March 2015

Monthly Archives

  • The White House’s New Plan for Hiring Tech Pros

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    If you’re a tech pro—or aspire to become one—President Obama wants to find you a job.

    The White House has announced the “TechHire initiative,” which will supposedly fill jobs in everything from software development and network administration to cybersecurity. In order to fill those jobs, the initiative will offer a combination of investment and job placement, with a focus on underserved communities. Here’s the proposal:

    $100 Million in ‘Federal Investments’

    That money will go to training and recruiting workers for in-demand technology fields. “The Administration will launch a $100 million H-1B grant competition by the Department of Labor,” read the White House’s press release, “to support innovative approaches to training and successfully employing low-skill individuals.” That training will include work-based learning programs and registered apprenticeships.

    Community Collaboration

    Some 21 regions across the country will work with one another to recruit and place applicants in some 120,000 open technology jobs, in conjunction with “300 employer partners.” Those regions include:

    Louisville
    New York City
    Philadelphia
    Delaware
    City of Kearney and Buffalo County, Neb.
    Colorado
    St. Louis
    Salt Lake City
    San Antonio
    Los Angeles
    Minneapolis
    Kansas City
    Memphis
    Rural Eastern Kentucky
    Nashville
    Rochester
    Detroit
    San Francisco
    Albuquerque
    Chattanooga
    Portland

    Each region will supposedly use sophisticated data analytics to determine the most in-demand skills among local employers, and work with those employers to hire from “both traditional and nontraditional training programs.” These programs will rely on coding boot camps and online courses to accelerate training, and encourage interactions between employers and candidates via meetups and co-working spaces. In New York City, for example, companies such as Google and Facebook will work to connect students from the City University of New York (CUNY) with internships at local companies.

    Private Sector

    Under the terms of the announced plan, private companies will provide free online training and coding boot camps for low-income and “underserved Americans.” The White House claims that national organizations “are committing to work with interested cities to share job and skills information, job-matching tools, and other resources.” For example, Dev Bootcamp, Hack Reactor, Microsoft, Treehouse Island, and Udacity are all offering free or discounted training for underserved communities.

    However the White House’s initiative pans out, one thing is clear: For those tech pros with the necessary skills, the salaries can be very good indeed. Check out the latest technology jobs.

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  • Best Programming Languages for Linux Devs

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    Ask any knowledgeable developer to name the first programming language they would associate with Linux, and he or she would likely answer C, given the closely aligned history of Unix and C.

    But in the 24 years since it first appeared, Linux has probably been home to every programming language known to humankind: Not just obvious languages such as C, C++, Python and Java but also C# (Mono), Fortran, Pascal, COBOL and Lisp and many more.

    Check out the latest Linux jobs.

    In a December 2014 survey, readers of Linux Journal placed Python at the top of their list of best programming languages (30.2 percent), followed by C++ (17.8 percent), C (16.7 percent), Perl (7.1 percent), and Java (6.9 percent). Those rankings have remained largely unchanged over the past few years—unsurprising, considering the Linux world is a rather conservative place. (One language rapidly moving up Linux Journal’s list is Google Go: It jumped from 1.8 percent in 2013 to 2.4 percent last year.)

    Unlike Windows with its built-in GUI, Linux leverages whichever GUI toolkit you use (e.g., Ot, GTK+, wxWidgets) unless you limit yourself to terminal programming. Of course, not all Linux development requires a GUI: Think of servers or daemons, which are Linux’s equivalent of Windows services. So let’s look closer at each of Linux Journal’s top five languages in order to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each for Linux development.

    Python and C++

    Python just seems to get more and more popular, and is arguably the best general-purpose language currently around. It’s easy to learn, helped by having an interpreter (pypy) and compilers such as cpython, Jython (generates Java code) and others that take Python and produce il code (on .NET), or C, C++ or JavaScript.

    Developing AAA games and High Performance Computing (HPC) is where Python hasn’t done so well. C++ currently dominates those spaces, with Python having notably little impact on mobile development other than in open-source. I’m not sure we’ll ever see AAA games development switch to Python but it’s certainly making inroads into the HPC arena. (I like C++ but attaining expert programming knowledge in it seems to require being a full-time developer; compare that to Python, which can be picked up by young children.)

