Exploring job trends

The job search aggregator indeed.com collects job listings from a large number of of websites, including job boards, newspapers, associations, and company career pages. Using this data, they regularly report on job trends by country, region and keywords. Their most recent report by industry shows the weakness of the economic recovery but also shows a strong market for IT jobs.

Indeed has a web page that lets you see trends in the number of job postings with certain keywords. Amazingly, the current top ten trending phrases are all IT related: HTML5, mobile app, Android, Twitter, jQuery, Facebook, social media, iPhone, cloud computing and virtualization.


Mobile app Job Trends graph
Mobile app Job Trends Mobile App jobs

If you are preparing to look for a job or just trying to better prepare for a career, it is an interesting source of data. One thing to keep in mind is that you should invest your time in college building a foundation of knowledge and skills that will support you for the rest of your life, both professionally and as a well-rounded person. The undergraduate programs at UMBC aim to do just that. But you might give some thought to choosing some electives that will prepare you for the opportunities you will find in the short term, too. As usual, finding the right balance is the key.

Students can now rent Kindle textbooks from Amazon

Amazon has announced a new program allowing students to rent textbooks.

“Kindle Textbook Rental is a flexible and affordable way to read textbooks. You can rent for the minimum length, typically 30 days, and save up to 80% off the print list price. If you find you need your textbook longer, you can extend your rental by as little as 1 day as many times as you want and just pay for the added days.”

Amazon’s typically sells its kindle textbooks for nearly the same as the hardcopy ones, so renting a textbook may be attractive. We’ve not yet seen any Computer Science or Computer Engineering kindle books for rent, so can’t say how much of a discount there is if you rent for a semester.

By the way, the format that Kindle uses is based on Mobipocket, which is based on HTML. There are some good open source systems that you can use to create kindle-compatible documents from various sources.

Teens prepare for cybersecurity careers at CCBC camp

The Community College of Baltimore County this month held a five-day cybersecurity camp for teenagers who may be on track to becoming cyber experts. Twenty-two students from Baltimore and Howard counties took part in the camp, which was intended to get high school students interested in security, and to consider pursuing college degrees or entry-level positions in the field. WBAL has a short article and video.

Perks help tech startups attract and retain employees

While you can find a treehouse to rent using Airbnb, they also have a mockup of one for their employees to chill in.

Last week’s Wall Street Journal had a story, The Perk Bubble Is Growing as Tech Booms Again, on how technology companies compete for employees by offering more and more extravagant perks.

“Here in the capital of the latest tech boom, engineers and product developers work late into the night creating the next big thing. But they take office culture just as seriously, fueling behavior that is reaching a level of froth not seen in a decade.

Some Web start-ups are partying like it’s 1999. Airbnb’s housewarming later this month is to include a visit by rapper and occasional tech investor M.C. Hammer. The party room at reviews site Yelp Inc. has three beer kegs with built-in iPads to offer information about what’s on tap. Last month, start-ups Peanut Labs Inc. and AdParlor Inc. sponsored the sold-out “Pirates of Silicon Valley Cruise,” a $600-per-person seafaring party.

Computer science major tops for jobs

Software Development Times reports that Computer Science is the top major for job offers.

“Computer science graduates now get more offers of employment than any other major. This is the first time since 2008 that computer science has topped the list: previously, accounting majors had the highest offer rate. In 2011, 56.2% of computer science majors received job offers, compared to only 53.8% of accounting majors. The offer rate for computer science majors increased 13.8% this year from the previous year.”

Six hottest IT jobs

CIO magazine has an article that identifies what they think are the the six hottest new IT jobs. They used an admittedly unscientific method of reviewing listing on IT job sites and talking to IT executives to find the types of jobs with good growth potential and are resistant to outsourcing and economic downturns.

“IT job seekers have real reason to hope. No fewer than 10,000 IT jobs were added to payrolls in May alone, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics, reflecting a steady month-over-month increase since January. And in a June survey by the IT jobs site Dice.com, 65 percent of hiring managers and recruiters said they will hire more tech professionals in the second half of 2011 than in the previous six months.”

Their six are:

  • Business architect
  • Data scientist
  • Social media architect
  • Mobile technology expert
  • Enterprise mobile developer
  • Cloud architect

While won’t find required courses on most of these in a standard undergraduate program, doing well in any of them needs the foundation you will receive. These include programming, software engineering, statistics, systems, computer architecture, algorithms, databases, etc. UMBC does offer electives that give students the skills that will make students more competitive for these jobs, such as mobile computing, parallel programming, service oriented architectures, machine learning, data mining, security, web technology, etc.

Disclaimer: Past performance does not guarantee future results. Your mileage may vary.

Khan Academy does Computer Science

The Khan Academy is starting to publish a series of short instructional videos on computer science topics. The Introduction to Programming and Computer Science category currently has just 18 videos and these are all on basic programming topics in Python.

