Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Career Building

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to career building as an independent contractor in IT.

Steps to the Best Code Review and Giving the Imminent Feedback

Giving feedback is a regular task for all IT contractors, regardless of your core area of expertise. Whether its to a colleague, a client or a direct report, feedback comes in a variety of forms and usually starts with an evaluation. For example, you may give a colleague feedback on their presentation after seeing it, give a fellow contractor feedback on their resume after reading it, and or give a developer feedback on their code after a careful review.

Unlike sitting through a presentation or glancing over a resume, reviewing code and giving feedback requires extensive focus, knowledge and attention to detail. That’s why the best code reviewers are able to land jobs working on the most exciting projects.

In a recent article published by The Muse, Full Stack Engineer Neely Kartha comments on some of her struggles when she first began reviewing code, specifically the stress that can come from the expectations. Obviously a great problem-solver with initiative, Kartha explains how she interviewed other professionals to collect tips on how to best review code. Here are the 5 most important ones she discovered:

  1. Think about the overall impact
  2. Consider security
  3. Focus on bugs
  4. Be a team player
  5. Use the process for learning and knowledge sharing

While the first three points require strong technical skills and experience to truly excel, the final two — being a team player and embracing the opportunity to grow — are soft skills that can often be more challenging. Kartha points out at the end of her article that the steps in providing feedback are a great opportunity to exercise your people skills. She suggests giving people the benefit of the doubt while trying to dispel defensiveness. Obviously this is no easy task, but surely something that top code reviewers have mastered.

Do you review code? If so, do you have any additional tips for a successful review that ensures a quality product and maintains good relationships with the author? We’d love your tips, please share them in the comments below.

Older IT Professionals Can Still Rock a Career in Tech

Older IT Professionals Can Still Rock a Career in TechBetween news from Silicon Valley, advertisements from all industries, and countless Hollywood movies, the media is brutal for portraying all successful IT professionals as young, hip (and sometimes irritating) geniuses. The fact is, like all industries, successful organizations are most prosperous when they have a diverse team, including representation from all generations.

If you’re an IT contractor on the other side of 40, you likely played a heavy role in implementing technologies that brought your organization to the next level. So why can it be so challenging to find a new IT job at an older age? According to a recent Dice article by Leslie Stevens-Huffman, there are various stereotypes that follow senior IT workers and some professionals sabotage their careers by displaying these characteristics to a hiring manager. For example, is it possible you’ve been displaying a sense of entitlement, asking for too much compensation, or just being a stick in the mud?

To help out, Stevens-Huffman observed the most successful IT workers in the upper generation and compiled 5 traits they all have in common. Next time you’re looking for a new gig — either full-time or contract — here’s what you may want to highlight to avoid being lumped into the stereotype:

  1. Continuing Desire to Grow and Learn — the hottest skillset today may be useless in a few years. Clients and employers want to know that you’re willing to change with the times.
  2. Energetic — Speaking in an upbeat manner or using shorter sentences or paragraphs while writing can all make you appear more upbeat and project more energy than your younger counterparts.
  3. Clear Goals and Objectives — Referencing career coach Donald Burns, the author of the Dice article points out that a clear roadmap will help you avoid the mid- or late-career job search all together.
  4. Willing to Take Direction from Younger Colleagues — As noticed in point #1, you need to be willing to learn and often the younger generation can help do that. Be open to a two-way mentoring relationship.
  5. Present Day View — Learning from the past and using it as a way to make corrections going forward is positive; however, being stuck in the past and suggesting older technologies makes you appear out-of-touch.

Senior IT professionals with 20+ or 30+ years of experience might become independent contractors and consultants, where others prefer the stability of a full-time job. Regardless of your situation, although your skills are in high-demand, you will hit situations when you compete for gigs against the younger generation. By taking these points into consideration, you will ensure a focus on your experience, and not your age.

Is There a Place for Politics at Work?

There’s nothing wrong with being a political junkie and it’s positive to have an interest and opinion in what’s happening around you. Political debates can be healthy, lead to innovation and hold circles of friends together. They are also what can tear groups apart, ruin a party and, most relevant to this blog, harm careers.

