ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, June 22, 2021
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 17, Issue 12, June 22, 2021
In the UK, tech hiring is approaching its highest peak since 2016, suggesting that the IT industry is recovering at an unprecedented pace from the pandemic-related lockdowns. Not surprisingly, one of the most in-demand jobs across the UK is software developer, for which there were nearly 10,000 vacancies in April 2021 alone. Just as popular are AI and data science jobs such as AI engineers or programmers. A recent report found that close to 110,500 job openings were posted in the AI labor market last year, double the number of vacancies registered in 2014 and a 16% increase from 2019.
The only problem with surging IT worker demand is that there are not nearly enough candidates to fill all of the empty roles. In the AI industry specifically, almost seven in ten firms have struggled to fill at least one vacancy in the past two years, typically because of the lack of appropriate skills among applicants. The issue of talent availability is one of the greatest concerns among decision makers in tech businesses that are scaling fast as well as one of the top challenges facing startup founders. Once they have raised a big round from investors, they are really concerned with how they are going to find the next set of people to grow their organization. The rise of remote working is likely to provide some solutions. With almost one in four advertised IT vacancies marked as remote, business leaders can now leverage talent from across the world.
One of the looming questions facing every organization and industry right now is what workers will do when the COVID-19 pandemic lifts for good. Will there be a return to some level of normalcy, or will we see a mass exodus of workers fleeing to greener pastures? According to the Dice 2021 Technologist Sentiment Report, fears of a mass resignation might be overblown. In general, technologists are feeling optimistic about their jobs, careers and their overall work-life balance. That reduces the likelihood that they will look to change employers this year. Between the fourth quarter of 2020 and the second quarter of 2021, the number of technologists who were either very or somewhat satisfied with their careers rose from 67 percent to 75 percent.
According to the sentiment survey, technologists felt good about their current jobs, with 65 percent of them saying they were either very or somewhat satisfied in the second quarter of 2021, compared to 55 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020. The increased job satisfaction can be attributed to a variety of different factors, including an increased comfort level with a fully remote environment, optimism for a return to growth within their organizations, and solid work by organizations in making workplace adjustments during the pandemic. Although technologists were generally happy with their careers and current jobs, satisfaction with current roles remains lower than overall career satisfaction. For managers and executives in need of talent, this presents an interesting conundrum. While higher job satisfaction could signal that it might be more difficult to lure skilled technologists away from their current roles, the outlook for the profession and the ever-increasing demand for sought-after technology professionals is likely to drive up recruiting competition.
IT roles, particularly in the areas of cloud computing, big data, and information security, are expected to grow by 531,200 jobs from 2019 to 2029, which bodes well for IT graduates entering the job market. Even in a booming IT job market, though, graduates need to show recruiters that they are truly prepared for the workplace. They need to show that they possess both the technical and pragmatic skills to succeed when compared against more experienced IT professionals. Based on interviews with more than 50 CIOs and other IT leaders, current IT graduates need to show first and foremost that they have developed a strong technical background as well as an aptitude for learning more on the job.
New IT graduates rarely have all, or even most, of the skills that CIOs want. Especially since most computer and data science university curriculums focus on theoretical over practical application, many graduating students have not yet developed the real-world skills that will make their knowledge relevant to a business. IT leaders recognize this gap in experience, but still want new hires to demonstrate skills in the basic building blocks of the industry, with background or coursework in coding languages and relevant data science courses. In order to get noticed by hiring managers, IT graduates should have coding skills in at least one of the main languages, as well as some familiarity with one of the more exotic languages. Beyond relevant coursework and knowledge, tech leaders look for IT grads who have applied this knowledge to real-world problems prior to entering the job market. In some cases, this could be experience with contributing to open source projects like GitHub.
Four Reasons Why Coding is a Good Career Choice
Programming Insider, June 18
There are four good reasons why coding is a good career choice. First and most importantly, coding is a growing industry. There are so many opportunities now available, especially in countries experiencing rapid economic growth. Some examples of popular careers include software application developer, web developer, computer analyst and software engineer. Importantly, basic coding is a skill most employers look for even though their industry is not strictly related to computing or tech. This results in a more versatile industry for coders. In many developed countries, computer programming is now the fastest-growing profession and there seems to be no end in sight to the ongoing digital skills shortage.
