Tag Archives: working in tech

  • Getting Your Employer to Pay for Training


    Whether you’re a programmer, Big Data analyst, or cybersecurity expert, your employer expects you to have the skills necessary to do your job. That means tech professionals must spend a lot of money in order to secure the schooling and certifications they need. And that can become an expensive proposition.

    In many industries, companies will pay for employee training. In tech, however, that’s not always the case, and that can frustrate those professionals who feel they must constantly evolve in order to prove useful to the business.

    According to Bob Hadick, president of Russ Hadick & Associates, a professional search and recruiting firm, tech employers expect their employees to live and breathe the job: “We find it easier to sell the guy or gal who shows a passion for the job by pursuing training on his or her own.”

    Tech employers consider positions such as developer or software architect as more than a mere title. “It’s an identity,” Hadick added. With that in mind, companies often look for employees who are intellectually curious, not to mention willing to work on tech-related projects on their own time.

    According to Carlos Pimenta, CEO of Macquarium, a digital experience design and marketing agency, the nature of the tech profession demands constant education on the part of workers. “A programming language is similar to a spoken language,” he said. “You can quickly learn enough to get by, but it takes a while to master.”

    Given how building systems that drive business operations is a complex and expensive process, it’s often easier and quicker for companies to find the people with the necessary skills, rather than train the ones they have. “If you don’t have in-house experience in that version of the programming language, you will typically work with proven partners to satisfy the client need,” Pimenta said.

    But you can still convince your employer to pay for training and certifications—provided you figure out the best way to spin the idea. Here’s how to broach the subject and sell it to your boss:

    Realize the Value of Training

    Before you bother to ask, make sure the training is something that your employer considers a relevant skill for the job. While companies want people who can do their job well, don’t try to pitch a certification that isn’t relevant to the job you currently perform or can’t help you get better at what you do, Hadick said.

    Argue for Training the Whole Team

    It might be easier to sell your boss on training the entire software development group and not just you, Hadick added. Suggest that training the team can impact the bottom line on the project or help move up the time to deployment. Pitch it in terms they can understand, but consider the time investment, too.

    Help Your Manager Justify the Expense

    Help your manager make the business case for training or certifications. Explain how the training will make an impact by filling a gap in a department need. If your employer is having a hard time recruiting the right people with the right skills, he or she might be more amenable to training current staff. Pimenta thinks the company’s decision will not only be influenced by business need, but also by the cost, timing, and ROI.

    Alleviate Your Employer’s Fear That You’re Jumping Ship

    Your boss may think you’re amping up your skills in order to find a new job. According to Hadick, it’s best to explain to your employer how a new training program or certification is specifically relevant to what you do and how it will improve your performance.

    Do Your Homework Before Accepting a Job Offer

    Corporate culture can be hard to change, and that includes getting an employer to pay for certifications when they aren’t accustomed to doing so. While tech companies that routinely pay for training are still relatively rare, there are tech employers out there who know its value. It pays to ask around and network with your tech friends to find out which organizations will pay for courses.

    When you’re interviewing for a position, don’t forget to ask about the company’s training initiatives. Pitch it to the potential employer as a potential perk of the job.

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  • The Highest-Paying U.S. Tech Companies


    Technology companies dominated Glassdoor’s new list of the 25 highest-paying companies in America.

    The highest-ranked tech firm: Juniper Networks in third, with a median total compensation of $157,000 and a median base salary of $135,000. The company builds routers and network-management software.

    Google came in fifth on the list, with a median total compensation of $153,750 and a median base salary of $123,331. In sixth was VMware, with a median total compensation of $152,133 and a median base salary of $130,000.

    Amazon’s secretive Lab126 placed seventh with a median total compensation of $150,020 and a median base salary of $138,700. Lab126 is responsible for the Kindle e-reader, the Kindle Fire tablet, and the popular Amazon Echo.

    The entire back half of the Glassdoor’s list is technology companies, starting with Facebook (in 12th), and including Twitter, Box, Walmart eCommerce, SAP, Synopsys, and Microsoft.

