Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Training & Development

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

The Myths and Realities about Scrum


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There are numerous misconceptions about our industry, including these common independent contractor myths and realities in Canada outlined by Eagle’s co-founder, Kevin Dee, in a 2015 blog post. With so many misunderstandings by people who are not involved in IT project work, we should at least be striving to ensure that everybody within the industry is on the same page and have their information straight.

This is what Mishkin Berteig of Berteig Consulting set out to do when he created a series of videos debunking the many Scrum myths he has come across as a Certified Scrum Trainer and Scrum Expert. Below is the first video in that series which explains why, contrary to what some may believe, the SrumMaster is not a Project Manager.

Those Non-Technical People Who Work on a Tech Project


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Those Non-Technical People Who Work on a Tech ProjectUnderstanding the basics of technology is a must for any employee or contractor who wants to be involved in an innovative organization. Regardless of a person’s role, if they want to be on board with the organization’s latest tools and use them efficiently, they must be somewhat savvy in the high-level technology skills.

According to Undercover Recruiter, the most basic tech skills every employee should have do not require intense code training or learning how to take apart a computer. In fact, they’re skills that most of us take for granted, including:

  1. Social media savviness
  2. Spreadsheeting
  3. Presentation skills
  4. Word processing
  5. Touch typing
  6. Keyboard shortcuts
  7. Emailing
  8. Staying with the times

Still, we often come across team members or even leaders who have not bothered to learn or update these skills in years. They end up misunderstanding situations or slowing down projects.

Dealing with a client’s employees who do not understand technology, or even technical contractors who don’t understand the subject at hand, can be a frustrating ordeal; however, it’s also a reality that we need to adapt to. While there is little we can do about teaching people proper typing skills or how to use LinkedIn appropriately, you can control how you explain details to them to ensure better comprehension. In a recent article, The Muse shared four ways to explain tech concepts to non-tech co-workers. Here’s a brief summary:

  • Bring Out Your Inner Shakespeare: Compare the concept to something where the person does have a thorough understanding.
  • Let Your Co-worker Take the Lead: Let them guide the discussion so they can ask questions at their level.
  • Opt for Curious, Not Condescending: Avoid tech jargon or explaining in too much depth to avoid making people feel inept.
  • Add a Dose of Empathy: Understand a person’s situation and pay attention to how they’re reacting, then form your explanation.

How do you deal with non-technical people when they’re an integral part of your IT project team? Share your tips for other contractors in the comments below.

Giving Feedback within Your IT Project Team


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Giving Feedback within Your IT Project TeamGiving feedback to your peers, or even direct reports, can be a tricky road to navigate for anyone. It can be awkward and uncomfortable, and there may be a fear that you’ll offend someone, destroy team dynamics, and seriously harm your project. When successful, feedback can build trust in your team, build solid relationships and, ultimately, create a better project outcome. How can IT professionals give feedback that provides the latter? Here are a few basic tips for giving feedback:

Remember the Two Types of Feedback

Strike a balance between both reinforcement (positive) feedback and corrective (negative) feedback. Positive feedback points out a job well done and encourages a person to continue the same behavior, where negative feedback highlights a need for improvement. Unfortunately, too often we only give negative feedback, eliminating the massive motivational benefits that come from the recognition in positive feedback.

Keep Feedback SMART

The acronym can be used when setting goals, answering job interview questions and, yes, when giving constructive feedback. Rather than a simple “you could do this better”, provide a person with Specific details of the situation and how they can improve. Make it easy for them to Measure their progress and Achieve success in a Realistic manner. Finally, make feedback Time-bound, so a person has a specific deadline to work towards.

Be Careful How You Give the Feedback

Even if you’re providing SMART feedback, the specific words you choose and tone you use will affect how it is perceived. Ensure your language is not judgmental and your voice is not condescending. How you communicate is especially important when you’re working in a team where there are language and cultural barriers. Although you may think your message is coming across politely and clearly the recipient may not fully comprehend your tone.

Is the Feedback Really Necessary?

Before providing your input, make sure it is necessary, it will be helpful, and it’s your place to give it. If you don’t know the complete circumstances of the situation, if the person has no control over the situation, if you’re angry, or if it’s simply none of your business, then don’t saying anything at all. It’s also wise to “pick your battles.” Too much feedback can be overwhelming, frustrating and counter-productive. Therefore, ask yourself if it’s really that important.

