Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Training & Development

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to training and development.

Should You Pay for a Coding Bootcamp?

Perhaps more than any other trade, the IT space provides some of the most fast-paced change and biggest challenges in keeping up with the latest technologies and skills. Independent IT contractors have even bigger challenges because taking time to learn those skills means they cannot be making money, adding to the cost of professional development.

Coding bootcamps are a popular method of building new skills and, according to Switchup, have been appearing in major Canadian cities since 2013, backed by mega-companies such as Shopify, Salesforce and Cisco Systems. Coding bootcamps are certainly a popular option for skills development, but are they the right option for you?

This infographic from CodingNomads breaks down the decision into 8 questions. Bootcamps are far from free, nor are they always efficient, so if you’re considering one, follow the map and remember to answer the questions honestly.

Should You Pay for a Coding Bootcamp?

7 Tips for New Programmers to Improve Their Skills

Learning the ins and outs of various codes is challenging enough, and we tip our hat to anybody who has taken the time to become great at writing it. Solving problems and delivering creative solutions to clients takes skill and deserves credit, regardless of your level or experience. Still, there are subtle things beginner programmers do when they write code that make an intermediate or expert programmer cringe, and reveal a true noob.

If you’re starting out your programming career and want to improve your skills, check out this video by Andy Sterkowitz. He explains these 7 tips to help make your code more readable and easier to work with:

  1. Avoid Abbreviating Variables
  2. Limit Function Arguments
  3. Simplify Conditional Expressions
  4. Declare Variables Close to Their Usage
  5. Avoid Unintended Consequences in Functions
  6. Functions Should Do One Thing (avoid long functions)
  7. Stop Writing ZOMBIE CODE

A Comprehensive Map of Computer Science

There is no shortage of IT and computer related jobs in Canada and there is an always-growing spectrum of specialties where one can focus. From Theoretical Computer Science to Computer Engineering to Applications and anywhere in between, you can build a career by becoming a subject matter expert on just one or two specs of the map.

If you’re trying to decide your niche, a student exploring career opportunities, or an IT recruiter understanding where their open jobs fit, then take 11 minutes to watch this video from Domain of Science. The summary of Computer Science is fascinating and educational, even though it does miss some areas (the author states in the comments “I should have added in computer security alongside hacking. It is a huge and important field so I regret leaving it off. And I should also have mentioned interpreters along with compilers as this is an important concept“)

Listening to Music While You Work

Listening to Music While You WorkIf Snow White & the 7 Dwarves taught us anything, it’s the benefit of whistling while you work or, at the very least, having some background music. When in an office around other IT contractors or client employees, other people’s conversations can be loud, distracting and, frankly, annoying. Music is a helpful way to shut them out. More importantly, the right tunes for you can be motivating and uplifting, and is scientifically proven to improve productivity.

That said, this article by no means recommends you blast your favourite Pantera album in the office and expect that your development team to suddenly work double-time. In fact, music with lyrics and a complex structure can have the opposite effects. That’s because it causes the brain to focus on too many items and becomes the equivalent of multi-tasking. An article from Medium suggests these are the best genres of music to listen to while working if you want to increase your productivity:

  • Classical
  • Nature
  • Epic
  • Video Game Music
  • Ambient Soundtracks

And, if you’re looking at this list concerned that Bieber is no longer an option for your workday, have no fear. The Telegraph published a similar article a couple years ago saying that, although Pop music is not always the ideal choice, studies have proven that it helps for repetitive tasks such as data entry or proof reading and is good when working to deadlines.

We can conclude that listening to music can be great… unless you’re trying to make friends with your colleagues and those around you, then it can be a hinderance. Here are five etiquette tips for listening to music at work.

