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ACM CareerNews

December 17, 2013
ACM CareerNews


HEADLINES AT A GLANCE:


Shortage of Workers With Cybersecurity Skills Rises Just as Need Does
Medill Reports, December 10 

Within the U.S., there is growing concern that there is already a shortage of cybersecurity workers who can keep critical networks and infrastructure secure. Despite the importance of the job, which includes protecting data and systems from hackers, data leaks and viruses, there is a growing shortage of people who are willing and able to do it. Multiple reports show the U.S. government will need thousands of cybersecurity experts in the near future, and that's just to start. Earlier this year, a technology survey found the demand for cyber security professionals in the past five years has grown 3.5 times faster than the demand for other IT jobs and about 12 times faster than the demand for all other jobs.
The need for more cybersecurity workers, specifically in government agencies, is increasing every day. A recent report from the Department of Homeland Security found 32% of workers are either eligible for retirement or will be within the next three years. It also found nearly 80% of those currently working in cybersecurity are 40 or older and just a little more than 5% are 30 or younger. Younger people may not be choosing the career because they don't know it's an option. A recent survey, for example, found that 82% of millennials (those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s) had never been exposed to a potential career in cybersecurity. The same technology survey found less than one-quarter of young adults aged 18 to 26 believe the career is interesting at all — a statistic that should be troubling to anyone concerned about America's future cybersecurity workforce.
Those who recognize the need aren't sitting around and waiting for young people to become interested in the industry on their own. Instead, programs like the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, which has support from the Education Department and National Science Foundation, are creating curriculum aimed at students as young as kindergarten. In February, the DHS took to cyberspace, launching the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies, an online resource for cybersecurity career, education and training information. The government's efforts to educate and recruit the next generation of cybersecurity workers is also being integrated into college and universities around the country, such as Northeastern University in Boston and the Illinois Institute of Technology, which offers one of the few cybersecurity degree programs in the state. Experts largely agree that education is the long-term solution to the current workforce shortage.

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IT Jobs Outlook: Salary, Training Spending Rise
Information Week, December 3

Within the IT sector, salaries are on the rise, businesses are spending more money than ever on training, and technology budgets continue to increase. Those results come from the 34th annual Society for Information Management (SIM) IT Trends Study for 2013. One factor, of course, is the IT skills shortage, which encourages companies to increase salaries and spend more money on training in order to keep their best IT people. At the same time, turnover is increasing, which is typically a sign of a robust IT job market.
The SIM findings square with a recent survey, conducted by staffing firm TEKsystems, which found that a majority of CIOs expect to see IT budgets and IT employees' salaries rise in 2014. Beyond better job prospects for IT newcomers, the SIM study also found multiple signs that CIOs are succeeding in doing what business executives have long demanded: bringing more of a business focus to IT operations. For starters, 45% of CIOs now report to the CEO, 27% to the CFO, and 9% to a business unit executive. Meanwhile, half of the CIOs said that they meet with the CEO or CFO weekly, and a majority does so monthly. Furthermore, 82% of CIOs rated the quality of those interactions with CEOs or CFOs as being "very positive" or "highly positive."
For the first time, the annual SIM study didn't just ask CIOs about the most important IT management issue facing them or their business, but rather the most important issues facing them and their business. That distinction triggered some sharp differences. Businesses' top investments in 2013, for example, were for analytics and business intelligence -- also CIOs' leading concern -- followed by customer relationship management software, cloud computing, and enterprise resource-planning applications. But when it came to information security, which CIOs ranked as their second biggest concern, it ranked only 14th in spending. Likewise, disaster recovery was CIOs' third greatest concern, but only in 11th place for IT spending.

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The Ten Fastest Growing Job Titles Are All in Tech
Mashable, November 13

A study by TheLadders reveals that the fastest-growing jobs in America almost all require deep educational qualifications and specific skills in the STEM fields. Of the fastest growing job titles over the last five years, seven of the top 10 are technology positions that necessitate specific technical skills for developing software and mining data. Based on data from TheLadders, the fastest-growing tech-related job titles between 2008 and 2013 were: DevOps engineer, iOS developer, data scientist, UX designer, UI developer, Android developer, and business intelligence developer.
What's interesting is that four of the seven fastest-growing technology jobs – DevOps engineer, iOS developer, data scientist and Android developer – did not even exist on TheLadders five years ago. Based on a study of job growth over the past five years, there is an undeniable demand for developers and analysts who possess unique expertise within the respective STEM industries. And, most likely, these roles will continue to evolve as technology itself evolves.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, once-coveted middle management jobs are rapidly declining, revealing a trend that high-earning professionals are not necessarily on a management track, nor do they desire to be. The study found that the growth rate of job titles containing the word "manager" is 25% lower than the average overall growth rate, and the rate of titles containing the word "director" is 50% lower. In addition, within the top 10% of growing jobs, less than 2% of titles contain the word "manager" or "director."

