ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, December 15, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Volume 16, Issue 24, December 15, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has had a huge impact on the IT job market. As a result, many tech professionals may no longer have the right skills for the current environment. For example, the World Economic Forum has predicted a massive shift in the labor force, with 50 percent of all workers needing new skills by 2025 if they want to remain competitive in the labor market. At the same time, higher unemployment is expanding the IT candidate pool, as is the growing acceptance of remote work arrangements. This allows employers to recruit technology professionals from a broader geographic area, potentially from anywhere around the world. The good news is that IT workers with the right skills will continue to see high demand and, potentially, pay increases.
There are 10 key IT skills that employers will be looking for in 2021 and beyond, and cloud computing is at the top of the list. While the trend toward cloud computing is nothing new, the type of cloud skills employers looks for is starting to shift. Companies are now well beyond simply moving their applications and infrastructure to the cloud. Today, it is about developing and executing a cloud strategy. Companies need to develop cloud-native applications, manage multi-cloud practices, and create more secure and resilient cloud environments. These more strategic cloud skills ranked highly in the 2020 Tech Skills Demand and Pay Trends Report from Foote Partners. Several AWS certifications ranked among the certifications that gained the most value for the quarter, and the Certified Cloud Security Professional was among those paying the highest cash premiums.
As remote and flexible work arrangements for IT workers grow in popularity, employers have been re-prioritizing what types of skills they want those technologists to have. Notably, healthcare, education, and defense firms have been the biggest markets for technologist talent during the past six months. IT workers should find ways to highlight unique skills or experiences that would make a good match for those companies. Moreover, some skills are more in-demand than others. Over the past 60 days, those top skills have included SQL, project management, Java, and software development.
Since SQL topped the rankings of top skills, it suggests that employers remain on the lookout for technologists who can analyze, use and leverage data. Originally created as the standardized language for relational database management, SQL has become one of the most vital parts of many tech stacks. If you are competing for a job that demands SQL skills, earning SQL-related certifications is well worth considering, since they could help you stand out in a crowded field. The prevalence of project management and software development skills in the ranking suggests that companies are looking for technologists who can help them execute their development roadmaps for 2021 and well beyond. It is worth keeping in mind that such skill sets require both a firm grasp of technical concepts and soft skills such as empathy and communication.
The technology industry seems to be in constant flux, but this year the pace of change has been significantly faster and has followed a trajectory no one saw coming at the beginning of the year. It is always smart for IT pros to keep learning and advancing their skills, but how do you make the right investments in your career when you do not know what the future holds? With that in mind, a group of IT leaders and career experts recently shared the skills that are most likely to be in high demand in 2021. Not surprisingly, core leadership and communication skills rank at the top of the list.
The key to adaptability, virtual collaboration, and digital transformation is distributed leadership and self-managed teams. This requires that everyone have core leadership skills, and not just people in the positions of managers and above. Experts now suggest that there are six key core leadership skills that every IT professional needs to master, even more so today than at any time in the past. These include: clarifying your strategic intent; prioritizing your time and energy; delegating work to others; creating conditions of accountability; managing performance as a continuous improvement process; and communicating effectively and efficiently. Just keep in mind that the tech industry is currently operating at an accelerated speed, putting a premium on IT professionals who can adapt quickly and tackle problems creatively.
12 Ways You Can Boost Your Professional Network While Working From Home
ZDNet.com, December 8
While it is commonly assumed that a global pandemic would put an immediate stop to all forms of networking, that is not the case for IT professionals looking to advance their careers. It turns out that the opportunities to network, far from shrinking, have multiplied during the past few months. Some networking groups now have unprecedented numbers of new members joining the community during the crisis, even if all new networking opportunities are now virtual. The removal of geographical barriers for networking events has been game-changing in enabling pools of people from all over the world to join and meet. Going into 2021, some groups are now planning on sticking to hybrid events, to keep the benefits of virtual networking even once the crisis has passed.
