ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, February 8, 2022
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@example.com
Volume 18, Issue 3, February 8, 2022
Top tech workers continue to re-evaluate their jobs and take steps to transition to new career tracks and even entirely new industries. People are abandoning unfulfilling jobs and seeking to redirect or transition careers to be not only more hirable but also hirable by top-level companies. In this ever-evolving market, it means having more than superior technical knowledge. It means mastering soft skills and other key factors that make you an excellent choice for any employer. With that in mind, the article looks at several high-impact ways to stand out right now.
When building a technology career, the key to success is having a solid professional brand. Expertise is a crucial part of developing the perfect brand and demonstrates you have more to offer. This expertise can be a specific technology, such as networking, or a particular field, such as healthcare. There are other components of an excellent personal brand that include strong technical competency, high levels of emotional intelligence, integrity, leadership ability, communication skills, excellent writing skills and substantial business acumen. A known expert with a strong brand easily competes against an applicant with a less focused skillset. As an expert, you must be competent with a deep level of knowledge in a focused area. There comes a point where the ROI from technical training offers no additional improvement in terms of salary or promotability. If a person desires further career advancement, the focus must shift to soft skills, business acumen, emotional intelligence, management skills, presentation skills, executive presence, and communication skills.
The return to normalcy in the workplace is taking longer than expected, and the level of uncertainty around hiring and staffing could actually increase in 2022. New variants will continue to emerge and may cause workplaces to temporarily go remote again. Hybrid work will create more unevenness around where, when, and how much different employees are working. Many employees could receive the equivalent of real wage cuts as annual compensation increases fall behind inflation. These realities will be layered on top of longer-term technological transformation and other external factors. Ultimately, there are 11 underlying trends that will shape the workplace in 2022.
To compete in the war for knowledge worker talent, some companies will shorten the work week rather than increase pay. Employers are offering significant compensation increases to attract and retain talent in the current marketplace. Research has shown that in the U.S., year-to-date salary increases have been more than 4%, compared to a historical norm of 2%. But when inflation is taken into consideration, real wages have declined. And if inflation continues to rise, employers will find the compensation they offer will be worth less and less in terms of purchasing power for employees. While some companies are able to compete for talent through compensation alone, others do not have the financial resources to do so. Rather than trying to win the war for talent by increasing compensation, some employers are reducing the number of hours worked by employees and keeping compensation flat. Reducing the hours employees need to work gives less liquid employers a better chance to compete with organizations that offer higher overall compensation but don’t offer reduced hours.
IT workers who are feeling under-appreciated, overworked or under-compensated just might find 2022 to be the perfect time to consider an IT career switch. According to a 2022 Robert Half survey, 52% of tech employers are adding new positions to their stable of IT professionals and almost half (49%) are offering signing bonuses to new employees. With the hiring frenzy comes an increased respect for remote IT job seekers, leaving the door open for competitive opportunities for an IT pro ready to make a leap. Knowing when to make a jump can be the career boost you need to get ahead in the tech industry.
There is some debate about the best time to make an IT career switch. The general consensus is that IT job seekers can make the leap anytime after three years. A tenure of less than three years would not allow enough time to pick up skills and valuable career experience. While three to five years at a single company has been the tech industry standard, but that may be changing. Some now suggest that IT professionals can change companies every two years. The faster turnaround is because of the high demand for experienced and skilled IT professionals, especially in areas such as AI and machine learning, cloud automation and DevOps. Just keep in mind that learning as much as possible should be the primary reason for making an IT career switch, not just higher pay. In fact, the decision to remain with a company for more than five years could eventually be perceived be a missed opportunity for IT career advancement.
Red Flags in Tech Job Postings You Should Not Ignore
Dice Insights, January 24
While job postings are meant to provide valuable information about a position and attract compatible candidates, they often contain code words, descriptors or phrases that subtly signal a potentially toxic work environment, a management team with unrealistic expectations, or biased hiring practices. Reading between the lines can keep you from pursuing a company with a bad work environment. Overall, there are eight red flags to watch out for in tech job postings. Ignore them at your own peril.
