Talent Development Centre

All posts by Gilbert Boileau

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery

Gilbert Boileau By Gilbert Boileau,
Vice-Président, Québec at Eagle

What’s on the horizon for Technology Professionals??

If you’re considering upgrading or refreshing some skills that will be in demand in the next two years, look for Business Continuity (BC) and Disaster Recovery (DR) as opportunities currently in the making. Projects are starting, or will start soon, that require specialists with BC and DR knowledge and experience. Why?  Because as most companies are looking at introducing cloud into their environment to add flexibility, contain cost or convert Capital Expenses (CAPEX) to Operational Expenses (OPEX), cloud for disaster recovery is becoming a viable option for a lot of clients.

For small and medium-sized business, the cloud gives the same capabilities that larger companies have had for years. Many big companies have secondary data centers they can use for data back-up and recovery, whereas smaller companies don’t.  The cloud, however, gives those small and medium-sized businesses more possibilities with its ability to back up data or replicate servers to a remote site, and then failover the servers and network to the remote site in the event of a disaster.

For larger companies with elaborate disaster recovery environments and strategies,Cloud Technologies introducing the cloud can be beneficial from a financial and control perspective.  These organizations need to create an integrated strategy of processes, architecture, and the reporting necessary for audit and governance purposes. The flexibility to test more frequently and the ability to scale up or to scale down if needed are examples of reasons they are trying to introduce cloud into their environment.

What does this mean in terms of market skills needed?  Well, reviewing DR and BC strategies, from small to large size companies, means the start of a new cycle of projects where DR and BC skills will be in demand.  2015 should see an increase in demand for DR specialists, starting with project managers with extensive knowledge in that field.

Are you up-to-date on your business continuity and disaster recovery skills?  Would you like more information about these potential opportunities?  Let us know, we’d love to help you prepare!

Are You a Master of Workplace Adaptation?

Gilbert Boileau By Gilbert Boileau,
Vice-Président, Québec at Eagle

As an IT consultant, you probably are.  If not, you should be.  In fact, having to adapt to different workplaces very quickly, in comparison to your permanent coworkers, puts you in the unique situation of being or becoming a “master” of workplace adaptation.

Each client expects that you adapt quickly, as it is an implied characteristic of a “true” consultant.  They require that you understand the nuances of their corporate culture, way of doing things and employee mix.  And you have to do that quickly and with minimal guidance, contrary to most permanent IT employees who have a thorough onboarding process and weeks or months to adapt to their environment. As an IT consultant, time is never on your side.  Notwithstanding each organization’s corporate culture and management styles, here are 3 simple facts about today’s workplace:

  • Never before has there been a workforce and workplace so diverse in race, gender, and ethnicity;
  • We have four generations working side-by-side for the first time in history; and,
  • All have unique experiences and attributes which influence their attitudes towards work.

I want to bring your attention to the second point, what some have called the “generational divide” in the workplace. As mentioned, for the first time in history we have four generations working side-by-side. It is important to understand their main attribute so you can “navigate” in your new team and work environment.

Generations working side by side:

  • Seniors/Veterans: born between 1920 and 1945 are loyal, respect authority, Many Generations in a Companyappreciate discipline and hard work, are more formal and are able to wait for rewards. While most of them are retired, the one who are still in the workforce value structure, commitment, conformity and responsibility.
  • Baby-Boomers: born between 1946 and 1964, are competitive and think workers should pay their dues. They are independent, work long hours to get ahead and struggle with work-life balance. They are sometimes called the “Me” generation.
  • Gen Xers: born between 1962 and 1977, are more likely to be skeptical and independent-minded.  They are techno-literate and are sometimes called the “Not impressed” generation.
  • Gen Ys (also known as Millennials): born in 1978 or later and like teamwork, feedback and technology. They are more impatient and independent.

A lot of articles have been written on the subject as well as dozens of books.  I invite you to learn more and read about it.  This is just a reminder that you not only need to understand where you are on this generation spectrum but, to be a valued consultant, you also need to recognize that each generation brings their own set of skills and cultural norms.  Today’s environments are a mix of those different generations, cultures and talent.