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Employers Receptive to Hiring IT Job Candidates With MOOC Educations
Network World, December 9

For IT professionals looking to advance their careers or other workers who want to make a career change to tech, taking a MOOC in a technical topic can help, according to employers. However, people need to complete projects that show hiring managers how they've used the tech skills they learned online. In other words, they have to show that a MOOC has helped them to learn practical IT skills necessary for a career move, preferably in a hot area like data science or Internet security. To a growing number of recruiters, a traditional college education and online learning hold the same value and convey the same information: that a person has been exposed to certain IT topics and possesses a certain baseline of skills.
For now, recruiters want to see evidence of MOOC projects that students have actively worked on during online courses. As they say, sometimes the best hires didn't go to school for computer science. That's especially true as students receive computer science backgrounds from a platform like edX, launched by Harvard and MIT in 2012. EdX offers the same courses that are taught to students enrolled in the participating schools. Unlike a regular university, edX offers the courses free to anyone with an Internet connection, and successfully finishing a course earns a student a certificate of completion instead of a diploma. Other popular MOOC platforms that offer a similar learning setup include Coursera, which was launched by two Stanford University computer science professors, and Udacity.
Given the strong demand and competition for tech workers with in-demand skills, employers shouldn't dismiss the education MOOCs offer. A company that doesn't entertain the thought of potentially hiring someone with an online education is limiting themselves and their ability to accomplish the development projects that they need to get done. The up-to-date material offered by MOOCs makes them ideal for learning IT topics that are relatively new. It's all part of a bigger trend as people move away from a traditional brick-and-mortar education and, instead, valuing the experience. It means that your resume is your online presence - a list of projects rather than a list of courses you've taken. In short, HR departments have recently started emphasizing that they want people with experience through whatever means - whether it's online course work, internships or traditional education.

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The Holiday Season is Time to Ramp Up Your Job Search
CIO.com, December 6

While it may seem counterintuitive, the holiday season could be the perfect time to start searching for a new job or to ramp up efforts on a search that's already underway. As a result, job seekers should rethink the strategy of putting their job search on hold until the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is over. There are four key reasons why the holiday season is a great time to ramp up the job search, most notably that networking opportunities abound and many employers want to fill positions for the upcoming year. Plus, it's easier to get noticed, with so many other jobseekers disappearing during the holidays.

The holiday season might work to your advantage. Most of us are starting to receive invitations to holiday events, and these are great networking opportunities. Statistics show that approximately 80 percent of jobs are found through networking, so whether you're going to a strictly social gathering with friends or a professional event, make sure you are getting the word out that you're looking and ask your friends and colleagues if they've heard of opportunities. Moreover, the holiday season also marks the beginning of the year's end for companies whose fiscal year close coincides with the end of the calendar year, meaning that they could have access to new budgets, or have strategic reorganizations planned for right after the New Year.


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B-Schools Vie for Startup Crown
Wall Street Journal, December 4

Business schools want to be known as the ultimate place to launch a startup for aspiring young entrepreneurs. As traditional MBA industries like finance lose steam, schools are catering to candidates with entrepreneurial ambitions, loading up on business plan competitions, accelerators, incubators, classes and research centers devoted to entrepreneurship. As B-schools like Harvard and Stanford attempt to attract new types of students, they are often competing on the basis of entirely new metrics, like the number of students currently working on business plans. The article walks through some of the factors to consider for entrepreneurs choosing a new MBA program.
A number of new factors are being taken into account by students considering B-schools, such as the amount of funding raised by a school's startups. Others look at the percentage of a graduating class that started their own companies, while still others focus on well-known or famous companies that launched from campus business incubators or the number of student ventures that have been acquired or merged by larger companies. The best ideas often come at the intersection of disciplines, so aspiring entrepreneurs might also consider B-schools that share campuses with top medical or engineering programs. The sheer popularity of on-campus entrepreneurship activities — as measured by the number of students putting together business plans - is another consideration.

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CIOs Opting for IT Contractors Over Hiring Full-Time Staff
CIO.com, December 2

Even as companies appear to be cutting back on the hiring of full-time staff, they are increasing their budgets for hiring skilled IT contractors. The latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data reveals that over the last 12 months, only 77,600 full-time IT jobs were added, as CIOs and hiring managers remain cautious about the slow economic recovery. According to the BLS data, September's IT jobs number was adjusted down from a gain of 2,500 jobs to a loss of 3,600 jobs. At the same time, the number of jobs reported as gained in October was only 5,200. The article examines several reasons why hiring IT contractors is now so attractive for many companies.
CIOs are reluctant to hire, but eager to contract. While more than two-thirds of CIOs interviewed say their aging legacy infrastructure is making it difficult to implement new technologies, budgets simply aren't available to do so. They all need larger budgets and staff to deal with this but are reluctant to hire new, full-time employees. That's where IT contractors come in. According to one recent survey of contract IT placements, 48% of respondents plan to hire more IT contractors than full-time staff in the next year to 18 months, and 32% expect to increase their annual budget for hiring IT contract workers. Budgets for contract spending are increasing, especially in the media, communications, publishing and higher education markets. According to one recent survey, 73% of respondents currently use contractors for application development, Web and mobile development, application hosting and application maintenance.
The demand for IT contractors is no fluke. For companies that are facing an aging workforce, they want to leverage existing technology to the fullest without increasing budgets for full-time hires. They want to build a flexible workforce, streamline and drive cost efficiencies, and they are asking for help to save anywhere from 30% to 60% on costs. This trend toward contractors instead of full-time hires is expected continue for the next few years, especially as enterprises cut back on benefits and perks for full-time employees and move toward a contractor-heavy workforce. While companies can save money by increasing their contract workforce, there's a caveat. Many IT contractors have left the full-time workforce by choice, or are working as contractors because they're unable to find full-time employment. But that doesn't mean they're less skilled or less desirable; in fact, they could have deep and broad skill sets. That means that it's not any cheaper to outsource.