  1. Wear headphones. Keep the enjoyment of your music private by using headphones so only you can hear it. And by “only you” that means keep the volume low so neighbours don’t hear that irritating white noise. Low headphone volume also ensures you won’t accidentally miss phone calls or ignore co-workers trying to get your attention and will save your hearing in the long run.
  2. Don’t sing. Or whistle. Or dance. Or anything else that’s distracting (and weird) for your colleagues to have to endure. Regardless of how talented (you think) you are, there’s a time and a place for everything.
  3. If using speakers, ask those around you first. This is common courtesy. If you have no headphones and want to turn your speakers on low, ask anybody sitting around you if they mind. They may even have a suggestion for music where you have a mutual interest and you can all be happy!
  4. Keep the music appropriate. If you have a more private workspace and have ignored rules 1-3, it’s time to start paying attention. People may pop by unexpectedly and, when they do, they don’t want to hear offensive lyrics and swear words. Keep it PG.
  5. Remember to turn it off for phone calls. And, if the first four points do not apply to you because you work from home, you at least need to remember this. When you pick-up the phone or host a face-to-face meeting, ensure that music is gone. Otherwise, it becomes a distraction and if you skipped over rule #4, things can get even worse.

Do you listen to music at work or do you dread those around you who do? Do you have a preferred genre that you find works best, or do you mix it up? As usual, we love hearing your thoughts in the comments below.

7 Skills to Have if You Want to be an iOS Developer

You may have heard of this iOS operating system before — it’s pretty popular with the kids and their iPhones these days.

Obviously, developers who specialize in iOS continue to grow in demand as companies and organizations in all industries regularly innovate their mobile strategies to remain ahead of the curve. For an aspiring IT professional, or a seasoned one looking to diversify their skillset, developing the right skills to be an iOS Developer is a sure way to open up more opportunities.

If you’re working on your checklist of skills to learn or improve and have any interest in Apple’s operating system, then this video from ForrestKnight is worth a watch. In under 10 minutes, he goes through the top 7 skills you must have if you want to get into that field.

4 Programming Languages Worth Learning in 2019

If you’re considering starting a new career path in the new year, or just looking to pick up a new skill quickly, then don’t skip over this post. This video from Clever Programmer outlines the four best programming languages to learn this year if you want to get a job, including one that has been Googled more than Kim Kardashian.

The four languages are rated based on how easy they are to learn, the job market and potential salary, and how quickly you can create something using that language. While the video may be valid in respect to which languages are your best bet for new opportunities, we’re skeptical about the statement that they can be self-taught and no post-secondary education is necessary. Competing against people with formal training will be a significant challenge. What do you think?

What is a Gantt chart?

Love’em or hate’em, when a project has many tasks that need to be completed within a given timeline, using a Gantt chart is frequently the best way to stay organized, on track, and on time. Plus, it provides a superior visual for how long the project is going to take, understand bottlenecks and foresee potential problems.

Have you ever stopped for a second and thought “I wonder how the Gantt chart was created?” Probably not, but we’re going to tell you anyway! According to this infographic from Wrike, the Gantt chart was created in the early 1900s to manage batch production in machine shops. Today, IT contractors and project managers in all industries are using this handy tool.

What is a Gantt Chart? #infographic
Wrike Project Management Software

Develop a Learning Plan as an IT Contractor

Develop a Learning Plan as an IT ContractorConsumers around the world have come to accept that as soon as they go out and pay big bucks to have the latest and greatest technology of any sort, it will quickly be outdated. That’s because technology evolves and grows at a rate faster than we’ve ever seen. Companies are always researching and developing their products to remain competitive, and that means they need IT professionals working for them who are also always growing.

If you’re an independent contractor and decide at some point in your career that it’s alright to stop learning, you will quickly find yourself in serious trouble when trying to find new work. To stay on top, you must develop a training plan for yourself and to do that, you have to know the up-and-coming skills clients are seeking. For example, Dice claims the top 5 programming languages expected to dominate the future are Kotlin, Swift, Rust, MATLAB and Python.

