ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, September 21, 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 18, September 21, 2021
While COVID-19 has complicated the return-to-office plans for many employers, it has not stopped hiring demand for technologists. According to Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings across the country, consulting firms such as Deloitte and Accenture are in a hiring binge at the moment, along with tech companies such as Amazon and Microsoft. Finance and healthcare firms are also reporting robust demand for tech workers.
There are several reasons behind the new hiring wave at consulting firms. Whenever there is a spike in demand for tech talent, many companies turn to consultants in order to meet their operational needs. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are feeling confident about enacting big projects and they need the talent for those projects right now. Consultants and contractors can allow companies to scale up teams and get products to market faster, although this method often comes with some drawbacks. For example, contract workers tend to take their knowledge with them once they leave.
Despite growing concern that Silicon Valley could experience an exodus of tech workers and companies to other tech hubs, the reality is that there is no other Silicon Valley in sight. No startup ecosystem in the world realistically has the possibility to close the gap with Silicon Valley in the near-term future, according to a new report. The Bay Area, for example, hosts 7,894 tech companies that have raised over $1 million since inception. In terms of the size and scope of its startup ecosystem for both founders and investors, Silicon Valley stands far above its peers.
In terms of being able to attract startup investment dollars, Silicon Valley remains the clear leader. Startups headquartered in the Bay Area raised $501.3 billion in capital, which is about half of the total capital made available to U.S. tech companies. This is also about 2.5 times more than the amount raised by their European counterparts ($195.5 billion). Despite the proximity to investors, more and more tech startups are leaving California. New York, Boston, Austin (and Texas in general), Seattle, Atlanta, Chicago and the North Carolina tech triangle have seen a sharp increase of their startup population in the last three years.
For tech workers, it is never too early to anticipate future trends in IT hiring and prepare for the fastest-growing jobs of the next decade. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment in the U.S. will grow from 153.5 million to 165.4 million by 2030, an increase of 11.9 million jobs. At the same time, technological advancements are expected to keep growing at a fast pace, opening up opportunities in areas such as artificial intelligence, robotics, self-driving vehicles, cryptocurrencies, gaming, virtual reality, and online collaborative video platforms.
There will be increased hiring demand at companies of all sizes, ranging from large tech giants to agile startups. As business continues moving online, demand will outstrip the supply of suitable job candidates. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and mathematical occupations are expected to see fast employment growth as strong demand is expected for IT security and software development, in part due to increased prevalence of telework spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic. There will also be increased need for people to interpret the vast amount of data to help business leaders make smart, informed decisions. Demand for new products, such as the Internet of Things, and for analyzing and interpreting large datasets are also expected to contribute to fast employment growth for statisticians, information security analysts and data scientists.
Stop Screening the Social Media of Job Candidates
Harvard Business Review, September/October 2021
According to a recent survey, 70 percent of employers check out applicant social media profiles as part of their screening process, and 54 percent have rejected applicants because of what they found. Social media sites offer a free, easily accessed portrait of what a candidate is really like, yielding a clearer idea of whether that person will succeed on the job. However, new research suggests that hiring managers who take this approach should use caution: Much of what they discover is information they are ethically discouraged or legally prohibited from taking into account when evaluating candidates, and little of it is predictive of performance.
In the first of three studies, researchers examined the Facebook pages of hundreds of U.S. job seekers to see what they revealed. Some of the information that job seekers had posted, such as education, work experience, and extracurricular activities, covered areas that organizations routinely and legitimately assess during the hiring process. But a significant share of profiles contained details that companies may be legally prohibited from considering, including gender, race, and ethnicity (evident in 100% of profiles), disabilities (7%), pregnancy status (3%), sexual orientation (59%), political views (21%), and religious affiliation (41%). Many of the job seeker profiles also included information of potential concern to prospective employers, such as reference to alcohol and drug consumption. In many ways, then, social media allows recruiters to discover all the information they are not allowed to ask about during an interview.
Zoomtowns: These Cities Are Prime Real Estate for Remote Workers
Tech Republic, September 16
At the onset of COVID-19, companies around the globe switched to remote work virtually overnight, leading to the establishment of so-called Zoomtowns that are home to a disproportionate share of remote job applicants. In some of these cities, the percentage of remote job applications can be nearly double the national average. In fact, telecommuter opportunities now represent nearly one-third of all U.S. job postings on LinkedIn, compared to 9.8% one year prior and 2.8% before the onset of COVID-19 in January 2020. According to LinkedIn, small cities where U.S. job seekers are most likely to apply for remote work include Bend, Oregon; Asheville, North Carolina; and Wilmington, Delaware.
LinkedIn specifically noted ten smaller U.S. cities that have emerged as hubs for remote work. For example, from August 2020 to August 2021, the percentage of remote job applications in Bend, Oregon was 41.8%, which is nearly double the national average. Other smaller cities making the Top 5 included Asheville, North Carolina (38.7%); Wilmington, Delaware (35.9%); Johnson City, Tennessee (35.2%) and Eugene, Oregon (34.9%). Sarasota-North Port, Florida (34.6%), Pensacola, Florida (34.5%), Portland, Maine (33.9%), Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (33.9%). and Roanoke, Virginia (32.4%) round out the list of the Top 10 smaller cities. Specific remote job categories that are working out for residents of these cities include positions in data analysis, online instruction, content marketing and IT support.