    It should come as no surprise that, in an industry in which interns can earn an average of $6,800 a month, tech professionals are routinely pulling down six-figure salaries.

    Given the current demand for top tech talent, though, employers need to do more than merely offer high wages to experienced professionals—they also need to dangle some perks, including flexible hours. Responding to a recent Stack Overflow survey, 50.4 percent of developers said that work-life balance was a top priority when hunting for a new job, followed by company culture (41.8 percent), quality colleagues (39.9 percent), and flexible work hours (37.1 percent).

    For smaller firms without the enormous cash reserves of a Google or Facebook, such perks may be the only way to pull in the talent they need to build cutting-edge products.

    In the meantime, tech pros who manage to land a job at the country’s most prominent tech firms can expect to earn a hefty salary in the process.

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  • Tech Unemployment Hit 2.5 Percent in February


    The country’s tech unemployment rate hit 2.5 percent last month, a slight uptick over the 2.4 percent reported in February 2015, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

    The technology segments monitored by the BLS experienced a mix of job losses and gains. For example, technology consulting added 4,400 positions in February, down from 4,600 in January. Data processing, hosting, and related services gained 900 jobs, a notable bounce-back after losing 500 in January.

    Computer and electronic product manufacturing lost 400 positions, a considerable reversal after gaining 4,000 jobs in January. Manufacturing has long been a soft spot in the overall technology-jobs outlook, thanks in large part to a combination of manufacturing automation and outsourcing.

    Overall, the technology industry continues to enjoy higher employment than the broader economy, where the unemployment rate stands at a (still historically low) 4.9 percent. While some pundits have expressed concern over recent layoffs at large tech firms such as Yahoo, and some smaller startups’ newfound inability to land lots of venture capital, the overall economy clearly still needs skilled technologists to help keep it running.

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  • Key Challenges of Working Remotely

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    For those tech pros open to conducting their company’s business from home (or a coffee shop), remote work offers many benefits, including a more flexible schedule. But working beyond the walls of a brick-and-mortar office is not without its challenges.

    Take the example of Carlos Moreno, a front-end web developer for Oracle Commerce who started out in Oracle’s Cambridge, Massachusetts office before deciding to return to his hometown of Seattle. The company valued his contributions and wanted to keep him.

    After the move, Moreno commuted nearly an hour into Oracle’s Bellevue office. Because he worked with East Coast colleagues, he often had early-morning meetings, and it was easier to take those calls from home. Eventually, his schedule led to working remotely full-time.

    “My commute is 12 feet to my desk,” Moreno laughed, “and I’m not distracted by people walking by. I don’t have to deal with the noise and other conversations in the office and I can keep my environment quiet.”

    Moreno’s biggest challenge is what he refers to as “the cost of a stamp.” Although he takes pride in his communications skills, and works on a highly interactive team, he needs to take a lot of steps in order to establish face-to-face interactions.

    “I have to go through this process of [figuring out] what is the fastest or most appropriate avenue to communicate,” he said. While he finds Instant Messenger the most effective way to reach out, and can remotely access his team’s Thunderbird calendar, he must still consider the nature of each communication. Would an email be too formal at the moment? Should he call and, if so, should he use the cell or office number? Does he just need to talk, or should he show a colleague something on his screen, too?

    “We have the tools,” Moreno continued, “but it’s always sort of an obstacle to get it to happen. That’s always the most important ‘con’ in terms of collaborating. The thing I’m trying to simulate the most often is, ‘Hey, come over here and look at my screen.’”

    Remote workers who interact across an enterprise may encounter similar hurdles when communicating.

    Renee Stetson, a data analyst for the Nashville-based Change Healthcare, has a home office in New Jersey. She started working remotely on a part-time basis for health reasons. Although that was supposed to be temporary, she ended up a full-time telecommuter when the company closed its local office.

    She’s found working from home to be very beneficial for everyone involved. “They get 150 percent more out of me than they would if I were in the office,” she said. “I have complete focus here.”

