ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, March 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 protected]
Volume 18, Issue 5, March 8, 2022
Just a few years ago, the most talented U.S.-based software engineers would have had to relocate to cities like San Francisco, Seattle, or New York for the best job opportunities. However, a new set of emerging tech hubs is quickly making up ground in terms of quality of life and overall earning potential. In short, as more organizations shift to remote or hybrid working models, there has been greater focus on finding top candidates outside of the more-established tech hubs. For software developers, location is becoming less important than quality of life, and that has opened up an entirely new set of opportunities around the nation, in places like Pittsburgh, Portland and Texas.
According to a recent study, the big three U.S. tech hubs of San Francisco, Seattle and New York still have the highest concentration of software engineering talent today. However, cities like Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Portland are quickly putting themselves on the map for hiring managers. In some cases, high-profile startups and other tech companies are now hiring a majority of their new developers from outside of the Bay Area. While money is still the great motivator for developers seeking a new role, with 65% prioritizing better compensation when switching roles, flexibility is the most important factor for 65% of developers considering whether to stay in their current role, trumping even salary at 59%, according to analysis by developer hub Stack Overflow. Developers exhausted by corporate hierarchies, long commutes, expensive cities, and corrosive company cultures have been shifting to remote self-employment for a decade, so this is a trend the pandemic has only accelerated.
Staying up to speed on relevant skills is critical for all IT professionals who want to grow in their careers, and that is especially true as companies emerge from the pandemic with new hiring needs in 2022. Of course, there is the list of technical skills typically in high demand, such as those required by cloud engineers, software developers, architects, cybersecurity specialists, and machine learning engineers. But companies are also looking for adaptable, flexible thinkers who can focus on business problems first and technologies second. As a result, soft skills are also very much in demand.
Adaptability, communication, and mentoring skills are some of the soft skills that IT hiring managers are now emphasizing during the hiring process. The big takeaway from the pandemic was that flexibility wins, so companies are prioritizing candidates who can demonstrate this trait. Companies also need people who can mentor and train others and who demonstrate great written and verbal communication skills. As a result, some organizations now encourage people and teams to build skills through online coursework, especially when it can lead to technical certifications. In some cases, they even offer tuition reimbursement for college and graduate school.
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly expanding across all industries, and AI has seen tremendous growth over the past year. According to a 2021 study conducted by PwC, 52% of survey respondents said they had accelerated their AI adoption plans in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. And 86% of respondents said that AI would be a mainstream technology in the near future. Newly-created AI jobs will help organizations create better customer experiences; improve decision-making; and innovate products and services. In 2022, AI-based IT roles will be in high demand as organizations began to place priority on the deployment of AI technology.
Due to the growth of AI and the resulting demand for AI-based talent, aspiring IT professionals now have access to a growing number of new career opportunities. One of these new career opportunities is the role of AI architect. To truly take advantage of AI, businesses must rely on the skill of experienced AI architects. Using leading AI technology frameworks, AI architects develop and manage the critical architecture AI is built upon. To do so, AI architects must be able to see the big picture of a world supported by AI. AI architects must have several years of work experience, including hands-on experience in computer science, data and other AI-related disciplines. Architects should be able to implement machine learning tactics and develop AI architecture in a variety of languages.
Top 25 Best-Paying U.S. Cities for Software Engineers
Dice Insights, March 1
Despite numerous news stories over the past few years about how Silicon Valley is losing its status as the top tech hub, and how thousands of technologists are fleeing the West Coast for other metro areas, it is clear that California cities still offer some of the highest possible technologist salaries. According to a new study from Blind, the list of the best-paying cities in America for software engineers is dominated by metro locations throughout Silicon Valley. Due in part to competition with these Silicon Valley locations for top technologist talent, compensation is also rising at other tech hubs such as New York, Seattle and Austin.
Based on this study, it appears that technologist demand and tech-industry activity remains strong in Silicon Valley and surrounding metro locations. This is largely due to the tech companies headquartered in those cities. For example, Los Gatos is home to Netflix, which is well-known for paying high salaries to technologists. In addition, Menlo Park (Facebook), Cupertino (Apple), and Mountain View (Google) are home to thousands of the highest-compensated technologists in the nation. Until there is a mass exodus of these companies from California, technology salaries for software engineers will remain strong in these metro regions.
Common Computer Science interview Questions: What to Expect
ZDNet, February 22
Since the computer science hiring process typically involves several rounds of interviews, it is important to prepare beforehand for the types of common interview questions you might encounter. You will face general questions, behavioral and situational questions, and technical questions. Many tech interviews start with general interview questions, so make sure you have solid answers to open-ended questions. Practice describing your background, qualifications, and prior experience. Use your answers to these questions to show interest in the company and the position and to set the stage for more technical questions later in the interview process.
Most technical jobs use a multi-round interview process. Companies often start with a phone interview to screen candidates. Then, candidates may be asked to complete a technical interview, which might include tests or tasks. The next round can include meetings with supervisors or team members. Senior leadership may also meet with candidates for certain roles. During these interviews, the hiring manager checks that candidates possess the needed technical and people skills. Candidates with strong computer science soft skills often stand out during behavioral and situational interviews. At the end of the hiring process, candidates will negotiate on topics like computer science salary and benefits.
LinkedIn Just Added New Ways to Describe a Career Gap
Protocol, March 1
In response to user suggestions during the course of the pandemic, LinkedIn announced that it is adding new job title options to reflect career breaks for professionals. After two years of pandemic parenting gaps and career shifts, users expressed a need for new job descriptions that better describe the pauses in their careers. There are 13 new career breaks members of the site can now add to their profiles, including things like caregiving, career transition, bereavement, layoff or position eliminated, personal goal pursuit and voluntary work. There is even an option for a health and well-being break.