Experts advise that you should always be cautious of postings that oversell and under-explain the position, especially when companies use ambiguous terms to describe desirable traits or deploy a number of buzzwords that do not really mean anything. Job postings should detail the requirements of the position and what success looks like. Also, do not fall victim to unrealistic expectations that eliminate good candidates during the screening process. For example, do not waste your time applying when a job posting specifies an unreasonable amount of experience with a new development tool, or when they require significant experience just for an entry-level support position. You should also be skeptical when the same job is posted over and over again for months.
5 Cloud Computing Job Market Trends
Datamation, January 31
The cloud computing job market is growing rapidly, yet the supply of skilled workers to fill new cloud-related roles continues to fall short of demand. Cloud vendors continue to grow their product offerings and expand their engagement with advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. At the same time, cloud users continue to increase their cloud usage or migrate their workloads to the cloud for the first time. In all of these cases, more cloud professionals are needed to manage cloud solutions. Overall, there are five key trends that are driving the cloud computing job market today.
Cloud professionals are expected to gain additional technical strengths they can bring to the company. For example, additional skill sets in security and data are helpful for a cloud computing professional looking for a secure career path forward. Because cloud is becoming more integrated into systems, more positions are becoming cloud plus and requiring experience with both cloud and some other part of IT. Some examples include cloud plus development, cloud plus data, cloud plus operations, and cloud plus security. Software developers who can leverage cloud services without the help of architects or operations teams are particularly valuable. Recruiters also place importance on getting experience with multiple major cloud platforms and experience with setting up and running a multi-cloud environment. In short, companies are looking for people with multi-cloud skills.
The Tech Jobs Boom is Beginning to Cool
ZDNet, January 17
According to the latest data on job vacancies in the UK, employers are switching up their recruitment efforts in response to the continued shortage of tech and IT workers. The latest Report on Jobs, published by KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), found that the IT and Computing sector continued to lead growth in permanent job vacancies in December 2021. But while there were more full-time roles available in technology than the nine other sectors monitored by the report, vacancy growth is beginning to slow. Most likely, the boom in demand for tech workers prompted by the pandemic is beginning to wane, with businesses changing hiring focus as a result.
Increasingly, employers are resolved to the fact that hiring alone is not the antidote to an increasingly competitive tech-hiring market. Employers are already paying over the market price for skills that are in high demand, with smaller companies finding themselves easily out-priced by larger companies with bigger hiring budgets. At the same time, the rollout of emerging technologies by businesses requiring specialized technical knowledge means there are simply not enough individuals available to fill this huge void. Businesses have started looking inwards to address their tech talent deficit. As a result, more organizations could turn to up-skilling their existing employees instead to fulfill their digital requirements. Giving employees an opportunity to learn new skills and progress, particularly if they feel their career development has come to a standstill, has been shown to be a potentially effective means of encouraging workers to stay.
The Real Reasons Workers Are Leaving in Droves
Inc.com, January 25
Burnout is not the main reason workers are leaving their jobs in record numbers. A new report from global education tech firm Cengage Group offers the top reasons why people are leaving their jobs amid the Great Resignation. While burnout ranked highly, it trailed the desire to make more money. The results of the poll, which was conducted in late November 2021 and included 1,200 U.S. workers who recently resigned or had plans to resign within the next six months, underline the importance of addressing worker concerns before they head for the exit. Organizations that can provide personal career growth opportunities as well as support to pursue professional goals will have the advantage when it comes to employee retention.
There are several key reasons why workers are leaving their jobs, according to Cengage. Most notably, 91 percent of respondents said they wanted to make more money. Another 89 percent felt burnt out and unsupported. 83 percent said they no longer felt like they were growing in their positions and 82 percent said the pandemic made them reconsider their priorities or professional goals. Lack of fulfillment and being passed up for a promotion are other reasons why workers are leaving their jobs. The study also confirmed the so-called turnover contagion effect hitting certain workplaces. If workers see their peers quitting in large numbers, that will influence their decision to pursue new roles as well.