    Stetson has to gather information over long distances from several different departments throughout the organization. While her home group in sales is responsive, she’s found it tricky to get other colleagues, who may not know who she is, to answer phone calls and messages. She has to be persistent to get the information she needs. “It’s about the button you put in the subject line or first few lines of the email to get their attention,” she advised. “The goal is to not have them filter me out.”

    Infrastructure can become another woe of remote employees. For example, as companies gain new subsidiaries, it takes time for legacy software and datasets to integrate into the overall stack. That creates issues for remote workers who need to access that software and data from many miles away. “A lot of the details that I need are dropped on the floor when they upload their data,” she said. “It makes it very difficult for me. I always have to go back to the people who handle those legacy systems and coordinate retrieval of the information.”

    Not everyone is cut out for remote work. Both Stetson and Moreno see themselves as effective communicators who are also highly motivated and have a strong work ethic. They don’t allow themselves to get distracted; their constant engagement, despite not being physically present, gives them a stake in the workflow of their respective offices.

    “My house is an amazing place,” said Moreno, “and there are all kinds of fun and exciting projects just sitting there waiting for me. If I get up to get coffee, I can see four things that could use attention. I have to have discipline to say, ‘No, I’m at work.’ So I get my coffee and return to my desk and don’t play my guitar.”

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  • Is the Tech Bubble Bursting?


    In the first two months of the year, a number of tech firms laid off staff. Yahoo let 15 percent of its employees go, for example, while BlackBerry slashed a reported 35 percent of its headquarters staff.

    Nor were the layoffs restricted to massive, struggling tech companies. According to a handy chart compiled by TechCrunch, smaller firms such as NewsCred also culled staff.

    “I think companies that had planned to grow through acquisitions don’t have the war chest they thought they would,” Teri McFadden, a vice president of recruiting at Northwest Venture Partners, told the Website. Venture funding, she added, has slowed in recent months.

    Recent data from the National Venture Capital Association (as reported by Bloomberg) backs that assertion, showing that venture capital decreased from $31.1 billion in 2014 to $28.2 billion last year, even as 235 venture-capital funds closed.

    When the stock market plunged earlier this year, taking the valuations of many tech companies with it, a number of pundits openly questioned whether the tech industry was in yet another bubble—one in the process of bursting. But as the Los Angeles Times recently pointed out, stock prices for many bellwether tech firms subsequently stabilized. Meanwhile, tech unemployment remains low, having hit 2.4 percent in January (down from 3.6 percent in December 2015, and far below the national unemployment rate of 4.9 percent).

    And despite some market turbulence, the tech industry looks nothing like it did in 2001 or 2008, when popping financial bubbles outright doomed dozens of tech companies, some of them very high-profile (hi, Pets.com!). Thousands of tech professionals aren’t losing their jobs; if anything, companies are fighting vigorously to secure top talent.

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  • 10 Most Lucrative Industries in Tech


    Which industries are the most lucrative for tech pros? According to the latest Dice Salary Survey, banking and finance is in first place—perhaps no surprise, given the segment’s reputation as a high-salary, big-perks environment.

    Here are some of the others:

    1. Banks/Financial/Insurance

    2015 salary: $106,913
    Year-over-year change: 7.9 percent

    Banks and financial-services firms have an intense need for tech professionals who specialize in data analytics, database management, and software development. Security-related skills are also in high demand.

    2. Aerospace & Defense

    2015 salary: $106,050
    Year-over-year change: 6.6 percent

    In states such as Colorado and Virginia, the defense industry has a robust presence—and it’s hungry for tech talent. Cyber-security experts are particularly valued in this arena.

    3. Entertainment/Media

    2015 salary: $105,418
    Year-over-year change: 15.9 percent

    With the advent of streaming and other cloud-based services for movies, music, and books, it’s no wonder that the entertainment industry needs (and is willing to pay for) tech pros.

    4. Utilities/Energy

    2015 salary: $103,736
    Year-over-year change: 6.8 percent

    Cyber-security and Big Data pros will play a big role in coming years as utility companies move to update (and harden) their respective grids.