Of course, depending on your situation, knowing the hottest programming languages may not be useful to you. Simple Programmer also compiled a list of upcoming skills to learn, and they broke it down based on specialty. With some broader areas, this list is especially helpful to the IT professional looking to expand into new areas:

  • Web Development
    • js
    • Functional Programming
    • Browser Extensions
  • Software Development
    • Blockchain
    • Internet of Things
    • Cybersecurity
  • Mobile Apps
    • Augmented Reality
    • Mobile Payments

Even when armed with the knowledge of what to learn, the next step in building your learning plan is knowing how you will acquire that information. Learning new skills, especially tech skills, does not come easily to everyone, and we all learn differently. Dice suggests some of these methods to pick up new skills:

  • Shadow a Mentor
  • Break Down Skills into Microbehaviours
  • Train for Programs You’re Passionate About
  • Be Flexible with Your Training Methods
  • Attend Conferences and User Groups
  • Apply New Skills Quickly

The 5-Hour Rule states that you must spend at least 5 hours per week learning new skills if you want to stay relevant and succeed, and inspirations such as Barack Obama, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates all subscribe to it. How much time do you devote to building your IT skills and knowledge? Is it time to get your plan on to paper?

How Does Password Encryption Work?

If you’re an IT security expert, or any technology professional for that matter, you already have a decent idea of how passwords are saved. You’re well aware that they do not get saved in plain text form and that encryptions (try to) protect passwords from being hacked. You also probably know their vulnerabilities. Have you ever tried explaining all of that to a non-technical friend who still insists on using 123456 as their go-to password?

This video from Tech Raj puts everything on the table. It clarifies the technology of passwords and gives examples of how hackers typically get through them, including rainbow tables, dictionary attacks, and brute force attacks. If you’ve been wanting to explain the basics behind password hacking but are having trouble getting into words, then feel free to share this video.

New Resume Tips for IT Contractors

Take the generic technology resume advice you keep hearing (even here) and set it aside for a second. Those regular tips you hear are valuable, but so are the not-so-common pieces of information that you can find from some job search experts. In our regular quest for knowledge to share with the IT contracting community, we recently came across new resume tips and want to make sure our readers know them too…

Some Lesser-Known Resume Tips

Glassdoor published an article with 10 resume tips you probably haven’t thought of. While not all are relevant to an IT contractor and there are even a couple we do not necessarily recommend, this list does help a job seeker get into a different frame of mind:

  1. Only Include Your Address If It Works in Your Favour
    (our advice: if you have to lie or hide something, you probably shouldn’t apply)
  2. Be a Name Dropper
  3. Utilize Your Performance Reviews
    (or for a contractor, include references and testimonials)
  4. Don’t Go Overboard with Keywords
    (PLEASE consider this point strongly)
  5. Use Common-Sense Email Etiquette
  6. When It Comes to Skills, Quality over Quantity
  7. Choose to Share Social Accounts Strategically
  8. Use Hobbies to Your Advantage
    (our advice: hobbies are less interesting to a client hiring a contractor, compared to an employee looking for a permanent team member)
  9. Skip Generic Descriptors
  10. Keep an Accomplishment Journal

Flip-Flopping on the Objective Statement

Speaking of uncommon resume advice, although we’ve noted independent contractors need not include an objective statement on their resume, Pop! Your Career believes there are times it can help. According to their recent post, they say an objective statement is useful if you are:

  • Changing your career direction
  • Joining the Workforce
  • Returning to the Workforce
  • Looking for different type of work
  • Changing locations

In summary for an IT contractor, we stand by the fact that the objective statement isn’t helpful for the seasoned technology professional who regularly works with the same recruiters, if, however, you’re making any sort of change, its worth highlighting it at the top of your resume.

A Winning Resume-Writing Formula from Amazon

Over the summer, Business Insider interviewed a recruiter from one of the top IT companies in the world, and a place where thousands of technology professionals aspire to work — Amazon. In the resulting article, recruiting manager Celeste Joy Diaz provides a winning formula to use when writing your resume. Instead of a laundry list of tasks and skills, she says that every project should start with this phrase: I created a solve for X amount of customers and it saved X amount of money, using X skill.

What do the x’s represent in Diaz’s phrase? Data. Rather than bunch of fluff, centralizing your resume around this phrase ensures that you’re providing quantitative measures that show recruiters and hiring managers exactly what you accomplished.

What other outside-of-the-box resume advice can you provide? Please share your tips and tricks in the comments below. If you have a great source or article, please let us know. We love learning new things so we can pass them along.