Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Training & Development

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

IT Managers Want to Hire Critical Thinkers. Here’s How You Can Improve.

Critical thinking is a person’s ability to carefully and objectively think through a subject and eliminate personal feelings or opinions to arrive at a final decision. A great critical thinker not only systematically processes information to make rational, logical decisions, but they also fully understand a situation. It is an art of making logical connections between ideas and approaching a situation to get the best possible conclusion.

Many studies have been done about critical thinkers to determine what kind of people are most likely to excel in the area and there are a number of characteristics some argue which are shared among the best. We would argue that anybody can take their critical thinking to the next level and, for IT contractors, it is an absolute must if you want to remain competitive and best serve your clients.

Why Critical Thinking is Important for IT Contractors

Obviously, the ability to make tough decisions based on fact is a valuable skill for any leader. If you don’t plan on leading and are happy working as a team member, you still can’t overlook developing this ability. Critical thinking will help you evaluate situations, get your point across during a discussion (or argument), and develop the most effective solutions for clients. A strong critical thinker is also less likely to get manipulated, whether it be by a colleague, client or unethical recruiter (unfortunately, they are out there).

Most importantly, leading organizations are continually re-evaluating their job requirements and many soft skills — including critical thinking — are topping the list. In Deloitte’s 2019 Industry 4.0 readiness report, they surveyed 612 Technology, Media and Telecom (TMT) organizations, with a close look at a subset of the respondents who were considered “high innovators”. Those companies said that the number one skill they’re trying to develop isn’t technical skills, but instead Critical Thinking skills. They believe that human skills like judgement and critical thinking are unique to humans, can’t be replaced by robots, and are essential for interpretation and final decision making.

IT Managers Want to Hire Critical Thinkers. Here's How You Can Improve.

How You Can Improve Your Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a hot topic that has been flooding the internet for years. We’d be absolutely shocked if this is the first post you’ve read about it and can guarantee it will not be your last. When looking for resources to improve, start with the low-hanging fruit. Explore the thousands of online articles, TED Talks, and books that  already exist to find something that works for you.

Here are just a few simple tips to get you started today:

  • Ask yourself the basic questions you may not have specifically answered yet. What are you trying to accomplish? What do you already know? Why is this an issue? In other words, make sure you truly understand the situation.
  • Know yourself and, more importantly, your cognitive biases that will affect your decisions (this is much more difficult than it sounds)
  • Understand any assumptions that are being made, and then question them. Are they still true or relevant?
  • Approach situations from different angles and with different mediums. For example, if you’ve only been discussing it, try writing it down or drawing a diagram.
  • Get other people’s point of view. Whether it’s talking to somebody you know or reading up on the topic (amateurs on online forums or published authors will all do).

As an IT contractor, improving your critical thinking will go beyond just serving your clients. It will also help you formalize your entire contracting plan and know which technology contracts to go after and staffing agencies to work with. You are also more likely to excel at tough job interview questions and impress recruiters. How are you improving your critical thinking?

Project Calendars and Gantt Charts: What’s the difference and when to use them?

Project Calendars and Gantt Charts: What's the difference and when to use them?Project Managers use a number of tools to keep projects moving and deliver a solution to the client on time and on budget, with scheduling tools being one of the most important. While there are a variety of options, Wrike states that the two most common are traditional project calendars and Gantt charts. An article by Kat Boogaard says that the tools are similar and neither is necessarily better than the other; however, there are three distinct differences: appearance, usability, and function.

The difference in appearance is obvious — a project calendar looks like a traditional calendar where Gantt charts provide a visual representation of the project timeline. Naturally, then, usability follows as the next distinction since Gantt charts are less intuitive. Using a Gantt chart can create extra work in getting a team up-to-speed, especially when some are unfamiliar with the format. Function is the more complex difference, as Boogaard explains that each can have its own purpose. Here is what she recommends:

Use a Project Calendar When:

  • You only need an overview of key ideas: It’s easy to clearly notate things like go-live dates, meeting dates and crucial milestones.
  • You want something simple to share with other stakeholders: For example, the board of directors may just need to know a few select dates or the client might only have time to a quick glance for the crucial facts.
  • You need to schedule a meeting: Meetings are a necessary evil in projects but rarely displayed easily on a Gantt chart.