    5. Professional Services

    2015 salary: $103,685
    Year-over-year change: 5.3 percent

    Consultants and others who fall in the ‘professional services’ category help companies with a variety of tasks, including the upgrading of IT infrastructure. Thanks to companies’ continual need for outside help, salaries in this category have risen over the past few years.

    6. Computer Software

    2015 salary: $101,097
    Year-over-year change: 5.6 percent

    Software is eating the world, as investor Marc Andreessen once said. With the Internet of Things and other burgeoning segments expanding software platforms to everything from fridges to cars, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which apps and cloud-based services don’t become even more ubiquitous in coming years.

    7. Medical/Pharmaceutical/Biotech

    2015 salary: $103,736
    Year-over-year change: 9.8 percent

    Evolutions in biotech are based on the ability to store and analyze massive amounts of information, making Big Data experts progressively more important to the field.

    8. Telecommunications

    2015 salary: $99,420
    Year-over-year change: 11.2 percent

    Just wait until 5G becomes the mobile telecommunications standard: it’ll kick off a paradigm shift in how people not only build apps and services, but also consume data.

    9. Computer Hardware

    2015 salary: $99,346
    Year-over-year change: 7.6 percent

    Software needs hardware on which to run; the tech industry needs hardware experts who can build lighter, faster, cheaper systems. Although the U.S. manufacturing industry has seen a steady corrosion in the number of jobs over the past few years, the need for hardware experts remains strong.

    10. Consumer Products

    2015 salary: $98,920
    Year-over-year change: 14.2 percent

    As consumer products become increasingly connected to the Web (thanks to the still-nascent Internet of Things movement), there’ll be a rising need for cloud and connectivity experts who can make those goods “smart.”

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  • Tech Job Titles With the Highest Salaries


    The average annual technology salary in the U.S. hit $96,370 in 2015, according to the annual salary survey from Dice. Depending on experience, skill-set, and geographical location, some tech pros are pulling down far more—for example, those skilled in “hot” technologies related to cloud and data analytics can expect to make six figures, especially if they live in a tech hub such as San Francisco or New York City.

    There’s also a wide salary range between full-time tech workers, who earned an average of $93,902 last year, and consultants, who made roughly $120,822. The average rate per hour for a consultant/contractor hit $70.26 in 2015, up 5.3 percent.

    Another huge factor in tech-pro payouts is job title, which often reflects the holder’s experience and skills. According to Dice’s data, the following titles earned the most last year. While many are management-related (yes, CEOs and project managers tend to make a lot of money—shocking, right?), others represent in-demand technology segments, such as security. Check them out:

    Up first: Executive Tech Management (click below)

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  • Tech Unemployment Stays Low


    According to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), tech-industry unemployment hovered at 2.6 percent in December 2015. That’s a notable decrease from November, when the BLS plugged the rate at 3.4 percent.

    Unemployment within the tech industry fluctuates throughout the year in response to external forces, including seasonal workers. Throughout 2015, the rate of voluntary quits also remained high, as many tech pros left their jobs to pursue new opportunities.

    That being said, not all tech-industry categories are created equal. In any given quarter, the unemployment rate for programmers or computer systems analysts might rise, for example, while falling for software developers and information systems managers. Manufacturing has remained a relative bleak spot in the tech industry’s employment ledger for quite some time, as the combined forces of offshoring and automation force reductions in U.S. headcount—if not factory closings.

    The latest annual salary survey by Dice also suggests that tech professionals are enjoying a sizable increase in pay, with average salaries rising 7.7 percent last year. But again, not every pro saw the same increase; those specializing in skills related to Big Data or the cloud, most notably Cassandra, Cloudera, OpenStack, and CloudStack, saw double-digit percentage increases in their salaries, year-over-year.

    Average salaries also varied on a state-by-state basis, hitting the six-figure mark in seven markets for the first time in Dice’s annual study. We’ve built an interactive map that shows you were salaries have grown the fastest.

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  • Fastest-Growing Metro Areas for Tech Pros


    Many U.S. cities hope to become technology hubs, and with good reason: A dynamic mix of startups and mature tech companies not only brings a massive influx of tax dollars, but also hordes of well-educated, highly skilled tech professionals.

