ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, November 8, 2022

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Volume 18, Issue 21, November 8, 2022

Tech Talent Demand Rebounded in October
CIO Dive, November 4

Employers sought to fill 317,000 tech roles in October, up 10,000 from the previous month. This reversed a five-month slump, and could signal a rebound in demand for tech talent. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, tech occupation unemployment grew slightly to 2.2%, up from 2.1% in the previous month. The trend tracks with the growth of national unemployment, which also increased from 3.5% in September to 3.7% in October.

During the month of September, software development and engineering roles, IT support specialists, IT project managers, systems engineers and network engineers were among the top tech roles employers sought to fill. With some high-profile tech companies reducing their workforce and others freezing hiring projections, technology talent dynamics are in flux as executives weigh economic projections. Yet enterprise focus on sustaining technology continues unabated, as shown by the resilience of IT budgets. This suggests that tech talent demand will continue through 2022.

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Nontraditional Applicants Could be Answer to Cybersecurity Talent Shortage
Fortune, November 1

There is currently a massive talent gap in the cybersecurity industry. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 700,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs. While the global cybersecurity workforce has reached an all-time high with an estimated 4.7 million professionals, there is still an overall shortage of 3.4 million workers. Closing this talent gap is no small feat, but there are tactics both cybersecurity applicants and recruiters can take to fill these openings. For example, cybersecurity experts agree that companies need to adapt their candidate expectations and become more open about hiring nontraditional applicants.

With so many open cybersecurity jobs, the common conclusions are that there either are not enough qualified people to fill the positions or that companies are not offering the right compensation packages. While both of these ideas are partially true, cybersecurity experts also argue that the market could stand to have improved recruitment measures and be more open to hiring people with varied professional experience. Companies need to understand that exceptional candidates are out there, and they need to be flexible with the job requirements they set. Companies are increasingly offering new training opportunities for employees who are interested in making a career switch.

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Data Scientist Career Path: What You Need to Know to Get Ahead
Dice Insights, November 3

Demand for data scientists remains high. Organizations everywhere need data scientists who can crunch huge datasets for crucial insights. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics now predicts data science will see more growth than almost any other field between now and 2029, and the median salary for an experienced data scientist in California is approaching $200,000. With that in mind, there are many ways to become a data scientist, and some tech professionals even switch mid-career onto a data scientist track.

Becoming a data scientist requires a lot of training. You will need to know critical programming languages that are used for database management and data analytics, as well as specialized tools and skills. For example, you will need to become familiar with the art of data structures and analysis. There are several foundational data science skills that can lead to a successful data scientist career, including statistics, data visualization and data storage. In order to learn these skills and concepts, many schools offer complete courses in data science. If you are interested in learning on your own, there are many online tutorials and other resources.

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Is the Era of Flexible Work Over?
CNBC, November 2

The number of remote job postings on LinkedIn is falling, according to new data released by the platform. In the U.S. for example, the share of postings with remote roles has declined by five percentage points since April, when they peaked at 20% of postings. While this is still much higher than the pre-pandemic average of 2%, it is a stark contrast to what employees want. Professionals now value flexibility in the workplace very highly, and flexibility consistently ranks among the most important priorities for employees after compensation, along with skills development and work-life balance. Despite the drop in remote working jobs in the U.S., these postings are still receiving over half of the total applications as of September.

According to a survey released by LinkedIn alongside the data on remote job opportunities, the shift away from remote work is linked to the current economic situation. Approximately two-thirds (68%) of executives surveyed said they were concerned that the ongoing uncertainty about economic stability and a looming recession would force their companies to undo at least some of the progress made toward flexible working during the coronavirus pandemic. Where the pandemic led to a shift towards flexible working and initiatives to support employees, the balance of power is now shifting back to employers. Flexible working is not the only employee perk being hit by the current economic turmoil, the survey found. A majority of executives said skills development may have to take a backseat, while 75% said employee wellbeing would likely be less of a priority.

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Edge Computing: 5 Must-Have Career Skills
The Enterprisers Project, November 1

Edge computing is appearing in more and more job titles, and it is clear that edge computing strategies will inform organizational hiring plans in the future. This means new opportunities for IT professionals with the right skills. Like cloud, edge is becoming an IT domain that transcends industries, meaning IT pros can take their edge skills with them to all kinds of different organizations. Any company with multiple locations and data sets that can be mined for trends can deploy intelligence at the edge for gain. Those companies will need IT workers well-suited for solving the specific challenges that come with edge architectures.

There are several skill categories that will likely be in growing demand in edge computing environments going forward, including programming, application development, and application architecture. While low-code platforms appear likely to grow in popularity in edge environments, that will not eliminate the need for people with sharp software engineering and architecture skills. If you want to work on the edge, you have to have really good programming skills because you usually have to optimize your code for specific hardware to make it run efficiently. Organizations with growing edge footprints need people good at making choices about how to process, store, distribute and use data.

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6 Behavioral Nudges to Reduce Bias in Hiring and Promotions
Harvard Business Review, November 2

Increasing employee diversity in companies remains a challenge. However, by focusing on decision intelligence, and on evidence-based solutions that drive scalable change and increase inclusion, leaders can increase the number of diverse candidates that they hire and promote. The good news is that there are six behavioral nudges that can lead to an effective, well-rounded approach to hiring more diverse employees. These behavioral nudges can help executives make better, less-biased decisions in hiring and promotion.