The Negative Consequences of Talking Politics at Work

Is There a Place for Politics at Work?

Talking politics in the workplace is a slippery slope. In addition to being counter-productive to your actual job, the wrong topic can drive a wedge between colleagues, cause irreparable damage and possibly cost an employee their job.

For independent contractors, it can have even more severe consequences. IT contractors depend on their reputation to ensure regular gigs are coming through the door. Although talking politics with clients and their employees may seem harmless, you may be known as the person who brings a negative atmosphere to the office and sparks too much debate. Furthermore, if you cause enough trouble and break-up a team, that client will never want you back and word will quickly get out to recruiters.

Consider This Before Sparking a Political Discussion

As the introduction to this post notes, some groups of people fair quite well when they find a common ground in politics and the right bond can bring a team closer together. So, while we’re not recommending you never bring it up at work, we encourage you to carefully consider your situation.

First and foremost, know and understand the policies at your client’s site. Respect any rules or requests they may have on the subject of politics at work.

Secondly, know your crowd. If your peers and colleagues involved in the discussion are on the opposite end of the spectrum, or you have no idea where they lie, it may be best to stick to talking about the weather. People are not going to change their opinion simply because you made a valid point, so don’t think this is the time to start bringing them over to your side.

If the Inevitable is Going to Happen

If you must discuss the upcoming election, latest decision by the majority government, or hottest policy change while working, you should at least do it wisely. Never let these discussions get in the way of your own productivity or that of your client’s. If there’s one thing that will lead to a bad review at the end of your project, it’s costing them too much money without enough results.

Next, always be respectful of those with opposing views from yours. Ask questions, learn their perspective and be curious, as opposed to one-sided and confrontational. It’s also wise to avoid the really hot topics (you know what they are) and know when to end a debate before it goes too far and starts causing the damages described above.

Independent contractors have a reputation to uphold if they want to continue working for a specific client or even with a specific recruiter. While being opinionated and informed is a valuable trait, it can also be destructive. Speaking your mind too much while on a project, or even on social networks where recruiters are sure to be looking, can be detrimental to future opportunities.

Do you ever discuss politics at work? If you do, how do you ensure a meaningful conversation? Share your suggestions in the comments below.

6 Awesome Women in IT We Should Celebrate

Guest Post by Victoria Greene

You hear the name Silicon Valley and what do you think? The pinnacle of software, the place where the most gifted technological minds work, the mecca of IT. And how many executive positions by companies based at IT’s mecca are held by women? 11%.

Few industries have such a gap in gender representation as IT, but talent has nothing to do with it. There are millions of gifted women in the industry and countless inspirational individuals among them.

I’ve picked just 6 of the many talented ladies who deserve to be celebrated for their IT gifts. Read on and take inspiration from them.

Recommended reading: Take Responsibility for Your Own Career

  1. Julia Hartz

How many of the conferences you attended last year, gigs you’ve enjoyed recently, and events that you’ve organized used Eventbrite? The event management platform is simple, enormously popular, and wildly successful. It also wouldn’t exist without Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Julia Hartz.

Having studied communication and broadcast journalism at Malibu, California’s Pepperdine University, Julia founded the company with her husband, Kevin Hartz, in 2006. The company was the first of its type in the US.

With her trailblazing style, Julia Hartz’s success has seen her smash down barriers held in place by tech’s “men’s club” and earn her place among the most successful IT professionals in the world. We salute you, Julia.

  1. Karlie Kloss

You might know Karlie Kloss as the face Swarovski, or one of the many other high-level companies she models for. While Kloss is one of the top 300 models of the noughties, she’s also a passionate coder.

Kloss got into coding because it’s the “language of the future”, and in 2015 she sought to help carve out a path for young girls to play a part in the world of tomorrow by starting Kode With Klossy.

Kode With Klossy hosts summer coding camps for girls aged 13-18, where Kloss and her team help build the next generation of female IT stars. For your commitment to breaking down barriers, we celebrate you, Karlie.

