Talent Development Centre

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Breaking Down the Simple Formula for Better Self-Discipline

We’d all love to get more hours into a day so we can spend more time doing the things we love, whether it’s spending time with family, hanging out with friends, working around the house, making money on more contracts, reading or just relaxing with Netflix. Unfortunately, the Earth has no intentions of changing the speed of its rotation, so we’re going to have to make do with these 24-hour days. That means squeezing as much time into a day as possible to optimize productivity, and for many of us, that means improving our self-discipline.

As noted, being more disciplined can help you get more activities into your complete day, and at a micro-level, it will also help you get more done at work. That results in happier clients, more references, more contracts and, yes, higher rates!

If you have a goal to improve your productivity but are having trouble conquering discipline, check-out this video from Freedom in Thought. While the example they use probably won’t reflect your life, their formula for achieving it is transferrable to anyone.

  1. Find a strong reason why
  2. Focus on singular activities and turn them into habits
  3. Plan for temptation
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 to continue building more discipline

Check out all of the details here…

How to Tell Your Recruiter They Screwed Up (and you’re not happy about it)

How to Tell Your Recruiter They Screwed Up (and you're not happy about it)

Building relationships and working with IT recruiters is one of the best strategies to find contract opportunities and keep a steady stream of work. Like any relationship, situations can go badly and solving problems effectively is important to maintaining a strong connection.

Many things can go astray in the contractor/recruiter relationship and you might feel the blame lies with the recruiter. After all, nearly every contractor has a story about a recruiter who did them wrong. Maybe they failed to include you on an opportunity that would have been a shoe-in for you. Perhaps they miscommunicated information about an interview and made you look like a fool. Or they might have completely abandoned you after the job started, leaving you scrounging to figure out how to get paid and solve certain problems on your own.

If you’ve met plenty of recruiters in your career, then you know who you should cut loose from your future job searches and who’s worth keeping around for a second chance. You want to work out your problems with that recruiter who has had a good track record, always has awesome opportunities and is part of a trustworthy staffing agency. However, you also can’t let them off the hook for their sloppiness that has affected your business. So, it’s time to have a direct conversation and provide (sometimes difficult) feedback, ensuring a strong path forward.

Preparing for a Difficult Conversation with a Recruiter

Your goal is to make sure the conversation goes as smoothly and constructively as possible. Here are a few items to think about before you pick up the phone (yes, the phone… don’t even think about sending an angry message through text or email):

  • Change your mindset. Instead of preparing for a difficult conversation or a call to complain, think of it as providing feedback or solving a problem.
  • Plan, but don’t script it out. Have an idea of what you’d like to say, but don’t expect it to go word-for-word as you’d like. The recruiter doesn’t know the lines you’ve prepared for them.
  • Have your facts straight. Know the exact timeline of events, who did what (or didn’t), and what specific outcomes resulted of these actions. This must go beyond emotion.
  • Consider their perspective. Think about the recruiter’s situation and why they may have acted as they did. Are they going to be surprised by your phone call?
  • Understand your own emotions, motivations and shortcomings. Take a step back before calling your recruiter on their mistakes. Think carefully about why you’re upset, as well as if there is anywhere you could have done better.

During the Conversation

Here are tips to keep in mind during the discussion (no, it’s not a rant where you say your piece and hang up, this is a two-way dialogue)

  • Be confident and assertive. The recruiter needs to know that you are dissatisfied and there is a problem to be resolved.
  • Practice active listening. Listen to their response to ensure the message you’re trying to deliver is properly received. Remember to speak slowly enough to allow the recruiter to ask questions and participate in the conversation.
  • Practice emotional intelligence. Being aware of both your emotions and the recruiter’s emotions throughout the discussion will help you guide the conversation effectively.
  • Keep the conversation constructive. Stay positive and avoid getting dragged into an endless debate of who’s right or wrong.
  • Watch your language. Choose your words wisely to avoid words that are confrontational and will make the recruiter defensive. Speaking slowly and following your plan is a good way to do this.
  • Give something back. You need to hold the recruiter accountable for where they slipped up, but you can also offer responsibility for your own shortcomings, as well as suggestions for next steps in moving forward.
  • Be respectful. Above all, you’re dealing with a human being. Even if the end of this conversation is going to result in you severing ties with this recruiter, there is never a reason to be rude and harsh in your conversation. Always be the bigger person.