    But which cities are succeeding at building up demand for tech pros? A new analysis by Dice reveals that, over the past year, Salt Lake City has seen an 85 percent increase in the number of postings for tech jobs in the area. Far behind at second was Cincinnati, with a 44 percent increase year-over-year, followed by Miami (41 percent), Milwaukee (24 percent), Kansas City (18 percent), and Raleigh (17 percent).

    Other cities in the top ten included Detroit (16 percent), Hartford (13 percent), Seattle (12 percent), and Nashville (11 percent).

    E-commerce retailers, video-game developers, and some large software-makers all boast a strong presence in the area around Salt Lake City, drawn by a combination of low taxes, local schools producing skilled workers, and infrastructure to support businesses and lifestyles. Other cities on the list, such as Raleigh and Kansas City, have similarly grown tech hubs thanks to a combination of nearby universities, advantageous tax rates, affordable housing, and communities that make people want to stay.

    Many of the cities on this list also have the advantage of being relatively new in their attempts to foster tech communities; once they become mature markets, along the lines of Silicon Valley, the high-percentage growth tends to level off.

    Nationwide, the economy for tech pros remains strong. In August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 507,000 people in Professional and Business Services (which includes tech and STEM positions) quit their jobs, up from 493,000 in July. (It’s also a notable increase over August 2014, when 456,000 professionals voluntarily quit.) A rise in voluntary quits suggests that tech pros feel good enough about the economy to either jump to a new position or try their hand at freelancing.

    For tech pros, the numbers add up to an optimistic message heading into 2016. With more tech hubs emerging across the United States, there’s an ever-higher chance that their ideal job waits only a short distance away.

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  • Starting Out In IT Contracting

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    While some tech pros like the prospect of full-time employment (and the benefits that come with it), others appreciate the flexibility that comes with freelancing. The latter can even prove more lucrative than working for an employer, at least according to a recent survey by Upwork and the Freelancers Union.

    If you’re thinking of heading out as an independent contractor, however, there are some key things to consider. First and foremost is your skills base: No matter how good the economy at a particular moment, potential clients only want to pay for people who can actually do the work. (This is in contrast to full-time employment, where a company will sometimes give an employee the time and resources necessary to pick up a new skill.)

    Even with sufficient skills, it can prove difficult to build a strong client list, especially in competitive areas such as security, programming, and analytics. Here’s how to stand out in contracting:

    Build the Brand First

    Building a brand is an important—and often overlooked—step toward building up a contractor business. Blogging, participating in online forums and Webinars, and even creating instructional videos on YouTube are all solid methods of building a reputation. If there’s a downside, it’s that few of these activities pay substantial amounts of money; but it’s a bullet you might have to bite in order to get your contracting name out there.

    Build Out Your Network

    Former co-workers and employers are an immediate and obvious choice for network connections (and possible future clients), so start there. If you haven’t done so from the outset, create a Website with a “Contact Us” form, and a regular newsletter—not only will those help you build your brand (see above), they’ll give new clients an easy way to reach out to you.

    Be Patient (and Collaborate)

    Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say; creating an awesome client list sometimes requires years. It also takes time to build a great relationship with new clients, especially if they’re unclear about their own project requirements; you may need to spend a lot of time helping them solidify their workflow and desired outcomes. With every new client, you have an opportunity to provide customized service that will ensure they stay with you for years.

    Keep Improving Your Skills

    It’s easy to neglect learning new skillsets. When you’re contracting, though, falling behind on your industry knowledge can quickly translate into lost opportunities. Carve some time out of your monthly schedule for professional development.

    The post Starting Out In IT Contracting appeared first on Dice Insights.

  • Why Tech Pros Aren’t Happy


    In a bid to keep top tech talent in the building, some tech companies have resorted to extraordinary perks, from free sushi at lunch to in-house gyms and dry cleaning. But is the talent actually happy? According to a new survey, software engineers, developers, and sysadmins are pretty miserable in the office.

