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NASA’s JPL Is the Only Agency on a New Top IT Employer List

By Brittany Ballenstedt // June 30, 2014

The the control rooms at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Dark Room in the foreground, Deep Space Network control room on the right and the Mars Science Laboratory Mission Support Area back left.
The the control rooms at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Dark Room in the foreground, Deep Space Network control room on the right and the Mars Science Laboratory Mission Support Area back left. // NASA file photo

Federal agencies looking to recruit, hire and retain top-notch information technology workers may want to take a lesson from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory: it was the only federal organization to make a new list of 100 top IT employers.

ComputerWorld’s 100 Best Places to Work in IT 2014 ranked JPL in 19th place in the large organization category. The Pasadena, Calif.-based research and development center touts an Innovating Together program, where IT staffers work with scientists and engineers on interesting projects. JPL also supports a mobile workforce, where employees are given the choice to work indoors or outdoors and choose from a range of mobile devices and computers. JPL IT staffers also are given every other Friday off.

Unfortunately, no other federal agencies made the top 100 list, beat out by organizations like Quicken Loans, USAA, LinkedIn and Noah Consulting.

Aside from common benefits like health care and paid time off, leading benefits offered by the top 100 companies were flexible hours, telework, wellness programs, college tuition reimbursement, and reimbursement for technology certifications. Other areas factoring into high employee satisfaction were career development opportunities, challenging work, performance awards and positive relationships with co-workers/supervisors.

Rankings are ...

Training Key to Federal IT Reform

By Brittany Ballenstedt // June 27, 2014

Lightspring/Shutterstock.com

As Congress moves forward on legislation to revamp how federal agencies buy and manage IT, the majority of federal IT professionals are pointing to one area that could help them make better, more-informed decisions around new IT: training.

A new version of the Federal IT Acquisition and Reform Act, which moved to the full Senate after winning committee approval Wednesday, would make new investments in training and development for IT acquisition personnel.

That’s good news, as a new survey by SolarWinds of 148 public sector IT professionals shows the majority of respondents (52 percent) believe better training would help them be more confident in helping their agency make informed, strategic decisions regarding emerging technologies.

That training would help fill holes in some areas where confidence is lacking among IT pros, the survey found. Most (66 percent) said they were only somewhat confident they could help their agencies make decisions on new tech, while 4 percent said they were not confident at all. Most (55 percent) are only occasionally called upon by their agencies to make those strategic decisions, the survey found.

But while confidence is lacking in making strategic IT decisions, agencies are still making new IT investments. Among ...

Mobility and Shrinking the Real Estate Footprint

By Brittany Ballenstedt // June 26, 2014

TATSIANAMA/Shutterstock.com

Federal employees will need to telework more frequently to realize a greater return on investment, and that may come in the form of reducing the real estate footprint and investing in hoteling and collaboration software. So why aren’t more agencies making those investments?

A report released last week by Mobile Work Exchange, VMware and Carahsoft found just 21 percent of agencies have invested in collaboration software, while a mere 15 percent have invested in hoteling software to support their mobile workforce.

“I’m hoping investments in hoteling software make a big jump because that’s where agencies will realize billions in savings,” said Cindy Auten, general manager for Mobile Work Exchange.

HR managers surveyed by MWE estimated more than 25 percent of their office space is unoccupied at any given time. By eliminating this unused office space in favor of a robust telework/mobility program, agencies could collectively save an estimated $15.1 billion on real estate per year, according to the report.

Doug Bourgeois, vice president for end user computing for the public sector at VMware and former CIO at the Patent and Trademark Office, said while agencies will need to boost the amount of hours/days employees ...

Twelve Agencies Seek to Hire Virtual Interns This Summer

By Brittany Ballenstedt // June 23, 2014

wrangler/Shutterstock.com

A dozen federal agencies have signed on to a virtual internship program run through the State Department that fields out special agency projects to American college students.

The Virtual Student Foreign Service eInternship program, which launched in 2009 by State and U.S. Agency for International Development, received 315 requests from federal agencies for e-interns this year, a record number compared to the 276 requests in 2013.

Five new agencies signed on to participate in VSFS this year: the Army Research Lab, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, NASA and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Last year, State and USAID welcomed participation from three other foreign-affairs agencies – the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the Agriculture and Commerce departments – as well as the Smithsonian Institution and the Education and Interior departments.

Agencies this year are putting more emphasis on digital, with projects focused on digital storytelling and training, visualizing and analyzing datasets and in-depth research, Bridget Roddy, program manager for the VSFS program, told Wired Workplace.

“VSFS is a key tool to drive innovation, support new initiatives and bring in fresh ideas and perspectives, all with zero cost to the participating agency,” she said.

The 315 projects available this ...

Tech Pros Demand Higher Starting Salaries

By Brittany Ballenstedt // June 20, 2014

vichie81/Shutterstock.com

Technology professionals know how valuable their skills are in the marketplace, so much that more are rejecting job offers and/or requesting higher salaries.

That’s according to the semi-annual hiring study by tech jobs website Dice.com, which found 32 percent of the 737 tech-focused hiring managers surveyed said more tech candidates are snubbing job offers, as compared to the beginning of 2014. Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) said candidates are asking for more money, as compared to six months ago.

That level of competition often means tech positions are going unfilled, as 59 percent of respondents said they left a position vacant based on salary guidelines for the job.

The good news for organizations is that fewer tech professionals are exiting their current positions. While one-third of respondents said more tech professionals were leaving their current jobs this year, that’s down from 42 percent who cited increased turnover in 2013, Dice found.

Still, the potential for rejected job offers and/or payment of higher salaries is not stopping organizations from hiring more IT pros. Dice found 70 percent of hiring managers intend to recruit more tech professionals in the next six months, as compared to the first six ...