Talent Development Centre

All posts by David O'Brien

Regional Job Market Update for Ottawa (October 2020)

Paul Morin By Paul Morin,
Division Manager, Ottawa at Eagle

While the National Capital Region continues to share many of the COVID-19 economic worries of the rest of Canada and the world, there are some positive stories. Early on, The Feds were able to impressively overcome some initial worries and adapted quickly so their entire staff could work remotely. Now, more than half a year into the pandemic, the IT job market in the Ottawa area has been stable for a few months.

Ottawa Job MarketMuch of the job market’s demand has to do with the growth that certain Federal Government departments are seeing as they play a key role in the country’s COVID-19 response — most notably Shared Services Canada, Canada Revenue Agency, Canada Border Services Agency, Employment and Social Development Canada, and Health Canada. Not only have these departments found themselves with new, unplanned projects to help the country cope with a situation nobody could have predicted, they have also been forced to fast-track several other implementations. For example, many departments are pushing forward on their implementation of M365 sooner than originally expected.

There are also signs that more is yet to come. Even the departments who aren’t growing head count now are using their downtime to put Supply Arrangements in place, ensuring that they’re prepared for staff augmentation as soon as they get the green light that things have ‘returned to normal’.

Competition through all of this is high and everyone is hungry. While the Federal Government is hiring, the overall economy in the region continues to be lower than usual. Those with skills in emerging technologies can still command top rates because the pool of resources is not as deep, but competition remains extremely high for most other IT positions. With more that 80% of our clients still having work forces working remotely, the candidate pool has opened to the province and even across the country.

Any client experience with emerging technologies continues to be the hottest skills sets and Cloud Architects are in high demand. We are also still seeing lots of requests for Systems Analysts, Testers, and Project Managers, and our private sector clients have lately been asking for resources with solid DevOps skills.

In addition to job market activity, job searching and hiring in Ottawa are seeing challenges comparable to other regions.  While candidates and clients are getting more comfortable with video conferencing for interviews as they adjust to working from home, it is not ideal. We are also hearing that when a new contract starts, consultants have expressed struggles in connecting and building rapport. It is not impossible to do so, but certainly is taking longer to develop team chemistry. Clients are seeing similar challenges with various stages of onboarding, but both sides are adapting as our ‘new normal’ continues.

Overall, the NCR has a similar story to tell as most other cities world-wide, but the benefit of being home to the Federal Government has certainly helped.  Their typical push for increased headcount in February/March is likely to start before Christmas to ensure people are in place to drive results in their 4th quarter. Stay tuned to our job board and be in touch with your Eagle contact for the latest opportunities in the NCR.

Regional Job Market Update for Montreal

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Senior Vice President, Business Development at Eagle

Panoramic Photo Montreal city fron Mount RoyalThe COVID-19 Pandemic and associated deep recession in Canada has made market,  job and employment reports a bleak exercise indeed. As GDP has shrunk substantially in Canada and in fact globally , employers shocked with an unanticipated event reacted initially by stopping hiring then, implementing layoffs, and finally followed by a” how do we survive” — more specifically “Are we prepared to compete in a fully digital marketplace?”

Quebec, and more specifically Montreal, was hit very hard and early by the pandemic. The unemployment rate in Quebec went from a near full employment rate of 4.2% in February to 14.2 % in May. We know from previous data that the technology unemployment rate is about half the general  broader unemployment rate.  The question is where did the Montreal tech job market go? Well, we know that at the same time the pandemic was raging through employment markets and economies, there was an incredible Big Tech rally that completely defies what was happening on the street. This added hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth to companies like Apple, Amazon , Microsoft and Ottawa’s own Shopify, which recently passed RBC as Canada’s largest capitalized company  worth $164B !

Montreal is one of 3 big Tech hubs in Canada, along with Toronto and Vancouver. We certainly saw this market resilience in Montreal as it was one of  Eagle’s busiest branches relatively speaking throughout the Pandemic. The city, while also hit hard early with the Pandemic, also led Canada in restoring some sense of the new “abnormal ” as it moved first to open the economy in Canada. With diverse sectors along with Tech, for example Telco, players in Montreal moved quickly and continued to hire what now was more generally available resources in an strategic effort to amp up their digitized commerce and service offerings.