    The company conducting the survey, TinyPulse, asked 5,000 employees in the tech space about their individual experience on the job, including overall happiness. Only 19 percent of respondents felt overwhelmingly positive about their work life; another 17 percent said they felt valued at work; and a mere 47 percent believed they had strong relationships with co-workers.

    Compared with the responses from employees in marketing and finance (also surveyed by TinyPulse), those numbers are dismal. In addition to generalized unhappiness, only 36 percent of tech employees felt their promotion and career path were clear—compared to 50 percent of non-tech employees.

    “There’s widespread workplace dissatisfaction in the tech space, and it’s undermining the happiness and engagement of these employees,” TinyPulse concluded. “The problem goes beyond workplace satisfaction—Gallup found that engagement is one of the key ingredients for employee innovation.”

    These survey results indicate something that should be obvious to any company, large or small: While conventional perks are great, employees are also looking for a broader sense of mission, and want to feel that they’re valued by the larger organization. Encouraging strong relationships between co-workers can also help mitigate feelings of unhappiness. Free sushi only goes so far.

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  • Why In-House Tech Pros Are Still Necessary


    Remember Nick Burns, the Computer Guy on SNL? He was the computer geek who knew a lot about PCs, and embarrassed computer users on a regular basis; he made people feel bad because they didn’t understand why something didn’t print, or why their PC froze.

    Proclivity for embarrassing people aside, could a guy like Nick get a job today at a small business, or are sysadmins and their ilk in danger of losing out even more to automated systems and the cloud? When I got my start, the real-life version of the Computer Guy was essential if you wanted to add a user to the network, or even fix a paper jam. (Eventually I ended up building PCs, adding document management, and so on; after I got a handful of certifications, I left for a team at a larger firm.) To set up a new printer fifteen years ago, you needed to create a print queue, a print server, and a printer in Netware; today, it’s plug and play—and even the most technologically inept can always consult Google and YouTube for advice when things go wrong.

    In other words, the dedicated sysadmin is potentially out of a job if a business owner uses a consultant to build the network and check in for occasional maintenance. Ever since the gig economy came to the tech industry, an office can turn to Geek Squad or Geekatoo to connect a printer or install a workstation.

    Despite that flexibility, however, networks are more vulnerable than ever. And therein lies a significant challenge for those businesses that think they can manage without a tech pro (or a team of them) in-house.

    New Challenges and New Opportunities

    The needs of the network are far different than fifteen years ago, simpler in some ways but far more complicated in others. Now there are threats such as zero-day exploits, malware, and ransomware. The effort of keeping a network running today is just as much about making sure it isn’t compromised, and developing a contingency plan for if the worst happens.

    Security represents a collection of services that the gig economy has a hard time providing. An in-house person can:

    • Develop a Plan: What will your business do if the network is attacked with a DDoS, or if a user clicks on a malware link? The plan should define the roles of each stakeholder in responding to the attack.
    • Educate Users: Users represent the network’s greatest vulnerability. Users need tech pros to help them change their mindset about emails, and become more questioning about suspicious messages.
    • Create and Maintain Backups: A network is important, but the data is priceless. A dedicated sysadmin or other tech pro can make sure that data is backed up.

    Today’s network failures often come from external attacks that are posing an existential threat to the business. According to Symantec’s recent Internet Security Threat Report, 45 percent of small business found themselves spear-phished in 2014—up from only 19 percent in 2013. (Spear-phishing is especially pernicious because the hacker has taken the time out to learn something about the people working in the company, making malicious links very tempting to click.)

    For many tech workers, becoming the in-house sysadmin is a particularly promising career route, as a lack of a higher education isn’t necessarily an impediment for obtaining a position; last year, The New York Times reported that half the IT workers in New York do not have a college degree. Citi, according to the article, has “a huge team,” many of whom weren’t formally trained as computer scientists or engineers. Hackers willing to put on a white hat can also find a job waiting for them at a firm, even if they have no previous corporate experience.

    In other words, the in-house computer person is very much needed today—just more in a security role.

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