There are several important tips for success with virtual networking. First of all, join a network and stay in touch with it. There are now many organizations that bring members of a similar community together to network, and joining at least one or two of them is the best place to start. A quick search through Google or LinkedIn will give you plenty to pick from. Once signed up, make sure you regularly read any email newsletters and attend some virtual events. Stay actively engaged with the organizations you are part of, let them know what you are doing, and if you move jobs or positions, always get in touch to provide your new contact details.
What Is the Career Path of a Software Engineer?
Built In, December 8
Setting up a clear and well-documented career ladder for your software team will not ensure that your staff will never leave, but it gives them a chance to know where their career is headed as long as they stay with you. It also gives you an opportunity to discuss promotions and growth goals with a formal, objective scale that is the same for everyone whenever you do a one-on-one career review or performance assessment. Software engineers need to be able to see how the growth opportunities that their managers set up are going to improve their own skill set and further their careers. They need a map that spells out unequivocally how to get promoted so that they can focus on growing the skills required. Only then will they be able to figure out a multi-year plan within the company and figure out where they will be in five years.
One of the most common misconceptions is the assumption that any career progression needs to culminate in a people management role. In other words, you must either become a supervisor or see your career stagnate. In the software engineering world, that translates to the senior engineer becoming a team lead, then a junior manager, and so on. In actuality, setting up a career progression in this way severely limits team members. For one thing, it is not sustainable. You cannot have your whole engineering team eventually becoming hands-off managers, even if you have a healthy supply of engineers constantly joining your company. The need is simply not there. Perhaps more importantly, though, management and engineering demand very different skills. Management requires a tremendous amount of negotiating acumen and people skills. Further, although it requires some technical understanding in order to make the right decisions, it is not the main focus. Engineering, on the other hand, is all about the technical details. It is a creative discipline steeped in specialized knowledge and great problem solving skills. Some senior engineers might be interested in learning management skills, but others might not.
How Will the AI Job Market Fare in Coming Years?
Analytics Insight, November 24
Artificial intelligence has sparked numerous innovations and brought digital disruption to many industries, changing the jobs market forever. While AI has replaced some jobs, it has also brought new roles for IT workers. According to a research report from IDC, artificial intelligence is projected to create 823,734 jobs by the year 2021, surpassing the number of jobs lost to AI technologies such as machine learning and automation. The report also predicted that AI would increase global business revenues by $1.1 trillion in the same time frame. So, AI will continue to be the big game-changer in the global economy, creating demand for new skills and roles.
This year, while the COVID-19 pandemic has had an unsettling impact on the job market as a whole, AI still manages to continue its upward growth curve. According to earlier analysis of open job opportunities for AI professionals from 2018 to 2023, AI jobs are expected to increase at a CAGR of 31.6% to reach a total of 1,928,658 in 2023, up from 489,393 in 2018. However, a 2016 report from Forrester reveals a negative forecast in job trends. As per the report, 16% of U.S. jobs will be replaced by 2025, while an equivalent of 9% of jobs will be created, thus resulting in a net loss of 7% of U.S. jobs by 2025. Forrester also stated in the report that smart systems like autonomous robots, digital assistants, AI software and chatbots would take over certain job functions. Further, it asserts that from 2021, AI will undergo significant changes to diversify beyond current machine learning and natural language processing capabilities.
How To Reinvent Yourself As a Digital Leader
Forbes, December 12
In these times of rapid change, digital leadership is needed more than ever. The ability to learn, unlearn, and re-learn as change happens is one of the primary aptitudes we all need in order to thrive in the future of work. Learning to be a digital leader is not as hard as it sounds, but it does require that you take a big picture view of the modern workplace, and that you have a solid understanding of existing skills gaps in the technology labor market.
There are several resources that people can leverage in order to become digital leaders. You need to start getting inspired about the future, by searching your area of interest and certain keywords. Watch videos, read reports, and note down all the new ideas that resonate with you. The second step is about defining your direction. Identify your strengths and development areas. Evaluate these results with the ideas that inspire you from the first sprint, and identify your threats and opportunities. Build a plan for your development opportunities. Now that you know your direction, it is time to start learning. List the skills that your dream job needs and plot them in a matrix to understand which ones are more useful, and which ones take less time. Another tip is to look at profiles on LinkedIn with those jobs and understand which certifications or training they have gone through. Build a learning plan around your dream job based on your personal preferences.
