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Career Paths for IT Program Managers

By Brittany Ballenstedt // January 31, 2011

The Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management are looking to former federal chief information officers to help develop a new IT project management career path. FederalNewsRadio.com reports that OMB and OPM held a brainstorming session on Jan. 21 with about 30 industry executives who are members of TechAmerica and IAC.

"They were interested in hearing about the notion of new GS-series and wondering what it should look like, such as the difference between project and program management," one official who attended the meeting told FederalNewsRadio. "It really focused on practical matters. Should it be someone with IT knowledge? Should the person be a mission expert?"

In December, federal CIO Vivek Kundra unveiled a 25-point implementation plan for reforming federal IT, which called on OPM to take steps to significantly enhance the supply of IT program managers, including creating a career path to attract and reward top performers.

Wanted: More Techies

By Brittany Ballenstedt // January 28, 2011

Has the two-year federal pay freeze left you looking for other job opportunities? The annual salary survey released by Dice.com last week indicated that 40 percent of federal and private sector technology workers believe they can make more money if they change employers in 2011. And Fortune magazine just released its list showing which of its "25 Best Companies to Work For" are hiring.

NetApp, which ranks fifth on Fortune's list, has 350 positions open for software engineers, while Cisco, which ranks at number 20, has 407 jobs available for software engineers as well as other jobs in IT. Intel also has 250 positions available for software engineers, and Deloitte is looking to hire 30 enterprise data managers in the next 30 days. Other open positions include computer scientists at Adobe Systems, software developers at Microsoft, and IT and cybersecurity specialists at Booz Allen Hamilton.

Meanwhile, Google announced this week that it plans to hire more than 6,200 new workers this year, with a strong emphasis on recruiting for computer engineering, computing, telecommunications and media positions.

With such strong demand for tech workers, the federal government may face an uphill battle in recruiting, hiring and retaining this ...

Make a Telework Pledge

By Brittany Ballenstedt // January 27, 2011

With snow forcing federal agencies in the Washington area to open two hours late on Thursday morning, it seems like a perfect time to talk telework. Last month, the Office of Personnel Management announced a new policy that permits more employees to work from home during severe weather. The new policy adjusts the status previously known as "open with unscheduled leave" to "the option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework," allowing employees with telework agreements to choose to work outside the office rather than use personal leave.

Did you telework on Thursday as a result of the new policy? What are your thoughts?

Meanwhile, in an effort to promote the benefits of teleworking, the Telework Exchange is calling on federal agencies, organizations and individuals to participate in Telework Week, which runs Feb. 14-18.

The Telework Exchange hopes the weeklong effort will show the benefits of teleworking -- such as increased workforce productivity and commuter cost savings -- particularly in light of a new law that requires agencies to develop telework policies and expand the number of employees eligible to telework. As of Thursday, 5,852 pledges had been made on the Telework Exchange's website.

Want to make a pledge to telework ...

Reorganization, IT & Your Job

By Brittany Ballenstedt // January 26, 2011

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, President Obama made a pledge to reorganize the federal government and make it more efficient, competent and affordable, a goal that will undoubtedly require a major focus on information technology.

"We can't win the future with a government of the past," Obama said. "We live and do business in the Information Age, but the last major reorganization of the government happened in the age of black-and-white TV."

At the same time, Obama paid tribute to the strides federal agencies have made in using technology to reform government and eliminate waste, such as enabling veterans to access their medical records electronically. "In the coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America," he said. "I will submit that proposal to Congress for a vote, and we will push to get it passed."

How would you reorganize the government to make it more efficient, competent and affordable? And how might such a goal change or refocus your job as a federal IT worker?

Telework Lessons Learned

By Brittany Ballenstedt // January 25, 2011

The new telework law is sure to change the way federal agencies do business, and there are undoubtedly some challenges ahead for agencies in effectively implementing the law. The IBM Center for the Business of Government has released a new study that looks at four agencies that already have started teleworking and offers practical advice to agency leaders tasked with implementing the new law.

For the study, IBM developed case studies of telework programs at four agencies: the Defense Information Systems Agency, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Patent and Trademark Office and National Institutes of Health. One thing rang true at all four of the agencies studied: management resistance is often the biggest barrier to telework.

Susan Boosinger, work-life program manager at the FDIC, told IBM that she anticipates management resistance will significantly decline in the next five to 10 years, when telework will become a mainstream practice. To overcome this resistance, agencies should put robust training programs in place for employees and managers, Boosinger said.

Agencies also should develop a comprehensive telework plan by July 2011 and develop clear, written telework policies and agreements, IBM noted. Agencies also must develop effective measures of performance and focus on managing for results ...

Federal IT Pays Premium

By Brittany Ballenstedt // January 24, 2011

Federal information technology workers earn slightly more pay than their counterparts in the private sector, new salary data suggests.

