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September 4, 2012 edition of ACM CareerNews

Key Skills Pay Off in Fast-Evolving World of Mobile App Development
IT Business Edge, August 29 

As demand for mobile app developers continues to increase, some universities are beginning to offer the type of basic training that is essential to a career in mobile app development. In fact, some universities such as San Diego State are now offering degrees and certificates in it. By 2015, Gartner predicts mobile app development projects will outnumber PC application projects by 4 to 1, leading to even more demand for graduates with mobile development skills. Since platforms and languages change quickly in this area, even if someone has completed a college degree program in mobile app development, it will still require plenty of self-study to keep up as technology changes over the course of a career.
The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics estimates the average annual salary for software developers in 2011 at $89,280, though that's not specific to mobile app development. However, the shortage of talent in mobile apps means those with key skills can pretty much set their own salaries. As a result of this growing competition for the best mobile talent, companies are being forced to boost wages, retrain software engineers, outsource work to third-party developers and set up offshore development labs to meet demand.
For IT workers that choose to go solo, staffing firm RecruitWise says that contract mobile app developers make $80 to $100 per hour. Though many people develop apps on their own, creating apps for a business employer appears to be a far more stable career path. In a survey of independent developers by marketing company App Promo, 59% said their apps didn't break-even on the development costs and 80% said their apps don't generate enough income to support a standalone business. In fact, 68% said their most successful app generated $5,000 or less.

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Given the rapid pace of change within the tech sector, it's important to keep up with the latest trends and technologies, whether you already have a job or are looking for work. So how can you stay current when the world of IT field is continually changing? It's important to both learn broadly about your industry in general as well as keep a narrow focus on your specialty -- the market is too large, with too many workers to just know a little about everything these days. There will always be a need for specialties within the IT industry. The tools are out there to stay current, whether it's industry blogs; conferences and classes; certifications; or online user communities.
In addition to following industry news, you can stay current by attending classes, boot camps or conferences. Conferences not only expose you to updated information, they also help you to meet leading authorities and vendors in the IT industry as well as network with your IT peers. In addition, IT certifications can indicate to employers that you take your job seriously and that you are knowledgeable on specific technologies. By selectively choosing certifications applicable to your area of expertise, you can remain up to date and continue to add to your list of qualifications. Particularly useful for developers seeking advice from their peers, user communities are also an effective way to stay current with the latest trends and techniques for your particular area of IT expertise. Most communities have discussion forums, FAQs, knowledge bases and some even have job boards and resume posting services.
For IT professionals, most industry magazines are either cheap or free -- most simply require you to fill out a short qualification form. Filling out the qualification form often allows you access to registration-only portions of online publications as well as white paper and eBook downloads. There are several publishers that offer hundreds of free subscriptions -- and they cover just about any segment of the IT industry. Blogs are also a good way to stay current about specific topics, companies or segments of the industry. Obviously, social networking comes into play when you are trying to stay current in the IT industry. With practically every market segment, company and technology represented on social sites like Facebook, Google+ and Yahoo!, along with professional social sites like LinkedIn, social networking can be useful for staying connected to the IT industry and your peers. Aside from the industry connections to be made, social sites are good sources of industry insider news and hints of technology to come. Finally, job boards are not just tools for those looking for work - they also make excellent resources for finding out what skills, certifications, education and experience employers in your area of expertise are actively seeking.

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Twelve Career Tips for Tech CEOs
InfoWorld (via Network World), September 3
Some of the leading CEOs in the technology industry weigh in with practical career advice for people entering the IT field. Based on lessons from their prior employment experience, these CEOs discuss the personality traits to cultivate, the best type of opportunities to seek out, and how to interact with fellow co-workers in order to build a successful career. As they emphasize, it's important to seize new opportunities as they arise and take your work seriously. You should focus on doing every job, no matter how junior, to the best of your ability.
As these tech CEOs point out, don't assume that just because you are young and lack experience that you can't accomplish great things. This means that you will have to consistently perform at a high level: there is no way to climb to the top without putting in the hours, showing your dedication and outperforming your peers. Along the way, take the time to learn from people around you. Since any tech job is a big time investment in your life, don't treat it as something that you have to suffer through. Each job, regardless of what it is, is an opportunity to learn, take on challenges and grow.
Over time, attempt to cultivate your unique point of view: you can't get different results unless you think differently. Find how to be passionate about what you do. For instance, identify specific tasks where you can be really good and get recognition. Even if overall a job may not seem interesting, focus on the personal relations with coworkers and celebrate in reaching goals together. Finally, keep a long-term perspective: trends come and go and you can't rely on that trend being hot tomorrow in today's fast-paced technology world. Don't panic when it does go south, you are there to lead in good and bad days.