We have seen now many organizations in Montreal and elsewhere take the event as a time to evaluate their digital strength and no doubt in time refocus on projects to ensure they are able to survive and thrive in an ecommerce world. In demand roles in Montreal include PMs, Full Stack and Application Developers , QA resources along with Security and Cyber resources.

The Federal Government’s Incredible Tech Accomplishment and What It Means for the Future

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Senior Vice President, Business Development at Eagle

The Federal Government's Incredible Tech Accomplishment and What It Means for the Future

Government projects can go off the rails, creep over budget, miss delivery dates, and result in both unhappy clients and vendors. Unfortunately, these are the IT stories that make the headlines over and over and yes, with projects like the Phoenix Pay system, they rightfully infuriate taxpayers everywhere, and nobody suffers more than the civil servants who miss cheques and spend countless hours “fixing” their pay. However, nobody ever hears of the many, successful and game changing Government projects that are implemented on time and within budget. They suffer media-wise from what I call the headline we never see “Plane Lands Safely” syndrome.

There have been a number of pandemic-related positive tech stories and we featured a selection of them on the Talent Development Centre. But perhaps there are none more impactful than that of the Federal Government’s ability to get benefits, most notably CERB and others related, in record time into the hands of many desperate Canadians as the economy screeched to a halt and layoffs mounted.

Hearing the stories from executives from both SSC and CRA about the incredible path towards getting benefits to Canadians in time of need in a record time, I feel the need to share that from an IT project implementation perspective, efforts like the CERB, wage subsidy and others would normally take at least 9-12 months. Instead in this case, they were mandated to be done in less than 3 weeks. These are just a few of the facts, stories and lessons learned in a huge government tech initiative that took place in people kitchens, basements and rec rooms, complete with the background sounds of dogs barking and kids crying as remote teams and resources got under way. The primary departments involved were SSC, CRA and CBSA.

  • Starting on March 13th, CRA had to work with partners like Cisco to get 20,000 then 40,000 and finally 60,000 employees plus many consultants secure remote access. Having just finished building the tax year platforms, they now had to build what they thought initially would be digital access to maybe 2 million people in 16 days.
  • With geography and workday in mind, work would begin early in the morning in the Maritimes, and then throughout the day to Ontario and Quebec, then the Prairies and BC, and back at night to workers in Ontario and Quebec. It was an all-out push to maximize effort.
  • With a primary team of 153 and many of their partners like IBM, Cisco, Oracle and many independent consultants, they would work in teams throughout the day with many meetings/calls focused on how to build system capacity to go from maybe 2 million people and then 4 million people. In reality, they had no idea how many would ultimately need to connect for the various benefits and subsidies.
  • 23 different war rooms with 124 people were set up for conference calls and meetings representing the different service lines from SSC and all the applications needed with a common but near impossible goal of going live by April 6th!
  • Teams would literally build all day and test all night, working 24/7 and leveraging infrastructure from CBSA, performance testing to see if they could break the system.

Many went 2 months without a day off, working 16-hour days to deliver the biggest ever government program in 3 weeks. All of his was done in the middle of tax season where they had just built and were releasing new functionality, and all the while figuring out how to get everyone working from home securely.

What were some of the lessons learned by senior government executives intimately involved in this massive effort that were shared?

  • People — both consultants and employees — partners like IBM and other vendors, as well as sister departments SSC, CBSA were fantastic and true partners and are absolutely critical to success.
  • They learned they had a LOT of processes they did not need and dropped, focusing on making progress, not on mistakes. In doing so, they realized what processes were truly essential and which weren’t.
  • Massive cultural changes around, of course, the ability to work from home and collaborate seamlessly. Perhaps as we look to the future, the Feds may open hiring across Canada to get the best, as opposed to focusing on centralizing everyone in Ottawa and commuting to an office tower.
  • Secure remote access is now mission critical for nearly 100% of the Federal workforce and budgets will be moved towards that.
  • For many involved, it was a transformational and eye-opening experience and the most rewarding work they had ever done in their careers. It might change government for the good in the longer term.
  • Flattening the organization led to good and more critically quick decisions, adding trust and autonomy without adding risk.