Plan Your Feedback

Feedback should be given sooner rather than later (it’s common for peers to provide feedback when a project is over, which does not help improve the project), but also avoid jumping on it immediately. Plan carefully to understand the person’s situation, what you’ll say and where you’ll say it. For example, a public setting is great for positive feedback, but not appropriate for negative feedback.

Feedback is a two-way street. You have to be great at providing it, but the other person has to be willing to accept it. When some people hear feedback, they immediately think “you need to change” or “you’re terrible at what you do.” This is beyond your control, but ensuring you’re as good at accepting feedback as giving it will help others accept it too.

How does feedback get given and received on your teams? Do you have any secrets for giving it? If so, please share them with our readers in the comments below.

15 Amazing Collaboration Tools for Remotely Managing Teams


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This post by Nick Darlington was originally featured on the Freshbooks Blog on May 30, 2017.

The remote working trend shows no signs of slowing.

15 Amazing Collaboration Tools for Remotely Managing TeamsGallup’s Work and Education Poll in 2015 highlighted that 37% of U.S. workers say they have telecommuted to work, which is four times more than 9% in 1995. And a survey of business owners by Virgin Media Business predicted that 60% of office-based employees will be working from home by 2022.

You only have to Google “remote working statistics” and you’re bombarded with statistics highlighting this trend. You’re also presented with statistics on the many benefits of remote working like improved productivity, happier employees and better customer retention.

While the distributed working trend continues with clear benefits, management faces a new problem: How to remotely manage these teams.

It shouldn’t surprise you that many companies now embrace remote working. In fact, some companies – like Buffer – already have fully distributed teams.

But, while the trend continues with clear benefits, management faces a new problem: How to remotely manage these teams. While there are guides and case studies online-Zapier‘s account of remotely managing teams stands out- it’ll take time for companies to acclimatize. After all, change doesn’t happen overnight.

Luckily, with the growing trend, there’s also a proliferation of online collaboration tools. These tools are helping companies with the shift. Here are 15 of the best—across categories like communication, brainstorming, project and time management.

Online Collaboration Tools for Communication

Chances are, you know Google Hangouts and Skype. There’s no question these are powerful platforms for remote communication. But, there are other remote working tools to consider.

#1 SLACK

As a business owner, I use Slack to communicate with my team daily. Typing this, I see the Slack desktop app out the corner of my eye. When I receive a message from my team, I’m instantly notified.

Slack provides a simple chat interface, but don’t let its simplicity fool you. You communicate in channels organized with hashtags. Create any hashtag you like from SEO, website design, incoming leads, proposals, contracts and more.

Channels ensure all conversations, files and documents are where they should be. You don’t spend time searching for specifics relating to a project. If information gets lost, search for it with the handy search function.

Alternatively, share confidential information in private chats.

Integration with other apps is also possible. For instance, MailClark lets you send emails and Facebook messages in Slack.

There are powerful features in the Free Forever Plan but upgrade anytime for advanced features. Slack pricing starts at $6.67.

#2 YAMMER

Yammer is a social media network for business. Communicate privately with colleagues, share documents, files, like someone else’s status and collaborate effortlessly.

Access the platform with a simple sign-up using your company email address. Because it’s owned by Microsoft, integration with SharePoint is possible. What’s more, this online tool is entirely free.

#3 APPEAR.IN

Appear.in is a video conversation app offering split-screen sharing.

Create a chat room with no sign-up, registration, or downloads. Visit their site, create a room link, and share with up to eight people, for free.

Access is available via any device although you need the app when signing up on iOS.

premium version is available for $12/month.

#4 QUIP

Quip is your central hub for online communication. Create, share and discuss documents centrally—in real-time.

With Quip, you don’t spend time searching for information as there’s one version of your work. No more long email chains and multiple versions of your work. Also, use their mobile app to communicate on-the-go.

Quip offers a unique free trial. It’s based on activity, not length of time. Thereafter, pricing is $30 for a team of five and $10 per extra person.

Online Collaboration Tools for Brainstorming

Ideas are the lifeblood of any organization. Far too often people think up an idea but don’t act. These three online tools will help move an idea from conception to execution.

#5 IDEAFLIP

Ideaflip is a space for your ideas. It’s a simple, yet powerful web app that:

Converts your thoughts into ideas.

