ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, September 7, 2021

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Volume 17, Issue 17, September 7, 2021

Hands-On IT Skills Pay Off More Than Certs, August 30

IT workers looking for a new job in 2021 can maximize their compensation if they have experience in risk analytics and assessment, smart contracts, or another of the more in-demand tech skills of the moment. Demand is growing for employees with those skills, or others with tools in broader fields, including deep learning, blockchain, or site reliability engineering, according to a new report from Foote Partners. Employees are earning the highest cash premiums for experience in risk analytics, a niche area of business intelligence development, where premiums rose almost 12% in the first half of 2021.

Across the board, there has been a surge in demand for skills related to big data analytics. In fact, salary premiums for big data analytics expertise continue to rise. Highly rewarded skills for which bonuses are rising include Amazon DynamoDB, Apache Cassandra, Cloud Foundry PaaS, MLops, and Splunk. All these skills are attracting pay premiums of more than 16% of base salary. In contrast, the average premium paid for any one of the 621 skills tracked by Foote Partners was 9.4% in the second quarter of 2021. That is just shy of the record 9.6% it hit in the third quarter of 2020, the highest average premium in 20 years, highlighting the continued demand for skilled IT workers throughout the pandemic. Not all skills are in such high demand. Premiums for database and operating system skills are up around 0.4% and 0.7% respectively, while those for applications development and management methodologies have grown a little faster, up around 0.5% for the quarter and 1.8% for the year.

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The Hottest Jobs in Data Science Right Now
Information Age, August 4

Some of the hottest jobs in data science right now include database manager, data analyst and machine learning engineer. Without a doubt, data science has become an extremely popular IT career choice in recent years. Now more than ever, companies need data science professionals who can turn large amounts of data into useful information that will benefit the business. Data scientists are responsible for pulling together and analyzing the data of an organization in order to help make informed decisions. Data scientists work with many departments within organizations, from IT to human resources.

Database manager is one of the most in-demand jobs in data science right now. According to job descriptions commonly found on platforms like Indeed, a database manager works to maintain the databases of an organization, including diagnosing and correcting issues, streamlining information and reporting. They also help to identify the proper hardware and software systems for their company. Data analyst is another top role. Data analysts gather, analyze large amounts of data for companies, and make recommendations based off their findings. They can work in a variety of industries (including healthcare, IT, professional sports and finance) to improve processes, reduce costs, identify trends and enhance efficiency.

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Looking For a New Job in Tech?
WIRED, August 22

For tech startups, a competitive hiring market has driven salaries higher, improved benefit packages, and encouraged companies to offer more flexibility to job candidates. To court top candidates, hot startups are now offering perks like unlimited vacations, home office stipends, and equity stakes in the company. Part of this, of course, has to do with keeping up with the biggest companies in Silicon Valley, regardless of geographic location of the startup. Such offers were less common in startups two years ago, before the pandemic. Now they are simply part of the recruiting mix used to lure away top candidates from companies like Facebook or Google.

Startups across the world are in expansion mode. The first half of 2021 marked a global record for venture capital spending, with $288 billion invested in startups worldwide. For most of them, an influx of cash means an influx of employees, which has caused the number of available startup jobs to swell. It is not just startups, either. In the first quarter of 2021, overall tech job postings increased 16 percent, according to a report from Dice. While the big tech companies are always growing, the pandemic has driven demand for software programmers and engineers more broadly. Between March and July, there were more than 323,000 job openings for software engineers, which is 13 percent higher than in 2016. Postings for other tech jobs, like data engineers, have grown 312 percent in the last five years, suggesting a greater interest in those jobs over time. All of this has created what Silicon Valley insiders are calling the most frenzied hiring market since the dot-com boom of the 1990s.

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Workers Want Flexibility More Than Higher Pay or Job Security
Dice Insights, August 30

During the so-called Great Resignation, an unprecedented number of technologists are actively considering whether or not to leave their current positions and look for a new job this year. With unemployment low, many of these workers feel empowered to search for what they want and ask for the salaries they deserve. According to a new study, some 55 percent of Americans said they would look for a new job within the next 12 months. When looking for their next job, however, it is not all about the money, with factors such as workplace flexibility top of mind.