IT Talent and the Great Resignation: 8 Ways to Nurture Retention
The Enterprisers Project, January 24
As a result of record-high turnover numbers reported by technology organizations and functions, hiring managers and recruiters are re-thinking ways to reduce attrition and boost overall retention. Technology employees have never had more opportunities than they do right now to advance their skills online, network at virtual events, and work remotely without relocating to tech hubs. And after months of toiling to keep their organizations going amid turbulent times, the urge to seek out calmer or more rewarding jobs is strong. For CIOs who want to retain their top talent, it can be a tough balancing act. They need to encourage their key players to explore new opportunities and explore open doors but ultimately entice them to stay within the organization.
IT organizations have to make it a high priority to retain their talent, but nurturing retention will take some effort over the next year. With that in mind, organizations should monitor the employee mood more frequently. Leaders need to be really attuned right now to early warning signs that they may have a retention issue. Given the attractiveness in the market right now, every IT leader should assume that their team members are at least looking around and put in place processes and systems like pulse polls and feedback loops to keep abreast of the current environment. Instead of the annual employee engagement survey, companies might seek to adopt more frequent check-ins and a digital dashboard that offers comprehensive and current engagement data and enables leaders and managers to track trends and address them in a timely manner. Pulse surveys are effective because they can be created quickly and the response rates tend to be higher than for longer surveys. If engagement scores trend downward over two or more surveys, that could be an early signal of higher attrition rates in the future.
The Lives of Hidden Figures Matter in Computer Science Education
Communications of the ACM, February 2022
The grand challenge of broadening participation in computing is to engage tech talent around the globe in solving diversity, equity, and inclusion problems at scale. Broader participation in computing will lead to wider representations of computing professionals; fairer algorithmic decisions related to loan eligibility, work schedules, and unemployment insurance; and curricula that incorporate radical inclusion, educational freedom, and self-determination for all. To make that possible, educators have a responsibility not to perpetuate the inequities of the past. This includes being aware of the culture of their classrooms and being open and transparent in how they cultivate diversity, inclusion, and belonging for all.
Every computing student deserves a chance to see themselves in computing irrespective of demographics, interests, or socioeconomic status. Students must see human computing stories that they can connect with, identify with, or admire. If we want to broaden participation, we must educate our students based on the earliest origins of the word computer, which was a human who performs calculations. Computers were exclusively human until the early nineteenth century when English polymath and inventor Charles Babbage introduced the Difference Engine, the first mechanical computer. The term human computer was then used to differentiate a person who computes from a mechanical computer. Human computers were often women who undertook long and tedious calculations to power some of the most significant advances in science, industry, and space technology in the twentieth century. In addition to legendary figures such as Alan Turing, Grace Hopper, and Ada Lovelace, computer science also includes hidden figures who often toiled in relative obscurity. These hidden figures must be celebrated and not forgotten as they hold the key to revolutionizing CS education and diversifying computing.
A Semester Virtual Institute
Blog@CACM, February 2
Research advances faster when researchers with complementary expertise are able to interact closely for extended periods of time. Traditionally, this has meant semester-long in-person programs at prestigious universities. However, the pandemic has led to the development of mainstream technology for research meetings and seminars and conferences. The big question, though, is whether new options like Zoom can ever replicate the types of frequent unplanned interactions over a long period of time that are important for innovation. In-person special programs, though valuable, are also costly and disruptive, and participation is limited to those who are able to relocate for the duration of the program. Can similar results be had from a virtual program on a meeting technology that emphasizes unplanned interactions?
In order to host a virtual research program, a considerable amount of thinking has to go into the organizational specifics of the program, as well as the appropriate technology platform for hosting the program. In a best-case scenario, the technology platform will include options such as a seminar room for presentations, meeting rooms for research conversations, and online avatars for each participant. These avatars could be used to walk around the virtual venue joining presentations, meetings, and conversations, just as they would an in-person venue. Then, leveraging the flexibility of the platform, participants can organically form working groups around open problems. These interactions can then result in future research papers on specialized topics.
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