Discussing a recruiter’s mistakes is only one example of difficult conversations you have in your professional life. You might also need to tell a client why their project is going badly, tell a colleague that their work is poor, communicate change out to a team… the list goes on. All of the tips listed above are transferrable to your unique situation. How will you improve your difficult communications in the future?

Quick Poll Results: How tight do you keep your LinkedIn connections?

Keeping an active LinkedIn profile and connecting with the right people in your industry is one of the best ways to find IT contracts. Not only is LinkedIn one of the most-used tools by IT recruiters, but it’s also the best way to build out your network and get referrals for future gigs. If you’re not leveraging LinkedIn, you’re missing out.

Once you have a profile, the next question to ask yourself is what kind of network you want to build. Every IT professional has their own strategy. Some like to keep things very exclusive, and only allow people into their circle if they know them personally and think highly of them. On the other extreme, some professionals are happy to connect with anyone who has a pulse.

There’s no right or wrong way to do LinkedIn, but we were curious to learn how our readers approach it, so we made it into this Summer’s contractor quick poll. It turns out, IT contractors like to keep their networks somewhat closed. Approximately 80% of respondents said that they only connect with people who they know and like, or with people who have mutual connections or interests.

Quick Poll Results: How tight do you keep your LinkedIn connections?

Contractor Quick Poll: What’s your top consideration when choosing a recruitment agency?

If you’re a talented IT contractor, and your skills have ever been in high-demand in a hot job market, then you’ve probably received phone calls from multiple recruiters within a matter of minutes, all trying to sell you the same gig. A client came out with a new role and needs a response ASAP, now every recruiter in the city wants to submit that top fit for the job — you!

IT consultants often get the opportunity to choose which agency they will work with on a job. Sometimes it’s due to the example above and, in other cases, there are multiple job offers on the table, each with different recruitment agencies, and you need to decide which you will take. There are many factors that make up your decision and you weigh them all carefully before finally choosing how to proceed. In this month’s contractor quick poll, we’re out to learn what that most important consideration usually is when you have to make that decision.

Taking Notes is Important, Especially in Job Interviews

Taking Notes is Important, Especially in Job Interviews

Are you an avid note-taker? Taking notes comes in handy in countless situations. Training, webinars, conference calls, planning sessions, progress meetings, job interviews, sales calls… the list goes on. Essentially, if you’re having a conversation and there’s any chance you’re going to need to prepare beforehand or recall what’s being said afterwards, it’s wise to take organized notes.

Writing notes is more than being able to recall a conversation. Ask anybody who takes a lot of notes, including Eagle’s founder, Kevin Dee. He’s blogged about the benefits of note-taking on multiple occasions, including this post which highlights the top 10 reasons he takes notes regularly.

Keeping records of your meetings doesn’t mean you need to be a courtroom stenographer, jotting down every single word that each individual says. You’d miss the entire meeting and won’t get to contribute! This post on Meister’s Creativity & Productivity Blog prioritizes the types of points you should write down:

  • Facts (names, titles, roles)
  • Issues (problems that need to be solved)
  • Decisions (what has everyone agreed will happen)
  • Action Plans (who’s responsible for doing specific tasks)
  • Questions and Answers (what was asked and what responses were given throughout the meeting)

This framework is valuable because it catches all of the points you may need to reference, without missing out on discussions and debates that bring the team to these final points.

Taking Notes in a Job Interview

Some of the more important meetings you have as an IT contractor are job interviews, both with recruiters and clients. These are what will secure your work for the next period of time and you need to come across as prepared and professional.

Job interviews are one-on-one and the main goal is to have a discussion. That means that as important as it is, your note-taking cannot take priority. Continuous writing or, worse, having your head behind a laptop (please don’t bring a laptop to take notes), would destroy the personal connection you depend on for a successful interview. Instead, experts in this field recommend you jot down quick notes during the interview, but then schedule a few minutes immediately after your interview to go to a coffee shop and write everything down in more detail.