While LinkedIn had already previously introduced several non-traditional ways to describe a career gap, the latest additions add more nuance to the resume gap. Given the two-year-long pandemic, these changes are more timely than ever. LinkedIn found that career gaps spiked 39% year-over-year in 2020. How hiring managers view a career gap has changed, too. For example, 79% of hiring managers now say they would hire a candidate with a career gap on their resume, according to LinkedIn.
How to Push Back If You Do Not Want to Return to the Office
Fast Company, March 2
After nearly two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, workers are increasingly uncertain about whether they want to return to the office. Yet, at the same time, some high-profile tech companies are already making plans to require in-person attendance and to cut back on some of the flexibility put into place two years ago. So how can you convince your boss to reconsider this move? The first rule of persuasion is never try to convince anyone by telling them they are wrong. The best approach is to write your boss a memo that starts by acknowledging their concerns. Then, suggest a different way to deal with the current situation, one that addresses those problems while retaining and highlighting the best aspects of remote work.
One way to convince your boss that you do not need to return to the office is to ask for the opportunity to run an A/B test. If your boss can clearly see the benefits of flexible work arrangements, then it will make the process of negotiation much easier. For example, you can ask to run a brainstorm event, so that you can demonstrate the impact on innovation and creativity within the company when remote team members are able to contribute fully. When large in-person meetings are taking place, some voices are invariably louder than others. Instead, suggest your teams break up into small groups to discuss the issue at hand, and record these ideas on a shared document. Remind your boss that the loudest voices in the room tend to dominate in-person meetings while conflict-averse attendees keep quiet, meaning they are not hearing from everyone, or the best ideas, just the loudest.
Skills-Based Hiring Is on the Rise
Harvard Business Review, February 11
Based on analysis of more than 51 million jobs posted between 2017 and 2020, it appears that employers are resetting degree requirements in a wide variety of roles. The change is most noticeable for middle-skill positions, defined as those requiring some post-secondary education or training but less than a four-year degree. To a lesser extent, the change is also noticeable at some companies for higher-skill positions. This recent reset has happened in two waves, both of which are ongoing. The first, a structural reset, began in 2017, at about the same type as the IT skills deficit became a defining issue. The second, a cyclical reset, began in 2020, prompted in part by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A structural reset in hiring takes place if demand for talent far outreaches supply. When that happens, employers de-emphasize degrees. That became increasingly apparent during the tight employment market of the late 2010s. Between 2017 and 2019, employers reduced degree requirements for 46% of middle-skill positions and 31% of high-skill positions. Among the jobs most affected were those in IT and managerial occupations, which were hard to fill during that period. In evaluating job applicants, employers are suspending the use of degree completion as a proxy and instead now favor hiring on the basis of demonstrated skills and competencies. This shift to skills-based hiring will open opportunities to a large population of potential employees who in recent years have often been excluded from consideration because of degree inflation.
Algorithmic Hiring Needs a Human Face
Communications of the ACM, March 2022
The way candidates apply for jobs has changed radically over the last 20 years, thanks to the arrival of online job-posting boards like LinkedIn, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter, and the use by hiring organizations of artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to screen the high volume of resumes that now flow from such sites into human resources (HR) departments. Yet, such reliance on algorithmic hiring raises its own share of issues. For example, potentially millions of people are being barred from consideration for employment by resume screening algorithms that throw out applicants who do not meet a growing list of requirements, many of which are utterly irrelevant to the advertised job. In addition, some algorithms are rejecting highly qualified people with any kind of career gaps.
One of the major problems hiring firms need to address is that the providers of their AI technology, who are keen to develop algorithmic screening software in a bid to grab a slice of the global recruitment technology market that is expected to be worth $3.1 billion by 2025, are not questioning the software requirements enough when they are commissioned to develop resume screeners. In short, tech companies are executing on a vision that is fundamentally flawed. Hiring firms are seeking AI that will winnow down the number of applicants to the most qualified few, in the shortest possible time, and at the least cost. However, companies seeking such a capability should be told by the AI engineering firms they work with that the consequences of writing such algorithms will necessarily exclude a lot of very strong candidates, who may only need a little extra training to excel in the roles the companies are seeking to fill.
Will No-Code Win?
The Eponymous Pickle (via CACM), March 2
No-code platforms are on the rise, including in areas such as automation and artificial intelligence (AI). The reason for the rise of no-code is not hard to understand. Simply stated, no-code democratizes software development. It provides value in many areas where custom code is too expensive, slow to develop, and hard to maintain. This raises many questions about the future of software development, as well as the talent, skills and background required to compete in this new paradigm. For decades, software development has remained largely outside the mainstream because most people lacked the ability to write computer code in C++, Python, Java, or other languages. So what happens when that is no longer the case?
One way to view no-code is that it is simply another level of abstraction from machine language. Just as punch cards gave way to coding languages that could handle various tasks through software, no-code pushes the boundary further. It is also fundamentally different than low-code platforms that require coding knowledge, but automate code generation. It is the next logical step in extending software development to a much broader universe of users and use cases. The idea is not to address every need and all corner cases. The goal is to make a lot of common tasks simpler and easier and empower more people. That being said, no-code is not suitable for every situation or environment. The biggest issue is that no-code platforms, at least for the foreseeable future, limit what users can build. These tools provide a limited set of choices, they are typically not scalable, and users do not have access to source code.
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