Dice.com's 2010-2011 salary survey found that while average salaries for federal IT workers stayed relatively flat in 2010 -- down just 0.1 percent to $83,292 -- they're still higher than the overall average salary for tech workers, which was $79,384 last year. Average pay for federal IT workers also is up significantly since 2005, when average federal IT salaries were $69,078, according to Dice data.

"Even though the trend is relatively flat, government and defense workers are better than average in terms of their salaries," Tom Silver, senior vice president at Dice, said Monday.

Still, as the economy recovers and federal IT workers face a two-year across-the-board pay freeze and the potential for other budget cuts, the government could lose some of its competitive edge with the private sector for IT talent, Silver said, pointing to Dice's research that shows 40 percent of tech pros overall think they can make more money if they change employers in 2011.

"Market conditions are improving, and perhaps the private sector is going to do a little better than ...

A Five-Year Pay Freeze?

By Brittany Ballenstedt // January 21, 2011

A proposal unveiled late Thursday by the Republican Study Committee includes many reforms that would impact the federal workforce, including one that would extend the current federal pay freeze from two years to five.

The plan -- the Spending Reduction Act of 2011 -- would cut the civil service by a total of 15 percent through attrition. The bill would allow the hiring of only one new worker for every two workers who leave the federal government until the 15 percent reduction target has been met.

The bill also would eliminate automatic pay increases for federal workers for the next five years and prohibit federal employees from serving as union officials on government time.

The news comes just days after the Partnership for Public Service released a report urging federal agencies to ramp up their retention programs and strategies in order to retain top-notch workers who may leave or retire due to the two-year pay freeze and other budget cuts. What impact would these new workforce cuts and a five-year pay freeze have on workers' willingness to stay in their jobs, particularly as the economy recovers? Would agencies be able to do enough to retain them?

NSA Targets Tech-Savvy Workers

By Brittany Ballenstedt // January 21, 2011

The National Security Agency is using high-tech tools to recruit tech-savvy IT and cybersecurity professionals. The agency announced last week that the new tools, which include smartphone tagging and a job search application, are designed to support NSA's largest hiring effort in recent years.

The NSA Career Links application delivers real-time NSA career updates, such as information on employment opportunities, career fairs and agency news, directly to a user's smartphone. Users also can view videos highlighting NSA employee experiences. Another tool features smartphone tagging on many of NSA's print advertisements. Job hunters can use their smartphones to scan these tags, which will launch a video related to the advertisement's content.

"This fiscal year for us is going to be a tremendous hiring year. We are looking for people in the science, technology, engineering and math skill fields," said Kathy Hutson, associate director for human resources. "We are using a variety of marketing tools from traditional marketing tools like billboards to our newest digital recruitment tools. Our need for these skills is enormous; therefore, we need to be using cool high tech tools."

IT Salaries Nearly Flat in 2010

By Brittany Ballenstedt // January 20, 2011

If you're a federal information technology professional who's disappointed about the two-year across-the-board pay freeze, rest assured: Private sector IT pros have endured a second straight year of nearly flat salaries, according to a new survey by Dice.com.

Dice's 2010-2011 annual salary survey found that technology salaries increased by an average of only 0.7 percent, to $79,384, last year. Nearly half of those surveyed (49 percent) received salary increases in 2010, compared to just 36 percent who saw raises the previous year. Twenty-nine percent received bonuses, up from 24 percent of respondents in 2009, the survey found.

Even with the marginal average increase, however, tech professionals expressed slightly more satisfaction with pay, with 50 percent somewhat or very satisfied, an increase of 4 percent over the previous year. Still, nearly 40 percent of tech professionals believe they can make more money if they change employers in 2011.

For those entering the IT field, however, it appears wages have been reset lower, Dice found. For the second straight year, average salaries of IT professionals with less than two years of experience have declined to 6 percent below their peak average wages in 2008.

Technology professionals ...

Retaining Top Talent

By Brittany Ballenstedt // January 19, 2011

Agencies should ramp up efforts to retain newly hired and experienced workers, particularly in light of federal budget cuts, a two-year pay freeze and a potential hiring freeze, a new report suggests.

The report, released late Tuesday by the Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton, noted that while overall attrition has remained low in recent times, a two-year pay freeze and the potential for more cuts could prompt workers to seek other job opportunities or retire. This means that keeping the right talent is potentially more critical than ever for federal agencies to perform at a high level and meet the needs of the American public, the report states.

The report is the second installment of a two-part series focused on attrition and retention. The previous report, which was released in November 2010, found that the federal attrition rate was low and therefore not considered a matter of urgency by agency leaders. In fiscal 2009, for example, the attrition rate was 5.85 percent, down from 7.6 percent the year before. This rate is lower than that of the private sector, which was 9.2 percent in 2008.

But those attrition figures do not hold strong for ...