobs including Data Analyst, Project Manager, and UX designer. These jobs pay between $60,000 and $90,000, on average. Those who complete the online-only instruction are encouraged to share their certification on LinkedIn with employers that are looking for candidates with those skills through the platform.
Google is also expanding its IT Certificate Employer Consortium, in order to connect jobseekers with the likes of partner companies such as Walmart, Hulu and Sprint. However, the courses are not free. Google data suggests that an average student take about three to six months to complete the existing IT support program and the fee to take instruction is $49 per month. But given the economic fallout from the pandemic, scholarships will be made available. The move from Google comes on the heels of a new Microsoft program to certify workers in the skills needed to land the most in-demand jobs emerging from the pandemic.
Remote Workers See Productivity, Cost Savings as Top Benefits
Dice Insights, July 10
Although many companies across the nation are trying to figure out how to safely reopen their offices, many technologists will be working from home (or some other form of remote work) for the next several months, if not the rest of the year. In fact, working remotely could become the new normal within the tech industry. With that in mind, a new Dice Sentiment Survey explores the opinions of technologists about work-from-home, including what they view as the primary professional and personal benefits.
The Dice survey directly asked IT workers about the main professional benefits they receive from working remotely. Since it can sometimes be hard to focus and get real work done in a traditional office environment, one interesting finding from the survey is that the widespread move to remote work seems to be boosting productivity. As a result, IT workers have time for more in-depth and creative thinking, emailing and chatting, and finally tackling that huge backlog of projects. With each successive survey, it seems that higher and higher percentages of technologists discover these benefits. In addition, a rising number feel that it is simply easier to work from home. After all, your commute is only a few feet from bedroom to office space, and there is no line for the coffee machine.
Diversity in Coding Bootcamps
ComputerWeekly.com, June 25
Coding bootcamps could become a means of overcoming a historical lack of diversity in the tech industry, primarily due to their relative affordability when compared with traditional computer science degrees. However, the courses can end up reproducing the same problems if operators do not actively look for new pricing approaches and delivery options. To ensure they actually contribute to diversifying the talent pipeline, bootcamps must tailor their courses to existing needs and preferences. For example, they should take into account the fact that many people simply cannot pay for retraining that requires them to take months or weeks off work at a time.
With the skills gap increasing and the current lockdown period being used by many to develop their skills, more people are looking for alternative routes into the industry outside the traditional computer science degree path. The problem right now, at least from a diversity standpoint, is that high-priced computer science degree programs have relatively high barriers to entry. Some bootcamps run free apprenticeships to help with the issue of high barriers, with the only entry requirement being the completion of some initial coding exercises. Bootcamps are also calling for a change in the narrative around certain demographic groups, such as women in tech, by showcasing the career paths of recent graduates. However, the majority of bootcamp graduates will still have to pay for the courses, which can cost thousands of dollars depending on which they choose to utilize. Many bootcamps can only afford to pay half their fees when offering scholarships, meaning the high-cost barriers to entry remain for prospective coders from poorer backgrounds.
Machine Learning and Computational Design
Ubiquity, May 2020
Now that machine learning is lining up to become one of the most attractive career options for computer science grads, it is time to take a closer look at how changes in computational design have led to recent advances in machine learning. The use of computers in design is substantially different today from what it was only 30 years ago, which makes it interesting to review how computers have emerged as a useful tool for designers, especially in architecture, engineering and construction. Since they enable the automation of many repetitive or cumbersome tasks during the design process, computers have markedly changed the landscape for what types of projects are now possible and economically viable.
During the 1990s and 2000s, designers started to recognize the benefits of using computers to simplify laborious or complex tasks, to save time and resources, and to acquire a higher level of precision and control over the design process. Notably, architecture firm Gehry and Partners made early use of software to assist the design and fabrication of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Around the same time, CAD software became popular with millions of designers and engineers in product design. The use of CAD, whereby designers use software to replicate hand-drafting more efficiently and accurately, quickly went mainstream. After this initial digital phase, which focused largely on the replication of human tasks by computers, a new way of using computers for design emerged. Recently, a new generation of designers has started including the use of algorithms and computational logic in their work. This approach necessitates a much greater understanding of how computers work and involves the use of computational thinking as a fundamental part of the design process.
Computing Ethics and Teaching It
Blog@CACM, July 6
While there is still much debate over the efficacy of ethics classes in the computer science curriculum, there are obviously some benefits to exposing computer science students to issues, norms, and moral quandaries in computer science. After all, certain incentives and norms can hamper the application of ethics in any business setting. Giving students tools for dissection of such premises is a worthy goal of a course in the ethics of technology. With that in mind, the article offers a few observations and suggestions for teaching and implementing ethics courses across a wide range of educational institutions.
In a typical class on computing ethics, there will naturally be coverage of popular ethical theories. The idea that actions should be chosen for greatest benefit (the Consequentialist approaches) occurs naturally. The idea that rules should be formulated before problems arise is also natural, and can be specified further by religious dogma or by social norms. Using this framework, it is possible to define ethical theories via function signatures, as black-box subroutines. In the case of Consequentialism, for example, the return type exposes a quantification of morality, and thereby prompts the standard critique. The input parameter knowledge-of-how-the-world-works could also be given as a vast library. This method reveals the dependencies of theories on their input types. The shortcoming of this approach, however, is that ethical theories are neither mechanical nor algorithmic.
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