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  1. Sheila Flavell

Sheila Flavell has been in the IT industry for 3 decades, taking in roles at Lloyds Abbey, Glen Dudley, and FDM, where she is Chief Operating Officer and an Executive Board Director. She’s also won a bucketful of awards acknowledging her influence in the IT world.

Among these are:

  • Woman of the Year – Computing Women in IT Excellence Awards
  • Lifetime Achievement Award – Scotland Women in Technology Awards
  • Business Leader of the Year – Cisco Everywoman in Technology Awards

But Sheila’s not just an award winner, she’s an opportunity giver. She’s campaigned tirelessly to help more women get into the IT industry, acting as mentor for many gifted young ladies in the tech industry. Hats off to you, Sheila.

  1. Lynsey Thornton

Another female star of the IT world whose name might not be as recognizable as it should be is Lynsey Thornton, VP, of User Experience at the Canadian ecommerce powerhouse, Shopify.

A tech head throughout the course of the higher education, Lynsey left her home in the British Isles to become one of Canada’s female IT stars, graduating from being Shopify’s UX Research Lead to running the UX show.

Like Karlie Kloss, Lynsey uses her skills to help the next-gen of female coding stars, volunteering as a Facilitator at Code For Kids.

However, it’s her work helping female entrepreneurs of tomorrow take the gender pay gap into their own hands, by creating their own businesses using their easy store builder, for which we celebrate her. Excellent work, Lynsey.

  1. Sheryl Sandberg

They’re by far the biggest social media platform on the planet and a global institution that eat away billions of hours of the world’s time, but Facebook wouldn’t be where they are today without the brilliance of its Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg.

After graduating from Harvard Business School in 1995, achieving an MBA with highest distinction, Sheryl went on to work for McKinsey & Company, Larry Summers, and Google. In 2007 she met Mark Zuckerberg at a party and a year later she became Facebook’s COO.

Sheryl was tasked with making Facebook profitable and boy has she succeeded; the company is firmly entrenched in the Fortune 500, and had a revenue of US$40.653 billion in 2017. Sheryl, you know what it means to star in the IT world.

  1. Susan Wojcicki

From Facebook to Google and YouTube, and from COO to CEO, we give you Susan Wojcicki. Like Sheryl Sandberg, Susan studied at Harvard University, turning her back on a career in academia in favor of lighting a fire under the world of online streaming.

It was Susan’s garage where Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin set up office in 1998; her partnership with the creators of the world’s largest search engine became official in 1999, when she became the company’s first marketing manager.

While working with Page and Brin, Susan pushed Google Video service against upstart streaming service YouTube. Rather than compete with YouTube, Susan recommended that Google buyout the company. That acquisition came in 2006 and today Susan is CEO of YouTube. Who knows where you would stream your videos from without Susan? Not us.

No industry should be a boys club, or a girls gang for that matter. The only factors that should determine where you work and what you do are talent, desire, dedication, and drive – gender should never be a factor. For all of their varied skills of our 6 awesome women in IT, it’s those 4 qualities for which we truly celebrate them.

We know that you have those 4 qualities too. So what are you waiting for? Take inspiration from our 6 stars and blaze your own trail in the world of IT.

Victoria Greene Victoria Greene is a branding consultant and freelance writer. On her blog, VictoriaEcommerce, she shares tips on how women can forge a career in the online world by using their gift for crafting brilliant content.

The Painful Truth of Progress Updates from People with No Idea

You probably recall previous TDC posts with comedy sketch videos titled “The Expert” from Lauris Beinerts. One was about being a subject matter expert and the other about working with clients. Now there is another take on office life in the form of progress meetings. It’s yet another look at how navigating through tech projects as an IT expert and working with your clients isn’t always the easiest thing.

Watch the video for a good laugh to end off your week!

