Thursday, Sep 03 2015

How to Volunteer in the IT Industry

Written by

 How to Volunteer in the IT Industry

Volunteering is good for your community, and it's good for you. Volunteers often improve their physical and mental health. Volunteers get to meet new people and make new friends, an expanded network that can help in your job search. Volunteering can help you improve your social and relationship skills, which can be important in succeeding at interviews, and also once you're hired. If you work in technology, volunteering can also improve your technical skills, which helps you get hired.

Volunteer for Open Source Projects

You can find projects at Github or Apache. Choose a project in an area you're familiar with, or one where you want to develop new skills. If you don't want to write code after a day programming at the office, you can still contribute to the Wiki by writing other documentation, or running tests to make bugs reproducible.

Volunteer for Industry Organizations

Small technical groups and meetups are run completely by volunteers; even larger organizations with professional staff need volunteers to help run events. You can organize an event around a topic you're interested in and lead a small discussion session. Public-speaking ability is often necessary if you want to move up the management ladder, and tech society meetings are generally supportive environments for practicing these skills.

Volunteer for Your Kids' Schools

Schools often need help setting up and overseeing their technology, as well as helping teachers and kids use it. One great advantage of volunteering at the school your kids attend is that you get to know the teachers and administration better, and understand the challenges they face.

Volunteer for Projects You Care About

You can also bring your IT skills to nonindustry groups. Rather than contributing money to support a cause, contribute your IT skills. You can help a nonprofit upgrade its network, develop its website or write programs to analyze data it collected. Or spend time working with underprivileged youth, as a Big Brother or Big Sister. Let them see that technology is fun and open their eyes to the career opportunities. Using your IT ability to inspire someone else to dream of a brighter future may be the most meaningful contribution you can make on or off the job.

Why Background Checks are Vital to Your IT Company

Most IT employees don't handle money or credit card payments, so it may not seem obvious that you should do a background check before hiring them. But money isn't the only thing of value; your IT workers may have access to sensitive data, including customer information and intellectual property. Choosing the wrong employee puts that information and your company's reputation at risk. Background checks can help you evaluate prospective hires on the following criteria:

Are they honest?

Many people stretch the facts on their resume, and everyone tries to put the best light on their accomplishments. But it's important that the basics are correct – they really did earn the degrees they claim and they worked for the listed previous employers on the listed dates.

Will your other employees be safe?

It's your responsibility to provide a safe work environment for all your employees. This means you need to know whether a job candidate has a criminal record. Not all inappropriate behavior shows up in criminal records; a history of sexual harassment or drinking on the job are also relevant when making hiring decisions.

• Are they vulnerable to outside pressures?

Most threats to company security come from insiders, not external agents. Candidates who have financial problems may be more likely to be pressured into taking actions that expose company information.

In most cases, you can find the information you need from public records. Some information isn't public, and – depending on the sensitivity of the position – you may want to go beyond public records to have a thorough investigation conducted. Candidates for senior positions should certainly be fully vetted to avoid embarrassment, if nothing else. For most lower-level positions, public records will be adequate.

Be aware that state laws may dictate which records you are allowed to consider, and whether you are required to get the candidate's permission to conduct the background check. The purpose of a background check is to protect the company; be sure it's conducted properly to avoid endangering the company instead.

New Technologies

Do robots hurt manufacturing jobs? As with almost everything, it depends on who you ask and how you word the question. Since technology is continuing to develop – there are now robots that can learn new skills by watching videos on YouTube – understanding their impact on human society is becoming more and more critical.

Yes, Robots Hurt Manufacturing Jobs

Until now, robot workers have been able to perform limited functions that they're programmed for, but that's changing. A robot developed at the University of Maryland learns by watching YouTube videos. It's able to learn new fine motor skills, like cracking an egg, and turn that into a repeatable process. Another robot, created in Finland, was built with a neural network that let it improve its welding skills on its own.

Once robots are able to learn and effectively reproduce procedures without being programmed, they'll be able to move to new areas within the factory more easily. Not only will this hurt assembly-line workers, it will hurt the workers who've moved into robotics programming jobs.

 No, Robots Don't Hurt Manufacturing Jobs

Although there's no doubt that robots can replace manufacturing – Foxconn last year announced plans to replace iPhone assembly workers with robots – the overall statistics on the impact don't actually support fears of a robot takeover.

The loss of jobs in manufacturing in the United States is correlated with increased use of robotics, but there were many other economic changes that contributed to job loss at the same time, including globalization and offshoring of jobs. A recent study showed that Germany uses more robots than the U.S., but lost a smaller percentage of its manufacturing jobs. Other countries that use fewer robots than the U.S., such as the United Kingdom and Australia, experienced larger drops in manufacturing employment.

 Meeting the Challenge of Robots

The same study found that the biggest impact of robots on workers was for low-skilled workers. Improved vocational training may help workers remain employed. Still, as robots become smarter and more flexible, finding the balance between automation and employment will remain a challenge. 

Fact Check Resume

It's tempting to embellish your achievements on your resume. The whole point is to put forward a representation of you that gets you hired. You're expected to put forward information that presents you in a positive light, but don't take it to the point of making up degrees and lying about what you've accomplished.

The Internet Knows Everything

Even if your potential employer doesn't do a full background check, they're likely to do a simple Google search on your name. If the information on your resume doesn't match what they find on Google, that will send up a red flag. And even if you pay a reputation management firm to try to push negative information down in the search results, the information is still out there. It's better to prepare responses to the negative information that show you learned from the situation.