With a stable network and a full build in less than 3 weeks, the CERB alone saw 6000 applicants in the first minute on April 6th,1,000,000 applicants the first day and in the few days following over 7,000,0000 million Canadians receiving their emergency benefits in 3 -5 days!

A truly remarkable Federal Government IT project success story that needs to be heard. Perhaps now the story and headline is: “Full Plane with a Half Engine in Hurricane Atmospherics and Two Hands Tied Behind Their Back… Lands Safely”

Congratulations all.

Regional Job Market Update for Montréal, Québec

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Senior Vice President, Business Development at Eagle

Panoramic Photo Montreal city fron Mount RoyalThe Montreal IT job market continues to be one of robust demand anchored by some foundational, more traditional industries that are focused on software development, such as Banking, Telco, Aerospace and Transportation. This is augmented now by “sexy ” new technologies and industries in electronic gaming, digital media and a thriving AI hub. In fact, since 2018, Montreal has experienced the largest economic growth in all of Canada with a nearly 6% increase in job creation between 2016 and 2018, and high tech jobs are leading the way. Montreal is now firmly a top 5 spot for tech employment in Canada and the Conference Board of Canada predicts Montreal’s economic growth of 3% will lead major metropolitan cities in Canada this year. With a lower cost of living than both Toronto and Vancouver, the two biggest tech centres in Canada, Montreal looks to be poised to continue its growth.

A recent highlight in the Montreal job market is that Amazon Canada just opened its first Quebec-based distribution warehouse in Lachine, after the city failed to win the corporate pitch contest for Amazon’s second HQ.

As always, with the good come the unknown and success of the recent past will undoubtedly face headwinds both economically and politically. CN Rail, itself, with labour issues, has drastically reduced the number of IT contractors it uses in Montreal, long a top draw for IT contractors. Furthermore, with a new provincial government settling in, the CAQ has changed a number of immigration policies, especially for students, which was and is often a fast track avenue to bring much needed skills in to the labour market. With fears of recession in the overall Canadian economy as growth slows, certainly many of Montreal national employers will start to feel the pinch and that will no doubt affect those represented in Montreal. The question will become how clients respond. Typically, less than positive economic factors manifest detrimentally in permanent hire while they can be a positive for contract hiring.

In demand roles and technologies for Montreal include developers, both back-end and front-end, and particularly mobile developers with Android/Kotlin experience. .Net developers, as well as Security Analysts, BI Business Analysts and Big Data resources with Hadoop skills are all also expected to have high-demand in the coming months.

Regional Job Market Update for Ottawa, Ontario (August 2019)

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

Ottawa Job MarketWhile the Canadian economy shed over 24,000 jobs in July and the national unemployment rate edged up to 5.7% from 5.5%, the disappointment was not reflected in the Ottawa market (and let’s be sure to add context — these are still historically low rates of unemployment.)

The employment story in Ottawa for the same month was one of continued robustness, with the region adding 12,300 jobs in July, dropping the unemployment rate sharply from 5.6% in July to 4.8%. The local tech market along with the Federal Government continue to drive the market as both seek to fill positions in what is rapidly becoming one of the tightest technology talent markets in Canada. In fact, Shopify recently introduced an innovative program to attract “lapsed” developers, former developers who have taken more than two years off and are out of the market. The program will train them back up on the job — surely a sign of the times in an effort to attract talent.

With a pending Fall election, there is no doubt an expected slowdown in hiring, specifically net new IT projects with the Feds. That said, however, this summer has been one of the busiest experienced with numerous large RFP’s on the street and the Feds still forecasting to create 10,000 new jobs over the next 5 years.

