Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Industry Trends and Insight

IT industry trends and insights, including information about the IT job market across Canada, tech news from around the world plus the latest in technology and current opinions.

Soft Skills Are More Important Than Ever When It Comes To Landing A Gig

Soft Skills Are More Important Than Ever When It Comes To Landing A Gig

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

With labour supply shortages becoming ubiquitous (in the local business market, provincially, nationally and around the world), forward-thinking companies with means are changing up the hiring strategies used even for technical roles… and especially for new, emerging, hard-to-find skills. When the world was in a “buyer’s market”, employers could ask for a shopping-list of attributes and, with a little patience, they could expect to hire close to an exact version of their “perfect candidate”. This is no longer true and hasn’t been true for some time now… and companies are coming around to the idea.

Progressive companies are more and more often hiring people using criteria that includes some basic level of education/experience along with a number of specific, highly valued, non-technical characteristics. We’re basically talking attitude, aptitude and business/people skills. These companies expect to train new hires to be able to do the jobs for which they are hiring. In this way, they are acquiring smart, motivated employees and investing in them to get them to where they need to be technically. The following chart from recent CompTIA research shows that only 3 of the 9 most desired skills are directly technology related.

CompTIA - Skills IT Managers are Looking for When Hiring

One such example of a company looking to invest in training, is AT&T. It has dog-eared $1 billion to re-train their staff to bring their skills sets up to what is needed by the company. Although this appears to be an enormous sum of money, they’ve calculated that it is cheaper to train than to release and (hopefully) re-hire people with the desired technical skill sets. The cost of releasing and then re-hiring is over 20% of the employees’ yearly salaries; and AT&T found that retraining staff has a smaller impact on the actual day-to-day business, they get to keep valuable knowledge-capital in the business, and there is significant improvements in employee engagement, satisfaction and retention.

For independent contractors this message should solidify a couple of things for you:

1) If you are a SME in a particular area and you are able to keep yourself on the leading edge of technological developments, the world is likely to be your oyster. You will be somewhat of a scarce resource and highly coveted.

2) If you find yourself with older, somewhat out-of-date skill sets you might try to emphasize the business/communication skills that you have built or the transferable skills that you are bringing with you. Through an understanding of the role for which you are applying, bring out these soft skills showing how they will help you to become the resource they need. With CRA rules being what they are, you may need to consider taking a permanent role so that the company can invest in your training.

Or… You can invest in yourself, upgrading your skills to better align with the business. But any way you approach it, know that hiring managers are more and more interested in the soft skills applicants bring with them. The following is a list (not exhaustive) of the soft skills employers find valuable. I encourage you to work some of this into your resume and interview conversations!

Soft Skills Employers Look for in People
Source: TIQ Group – Soft Skills Employers Look For In People

Regional Job Market Update for Edmonton, Alberta (February 2020)

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Regional Vice President at Eagle

City of EdmontonLast time I wrote an update on the Edmonton job market, things were admittedly a bit stagnant and the Alberta economy continued to limp along. Activity in the IT sector, however, was still robust as organizations continued to push through large projects aimed at digitizing and automating their work environments. The public sector, a major contributor to the Edmonton economy, was still a large part of the IT contracting market and it felt like Edmonton, as it is inclined to do, would ride out the storm. How things have changed. Edmonton ended 2019 with the highest jobless rate in the country at 8%, almost 2 full points up from the previous December. Interestingly, Edmonton and Calgary basically swapped places with our neighbors to the south finishing the year with an unemployment rate of 7%. Other underlying numbers demonstrate the challenges the city is now facing:

  • GDP growth is at its lowest since 2015 (.5%);
  • Full time jobs have been declining, many of those positions formally in the public sector as the newly elected provincial government slashes spending as per the October budget; and,
  • If you are a young person aged 15-24, your options for employment have slipped drastically, with unemployment for that demographic at around 17% according to Stats Canada.

How does all this affect you if you are an Information Technology professional. The most obvious hit is the belt tightening going on in most government sectors. At Eagle, we’ve already witnessed the early termination of projects and the scaling back of major initiatives. And that has affected employees and contractors alike. The provincial government has also eliminated several tax incentives directly targeted at attracting technology firms in BC and other jurisdictions to relocate to Alberta. While hard to directly quantify what this means in terms of jobs and lost opportunity, it’s just one more blow to the tech sector.

