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The New (and, likely, persistent) “Normal” — Constrained Labour Supply — Opens New Opportunities for Canadian IT Contractors

The New (and, likely, persistent) "Normal" -- Constrained Labour Supply -- Opens New Opportunities for Canadian IT Contractors

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President Strategic Accounts & Client Solutions, Western Canada at Eagle

I’m just going to come out and say it… Unless there is a global economic melt-down, tight labour supply is here and it’s here to stay. If you already believe this to be so, stop reading and spend your valuable time on another blog post as I’m just going to re-affirm your convictions. If you aren’t sure about this (or are one of those people who really enjoy having their convictions re-affirmed), then by all means… read on!

With respect to the “baby-boomer-retirement-leaving-a-shortage-of-workers” scenario, this has been predicted for decades, and the United States appears to have hit their tipping point this past year. Yes, their economy is strong but it is more than that; they are at 50-year lows in unemployment rate (another ½ point lower and they’ll be at 70-year lows). This is a measure of broad-based employment – not just technical (or even professional) roles, its pretty much across the board. However, in tech, it is even worse. There are more job openings than there are people in the space needed to fill them. In my last blog post for Eagle’s Talent Development Centre, I discussed the growing “skills gap” but this isn’t what I’m referring to here (although the skills gap is part of it). There are more open roles in IT in the USA than there are IT people looking for work, regardless of the skills gap (the fact that the skills gap exists just makes the issue a whole lot more impactful). Industry followers have predicted that fully 1/3 of the US’ open IT positions may go unfilled. Because of this, the US is exporting their shortages to the rest of the world by either opening new offices in other countries, having foreign workers move to the US to work or, more often, hiring remote workers who can complete their jobs in their current country of residence.

In an article posted by CIO Dive, they discuss the severe shortages for Cloud experts. They suggest that Cloud specialists aren’t even answering their phones anymore as they are getting 20+ calls every week about new opportunities. The solution for filling these roles, the article suggests, is to hire based on attitude and aptitude and train what is needed. Interestingly, this article could have just as easily been written about some other IT technology and still remained valid — replace Cloud with AI, Blockchain, CyberSecurity, Data Science, Big Data Analytics or any number of other “hot technologies” and the message would still hold true. A shortage in labour is the new normal.

What are IT consultants, employees and contractors to do with this information? Well, it certainly will put more power in your hands to choose the roles, projects and companies that you want to work at. And you may find yourself and your staffing company partner in a better position to negotiate rates on your behalf. But as I wrote in my previous blog, other aspects of the opportunity are sure to become more important in your decision making. The following attributes may hold greater weight when applicants make their own, personal decisions as to what constitutes “premiere assignments”:

  • Strong corporate mandate/message/culture… matching your own morals and philosophies
  • Flexibility… work/life balanced offered and/or having the ability to complete remote work
  • Team Dynamics… fitting in with the existing team, their approach and practices
  • Is the project set up for success?
  • Leading edge technology or approaches leveraged by the company… learning something new and keeping your resume current
  • In the same vein as the point above, are training and/or certifications offered by the company that is doing the hiring?
  • Work environment perks… free snacks, catered lunches, bring pet to work, etc.
  • Will the project allow you to “make a difference”? Is your work truly impactful?
  • Tuition reimbursement… typically a perk offered to permanent hires at some companies, but as supply tightens, this may become more common!

Some of these attributes or “perks” are mostly seen in the permanent hiring of employees; however, as supply becomes even more constrained and companies look to increase their competitiveness for resources, it is likely that some of these (or perks similar to them) will make their way into the “offer-package” for gig jobs as well.

This all sounds pretty good, but if you are on the wrong end of the skills gap, this blog post may ring hollow. It is a difficult position to be in when you no longer have what companies are asking for… but people who choose to make their career in the tech-industry understand that life-long learning and re-training is a necessary part of keeping relevant. And, as mentioned above, companies will begin to hire people based on their aptitude and core-skills and train the rest. Keeping up with your networking, building relationships with multiple recruiters, and staying “in the loop” will also be critical to maximizing your exposure to new opportunities.

By embracing change and closely following the latest tech-trends, a career in technology will be rewarding and, with long-term labour supply constraints, you may find more opportunities for meaningful work and an environment that really fits your personal and professional needs. The future is bright — there may never have been a better time to be a contactor!

Outside-the-Box Job Interview Tips

Getting called in for a job interview is a good sign. It means your qualifications on paper are strong enough that a recruiter or client believes you’re worth meeting in-person. You’ve already beaten out dozens, possibly hundreds, of other applicants and now your job is to prove to your interviewer that you’re also better than the other applicants they’re meeting.