Lets you share those ideas.

Helps you refine those ideas with real-time collaboration.

Group brainstorming sessions are possible with a desktop and mobile version.

Join for free as an editor, contributor or viewer and access a limited amount of idea boards. The basic subscription starts at $9/month for access to unlimited idea boards.

#6 MINDMEISTER

This collaborative mind mapping tool allows you to capture, refine and share ideas with colleagues and collaborate.

Currently, over 7 million people use it to brainstorm, take notes, plan projects, and work on other creative tasks.

MindMeister is web-based, meaning no downloads or updating, and it works with your preferred operating system—Windows, Mac, or Linux.

If you want to take things further, why not integrate MindMeister with MeisterTask, the online task and project management app for teams.

Sign up for free and access three mind maps or upgrade to a personal, pro, or business plan. Pricing is $4.99, $8.99 and $12.49, per month, respectively.

#7 CONCEPTBOARD

Conceptboard is another visual online collaboration tool optimized for creatives and remote teams. It’s a one-stop solution for crafting and managing projects and feedback.

The online tool provides a flexible canvas that expands as you add content. Create mood boards, map out strategies and brainstorm live.

Sign-up for a free trial for 30 days. Pricing starts at $28.50 for three users and $9.50 for each extra user.

Online Collaboration Tools for Managing Projects

Project management is difficult at the best of times, but managing a remote team can be even more difficult. These five collaboration apps will help.

#8 TRELLO

Trello is a collaboration tool that makes organizing projects fun by combining lists, cards and boards.

Your board is your project that consists of cards on lists. Sound complicated? It’s actually quite simple. For example, you may create a “blog board”. On the blog board, you’ll have different lists like, “incoming brief”, “freelance writer busy writing”, “internal review” and “with client”. With this workflow, you can move the individual cards on each list from start to finish.

With Trello, see what projects are on-the-go, who’s working on it, and where something is in the process. Move content through your editorial calendar, products through the development, phases and leads through the sales process… the possibilities are endless.

The Forever Free Plan gives you access to unlimited boards, lists and cards. But there are limitations like the size of files you can upload. For premium features like integrations with Google and Salesforce, upgrade to a business plan for $9.99/month.

#9 CANVA FOR WORK

Don’t have the money to pay an expensive designer? Have a little DIY design streak in you? Canva is the easy-to-use design software that lets you create your own designs without spending a fortune. Admittedly, many designers also use the platform.

While the free version packs a punch, for more features upgrade to Canva for Work. Use the intuitive drag and drop editor to create stunning graphics and designs. Access more designs, templates, logos, fonts, custom brand colors and collaborate on designs in the “team stream”. Pricing starts at $12.95/month.

#10 EVERNOTE

At its core, Evernote is a note-taking tool. But, it can double as a powerful collaboration tool for managing projects.

Adding notes is easy, and as you add more notes, the more useful it becomes. This article on Lifehacker highlights the many uses of Evernote. From using the Web Clipper to creating project notebooks to sifting through notes with saved searches and using notes to move between related information—it’s clear Evernote is a powerful tool. Here are some other features:

  • Create project to-do lists to organize projects.
  • Collaborate remotely on a group notebook with easy notebook sharing.
  • Create as many notebooks as you want. While creating many notebooks seems counterintuitive, Evernote curates important content for you.
  • Transform your written notes into a digital format and store in the relevant project notebook.

It’s available on iOS and Android. While free to use, you can upgrade to the Plus Plan for $3.99/month or $34.99/year. A premium version is also available.

#11 FRESHBOOKS

As you may already know since you’ve found your way to our blog, FreshBooks is cloud accounting software designed for small service-based businesses. But our platform also offers an online collaboration feature to help you manage projects.

Collaborate with team members, invite employees, contractors or clients and communicate about existing projects.

You also don’t have to spend time searching for files with centralized file storage. And if you’re on-the-go and want a quick project update, access the current project overview straight from your smartphone using the iPhone or Android app. Manage your work or an entire remote team—the choice is yours.

A free trial 30-day trial is available, no credit card required, with plans starting at $15/month.

Online Collaboration Tools for Managing Time

Time is a finite resource. And if time’s so important, then managing it is too, right? Here are five online collaboration tools that will help you better manage your time.

#12 TEAMBOOK

Struggling to plan your team’s schedule? Use Teambook to see who’s working on what, and when, in real time.