What is also becoming evident is that the competition for contracts and jobs is heating up. You are not only competing with a greater number of candidates, but you can likely expect rates to become more competitive in the short term as individuals sharpen their pencil to better their chances of winning.

So, what can you do if you find yourself without a contract and panic starting to set in? First, stop panicking… there are options.

If you have saved funds for just such a purpose, how about taking that certification, course or program to skill up and make yourself as marketable as you possibly can. It can be hard to find the time, especially as a contractor, to keep up with your training, now might be a good time to do so.

Or, you might want to consider moving to a market that currently has demand for IT professionals. I’ve written before about moving to Winnipeg to take on contract work there. The reasons are simple. Lots of opportunity, less competition and a cost of living that makes it easier to relocate vs other urban centers such as Toronto or Vancouver. Remember, it doesn’t have to be forever, just enough time to weather the storm.

Hopefully, the storm won’t last and there might even be some good news. Edmonton gained 3100 positions in December and unemployment is expected to level off and perhaps move from its current position to the 7 – 7.5% range, according to City economists. In the meantime, stay close to your favorite recruiters and seek advice from them about how to make yourself as competitive and attractive a candidate as possible.

Quick Poll Results: Do you swear at work?

Workplaces are trending to be more casual environments. Employers are more lean on dresscodes, lounges are popping up in offices, and a number of other progressive perks are bringing a more laid-back feeling to workplaces across all industries. With that mind, we set-out last month to learn if a more casual language is also working its way into the office.

The January Contractor Quick Poll asked our readers, comprised mostly of IT contractors, if they swear in the workplace. The results are clear that the  majority remain professional and are not bringing foul language into work.

Contractor Quick Poll Results: Do you swear at work?

Contractor Quick Poll: Who Does Your Taxes?

For many of us, taxes are a confusing headache, like trying to win a scavenger hunt created by the government. Succeed at solving their riddles and providing the right information, and you get to continue with business as usual. Mess it up, though, and you’re into a whole new set of headaches.

A couple years ago we asked our readers who manages their general bookkeeping and accounting. In this month’s contractor quick poll, we’re asking independent contractors how you specifically approach tax season. Do you take advantage of online tools and services to file it all on your own, or do you hire the help of a professional to take care of it for you?

The Undisputable Top 3 Programming Languages for 2020

In early December, we shared a video by edureka! Listing their prediction for 2020’s top 10 programming languages. Heading up the list, the top three languages were unsurprisingly Python, Java and JavaScript. If you had any doubt about the popularity of these languages, here’s more proof.

Programming with Mosh, hosted by Mosh Hamedani, a professional software engineering trainer, published this video in mid-January, also declaring Python, Java, and JavaScript as the three most popular programming languages this year. Hamedani goes into extensive detail outlining what makes them so popular, stating that if you’re looking for a job in AI, web, or mobile development, this video is for you.

IT Industry News for January 2020

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee, Co-Founder of Eagle

This post first appeared on the Eagle Blog on February 4th, 2020

This is my 30,000-foot look at events in the Tech industry for January 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 previous year’s Januarys …

Five years ago, in January 2015, the biggest deal saw Yahoo looking like it might be remaking itself, spinning off its $40 billion stake in Alibaba to become smaller, leaner and either buy or be bought!  Other M&A activity involving a “B” was Telco equipment company Yahoo logoCommscope offering $3 billion for TE Connectivity’s network business.  There were also a number of very well-known companies out buying, and in no particular order: Amazon paid something like $300 million (approximate) for chip designer Annapurna Labs; Expedia bought its online travel competitor Travelocity for $200 million; Samsung paid $100 million for Brazil’s largest print company Simpress; Google paid about $100 million for mobile payments company Softcard; Facebook bought Wit.ai a company that has a Siri like solution that can be embedded in other products; Dropbox bought CloudOn a document editing and productivity tools company; Twitter paid somewhere between $30 million and $40 million for Zipdial, an Indian company that does some funky marketing thing with phone hang ups; and finally, Microsoft made two acquisitions, startup text analytics company Equivo and, in a departure from its history, it bought open software company Revolution Analytics.