Companies that want to retain technologists with highly specialized skills may have to offer hybrid work and flexible schedules. Based on data from the Dice 2021 Technologist Sentiment Report, 85 percent of technologists find hybrid work extremely desirable. Moreover, 94 percent of younger technologists (those between 18 and 34 years old) think of a hybrid workplace as either somewhat, very or extremely desirable, compared to 84 percent of those aged 35 and older. But not all managers are onboard with flexibility. Analyst firm Robert Half recently queried 2,800 senior managers in multiple industries (finance, technology, marketing, legal, and more) and found 22 percent were worried that hybrid work would interfere with the ability of team members to communicate with one another. Another 20 percent feared they could not trust employees to get work done from home.

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Given the pandemic, important new trends are emerging in the world of hybrid work. For management experts and IT leaders, especially important are issues related to productivity and output. Many employers and managers found that, on balance, productivity remained high during remote work days. The vast majority (94 percent) of employers surveyed by Mercer in 2020 said their company productivity was actually the same (67 percent) or higher (27 percent) than it was before the pandemic. Nevertheless, workplace leaders should be identifying key productivity metrics in order to assess workforce productivity going forward.

For the hybrid workplace, one big trend is automation-enabled resilience. The stay-at-home order highlighted the benefits of greater automation for business continuity purposes, and many IT leaders are focused on increasing intelligent automation. As companies transition to a new era of hybrid work, CIOs are evaluating which technology investments will position their organizations for long-term success. Automation and AI-enabled transformation are now top priorities. Increasingly, CIOs are seeing how these technologies deliver the speed, efficiency and productivity needed to operate in a hybrid work environment, as well as free up employees from mundane, repetitive, and time-consuming tasks. Increasingly, organizations are exploring the integration of AI, machine learning, and automated workflows for the hybrid workforce. As hybrid work becomes the new normal, it is important for organizations to note where their employees can be most efficient. Employees working remotely are more likely to work longer hours; by easing the burden of administrative work, automated workflows or low code platforms can streamline processes, boosting employee productivity and happiness in the long term.

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Global Startup Hubs Where Innovation Is Thriving, August 7

While Silicon Valley is still the center of technological innovation, rival innovation hubs are fast developing around the world, from Europe and Asia to Africa and Latin America. While experts expect Silicon Valley to remain a strong center of startup innovation, the COVID-19 pandemic has driven more people to relocate across the country and the world. Beyond Silicon Valley, rapid startup growth has occurred in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle and Austin. Globally, cities such as Tel Aviv, London, Stockholm and Tokyo have also gained critical acclaim for their startup ecosystems.

According to KPMG, the top factors that are important for a tech hub are modern infrastructure, an urban locale, at least one research-intensive university, investment funding and available talent. Over time, some tech hubs acquire expertise in a certain field. New York, for example, is known for its blockchain expertise and for being a telecommunications hub. Microsoft developed a software culture in Seattle that resulted in an array of software startups in the city. Around the globe, increasingly influential innovation hubs include Tel Aviv, which is known for its artificial intelligence, mobility, and cybersecurity expertise; London, regarded as a FinTech center; and Tokyo, where large corporations are banking on startup investments to bring outside innovation inside.

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Report Finds Skills Gap in Cloud, Security, Storage IT Intensified by Pandemic
ZDNet, August 31

According to new research released by IT workforce training provider Pluralsight, the COVID-19 pandemic is putting more pressure on companies to upskill their workers. Now that many organizations have embraced the remote work trend, they are exploring new approaches to education and training. In its report, Pluralsight found that since early 2020, remote employees reported that skills involving cloud computing, cybersecurity, and data storage were most lacking in their daily routines. The report also found that the confidence of most remote employees to do their current jobs was down 13% from a year ago, due in large part to the scale and scope of changes occurring within the workplace in response to the pandemic.

One of the biggest changes in tech employee routines in the past year was the emergence of hands-on learning as a primary means of skill development. A majority of respondents seek out the ability to learn while doing, with 77% of technology professionals stating that hands-on learning opportunities are an essential part of any upskilling program. Closing the technology skills gap continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing enterprises. As organizations around the world responded to the pandemic by accelerating digital transformation initiatives, accelerating the move of applications to cloud platforms, and supporting remote employees, the need for effective and scalable upskilling tools became even more important.

