Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: IT Contracting

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to independent contracting.

Contractor Quick Poll Results: How Many Languages Do You Speak?

Canada has two official languages: French and English. Unofficially, there are more than 200 languages spoken nation-wide and the 2016 Canadian Census found that 17.5% of the population spoke at least two languages at home. That’s a lot of diversity!

Speaking multiple languages can help you in your job search as it simplifies communication and building relationships with more people. In last month’s contractor quick poll, we decided to get a grasp on our readership and understand how many languages you can speak. The results have been fascinating with roughly 75% of respondents being able to speak more than one language and a few who can even speak 5 of more!

Quick Poll Results - How many languages do you speak?

Contractor Quick Poll: Where do you prefer to be working?

It’s now been about two months since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Canadian economy to shift in a way we’ve never seen before. While some companies had to shut down projects and cut contracts almost immediately, others saw the opposite effect where demand for IT talent couldn’t be greater. Across all organizations, nearly all staff and contractors have been asked to work from home and that has been a major change for many of us.

Now, we’re weeks into the pandemic and slowly starting to see the economy open up. While few offices are bringing their teams back, we are at a point where we can at least start talking about it. In this month’s contractor quick poll, we’re curious to know what you think of working from home, especially after being forced to do so for so long.

Building Self-Awareness Will Drastically Improve Your IT Career

Building Self-Awareness Will Drastically Improve Your IT Career

We published a post last October explaining how strengthening your emotional intelligence can make you a better IT contractor. Hand-in-hand with emotional intelligence is self-awareness. According to Harvard Business Review (HBR), there are two categories of self-awareness: internal self-awareness is how we see ourselves, and external self-awareness which refers to our understanding of how other people see us. Building both of them will have extreme benefits for an IT contractor in your job search, during job interviews, while working on contracts, as well as throughout life in general.

Self-Awareness in Your Job Search

Being self-aware means that you genuinely understand your strengths and weaknesses, what you excel at and when you tend to drag your feet. When we search for jobs, it’s tempting to apply for opportunities that will have the most pay, the most prestige and the most convenience. Self-awareness lets you take a step back to evaluate the job description and know if you truly are qualified for the job. From there, you can create a plan to develop the skills that will let you achieve your career goals. When you recognize shortfalls but still want to apply to an IT contract, a good sense of self-awareness will give you the confidence to clearly explain the areas where you lack experience, your plan to develop those skills, as well as what you bring to the table to make up for the shortfall.

Self-Awareness in a Job Interview

More and more, recruiters and hiring managers are structuring an interview to look beyond technical skills, including to understand an applicant’s self-awareness. Demonstrate your self-awareness in how you answer questions and speak genuinely about yourself. Explain your decision-making process, how your emotions have influenced decisions, and how you overcome biases that you identified. When providing examples of past work, recognize the challenges you’ve run into, provide honest details on how other people perceived you, and be accountable for your actions and outcomes. Most interviewers will assume that the IT contractor who is the hero of every project and who does no wrong is really just lacking self-awareness.

Self-Awareness on the Job

Why do clients want to work with technologists with high self-awareness? Because self-awareness has been proven time and again to improve performance, especially if you’re going to be leading a team. In fact, a 2010 study by Green Peak Partners and Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations discovered that high self-awareness often correlates with leadership success.

Knowing how others see you and how your emotions affect them helps you develop relationships with all levels of colleagues. Furthermore, when you know your weaknesses, you have an easier time delegating work to those who can do better. Finally, being known as someone with high self-awareness at work will help you with future opportunities. As noted earlier, clients and recruiters are looking for this trait more frequently, so when they call past clients for references, it will serve you well if they can speak to your self-awareness.

Self-Awareness to Improve Your Life

Those with high self-awareness are known to have increased soft skills that can benefit your job search, interviews, on-the-job performance, and life in general. For example, it can be argued that poor time management is the result of not being aware of how you spend your time in the first place. Taking a step back to breakdown your day helps you realize where you could have fit-in more productive behaviours. As well, self-awareness provides clarity in what you can and can’t control, and accept when it’s time to move forward rather than waste time on uncontrollable challenges.