    C

    C is as close to the metal programming as you’ll ever get unless you code in assembler; Linus Torvalds lists this closeness as a reason why he likes it. It’s simple to learn, and once you master pointers, you can do pretty much anything. However, you have to write a lot of code to do things that come standard in other languages; string handling in particular is tedious and error-prone. For low-level coding, C is hard to beat and there’s lots of software written in it (probably much more so on Linux, which is largely written in C).

    Perl

    For many years Perl—described by many developers as the “Swiss Army chainsaw” of scripting languages—was the language for sophisticated text processing scripts, and came installed on Linux/Unix like systems by default. It’s been around since 1987, with a massive install base to match: According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network (CPAN) carries over 140,776 modules, by more than 11,804 authors, and is mirrored worldwide at more than 250 locations.

    Despite (or perhaps because of) Perl’s age, languages such as Python, PHP and Ruby have gradually come to replace it. But don’t expect it to go away anytime soon.

    Java

    Linux has always seemed like the natural home for Java, at least with regard to server-side technology. The pattern of client-side Windows applications talking to Linux Java servers is a common one and very popular in enterprises. The Java JSP Web server technology hasn’t come close to PHP or ASP.NET in terms of adoption rates, but you can find (often expensive and resource-intensive) JSP Web hosting. Java powers many Internet game servers, most notably Minecraft.

    Two other languages that work well on Linux are JavaScript and Go. After ten years of being lambasted for poor performance, JavaScript became seriously cool when popular websites such as Google Maps began to leverage it. JavaScript continued to improve; thanks to better engines, it’s now able to run graphically intense browser games.

    If that wasn’t enough, JavaScript has emerged as a serious server-side language, with Node.js being one of the best-known frameworks.

    Google Go

    At less than five years old, Google Go has gained its share of admirers; Google, Dropbox and other companies use it for their respective internal systems. With an easy-to-learn C-like syntax, it compiles and executes programs very rapidly and makes writing concurrent code a lot easier than a multithreaded approach. It comes with an extensive standard library that’s complemented by many third-party libraries. Although it’s a general-purpose programming language, it’s strong as a systems language, and useful for implementing Web servers.

    Conclusion

    All programming languages are just tools to help solve programming problems, and the choice of which to use is often determined not by the languages’ strengths but completely unrelated factors such as available hardware, internal politics, previous experiences and the like. Linux hardware varies from simple, low-cost systems to million-dollar “Big Iron” mainframes… But irrespective of the cost, it will run any of these languages.

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  • Google’s Latest Shot in the Online Storage Wars

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    Google believes that no company can afford to destroy any of its data. And while the price of storage has crumbled in recent years, companies can still find it expensive to retain massive amounts of data over the long term, especially when you throw in the costs and infrastructure associated with analyzing it.

    In its bid to compete with Amazon, which offers archival storage in the cloud via its “Glacier” service, Google has introduced Cloud Storage Nearline, a long-term storage hub that (it claims) can surface large amounts of data relatively quickly. (“Nearline enables ~3 second response times for data retrieval and improves SLAs,” suggests Google’s blog posting on the matter.) Capacity pricing is pegged at 1 cent per GB at rest.

    Check out the latest storage-related jobs.

    While those response times might not work for companies that need to retrieve a ton of data and quickly analyze it, Nearline could nonetheless assist those firms that need to store documents or relatively static items, and don’t necessarily want to do so via on-premises hardware.

    Iron Mountain, NetApp, and some other cloud-storage platforms will support Nearline. Given the long-running war over online storage, it’s almost certain that Google’s move will spark some sort of response from Amazon, Microsoft, and other big players in the space. That can only benefit those companies and developers for whom cheap long-term storage is important.

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  • Six Tips for Acing Your Panel Interview

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    The panel interview, at some companies, is the last stop in a multi-step search process. Other firms see it in a more informal light, as a way for people within a division to learn a bit more about a candidate. Whatever the approach, a panel is often an intimidating experience for job seekers—but it doesn’t have to be that way.

