ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, September 22, 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 18, September 22, 2020

The Top Tech Jobs in 2020 and the Skills You Must Have to Secure Them, September 16

A new study maps out the most valuable transferable skills for post-pandemic IT job seekers. According to the employers and developers surveyed in the new Boxboat report, candidates who are routinely keeping themselves up to date on the latest tech trends are the most valuable. In the new digital landscape brought about by the pandemic, an understanding of telecommunications like Zoom and Skype is important. And, of course, software proficiency in coding and programming are a must. More specifically, recruiters are favoring applicants who demonstrate familiarity with common programming languages.

Within the tech industry, several emerging sectors are currently experiencing the fastest growth in terms of hiring demand. For example, there has been a 37% increase in demand for cybersecurity analysts, a 37% increase in demand for software developers, and a 31% increase in demand for data and computer scientists. In addition, web developers, CIOs, CTOs and IT managers have all seen a more than 20% boost in hiring demand. To attain these positions, applicants need to advertise software proficiency, telecommunication proficiency, and digital media proficiency. Overall, 70% of people said their technology skills moderately or greatly improved since COVID-19, with millennials most likely to have improved their tech skills with Generation X not far behind. Baby Boomers were considerably less likely to report any tech improvement. Still, over half said they were more skilled now than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Cybersecurity, Cloud Computing, IoT, and Data Science Are the Next Booming Sectors
Express Computer, August 24

While many IT organizations are struggling with the uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, emerging new technologies have continued to see a substantial increase in demand with steady growth. Areas like cybersecurity, cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT), data science and data analytics have seen a rise in productivity due to their resilient features to a crisis. By exploring opportunities now in domains that have continued to grow amidst the pandemic, tech workers can secure recession-proof jobs now and in the future.

The pandemic has brought opportunities, not only to the cybersecurity domain, but also to cloud computing. Cloud technologies and services have gained a lot of popularity in recent years. However, remote working has made it imperative for organizations to deploy cloud-based applications to ensure uninterrupted access to data and servers with maximum security. As a result, we are able to continue our digital lives through Zoom and Slack because of cloud services such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. With the acceleration in the adoption of the cloud in existing business models, organizations are facing a shortage of skilled cloud computing professionals. There are more than 26,000 open jobs for cloud professionals in India, like Cloud Architect, Cloud Engineer, Cloud Security Experts, on job networking sites such as LinkedIn.

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Landing an Internship At a Top Technology Firm
Dice Insights, September 16

If you want to land an internship at a top Silicon Valley firm, a new study suggests that you will need to emphasize the potential impact your research or academic work could have on real-world products. As part of their study, academics at the University of California Irvine looked at hiring practices at large technology companies. The study focused on candidates for UX roles, but could equally apply to applicants for other product or developer positions. If you want to get in on the bottom rung of a top technology firm, the academics discovered that a few techniques will help, both when it comes to assembling a resume and presenting yourself at the job interview.

According to the internship survey, candidates should use the word "impact" on their resume to show that they are capable of making actionable recommendations. When it came to internships, the study found that evaluators were biased against students who seemed too focused on written research that did not translate into the real world. In response to this, evaluators consistently emphasized the need for students who could have "impact." If you are presenting your academic work, you need to give actionable recommendations for industry stakeholders so that they can use your research to make real-world changes. Evaluators stressed that internship candidates coming from academia often needed coaching to think about how they could translate research findings into industry-relevant recommendations that would actually result in real-world changes. All evaluators favored applicants who could articulate the kinds of research methods and study designs that are more likely to yield what evaluators considered as actionable recommendations for product teams.

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How To Succeed In Your First 90 Days of a New Job When You Start Remote
The Enterprisers Project, September 10

The first 90 days of any new job are critical, and that is especially true if you are starting a new role as a fully remote employee. Unfortunately, many of the best practices for getting to know colleagues and employees, getting the lay of the organizational land, and communicating future plans and strategies are not possible when the organization is dispersed and employees are working remotely. The good news is that there are 7 key steps that IT leaders can take to make a good impression during the first three months of their new virtual positions.

