ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, December 6, 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 23, December 6, 2022

Tech Employment Grew in November Even as Layoffs Tick Up
CIO Dive, December 2

Technology workers remain in high demand despite economic concerns, with employers across the economy adding 137,000 technology jobs in November, according to the latest review of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate in technology positions fell to 2%, down from 2.2% in October. This drop took place even as the overall unemployment rate held steady at 3.7%, the same as last month. While the numbers are not enough to dismiss concerns over the health of the economy, the expansion in hiring should be a reassuring sign for the technology workforce.

The month-to-month data from national jobs reports can help paint a broad picture of the hiring landscape for technology workers. In November, the numbers countered the narrative of widespread turmoil for tech positions, and instead showed declining unemployment and a growing number of technology positions in corporate America. The economy lost 116,000 tech jobs in October, but employers reversed the trend in November, despite a backdrop of high-profile layoffs and hiring freezes.

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Software Engineer Skills: What You Need to Know to Stand Out
Dice Insights, November 30

There are a number of skills that you will need to succeed as a software engineer. By analyzing national job postings, it is possible to determine which technical and soft skills are currently top-of-mind for employers. The skills that employers are looking for can be broken down into three distinct categories: necessary, defining, and distinguishing. Necessary skills are included in the core requirements of any software engineer job listing, and are often general enough to be relevant for other jobs in the industry. Just keep in mind that skills required for a certain job could differ considerably, depending on whether you would like to become a specialist or generalist.

Necessary skills are specialized skills required for a specific industry job and relevant across other similar jobs. As such, necessary skills are the foundation of most skillsets. Once mastered, software engineers can use them to land a new job. Based on skills currently in demand, it is clear that employers expect software engineers to have mastered the principles of working within teams. They are also looking for skills related to project management, as well as critical parts of the software engineering workflow. There is also a need for proficiency with the software that keeps organizations running, including Oracle, Linux, and more.

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The New Way to Hire Tech Workers
Computerworld, November 30

Increasingly, U.S. workers are turning to alternative credentials as a way to demonstrate and enhance their skills. Those alternatives include tech certifications, badges, and apprenticeships, which are supplanting traditional education and work experience. The number of apprentices has been rising since 2011, and hit a high of 636,515 in 2020. Since 2014, the number of apprentices completing their training each year has grown 118%, from 44,417 eight years ago to 96,915 in 2021. As a result, alternative credentials can highlight untapped talent and even bolster diversity when employers embrace different ways of obtaining skills.

According to hiring organizations, there can be many advantages of the alternative credential approach over the traditional computer science degree. One of the challenges with traditional classroom-based learning, for example, is that only a small portion of the information taught is used on the job. A 2020 study by Gartner indicated that employees apply only 37% of the new skills they learn through traditional training. The same study showed skills also have a limited shelf life. For example, 33% of the skills needed three years ago are no longer relevant today. For organizations, the key is keeping workers caught up with state-of-art technology, so alternative approaches to traditional training are now in demand. When education is matched to a job where the lessons can be readily applied, both talent goals and business outcomes rise sharply.

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4 Smart Ways to Recruit the Right Software Engineers
The Enterprisers Project, November 30

Software engineers are among the most sought-after employees today and, at the same time, they are some of the most difficult employees to get in touch with. To get the attention of software engineers, organizations need to adapt their recruiting strategies in order to meet these professionals where they are, whether online or in real life. These recruiting strategies should clearly lay out what they are looking for in a candidate. It can be a difficult balancing act, but there are four proven strategies to help your organization attract and hire the right IT specialists without spinning your wheels or wasting time on the wrong candidates.

To hire the best IT talent, you need to think like they do. Software engineers think differently than project managers do, for example. But you will also want to avoid making the mistake of assuming every tech candidate thinks alike. That is why you will want to take a multifaceted, personalized approach. Software engineers are constantly deluged with recruitment spam from LinkedIn and email. So, start with a phone call to make things personalized. There is simply no replacing voice-to-voice or face-to-face conversations when you are building relationships. After making contact via phone, follow up with personalized emails or start conversations on GitHub. As a rule of thumb, it is best to avoid using LinkedIn InMail unless it is your absolute last resort.

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Software Development Jobs Are a Bright Spot in Uncertain Economic Times, December 2

Software developers, data analysts and cybersecurity jobs are bright spots in a rapidly-evolving IT employment landscape. According to a recent report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, software developer jobs were projected to grow by 21% by 2028, the fastest-growing sector of the national job market. Year over year, job postings for software developers and coders approximately doubled in the third quarter of 2022, while other computer-related and IT job-skill categories increased more modestly. Most non-digital economy job postings remained steady or declined. Getting on top of the changes in job growth patterns and required skill sets within the IT sector is essential for business leaders as a possible recession looms and as organizations return to pre-pandemic staffing levels.