6 IT Hiring Pitfalls to Address Now
The Enterprisers Project, September 10
The hybrid work options that the pandemic created means that IT organizations may have more open roles available, as well as a tougher time filling them. That points to the need to step up retention efforts. But there are also IT hiring practices that need rethinking. Fine-tuning your recruiting approach can improve your ability to attract and retain top IT talent. There are six areas where organizations can improve IT hiring processes.
Inexperienced, untrained, or unprepared interviewers can diminish the chances of an organization winning over a recruit. But that is just the part of the problem with many corporate IT job interviews. Another element that can negatively impact interviews is a lack of alignment in organizations about the purpose of each step in an interview process. Hiring managers need to be clear about the purpose of each interview with both their hiring team and the candidates. Many candidates are dropping the interview process due to having too many interviews as part of the process. Any more than three interviews or seven interviewers is too many, say recruiters.
Tech Jobs Are Changing But Do Not Expect a Boom in IT Salaries
ZDNet, September 1
Tech and IT workers have largely seen their salaries hold steady over the past year. Yet while demand for tech workers and digital skills is on the rise, there is so far little indication of a forthcoming salary boom for digital professionals. IT recruiters are seeing more companies wanting to hire IT staff, so budgets are being set aside for IT resources, but overall compensation may not rise. According to a survey of 6,000 technology leaders by Harvey Nash in July 2021, only four in 10 tech and IT workers saw their salaries increase over the past year, even as organizations faced a growing skills shortage. More than half of CIOs said they planned to keep salaries the same over the next 12 months.
While companies may not be planning large wage incentives for staff, many are readdressing the benefits packages they offer, with the inclusion of perks such as flexible hours, remote-working options and allowances for home office equipment. This focus on the employee experience, rather than substantial pay increases, is what is likely to shape compensation packages in the months ahead. The bottom line is that, when it comes to attracting and retaining talent, companies need to look beyond pay. Benefits programs should focus on total rewards that support employees in a holistic way, providing not only for their financial security, but also their physical, intellectual, social, and environmental well-being. Pay has always been at a premium in the tech sector, but the speed at which the market is currently moving is putting pressure on companies to up the ante. While salaries could increase, these are likely to be in increments, rather than leaps and bounds.
How AI Will Change IT Jobs
Information Week, September 1
As AI becomes more powerful, reliable, and accessible, there is a growing concern that cost-conscious organizations may turn to the technology to improve task reliability, efficiency, and performance. Yet, even with the current progress being made, AI will struggle to entirely replace IT roles. That being said, some IT professionals may find their roles significantly diminished within the next few years as AI takes over a growing number of computational-heavy tasks. AI is redesigning the workforce and changing the way humans and machines interact.
The IT positions most likely at risk for complete replacement are in the support specialist space. Much like automated responses using chatbot technologies, organizations could move away human support interaction to computer-generated responses that are getting better and better at solving user technology issues. Automated AI systems can now be designed to directly communicate with end users to troubleshoot a problem. Graduates in spaces like data science or computer science are implementing more machine learning technology, and the systems are becoming more sophisticated. AI systems are able to assess conversations and apply solutions by analyzing conversation patterns as well as learn from past conversations and solutions to provide a more efficient response to customers.
Tech Meetups In a Pandemic
Blog@CACM, September 17
For years, remote meetups (either via live broadcast or recordings) have been a popular way to engage more people than could physically show up for a meeting. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, accelerated this trend and made it a necessity. Tech meetup organizers must be more aware than ever before of all the challenges of hosting these remote events, especially those related to participation and engagement. One notable challenge, for example, is that remote attendance can actually go down compared to real-life attendance, despite the online event being easier to access.
A remote meetup is better than no meetup at all, especially given the ease of using video platforms like Zoom to connect participants online. Simply moving events online, however, is no guarantee of future participation. This is particularly true due to a phenomenon commonly referred to as Zoom burnout. After staring at a screen all day, some tech workers simply might not want to attend yet another video online meeting. In addition, attendees now have more content options to choose from, given that more content and meetups have moved online. Keep in mind, too, that a section of attendees might lose interest in attending because of the lack of networking opportunities in an all-online meetup.
Challenges and Opportunities for eLearning During the COVID-19 Pandemic
eLearn Magazine, August 2021
Over the past 18 months, e-learning became essential at all levels of education due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, while the pandemic opened up its share of opportunities for online educators, it also introduced a new set of challenges. For online instructors, challenges included moving from face-to-face to the online environment, issues related to instructor preparation and support, and the role of motivation and emotion in online learning. At the same time, new learning cohorts often had different experiences and perceptions related to technology, further complicating the job of instructors.
Challenges incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic included incorporating new technologies in teaching and learning, adapting to a new mode of instruction, and instructor preparation (required a different type of time and effort). Challenges were experienced from all corners of the world and have impacted different learners in unique ways. In Latin America, for example, moving from face-to-face to online created issues of access and inequality. Online education also affected adult learners. Transitioning from the classroom to e-learning can cause barriers to learning because of the constraints of the technology during communication. Emotional literacy is also a new element that needs to be considered for online course design, adaptation, and evaluation. Individuals should feel like they are increasing their personal power and their quality of life when learning online.
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