The notes you do take can follow Meister’s recommendations that are listed above.

  • Facts – The people you’re meeting with, their titles, specific details about the job would all be helpful later on.
  • Issues – This could be the client’s issues that you’re being interviewed to solve, but might also be issues for you to solve later such as errors or additions required in your resume or lack of qualifications that were identified.
  • Decisions – Not many decisions happen within the interview, but if you discuss next steps, which jobs the recruiter will submit you to, or who you should be dealing with moving forward, these are important notes to remember.
  • Action Plans – Possibly the most important note to take because you must do what you say you will. Whether it’s follow-up on a certain date, send an updated resume, or refer a colleague — if you said you’ll do it, then do it. You should also write down any actions the interviewer committed to doing.
  • Questions and Answers – Of course, you want to record the answers to the questions you asked the interviewer. You can also use this section to record the challenging questions you were asked so you can be better prepared next time.

Speaking of questions, prepare some notes ahead of time and write down questions you’ll want to ask the interviewer. You might go one step further and write down speaking points and quick notes to ensure you hit everything properly during the conversation; however, some experts warn against that type of preparation. They argue that answering questions from notes makes you appear less confident with the subject matter for which you’re interviewing and, therefore, less qualified for the role.

The majority of us write notes in some sort of way, but the detail and style of notes we write differentiate person-to-person. What kind of note-taking practices work best for you?

What to Do When You Change Your Email Address

What to Do When You Change Your Email Address

Email is the preferred method of communication for most IT contractors during their job search. Because of their busy schedules, it’s challenging to answer a phone call in the middle of the day, so they usually ask recruiters to send them the details of a job and they’ll look at it later. Some urgent jobs require a phone call to get an immediate response, but for the most part, recruiters are happy to send notifications primarily by email… but they need to know the right email address!

There’s nothing worse than finding an opportunity that is perfect for somebody but when we try to reach out, that email address is not in service or we get a response much later on because they barely monitor that inbox. And these are addresses that had activity within the last few months!

There are many reasons you might get a new email address, for example, you might decide to create an address using your own custom domain or you might change ISPs. Regardless of the why, when you do change contact info, here are a few tips to make sure recruiters, clients and everyone else can still find you:

  • Are You Sure? Prevent yourself from going through this process again by making sure your new email address can pass the test of time and that it’s extremely unlikely you’ll need to get a new one. Keep it generic and use a provider like Gmail or Outlook that you know isn’t going anywhere. Using your ISP like Bell or Telus is a risk because you may change providers in the future, forcing you to be on the lookout for yet another email address.
  • Keep the Old Address. For as long as possible, hold onto that old address to prevent anyone from receiving hard bounce-backs when they use it. Keeping access also means you can set-up email forwarding to your new address and a custom bounce-back message to senders, letting them know your new contact info.
  • Export/Import When Possible. They all have a different process, but most email systems will allow you to export all of your contacts and even your emails. Use these tools to bring information and set-up your new email for a flawless transition.
  • Let Your Favourite Contacts Know. Not everybody who you’ve ever sent an email to cares that you’ve changed, but it is a good idea to notify all of the contacts who really need to know. Some people keep strict SPAM filters and will need to add your new address to the safe list.
  • Update Your Online Profiles. If you use a password manager, or keep a list of passwords anywhere, this is a good place to start at to find all of those profiles you have created that need updating. And yes, whenever possible, update your profile as opposed to creating a new one with your new email address.
  • Don’t Look Back. Now that you’ve switched, it’s time to commit to that address and stick to it. Unless you have obvious, black and white rules as to which address is used when, you will confuse all of your contacts if you use different addresses at random times. We’ve seen IT contractors actively use multiple addresses and not only is it difficult to manage, but it raises red flags that they might be trying to do something sneaky.

While it would be great if we could always use that same tried and true email address, extenuating circumstances cause everyone to get a new one now and again. How you manage that change will affect your job search and business relationships. But, like any change, the transition will be smoother if you plan out the process and communicate well.