Character Counts

Employees want employees they can trust. The job may involve handling money; it may involve handling valuable intellectual property. In every case, companies need to believe you'll be honest and treat their money and property respectfully. There's no worse way to prove you're honest enough for a job than lying about yourself before you're even hired.

You Set Yourself Up for Failure

If you manage to nab an interview, but don't have the skills and experience claimed on your resume, it's not likely to go well. Employers are likely to probe to verify you have the knowledge implied by acronyms and buzzwords, and if you threw them in just to get in the door, you won't make a good impression. If you somehow manage to actually get a job that requires the skills you claimed, you're not likely to succeed on the job.

You Can Get Fired

Don't think you're safe just because you got the job and you're managing to perform okay. You can get fired for lying whenever the company finds out about it. 

You Hurt Yourself

Even if you fake your way through everything, get a job, and manage to succeed on it, you'll know it's all based on a lie. Protect your self-esteem and base your career on a solid foundation instead. If you think you need to lie about your accomplishments to get a job, there are other ways to buff your resume.

You can take training to get the skills you lack, or complete an academic program to earn that degree. You can prepare answers to questions about why you should be hired despite lacking a specific certification or skill. And you can network to meet and impress potential hiring managers in person, rather than meeting them as a piece of paper.  It's far better for you in the long term if you take more time to find a job you're really suited for, based on your actual achievements than to lie to take a shortcut.

Friday, Aug 21 2015

DHL Explores New Drone Technology

Written by

DHL Drone Technology

Package delivery sounds like a low-tech industry: carry a cardboard box from one location to another. But DHL is finding surprising ways that high-tech can transform the delivery industry.

Drone Delivery

Amazon made headlines when it received approval to test delivery via drones. The Amazon Prime Air service hopes to deliver packages within 30 minutes. But while the FAA just gave Amazon permission to test its drone delivery service this year,  DHL has already tested using drones to deliver packages in Germany. Drones were used to provide delivery service to an island which previously received deliveries by boat. While the flights were autonomous and there was a restricted area set aside for the drone project, a ground station monitored the flights and was ready to take action if needed. The ground crew also stayed in touch with air traffic control.

Google-Glass Packers

DHL worked with one of its clients, Ricoh, to use Google glasses to speed the process of creating packages. Instead of working with a paper order list and a handheld scanner to record the selected packages, the order picker can view all the needed info on the glass. Though it was only used for a limited time during a pilot project, the Google Glass-equipped employees filled orders more quickly and accurately.

Self-Driving Vehicles

There's no mention of whether Google's self-driving cars might help DHL deliver packages by truck, but self-driving vehicles might make it into DHL's warehouses in the form of self-driving forklifts.

Printing Products on Demand

In one vision of the future, delivery services aren't needed because home-based 3D printers will create products immediately upon purchase. For higher-end products that need better printers than households could afford, DHL has even considered warehousing high-end 3D printers to fulfill those orders.

High-Tech Software

The company is experimenting with high-tech software, too. The logistics business is heavily data-driven. DHL has plans to use big data to improve operations through optimizing delivery routes. Big Data may help the company improve customer relations by predicting customer behavior. It might also identify new lines of business by selling market intelligence to its customers.

Hadoop Lucrative IT

Big Data is big. The technology is now being used across all industries, from manufacturing to healthcare to even relatively low-tech retail and hospitality firms. The main technology behind Big Data, Hadoop is a framework that lets calculations on massive data sets take place on clustered nodes of inexpensive hardware, often in the cloud.

Big Corporate Commitments to Big Data

According to the research firm Gartner, more than 40 percent of companies they surveyed will invest in Hadoop development over the next two years. In the manufacturing industry, another survey showed big data was a priority for more than 80% of firms.

For many companies, one of the biggest stumbling blocks is a lack of familiarity with the technology and a lack of staff with the necessary experience. Because of this, developers with Hadoop skills are able to pull down big salaries – the average annual salary for Hadoop developers is more than $115,000.

Multiple Options for Companies Using Hadoop

Companies that sell big data products are trying to reduce the skills threshold in several ways. All vendors offer training, of course. Cloud providers including Amazon and Google offer Hadoop as a Service, letting businesses more easily spin up a Hadoop environment. These on-demand environments let companies dive right into the analysis that matters to them, rather than focusing on details like provisioning nodes and tuning clusters. Companies like Oracle provide pre-packaged analytics for specific industries.

Multiple Options for Developers with Hadoop Skills

All of that means that developers with Hadoop skills have lots of opportunity available to them, including working with a company implementing its own big data projects, a cloud vendor implementing big data environments on demand, and a packaged software vendor creating standard analytics reports.

Get Training in Big Data Skills

Developers who want to work with Big Data should get training in Hadoop, but that's not the only skill they need. Big Data depends on databases, and NoSQL is the chief database technology used. Although many Big Data developers will work with vendor analytics products, understanding data mining and statistical analysis is still necessary. Big Data developers should also have real familiarity with at least one of the vendor Hadoop as a Service offerings.

Currently, most big data opportunities are in geographic areas with large clusters of technology firms, like Silicon Valley, New York, and Seattle. As big data usage continues to spread, so will the need for its skills, meaning the opportunities will spread across the country.