ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, August 8, 2023
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 19, Issue 15, August 8, 2023
Despite recent headlines involving layoffs at major companies, tech jobs remain among the most in-demand jobs in the labor market. What has changed about the tech hiring landscape is that there are fewer jobs at Big Tech companies in Silicon Valley. As a result, tech workers should target their job search at small and medium-sized enterprises. In addition, they should target sectors such as healthcare, retail, and manufacturing that are still hiring. The good news, say recruiters, is that even tech workers who had been laid off found new jobs quickly.
The recent downsizing in the tech sector was a response to the irrational hiring exuberance that occurred during the pandemic when COVID-related stimulus spurred Big Tech growth. As the macro environment changed and the prospect of a recession loomed, those companies that had over-hired found themselves in need of a staffing trim. As a result, Big Tech is no longer the refuge from volatility that it might have once been. Instead, tech workers are better off looking at small-to-medium-sized companies, non-profits and even state and federal government. They may also find hefty demand for their skills outside of the tech sector like in finance and banking.
Software Development vs. Software Engineering: Which Career Path Is Right for You?
Make Use Of, July 28
The software engineering and software development career paths may appear to be quite similar, but there are several key differences. Making things difficult to sort out is the fact that programming courses, books, online educators, and even job postings use the terms software engineer and software developer interchangeably. This leaves beginners and mid-level programmers often confused about which career path to pursue. The article takes a closer look at these job roles and what these popular careers entail.
Aspiring software developers usually opt for undergraduate degrees in computer science, computer programming, or other relevant fields to acquire the necessary training. Alternatively, they can develop their skills by attending career-training programs and coding bootcamps. Furthermore, some may supplement their training with self-taught skills. It is not rare to encounter individuals who have largely or completely taught themselves the skills required for this profession. Conversely, you will require much more than a few months in coding bootcamps to become a skilled software engineer. A successful software engineering career requires a strong educational background, extensive training, and at least minimal knowledge of every part of the development process. To qualify for entry-level or junior positions here, you must have an undergraduate degree in software engineering, computer science, or a related field. Like software development, self-learning is also an option in software engineering, though it is significantly harder.
Generation Z will comprise a third of the workforce by 2030, but they face big challenges in the workplace after the pandemic upended their career paths. Though they are known for being the first digital natives, they are often described with contradictory superlatives. According to hiring organizations, many of these younger workers are coming into the workplace lacking a set of critical skills for interacting with colleagues and handling jobs. This situation can lead to frustration and burnout in the workplace, as well as complications for bosses and coworkers.
Most of the skills gaps have to do with soft skills, such as the ability to have conversations, lead meetings, or interact socially within a workplace environment. With pandemic-altered schooling and internships, many members of Gen Z have had limited in-office work experience. Working from home denied them the chance to experience real-time problem-solving and collaboration. Because Gen Z members saw daily routines completely upended during key developmental years, many could benefit from more time, structure and support to build workflow strategies, manage distractions, and develop professionalism older generations might take for granted.
Shaky Tech Talent Market Remains Hungry For Hires
CIO Dive, July 28
While there is more uncertainty in the tech talent market today than a year ago, the overall trend is positive. There have been mixed signals through the first six months of the year, but the good news has largely outweighed the bad news. For example, the rate of layoffs this year have thus far outpaced 2022, yet U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows tech employers actually increased headcount last month, and IT unemployment in tech remains far behind national averages. Keep in mind, too, that tech job market indicators can oscillate month to month, even during a positive uptrend.
Tech hiring has remained resilient primarily for one reason: if one area of the IT sector is down, another is up. As a result, employees hit by layoffs have been quickly reabsorbed by talent hungry organizations, often from outside of the technology sector. Though macroeconomic signals like rising inflation rates have led CIOs to change IT spending patterns, the demand for tech talent has remained. Moreover, massive turmoil in the tech industry did not impact the need for organizations to carry out transformation projects. And the key component of this digital change is people.
Generative AI and the Future of Work in America
McKinsey Global Institute, July 26
In this extensive report, global consulting giant McKinsey examines the impact of new artificial intelligence technology on the U.S. workplace. Most recently, the accelerated development of generative AI, with its advanced natural language capabilities, has extended the possibilities for automation to a much wider set of occupations. Amid this disruption, workers changed jobs at a remarkable pace and a subset made bigger leaps and moved into entirely different occupations. Nearly 8.6 million occupational shifts took place from 2019 through 2022. Now even more change is in store, with an additional 12 million occupational shifts possible by 2030.
Multiple forces are set to fuel growth in certain occupations and erode jobs in others. They generally fall into three categories: automation (which includes generative AI); an injection of federal investment into infrastructure and the net-zero transition; and long-term structural trends such as aging, continuing investment in technology, and the growth of e-commerce and remote work. Across a majority of occupations, the pandemic accelerated trends that could persist through the end of the decade. Occupations that took a hit during the downturn are likely to continue shrinking over time. These include customer-facing roles affected by the shift to e-commerce and office support roles that could be eliminated either by automation or by fewer people coming into physical offices. By contrast, occupations in STEM were resilient during the pandemic and are poised for continued growth.