Tech Workers Universally Want Long-Term Remote Working
Tech HQ, November 23
According to a study by Indeed, the pandemic has had a greater impact on flexible working in tech than it has in almost any other sector. As a result, some of the biggest names in the tech sector are re-thinking a flexible workspace in terms of specific areas such as worksite, hours and location. The bottom line is that almost all tech employees (96%) believe remote work is here to stay, and most of them prefer it due to the greater flexibility and work-life balance it provides.
Additionally, two-thirds of tech workers believe this shift to remote working will increase workplace diversity, in terms of disability (79%), gender (77%), and race/ethnicity (72%). While some worry that a larger talent pool will increase competition, many are optimistic about the increased access to jobs. Some 60% of IT workers plan to search for remote positions within the next year, yet remain close to home. Just because there is a pandemic does not mean people have put their careers on hold, but their reasons for seeking new jobs varied. Nearly half (48%) of them are looking for a better salary. However, fear is also a motivator, with 44% and 38%, respectively, citing potential layoffs and furloughs. Surprisingly, six out of 10 tech workers willing to take a pay cut to continue working from home. Nearly half (48%) of the tech employees surveyed now have the option to work from home permanently, even though they were not doing so pre-COVID, and an overwhelming majority intend to take their employers up on this offer.
Computer Systems Research: The Joys, the Perils, and How to Count Beans Well
Blog@CACM, December 4
Computer systems researchers face a number of challenges, obstacles and uncertainties as they go about doing innovative work in computer systems. With that in mind, it is possible to consider computer systems research from several different angles: the joys of researching and building computing systems; the occupational hazards of researching and building computing systems; and ways of measuring success. In short, while there can be much excitement about bringing forth new ideas and integrating with existing ideas, there is also the long journey from idea to delivery. This includes finding adopters for your work, learning to play well in teams, and dealing with skeptics.
The joys of researching and building computing systems are manifold and very individualized. They come at various stages of the whole process. For example, there is the initial rush when you think you have the germ of a new idea. The second joy comes from the realization that this idea can solve a very real problem and affect many people for a sustained period of time. Consider, for example, the creation a chip that goes into our homes and cars and perform continuous computer vision tasks. This can enable our fast growing numbers of elders to lead independent lives and our cars to navigate traffic safely. The applications of our computing systems are effectively boundless, as limitless as human imagination itself. The third joy comes from the sense of integrating our ideas with those of giants who have come before us. This has the added benefit that computer systems work is a team sport. There is great joy in being a part of a well-functioning team, not to mention a great preparation for the students for their professional careers.
US States Must Broaden Participation While Expanding Access to CS Education
Communications of the ACM, December 2020
Making sweeping changes to education in the U.S. is difficult because of its highly decentralized primary and secondary school system. Each of the U.S. states and territories makes its own decisions about how education is structured. Some of those states push the decision-making to districts and even individual schools. Reforms, such as providing high-quality computer science education to all students, require states to engage every school district, if not every school. In order to broaden participation in computing, rather than widening existing inequalities as we expand computer science education to more U.S. schools, explicit attention needs to be placed on how equity is addressed and measured in policy, practice, and professional development.
The good news is that many states are making progress on CS education. As of October 2020, 18 states have started or completed statewide plans; 37 states have defined CS standards; and 40 states plus the District of Columbia have teacher certification for CS. The Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Alliance, launched in 2012, focuses on state-level educational systems and now works with 22 states to ensure the goal of broadening participation in computing (BPC) is a priority. Supported by additional NSF funding in 2018, the ECEP 2.0 leadership team continues to build on the early work of ECEP while scaling the model of state-level BPC work beyond the ECEP states. ECEP member states are making great strides toward increasing the number and diversity of students who have access to high-quality computing education. But often, there is more pressure to increase the number of students who have access than to ensure the diversity of those students.
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