Helping Your Co-Workers Deal with Stress

Helping Your Co-Workers Deal with Stress

We all come across these colleagues occasionally. People who are completely stressed-out, to the point that they’re snapping at others, putting off decisions, and are just scattered. Some of these folks seem to live their lives in this state (and enjoy it?) and for others, it’s an unusual occurrence when things just pile up too much. We’ve all been there, but working with an over-stressed person presents different challenges than being said person.

At first, you might avoid them and keep your head down, hoping they’ll sort it out. But when a co-worker is stressed and unable to find a way out, it starts affecting their work, your work and the overall morale of the team. In these cases, you can take a leadership approach and help them get that stress back under control and focus properly on the tasks-at-hand.

Approaching a strained person can make matters much worse if done insensitively. There is truth to that witty social media meme that says “Never in the history of calm down has anyone calmed down by being told to calm down.” Here are a few steps you can take:

  1. Start by checking yourself that you’re not being judgmental. Everybody reacts differently and manages different emotions. Keep that all in mind before moving too much further.
  2. Acknowledge the person’s stress and ask if you can help. If they say no, respect that.
  3. Start by listening carefully. Sometimes people just need to vent and put the situation into perspective.
  4. Continue listening and asking questions to help uncover the root of the stress, as well as consequences the person may be worrying about, again, to put things into perspective.
  5. Help the person solve those root problems with practical solutions. Offer to step-in where it makes sense.
  6. Encourage your colleague to take some time to relax with a walk or meditation, giving them time to reconnect with the present moment.
  7. Don’t get too involved yourself. Stress is contagious and your own mental health needs to stay intact. It’s great to help, but don’t let it bring you down.
  8. Most importantly, remain positive and keep calm yourself. If the person refused your help back in Step 2, maintaining that approachable and friendly demeanor is what will bring them to you for assistance when they’re ready.

Stressed out team members, colleagues, clients, recruiters, or family can all affect your life and career, as they bring down both attitude and productivity. You can’t keep avoiding them so the next best step is to help where you can. But while that’s all nice, remember, you’re not a trained psychiatrist and it’s certainly not your job to deal with other people’s stress-levels. It’s great to help, but everything must be balanced. How do you deal with the people in your life who are showing signs of excessive stress?

How to Pay Yourself as an Incorporated IT Contractor

Once you start earning a certain level of income as an IT contractor, your accountant may recommend that it is time to incorporate your business. It brings a number of benefits, including some relief on taxes you pay to the government. When you take this step, it also opens up options on how you will pay yourself from the business — as a salaried employee or through dividends as a business owner.

Your decision ultimately depends on your individual circumstances, and your accountant can guide you on the right decision. This video from Simplify Accounting will help you understand the differences and give you a base for that conversation you’ll have with your accountant.

The Dreaded Question: “Are you busy?”

“Are you busy?”

Don’t you hate it when people ask you that while you’re clearly in the middle of doing something else? How do you even answer that? There’s a chance their next question is probably going to be a favour or more work, and what if you don’t want to do that work?

This humourous video from Julie Nolke dramatizes the thought processes going on when you hear that dreaded question. Can you relate? How do you answer when interrupted by somebody asking “Are you busy?”

IT Industry News for July 2020

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee, Co-Founder of Eagle

This post first appeared on the Eagle Blog on August 10th, 2020

This is my 30,000 foot look at events in the ICT industry for July 2020. 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 July in previous years …

Five years ago, July 2015 saw no billion-dollar deals, but there was some activity with some big names out shopping.  Microsoft made two acquisitions, paying $320 million for Microsoft logocloud security company Adallom and customer servicing software company FieldOne Systems. IBM picked up database-as-a-service company Compose; Cisco paid $139 million for sales automation company MaintenanceNet; HP bought a cloud development platform Stackato; Blackberry bought AtHoc, a crisis communication tool; and DropBox bought messaging company Clementine.  Other acquisitions saw Cisco as a seller, with Technicolor paying $600 million for Cisco’s set top box division; Level 3 bought security firm Black Lotus; Amadeus bought travel software company Navitaire (a subsidiary of Accenture) for $830 million; eBay sold its enterprise unit for $925 million, having paid $2.4 billion for it four years ago.  In the continued blurring of the lines between technology companies and other industries, Capital One bank acquired design, development and marketing firm Monsoon.