Use a Gantt Chart When:

  • You need to understand dependencies between tasks: It’s important to know what tasks will impact others for you to plan a realistic schedule.
  • You need to identify your project’s Critical Path: A traditional calendar simply can’t trace the longest line of dependent tasks. Gantt charts make it easier to know where you have wiggle room.
  • You need to manage multiple projects at once: Say good by to multiple calendars and layer different projects to get an understanding of how they overlap.

Again, the author highlights that neither of these tools are superior than the other, they just need to be used at the appropriate times. In fact, Boogaard suggests that they often complement one another and recommends using both. If you’re a Project Manager, which do you prefer to use? Or, when you’re working on any project, which do you prefer your PM shows to you?

Quick Poll Results: What Soft Skills Will IT Contractors Improve?

Personal and professional development should be on everybody’s mind. Self-improvement is the best way to fast-track your career, gain fantastic references, and start applying to high-paying contracts without having to build as many years of experience. According to an article published by LinkedIn earlier this year, listing the most in-demand skills, there are over 50,000 professional skills in the world. It’s impossible to know where to start!

That same article summarized the top 5 soft skills that companies look for. In last month’s contractor quick poll, we asked our readers, of those top skills, which ones do they plan to improve over the course of the next year. It’s promising to see that 80% plan to work on some sort of skill and, given the tech world’s fast-pace environment, no surprise that adapability is the top goal.

Quick Poll Results: Which of the following in-demand soft skills do you plan on improving in the next year?

Explaining How Wi-Fi Actually Works

Entertainment, shopping, working, food, love and pretty much everything under the sun has been affected by Wi-Fi. You may already know how Wi-Fi actually works, but how many people in your life still believe that Wi-Fi is just a magical entity that only comes to life when they click on their favorite web applications? Next time you need to burst someone’s bubble and rather not explain it yourself, go ahead and send them this video by Brightside to teach them how Wi-Fi actually works.

9 Steps to Better Business Meetings

Meetings. Never really touched upon in our educations but quickly become a driving force in our lives once we reach the work force. Independent contractors host a number of types of meetings for clients but if you lack the proper guidance and instruction, no attendee will get the most out of the interaction.

If you want to improve your meetings, check out the infographic below with 9 tips to a better business meeting from Teamweek and see how it can apply to your business whether it’s meeting with colleagues or your next big interview. If you like what you see, check out the original post for more in-depth details.

Better Business Meetings
Infographic by Teamweek

Be the Hero Through a Technology Crisis

Sometimes, things go horribly, horribly wrong. We’re not talking “running out of Nutella” wrong or “my keyboard only types É instead of ?” kind of wrong. This post is about the type of crisis where a bug or error causes so much panic within the organization that productivity freezes, clients can’t be served and people start describing it the worse disaster in the company’s history.

When crisis strikes, you can either freeze and contribute nothing or work with the team to bring everything back on track as quickly as possible. Depending on your position, it may be up to you to lead that team through the crisis. Are you up for the task? If not, have a look at this quick video with some tips for getting through the turmoil (we recommend looking now, rather than waiting until disaster strikes). Take these ideas and understand your own strengths and weaknesses, then develop a plan to ensure you’re ready to step up and be the hero.

Summary: Enhancing Canada’s Critical Infrastructure Resilience to Insider Risk

Enhancing Canada’s Critical Infrastructure Resilience to Insider RiskEarlier this year, the Canadian Government released a document to provide Canadian critical infrastructure organizations information on how to mitigate insider risk. It defines insider risk as “anyone with knowledge or access to an organization’s infrastructure (both physical and computer networks) who maliciously, or by chance, misuses their trusted access to harm the organization’s employees, customers, assets, reputation or interests. As defined by Carnegie Mellon’s CERT Insider Threat Centre (CERT Inside Threat Center, 2016), an insider risk is a person that works from within an organization to subvert the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the information contained within the walls of that entity.”

