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Among Best Federal Agencies to Work, NASA Continues to Soar

By Nextgov Staff // December 9, 2014

A NASA Orion capsule on top of a Delta IV rocket lifts off on its first unmanned orbital test flight from Complex 37 B at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Friday, Dec. 5, 2014
A NASA Orion capsule on top of a Delta IV rocket lifts off on its first unmanned orbital test flight from Complex 37 B at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Friday, Dec. 5, 2014 // NASA/AP

Last week, NASA’s Orion capsule launched into space on a test flight that could pave the way to a mission to Mars.

This week, the space agency continues to climb in the rankings of the annual “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government.”

Out of a score of 100 points measuring federal employees’ satisfaction and commitment to the job, NASA scored 74.6.

This is the third year in a row the agency was named the top place to work among large federal agencies.

The Commerce Department, which under the leadership of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, has made steps to free up the reams of data it generates to citizens and entrepreneurs, finished second among large agencies with a score of 68.7.

Rounding out the top five are the State Department, the intelligence community and the Justice Department.

Overall, about 43 percent of agencies improved in the rankings, compared to about 56 percent of agencies that saw declines.

Overall, the governmentwide score for satisfaction and commitment dropped for the fourth year in a row, to 56.9 points on the 100-point scale.

While a handful of the top agencies are known for their innovative practices -- and agency ...

How to Get Engineers to Work for You Instead of Facebook or Google

By Pete Soderling // Quartz // December 2, 2014

Brt/Shutterstock.com

It might seem self-evident that of course the best engineers in the world go to work for tech giants like Google and Facebook. Why should they go anywhere else? A small company operating from a studio apartment could never compete with Google’s unlimited free food or with Facebook’s gratis on-site barbershop, let alone the name brand cachet that goes along with working for an instantly recognized company.

But this mentality ignores a secret hidden in plain sight—these celebrity companies that offer crazy perks and huge bonuses started out as understaffed, underfunded David’s doing battle against Goliath’s in their own right. They are as much a part of bootstrapped startup culture as any other little guy out there today, because it’s built into their DNA. It’s where they came from.

You already have all the tools you need to recruit the best engineers for your organization. You just need a plan. These are the methods used by the little guys who compete (and win!) in the war for engineering talent.

Put your best and brightest engineers on public display

Good engineers only want to work with people smarter than they are, so show off ...

Government Tech Recruiting Still Overshadowed by HealthCare.gov Blunder

By Jack Moore // November 20, 2014

Todd Park, former chief technology officer of the US, prepares to testify on Capitol Hill
Todd Park, former chief technology officer of the US, prepares to testify on Capitol Hill // J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Todd Park left his role as White House chief technology officer nearly three months ago to help the government recruit top tech talent from Silicon Valley.

But his return to Washington this week for a grilling by the House Science and Technology Committee on his role in last year’s disastrous rollout of HealthCare.gov certainly couldn’t have been a boon to those efforts.

And that has Democrats on the committee concerned.

“I know people personally who have been contacted by Mr. Park, who he's trying to recruit – bright, young innovative stars from the IT world – to take a break from the multimillion contracts that they have in Silicon Valley and come out to Washington, D.C., and try to solve problems,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif, during the hearing Wednesday. “I cannot imagine that this [hearing] helps him make that case. In fact, this probably makes it much harder.”

Rep. Scott Peters, also a California Democrat, concurred, lamenting the sight of Congress “pulling people out of the bureaucracy and beating them up.”

Addressing Park directly, Peters said: “We have to be very sensitive about how we treat people like you and like those folks who can be ...

Developers, Want to Earn More Money? Learn Ruby on Rails

By Max Nisen // Quartz // November 20, 2014

ADE2013/Shutterstock.com

This post has been corrected

If you want to provoke an argument among computer programmers, ask them to pick their favorite coding language. But even more contentious in an environment where engineers literally have agents, is which is the most lucrative.

Quora threads on the subject have inspired dozens of essay-length answers debating the merits of C, Javascript, Python, and Ruby on Rails.

We looked at data, compiled by Burning Glass with Brookings Institution economist Jonathan Rothwell in July, from thousands of American job ads. We separated out programming languages from a broader list of tech skills we looked at in an earlier piece.

The dataset isn’t perfect, it’s missing newer but increasingly popular languages like Erlang and Haskell, likely because they don’t turn up all that frequently on job ads and resumes. A large number of the ads also don’t list salary. But this gives a good sense of what employers are paying for different languages:

There’s some pretty prescient advice on Quora for aspiring or early career computer scientists. Though a language currently in high demand like Ruby might get you the best salary, it might not be the best way to make ...

In the Workplace of the Future, Say Farewell to Your Desk

By Max Nisen // Quartz // November 18, 2014

Naphat Rojanarangsiman/Shutterstock.com

First they came for the offices, replacing four-walls-and-a-door situations with desks in cubicles, even for workers of considerable stature (paywall).

Now they’re coming for the desks themselves.

On both sides of the Atlantic, big companies are moving toward more flexible setups that do away with assigned workstations. The financial motivation to make the most of premium office space is primary. But another big driver now, and going forward, is mobility.

More people are working remotely now, creating workstation vacancies that irk the people paying the rent. But there’s more to it than that, according to Jennifer Busch, vice president of architecture and design at office furniture maker Teknion.

“It used to be that when you referred to the mobile worker you were talking about a person who works outside the office,” Busch tells Quartz. “Now you’re just as likely to be referring to someone that’s in the office environment, but they’re mobile because their technology has untethered them from their desk.”

Meanwhile, companies are becoming more conscious of the needs of different employees, according to Busch. Some people thrive on the energy of the open office (and it very likely is an open office) while ...