Make smarter decisions by tracking current staff availability, budgets and time spent on projects. For example, If someone is spending more time than they should on a project you’ll know, and can get to the root of it.

Sign-up for a 15-day free trial. Thereafter, pay $39 for the Pro Plan, giving you access to 40 projects and unlimited users.

#13 DOODLE

Meetings, whether you love or hate them, are essential for checking in with employees, getting status updates and reviewing progress. But managing meetings are time-consuming without the right tools.

Enter Doodle.

It’s a simple scheduling tool that integrates with your existing calendar—from Outlook to Google Calendar. Add as many calendars as you want.

Also, you don’t need to switch between applications and appointments sync automatically. Neat, right?

A free version is available with paid plans starting with the Private Plan for $39/year.

#14 ACUITY SCHEDULING

Acuity is another online appointment scheduling tool. It lets your clients view your availability, in real-time. They can self-book appointments, cancel or even reschedule. Here are some benefits:

  • Zero confusion about appointment times with auto-adjusting time zones.
  • Only let clients see what you want them to see with “privacy” features.
  • Prepare for meetings with intake forms that capture pertinent information.
  • Accept payments with Stripe, Square, Braintree and Authorize.net.
  • Integrate with your favorite existing platforms (like FreshBooks!
  • A 14-day free trial is available. Upgrade to one of three plans, starting at $10/month.

#15 CALENDLY

I used Calendly for the first time when a client shared a link via email. I copied and pasted that link into my browser before hitting enter. The client’s calendar appeared and I selected a suitable appointment time. The app then added that time to the client’s calendar. Using Calendly is *that* easy.

To get started, just sign up and inform Calendly on your availability. Calendly does the rest. When you’re ready, schedule an appointment by doing what my client did.

Notable features include:

  • Auto-adjusting time zones.
  • Integrations with Google, Outlook, Office 365 and iCloud to prevent double bookings.
  • Automation of tasks through integration with apps like Salesforce and Zapier.
  • Works well for individuals and growing teams.

Try for free or upgrade to their Premium Plan for $8 per user, per month.

Remote working is here to stay. As a result, more and more companies are embracing it and experiencing both the benefits and challenges that come with it. Luckily, with the trend proliferating so too are online collaboration tools that can help.

One More Thing to Consider…

FreshBooks also offers a time tracking feature that lets you track time spent on projects for clients.

Log into FreshBooks to access the time-tracking features. Click the “Time-Tracking” tab. Start the time or log hours you’ve already worked. Based on the accurate time data you can:

  • Focus on important work without worrying about tracking time
  • Capture all billable hours meaning there’s no lost revenue
  • Automatically bill clients for work
  • Keep track of your team: know what’s working and what isn’t and better allocate resources
  • Pull tracked time directly onto an invoice for quick and easy billing

Try FreshBooks free for 30 days.

These 15 highlighted tools are among the best. Have any to add? Please let us know in the comments below!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nick Darlington is a feature writer, B2B Blogger, copywriter, and co-founder of WriteWorldwide. If you’re a business looking to create a stronger brand, gain industry authority, capture more leads and get more clients, visit nickdarlington.com.

The Troubles of Ineffective Project Management


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When the work is not getting done, many good projects can go bad causing a multitude of complications. There can be a number of reasons as to why projects take turn for the worse, although poor project management is often one of the main causes.

As bad project management can lead to some catastrophic outcomes, Taskworld wants to help you identify ineffective project managing by revealing all types of poor project management practices. With this infographic, you can learn all the details of bad project managing, and get some tips on how to improve your own managing skills to avoid future project failure. Take action today to stop project delay!

The Troubles of Ineffective Project Management [Infographic]

How to Make Ethernet Cable


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In the past, if you wished to install an Ethernet cable in your office or home you would have needed to contact a network engineer. Even though Ethernet cables may seem complicated due to the many wires forming its structure, it is now possible for just about anyone to easily create their own patch cables.

In this infographic, 1000 Ft Cables provides a step-by-step guide that shows you exactly how to build your own Ethernet cable. They also answer any questions you may have regarding the measurements, crimping, or the general structure of an Ethernet cable. Learn how to build your own patch cables today!