TD Bank recently released a study that looks at the evolving inequality in the labour market as it relates specifically to technology and cities in Canada. We have asserted for some time that while the national unemployment rate is a healthy 5.2% to 5.9 % range, the “technology” unemployment rate is likely less than half that national rate at around 2.0% to 2.5%. The reality on the ground, however, is in major cities it is in fact closer to 0 per cent! The study shows that the 5 major centres in Canada of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa make up over 70% of the entire digital services employment in Canada, backing up the near 0% technology unemployment rate. With these kind of market forces in play, in cities like Ottawa, we can verify undoubtedly the scarcity of resources. It’s no surprise that Canada experienced the fastest clip in wage growth in a decade of 4.5%, up sharply again from 3.8% in June.

Recent global economic indicators have brought talk of a possible recession in the months and years ahead, as the long recovery cycle comes to an inevitable cooling off; however, it’s tough to fathom given the local technology market we see in Ottawa today.

In demand roles around the Ottawa tech job market this summer include Architects, IT Business Analysts, System Analysts, Programmers and Project Managers.

Job Searching Does Not Take a Summer Break

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

Job Searching Does Not Take a Summer BreakAs we approach the Canada Day Long Weekend — the unofficial but nonetheless highly anticipated and (for most of us) deserved kick-off to a Canadian Summer — many have vacations pending with beaches, camping, travelling and just relaxing our minds. But what of those who are looking for their next assignment, contract or permanent? How do we navigate vacation season for clients and colleagues alike while searching for our next assignment?

Summer can be a tough time to job hunt. Here are some observations to consider that hopefully help achieve both!

  • Clients still need to move projects forward and, in fact, contractors may align perfectly in helping augment down time for FTE’s
  • If you are looking for perm, yes it’s true many contacts and clients in HR will be away, but what better time to differentiate yourself? In being available to interview, your “competition” for roles may also be on vacation and unavailable, to your advantage.
  • If clients are away, use this downtime to network and actively expand your network. Having “coffees” and meeting people on a soft visit can be easier in the summer months. Prepare your elevator speech/pitch so that you are ready for anyone you meet in the summer. You never know who that right connection may be at a BBQ, golf course or party.
  • Update your resume to be “ready to go”. It’s also a good opportunity to update your skills with online or other available course and options, if you anticipate a break.
  • If you are going away, be sure you are accessible. Going totally off the grid can lead to missed opportunity allowing clients to move to the next candidate as hiring cycles are quicker.
  • Be upfront and communicative to your recruiters and prospect pipeline if you are going to be away (especially if you are in the interview process) and follow up as soon as you can on return. Hiring Managers tend to act fast in the summer to ensure they get approvals and can close open positions before they and their colleagues go on vacation.

The perception that organizations don’t hire in the summer months is a myth. Hiring today is critical and a 12-month-of-the-year activity, with very little down time built in. Don’t miss out!

Regional Job Market Update for Montreal, Quebec

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

After some sluggish months for the Canadian economy, April saw record numbers of jobs created not seen since 1976 with 106,000 new jobs, far exceeding economists’ expectations. Canada added over 426,000 jobs in the last 12 months and though many had forecast an imminent recession, it now appears that may not be in the cards. Perhaps more indicative of a better economy is a stronger wage growth component of 2.5% increase. Perhaps salaries are finally catching up with the increase in jobs and we’re seeing the effects of an overall tightening labour market.

Panoramic Photo Montreal city fron Mount RoyalAs we look at the Quebec Employment numbers, we confirm what we have seen both operationally and practically in the market. Quebec continues its run of strong labour numbers with the second lowest unemployment rate in the country (second only to BC provincially) and, at 4.9%, it’s over a full point lower than neighboring Ontario. Montreal continues to have a lower rate of unemployment than Toronto. Drilling down further, we know that the National rate of unemployment for technology hovers at less than half the broader rate, at slightly above 2%. However, in Technology Urban Centres like Montreal with a burgeoning Video game sector, AI sector and Financial sector it is likely very close to 0% which is what we at Eagle are currently seeing play out in the marketplace.