New Grads: Do You Know What You’re Doing with Your Life

Tens of thousands of students are graduating from post-secondary education programs this month. Even though they focused on an area of study for the past few years, the age old question “What am I going to do with my life” still lingers on. Usually we won’t really know the answer, have multiple answers or we just don’t want to dwell on it anymore so we ignore it. But this question can make a real impact on our lives.

This Proactive Thinker video explores why we shouldn’t just do something we’re passionate about, but also something we care about. The goal is to overcome obstacles and work to continuously improve.

If You’re Going to Complain, Do It Right

There’s always going to be something to complain about in your life. But the question is, how do you do complain effectively to get the outcome you want? One of the main rules to follow is to keep calm and make a plan.

Nowadays it’s even easier to complain with social media platforms or online review sites like Yelp. With those complaints being more public, there’s a chance for a response. Take a look at this infographic from NetCredit to see a step by step guide on how to take your complaining game to the next level.


Courtesy of: NetCredit

6 Ways Independent Contractors Can Use Microsoft Excel (and some better alternatives)

6 Ways Independent Contractors Can Use Microsoft Excel (and some better alternatives)Microsoft Excel is an extremely powerful tool and we’ve shared a few posts about Excel to help open your mind to its potential. The reason we love this versatile program is because it’s readily available to everyone at no additional cost. Almost all new computer set-ups include the basic version of Microsoft Office, including its spreadsheet software, meaning there’s no need to pay for additional tools.

Here’s a look at some ways your IT contracting business can be managed with a simple spreadsheet. Of course, as we’ll note throughout the list, there are situations in your business when an extra investment is worth it.

  1. Planning and Budgeting. Creating templates with calculations to play out different scenarios makes decision-making a breeze. Taking it a step further, why not plan and manage your entire budget in Excel? Check out this infographic from Quid Corner for step-by-step tips in creating a customised budget.
  2. Accounting. From basic bookkeeping to complete accounting, it’s not uncommon for small businesses to manage their finances all through an Excel workbook. A quick Google Search will reveal countless templates that will suit your business and help you get set-up.
    Alternatively: Managing your books is a crucial function in your independent contracting business and we believe that investing in the right software is a smart move. As always, we strongly recommend consulting with your accountant on your best options.
  3. Calculate Time Across Multiple Clients. In the same way you should budget your finances, knowing how you spend your time is also important. When you work for a single client, you usually use their time entry tools, but when juggling multiple clients, it’s a good idea to keep what you’ve done for each in a single spot. This gives quick insight into where you spend most of your time in a given period.
  4. Managing Your Job Search. As this article from Glassdoor points out, when you’re actively searching for new work, you can find yourself bombarded with resumes, responses and interviews and remaining oraganized is crucial. The article features seven different tips for staying organized, including these tips for managing your job search through a spreadsheet.
  5. Managing Contacts. An extension to just managing your job search, you can use Excel to manage all of your contacts. When you return from a networking conference, enter all of the business cards you received. Every time you answer an email, add their information and notes into Excel. The more columns and information you include, the more helpful it will be to sort your database in the future.
    Alternatively: There are a number of other contact management tools available and many are free. For example, your email tool (Gmail or Outlook) also includes a contact management tool.
  6. Project Management. Some Project Managers may be cringing at this thought, but in a number of cases, Microsoft Excel is helpful in managing complete projects. From creating Gantt charts to status reports to issue tracking, there are project management templates for Excel across the internet.
    Alternatively: Excel has its Project Management limits; for example, it’s difficult to collaborate and managing multiple projects can be a hassle. There are elaborate project management tools available and always worth investigating.

What absolutely did not make the list? Password management. Regardless of your ability to password protect your spreadsheet, managing passwords this way is no longer considered an option by security experts. Given a hack can destroy your finances and identity, we strongly recommend investing in a password management tool.

Microsoft Excel has been around for years and people have used it creatively to take on many tasks. Microsoft even provides templates to get you started. How are you using spreadsheets to manage your business?