How Can Tech Managers Best Retain Their Workers?
Dice Insights, July 31
Tech managers should continually look for new ways to retain their best talent before they walk out the door. This process starts with understanding why tech workers are leaving their jobs in the first place. According to a recent job seeker survey, the top reasons for leaving a job include a changed financial situation, new values or life priorities, and the need to start something new, due in part to burnout or stress.
If you have tech professionals on your team who feel stuck in a career rut, giving them interesting projects or more of a say in strategy can quickly improve morale. Rebalancing schedules and workloads can help alleviate burnout and stress, as can giving tech pros a renewed sense of mission. While burnout is frequently tied to working hours, it can also result from an employee feeling bored or unsure about their place within an organization. On a tactical level, offering perks and benefits such as a more flexible schedule can boost retention. You never want to wait until a situation reaches a critical stage. Communicate early and often with everyone on your team, with an emphasis on feedback and a positive, honest breakdown of what is working (and what is not).
AI Chatbots Are the New Job Interviewers
Forbes, July 26
Chatbots are increasingly being used by companies to interview and screen job applicants. However, like other algorithmic hiring tools before them, experts and job applicants worry these tools could be biased. Most hiring chatbots are not as advanced or elaborate as ChatGPT. They have primarily been used to screen for jobs that have a high-volume of applicants and typically ask fairly straightforward questions. The problem is that the types of answers many of the bots require could mean automatic rejection for some qualified candidates.
When deploying AI chatbots, organizations should be aware of some of the risks involved. Discrimination is one such concern. Underlying prejudice in data used to train AI can bake bias and discrimination into the tools in which it is deployed. Such bias can be tough to detect when companies are not transparent about why a potential candidate was rejected, which is why government authorities have recently introduced legislation to monitor and regulate the use of automation in hiring tools. In early July, New York City enacted a new law requiring employers who use automated tools like resume scanners and chatbot interviews to audit their tools for gender and racial bias.
Onboarding Employees in the Age of Remote
Information Week, August 1
As a result of the pandemic, employees went from temporarily working at home to expecting remote and hybrid options. Add in the ongoing talent shortage in IT, and it is easy to see why many employers changed their approach to remote work. Those organizations need to compete for highly skilled pros and then find creative ways to retain them. Against this backdrop, the onboarding of new remote employees remains a challenge. It is easy for issues to go unnoticed and questions unanswered. It is now critical for organizations to iron out the most common remote onboarding issues that companies are now facing.
The type of employee onboarding required depends on several factors. For example, a new hire coming from another company will have a very different perspective than someone arriving from college. Hires from other companies onboard faster than college grads, but usually need translation guides. The first type of translation guide for new hires contains terms an organization uses that links to industry standards, as well as a useful description of the term. Making this connection quickly helps new hires from other companies who may have previously used a different term. This same guide also contains industry terms and acronyms, since not all developers will have the same background.
Incentives of In-Person vs. Virtual Participation at Conferences
Blog@CACM, July 26
Better conference design that combines the best of in-person and virtual participation has the potential to improve the effectiveness of computer science conferences. The goal is the dissemination of new ideas as effectively as possible. Authors who attend in person play a significant role in dissemination of the published results, by attending many presentation sessions, and discussing work with authors. Authors who attend virtually will present their paper, but generally not attend other sessions, and do not play a significant role in disseminating other published results.
The advantages of in-person conferences are now being challenged by a shift in preference of some authors to virtual participation. After all, in-person attendance is costly and some may be unable to attend in-person for financial, visa, or health reasons. In-person attendance results in far greater participation than virtual attendance because the outside option (what an attendee might do instead of participating) is of far higher value when attending virtually than it is when attending in person. For example, most virtual attendees do not clear their schedule of other meetings while attending a conference virtually. The in-person conference is lower quality when many presenters are remote. The experience is worse due to lower participation and less discussion, and the conference is less effective at dissemination of results.
Three Student-Centered Approaches to Integrate ChatGPT in the Online Classroom
eLearn Magazine, July 2023
The use of artificial intelligence in academia is not new, but the emergence of ChatGPT has spurred intense debate concerning the unintended implications of AI on education. ChatGPT can easily produce content that is aligned with the majority of traditional assessment questions and writing prompts, raising academic integrity concerns over use of AI in completing assignments. Rather than reactively policing AI use, faculty should proactively embrace this technology breakthrough to enhance teaching and learning in new ways.
There are several distinct approaches that can provide a starting point for faculty to integrate ChatGPT in the online classroom. The first approach focuses on AI literacy. By providing students with opportunities to learn about AI concepts and technologies, and to experiment with them in a safe and controlled environment, educators can help them develop a deeper understanding of the inner workings of AI and its potential applications. Furthermore, by incorporating real-world examples and case studies of AI in action, educators can demonstrate the relevance of these concepts to students and inspire them to explore the possibilities.
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