When you are hired, you will most likely be given a list of initial people to meet with. However, do not stop there. Do LinkedIn and internet research to find other people to potentially meet with and ask in these initial meetings who on your list will be best to meet with first and get feedback. In short, do not wait for people to come to you. Reach out to people at the company without a formal introduction when possible in order to show initiative. Then, make one-on-one meetings as productive as possible. Ask questions that allow you to learn about roles, responsibilities, business priorities and challenges. This will allow you to build a mental map of the organization while you establish relationships and better understand how you can be a good partner to your colleagues. Always end these conversations by asking how to widen your network even more. You can do this, for example, by asking about virtual events or social gatherings.

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What Will Increased Remote Working Mean For Tech Salaries?, September 18

In the COVID-19 era, the practice of remote working is here to stay, especially in the tech industry, where working from home has exploded in popularity. At companies like Facebook, for example, half of the workforce will likely work from home within the next five to 10 years. But there is one caveat here: staff salaries are likely to be adjusted in line with the cost of living in a chosen location, potentially leading to pay cuts for those thinking of moving away from expensive tech hubs or major urban areas. In a post-vaccine-based medium term, hybrid remote working models will become more common, and tech companies will need to lead the way when it comes to pioneering new workplace compensation models.

For large tech companies, there are obvious advantages to paying lower salaries based on lower costs of living in some regions. As to whether it is likely to lead to a wider drop in wages, that depends on supply and demand, but it could well lead to a fall in talent retention as people are less committed and loyal if they feel something is unfair. According to some analysts, the whole notion of location-based pay is a dangerous and slippery slope. The logical conclusion of introducing it in a world where activity in physical offices is less valued is ultimately to move jobs away from high-wage towards low-wage economies, with the notion of cutting wages in affordable areas just the first step.

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Why Automation Will Not Kill Data Science Jobs
CDO Trends, September 9

Despite all the concerns that automation will eventually eliminate or reduce the need for data scientists, data scientists have nothing to fear. In fact, there are three good reasons why automation is unlikely to kill data science roles. Automation is simply a way to do things faster, not a way to eliminate jobs. Automation, say experts, is simply a way to give data scientists smarter and more powerful tools to assist them in their jobs. Of course, much like how the proliferation of digital has changed what office workers do, more capable data science tools will inevitably change how data scientists work. Not only will automation empower data scientists to do more, the impact and value of their work to the business organization will also increase. Assuming data scientists keep up and not entrench themselves in the past, this transition will only make them more valuable than ever.

One big reason why humans are not going away soon in the data science sector is the inability of automated tools to realize that they might be going off tangent and producing errors in the process. While automation offers the potential to do things better and faster, it also has the potential to propagate human errors if there is poor science underneath them. It is much easier for this to occur than most people think. Even teams of PhDs from top schools make errors in statistical nuances that result in poorer data models. The need for data scientists to have a strong understanding of the underlying principles will not go away, because human oversight will always be needed for the most important applications. In a nutshell, data scientists are required to verify the correctness of the results coming out of automated tools and to make sure that the models are operating optimally. Efficiency might seem unimportant for tasks that run infrequently, but ask algorithms and AI to get incorporated into every aspect of our lives, and any imprecision will directly impact the final results.

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How Does Your Tech Job Burn You Out?
Psychology Today, August 29

Five years into a career, the average developer reaches a senior role, and career paths become more uncertain. At that point, there are not many more rungs on the technology career ladder to climb. As a result, burnout is a very real fact of life for many in the software sector. According to one study, for example, only 57 percent of computer science graduates were working as programmers six years after finishing college. After 20 years, the figure dropped to 19 percent. This means that by the time computer science grads are in their early 40s, four out of five of them will have already ended their programmer career. This relatively high attrition rate requires new thinking about ways to prevent career burnout amongst experienced programmers.