And never forget: everywhere you go, your listening skills and your attitude are your most important “weapons” of adaptation. Major studies have shown that one of the best attribute to integrate a workplace and show leadership in your domain is directly related to your ability to ask the right questions and listen.  As for attitude, we are social animals. Across generations, ethnicity and gender, peer mimicry is part of every workplace. So working on yourself and projecting the right attitude will also ease the adaptation process.

As a consultant, you have to adapt to every new client.  Being able to master this will build a unique set of skills and add more value for both you and your future clients.

Rain or Sunshine after the Cloud?

Gilbert Boileau By Gilbert Boileau,
Vice-Président, Québec at Eagle

Last July, I wrote a post on the need for contractors to keep their skills updated based on clients’ willingness to adopt cloud-based solutions.  Some have asked me if, since things were changing at such a fast pace, if they should be worried.  I decided to write this to go more in-depth to the July post.

The first important thing to understand is that the drive for cloud solutions (applications,Cloud Solutions infrastructure, data, etc…) is mostly “human” driven versus technology driven.  Yes, it allows selection of best-of-breed solutions (SaaS, IaaS, PaaS) and creates greater computing and application elasticity, but it comes first from the need for more agility, greater business flexibility and cost containment.  Those are the big drivers.  And those drivers are way more important than if it was only a technological fad, because they answer fundamental business issues. 

What we are seeing is a normal evolution, not a revolution. In that respect, IT contractors will have to adapt to the changes by elevating their skills but most importantly, their way of practising their trade pertaining to that service/technological transition.

On the infrastructure side, system administrators will not lose their potential contract tomorrow morning. But they will certainly need to understand how cloud solutions enable clients to change the way they “interact” with technology.  As an example, some of the basic system admin tasks (configuration, sizing, etc…) will clearly not be needed.  As with other functions, they will be part of the provided cloud service. System administrator will need to understand the use of cloud configuration tools, Open Source or proprietary, and also security issues related to the use of the new cloud platforms. Additionally, they will probably spend more time taking care of service agreements and less time maintaining the service, which entails enhancing their soft skills. As for network administrators, their job will probably evolve to become cloud administrator.

On the security side, the move of core business processes and data to cloud solutions will push security specialist to stay on top of new security models and technologies.

On the application side, given the flexibility provided by solutions in the cloud, there will be even more pressure on the actual trend for rapid delivery on business requirements. 

In general, moving to the cloud is more than a virtualization mind shift. New paths will be presenting themselves and options will be there. Whether you deepen your technical skill sets to design those new services or become the liaison between business and IT, you should look forward to the change. Much of what you have today will be transferable.

Rain or sunshine?  It is for you to decide how proactive you want to be in this “service” model transition. 

Are You Ready for a Test?

Gilbert Boileau By Gilbert Boileau,
Vice-Président, Québec at Eagle

Many consultants who have been in the business for years will skip some of the fundamentals when preparing for client interviews.  Even with many years of experience (or perhaps because of them), they rely too much on their practical experience and skip the basic interview preparation.  Whether you are a junior resource or seasoned professional, you should gather as much information on the specifics of an assignment from your IT staffing firm.

Consulting interviews never have the same format.  They can be very casual, mostly Unprepared Person Writing a Testaimed at verifying team fit and background.  And, they can also include a technical or functional component with an expert asking very specific questions.

More and more, we see interviews with a test component to validate the consultant’s technical or functional know-how.  You would be surprised at the number of senior consultants who score low to average grades on these tests.  Why? Most of us who have been in our respective disciplines for a long time assume that if there is a test component to an interview process, we will ace it.  We are good at what we do, we are experts in our field and we should ace it, right? Wrong! Tests are just that — tests. Some of them echo real life scenarios and some do not.  In order to “ace” them, as we did in school, we need to freshen up on our technical or functional knowledge (even more so if we are experienced).  The good news is that today there are many internet tests available to review our skills and most of them are free.