Four years ago, in January 2016, there was plenty of activity with some of the household IBM logonames out shopping.  IBM bought video service provider Ustream; Microsoft bought MinecraftEdu; Apple bought “emotion recognition” company Emotient; and Oracle bought media web tracking firm AddThis.  Toshiba bought an ERP solutions company Ignify, and a number of smaller deals included Juniper Networks buying BTISystems Inc.; FireEye bought iSight partners; Acceo Solutions bought Groupe Techna and SmartPrint bought LaserCorp’s Toronto-based managed print services business.

In January 2017, the multi-billion-dollar deal of the month was Cisco’s purchase of app performance management company, AppDynamics for $3.7 billion. HP Enterprise Cisco logopurchased data center hardware provider, SimpliVity for $650 million. Microsoft acquired Montreal-based deep learning start-up Maluuba for an undisclosed sum. Google announced plans to purchase Twitter’s mobile developer platform Fabric. Trello, the startup behind a leading task-management app was purchased by Atlassian for $425 million. CRM giant, Salesforce bought Unity&Variety to enhance its productivity app service Quip. Managed Service Provider of data and database administration, Datavail, acquired Canadian IT channel leader Navantis.

Amazon Web ServicesTwo years ago, in January 2018,the big deal saw investment management software company SS&C pay $5.4 billion for financial services software company DST Systems.  Amazon Web Services increased its cybersecurity protection capabilities through the purchase of Sqrrl.  ADP bought gig economy tool WorkMarket and TD Bank bought a Canadian AI company Layer 6.

January 2019 was another fairly busy M&A month.  The biggest deal saw DXC pay $2 billion for digital consultancy Luxoft; DXC also bought another European services company EG A/S. Amazon Web Services made a couple of acquisitions, Israeli data migration company CloudEndure and Vancouver startup TSO Logic, a cloud migration company.  Accenture was another high-profile company making multiple acquisitions in January: Houston-based consulting company Enaxis Consulting, and Orbium a company providing services in the banking sector.  Dropbox splashed $230 million to buy electronic signature company HelloSign; Google bought DORA, a research firm; Microsoft bought database startup Citus; AT Kearney bought consulting company Cervello; and Zix paid $275 million for email security company AppRiver.

Which brings us back to the present…

The big M&A deal in January 2020 saw Insight Partners pay $5 billion for cloud data management company Veeam; Insight Partners also bought IoT security startup Armis.  In other deals, another investment company, Mapletree, paid $557 million for 10 of Digital Realty’s datacentersServiceNow was busy, buying two AI companies, Loom Systems and Passage AI; Xerox (rumored to be chasing HP) bought UK solution provider Arena Group; VMWare bought network analytics company Nyansa; and Hitachi Vantara bought intelligent data cataloguing company Waterline Data.  Other deals saw Fireye buy security startup Cloudvisory; Ahead bought its third solution provider in the last six months, Platform Consulting Group; AWS partner Effectual bought JHC Technologies; and Park Place Technologies bought Intellinet’s network operations center.

VMWare was also in the news for confirming its annual “workforce rebalancing” initiative which may involve hundreds of layoffs.  Gartner tells us that 2020 IT spending is likely to increase by a healthy 3.4%.  The world’s CEOs are a little concerned about a potential slowdown or even recession in 2020.  The World Economic Forum announced the “Reskilling Revolution” with a plan to reskill a billion people around the globe by 2030.

In economic and employment news, both the EU and the OECD had positive employment numbers which were reflected in most of the stats from around the world.  The US added 202,000 non-farm jobs in November which was the largest gain since last April.  Even where the reports were less than positive, the underlying message was that the economy is doing OK.

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

Walk Fast and Smile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contractor Quick Poll: Do you swear at work?

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

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

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

Kelly Benson By Kelly Benson,
Branch Manager at Eagle

Regional Job Market Update for Calgary, Alberta

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where is the current demand in Calgary?

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

IT Industry News for December 2019

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee, Co-Founder of Eagle

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

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

A Little History of previous year’s Decembers …

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings us back to the present …

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

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

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

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

Walk Fast and Smile