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Programs that encourage girls to explore careers in computer science, such as the eight-week summer program Girls Who Code, are finding early success in getting teens to learn about technology. Girls, especially those from lower-income families who might not have otherwise considered a career in computer science, are now learning about 3-D printing or mobile applications. As a result, they can now envision how these skills and experiences can lead to a career in computer science. Across the nation, programs similar to Girls Who Code are helping to develop a passion for technology among girls who have not had much exposure to the field.
New York City's Girls Who Code program, which was created to enhance technological possibilities for lower-income girls, imagines a world that has more female developers and coders and engineers and entrepreneurs. The students in the Girls Who Code program are diverse, representing 12 different countries. In addition to teaching students hands-on skills like programming and coding, the program is also preparing them for a future career at a major technology company. They partnered with Google, Intel, AppNexus and Twitter, among others, to help shape their summer curriculum and asked the companies what skills future employees need to be successful in the technology field. Those companies also help fund Girls Who Code, making it free of charge for the students. Eventually, they plan to offer internship opportunities.
The U.S. Department of Commerce reported women are underrepresented in STEM undergraduate degrees and jobs. In 2009, there were 2.5 million college-educated women with STEM degrees, compared to 6.7 million men. And throughout the past decade, women have held less than 25% of STEM jobs even though they fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S. economy. Similar programs are popping up around the country. For example, San Francisco-based Black Girls Code offers classes for girls ages 6 to 20 on how to develop video games, build a website, and study robots. This summer, the program is hosting one-day workshops for minority students in several cities across the nation. Empowered, these girls are already thinking about how they can give back to their communities.

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Entry Level Jobs Are No Longer Entry Level
Simply Hired Blog, August 13
Across the technology industry, entry-level job postings are requiring more qualifications than ever before. Employers all say they want at least one or more years of experience, even for candidates right out college, and that's leading to problems for jobseekers. Often these increased expectations for entry-level jobs are a result of employers who have had negative experiences with recent grads who accept positions that aren't the right fit and then leave within six to twelve months. With that as background, the article takes a look at how candidates can go about meeting the skill and experience qualifications of many entry-level jobs.
Companies today have higher expectations for their entry-level employees. They want their new hires to already have skills like problem solving and critical thinking and they are less patient to have them learn on the job. Internships and volunteer work can help them develop these skills, as well as providing them with the familiarity of working in an office environment for people with different personalities and management styles. When entry-level candidates appear to lack the skills needed to advance beyond that first position, they may not be graduating with the skills or background employers need. This may be as a result of a mismatch between a traditional college curriculum and the skills employers are seeking in today's grads.

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During the job interview, one of the hardest questions to answer is when the interviewer asks, "Do you have any questions for me?" The problem is that most candidates don't actually care about the answers - they just hope to make themselves look good by asking smart questions. To them, what they ask is more important than how you answer. However, great candidates ask questions they want answered because they're evaluating you, your company and whether they really want to work for you.
Great candidates want to hit the ground running. They don't want to spend weeks or months "getting to know the organization." They want to make a difference -- right away, so they ask what the organization wants them to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days. Great candidates also want to be great long-term employees, so they ask what are the common attributes of the organization's top performers. Every organization is different, and so are the key qualities of top performers in those organizations. Maybe constantly landing new customers in new markets is more important than building long-term customer relationships. Maybe it's a willingness to spend the same amount of time educating an entry-level customer as helping an enthusiast who wants high-end equipment.

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Women Bridge Computer Science Gap
Chicago Tribune, August 4
Although computer science is one of the fields poised for exponential job growth over the next several years, women continue to have a difficult time entering the profession. Since 1984, the number of computer science degrees awarded to women has steadily declined, and today only 13% of computer science graduates are female. Accordingly, top jobs in the field are male-dominated. For example, a recent study found that out of 166 U.S.-based technology firms that replaced their CEOs last year, only six appointed a woman for the position. With this in mind, the article takes a closer look at the factors that are keeping women from exploring computing as a career.
Given the attractive job prospects for the profession overall, educators remain puzzled why more women are not pursuing a career in computer science. There is a predicted shortage of technology workers by 2018, and women are especially valued for their ability to manage projects and teams successfully. Just as the early 1980s was a propitious time for women to enter the field of computing, 2012 holds even more promise as a time to explore a technological future. The reasons that few women pursue technology are complicated and varied, but that the big picture is that the pipeline from elementary school to a computing career shrinks with each higher level of education. At each level, women need to gain experience speaking and sharing research, networking with each other, and interacting with industry sponsors who offer internships and jobs.
For that reason, early intervention is critical to reversing the decline of women in technology careers. Lack of K-12 computing courses and uninspiring computing courses at the middle school level, lack of accurate career information about computer science and the absence of female mentors in the field all play a role in inadvertently turning young women away from the industry. For many girls, a career path in computer science is never recommended to them. At each successive stage in the educational system, boys are given more room to take risks and make mistakes with computer science and learning how to program. Educators say that there needs to be more encouragement for girls who are good at problem solving.