    It’s important to remember that the panel is not an interrogation chamber: You wouldn’t be in the seat if you didn’t already meet significant criteria. For employers, it’s a time-efficient way to bring all the parties involved together for a conversation about what you can bring to the table.

    Here are six tried-and-true steps to making the most of your panel experience:

    Research and Practice

    If possible, prepare by researching each of the people with whom you’ll meet; check LinkedIn and other social networks for profiles and comments that can give you necessary background information. This is an incredibly valuable step: The intelligence you gather will make you better able to anticipate the mood of the interview and inform your approach.

    “Your search may uncover some interesting information, e.g., that they have only been at the company for a short while, which can be a red flag; or that you share people, interests and/or experiences in common,” said Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide. “If you happen to know people at the company, reach out and ask them if they would be willing to offer insight on any of the individuals.”

    Cohen, noting the sometimes-complicated dynamic of a panel, strongly advised practice and focus prior to going in: “You’re juggling the attention of a number of stakeholders… Be prepared to explain the obvious; why you are there and what you have to offer.” Many candidates neglect to think such things through.

    The Introduction

    “Make eye contact with everyone, and if it makes sense and you can easily reach everyone, shake hands,” recommended Miriam Salpeter, social media mentor, consultant and principal at Keppie Careers. “Don’t rank the people in order of importance based on job title or the org chart pecking order. Consider everyone on the panel important enough to impress.”

    If you’re lucky, someone will introduce you to everyone; but if not, ask for introductions before you start.

    Active Listening

    There is a lot going on at once in the room, so it’s critical you be an active listener and take moment before you respond. “When you show that you are a skilled listener,” Cohen said, “you also demonstrate that you have the potential to be an effective team member.”

    Since multiple people are observing you at the same time, even if only one person is speaking, it’s important to remain aware and mindful of your reactions. “Don’t bounce eye contact all around the room,” Salpeter added, “but work to connect with each person on the panel.” While you may be tempted to focus on those interviewers offering positive feedback, “don’t forget the stone-faced manager who may be the one with all the influence.”

    Mindful Speaking

    A measured response can go a long way. While there’s a right time in an interview for debate, discussion and opinion, candidates need to wait for the most appropriate moment. “You may forget the fact that an interview is essentially a conversation… not a debate and definitely not one-sided. Be patient,” Cohen advised. “Never speak over, or interrupt your interviewers, no matter how excited you may be, or if you disagree, or if they interrupt each other.”

    Always be prepared for your interviewers to drill down, he added: “Your interviewers are carefully listening, too, and while one may be interacting easily, another may be ready to pounce on any inconsistency you present.” While pushback may be inevitable, it’s unlikely to be a deal-breaker if you’re ready and responsive.

    Body Language

    Body language heavily influences how people perceive you. “Don’t let your body language indicate you’re tired or bored with the questioning,” Salpeter said. “Also, avoid slumped shoulders, downcast eyes, remaining expressionless or frowning.”

    Follow Up

    Whether it’s three or 13 people in the room, you must follow up with all of them. If possible, ask the point person who arranged your interview to provide email contacts for each of the interviewers. If it’s a large group, it’s permissible to send a group email. If it’s a handful of people, write individual thank-you notes.

    The follow-up should illustrate that you listened to their needs, challenges and concerns. Reiterate your unique qualifications and how you can meet their wants and needs. “If you don’t follow up to demonstrate your interest,” stressed Cohen, “another, and perhaps, less qualified candidate will.  That is how you level the playing field and beat out the competition.”

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  • Can Boot Camps Really Boost Tech Employment?

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    Earlier this week, the White House unveiled an ambitious plan to train and employ millions of tech pros in 21 regions across the United States.

    Carrying out the plan—dubbed “TechHire”—will depend heavily on coding boot camps and accelerated training programs, which (at least in theory) will make candidates technically proficient in weeks or months rather than years. In addition, a number of big-name tech companies such as Facebook have pledged to take on certain candidates as interns, for on-the-job training.

    Check out the latest technology jobs.

