Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Training & Development

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

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as soon as they go out and pay big bucks to have the latest and greatest technology of any sort, it will quickly be outdated.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.

50+ Online Training Resources for IT Contractors

There is no shortage of advice for independent contractors in all sectors, including technology, preaching that professional development, skills enhancement, and training are crucial for success. After all, if you’re not growing as a professional in the IT industry, then you’re very quickly falling behind.

In reality, finding both the time and money to sit through courses is increasingly challenging as our days get busier. The good news is that the traditional classroom setting and its high costs are a thing of the past, you just need to find the best resources. To help you out, we put together one of the most comprehensive lists of online learning websites on the Internet. (Note: all sites are listed in alphabetical order and Eagle does not recommend any specific resource over the other.)

Free or Low-Cost Online Sources

There is a variety of websites that offer free or low-cost training courses in practically any subject, and with no shortage of IT-related topics. All of the websites in this list offer at least a few online courses for free or at a cost under $50; however, many also have more extensive training and higher prices or require upgrades to earn their official diploma. Another feature of many of these sites is that they partner with institutions, colleges and universities around the world, ensuring the training is credible and up-to-date.

Subscription-Based Online Learning Websites

While not free, these websites offer fantastic value if you’re looking at doing a wide range of training. They offer unlimited training videos and sessions with a monthly subscription, and often there is a free trial available.

Tuition-Based Courses

If you’re willing to invest in a full tuition but don’t want to enroll in your local school, then either of these sites may be an option for you. They provide access to full diplomas or degrees.

Industry Certifications

Especially in IT, certifications are a top differentiator between you and other independent contractors. Which certification you work towards fully depends on your skill and specialty, but we highly recommend you get at least one under your belt. Global Knowledge offers training to a variety of the top certifications, but if you’d prefer to get them directly, here are a few more links:

Tutorials, Forums, and Reference Sites

Perhaps you’re not seeking formal training or a new line on your resume, but instead some helpful information to brush-up on your skillset or get you through a current project. These free online resources are full of just that information, and provide you the opportunities to network with other IT professionals.

Company-Specific Product Training

Finally, all of the world’s top software and IT organizations offer training to their own products. Here are just a few of the most popular:

That’s our currently list of online IT training sources and these types of websites are always growing. If you find more that you love, please pass them along. We’d also love to hear your feedback and experience — positive or negative — about any of the websites listed here. Please share your comments and suggestions in the section below.

The 5 Easiest and Best Programming Languages to Learn Today

Last week week we shared a post with advice for aspiring IT professionals over the age of 30 who want to get into the technology industry. The article concluded with 5 languages to learn that would be easiest to pick-up and most likely to land you a job. If you weren’t convinced or satisfied with the advice provided in that post, then here’s one more source.

Clever Programmer put together a list of 5 languages that they recommend learning first AND you don’t need a college degree to do so. The items in the list were generated based on three factors: the time it takes to learn it and get a job, the current job market and demand for those skills, and how quickly you’ll be able to bring your ideas to life.

If you’re looking for your next skill to learn, this video may have the answer for you.

The Verbs Must Appear in an IT Contractor’s Resume

An IT contractor’s resume must be more than a document that tells a recruiter or future client where you worked and on what kind of projects. Those reading your resume want to know what you have accomplished in your career, what you did in order to succeed, and how you brought value to your clients… all of your actions.

To guarantee you include the most actions in your IT consulting resume, StandOut CV created this infographic of 10 essential verbs you should include in your resume. A good suggestion is to start nearly every bullet point describing your experience with one of these words. This ensures you’re always describing your actions. To make an even bigger difference in your resume, take some time to find powerful synonyms to the words so you don’t bore recruiters with what they may feel are cliché buzz words.

10 Essential CV Writing Verbs Infographic

Google Docs CAN Be Helpful… If You Know What You’re Doing

Unless you live under a rock, have an extreme aversion to everything Google or despise cloud technology, you’re already aware of Google Docs. It’s the word processor component of the Google office suite that allows you to create, edit and store documents in the cloud. It doesn’t have the advanced and intelligent technology of MS Word to take its place but it can be a lifesaver in a variety of situations.

