Daily Tech Digest - October 31, 2023

Do programming certifications still matter?

Hiring is one area where programming certifications definitely play a role. “One of the key benefits of having programming certifications is that they provide validation of a candidate's skills and knowledge in a particular programming language, framework, or technology,” says Aleksa Krstic, CTO at Localizely, a provider of a cloud-based translation platform. “Certifications can demonstrate that the individual has met certain standards and has the expertise required to perform a specific job.” For employers, programming certifications offer several advantages, Krstic says. “They can help streamline the hiring process, by providing a benchmark for assessing candidates' skills and knowledge,” he says. “Certifications can also serve as a way to filter out applicants who do not meet the minimum requirements.” In cases where multiple candidates are equally qualified, having a relevant certification can give one candidate an edge over others, Krstic says. “When it comes to certifications in general, when we see a junior to mid-level developer armed with programming certifications, it's a big green light for our hiring team,” says Michał Kierul is the CEO of software company SoftBlue

Overseeing generative AI: New software leadership roles emerge

In addition to line-of-business expertise, the rise of AI will mean there is also a growing focus on prompt engineering and in-context learning capabilities. Databricks' Zutshi says, "This is a newer ability for developers to optimize prompts for large language models and build new capabilities for customers, further expanding the reach and capability of AI tools." Yet another area where software leaders will need to take the lead is AI ethics. Software engineering leaders "must work with, or form, an AI ethics committee to create policy guidelines that help teams responsibly use generative AI tools for design and development," Gartner's Khandabattu reports in her analysis. Software leaders will need to identify and help "to mitigate the ethical risks of any generative AI products that are developed in-house or purchased from third-party vendors." Finally, recruiting, developing, and managing talent will also get a boost from generative AI, Khandabattu adds. Generative AI applications can speed up hiring tasks, such as performing a job analysis and transcribing interview summaries.

Generative Agile Leadership: What The Fourth Industrial Revolution Needs

Expanding the metaphor of the head, heart and hands, I've developed eight generative agile leadership (GAL) principles; they are the structure needed to create resilient teams of happy, contributing people who amplify satisfied customers and deliver outcomes for a thriving business. ... The GAL principles come from Peter Senge's learning organization and Ron Westrum’s organizational cultures. The learning organization is an adaptive entity that expands the capabilities of people and the whole system. The generative model is a performance-oriented organizational culture to ensure that people have high trust and low blame to increase the ability to express new ideas. ... The great-person leadership style that emphasizes that leaders are made and not born will not age well in the 4IR. The human-centered generative leadership model is the best approach to leading the four generations. The GAL principles are rooted in the idea that leaders should help their employees grow and develop as individuals. Generative leaders focus on creating a learning environment and providing their employees with opportunities to reach their full potential.

IT Must Clean Up Its Own Supply Chain

At the end of our supply chain “clean up” exercise, we were pleased that we had gained a good handle on our vendor services and products. This would enable us to operate more efficiently. We were also determined to never fall into this supply chain quagmire again! To avoid that, we created a set of ongoing supply chain management practices designed to maintain our supply chain on a regular basis. We met regularly with vendors, designed a “no exceptions” contract review as part of every RFP process, and no longer settled for boilerplate vendor contracts that didn’t have expressly stated SLAs. We also made it a point to attend key vendor conferences and to actively participate in vendor client forums, because we believed it would give us an opportunity to influence vendor product and service directions so they could better align with our own. End to end, this exercise consumed time, and resources, but it succeeded in capturing our attention. Attention to IT supply chains is even more relevant today as IT increasingly gets outsourced to the cloud

‘Data poisoning’ anti-AI theft tools emerge — but are they ethical?

Hancock said genAI development companies are waiting to see how aggressive “or not” government regulators will be with IP protections. “I suspect, as is often the case, we’ll look to Europe to lead here. They’re often a little more comfortable protecting data privacy than the US is, and then we end up following suit,” Hancock said. To date, government efforts to address IP protection against genAI models are at best uneven, according to Litan. “The EU AI Act proposes a rule that AI model producers and developers must disclose copyright materials used to train their models. Japan says AI generated art does not violate copyright laws,” Litan said. “US federal laws on copyright are still non-existent, but there are discussions between government officials and industry leaders around using or mandating content provenance standards.” Companies that develop genAI are more often turning away from indiscriminate scraping of online content and instead purchasing content to ensure they don’t run afoul of IP statutes. That way, they can offer customers purchasing their AI services reassurance they won’t be sued by content creators.

