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.

UMBC Game Developers Club to present work at Baltimore Gamescape

Gamescape is a visual arts exhibition showcasing video games and video game inspired artwork that will be held in Baltimore July 14-17 in conjunction with at Artscape. Developers and artists will demo and display games and game inspired art that they have created.

The UMBC Game Developer's Club will present four of its projects from the 2010-2011 academic year: Light, a 2-D puzzle platformer involving the manipulation of light; City of Gears, a 2-D steam punk hack and slash; Titan, a 3-D shooter where you use physics based weaponry to defeat your foes, and Slug 3D, a 3-D platformer where you must evade enemies using your unique abilities.

The Gamescape exhibition will include classic arcade machines, video game demos from local companies, panels on game development, and art related to video games. It will open on July 14, 2011 and run through the duration of Artscape: Friday, July 15 through 17, 2011. Gamescape will be located in the Pinkard Gallery located in the Bunting Center at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Gamescape and Artscape are programs of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts on behalf of the Baltimore Festival of the Arts, Inc. Artscape is America’s largest free public arts festival featuring more than 150 artists, fashion designers, and craftspeople.

CSEE Research Review awards and pictures

2011 CSEE Research Review

photos · program · posters · location · call for papers

The 2011 research review event was the largest to date, with more than eighty people attending. You can see pictures from the poster session and some of the presentations online.

The CRR-11 program committee selected students for best research based on submitted papers.

CSEE faculty who attended used range voting to honor three students for best poster presentations.

CSEE Research Review Friday May 6

MS student WIll Murnane presents his work on named entity recognition in Twitter at the 2010 CSEE Research Review

The CSEE department will hold its annual research review this Friday from 9:30am to 4:00pm at the UMBC Technology Center at South Campus. Faculty, research staff and students from all of the department's programs present and discuss their latest research results. The Research Review is open to the public and is a good way for prospective collaborators and students to find out about the research our department is doing and meet and network with current faculty and students. There is ample free parking and refrehsments and lunch are provided. Directions: Take Gun Road off Rolling Road (Rt. 166) or take the UMBC “Satellite” Shuttle to South Campus.

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