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Too Few Girls and Minorities Study Tech Subjects
New York Times, December 10

There is no question that women and minorities have made progress in science and math in the last several decades, but their gains have been slow and halting, and that reality should be a subject of concern for today's tech leaders. For example, in the fast-growing field of computer science, women's representation has actually declined in the last 20 years, while minorities have made relatively small gains. Opening up high-paying computer science jobs would help reduce income inequality between whites and other groups, and would narrow the gender gap in wages. Improving the representation of women and minorities would also enrich American scientific research and development, because they will add a different perspective to workplaces.
The biggest career disadvantage faced by many lower-income blacks and Hispanics is their limited access to a good education. Compared with upper-income Americans, a greater percentage are raised by parents who have not gone to college or graduated from high school, and more grow up with single parents who do not have the time or resources to enrich their children's education. Moreover, a smaller percentage of minority children attend enriching pre-kindergarten programs, which studies have shown aids the development of cognitive and analytical skills that are needed to do well in science and math.

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Online Training for the Online Instructor
eLearn Magazine, November 2013

As online learning programs enter the mainstream, there's growing attention on developing highly qualified and trained instructors who are able to address students' needs in a non-traditional format. With the growing global online community for learning comes a need for knowledgeable and trained educators to facilitate learning and to add to the quality of online instruction. Just as K-12 teachers experience teacher preparation programs and new teacher orientation programs, online instructors need ongoing training and support to be effective. The article considers what that training looks like for the online instructor and for the colleges and universities responsible for ensuring that students receive effective education from qualified professors.
Colleges and universities with online learning communities must prepare faculty to be effective in the online environment. This goes beyond simply ensuring faculty understand the mechanics of the online system or program used. Ensuring online instructor effectiveness includes training on how to translate on-ground teaching strategies to online teaching success. In addition to effective teaching methods, initial training for online instructors must include strategies on how to connect with learners since the primary mode of communication is not a traditional, face-to-face conversation.
They should also focus on ongoing training. Professional learning communities (PLCs) can benefit the online environment, where there is a tendency for instructor isolation. PLCs focus on establishing ongoing cadres that sustain work environments and help avoid teacher burnout. Teachers work together to learn, to grow, and to support one another. After online instructors have been trained and have participated in ongoing learning communities, they must be a part of ongoing feedback and assessment. This becomes a cyclical process of training, teaching, mentoring, support, feedback, and assessment. A part of the feedback and assessment process should include instructor opportunities for reflection. Formative feedback in real time allows instructors opportunities to grow and make immediate changes that impact teaching and learning. They also allow instructors the best opportunity for success prior to any summary evaluation.

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Hour of Code: Observations from a Middle School Classroom
Blog @ CACM, December 10

The Hour of Code initiative, which has the goal of getting every K-12 student in the country to try one hour of programming during CS Education Week, holds a number of lessons for the future of computer science education. In terms of organization, it makes sense to focus on activities that are mostly self-guided, which marks a departure from the traditional classroom lecture format. Moreover, pairing students up in front of a single computer is an idea that can work brilliantly. The article looks at the advantages of a web-based live programming environment, the way playful diversions can become part of the educational process, and the importance of attracting children while they are young and not yet intimidated by computer programming.
The Web-based live programming environment provided by Codecademy turned out to be an engaging one for students. This environment was engaging primarily because students could get started immediately by visiting a URL with no file downloads or installation. They also get a real-time live preview of the effects of their code edits without needing to hit "Run," so they can immediately see the consequences of their tweaks. Another observation was that default error messages are useless for beginners: not only were they almost impossible to decipher, but also most students quickly learn to ignore all warning and error messages. It turns out that the only error messages that students paid attention to were those that were custom-made for each problem. Students seemed to understand and heed those errors and quickly correct their code to eliminate them.
Students seemed to learn the most when they diverted from the problem statements. Overall, it was better for students to play around and fail than to just receive the answer from an instructor. Again, the live coding environment helped a lot in facilitating such explorations. At the end of the day, the students turned out to be utterly fearless in hacking on their code -- tweaking, tuning, adding and deleting lines without hesitation. In contrast, adult beginners are typically much more hesitant to play around with their code and dutifully followed directions as closely as possible. Educators should consider how they can inject this spirit of fearlessness into learners from more diverse demographics, so that girls and minority students don't subconsciously self-select themselves down to less advanced coursework.

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