To summarize, before an interview get as much information as possible from your recruiter about:

  • the overall interview process
  • how many people will be interviewing
  • what are their respective roles and profiles
  • what you should focus on
  • whether there is a test component

If there is a test, try to get as much information as you can on it.  The types of questions and focus of the test are very important to know beforehand in order to nail down the areas that you need to focus on and which skills you should freshen up.  And then, spend the required time on testing sites to work on the areas where you may have weaknesses.

In a hot IT market, poor test results will not stop you from finding other opportunities.  But they may stop you from getting the contract you truly wanted!

Cut Out the Clutter — Go Back to Basics!

Gilbert Boileau By Gilbert Boileau,
Vice-Président, Québec at Eagle

I just got 5 emails, 8 InMails, 3 phone calls and 1 SMS from different IT Staffing firms for 3 different consulting engagements at Bank ABC, all between 8:30 and 9:30 this morning. WhoContractor receiving many phone calls do I call back? The first one who sent me an email, the first voice message or the last one?  I know two of those recruiters very well, Peter and Rob.  Should I call Peter first?

If this sounds like a typical event in one of your typical days as an IT consultant, then you may consider going back to your basics.  What does this mean?

The IT staffing landscape has changed considerably since the Y2K era (don’t tell me you don’t remember those good old times!!)  As Jeremy Mason mentioned last week, most big organizations with large IT contracting needs go through an internally or externally Managed Vendor Program.  This means one point of contact for the entire IT organization.  As he also pointed out, this process can raise your risk of dual representation which is not good for you.  But you should also know that, for some clients, being represented at the same client by 5 staffing companies on 5 different job requests in the same week is not very good for you either.  Depending on which staffing firms you are dealing with, it could mean 5 different bill rates, 5 different profiles and a very confused end client!

How can you minimize this issue? By going back to basics and working with only your preferred staffing firms.  The best measure for determining the best firm fit should rest on how you feel about its recruiters, its ethics and the way they represent you in this new “tighter” consulting ecosystem.  Good recruiters will care, follow-up, abide by strong ethics and look at the short and the long term.  It is worth your while to get to know them and to speak with them frequently because they may have different clients and more options for you.  Take the time to meet them and ask about their values and how they view their relationships with their clients and their contractors. Then discard the ones who are just providing you with a short term opportunity.  Because short term is just what it is — short term.

So, look for the fundamentals.  They are still your best guide today and for the years to come!

How many staffing companies do you currently work with?  Have you run into any confusing situations while juggling multiple companies?  Share your experiences below!

Are You Really Ready for Cloud Computing?

Gilbert Boileau By Gilbert Boileau,
Vice-Président, Québec at Eagle

As more and more clients are looking at cloud-based solutions, the profile of IT workers will inevitably change over the next 5 to 10 years.  As some of the previous systems and supporting infrastructure will be updated and moved to the cloud, the profile of the required IT staff to grow organizations will change along the way.  While we cannot say for sure what will change, it will affect without a doubt the specialists needed in all existing IT organizations, small and large.

The shift to cloud-based solutions will create growing demand for specialists focused on Cloud Computingthe business side of things.  We will see more opportunities for consultants on the business front versus pure application development or support.  Business Analysts and Project Managers will be needed to understand business needs, choose the appropriate cloud-based solution and manage projects that require even more integration. On that note, data integration will definitely be a big part of every project involving cloud-based vendors.

On the infrastructure side, changes are also coming along.  As clients are looking at cloud-based solutions, opportunities for “Solution” Experts with a broader skillset and an understanding of more pieces of the puzzle will be needed.  For example, Storage Specialists with strong knowledge of the complete data lifecycle will be better equipped to provide their clients with fully integrated storage solutions.

As with every previous technological change and innovation, cloud-based solutions will create opportunities for those who have the required expertise.  Look at least 5 years ahead and make sure your skills are gradually updated to meet those new challenges coming our way.