    But can boot camps and online courses transform cities such as Louisville and Minneapolis into burgeoning tech hubs on the level of, say, New York or San Francisco? Regions with robust tech scenes (and equally strong tech-pro hiring) benefit from a number of factors, including close proximity to universities and incubators, low-cost spaces for startups, investment in IT infrastructure such as broadband, and affordable housing.

    There is a growing need for skilled tech talent nationwide, and multiple boot camps have sprung up in order to help meet that demand. Switchup, an organization that collects data on boot camps and programming schools across the nation, recently issued a list of its top 32 coding boot camps. In ranking those institutions, it took into account everything from alumni reviews and instructor quality to location and job support.

    Not everybody believes, however, that boot camps and accelerated courses can quickly fulfill the need for tech talent. “Two months doesn’t prepare you for identifying serious problems and overcoming them,” Jason Polancich, CEO of SurfWatch Labs, told the Wall Street Journal in February.

    Indeed, it can take years of experiences to learn all the quirks, tricks, and procedures that define working within many technology verticals. Some of the tech skills that pay the most—including Hadoop, MapReduce, Platform-as-a-Service software, and Cassandra—are highly specialized, and take quite some time to master.

    So while the administrators behind TechHire may be right in assuming that tech workers don’t necessarily need a four-year degree (or higher) to compete in the space, they should probably realize that growing the country’s reservoir of tech pros isn’t something that can be accomplished in a few months.

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  • To free up IT staff, hospital looks to the cloud

    With an eye toward improving the agility of its workforce management programs – and enabling its IT department to spend time on other projects – Saint Mary’s Hospital is is migrating to a cloud-based platform.

    [See also: Cloud choice no longer 'pie in the sky']

    Workflow

    To free up IT staff, hospital looks to the cloud

    With an eye toward improving the agility of its workforce management programs – and enabling its IT department to spend time on other projects – Saint Mary’s Hospital is is migrating to a cloud-based platform.

    Healthcare IT News

    news/free-it-staff-hospital-looks-cloud

    read more

  • 5 health IT billionaires you know

    The Forbes 2015 list of the richest people on the planet has become longer this year with the addition of even more billionaires. We found five health IT pioneers on the list you've probably heard of.

    Electronic Health Records

    5 health IT billionaires you know

    The Forbes 2015 list of the richest people on the planet has become longer this year with the addition of more billionaires. We found five health IT billionaires on the list.

    Healthcare IT News

    news/5-health-it-billionaires-you-know

    read more

  • Good Economy Equals Tech Pros Jumping Jobs

    shutterstock_PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek

    IT professionals seem to feel more comfortable about their economic security these days, and a lot of them are looking around for new jobs, increasing competition among employers for tech pros.

    According to a new survey, conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Randstad Technology, some 41 percent of U.S. IT workers said they’re likely to seek new employment opportunities over the next 12 months, while 52 percent said they were confident in their ability to find a new job.

    Check out the latest technology jobs.

    At the same time, however, the poll found that 57.4 percent of IT employees were confident in the health of the overall economy, a slight dip from a record high noted in the third quarter of 2014. Forty-one percent of IT workers thought the economy was getting stronger, and 32 percent thought there were more jobs available. (Some 44 percent thought there were fewer jobs.)

    Bob Dickey, group president of technology and engineering at Randstad, suggested that employee confidence stems from their skills and what part of the country they live in. “Overall, IT employee confidence remains pretty high,” he said. “For that reason, a lot more needs to go into attracting the right IT talent.”

    Dickey noted that the cost of living in the region, training opportunities, and the culture of the organization all play a major role in attracting IT talent. But he also conceded that consolidation of data centers in the age of the cloud, along with increased IT automation, could affect the demand for certain types of IT jobs, as well as their location.

    In addition to datacenter consolidation, many lower-level IT administrative functions are being automated. The end result is more demand for IT people with higher-level skill sets. “We’re constantly getting poached,” said Steve Hellmuth, executive vice president of operations and technology at NBA Entertainment in New York. “Investment banks are where a lot of our people wind up going, so we’re always recruiting at the college level.”

    Factoring in that rate of turnover is now part of the organization’s basic business plan, Hellmuth added.