Developing Self-Awareness

People spend years building self-awareness and along this journey there is always the opportunity to continually improve. There are a number of books available to help you, but a few quick tips include:

  • Ask for Feedback: It’s a difficult task, but getting feedback from people you trust and asking them to describe how they see you is a good exercise in getting to know yourself. Remember to ask people in all areas of your life and try not to take the feedback personally.
  • Journal: Reflect on your day, what went well and what you could have handled differently. This conversation with your thoughts will help you understand what strategies do and don’t work and will teach you to become more present.
  • Try a Personality Test: There are a plethora out there for you to try, but take them for what they are. A Facebook quiz or magazine article isn’t going to be scientifically accurate. Humans are also known for subconsciously skewing the results of these tests so they come out how we want them to.
  • Meditation: This in-depth exercise is a helpful way to build mindfulness. If you’re unsure where to start, search for guided meditation courses in your area. Eventually, you’ll learn to build your own routines that you can do at home.

We can all think of people we’ve worked with in the past who had absolutely no self-awareness and a few special people who excelled at it. What are you doing to improve yours?

Client Agreements and IT Contractors: Understanding your ability to re-use information you gained while working with a client

Client Agreements and IT Contractors: Understanding your ability to re-use information you gained while working with a client

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

Competition in the business world is fierce and some industries are more intense than others, innovating at an extremely fast pace. The slightest delay in a new product release or minor variation in product features could be the difference between being first to market and that can have a drastic impact to the bottom line. To ensure that clients protect their position in the marketplace, clients go to great lengths to protect their IP, including tools utilized to develop new products. Being an IT contractor, often working on new projects that impact a client’s market offering, you have the opportunity to work on leading edge projects with leading edge tools. Clients realize the risk they have in bringing on contractors and thus have strict contracts regarding the access and use of IP and tools.

Most client contracts go beyond the basic details of pay rate, job description and invoicing details. Client contracts typically have many clauses built in to ensure they are protected from external resources sharing and reusing information gained while on contract with them. Typical protection clauses include confidentiality agreements, non-competes, intellectual property rights, ownership of information, data security and data privacy clauses. These clauses are often followed with client schedules going into further detail on each of these clauses.

If you have been a contractor for many years, you are not a stranger to these clauses and understand their implications. With the influx of IT resources into the Canadian marketplace and the rise of the “gig economy” there are many new players on the scene. Often, these resources do not take the time to fully understand the clauses they are agreeing to and the impact on future use of data/products they gained during the time with the client.

When signing a new client agreement, it is important that contractors take the time to read the contract, and where needed, seek external legal guidance on the clauses and implications to your business. 99% of the time, contractors understand and adhere to these clauses but there are always a few contractors who take liberties with the knowledge they have gained or developed while working with a client. Breaching these clauses has serious legal and financial ramifications and can impact future contracts.

For example, very innocently, you may believe you have the right to take home data or files after a project is completed because you feel you own it, after all, you created it. Perhaps it’s so you can bring its value to future projects or maybe you’d just like to use it within your portfolio and score future gigs. But when you agree to work with a client and sign-off on their contract, you do not own any of this. Certainly, you own the knowledge capital that you brought to the project but what you do with it is owned by the client. They’re paying you for that knowledge and your work, so everything you work with while at the client site is owned by the client.

What can you do about this? You could ask to modify the contract and edit the clauses so they suit your needs, but this will rarely become reality. Clients’ lawyers carefully worded those clauses to protect them as best as possible and they are not up for debate. Their privacy and confidentiality are of higher value to them than any individual could possibly bring.

Instead, it’s best to accept that they exist and ensure you don’t do anything that might raise some red flags with the client. For example:

  • Don’t access external sites when working that are not on the client’s approved list.
  • Don’t send documents to your personal email, even if it’s harmless and you have full intentions to delete them.
  • Don’t print client reference material and bring it home, again, even if you plan to destroy it once you’ve completed your work.
  • Don’t take copies of software.
  • Don’t keep any devices given to you once you depart a project.
  • Ensure that all material and anything “owned” by the client is returned at the end of the project.

