Maryland Puts Focus on Computer Science

One of the Indiana Chamber’s top legislative priorities for 2018 is to increase computer science (CS) requirements for K-12 students. In Maryland, several similar initiatives are taking place.

Governor Larry Hogan kicked off “Achieving Computer Science Collaborations for Employing Students Statewide” (ACCESS) just a few months after signing on for Governors for Computer Science, a partnership of state leaders that have committed to increasing access to K-12 CS education.

By executive order and proposed legislation, the governor hopes to improve job readiness for graduates and draw a more diversified workforce to computing jobs.

Currently, according to the governor’s office, Maryland has 115,000 CS-related jobs in-state, with almost 20,000 openings. Demand for CS workers is expected to grow by another 12 percent over the next decade. Yet, state colleges and universities graduated fewer than 3,000 CS majors in 2015, just a fifth of whom were female.

Maryland is home to several cyber-related federal government agencies and military installations, including the National Security Agency, the U.S. Cyber Command and the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence. The state has 1,200 private sector cybersecurity companies. And 17 Maryland universities, colleges and community colleges have been designated as national centers of academic excellence in cyber defense.

Governor Hogan’s Executive Order requested that the state’s Task Force on Cybersecurity and Information Technology study the development of pathways that meet targeted workforce needs in computing fields and identify new ways to promote gender and minority equity in the STEM and IT workforce. A report on the findings will be due in June 2018.

The governor also announced that he would support legislation during the 2018 General Assembly session to implement computer science standards statewide for K-12 students. The administration said it would work with the state’s teachers as well representatives from higher education and computer science organizations to develop those.

Additionally, the governor will be allocating $5 million to fund teacher professional development in CS and offer grants to districts and schools to create training models and equipment.

The governor also said his office would team up with Girls Who Code to launch the challenge, which would promote partnerships among state and local leaders, school districts, community organizations and industry to launch new clubs statewide. These clubs offer free after-school programs that allow female students in grades 6-12 grade to learn and apply CS to help their communities with the support of peers and role models.

‘Suit Up’ for IT Job Interviews

Sometimes it’s best not to imitate what you see on TV and the Internet (great advice, I know), especially when it comes to fashion choices for the workplace.

Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg is well-known for promoting his social media juggernaut while sporting hoodies or dark grey t-shirts. And those young technology creators in the new Samsung commercials are dressed down in jeans and t-shirts while discussing their “Unicorn Apocalypse” phone application.

While Facebook has been wildly successful and those creative geniuses look like they are having a blast deciding whether or not the unicorn zombies should have glitter in their manes (I couldn’t even make this stuff up if I wanted to) – it’s best not to expect a relaxed atmosphere when interviewing for IT jobs.

In fact, a recent survey from Robert Half Technology says IT professionals seeking a new job in Indianapolis should interview in a suit if they expect to be taken seriously. Almost half of Indianapolis chief information officers (49%, over the national average of 46%) cited a formal business suit as the appropriate interview attire.

If you don’t have a suit, khakis and a collared shirt were preferred with 34% of respondents; tailored separates were then preferred by 14% of the CIOs interviewed nationally. Only 4% of CIOs expected anyone to show up wearing jeans and a polo shirt.

Of course, the point is to let your skills and experience shine – so don’t overdo or try to be ironic by showing up in a tuxedo with tails or ball gown, either.

“Have You Tried Turning It Off and On Again?”

When you’re the poor sucker who gets stuck with the general newsroom phone line at a news organization, you get a lot of weird and wacky calls. Sure, you can be the first one to get the breaking news tips, but you’re also in for a world of crazy requests, silly questions and “great” story ideas.

During my term at the helm when I was a reporter for a local newspaper I got story tips on everything from giant and or oddly-shaped vegetables, to an old tree that got knocked down in a storm (believe it or not, I had to cover that last story). Sometimes it was just acting as a general knowledge base for a population of people that don’t have access to or don’t know how to use Google.

We all lamented our turn with the general tip line, but what I had never considered was that those who work in the IT and technical support field get screwball questions and requests every day as long as they are in the field. I should have realized this – my computer programmer husband to this day still gets funny requests from my family on how to fix their computers.

But it wasn’t until I read over a press release of a survey of chief information officers around the United States about some of the ridiculous requests and questions that I realized reporters have nothing to complain about; never once have I been asked, “How do I clean cat hair out of my computer fan?” or “Can you come over and plug this cord in for me?”

Here are some other doozies:
“How do I remove a sesame seed from the keyboard?”
“I need help drilling holes in the wall.”
“Can I turn on the coffee pot with my computer?”
“I dropped my phone in the toilet, what should I do?”
“How do I pirate software?”

These get even better:
“I’d like to download the entire Internet so I can take it with me.”
“How do I start the Internet?”
“Will you show me how to use the mouse?”
“My computer won’t turn on or off.” (The computer was unplugged in that case.)
“How do I send an e-mail?”
“How do I click on different files?”

Yes – these are all legitimate questions that have been asked by people across the country. It seems like there is still quite a digital literacy gap in the population, which requires patience and understanding by the IT or help desk support staff.

What questions have you heard others ask – or you yourself asked – of your IT staff? Chime in and see if you can beat some of those previously mentioned.

Keep it Lean

It seems EFFICIENCY may be the name of the game in 2011. Businesses are running lean at the moment, and looking to get the most out of their new structures. An e-mail release from Robert Half Technology explains the top IT jobs in the coming year will be geared around streamlining efforts.

Finding a job may be high on many professionals’ list of New Year’s Resolutions. To narrow the search for those in the IT industry, Robert Half Technology has identified the hottest IT positions for 2011.  Among them:

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Technical Developer – Base compensation for these professionals is projected to increase 5.2 percent next year. ERP enables organizations of all sizes to improve efficiency and cut costs. Since no two companies are alike, developers are in steady demand to customize software according to specific organizational needs.
Business Intelligence Analyst – Average starting salaries for business intelligence analysts will rise 5 percent. Companies need analysts who can guide decision-making processes in a constantly changing business environment, and help reduce costs and better evaluate internal and external clients.
Data Modeler – As firms analyze more complex data and create custom applications, they require skilled modelers who can design methods for handling, processing and evaluating material. Data modelers can expect base compensation to rise 4.5 percent over 2010 levels.

The common thread among these jobs is that they help businesses improve efficiency and profits, and foster a more positive customer experience.

TechPoint Awards Honor Tech-Driven Companies, Nominations Due March 8

Indiana’s life sciences and health care technology companies are among those that may be eligible for recognition at the upcoming Mira Awards, presented by TechPoint:

TechPoint, the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership’s technology and entrepreneurship initiative, is now accepting nominations for its 2010 Mira Awards.

The annual Mira Awards put a well-deserved spotlight on the state’s most successful technology-driven companies, in industries like information technology, advanced manufacturing, the life sciences, and logistics. Mira Awards are also presented in categories like health care technology, new media innovation and corporate IT (recognizing the achievements of the internal technology departments of our leading companies). 

Mira is the largest and most prominent awards program of its kind in Indiana; finalists and winners receive significant publicity and valuable exposure to the high-tech and business communities at large.  Visit for more information – nominations are due March 8.