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One Reason For the Great Resignation in the Tech Industry: Lack of Diversity
Fast Company, August 13

During the Great Resignation, vast numbers of people have left their high-paying jobs, leaving some employers scrambling to fill positions. In the tech field, a new report from the academic publishing giant Wiley suggests part of the issue can be traced back to the challenges faced by the tech industry in achieving workplace diversity and equity. In a survey of 2,030 workers between the ages of 18 and 28 conducted in July, the company found that 50 percent said they had left or wanted to leave a tech or IT job because the company culture made them feel unwelcome or uncomfortable, with a higher percentage of women and Asian, Black, and Hispanic respondents each saying they had such an experience.

U.S. companies collectively are spending more than ever before (about $8 billion a year) on diversity and inclusion training, but investment alone is not enough to achieve equity in the workplace. More specifically, the tech industry has been facing increasing scrutiny over diversity, equity, and inclusion issues in recent years, especially after the racial justice protests of last summer, when many companies promised to do more to support and recruit Black employees. A Fast Company survey of 42 top tech companies found they committed nearly $4 billion to diversity and inclusion efforts after those protests. But many tech companies have continued to face criticism. For example, lack of diversity in AI in general has contributed to racial bias in facial recognition software and other prominent AI tools. In general, the Wiley report found that 68% of businesses surveyed acknowledged a lack of diversity in their tech teams, with many saying they are working to fix it. The report also found that 64% of those surveyed said they believe people from minority backgrounds are discriminated against in the recruitment process for technology jobs.

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Managing IT Professional Turnover
Communications of the ACM, September 2021

IT employee turnover is a major concern of CIOs and senior IT managers. The most recent annual Society for Information Management (SIM) survey of IT managers confirms that concern and attempts to get to the bottom of the issue. Since 2014, IT employee turnover has been on the rise. As if that were not troublesome enough, nearly 7 percent of the IT workforce is projected to retire in the next five years. These trends have a direct impact on the bottom line of organizations employing IT professionals. Some managers believe the high turnover rate of IT adds an estimated 20% to their expected costs. Without a doubt, managing IT professional turnover has become a new strategic priority.

When trying to explain why IT professionals are leaving, IT managers surveyed by the Society for Information Management blame a strong job market. Indeed, IT talent retention has consistently been ranked in the survey as the second or third most important management issue since 2013. The SIM survey, which examines the issue from a socio-psychological angle, finds IT employee trust as the top motivating factor. This perspective compares and contrasts IT employee distrust in the broad organization, which is often beyond the control of managers but toxic to work environments nonetheless, with the constructive actions that IT managers can take to offset that distrust, namely by fostering trust in managers as well as the teams on which IT employees work. This comparison is made within the context of assessing those trust and distrust beliefs against things such as satisfaction with pay, having perceived alternatives, and a sense of obsolescence. Results show that when all the correlations are analyzed together, turnover intentions correlate significantly only to distrust in the organization.

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Protecting Enterprise Use of IoT
Blog@CACM, August 31

The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to show significant promise for IT workers thinking of making a career transition into a fast-growing field. However, there are still many device connectivity issues and IoT vulnerabilities for companies to take into account before this promise can be realized. In short, organizations need to re-focus eon how to keep things safe when using the Internet of Things. While the Internet of Things brings big benefits to organizations, this technology also makes the organization more vulnerable in many ways. For any company, every smart device on the network poses certain risks. The challenge for any organization in the world right now is to figure out how to maximize the efficiency of its operations using IoT technologies while reducing all possible risks.

Recent high-profile security incidents have shown that IoT devices have several inherent disadvantages. There are several main reasons why this technology poses a high security risk. For example, lack of standardization creates confusion among devices. IoT devices lack standardized interfaces and control systems. Therefore, it is nearly impossible to develop a uniform security policy, update software, or even set strong passwords without a dedicated IoT security solution. Moreover, unlike popular software platforms, such as Windows or Android, IoT devices are not designed with security in mind. They are usually not serviced or managed. Also, they often have outdated or unsupported code architecture, firmware, or software.

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