You can also take a few measures ahead of time to protect yourself and your own work:

  • Understand clauses fully and have them reviewed by your lawyer. They often extend beyond the end date of the contract so know what restrictions that might have on you before signing.
  • If you know that you will be using your own methodology or technology that you are bringing to the client, get your ownership of it in writing up-front. A heads-up though, this will involve lawyers and will have extra costs for you.
  • If you want to take home samples, not to share with competitors but to use in your portfolio, discuss it with the client and agree what is alright to be used and what you can say about it. Ensure this is all in writing.
  • If you are given any technology at the end of a project, for any reason, get a written release.

Clients usually have audit rights written into their contracts, meaning they can (and will) check in on you at any time to ensure you’re following their procedures and protecting their information. As already mentioned, neglecting their terms could result in the loss of your contract, legal proceedings and a damaged reputation. I always strongly recommend your lawyer reviews your contracts before you sign anything (if the terms are new to you) and if you believe you might bump into any situation where you’ll want to take home your work, make you completely understand those specific clauses inside and out.

Silver Linings: How the COVID-19 Pandemic Can Strengthen How We Work

Brianne Risley By Brianne Risley,
Director, Delivery Strategy & Development at Eagle

When faced with sweeping changes affecting how we live and work, I like to reflect on some of the positive outcomes I can see for our companies and teams when restrictions are finally lifted. We have gone through something together — let’s look at some ways we are strengthened by this experience.

  • Tighter Bonds: “Work-Friends” are now “Work-Family”. We’ve shared an unprecedented experience together over the past 4 weeks. “Work-friends” have deepened into something a bit more personal as we share stories, fears, and find ways to offer support to teammates that needed that extra bit of connection. We’ve met co-workers’ kids, we know their dogs, we’ve seen them with beards and have no make-up. It used to be I could only say that about close friends. I believe the personal nature of this openness will lead to long-term connections with the people we worked with through this crisis, which is far different than the transient nature of most work relationships.
  • Remote Work… Works!: Every company that has ever stubbornly held fast to a “must-be-on-site”, “bum-in-seat” policy for their project teams has been awakened to remote work possibilities. This opens the opportunity of using remote workers with specialized skills from across the country (and beyond) to support that ‘hard-to-fill’ project in Atlantic Canada or the Prairie provinces. It also presents a path forward for workers in Alberta who find themselves under-employed by the ‘double whammy’ of low oil prices and the pandemic to find work on projects across North America. Before this all started, there was already a strong undercurrent of Canadians working remotely for US companies on tech projects. I expect this to grow significantly in the time ahead.
  • IT Jobs for the Foreseeable Future: All this connectedness is driven by Technology projects and IT workers. Jobs and wages will continue to be strong in this sector which is good for me, as an IT Recruiter, and for my candidate base!
  • ‘Show and Tell’ Culture for Companies and Workers: How will a company introduce a remote worker to their corporate culture? Likewise, how do you, as a remote worker, show that you can be a key contributor to a team-oriented company? Companies will expand on using visual techniques like team pictures, project videos, and 360 video tours of their offices to publicly showcase their work environments. An example of this is here. For workers, we’ll go beyond the basics like optimizing a LinkedIn profile, or crafting a solid personal brand to showcase who we are. To stand out, we will do something bold like sharing a video-tour of our home office to show our preparedness for remote work, or come to interviews with a family photo along-side our diplomas. If you’re joining a ‘work-family’, be prepared to share a bit more about who you are on both a personal and professional-level.

All change comes with a silver lining. There are intrinsic benefits to our work culture that will come from this experience. It’s up to each of us to be mindful, and to capitalize on them.

Quick Poll Results: Your Go-To Voice Assistant

Do you use a voice assistant like Google, Siri or Alexa? We learned in last month’s Contractor Quick Poll that a proportion of our readers aren’t using voice-activated devices; however, a good chunk do enjoy the benefits of solving quick problems, getting directions and just having fun with the computer on their phone or home assistant.

