ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, September 5, 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 17, September 5, 2023

Which Big Tech Company Pays Software Engineers the Most?
Fast Company, August 29

A recent survey looked at self-reported salary data across various software engineer levels at Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft. It then looked at the average annual starting salary for engineers based on their career level: entry, professional, senior, staff, or principal. For the entry-level positions, it found that Google paid the most in average total compensation, followed by Meta, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft. However, for more senior roles, Meta and Amazon led the way.

The survey from Blind used data that was self-reported by verified professionals between January 2022 and August 2023. From this data, it was possible to glean several important insights. For example, although Amazon is one of the top-paying companies, compensation may vary a lot from engineer to engineer because the company has so many pay bands. While Apple may pay less than most of the other companies, its pay bands are both consistent and fair. And Meta software engineers seem to be able to level up the fastest.

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Over the past few years, a number of cutting-edge technologies have seen remarkable job growth, and that is opening up new opportunities for job seekers. According to the Technology Trends Outlook 2023 from consulting firm McKinsey, job postings noticeably rose between 2021 and 2022 for segments such as applied AI, next-generation software development, and cloud and edge computing. The big caveat, however, is that some formerly hot areas, such as web3, appear to be losing momentum.

Whether you are interested in chip architecture, cloud computing, renewable energy, generative AI, or other cutting-edge technologies, there are employers who want to utilize your skills to advance their IT strategies. Many of these technologies will also serve as the foundation of the coming economy, which could translate into significant job security. However, training for these technologies can often prove a long and arduous process, and finding tech professionals who have mastered their intricacies can be a daunting challenge for employers.

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Prompt Engineering: Is This the Job of the Future or a Short-Lived Fad?
The Conversation, August 28

As generative AI settles into the mainstream, growing numbers of courses and certifications are promising entry into the emerging area of prompt engineering. Having skills in using natural language (such as English) to prompt useful content out of AI models such as ChatGPT is something that many employers are beginning to value. However, it is not always as simple as doing a short course online and then using this experience to land a six-figure salary.

Already, there has been quite a bit of hype surrounding prompt engineering. Given the excitement around ChatGPT, mainstream news outlets have quoted some big salary numbers, and made it seem that this job could be the next big thing in tech. Tech influencers have also jumped on the bandwagon, portraying prompt engineering as a gold rush open for anyone willing to study and learn a few tricks. But are there really that many jobs? As many commentators predicted, prompt engineering has not exploded as a standalone career. In many ways, the new profession has largely been subsumed into other roles such as machine learning engineer or AI specialist. For now, there are few reliable statistics on the growth in prompt engineering jobs, with much of the evidence being anecdotal in nature.

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Fewer Job Posts Require Degrees But Hiring Has Not Caught Up
HR Dive, August 31

Skills-based hiring has gained traction, with 29% of paid job posts on LinkedIn omitting professional degree requirements in 2022, up from 21% in 2019. However, this shift to skills-based hiring may not always translate into more hires, or even more hires of workers who do not hold degrees. However, this shift from degrees to skills does appear to be part of a long-term trend. Last year, LinkedIn recruiters searched for candidates by their skills about five times more often than they searched by degrees.

In some industries, job posts without degree requirements are growing at a faster rate than those that require degrees. For instance, degree-less posts in financial services are growing 354% faster, and 240% faster in technology, information and media. Certain functions are seeing faster growth as well. In accounting, the number of degree-less job posts are growing 453% faster than those without, compared to 92% faster for administrative roles and 68% faster for engineering roles. In terms of actual hiring, though, the results are mixed. Degree-less hiring is growing, but the percentage of hires made often falls short of the job post rate. Across all of the top industries that are focused on skills-based hiring, project manager and administrative assistant roles were among the top five occupations filled by hires without degrees.

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Soft Skills Key to the Evolving Workplace
CIO Dive, August 24

With companies embracing hybrid work models and integrating artificial intelligence into the workflow, employers say soft skills remain of high importance for all workers. In a recent survey, 84% said prospective employees need to have soft skills. In addition, they said that job candidates need to be able to demonstrate them during the hiring process. For new hires, the top soft skills to have are communication, problem solving and time management. When it comes to existing employees looking to advance, the most valuable skill is leadership.

The introduction of new technologies like AI has catalyzed the shift in demand for specific skills, requiring employees to deepen their existing skill sets or acquire new ones. Many of these will be soft skills, the personal attributes and non-technical skills that describe how people work and interact with others. In short, advances in technology have not erased a need for human skills. Workers will still need skills like problem solving, decision making and teamwork to find positions. Even though there is talk of AI and automation taking over jobs, human skills are still invaluable in the eyes of employers.