Canada has bet big on AI with centres in Toronto and Edmonton but Montreal also has a thriving and burgeoning AI ecosystem. In addition to the Federal funding in AI investment, the city benefits from a huge Province of Quebec investment, similar to what the Province  invested in attracting big video gaming players to Montreal. Swedish giant Ericsson, French Tech Consultancy Axionable and Samsung are just some the global giants to have recently opened AI accelerator/Labs in the city of Montreal. In addition to Montreal already being a North American gaming hub, clearly it is becoming an AI hub as well. Over the past couple of years, global behemoths Google, Facebook and Microsoft have set up shop in Montreal in the hopes of taking advantage of the much sought after talent developed as a result of these new thriving hubs and tech ecosysytems.

Traditional sectors such as Telecom, Financial Services and Aerospace who are already fighting to attract the talent they need now have to out-hustle these “sexy ” giants of tech industry. Talent in Montreal have multiple options and clients now need to be certain they are quick to hire, have compelling stories to sell, competitive salaries and are working hand-in-hand with their talent partners in what is now a very heated market.

Hot roles in Montreal include Mobile Developers, DevOps/Middleware, BI Specialists, Security Specialists and all things Java.

Regional Job Market Update for Ottawa, Ontario

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

As 2018 came to a close, the Ottawa Job Market in December saw the unemployment rate tick up to 4.9% after a fairly robust job gains in October and November. Technology did continue to be a bright spot, with more job gains in December, however, not enough to offset losses in other areas of our local economy.

Shopify LogoHarley Finkelstein, Co-Founder of the near $16B (with a B!) Ottawa-based Shopify, recently tweeted (@harleyf) about the outlook for Ottawa. The advent of new LRT, a booming startup ecosystem with lots of new angel investors, and the nearby natural beauty Ottawans have easy access to all seemingly underscore the steady but sure sense that the Ottawa Technology economy, while not the boom of the early 2000’s, has reason to be very excited about where things are going. We’re seeing a number of newly funded and burgeoning startups traverse across technologies, including AI, Blockchain, IoT, autonomous vehicles plus traditional software-based companies. While not the halcyon days of the Nortels/Corels of the very early 2000’s, there is certainly plenty for Ottawans to be optimistic about.

Ottawa Job MarketThe other big player in the local market is of course the Federal Government who have been on a steady hiring pace for quite a while. Large players like Shared Services Canada are hiring many IT contractors on a permanent basis to help them deliver technology services across Federal Government Departments. The past Quarter, and in fact year, has been a very busy one for IT Staffing agencies providing the government with the critical IT resources the Feds need to reach their Digital Government goals. The Federal Government is focused on moving more and more to cloud-based services and will need a lot of help from private sector to do so from Data Architects through Data Residency and Security. With the burgeoning Start-Up scene growing together with the many more mature technology sectors I have referenced, it is hoped the Feds will look to review and revise their contingent hiring practices to be quicker, cleaner and more efficient to continue to compete in the months and years ahead in Ottawa.

As the calendar turns over to 2019 and we look ahead, history will tell us that Election years tend to somewhat freeze hiring as ruling governments look to hold steady any technology project announcements. Visions of Phoenix Pay stories and in the headlines keep politicians up at night with fear, we will see if that is the case in the coming months.

Roles in demand in Ottawa currently include Front End Developers, PMs (including a need for Agile PMs for the Federal Government), Data Architects, Cyber Security, and Testers.

Changes are Coming to How the Federal Government Hires IT Contractors

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

Changes are Coming to How the Federal Government Hires IT ContractorsThe Federal government last reformed procurement around IT Professional Services over 10 years ago, introducing the supply methods Task-Based Informatics Professional Services (TBIPS) in December 2007 and Solutions-Based Informatics Professional Services (SBIPS) the following July ’08. TBIPS has by far been the most-used vehicle across the Federal Government to acquire IT contractors, with the last known spend figures being over $1 billion in 2016-17 and it’s expected to have topped $1.5 billion the following fiscal year.