The first question for software developers to answer during a job search is whether the focus should be on job specialization or job generalization. The debate over this question takes place in the IT field and across the digital economy and career spectrum. For computer scientists and software engineers, generalization means understanding core concepts and principles and having transferable skills to work with multiple languages and documentation. Specialization has come to mean a deep but relatively narrow focus on one language, framework, and platform. Freelance software developers often find specialization an efficient way to engage the market but then see the logic of a broader perspective as their career develops. Businesses tend to promote generalists in the longer term and more permanent positions. A successful career strategy, then, is to build a generalist foundation of computer and data science concepts and then specialize in one or two hot areas.

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The Core Skills New Managers Need To Develop
Fast Company, November 30

In order to be successful as a manager, there are four core skills you need that will support your development. These include openness to learning, the ability to empathize with your co-workers and colleagues, and the ability to give good feedback to your team members. The good news is that you can even begin to develop these soft skills before you take on your first management role.

Openness to learning is one key attribute of becoming a new manager. When you finally do get that job as a manager, you will not be ready for it, even if you think you are. You will be exposed to new things about the way your organization works. You will be put into new situations you have never encountered before. You will be asked questions you absolutely do not know the answer to. And the fact is that will continue to be true for every new position you take after your first management role. For this reason, the most important skill you can develop is a willingness to be learning all the time. Some of that learning will be study you do on your own. You can take classes (both in-person and online), read books about leadership and management, and find creative ways to pick up new skills. You will also want to learn from the people around you. Sometimes that will come from more senior members of the organization who can mentor you. But, you also need to be open to learning from the people you are managing. They have perspectives that differ from your own, and you ignore what they know at your peril.

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Be Careful of Employers Posting Ghost Jobs
Forbes, November 30

During the job search process, it is increasingly likely that you will run across a ghost job posting. This is a job that has been posted publicly, but for which the employer has no real intention of hiring for. Applying for a ghost job can be a significant drain on time, resources and emotional energy spent on the job search. In some cases, organizations will invite you in for an interview, and then present you with an offer. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, the company will cite all kinds of problems, such as a current hiring freeze, and withdraw the offer. To avoid getting involved in this situation, the article outlines a few red flags to consider.

Advertising for ghost jobs is more than just an urban myth: it is backed up by survey data. One study, for example, surveyed over 1,000 managers on the hiring process involving ghost jobs. They concluded that job hunters should pay close attention to when the job was first posted. The longer an opportunity has been advertised (usually 30 days or more) the more likely it is a ghost job where the employer is not actively trying to fill that position. Why would an employer do this? The survey reveals a few notable insights: 50% of companies are always open to new people, 43% wanted to give the impression their company was growing, and 43% wanted an active pool of applicants in case someone quit. A Harvard Business School study explained the phenomenon, attributing this issue to a result of the rise of people quitting during the pandemic. Employers post jobs based on the difficulty of finding talent. Too many companies with hiring freezes still have job postings listed. Employers are unsure of the future and have a lot of economic uncertainty. They may be using ghost job postings to gauge the potential talent pool, so they can determine how difficult it would be to replace an employee.

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Why Is It Hard to Define Data Science?
Blog@CACM, December 2

If you are thinking about getting started in a career in data science, it is helpful to understand the various ways that different organizations define data science job roles. If you ask a group of data scientists what data science is, you would probably hear different definitions. Indeed, although many attempts have been made to define data science, such a definition has not yet been reached. One reason for the difficulty to reach a single, consensus definition for data science is its multifaceted nature: it can be described as a science, as a research paradigm, as a research method, as a discipline, as a workflow, and as a profession. One single definition just cannot capture the diverse essence of data science.

Data science is, first and foremost, a science. Empirical science has been always about data, and this approach dates back centuries. Data science today, however, is more than an empirical science. That is, data science views the data itself as a natural resource and deals with methods for extracting value out of this data. While science focuses both on understanding the world and on developing tools and methods to perform research, data science focuses on understanding data and developing tools and methods to perform research on data.

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The Legacy of Peer-to-Peer Systems
Blog@CACM, December 1

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) systems became famous at the turn of the twenty-first century, mostly due to their support for direct file sharing among users. In the 1980s, the music industry had already evolved from selling analog vinyl records to digital compact disks. With the introduction of the MP3 coding format, it became feasible to upload and download music files among different personal computers. Still, content had to be cataloged and found, and P2P systems such as Napster emerged to provide that functionality. The emergence of P2P greatly impacted the business models of the music and film industries. Given its popularity just two decades ago, whatever happened to peer-to-peer as a technological concept?

The concept of pure P2P technology has almost faded from our lexicon. Nevertheless, the technology is still used. It simply evolved and became more specialized. A good portion of the fabric beneath modern data centers and blockchain technology evolved from early P2P research. The early 2000s brought the promise of large-scale P2P systems that aggregated end-user machines and servers. However, these systems offered poor quality of service. Portable machines disconnected for the daily commutes and users terminated their P2P processes once their downloads were completed. At the same time, centralized server solutions, typically built on top of SQL databases, also were finding problems keeping up with the scaling demand from increasing numbers of Internet users. Both paradigms were lacking in availability. Interestingly, they occupied two extremes in the design space: either full decentralization or full centralization.

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