Given security risks are relevant for all technology professionals in all industries, it is a good document to read through and understand. If you can’t look at it immediately, here is a summary of the eight recommended security actions, divided into three themes:

Theme 1: Establish a Holistic Approach to Security

  1. Establish a Culture of Security
    1. Establish Senior Management Engagement and Accountability
    2. Identify a Senior Official Responsible for Managing Insider Risks
    3. Build a Whole-of-Organization Commitment to Security and Emphasize Leadership at All Levels
  2. Develop Clear Security Policies and Procedures
    1. Define Clear Expectations and Outcomes (ex. account access management, password control and integrity, access rights, etc.)
    2. Identify Risk Levels of Positions in the Organization
    3. Align Employee Access with Position Risk Levels
  3. Reduce Risks from Partners and Third Party Providers
    1. Understand Key Assets and Systems
    2. Know Your Partners
    3. Know Your Risks

Theme 2: Know and Empower Your People

  1. Implement a Personnel Screening Life-Cycle
    1. Conduct Pre-employment Screening
    2. Implement Ongoing Employee Security Screening
    3. Incorporate Departure and Internal Movement Procedures
    4. Establish Transparent Security Policies
  2. Provide Training, Raise Awareness, and Conduct Exercises
    1. Provide Regular Training to Decrease the Risk of Unintended Security Infractions
    2. Raise Awareness of Potential Warning Signs (ex. alcohol abuse, changes in financial situation, absenteeism, etc.)
    3. Foster a Culture of Vigilance and Empower Employees

Theme 3: Identify and Protect what is Critical

  1. Identify Critical Assets and Protect Them
    1. Identify and Rank Key Assets and Systems
    2. Secure Key Assets and Systems
    3. Leverage Signage and Visible Deterrents to Access
    4. Apply the Principle of Least Privilege
    5. Separate Duties
  2. Monitor, Respond to, and Mitigate Unusual Behaviour
    1. Track Remote Access and Monitor Device Endpoints
    2. Establish Effective Incident Reporting, Tracking, and Response Measures
    3. Raise Awareness of best practices regarding the use of Social Networking Sites
  3. Protect Your Data
    1. Establish and Test Business Continuity Plans and Procedures
    2. Implement Procedures to Limit Information Exit Points

Requirements Management for Dummies

Project teams come in all shapes and sizes and budget sometimes constrains how many professionals can be hired. It is not uncommon for people to wear many hats especially in small organizations. This means the project may lack a dedicated, experienced Business Analyst with skillsets that include Requirements Management. Instead, the task could land on you!

Once you’ve been through a few projects, you begin to understand the Requirements Management process but do you understand all of the little details? This infographic from Business Analyst Learnings outlines the steps to managing requirements in an IT project and if you click-through to the original page, it presents even more details. Is there any advice you can add to this, based on your own business analysis experiences?

Infographic: How to Management Requirements Effectively

Here’s Why Python is the Programming Language to Learn in 2019

In the 2019 Stack Overflow Developer Survey, Python was deemed the 4th most popular programming language, 2nd most loved, 1st most wanted, and made the list of the top 20 paying technologies. If you’re an experienced developer or technology professional, you don’t need to be sold on Python, you already know its benefits and have decided if/where it fits into your skillset. If you’re new to the development field and are starting to plan your career, then take a few minutes to watch this video from Programming with Mosh. It gives an overview of Python and the many applications it can have to nearly any type of business.

Help Your Clients Run Better Meetings with This Infographic

How many of the meetings you recently attended were 100% productive and 0% waste of time? If you answered all of them, you’re either a dirty liar or the most fortunate IT contractor in the world.

Meetings are a necessary evil when working on technology projects. Afterall, teams must get together to collaborate, exchange ideas and update on progress. Surely you can make those meetings more productive, though. According to this infographic created by CBTS, ineffective meetings cost the U.S. economy up to $283 billion each year, with ineffective communication being one of the major culprits. The infographic goes on to describe technologies that hurt communication in meetings and suggests tech that will help make the most of your meetings.

If you’re looking to bring suggestions to your client so they can be more respectful of everyone’s time and increase efficiency, this infographic is a great start.

Learn to master meetings with the right technology