How to Make Ethernet Cable

The jQuery Mega Cheat Sheet


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Cheat sheets are helpful for independent contractors and technology professionals for so many reasons, and we love to share them. From learning to use LinkedIn to summarizing complex technologies, we’ve covered many areas with some great infographics.

This infographic from make a websitehub.com doesn’t earn points for style, but as far as information goes, it takes the cake. It covers everything you need to know to speed up your day while using jQuery. Better yet, if you’re already well-versed, you can pass it off to somebody who’s always asking you questions!

jQuery Mega Cheat Sheet

makeawebsitehub.com

 

 

4 Ways to Learn New Technical Skills


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There are a number of reasons you should always be learning new skills. First, the IT contracting world is overwhelmingly competitive, especially in fast-paced markets like Toronto, Calgary and Montreal. There are hundreds of other people applying to the same jobs as you are, and you need to stand out. Even if you’re competitive in your current position, if you never learn new skills, you’ll never be able to move into more senior roles and earn more money.

We don’t need to work too hard to sell this concept to IT professionals. Most of our readers are already well aware of the importance of professional development. They’re also swamped for time and resources, making it difficult to begin learning that new skill. So how can you fit it in? This quick video from Dice has some answers!

Don’t Be a Luddite


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Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
Chairman of the Board at Eagle

This post first appeared on The Eagle Blog on May 18th, 2017

John Maxwell quote about changeDuring the industrial revolution the Luddites opposed change and fought against the notion that machines would be used to get around labour laws.

The term Luddite today is used to describe anyone who opposes automation and new technologies.

We are on the cusp of another breakthrough, similar in impact to the industrial evolution or the information technology age, and along with all of the benefits, it will spawn the next generation of Luddites.

This evolution will see Artificial Intelligence in many forms, impact our lives.

  • Jobs will be lost in the same way that typing pools were replaced by word processing technology.
  • The Internet of Things will come with the smarts to effect our daily lives in ways we can only begin to understand.
  • Robots and robotics will also advance with AI smarts to preform more complex tasks than previously thought possible.

We will continue to be impacted by the effects of globalisation, including the offshoring of jobs, the access to goods produced in low cost environments and the ability of entrepreneurs to enter foreign markets easily and quickly through the internet.

We are experiencing a huge change in the way we work.  The retiring boomers leave a big gap to fill and there are not enough people in Western countries to fill those gaps.  Skilled talent is in demand (the #1 concern of CEOs worldwide) and progressive countries are finding ways to attract this talent.  There is a growth in self employment, evidenced with the gig economy and the many enabling technologies that make this possible.  People work from home, and jobs are shared more often than ever.

“It is not necessary to change.  Survival is not mandatory.”  W Edward Deming

So … how are we to respond in an era of such change?

Here are some thoughts:

  1.  Change is inevitable.  Fighting change is like trying to hold back the tide.  Embrace change and find a way to make it work for you.
  2. The industrial revolution ultimately resulted in more jobs, a better standard of living and better work conditions.
  3. Factors that will work in favor of job opportunity include:
    • the impact of demographics that will create job shortages,
    • the new economy jobs requiring more tech skills and
    • the opening of global markets that any company can now access.
  4. The way to protect yourself in this new world is not to fight change, but rather to invest in your skills.  Get “in demand” skills which might include any profession or trade and develop great soft skills, or better yet get involved with emerging technologies.
  5. In a world where we will see more and more shortages of talent, companies will hire for attitude first, and skills second.  Do you have a positive attitude and strong work ethic?  Find experience that will prove these assets!
  6. Companies need to be profitable in order to survive, so make sure that you are important to your employer.  Just putting in time will not make you a “keeper”.

With change comes opportunity.  I believe that this amount of change is going to create a ton of opportunity.

I also believe that it will not fall in our lap … and it will be easy to be left behind.

So … invest in yourself and learn new skills.

“The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.”  Charles Kettering

Do NOT become the modern day Luddite, but rather focus on the opportunities.

10 Cool Command Prompt Tricks You Should Know


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How much do you use Command Prompt in Windows 10? If you’re an in-depth Windows user, you’ve most likely used CMD many times throughout your career, but you may not using it as efficiently as you could be.

This video from Beebom provides ten cool command tips for topics such as shortcuts, encryption, customization, Wi-Fi hot spots, and even a way to watch Star Wars! At least something in here will be new for you. If not, and you have even more tips, please share them in the comments below.