To go one step further, we asked our readers about their favourite assistant. Between Amazon, Apple and Google, there’s some stiff competition. While some people said they have no preference, there are some obvious preferences for Google and Alexa.

Contractor Quick Poll Results - Who's Your Favourite Voice Assistant?

5 Tips to Make Working Home with Your Spouse Actually Work

5 Tips to Make Working Home with Your Spouse Actually Work

You love your spouse. We know you do. But how many people have ever worked from home with their spouse more than they have in the past few weeks? Twitter has exploded with comical one-liners of people sharing their experiences and they’ve been fun to read. But there are real challenges that families are experiencing. Dealing with them up-front is what’s going to ensure you can remain productive for your client while maintaining a happy household. And, given you’re probably confined to the home for a little while, that happiness should be a high priority. Here are a few tips we compiled to help you out:

  1. Try and work in separate spaces. Not everybody’s home can accommodate this, but if you can work in a separate room from your spouse, it will help you focus, minimize distractions, and prevent you from stepping on each other’s toes. Just make sure it’s a productive office (Hint: bedrooms tend to be a bad idea)

  2. They are not your colleagues. As tempting as it is, refrain from using your spouse to brainstorm work-related ideas or rant about office politics. This is distracting to them and brings them into problems that they really do not need.

  3. Still respect them like your colleagues. If you work in an open-office, then you know how annoying it is when somebody takes phone calls too loudly, listens to music without headphones, or starts talking to you while you’re in the middle of working on something that requires focus. Don’t be that person at home.

  4. Accept and embrace the inevitable distractions. It’s alright to want to socialize with your significant other through the day, so set some ground rules. Decide on specific times when you will take a break together and have signals when distractions are or aren’t alright. For example, a closed door might mean you cannot be disturbed or working at the dining room table instead of the office could mean some chitchat is alright.

  5. Take a few minutes each morning to discuss. Evaluate the prior day and review today’s schedule. Did anything happen yesterday that prevented you from being productive? Do you have an extra busy day today or are things a bit more relaxed? Discuss these topics each morning before going on your separate ways.

If you haven’t already, take a minute to acknowledge the challenges that you might face with both of you working from home and solve them up-front. Build your routines and plans that work for you. How are you surviving working from home with others around?

8 Ways to Make Your Home Office More Secure

8 Ways to Make Your Home Office More Secure

Millions of people around the world have found themselves working from a home office over the past month, and many of them were not prepared. You might have a home office set-up, complete with a comfortable workspace and the right equipment, but is your client’s information well-protected? You may need to step-up your security game.

We’ve shared tips before on how you can guarantee your individual device is secured, and there are more steps you can take to ensure your client’s assets remain safe. Here are a few steps you can take to move closer to that final goal.

  • Remember Basic Security: Let’s start with the standard practices you’re (hopefully) already doing. Install quality virus protection on your computer and work only on a secure Wi-Fi that’s backed-up by a safe password. Speaking of passwords, stop writing them down where anybody can find them. There are a number of affordable password managers available that will make your life easier and more secure.
  • Be Aware of Online Dangers: There are reports of more email attacks during the COVID-19 crisis. Now more than ever, be extra diligent before downloading an attachment or responding to an email that seems the least bit suspicious. Even if it appears to be coming from a co-worker you trust, if it seems out-of-the-ordinary, double check with a phone call to the supposed sender.
  • Don’t Ignore Security Updates: When your computer or software says that there are updates available for security purposes, take the advice and run the updates. Of course, given the previous point, if any update is suspicious, do your research before clicking the “Install” button.
  • Be Careful When Using the Cloud: Saving files to a cloud service such as Dropbox, Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive is a helpful idea for sharing files with coworkers, and often securely. Before doing so, ensure that it is an approved service by your client’s security team and that your credentials to that service are also secured.
  • Be Aware When Making Calls: The weather is going to become nicer which means your windows are going to be open and you may be in a fortunate situation where you can work on the back deck. Keep your phone conversations quiet because you never know who is listening.
  • Lock Things Up: So far we’ve been talking about electronic security, but physical items such as documents should also be considered when securing your home office. Break-ins happen and kids can get nosey. Set-up locks on your office and invest in a cabinet that locks to help keep client documents safe.
  • Keep Organized: Forget kids and burglars, your own disorganization could be the reason you misplace important documents or passwords get into the wrong hands. Spend a few extra minutes each day to keep your workspace clean and organized.
  • Shred Paper: If you print any documents that have any sort of private information, you should have a paper shredder in your home office. Your client depends on you to dispose of waste responsibly.

