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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.

Contractor Quick Poll Results: Who Does Your Taxes

It’s every business owner and independent contractor’s favourite tax! That wonderful job of organizing your books, searching for receipts, and learning just how much you get to pay the Government! Add that fun task to your growing list of to-dos and you barely have time to eat or sleep, let alone see your friends and family.

While some IT professionals are confident and happy to do their taxes by themselves, others prefer to seek the help of a professional to oversee and guarantee they’re done flawlessly. In last month’s contractor quick poll, we asked our audience which route they typically take. By no surprise, most IT contractors hire an accountant to do the dirty work.

Contractor Quick Poll Results: Who Does Your Taxes

Contractor Quick Poll: Who’s your favourite voice assistant?

Kids today will never know the pain of having to find a phone book, going line-by-line seeking the closest business and then having to call to find out when they’re open or if they have what you want. They’ll never experience the anxiety that comes from not knowing the name of that actor who played in that movie, or the friendships torn because there’s no easy way to settle the debate. They’ll never even know the patience it takes to watch The Weather Channel, waiting for it to finally display the local forecast… and the frustration that comes from turning your head and missing it! That’s because we’re in a world with instant answers and many of those answers come from one of three famous voice-activated assistants: Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri.

Humans naturally build relationships and loyalties and, oddly enough, a strong, emotional commitment to an AI device is not unheard of. Whether via a smart home device or a phone, almost all of us have access to Alexa, Google or Siri, and many have chosen our favourite. In this month’s contractor quick poll, we’re reaching out to our audience to learn who you believe is the best voice-activated assistant.

Plan Your Development Training with the 2020 HackerRank Developer Skills Report

Once again, HackerRank surveyed over 116,000 developers and students around the world to understand the professional development trends across the industry and which skills are in the highest demand, with the most pay. The complete details were released in the 2020 HackerRank Developer Skills Report and if you’re a developer or aspiring developer planning out your training and development, this document is pure gold!

When deciding which skills to advance, many developers will start by seeing where there are the most opportunities and which will have the better financial return. It’s no surprise that JavaScript, Python and Java are the top three programming languages sought after by hiring managers. Interestingly, though, a global average of 14% (20% in the Americas) say they are language agnostic. Salary-wise, Perl, Scala and Go are more likely to earn you more money compared to the average developer.

Top Language Skills Around the World - 2020 HackerRank Developer Survey

As far as frameworks go, AngularJS, React and Spring remain the best-known as they have been for the past three year. Notably, Django and Vue.js both rose in popularity this year. But still, it’s Backbone.js and Cocoa that are earning developers more money, followed by Ruby on Rails and Spark.

Top Frameworks Around the World - 2020 HackerRank Developer Survey

Which ever of these skills you decide to improve, there are plenty of ways to get started. HackerRank found that developers use a number of methods to learn new skills, and there are clear preferences based on generation. While still used by few developers, the report points out that Coding Bootcamps are being leveraged, primarily by younger generations, and hiring managers are recognizing them as a means to prepare developers for work.

Learning New Coding Skills - 2020 HackerRank Developer Survey

This is just a small selection of the many stats and facts discovered in the 2020 HackerRank Developer Survey. If you’d like to know more, you can download the complete report here.

IT Industry News for February 2020

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee, Co-Founder of Eagle

This post first appeared on the Eagle Blog on March 5th, 2020

This is my 30,000-foot look at events in the Tech industry for February 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 Februarys …

Five years ago, in February 2015, we saw the $6.3 billion merger of Staples with Office Depot and the $1.6 billion purchase of Orbitz by Expedia.  There was a big buy in the communications and IT space with Harris paying $4.75 billion for Excelis to establish a 23,000 person company.  There was a big data center play with UK-Microsoft logobased Telecity Group paying $2.2 billion for Interxion Holdings.  Microsoft made a couple of acquisitions, paying $200 million for pen-tech maker N-Trig and $100 million for mobile calendar company Sunrise.  Samsung bought a mobile payment company (competing with Apple pay), LoopPay.  Also out buying was Twitter, which picked up Niche, a network of social media creators.  There were a number of interesting deals in Asia, including Sapdeal buying luxury fashion estore Exclusively; Foodpanda made six acquisitions of online meal delivery services to establish itself as a powerhouse in that space.  Australian job board OneShift bought Adage, which is a job board serving people over 45.

In February 2016, the biggest deal saw HNA Group of China pay $6 billion for Ingram Micro.  Ingram Micro logoTwo other billion dollar deals included Cisco paying $1.4 billion for IoT company Jasper Technologies and a consortium of Chinese internet firms making a $1.2 billion bid for Opera. Microsoft was busy with a couple of acquisitions, Xamarin a cross platform mobile application development company, and Swiftkey which produces predictive keyboard technology.  Another busy company was Alibaba Group which was investing in a bunch of companies, including a $100 million investment in Groupon, and smaller investments in microblogging site Weibo; software company Momo; augmented reality startup Magic Leap; Chinese retail chain Suning; and Singapore telco SingPost.  Other companies of note out buying included IBM who bought digital agency Aperto and Blackberry acquired cybersecurity company Encription.

The apple logo and apple with a bite out of itThree years ago, in February 2017, there was very little M&A action.  Nokia paid $371 million for Finnish telecom software company Comptel, as it reinvented itself, and Apple picked up an AI startup company RealFace.

February 2018 was a very active month in M&A.  There was more consolidation in the telco space with US-based GTT paying $2.3 billion for London headquartered Interroute, thus expanding its global footprint.  Security companies were a theme this month and you will spot several in the following list.  Cybersecurity firm Phishme was bought with $400 million of private equity money; Splunk paid $350 million for Phantom Cyber Corp; and Proofpoint paid $225 million for Wombat Security Technologies.  Other deals saw LogMeIn pay $342 million for Jive Communications; Carbonite pay $146 million for Mozy; and Red Hat pay $250 million for Core OS.  Some of the household names that were also out making deals included Oracle, Google, Opentext, Avaya and Citrix.