If you’re shaking your head right now and in complete denial that Google Docs has a place in your world, then it’s possible you just don’t understand it enough. From basic documents to styles to research, Docs has extensive capabilities and this infographic from WhoIsHostingThis will tell you all about them…

Google Docs Masterclass: The Infographic - Via Who Is Hosting This: The Blog

Source: WhoIsHostingThis.com

An Agile Cheat Sheet for Anyone

Cheat sheets are awesome! Those just getting into a particular field love them for quick notes and tips to get through projects. Experienced IT professionals love a good cheat sheet to pass along to those they train or for a simple reminder of some basics they don’t use every day.

The TDC has no shortage of cheat sheets. From Learning to Code to navigating LinkedIn and links to many other technology cheat sheets, when we find one, we share it. That’s why when this Agile cheat sheet came across our desk, we knew we had to get it out there. If you’re in an Agile environment, have any intention of working in one, or just want a few tips to organize your projects, then have a look at this great infographic from James Cannings of MMT Digital.

Professional Development Ideas for Independent Contractors

Of the many benefits that come with working for yourself as an IT contractor, having to worry about your own professional development is not one of them. Employees regularly get to rely on their employer to coordinate the training plans and classes that help them advance their career. Independent contractors are not so lucky.

Planning training and development is yet another IT contractor responsibility, above and beyond completing projects and serving clients. There are so many options and it can be hard just knowing where to start. Here are a few common areas for professional development and some suggestions on where to start.

Types of Professional Development

The term “Professional Development” is very broad and comes in all shapes and sizes. If you know you have to advance yourself somehow, then consider your current progress in any of these areas and prioritize what to do next:

  • Skills (New and Existing): When most of us think about training, we think about the core skills we use in our job. For example, a Developer may look into enhancing their knowledge in their preferred programming language or learning a new one. Start by understanding your industry and the trends of common skills your clients will be demanding, then decide what skills you need to build.
  • Certifications: If there’s any way to stand out to a client (and sometimes just qualify for a contract position) it’s to earn a relevant certification in your field. Though it may require you to sit through some courses on information you already know, certifications are important for IT contractors and will make you more competitive.
  • Soft Skills: Unless you’re swimming in certifications and have the best skills of anyone else in the market, you must have top-notch soft skills to compete. This includes time management, organization, email etiquette, meeting etiquette, emotional intelligence or conflict resolution, and a recent contractor quick poll revealed that most of your co-workers want you to have outstanding communication skills.
  • Industry Knowledge: As noted above, knowing what’s happening in your industry and the most in-demand requirements is crucial. In addition to knowing what skills to improve, you’ll also be able to plan for trends like upcoming opportunities with specific clients and job shortages in certain regions.

How Can IT Contractors Find Training Opportunities?

  • Enroll in a Class: The most obvious way to learn something new is to register for a class or workshop. This can be through your industry association, an online course or a local school. Completing a course provides you with something tangible for your resume; however, it’s also time consuming and can cost money.
  • Read: Read everything. Newspapers articles, magazines and books published by industry-leaders in your field are guaranteed to provide you with additional knowledge that will help you move forward. Also, don’t discount the social media posts by people you follow — there’s always something new to learn if you just look for it.
  • Network: Networking events — both online and offline — give you the opportunity to pick the brains of other professionals in your field. You’ll learn about best practices, trends and about more unique learning opportunities.
  • Ask Questions: Go a step beyond just networking and ask everyone questions. Your clients, recruiters, team members… everyone you come across can teach you something. A simple question such as “Why do you do it this way” or “What do you think of this” can open up a discussion and ultimately expand your mind to improve your work.

In conclusion, training and development is more than just enhancing your core skills and it does not have to be an expensive nor time consuming endeavor. While enrolling in classes will offer you the most tangible benefits, when you keep an open-mind and embrace all opportunities to learn, you will improve as a professional and ultimately enjoy more success.