The coding industry offers a solid income with good long-term prospects. In the United States, computer programmers had an estimated median salary of $86,550 in 2019. In that year alone, the top 25 percent made $112,120 while the lowest-paid 25 percent made $65,760. However, in places like Asia, the coding industry is still developing. As a result, the average is around $10,000 to $20,000 annually. Those rates would differ if a person were employed as a freelance computer programmer. If you live in the United States, another factor that you should also consider is the state where your company is based. For example, the average salary for computer programmers is $107,300 in California, but it is slightly lower ($102,650) in Texas. Generally, the salary depends on many factors such as the state or the country you reside in, the company you work for, or even the demand in the industry you are in.
When IT Careers Stall: 5 Tips to Jump-Start Progress
The Enterprisers Project, June 14
If your career in software engineering or IT is showing signs of stalling, it may be time to learn a new technology, language or skill. Feeling stalled in your current position most likely means that you have mastered your current responsibilities. While we should always strive to excel at our work, it is important to recognize when we have become too comfortable. It can feel great to perform our jobs with ease and have time to exhale, but comfort can easily lead to stagnation, followed by boredom and resentment. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made things more difficult by making many IT workers more risk-averse. Just remember that the same volatility that can make career development feel risky also provides a constant source of opportunity.
Reinventing yourself and getting out of a rut may be as simple as learning a new coding language or reaching out to a fast-growing startup in your area for new opportunities. When your job has become too easy, take a survey of the technologies being widely adopted throughout your industry. Trends like containerization and Kubernetes are likely to shape the next decade of jobs in IT and software development. Getting in on the ground floor of a transformational software tool will put you in a smart position. Also, identify the must-have skills to acquire. Current job seekers have more information at their disposal than at any point in history, with platforms like Glassdoor and LinkedIn offering a wealth of insights into job openings, position requirements, average salaries, and more. If you are struggling to land your dream job, these sites should become key tools in your toolkit.
How to Find the Silicon Valleys of Tomorrow
OZY.com, May 26
Across the globe, new cities and regions are emerging as tech hubs, a process that has gained greater momentum due to the pandemic. In the United States, new tech talent hubs include Atlanta, Miami and Philadelphia, while Texas continues to chip away at the dominance of Silicon Valley. Importantly, relocating workers will not just settle in major cities. In the U.S., the appeal of affordable locales and proximity to family could create new hubs across the nation. Initiatives like the Cultivation Corridor in Des Moines and financial incentive programs from Tulsa and Topeka to Tucson and Savannah are creating new competition for talent.
Globally too, commerce capitals are shifting, with China losing some of its dominance and Africa rising. Within Europe, too, some nations are actively taking the lead in developing the tech workforce of tomorrow. France, for example, has benefited from the aggressive courtship of tech entrepreneurs and investments by the government, helping to make Paris a new tech hub on the continent. The French introduced a program in 2017 that fast-tracked residence visas for tech entrepreneurs and their families. That indirectly led to new-found enthusiasm for startups and new ventures. In Paris, companies are now raising tens of millions of dollars in venture capital financing, and some hot startups are now receiving billion-dollar valuations.
Remote Tech Workers Are Looking For New Jobs
TechRepublic.com, June 17
The boom in remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic could be coming to an end. According to a recent survey of more than 1,000 tech workers by Dice, relationships between employees and co-workers have deteriorated over the past year. According to the survey, 51% of workers are finding it harder to develop and maintain working relationships with colleagues while 34% are having difficulty maintaining effective relationships with their managers. The Dice 2021 Technologist Sentiment Report also found that sentiment around remote working in the second quarter of 2021 has shifted since the end of 2020, with higher rates of stress being reported by workers and a significant decline in the number of workers who want to continue working remotely five days a week.
Overall, 36 percent of tech workers said they were burned out in the second quarter of 2021, up from 32 percent in Q4 2020. Younger employees are more likely to be experiencing burnout than their older peers, with researchers pointing to differing workloads as a potential factor: 35 percent of respondents aged 55 and over reported an increase in their workload during the pandemic, compared to nearly half (47%) of those between the ages of 18 and 34. Perhaps as a result, the desire to be fully-remote dropped from 41 percent in Q4 2020 to less than a third (29%) in Q2 2021, with more respondents showing a preference for a hybrid model of work combining both at home and in-office days. Only 17 percent said they found working in the office full-time to be extremely or very desirable, compared to 59% for both fully-remote and hybrid approaches. Offering this flexibility could be key to retaining talent as competition for skilled technology professionals heats up. While 75 percent of survey respondents said they were satisfied with their careers, researchers found that more tech workers were willing to change employers as the world emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly half (48%) of employees said they were likely to find a new job in 2021, up from 40 percent in Q4 2020 and a significant increase from 32% this time last year.
Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a Data Scientist
The Ladders, June 12
Data scientist has emerged as one of the most popular and highest-paying jobs in the tech industry, and demand shows no signs of slowing. Before applying for one of these positions, however, it is important to understand what a data scientist does and how this role adds value to a business. The job of a data scientist is to take large sets of complex information and process it in a way that makes sense to the decision-makers within a company, organization or entity. Working in conjunction with other data professionals such as data analysts and software engineers, data scientists use a combination of computer systems, statistics and the scientific method to organize data, turn it into usable information, and draw conclusions from that information based on the emergence of patterns and trends.
Data scientists use a combination of business knowledge, programming skills, and statistical analysis to do their jobs. They usually learn the specific technical skills needed to organize and analyze data like coding and programming skills, machine learning skills, data visualization, and big data platforms during the course of their education. Day to day, data scientists must use analytical, logic, and reasoning skills to complete their work. They are often detail-oriented individuals who enjoy problem-solving, critical thinking, mathematics, and statistics. Communication skills are also necessary for data scientists, as they must be able to explain their findings to others. Data scientists should also possess the ability to collaborate with other team members such as analysts and engineers who may assist with their work.
Competitions Not Confrontations
Blog @ CACM, May 21
The growing tendency for confrontation in the geopolitical arena is having a negative impact on international scientific projects in the computer science field. The institution of sanctions, counter-sanctions, and the emergence of new hotspots occur with alarming regularity, and that has had a chilling effect on events, projects and collaboration opportunities. The number of international competitions supported by government research funds has been rapidly decreasing. New competitions which would involve collaborations between scientific teams of opposing sides are no longer announced. All these factors have led to a schism forming between researchers from different countries. Nevertheless, new collaborative research could be the bridge that would allow for the maintenance and development of communication between countries.
Based on this changing geopolitical context, the question often arises as to which international institutions are in a position to act as organizers of new competitions involving the participation of teams from different countries. It is clear that traditional scientific foundations supported and funded by governments are often not well placed to take on this role. In contrast, international research communities, united by their professional interests, could be seen as ideally suited to it. Organizations such as ACM now include in their ranks researchers from a great variety of very different countries, and these researchers successfully interact within the framework of the statutory provisions of these organizations. The influence of politics on the activities of such communities is still minimal, allowing them to act as the organizer of new competitions involving joint research by scientists from countries which are otherwise at odds with each other.
Locality and Professional Life
Communications of the ACM, June 2021
Taking a big picture view of your professional career, what matters most is your impact on those immediately around you. This includes friends, neighbors and workplace colleagues. This concept of locality is different from the way many people think about their careers, which usually involves a focus on winning honors, piling up awards or recognitions, gaining promotions and showcasing wealth. Instead of ruminating about your impact on your profession, it might be more helpful to consider your local impact. Embrace every project with care and excellence and strive to do the best possible job. If each of us is doing our job well, we will contribute to the overall health of society.
The ideas of strong interactions with neighbors and loss of identity over time are related to the concept of locality in computing. Locality is the idea that, as a program executes, it confines its accesses to a small subset of its data for an extended period. In our professional work we do the same. For extended periods, we confine our interactions mainly to people in our immediate teams or communities, a small subset of all the people we could possibly interact with. This restriction to local neighborhoods is the spatial aspect of locality. Our contributions begin in our local networks and spread out like ripples across many local networks in the conversations people have with people in other networks. Over time, our identity as the origin of ripples disappears. Only in rare cases does a name survive. This dying out of identity is the temporal aspect of locality. In our profession, we are brought up with stories of great scientists, engineers, and leaders who are held up as role models. We develop desires to leave our own mark, meaning that our contribution, like theirs, is remembered with our name attached. The urge to have fame seems to have grown stronger recently, primarily due to social media platforms. Achieving some sort of fame seems to be a way of demonstrating that life has had meaning and impact. Yet locality tells us that any memory with our name on it is likely to be ephemeral.
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