Should You Hire a Personal Assistant

Do you ever feel like you have too much to do in a day, like the tasks are never-ending? Maybe it’s time you considered finding someone to help. According to Polo and Tweed, personal assistants can help you manage the little things, so you can be more productive. Their infographic reveals how a PA can help with your workload and make you a better independent contractor in the long-run.

Should You Hire a Personal Assistant

Always Finish Strong

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Regional Vice President at Eagle

“Starting strong is good. Finishing strong is epic!” – Robin Sharma

Business People at Finish LineHow many times have you seen people who fail to finish strong either because they know they are almost done with a project, job, or even a work-out, typically because they become fatigued, bored or otherwise disinclined to continue to put the required effort needed to stand out.

Starting new projects or initiatives is always a time of excitement and for some contractors, that adrenaline rush of experiencing new challenges and meeting and influencing new people or environments is exactly what keeps them going in the contracting world.

But one of the most common problems I’ve witnessed and one that absolutely changes the client’s perception of the contractor’s overall performance is what happens in the final stages of the project when most of the work is complete and things are wrapping up. Feedback up until that point was extremely positive, everything along the way was good news (or no news). And just when extending the contract or finding the individual a new contract seems to be a no brainer, the wheels fall off.

It’s at this critical time, just as a contract is about to be completed, that a contractor can cement their reputation as being an absolute pro or conversely, and unfortunately, a dud! Here are a number of things to avoid if you would prefer to be the former, and not the latter:

1. Do More Than is Required

“What is the distance between someone who achieves their goals consistently and those who spend their lives and careers merely following? The extra mile.”

And do more than is required right up until the last day and hour of the project that you were contracted to deliver. If you keep that mindset as an independent contractor, you will build a reputation in the marketplace as a professional who consistently brings value to the project right up until its conclusion.

2. Don’t Let the Hunt for Your New Gig Get in the Way

“There are only two options regarding commitment. You are either in or you’re out. There is no such thing as life in between”

It’s true that as a contractor, you are responsible for “self-marketing” to ensure that you have your next contract in hand while wrapping up the contract you are currently on. But too often, contractors start fixating on their next contract. And so the work on their current project suffers. Attendance becomes spotty and deliverables suffer. Sacrificing the hard work and solid reputation you’ve earned at the very last stages of your contract is not wise. Not only will you risk angering a client who might still be considering you for other projects or an extension, but that disappointment could lead to an even earlier termination, making the issue of your next contract even more serious.

3. Don’t Rob Peter to Pay Paul

In other words, don’t let the fear of a “gap” in projects prompt you to accept a new contract prior to the end of your current one. This is typically mishandled for a number of reasons.

The contractor is embarrassed or afraid to quit so they invent a reason why they have to leave the contract early. The lie is usually uncovered at some point and there goes your hard-earned reputation.

They begin the search months before the contract is scheduled to end under the assumption that it is never too early to start looking. Well in fact, it is. Now you have an excited recruiter and client who believe that you are ready to start a new contract on their timeline. Either way, you’re guaranteed to make someone unhappy whether you accept the new contract and quit the old early, or stay with the current and turn down the new contract.

In the rare event that both parties accept the overlap, you end up promising both parties that you can deliver and then fail miserably at one, the other, or both.

4. Work with your Recruiters(s)

Plan a schedule of communication with your current recruiter so that you can help each other plan any transition. Share information and project knowledge to determine if there is an extension coming your way or if there are new opportunities on the horizon that correspond with your contract end. If you attend an interview prior to your contract finishing, let the interviewers know when you are expected to finish your current contract. Set the expectation with them that you will complete your current contract, that it is a part of your service delivery approach. If anything, it should impress upon them that you are a professional with integrity. And if things don’t line up perfectly, you can always offer to do project prep work while finishing up your current gig. This can always be done at home, on the bus or during weekends.

Starting new projects is always fun but it can be a challenge to finish strong. Commit to staying connected to your end goal which should be providing service and value right up to the last day of the project you are on. Don’t let yourself get waylaid by impatience or worrying about your next job. Trust that your training, experience and reputation will play a big part in the successful transition to a new contract. And work with professional recruiters to augment your search.