SEC sues SolarWinds and its CISO for fraudulent cybersecurity disclosures

The SolarWinds case could act as a pivotal point for the role of a CISO, transforming it into one that requires a lot more scrutiny and responsibility. "SolarWinds incident highlights the responsibility of CISOs of publicly listed companies in not only managing the cyberattacks but also proactively informing customers and investors about their cybersecurity readiness and controls," said Pareekh Jain, chief analyst at Pareekh Consulting. "This lawsuit highlights that there were red flags earlier that the CISO failed to disclose. This will make corporations and CISOs take notice and take proactive security disclosure more seriously similar to how CFOs take financial information disclosure seriously." "There are many unknowns here; we don’t know if the CISO 'succumbed' to pressure from other leaders or if he was complicit in the hack," said Agnidipta Sarkar, vice president for CISO Advisory at ColorTokens Inc. "In either case, he is the target. But the reality is that the CISO is a very complex role. We are constantly required to navigate internal politics and pushbacks, and unless you are on your toes, you will be at the mercy of external forces at a scale no other CXO is exposed to."

Why adaptability is the new digital transformation

Sustainability and resilience are mature management disciplines because a lot of attention has been paid to developing strategies and implementing solutions to address them. When it comes to adaptability, however, apart from agile methodologies and adaptation as it relates to climate change, there’s very little to learn from in terms of the body of work, which is why I addressed this issue in “A Guide to Adaptive Government: Preparing for Disruption.” Adaptive systems and resilient systems are often confused and thought of as interchangeable, but there’s a vast difference between the two concepts. Whereas an adaptive system restructures or reconfigures itself to best operate in and optimize for the ambient conditions, a resilient system often simply has to restore or maintain an existing steady state. In addition, whereas resilience is a risk management strategy, adaptability is both a risk management and an innovation strategy. The philosophy behind adaptive systems is more about innovation than risk management. It assumes from the start, that there are no steady state conditions to operate within, but that the external environment is constantly changing.

Bringing Harmony to Chaos: A Dive into Standardization

Companies with different engineering teams working on various products often emphasize the importance of standardization. This process helps align large teams, promoting effective collaboration despite their diverse focuses. By ensuring consistency in non-functional aspects, such as security, cost, compliance and observability, teams can interact smoothly and operate in harmony, even with differing priorities. Standardizing these non-functional elements is key for maintaining system strength and resilience. It helps in setting consistent guidelines and practices across the company, minimizing conflicts. The aim is to seamlessly integrate standardization within these elements to improve adaptability and consistency. However, achieving this standardization isn’t easy. Differences in operational methods can lead to inconsistencies. ... The aim of standardization is to create smooth and uniform processes. However, achieving this isn’t always easy. Challenges arise from different team goals, changing technology and the tendency to unnecessarily create something new.

When tightly managing costs, smart founders will be rigorous, not ruthless 

Instead of ruthless, indiscriminate cost-cutting, it is wise to be very frugal about what doesn’t matter while you continue maintaining or even moderately investing in the things that do matter. When making cuts, never lose sight of your people. They’re anxious about the future, and you can’t expect to add more stress and excessive demands to already-stressed workers. ... The outright elimination of things like team lunches, in-person meetings and little daily perks creates instant animosity. Thoughtful cuts instead create visible and tangible reminders of the current environment, especially when considering how important in-person gatherings are to sustaining a robust culture in a remote work environment. Instead of quarterly in-person employee meetups, move to annual and replace the others with a DoorDash gift card and a video meeting. Curtailing all travel — both sales calls and team meetups — not only hurts morale, it allows justifiable excuses for missed targets, lost deals and churned customers.

A Beginner's Guide to Retrieval Augmented Generation (RAG)

Retrieval Augmented Generation is a method that combines the powers of large pre-trained language models (like the one you're interacting with) with external retrieval or search mechanisms. The idea is to enhance the capability of a generative model by allowing it to pull information from a vast corpus of documents during the generation process. ... RAG has a range of potential applications, and one real-life use case is in the domain of chat applications. RAG enhances chatbot capabilities by integrating real-time data. Consider a sports league chatbot. Traditional LLMs can answer historical questions but struggle with recent events, like last night's game details. RAG allows the chatbot to access up-to-date databases, news feeds and player bios. This means users receive timely, accurate responses about recent games or player injuries. For instance, Cohere's chatbot provides real-time details about Canary Islands vacation rentals — from beach accessibility to nearby volleyball courts. Essentially, RAG bridges the gap between static LLM knowledge and dynamic, current information.

Quote for the day:

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” -- Brené Brown

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