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What Does Generative AI Mean for Coding Bootcamps?, August 29

The rise of generative AI such as ChatGPT is causing some workers looking for a career transition to reassess the pros and cons of coding bootcamps. The problem, quite frankly, is that AI will soon be able to offer the same level of coding competence as a novice completing an intensive bootcamp in computer science. As a result, companies might not be as willing to offer high salaries to recent graduates of coding bootcamp programs. Moreover, the number of job opportunities available to graduates could shrink, putting at risk the thousands of dollars in investment that these programs typically cost.

Emerging a little over a decade ago, coding academies for aspiring programmers have become an estimated $1.3 billion industry. More than 600 programs offer courses around the globe. In North America, there are more than 100 academies offering full-time classes, either online or in person, with leading companies charging around $15,000 on average for courses in everything from front-end web development to cybersecurity engineering. Together, these North American academies offer classes, and the promise of gaining a foothold in the tech industry, to some 25,000 people a year. Despite all this, some recent graduates say they are having a hard time lining up new job interviews. And one reason could be the sudden rise of generative AI.

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An Employer Guide to Benefits and Salary Research
Silicon Republic, September 1

Employers continue to look for new ways to stay competitive while attracting and retaining top talent. Recruiting and retaining top level staff is becoming more difficult, and employers are locked in a competitive battle to attract new talent, with the added pressure of retaining existing key players. They need to be able to assemble the right benefits packages to come out ahead of their competitors. Given the ongoing war for talent, they must act fast or miss out. Right now, it is more likely that a candidate will be able to turn down multiple job offers, than it is for an employer to turn down or lose good candidates.

Of course, salary will always be a key consideration for jobseekers, with three-quarters prioritizing it when looking for a role, so, salary research is a must for employers and hiring managers. Without it, how can you expect to attract the right kind of talent? It is tough for already overstretched employers to keep on top of salary research in a market that is constantly shifting. When you take into account different locations, plus seemingly ever-increasing inflation, it can become a daunting task. However, using a salary calculator tool can do all that time-consuming research so you do not have to. By entering your job title and location, you can instantly access the average salary to help you make an informed decision when it comes to making an offer. Avoid those awkward salary questions cropping up and banish those unexpected demands further down the line by ensuring your staff feel fully compensated from day one.

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Quiet Cutting: 3 Signs You Will Be Out of a Job Soon, August 28

Quiet quitting, the post-pandemic trend of employees doing the bare minimum at work, has now led to another workplace trend: quiet cutting. This is the practice of reassigning job roles in a bid to make employees leave without laying them off outright. A role reassignment is defined as a change of an employee from one position to another, without promotion or demotion. Of course, role reassignments are not always made with this intent. Sometimes it is the only way to keep workers employed. But other times, these measures are a way to quiet cut and avoid paying costly severance packages or unemployment benefits.

So, when is a role reassignment a good-faith way to keep an employee on, and when is it just a less expensive termination? The good news is that there are several key warning signals to suggest you are being put out to pasture. If your reassignment is well below the pay or skill level you currently have, requires relocating when your boss knows that is not feasible for you, or lands you in a division that is rumored to be axed next, you are likely on the receiving end of a quiet cut.

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Career Paths: Finding the Right Mix of Creativity and Technology
Communications of the ACM, September 2023

In the course of building a tech career, the most rewarding jobs often include the potential for creativity and innovation on a regular basis. While it might not always be possible to recognize when these unique opportunities will appear, you can take a few key steps now to land them. For example, you can develop communication skills in tandem with technical and scientific ones to stand out if interested in roles that involve engaging clients or end users. Also, apply to opportunities that excite you even if you think you might fall short.

In the course of building a tech career, the most rewarding jobs often include the potential for creativity and innovation on a regular basis. While it might not always be possible to recognize when these unique opportunities will appear, you can take a few key steps now to land them. For example, you can develop communication skills in tandem with technical and scientific ones to stand out if interested in roles that involve engaging clients or end users. Also, apply to opportunities that excite you even if you think you might fall short.

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The Interdisciplinary Future of Data Science
Blog@CACM, August 28

As data science continues to grow in popularity as a career option, it is also raising questions about how interdisciplinary this field should be. For example, one concern is how to integrate management and managerial knowledge in the study of data science. Another concern is how to make the appeal of data science as wide as possible for executives and practitioners coming from a wide range of organizations, industries, and sectors. Currently, there are multiple perspectives on the centrality and importance of management to data science.

Depending on the type of organization you work for and the type of managerial role you currently fulfill at this organization, your perspective on the relationship between management and data science could vary. For example, one perspective is that management is entirely separate. According to this perspective, management is not part of data science considerations. Another perspective is that management is connected to each component of data science separately.

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