There is a lot of change happening that’s causing all of our lives to be a little more out of order. While some things will justifiably be missed, when working from home, it’s imperative that your client’s security remains at the top of your priority list. Could you improve the security in your home office?

Please Don’t Ghost Recruiters After Being Submitted to a Client

Please Don't Ghost Recruiters After Being Submitted to a Client

Graeme Bakker By Graeme Bakker,
Director, Delivery Strategy & Development at Eagle

A major part of a successful recruiter/consultant relationship, is building a connection that lasts. Afterall, when a recruiter and consultant are working together, it often takes a couple of opportunities and submissions before a placement occurs.

During this process, many forms of conversation need to happen, via both email and phone. Having been leading recruiters for a number of years now, I commonly hear “I can’t get in touch with Joe,” or “Sarah won’t confirm her interview availability.”  On the flip side, consultants provide feedback like “I never heard back about my submission,” or “Nobody ever called me about a possible interview.”

Contract opportunities often come in fast and close even faster. A major challenge contractors and recruiters have throughout the process is being sure to communicate back-and-forth quickly, as new information becomes available. And after all of that rush, the hiring manager is sometimes slow to review and feedback on submissions seems non-existent.  This causes anxiety for both recruiters and consultants.

Trust me when I say that recruiters LOVE getting feedback from clients about submissions. And there is nothing more that we would love than to let you know that feedback, in detail.  No feedback is as frustrating for everyone.

But a client’s hiring process is not simple and they are also dealing with many unknowns. There might be a delay for any number of reasons beyond their control, meaning it could be another week before the resumes even get to the right hiring manager.  We’ve also seen hold-ups happen because the client wants to hire two people instead of one person for the role and interviews get pushed for another week.  So many things can happen behind the scenes.

Still, it’s understandable that delays, lack of feedback and too many “no update updates” would cause a consultant to disengage with their recruiter. Sometimes this results in contractors “ghosting” their recruiter – completely ignoring emails or phone calls and not responding at all. This, however, can send the wrong message and may have negative effects.

As noted, clients’ hiring processes timelines can vary and be delayed for many reasons. Sometimes, the recruiter only hears something a couple weeks later, when they receive a notice that the client wants to interview the consultant. If you’ve already ghosted them due to a lack of feedback, then the recruiter is going to be forced to tell the client that you are no longer interested, and a new search begins to find somebody else for the job.  Furthermore, it decreases their confidence in considering you for future submissions.

Communication, or lack there-of, is a common reason we see job opportunities fall apart. I recommend working with your recruiter to make a communication plan upfront. Let them know how often and when you prefer updates to be sent (even if there is no update), plus if the recruiter doesn’t offer the information, ask them about how the client works so you can set your own expectations during the process.

Patience is something that both the recruiter and the consultant working together must understand.  Certainly, great recruiters must check-in with job applicants, even if there is no feedback, so the consultant is aware of what may or may not be coming down the pipe. And at the same time, as a consultant, you should trust your recruiter and have confidence that if there is information or feedback, you will receive it.

The Top Tools to Host Meetings Online While Working from Home

The Top Tools to Host Meetings Online While Working from Home

COVID-19 has quickly forced many of us from full-access to our teams in-person to working by ourselves at home. Communication with the rest of the team is obviously still possible, but depending on your client’s set-up, productive communication and updates might not be as simple. Separate from your contract work, physical distancing also creates challenges in setting up interviews with recruiters, leading networking events with colleagues, or any other kind of gathering you’d typically have professionally or personally.