Avoiding burnout is the only way to have a long and sustainable career in tech. Veteran software developers often recommend working at a place where you can grow. Constantly learning new things is a requirement in tech, but it is only sustainable if you can do it as part of the job. That being said, IT workers should focus on building transferable skills whenever possible. Many developers find it rewarding to invest in learning leadership skills and exploring technical management roles since those do not change as often as programming languages do. To avoid burnout, they should also have creative outlets and a space to focus, switch off, and relax. And, of course, they should pay attention to their overall fitness and wellness, both physical and mental.

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Is VR the Future of Corporate Training?
Harvard Business Review, September 18

People learn best by doing and by getting feedback when they make mistakes, which is why virtual reality (VR) is now gaining so much support in corporate training circles. Over the past few years, the cost to deploy VR has plummeted, and the technology has expanded into more general use at Fortune 500 corporations, where employees working in industries such as retail, logistics, and customer service are practicing in VR headsets to get better at their jobs. There are many different applications for VR training, ranging from helping employees learn physical procedures to helping them become better versed in the corporate culture of the organization.

There are many academic studies on procedural training involving VR. Findings generally support the equivalence of VR training to face-to-face training, the economic savings of VR, or the decreased amount of time needed to train with VR compared to traditional techniques. As a recent example, Walmart has trained over a million of its associates in VR. One of the most frequently used modules is The Pickup Tower, which is basically a large kiosk that lets customers pick up online orders. Trainees received step-by-step instruction on how to operate this new machine, with immediate feedback when they made mistakes. Before VR, each person spent an entire day on training inside specifically designated stores, with some hands-on training and some e-learning. VR reduced the training from eight hours to 15 minutes, with no drop in efficacy.

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Students Need to Know What Success in Computing Looks Like
Blog@CACM, September 12

At the recent 2020 ACM SIGCSE International Computing Education Research Conference, one of the most interesting papers (presented virtually at the event) analyzed why many introductory computer science students tend to leave the field early. One particular concern is that many introductory CS students think they are bad at programming, and hence, tend to give up on computer science too early. This new paper offers an explanation for why introductory CS students give up so easily. What they found was that students have completely unreasonable expectations about what they should to do to be successful.

Based on survey results presented in the conference paper, many students actually convince themselves that planning before coding is bad. They talk about professional programmers as being so confident, being able to code without planning, and knowing all the syntax and all the APIs effortlessly. This leads to a negative self-assessment when it comes to their ability. With this in mind, the paper shows how negative self-assessments lead to lower self-efficacy. The suggestion is that students may be giving up because they are holding themselves up to unreasonable expectations. These are expectations that few students could be expected to live up to. In short, the paper helps to explain a phenomenon documented before in CS education: students with parents or other close relatives in the IT industry tend to be more successful in computer science classes.

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Overnight Transformation To Online Education Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic
eLearn Magazine, September 2020

During the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, educational institutions in almost all countries have started to transform their classes, assignments, seminars, and tests to online platforms. This requires both the faculty and students to rapidly learn to use these online platforms. While some institutions and faculty had already adopted online education and became familiar with it, many others started using it only recently and began experiencing the benefits and challenges associated with it. In fact, without any preparatory exercises, most of the institutions have been forced to transform to online education mode overnight. With this in mind, the article outlines the challenges and benefits of online education and presents a framework for successful implementation of online education.

Online education has been in practice for several years at educational institutions around the world. Most notably, platforms for online education such as edX and Coursera have received widespread acceptance in several countries. Online platforms enabled academics to reach out to aspiring students across the globe. They allowed institutions and individual teachers to not only offer educational programs in remote mode but also generate revenue. Expected growth in student numbers in coming years is another factor promoting online education. For instance, researchers and consulting companies caution that not all educational institutions have, or can mobilize, required campus resources to accommodate a 30-50 percent increase in student numbers for on-campus education over the next 10-15 years. As a result, they have turned to online delivery models.

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