Although the spend is significant, there has been a long-building uniform dissatisfaction with the evolution of TBIPS among ALL stakeholders — industry/suppliers, client departments and IT contractors. I currently sit as the President of the National Association of Canadian Consulting Businesses (NACCB). Over the last several years, the organization has been very active in working with the Feds in advocating real changes to the way the Government acquires IT contractors.  The overall objective is to create a process that is simpler, quicker, focuses on quality over price and most importantly, results in a better procurement outcome for Canadian taxpayers.

The Federal government has been receptive and have begun in earnest a full TBIPS Review Process, engaging all stakeholders and have assured us they are willing to put “everything on the table” in order to modernize what has become a very cumbersome and often dysfunctional procurement process.

It is our hope the new process focuses on the quality of IT professionals and away from the over-reliance on lowest price as the primary awarding criteria. After all, contractor quality is a function of both supply and cost. The current way in which TBIPS solicitations are conducted tends to have a negative impact on both supply and cost. At a very high level of generalization, when evaluations are based on lowest price or artificial median bid rates, it guarantees a low price. That in turn all but guarantees two things — a low quality resource and frequent consultant turnover.

When someone is looking to have their roof re-shingled, usually the lowest bid is also of the lowest quality, and so the same concepts hold true for professional services. You get what you pay for, and if the goal is to get someone at -20% of the median, which itself is an artificially downward-skewed measurement of “market rate”, then the result is predictable.

As to supply, the evaluation of solicitations typically takes so long that even if candidates that are bid were legitimately available at the time of submission, by the time the solicitation is awarded there is little chance that they are still available. The current process has created an environment, unfortunately, where unethical vendors are fully aware of the long evaluation process and can bid candidates solely to maximize score (they typically do not consider legitimate availability). When the solicitations are awarded, the candidates are not available and a backfill process must be initiated.

There a number of changes the NACCB strongly recommended that will serve to make for a far better procurement. For example, some of the significant and true process changes that will undoubtedly serve all interests much better include establishing a Vendor Performance mechanism to reward quality-based vendors over under-performing vendors focused on the lowest price only. As well, the elimination of paper only based grids (Ottawa is probably the only city in North America that sees 30,50, 80 page! resumes) and the implementation of a Skills Assessment/Interview both to assure resource availability and to truly vet skills as part of the process.

We know today there is a severe skills shortage that is expected to get more challenging in IT for the foreseeable future. The ability for the Federal Government to compete to acquire these resources will be imperative. Having an efficient, clean and quick hiring process will be critical to that competitiveness.

Regional Job Market Update for Montreal, Quebec

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

Panoramic Photo Montreal city fron Mount RoyalRecent data has shown that both the job market and job growth has slowed in Canada’s largest metropolitan centres, including Montreal. While Central Canada, including Quebec, has led the growth in the last year, with the exception of cities like Kitchener and Ottawa in Ontario and Sherbrooke in Quebec, that growth is slowing slightly.

This past year, Quebec, and specifically Montreal, has very much been a positive employment and jobs story in Canada with consistent unemployment rates below the Canadian average due to a strong economy. Underlying all this is a very significant labour shortage, plus an aging population and over 100,000 estimated positions currently going unfilled. In fact, the recent Quebec Provincial election featured the skills shortage and how to address it as a very prominent issue for all the parties.

Nowhere is this more an issue in Quebec than in the technology sector. There are 250,000 tech jobs in Quebec. In Montreal and Quebec City, the tech sector is the third largest private sector employer, behind traditional companies in Financial Services and Telecom. It is led by exciting companies in Artificial Intelligence and Video Game technology. Provincial subsidy programs have targeted job growth in technology and Quebec’s technology sector has essentially been at full employment for a very long time. Montreal is now recognized as one of the top cities in North America for AI talent.

The last several months, we at Eagle have seen a very strong increase in demand for both permanent and contract resources in our Montreal office and there is an almost acute shortage of candidates for most client requirements. Clients are and will continue to adjust to this new reality by speeding up their hiring processes, having more flexibility in their must-have and desirables requirements, and in working with their staffing partners to be sure their value messages to candidates are fresh and attractive.

Some of the most sought after roles in recent months in Montreal include Project Managers, Developers, Tester/QA roles, System Analysts and Business Analysts.