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What The Pentagon Has To Do To Recruit Silicon Valley’s Nerds

By Patrick Tucker // Defense One // June 17, 2015

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Last week, Sen. John McCain took to WIRED to explain how various provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act, orNDAA, would help bring young tech minds to bear on the military’s various problems. “By removing barriers to new entrants into the defense market. By adopting commercial buying practices,” by adding protections for intellectual property and technical data that contractors develop at their own expense, the Arizona Republican wrote, the Defense Department will attract the services of fast-moving Silicon Valley companies and the people who work in them.

Meanwhile, Pentagon leaders are opening a satellite office next to Google headquarters, soon.

“One of the reasons that we’re establishing this new presence in Silicon Valley is to have a visual presence out there and get people to think about the DoD as a source of financing and as a potential customer,” Frank Kendall, the department’s undersecretary for acquisition, said at a recent lab day at the Pentagon.

Will all this be enough to draw the attention of the world’s top software engineers? If one were to judge from reader responses to McCain’s op-ed, optimism would seem unwarranted. One of the more polite comments read, “Why would a...

It’s a Fantastic Time to Graduate in the US as an Engineer or Computer Scientist

By Max Nisen // Quartz // June 8, 2015

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As billionaires and education advocates go back and forth on the value of a college degree, an in-depth survey (pdf) that the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) just released offers an early glimpse of how most (65%) of the 266,119 people who graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in the US last year are making out on the job market.

The class of 2014 is doing pretty well for itself, which should give some hope to the hundreds of thousands of American students who graduated over the past few months. More than 55% of the class is currently employed full time, and the average starting salary is $48,190.

Of course, within those headline numbers is a ton of variation. Salary and employment prospects differ pretty starkly. More granular data by sub-major is available at the NACE website:

Using full-time employment as a measure is a bit ungenerous to majors such as biology and the physical sciences, where a large number of students go on to get a graduate degree, but it does give a good sense of the job market overall.

A broader measure of a “career outcome,” which adds students employed in any way (including...

The Best Soundtrack for Productivity

By Olga Khazan // The Atlantic // June 7, 2015

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Now that more employers are transitioning to open-plan offices, workers increasingly get to enjoy all clacking of keyboards and yakking of their colleagues—sorry, “spontaneous collaborative input.”

In tandem with move away from cubicles and toward communal work benches, some offices have also started using sound-masking white noise in order to allay distractions, improve focus, and reduce the number of mutinies that can occur when someone overhears the same tired joke for the fourth time in one day. The idea is that this background noise can help make conversations unintelligible from several feet away, even when everyone is in one large room.

But researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute think they might have stumbled on a better solution. In an experiment, they sat 12 participants in an open office and asked them to do a task that required close attention. They tested the subjects while playing three different types of sounds:

Typical office noises (printers, typing, chatting) masked with standard machine-generated white noise.

The same office sounds, but masked with a more natural, flowing-water sound.

The same office soundscape with no masker.

Those who heard the “natural” sounds were able to regain focus much faster than those who heard either the...

There’s a Big Difference in How Men and Women Write Tech Resumes

By Max Nisen // Quartz // June 1, 2015

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The gender gap in the technology industry is enormous and entrenched. Diversity stats revealed by Google then a series of other companies showed that women make up only a tiny fraction of the workforce.

There are plenty of possible reasons, including unconscious bias and the smaller pipeline of female computer science graduates. But a textual analysis by a linguistics PhD published at Fortune points to another reason that some women might not get in the front door.

Kieran Snyder, the CEO of machine learning company Textio, collected 1,100 resumes of technology workers with varying levels of experience— half from men, half from women. Snyder found some pretty extreme differences in style. For one, women wrote much longer resumes—745 words compared to 414 for men.

They also tended to organize them differently. Women were much more likely to include an executive summary, and far less likely to present their experience in past jobs in a series of specific, verb-heavy bulleted lists. Women instead tended to summarize work at greater distance:

While it’s tough to draw too many conclusions without knowing more about these applicants, the reality of the enormous gap in the industry suggests that men are having...

NSA Creates 'CareerBuilder' for Spies

By Hallie Golden // June 1, 2015

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The National Security Agency is building a one-stop digital hiring portal for the entire intelligence community.

Between stiff competition with the private sector and hiring processes that can sometimes last a year or more, the intelligence community has been working on a steep incline when it comes to attracting top technology talent.

NSA wants to change this, the agency’s human resources director Kathy Hutson said in a recent Federal News Radio interview.

The hiring site is scheduled to launch in the fall, according to Hutson. The new site will include a job exploration tool for applicants and will enable them to upload unclassified text that can be sent into the agency’s classified network.

Agencies will likely also be able to assess and test applicants through the site, Hutson said.

“We’re really stepping into that more efficient space of, ‘How do we do this across the whole community, build a portal for everyone to come to,’” Hutson said in the interview.

So far, NSA has partnered with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Defense Intelligence Agency, according to Hutson.

This is not the intelligence community’s first foray into innovative...