Last year, February 2019 was a relatively busy month in M&A but there were no blockbuster, billion dollar deals.  The biggest deal I saw was Carbonite’s $618 million Spotify logoacquisition of internet security company Webroot.  Palo Alto Networks seemed to be on a buying spree, closing two deals this month, $560 million for analytics company Demisto and $170 million for cloud security startup, RedLock.  The money guys were out shopping too, with Thoma Bravo paying $270 million+ for MSP platform company Connectwise and Trive Capital paid $330 million for Windstream’s Earthlink telephone service provider assets.  Spotify announced its podcast intentions with a couple of acquisitions, Gimlet Media and Anchor, and Witricity strengthened its hand in the wireless charging space with the acquisition of Qualcomm’s Halo business unit.  There were some big names out shopping too, including Microsoft who picked up Datasense in the education space; Amazon picked up eero in the home automation world; DXC picked up EG A/S a services company in Europe; and Semantec bought cybersecurity startup Luminate Security.

Which brings us back to the present …

February 2020 was a relatively quiet in the number of M&A deals, however there were dell logosome big dollars and some big names involved.  Dell announced that it is selling RSA, its cybersecurity arm to a group of investors for $2.075 billion.  Internet of Things company, Forescout went public about two and a half years ago, but was bought by private equity for $1.9 billion this month.  Another big deal saw SAIC pay $1.2 billion for Unisys subsidiary, Unisys Federal.  Infosys improved its Salesforce capability and US presence, paying $250 million for Simplus, a Salt Lake City based consulting company.  Other, smaller deals saw HPE buy cloud security company Scytale and Square bought Toronto based AI startup Dessa (formerly DeepLearni.ng).

Other news was somewhat dominated by the coronavirus outbreak and what that might mean for our industry.  Conferences have been cancelled, travel curtailed and one interesting bye-product was an increase in hiring of temp workers in China, to service the many people who cannot leave their homes.  Related, but not solely because of coronavirus the Chinese government announced it would be “seizing control” of HNA Group Co, which happens to be the parent company of Ingram Micro.  Cisco was also among the first companies to announce impending layoffs due in part of potential coronavirus impacts.

The jobs news around the world was generally upbeat and the US economy continues to perform strongly.  In Canada the job numbers were not too bad, but there are lots of clouds on the horizon with blockades affecting infrastructure projects and resulting regional unrest.

That is it for my monthly look at what was happening in the technology space over the last month, compared to the same month in previous years.  I’ll be back in about a month’s time, until then … walk fast and smile!

Protect You and Your Clients from Ransomware (plus an invitation to a free webinar)

Protect You and Your Clients from Ransomware  (plus an invitation to a free webinar)

According to Cybersecurity Ventures’ 2019 Official Annual Cybercrime Report, cybercrime is expected to cost the world more than $6 trillion by 2021, $20 billion in damages due to Ransomware. Attacks are not limited to certain industries or stealing data either. This article from OHS Canada gives an example of an ethical hacker in Italy who successfully took over a tower crane’s radio frequency controller. That can be disastrous!

With these stats, combined with endless stories of the past few years, it’s safe to say that no organization is safe from ransomware and we all need to be diligent. Depending on your contract, some clients allow, and even require, you to provide your own computer to perform work. Others strictly prohibit it. Regardless, you always need to be aware of these threats to protect your client, whether you’re connected to their network or just storing some data on your own machine.

A recent article written by Jason Hardy of Racksquared Data Centers, and published on The Business Journals provides three tips to protect business from ransomware:

  1. Implement a 3-2-1 backup strategy. That includes having three copies of data, on two different types of media, and one of those copies are offsite.
  2. Stay current on security patches. This is one of the simplest, but can also be overlooked due to time or expenses when you don’t have a dedicated team to patches. You may consider outsourcing this to ensure it gets done.
  3. Educate employees on security best practices. As noted above, there are no limits to who and what can get hacked, so do what you can to spread best practices and keep everyone within your team informed about how to stay safe.

Free Webinar to Protect Your Business from Ransomware Attacks

If you’re interested in learning more about Ransomware and how you can protect yourself and your client, NPC is hosting a free webinar offering best practices and defence strategies. They’ll discuss what ransomware is, how it works and how it has evolved, followed by what you can do about it.

The webinar takes place Tuesday, March 10th at 1:00pm EST. You can get more details and register for the webinar here.

NPC provides secure managed laptops, desktops and tablets for professionals who need reliable, secure computing with comprehensive support services. The devices are already sourced, configured, and secured with industry leading backup and security tools. From there, their support technicians continue to monitor and manage encryption and backup compliance, policy enforcement of biometric and strong password access, and overall system performance. If you’re interested in trying NPC’s service, Eagle contractors can get an exclusive offer here.

Web Developers: Here’s Your Up-to-Date Roadmap for 2020

The LearnCode.academy YouTube channel has over 600k followers and is known for their free web development tutorials, website design tutorials and more. They also manage a Web Development Roadmap that covers everything you need to learn in the profession, from the most beginner skills through more advanced development techniques.

In this video, they walk through the web development roadmap for 2020, covering topics including basic frontend (1:06), recommended deployment platforms (3:50), advanced frontend (7:27), backend (18:40) and DevOps (25:27). For all of the details, make a coffee and hit play on the video. It’s a little more than half an hour, but could be well worth your time. Or, skip the explanation and browse the complete Web Development Roadmap here.

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?