There are a number of solutions available to help set-up meetings and accomplish your objectives. The challenge is weeding through them all to find the one that’s right for you. We’ve looked into some of the most common ones and summarized what you need to know here:

Standard Social Media Chat Applications

Let’s get this out of the way first. Facebook Messenger, Facetime, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Google Hangouts all provide ways for you to connect with friends and family, whether by chat or by video. They’re completely free and generally simple to use, so at a first glance, these would look like a fantastic options, but they do have some drawbacks. First, as noted, these are typically used for friends and family and require you to connect your social media profiles. Maybe you’re ok with it, but others would prefer not to have their colleagues following them on Facebook. These applications are also not designed for the work environment and are limited in a number of meeting-related features available in the below solutions.

Zoom

Zoom is perhaps the most popular platform being used today. Sign-up is easy and the free version allows unlimited 1-on-1 meetings. You can schedule meetings or start it immediately, but either way, you’re provided a link to send meeting attendees, which they just click on. Attendees will be prompted to download some Zoom software, but the process is quick and easy. Once in the meeting, users can turn on video as well as share screens. The downside to the free version is that any meeting with more than 2 people is limited to 40 minutes in length.

The paid version of Zoom is still reasonable. The cost is $20/month or you can subscribe for an entire year for $200. This opens up a variety of new meeting features, including up to 24-hour maximum meeting duration. Only the host of a meeting is required to pay for the upgraded version of Zoom. All attendees can have a free account and still attend.

Zoom also has many extra features, including a filter tool that lets you touch up your appearance when you’re on video. This recent Inc. article summarizes 7 tips for using Zoom.

Join.me

Join.me is another popular meeting tool and has been around for years. It contains many of the same features as Zoom but does not have a free version available. The Lite version costs $13/month is limited to 5 participants per meeting and no webcam. There are no time limits or meeting limits, though, so if you’re looking to host small conference calls, this would be a great solution. The next level up is $24/month and allows for up to 10 webcam streams and up to 250 participants.

Google Hangouts Meet

Google’s Gsuite is a business solution that provides access to email hosting, storage and a number of other organizational tools, including Google Hangouts Meet. The cost is $7.80/user/month, so if you’re an independent contractor, that would be your only cost and you get the entire Gsuite package. This solution is especially great if you own your own domain and want to consolidate all of those services.

Similar to the other solutions, Hangouts Meet lets you setup a meeting and share a link, without worrying if other teammates also have accounts and plugins. With a fast, lightweight interface and smart participant management, multi-person video calls are a breeze. Hangouts Meet also integrates with Google Calendar for some extra features and is accessible on mobile.

Microsoft Teams (replaced Skype for Business)

There’s a chance you already have access to Microsoft Teams. It is primarily for collaboration and chats as part of Office 365, and also includes a great meetings feature, that replaced Skype for Business. If you don’t already have access, signing-up is free and just requires a Microsoft account, but there is an extra fee if you want access to the conferencing.

Similar to Google Hangouts Meet, Microsoft Teams comes as part of a full package of business services from Microsoft. This starts at $10.20/user/month that is an annual commitment, and also comes with storage and access to web applications.

GoToMeeting

GoToMeeting by LogMeIn is another one of the original services and scales up for very large organizations. Their basic Professional level starts at $19/month or $16.25/month billed annually. This package should give you everything you need, including HD video, screensharing, web audio, dial-in conference line, unlimited meetings or meeting lengths, up to 150 participants, plus much more.

Blue Jeans

Another industry leader, BlueJeans, offers many of the same features. Their standard package starts at $15.90/month and allows you to host up to 50 participants, with unlimited meetings with unlimited durations. A differentiator is their Smart Meetings Features which includes meeting highlights, action item tagging and intelligent meeting recaps. If this sounds like something you’re interested in, you can sign-up for a 7 day free trial to see how you like it.

There are tons of meeting tools available and the ones listed above are a selection of the popular ones we’ve come across or used in the past. While Eagle does not recommend any specific one, we do believe that each of these are worth looking at if you’re in the market for a new tool.

What online meeting tools do you use? Do you have a preference? Please share your recommendations in the comments below!