Strong answers and good technical knowledge about the project are going to help you succeed in the job interview, but let’s face it, any good IT job candidate will do the same. You need some unique strategies to set yourself apart, and this infographic we found from Forbes might be your ticket. They recommend ideas that few job seekers follow-through on:

  1. Go Beyond the Homepage
  2. Use Google Alerts
  3. Aim for 10:30am Tuesday
  4. Craft your Story Statement
  5. Wear a Fashion Statement

All of the details are below and, while doing all of them still won’t guarantee your job interview success, they will definitely help you stand out in the crowd.

Good luck!

Outside-the-Box Job Interview Tips

Quick Poll Results: How much coffee are IT contractors drinking?

For many, a cup of jo is the perfect solution to wake-up, refuel, relax, socialize, or warm-up. Just the aroma of fresh coffee beans can bring peace to some people. According to CoffeeBI, Canadians drink an average of 3.2 cups of coffee per day, going through about 3.9 million 60kg bags each year! That’s a lot of coffee

In last month’s contractor quick poll, we asked our audience, comprised mostly of IT contractors, how much coffee they drink in an average workday, so we could compare our industry to Canada’s national average. It turns out, on average, our readers are below the national average.

Quick Poll Results: How many cups of coffee do you drink each day?

Contractor Quick Poll: Do you swear at work?

Do you have the mouth of a trucker at work? Do you curse like a sailor? Do you drop f-bombs like they’re going out of style? You’re not alone! And, in fact, some scientific studies show that swearing at work is not only acceptable, but encouraged!

We shared some articles last Summer about swearing in the workplace and the implications it can have on your career. Now, in this month’s contractor quick poll, we want to know how often you curse in a professional setting. Obviously, we’re not referring to formal situations like job interviews or client meetings, but in your everyday dealings with projects and colleagues, how frequently do you use foul language?

Regional Job Market Update for Calgary, Alberta (January 2020)

Kelly Benson By Kelly Benson,
Branch Manager at Eagle

Regional Job Market Update for Calgary, Alberta

While the employment numbers were relatively strong across the country in 2019, Calgary’s recovery remains frustratingly slow.  Our city still faces many of the same challenges with low oil prices, limited markets for our resources, low consumer spending and too high unemployment rates.  The good news in all of this is that many of our clients are now focused on looking forward with an optimistic belief that the biggest challenges are now behind us.

We are so used to hearing about all the things that are not going well, that it often puts a damper on the things that are going well.  When we look for positive narrative, we see a lot of great things happening in our city and much of the positive news is in the IT and Tech space:

Tech job activity has been steadily increasing over the past few years and a lot of that is being driven by a shift to digital.  With digital transformation, the definition of a career in IT is also shifting.  The result is that tech jobs are on the rise and we continue to see demand increasing for tech roles in non-tech companies.  Afterall, the banks no longer employ primarily bankers and energy companies employ far more than just geoscientists.

No longer do we only think of the big tech companies when we think of Data Engineers and Software Developers. More and more of our big corporate clients are developing their own internal Innovation Labs where they are experimenting with leading-edge technology including Advanced Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain.

The biggest challenge for business in Calgary is that the demand for good tech talent is high.  Many of our largest clients are embarking on similar journeys at the same time, which is creating temporary skills shortages.  Because Calgary lagged other markets in new technology adoption, the availability of talent experienced in the newer technology is lagging and we are being forced to look for talent outside the city to get access to certain expertise more often than we would like.

At Eagle, we have seen demand for IT talent steadily increasing over the past year that is combined with a steady decrease in the number of active job seekers applying for roles.  More work available.  Less people to do that work.  Doesn’t that sound like a good problem to have?  It depends who you ask!  The talent supply and demand gap is getting wider and is a top concern for executives.

Where is the current demand in Calgary?

  • SAP S/4HANA
  • Data Analytics/Data Engineering
  • Data Science
  • Development – Java (React/Angular/Node)
  • ServiceNow
  • Cloud expertise–AWS, Azure

Your Client’s Workplace is Toxic — Time to Get Out!

Your Client’s Workplace is Toxic -- Time to Get Out!

Professionals often go into the gig economy to work for themselves because they don’t want to answer to a boss or manage employees. IT contractors know that, although their company and decisions are their own, they still need to answer to a client and, more dreadfully, work with their employees and put-up with their office shenanigans.

Most client workplaces are great. The weird employees, freeloading team members and awkward individuals will always exist, but for the most part, the environments are bearable and you’re capable of delivering on your requirements. Then, there are those other client sites. The toxic workplaces where nobody is happy, you can’t get anything done and, and it starts to take a toll on your mental health.

How can you tell if you’ve joined an IT project team that’s part of a toxic work environment? There are a number of common signs, many of which are summed up well in this Inc. article. Generally, you’ll notice that a toxic office has low energy and motivation among all the employees. They might seem happy and agreeable, but when you pull back the curtains, you notice that people are gossiping about each other, working in silos and cliques rather than teams, and having unofficial sidebar meetings.