In July 2016, Verizon made two multi-billion-dollar acquisitions.  The big name was Yahoo! who they bought for $4.83 billion, but they also paid $2.4 billion for Fleetmatics who provide fleet and mobile workforce management services.  Oracle were also out spending big dollars, paying $9.3 billion for cloud-based ERP company, Netsuite. Now if those deals were not big enough, Softbank (like Verizon, they have a large telco presence — formerly Vodafone) paid a whopping $32.2 billion for chip designer ARM Holdings. Also joining the July billion dollar club was security vendor Avast, who bought AVG for $1.3 billion. Other deals that month saw Salesforce pay $582 million for cloud-based startup Quip; Google bought video company Anvato; Terradata bought training company Big Data Partnership; and Opentext bought analytics company Recommind.

Three years ago, July 2017 saw Cincinnati Bell buy Hawaiian Telcom Holdco for $650 Mitel Logomillion and OnX for $201 million. Mitel paid $430 million for ShoreTel and bought Toshiba’s unified communications business. In Toronto, digital signage solution provider, Dot2Dot, acquired Pixel Point Digital. PNI Canada Acuireco Corp. purchased Sandvine Corp. for $562 million with plans to merge Sandvine and Procera Networks.

July 2018 was a busy M&A month with the biggest deal of the month, a somewhat unlikely $19 billion acquisition of CA Technologies by Broadcom, who were clearly planning to expand beyond the semiconductor world.  Solution provider, Atos was paying $3.45 billion for Syntel, creating a large North American presence.  Fortive was paying $2 billion for physical resource management software company Accruent, and the last billion dollar deal of the month saw SS&C pay $1.45 billion for investment technology company Eze Software.  Other deals saw AT&T buy cybersecurity company Alienvault; Hitachi bought AWS integrator Rean; Intel bought specialty chip maker eAsic Corp; Accenture continued its acquisition spree with the purchase of AI company Kogentix; and Getronics re-entered the North American market with the purchase of Pomeroy.

July 2019 was a little quiet, but there were some big deals announced.  Cisco’s $2.6 billion Cisco logoacquisition of Acacia Communications was the biggest deal. Apple splashed $1 billion to buy Intel’s smartphone modem business, and KKR bought Corel for $1 billion too.  There were a few more deals hit my radar with Google buying storage company Elastifile; 8X8 cloud communications company paying $100 million for Platform as a service company Wavecell; and last but not least, Epam Systems bought educational content company Competentum.

Which brings us back to the present …

It is difficult to predict business activity during the current pandemic, but many companies continue with their growth initiatives and July 2020 saw quite a few deals done. There were big names out buying, some deals were not so significant in size but there was at least one in the billion dollar range, with HPE paying $925 million for SD WAN technology company Silver PeakDXC sold its healthcare business for $525 million to Dedalus Group, an Italian company and there was plenty more action but with no price disclosed. Google bought Canadian smart glasses company North; Cisco bought video analytics company Modcam; VMware bought cloud disaster recovery company Datrium; Fortinet bought cloud security startup Opaq Networks; and Mimecast bought email security startup MessageControlUber continues its growth with the purchase of RouteMatch a company focused on public transport systems and a couple of smaller deals saw cyber protection company Acronis buy DeviceLock which provides security at the device level; and Advent International, a private equity firm bought cyber security firm Forescout.  Clearly cyber security is a hot area!

Huawei continues to be in the news, this time the in UK, where the government has reversed its previous decision and has now locked out the company from the UK commercial telecommunications network.  Twitter had an embarrassing leak with some admin accounts compromised and some very high-profile accounts hacked.  Finally, LinkedIn has announced layoffs associated with the pandemic, cutting 960 jobs or about 6% of their workforce.

On the economic, and jobs, front we are still in a period of huge uncertainty, and your crystal ball is probably just as good as mine.  There were some positive signs though, with both Canada (952,000) and the US (2.4 million) showing big job gains in the last month.  The OECD also showed a slight improvement in the unemployment rate, from 8.5% to 8.4% but there are still 54 million people unemployed in the OECD countries!

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

Walk Fast and Smile.