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Just How Underemployed is Gen Y?
TIME Moneyland, August 29
For members of Gen Y, the most popular employment opportunities remain within the technology sector. Smaller, fast-growing technology companies offer the types of entrepreneurial jobs that are flexible and offer an opportunity to change society, both factors that resonate with members of Gen Y. At a time when many of them are having a difficult time finding jobs or paying down student loan debt, these jobs are stable, relatively high-paying and are able to leverage their college educations. A new study provides an update on the employment habits of Gen Y, including information related to where Gen Y workers are most likely employed, what skills they are likely to have and where they aspire to work.
The study found that the top-ranked companies for Gen Y are all tech companies that offer a high degree of job satisfaction, low job stress, high pay, flexibility, and meaningfulness of job. Qualcomm, Google and Medtronic were at the top of the list. Gen Y has not only demonstrated a propensity to use cutting-edge technology as consumers, but young people today also like how tech companies treat their employees. Many of these tech companies offer telecommuting, they are fast paced, always innovating and allow them to work on meaningful projects that have an impact on society.
Members of Gen Y prefer working at small companies rather than larger ones. Gen Y tends to be attracted to smaller companies because the environment is more flexible, and they are more likely to be given additional responsibilities and feel like they are part of something in high-growth mode. The highest concentration of Gen Y workers are at small companies with less than 100 employees (47%), followed by medium companies that have between 100 and no more than 1,500 employees (30%), and the fewest work in large companies with more than 1,500 employees (23%). They see the best path to a successful career as joining or starting a business that has a purpose. More and more colleges are offering entrepreneurship classes in order to take advantage of Gen Y's entrepreneurial ambitions.

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Studies on the widely varying success rates for Advanced Placement Computer Science across the nation can be used as an important starting point for measuring and then increasing student participation rates in computer science. There are very clear differences between how different states are doing, and there are lessons to be learned and useful practices to transfer between different states. The results of studying recent AP exams in Computer Science are dramatic and surprising: in every state, under-represented groups such as women and African-Americans passed the AP computer science exam at lower rates than the general population. It's by analyzing the differences in performance across states that gives confidence that we might be able to improve access to computing education for these groups.
Taking a closer look at the AP computer science exam data for specific states like Georgia, Massachusetts, Texas, California, and South Carolina highlights important trends. While the size of the African-American population differs from state to state -- as well as the percentage of African-American test-takers that actually take the test -- there are two clear takeaways. In every case, the percentage of African-American test-takers is smaller (sometimes much smaller) than percentage of African-Americans in the population. In every case, the pass rates for African-American test-takers is much smaller than for the population overall. While the data focused specifically on African-American success with computer science, much of the same trends can be found for other under-represented groups, such as Hispanics.
So what can explain the pass rates for different demographic groups across the different states? Surprisingly enough, whether AP CS "counts" for graduation credit within a certain state doesn't seem to have much explanatory power. While there are certainly criticisms of the AP CS course and exam, which have motivated the creation of a new AP CS course and exam, it's not obvious how the weaknesses of the course or exam would result in differences across demographic groups or different states. More likely is the explanation based on an understanding of how under-represented minorities have a lack of access to computer science classes in schools: a lack of access can limit participation and skew results.

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As online learning steadily becomes the norm rather than the exception, it is important that more educators are aware of the types of tools they can incorporate in their own classrooms -- such as Skype, Twitter and YouTube -- to ensure students are learning effectively and remain active participants in their own education. For educators, bringing YouTube into the classroom is a viable and flexible option for providing additional context on trends or assessing student learning through student-created videos. The usage of YouTube to merge the old and new ways of teaching will effectively allow students to reflect on what they have learned, interact with others and demonstrate their competence in their respective fields.
Because YouTube is a free online tool that requires very little technological savvy or experience, it stands to reason that the incorporation of this tool in online classrooms would be helpful for students who are preparing to enter the education field. For example, YouTube can be used when requiring students to create a video summarizing the key points of any assigned topic. YouTube can ensure that students are willing to engage in the context of their learning and make sense of the information provided to construct their own knowledge. Yet, many organizations and educational institutions have focused too much on the technological challenges of buying the right courseware, getting enough bandwidth allocated to online learning, and obtaining the latest state of-the-art online learning platforms and tools.
Today's students typically use technology to learn more effectively, and making learning creative is important to their achievement in the classroom. As a result, providing those enrolled in online classes the opportunity to demonstrate their learning through the creation and posting of YouTube videos not only provides them an outlet for creativity, but they are required to use higher order thinking skills, develop their technological skills, and self-reflect on what they have learned in their course work. It is likely the delivery methods will continue to change as new and different tools are created and used, but the future appears to favor those who wish to teach and learn online.

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