Once you’ve been at the client site for a little longer, additional signs start to pop-up. The lazy people are still getting away with murder, others are getting promoted based on no merit whatsoever, and the few people who were an asset to your project slowly start to leave.

Now the bells are going off and you realize that there is no way you can be successful in an environment like this. Regardless of your experience as an IT contractor, there’s only so much you can do to make technology projects succeed. If the organizational support is not there, you’re sure to crash and burn, and your reputation will take a hit. So, what do you do?

Don’t Give-Up Too Easily

If the contract doesn’t have much time left on it, keep your head down and focus on your deliverables without getting sucked into the drama. Working from home when possible and avoiding the toxic individuals will help.

Cover Your Bases

You also need to think of self-preservation. An environment like this means employees are going to throw you under the bus whenever possible, so you need to be prepared. Document all your work and conversations. When somebody tries to point the blame your way because they didn’t complete a task or messed-up a deliverable, your notes and emails might be your only saviour.

Keep Your Recruiter in the Loop

Staffing agencies bring value to IT contractors in several ways, one of which being that they help you navigate these situations. Let your recruiter know that something’s sour in the environment as soon as you notice it so they can help you find solutions. Most importantly, be upfront if you think leaving might be the only option, providing plenty of notice. This popular post by Morley Surcon includes tips on how to leave a contract early, if it’s absolutely necessary.

A toxic work environment is a brutal place to have to spend 40 hours a week, but unfortunately, they exist across all regions, in all industries. If you find that yourself in one when you start your placement, act fast by either developing your plan to adjust and succeed, or preparing an exit plan that keeps your integrity intact.

IT Industry News for December 2019

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee, Co-Founder of Eagle

This post first appeared on the Eagle Blog on January 9th, 2020

Tech News HeaderThis is my 30,000-foot look at events in the Tech industry for December 2019. What you see here is a précis of the monthly report I produce, which will be available in more detail at the News section of the Eagle website, where you will also find back issues.

A Little History of previous year’s Decembers …

Five years ago, December 2014 had the political and technical ramifications of “the Sony hack” causing uproar, some very positive economic indicators out of the US and some big names making acquisitions, albeit not huge deals.  Microsoft made two acquisitions, the $200 million purchase of mobile email app startup Acompli and mobile development company HockeyApp (which has nothing to do with hockey).  SAP bought travel and expense management company Concur; Intel bought a Montreal-based identity management company PasswordBox; Oracle bought digital marketing company Datalogix; Teradata bought data archiving company Rainstor; and MongoDB bought high-scale storage engine company WiredTiger.

In December 2015 M&A was quiet but there was some interesting activity.  The big deal saw Canadian telco Shaw make a big play into the cellular space with its proposed acquisition (subsequently approved) of Wind for $1.6 billion.  Meanwhile Rogers was also out shopping and growing its Maritimes presence through the acquisition of Internetworking Atlantic Inc.  Other deals in December were not large but did feature some of the big players.  Oracle bought Stackhouse a cloud company with a specialization in “containers”; IBM boosted its video in the cloud capabilities with the purchase of Clearleap; and Microsoft picked up a mobile communications company, Talko.  Other deals saw Ingram Micro buy the Odin Service Automation business from Parallels and in the storage world Carbonite bought Evault from Seagate.

Three years ago in December 2016 Adecco sold its majority stake in Beeline VMS to GTRC, Uber logoa private equity firm, for $100 million in cash plus a $30 million note; CRN solution provider SS&C purchased asset service firm Conifer for $88.5 million; solution provider QRX Technology Group acquired IT equipment provider Kerr Norton; networking solution provider, Juniper Networks acquired cloud operations management provider AppFormix; Uber bought start-up Geometric Intelligence Inc.; and Shopify acquired Tiny Hearts, a Toronto-based mobile product development studio.

December 2017 saw Atos enhance the footprint of their IT Services firm by paying $5 The apple logo and apple with a bite out of itbillion for Gemalto.  Apple were busy, paying $400 million for music recognition app Shazam, plus they invested $390 million into optical communications components company Finisar.  Finally, in a relatively quiet M&A month Ingram Micro increased its data protection capability through the purchase of Cloud Harmonics.

Last year December 2018 saw IBM sell off a portion of their software portfolio to HCL for IBM logo$1.8 billion.  Cisco paid $660 million for optical chip company, Luxtera; and OpenText paid $310 million for data management company Liaison Technologies.  In other deals, Google bought “where is my train” app company, Sigmoid Labs; Corel bought desktop virtualization company Parallels; Trello bought Butler, whose product is a popular addition for Trello users; Kaseya bought IT documentation company IT Glue; and GE continued its restructuring efforts by spinning out its IoT subsidiary and selling its interest in Pivotal.  Finally the end of December was the beginning of Dell’s return as a public company.