Recruitment can be overwhelming for both interviewers and candidates. When overwhelmed, people tend to favor the familiar. But a strategic approach can help bring order to the process. According to decision research, having a solid list of pre-determined, prioritized qualifications for a position is key to choosing wisely. The hiring committee should agree on five to 10 qualifications, which may span both technical skills and business acumen, and rank them by importance. During interviews, the goal is for each qualification and candidate to stand on its own, to shield any assessment from prior influences. After the interview, the interviewer can assign a high, medium, or low rating. This practice forces assessors to focus separately on each area and score it individually, as opposed to, say, judging the interview to be a total success based on one or two positive elements that may or may not be core to the job.

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Green Jobs Are Everywhere But Workers With the Skills For Them Are Not
Protocol, November 2

Despite the growing number of green jobs that are available, skilled sustainability professionals remain scarce. A new report from Microsoft and the Boston Consulting Group on closing the sustainability skills gap found that 57% of sustainability professionals lacked a sustainability-related degree, and that more than 40% had no more than three years of sustainability experience. This skills shortage is making it difficult for companies to follow through on their climate pledges and other sustainability initiatives.

Green jobs grew 8% per year between 2016 and 2021, according to the LinkedIn Green Jobs report. But the talent pool lagged, only growing at 6%, according to LinkedIn. Scientists are leaving academia and engineers are leaving Big Tech in order to work on climate tech, but that might not be enough to fill the widening gap. According to the Microsoft report, more than two-thirds of sustainability leaders were internal hires. Out of a list of the ten most commonly held jobs prior to becoming sustainability managers, four (business operation roles, program manager, quality assurance manager, and customer service representative) were unrelated to sustainability.

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IT Job Opportunities For the Semi-Retired
Information Week, November 2

Two workforce movements are creating fresh opportunities for semi-retired IT professionals. One is the rise of remote work and the other is a growing market for freelance talent. This combination is leading to an uptick in remote developer and engineer opportunities, often on a part-time, project basis. There are now great opportunities for semi-retired professionals who still want to engage in meaningful work while also having more control over the complexity of projects they take on and their time commitments.

The positions that make the most sense are the ones where semi-retired experts can put their experience to effective use. Architects, technical leads, and project managers make for ideal opportunities in this space. If you have spent some time in a senior leadership role, fractional executive positions are in high demand and an excellent way to contribute where your expertise will be appreciated the most. There continues to be high demand for remote developers and engineers. A significant number of opportunities are for short-term engagements, where a client needs help with a specific project. Such positions are terrific for semi-retired professionals, since they provide an opportunity to engage in in-demand, meaningful work, yet with a greater work-life balance.

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Stack Ranking
Blog@CACM, November 1

As a way of managing organizational talent, stack ranking needs a re-think. Organizations that pride themselves on only hiring the best and having an intensive interview process also have decided that they need to fire a non-trivial and fixed percentage of the workforce who are not up to standards. This raises a great many questions, not the least of which is: If only the best are hired, why is not everybody great? If the initial screening process is as exceedingly thorough as advertised, should not washouts be an exception rather than the rule? As the article explains, stack ranking within the tech industry tends to promote maladaptive organizational behavior.

On one hand, it is easy to see why stack ranking has emerged as a popular business practice over the years. Rankings in a general sense are human nature, as people tend to have favorites. A given department is typically going to have a few key people to get things done in a pinch. Getting promoted from an individual contributor to a team leader also is a form of ranking that is neither wrong nor crazy. The problem starts with the presumptions of what it means for the rest of the team. Common symptoms can include a heightened focus on internal politics rather than innovation, and an entrenched and frequently brutal ranking process. If you are on a team of 10 people, you walk in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone is, two people are going to get a great review, seven are going to get mediocre reviews, and one is going to get a terrible review. It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.

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The Impact of Virtual Meetings
Communications of the ACM, November 2022

Over the last two years, fully remote work or partially remote hybrid work has become the norm, rather than the exception. Many office workers do not want to go back to commuting to a workplace full-time, no matter the cost. According to research from the ADP Research Institute, which surveyed more than 32,000 workers, fully 64% said they would consider looking for a new job if they were required to return to the office full-time. More than half said they would accept a pay cut up to 11% if they could guarantee themselves remote or partially remote hybrid work. The bottom line is that it will be extremely challenging to get employees back to the office full-time.

One major area where companies are being forced to evolve is optimizing the impact of virtual meetings. Virtual meetings that occur over videoconferencing technologies such as Zoom have both unique advantages and disadvantages that companies increasingly will need to weigh moving forward. On one hand, virtual meetings hold the potential to increase the productivity and effectiveness of a meeting if run correctly, all at a lower cost than meeting in person. On the other hand, recent research shows virtual meetings have specific downsides that may impact how effectively teams generate ideas and develop effective working relationships. Getting the right balance of virtual meetings to in-person interactions is still new for many leaders, managers, and employees.

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