    Like it or not, the days when a soft economy gave employers leverage over IT staff are pretty much over. Some organizations may be trying to lower their costs by moving IT jobs to different locations. But for every IT professional who might be attracted by the lower cost of living in a particular region, there will always be another that can’t get enough of the bright lights of a major city.

    Given that need for talent, tech companies are focusing their recruiting efforts in areas outside of Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley. Louisiana announced that, as part of a 10-year deal involving IBM and CenturyLink, it will spend $4.5 million to expand computer science programs at the University of Louisiana, Louisiana Tech and Grambling State. As part of that arrangement, IBM committed to creating 400 jobs in Monroe, La., where it will open a service center to develop security, data analytics and mobile applications. Meanwhile, CenturyLink will transfer 350 employees to IBM, where they will become full-time employees employed in the new Monroe facility.

    With IT professionals fairly confident in their ability to find new jobs, expect more tech companies to make similar moves in order to increase their pools of IT talent.

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  • Will Your Next Employer Advance Your Career?

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    A lack of career progression is the No. 1 reason why people quit their jobs, according to a list of deal-breakers compiled last year by BambooHR. Poor work-life balance came in second, with pay dissatisfaction the third-leading cause of worker defections.

    If these complaints sound familiar, you may already be seeking greener pastures. But how can you tell if your advancement and earning potential will be any better at another company? Here are four ways to investigate your chances of boosting your career (and your paycheck) at your next potential employer.

    Check the Forecast

    Business conditions play a significant role in creating a favorable climate to advance. A company that’s grown at a pretty fast clip (which is relatively common in tech, especially among startups) may be forced to pump the brakes if it runs short of cash.

    Check out the latest IT management jobs.

    “A company that’s struggling financially is going to limit raises and bonuses and delay promotions,” noted Scott Kukowski, a former IT manager and systems administrator who now works as a technology career coach for Wolfgang Career Coaching in Austin, Texas.

    In other words, you want to see what industry analysts and executives have to say about the company’s near-term business prospects and technology plans. Kukowski recommends AtoZdatabases and ReferenceUSA because they provide a wealth of information on public and private companies; job seekers can access the databases for free through public libraries.

    Chart Your Individual Path

    An IT manager or recruiter may communicate his or her company’s broad commitment to promoting from within, but does that commitment apply to technical promotions or just managerial roles? And when might such opportunities arise?  If you’re a midlevel programmer, for example, it may take several years to advance if the company just hired two senior-level programmers.

    “Don’t settle for vague generalities or broad statements,” Kukowski said. “Ask the hiring manager to describe the career path and estimated timeline for the specific role or position you want to pursue.” 

    “Ask to see an org chart,” recommended Ada James, a career and life coach based in Mountain View, Calif. “Companies can’t just create positions out of thin air, an org chart can help you visualize potential opportunities. If a hiring manager denies your request, it’s a red flag.”

    Consult Future Teammates

    If the hiring process doesn’t include a meet-and-greet with your prospective teammates, ask for one. You can’t come right out and ask someone what they’re making, but you can certainly ask general questions about performance reviews and raises, the rate of internal promotions, culture and turnover. It’s also okay to ask a prospective teammate about his or her career path and the company’s track record on promotions.

    “Tech people are pretty transparent and truthful,” Kukowski noted. “So if the company is in the habit of making promises it can’t keep, cutting pay or filling promotional spots with external hires, you’ll probably hear about it.”

    Review Compensation Data and Philosophy

    Tangible factors such as turnover, supply and demand, and profit margins shape a company’s compensation program, as well as intangible features including philosophy and market positioning. If you really want to earn more at your next stop, you need to consider salary data as well as the company’s transparency and viewpoint on rewards.

    “Once you receive an offer, it’s totally fair to ask HR about salary increases, including percentages, timing and the compensation range for higher level roles,” James said. “If they balk or decide to hire someone else, you may have dodged a bullet.”

    Most of all, don’t be afraid to ask questions. “Discussing compensation and the opportunity to advance during the hiring process conveys what’s important to you,” she added. “If the manager gives short shrift to your needs, that company is probably not the best place to advance your career.”

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