Which brings us back to the present …

December 2019 saw some big dollar deals in the M&A world with the biggest seeing Intel logoLogMeIn sold to private equity for $4.3 billion.  Intel shelled out $2 billion for AI chip company Habana Labs; and F5 Networks paid $1 billion for Shape Security.  In other deals Solarwinds paid $175 million for VividCortex; NTT picked up AWS company Flux7; Fortinet bought Cybersponse; CheckPoint Software bought security company Protego; Acronis bought security company 5nine and Opswat bought cyber security company Impulse.

There have been warnings that cyberattacks will increase in 2020 and 2019 ended with a couple of significant attacks coming to light … LifeLabs announcing a significant breach of patient data and Wawa also announcing a major breach.

Here in Canada we lost 70,000 jobs in November as the US was adding 266,000 non-farm jobs!  The US economy continues to do well, although sentiment is trending down, with concerns that 2020 will see slower growth and the potential for a recession.  Around the world jobs data is positive other than the obvious spots like the UK, as it continues to wrestle with Brexit.

That’s what caught my eye over the last month.  The full edition will be available soon on the Eagle website.  Hope this was useful and I’ll be back with the January 2020 industry news in just about a month’s time.

Walk Fast and Smile

The Thrilling and Exciting History of JavaScript

Buckle-up developers, it’s time for the nerdiest, and most exhilarating, history lesson you’ve ever sat through. That’s because, finally, somebody put together a video summarizing the complete history of JavaScript, all the way to June 2019.

Fireship includes all the details of one of the world’s most famous programming languages and this 12-minute video has everything you want — education, controversy, drama, innovation, friendship and, of course, cheesy memes. If you’ve been looking for the perfect summary wrapping up JavaScript’s 25-year history, wait no more. Scroll down, hit play, and enjoy.

Find the Happy Medium to Avoid These Programming Mistakes

Find the Happy Medium to Avoid These Programming Mistakes

Developers know that no matter how diligent and careful you are, when you least expect it, eventually things crash, and you find yourself in recovery mode. Even though every company and individual programmer has a few rules of thumb they follow, the worst can still happen.

Interestingly enough, a recent article in InfoWorld, written by Peter Wayner, points out that sometimes one developer’s “golden rule” is the extreme opposite of another’s. Neither are wrong, but taken too seriously and too far to the extreme, the worst can happen. Wayner demonstrates this theory by explaining the following programming mistakes:

Playing It Fast and Loose vs Overcommitting to Details

Overlooking basics brings out the simplest mistakes that then snowball into bigger bugs. In addition, using one big catch all for all possible exceptions can be a lazy solution that leads to more disaster. With that in mind, paying attention to every details and adding too much code will eventually slow down your application.

Not Simplifying Control vs Delegating Too Much to Frameworks

Not simplifying control over tasks in code can have negative implications. Wayner references one experienced developer who says there should be “One and only one place in the code for each job. If there are two places, odds are someone will change one but not the other. If there are more than two, the odds get even worse that someone will fail to keep them all working in the same way.” On the other side of the coin, relying too much on frameworks can make it difficult to troubleshoot because it’s challenging to find out what’s gone wrong in the code

Trusting the Client vs Not Trusting the Client Enough

Assuming the client device will always do the right thing can open up a number of security holes and vulnerabilities. Vice-versa, adding too much security to prevent any vulnerabilities is sure to slow things down, add clunkiness, and hurt the user experience.

Relying Too Heavily on Magic Boxes vs Reinventing the Wheel

Although extremely helpful, many magic algorithms have subtle weaknesses to them and the only way to truly get past them requires extra learning to truly understand what’s under the hood. You could try creating your own cryptography, but trying to re-invent the wheel won’t be as effective as what experts have already developed.

Closing the Source vs Opening Up the Project

Many developers today will advocate that closing the source on your project discourages innovation and hinders opportunity to uncover and fix bugs. In reality, though, there needs to be an incentive for outside contributors to put in the work and your project may not get any contributions at all. Not to mention there’s more overhead in managing an open-source project, like maintaining documentation.

Following Too Many Trendy Ideas vs Ignoring Too Many Trendy Ideas

Finally, who doesn’t want their project to be at the top of the game and taking advantage of all of the new bells and whistles? As you start implementing those new flashy items, beware that more work and challenges can arise because they’re so fresh. Don’t wait too long, though, because ignoring the trends will leave your code out-of-date and behind the times, which will eventually lead to bigger failures and malfunctions.

In any line of work, whether it be programming, other realms of information technology, or a complete other industry, flexibility is key. While it’s wise to follow best-practices, tunnel vision of those rules can guide you down the wrong path. We recommend reading the original 12 Programming Mistakes to Avoid by Wayner, as it provides extensive details on each of these.