Salman Khan's popular Khan Academy site has more than 2100 short videos covering "everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history." The Academy is a not-for-profit organization that describes itself this way.

"The Khan Academy is an organization on a mission. We're a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere. All of the site's resources are available to anyone. It doesn't matter if you are a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology. The Khan Academy's materials and resources are available to you completely free of charge."

Most of these videos are done by Salman Khan himself and CS in one of the topics he knows the most about, having BS and MS degrees from MIT in computer science (as well as Mathematics and EE). An example of one of the new CS videos is this six-minute one on writing a factorial function using recursion.

These videos won't replace traditional ways of learning computer science, but they can be helpful. I hope to incorporate some of them in the undergraduate courses I teach.

Python as the new Basic

Computerworld has a story that discussed the passing of the Basic programming language and asks How are students learning programming in a post-Basic world?.

Basic was developed at Dartmouth in the mid 1960s as a language that would be easy to learn and use so that virtually anyone could learn to program. It was also relatively easy to implement a Basic interpreter for a new computer. Bill Gates and Paul Allen famously got their start by creating a Basic interpreter for one of the first micro-computers, the Altair 8800. It was also useful. I remember helping on a complicated sponsored research project at the University of Illinois in the 1970s that was done in Basic on a Wang mini-computer using giant 8 inch floppy disks.

The subhead on the Computerworld story is "Basic is (mostly) dead. Long live Python as the next starter language?" and it describes how many universities are now using Python as the language of choice for introducing people to programming. Count the UMBC CMSC program among them. Two years ago we revamped CMSC201 to use Python as the language for teaching programming concepts and practices, ending a nearly 15 year run using C.

What we liked about Python was that students can write simple, useful programs almost immediately without having to master a large number of new concepts or programming scaffolding. Its interactive, interpreter-based paradigm (just like Basic!) encourages students to explore and get "close to the machine" (just like Basic!). At the same time, Python is a powerful language that elegantly includes nearly all of the modern programming language ideas and also efficient enough for all but the most demanding applications. This combination of simplicity, power and efficiency combine to make Python very popular for software development in industry.

A 'Sputnik Moment' for Computer Science?

The 2010 UMBC Linux Users Group Installfest

Today's New York Times has a "Room for Debate" opinion piece, Computer Science's 'Sputnik Moment'?, on the recent surge in interest in computing majors on US campuses. It asks "Will the influx of students into the field last, and can it raise American educational achievement along the way?" and features eight short essays incuding one by UMBC Professor of Sociology Zeynep Tufekci.

"Computer science is a hot major again. It had been in the doldrums after the dot-com bust a decade ago, but with the social media gold rush and the success of "The Social Network," computer science departments are transforming themselves to meet the demand. At Harvard, the size of the introductory computer science class has nearly quadrupled in five years.

The spike has raised hopes of a ripple effect throughout the American education system — so much so that Mehran Sahami, the associate chairman for computer science at Stanford, can envision "a national call, a Sputnik moment."

What would a "Sputnik moment" entail today? Will the surge of students into computer science last, and could it help raise American educational achievement?"

This complements the NYT article from last weekend, Computer Studies Made Cool, on Film and Now on Campus, about rising computer science enrollments.

” When Keila Fong arrived at Yale, she had never given much thought to computer science. But then last year everyone on campus started talking about the film “The Social Network,” and she began to imagine herself building something and starting a business that maybe, just maybe, could become the next Facebook.

“It’s become very glamorous to become the next Mark Zuckerberg, and everyone likes to think they have some great idea,” said Ms. Fong, a junior, who has since decided to major in Yale’s newly energized computer science program.

Maryland Cyber Challenge Team Registration and Orientation Session

Registration for the Maryland Cyber Challenge and Conference (MDC3) is now open. MDC3 will provide an opportunity for students and professionals to network in a fun environment while participating in exciting games and learning about computer safety and cybersecurity skills.

MDC3 teams up to six players who will compete in one of three categories: high school, college and university, and industry professionals. High school teams will focus on cyber defense techniques whereas college, university and professional teams will compete in a capture the flag match.

Students must be enrolled at a Maryland high school, college, or university. Professionals’ employers must have an office in Maryland and must be either a company or government agency. Teams can register during a day of an orientation session or online if they are unable to attend in person. The next orientation session will held between 4:30pm and 7:00pm on Tuesday, 21 June 2011 at the UMBC Technology Center, 1450 South Rolling Road. People interested in the professional league should come between 4:30-5:30pm and students should come between 6:00pm and 7:00pm.

The sessions will give contestants and coaches insight about the event as well as tips and tricks to prepare for the competition. After registering and orientation, competitors will be able to attend practice challenges during the summer to prepare for the qualifying rounds in September and finals on October 21-22 at the Baltimore Convention Center. Scholarships and prizes will be available for winning participants.

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