Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Technical Skills

Tips, resources and courses for IT professionals to improve their technical skills and become more competitive in the Canadian technology job market.

Is it Possible to Land a Programming Job Without a Degree?

In short, yes, it is possible to build a programming career without any sort of formal education, but it’s far from an easy feat!

Jessica Chan’s Coder Coder YouTube page is filled with short clips plus longer training videos dedicated to helping you learn to code without having to go to school, but her video below proves not just anyone can make it on this path.

Chan’s personal story about her journey to becoming a senior programmer with no Computer Science degree is inspiring, and does not hide the challenges that were involved. She was required to do a lot of extra work and learning on her own time, plus she needed an abundance of drive, determination and humility. She also battled through imposture syndrome and was fortunate to be hired by a strong leader who was willing to give her a chance.

If you’re considering a career change into programming but hoping to avoid formal education, here’s a look at what you can expect.

7 Graphic Design Trends that Will Dominate 2021

Graphic design continues to be a competitive industry and being on top of the latest trends is critical just to be considered for a gig. Every organization differs in how far they’re willing to stray from safe design and try a new (sometimes obscure) look, but nobody wants to pay for a fresh feel that appears to have been created two years ago.

Have you considered what might be different in 2021? According to this infographic from Venngage, we can expect that there won’t be a whole lot. They believe that because of how 2020 played out, designers haven’t had a chance to take design risks. Plus, people in general are looking for a sense of calm, understanding and positivity. Therefore, they are predicting these seven specific trends to dominate:

  1. Muted colour palettes
  2. Simple data visualization
  3. Geometric shapes
  4. Flat icons and illustrations
  5. Classic serif fonts
  6. Social media slide decks
  7. Text heavy videos

Check out all of the details in the infographic below. Do you agree? Is there anything you’d add or remove?

7 Graphic Design Trends that Will Dominate 2021

Top 5 Skills All Tech Professionals Should Follow in 2021

Have you planned out your learning roadmap for the year yet? Do you know which skills you want to explore deeper, either formally or at least by following a couple extra blogs and Twitter accounts? If not, this video from David Bombal has five suggestions for you: Python, Linux, Cloud, Networking, and APIs.

Bombal believes that a lot of his career success is because he followed trends and knew which waves to ride. There is no need to become an expert in these skills but because technology is all connected, he states that you need to understand each of them to be successful at whatever it is you’re doing in the field of IT.

Want to know more? Take about 10 minutes to review the complete video below:

Project Coaching – Think Like an Athlete

Project Coaching - Think like an Athlete

Guest Post by Gabriele Maussner-Schouten, Project Consultant and Coach
Check out the end of this post for details about Gabriele’s limited Project Coaching offer

I admit it – I am a play-off sports fan. I love watching sports when the best teams battle it out for first prize. Especially this year, watching the play-offs was a welcome distraction from COVID-19. Often, the difference between the high-performance teams is the coach. Without ever questioning it, all of us understand the value of a coach to an individual athlete and a sports team. A coach understands and believes in the strengths of the team, provides perspective and a vision.

It is a close relationship, and it goes far beyond developing a training schedule and fine-tuning each athlete’s performance. The coach understands how to leverage the inherent strengths of the team to overcome their challenges. There is great respect for the work of a coach AND, we would consider it a significant risk to an athlete’s performance if he or she decided that a coach is no longer needed.

So, why are we so hesitant to apply the same logic when it comes to projects and project managers? We move our organizations forward through project work. Often, the company future is at stake. Yet, I hear far too often “I just want to get the job done and I have no interest in paying for a project coach.” Every cost-conscious person can relate to this statement. However, the rate of IT project success has hardly improved over the last 10 years and studies show the same pitfalls over and over.

  • Lack of executive sponsorship and accountability,
  • Vaguely defined goals and insufficient communication,
  • Scope creep and lack of risk management,
  • Skill re-allocation and skill deficiency.

Since so many of the pitfalls are related to soft skills, there is a good chance that the right coach can be the difference between a successful and a failed project. Projects are tough, project managers need to work across the departmental silos, have great persuasion skills as well as stay patient and calm when conflict arises or a project team member misses an important deadline.

A project coach can help to provide a different perspective, build self confidence by highlighting the unique strengths of the project manager. Complete trust and mutual respect are essential for a supportive coaching relationship. To be effective as a project coach, the coach needs to be able to listen to the project manager, able to relate and help the project manager to weigh all options. Often, by just talking through the options the best possible path becomes clearer.

Like in professional sports, a coach can be extremely successful with one team and sports organization, but not achieve the same success with a different team. Here are some tips to find the right project coach for you:

  • A great sense of mutual trust
  • Excitement to work with one another
  • Confidence that the project coach will add value and can make a difference

A project coach provides perspective, insights and most of all a safe space to discuss project challenges freely. Like a sports coach, the project coach understands the strengths of the project manager and knows how to enhance the skill set and confidence of the project manager.

“Athletes don’t only use a coach when there is a problem with their technique; they understand that no matter how good their technique is, there is always room for improvement.” – John Perry, Sport Psychology

Project Coaching for Charity

I have a few Project Coaching spaces available right now, and I’d love to help you with your project for just a charitable donation!

As a seasoned project professional, I am very much aware of the challenges that project managers face on a day to day basis. We, as project managers, lead cross-functional teams and need to continuously problem solve and engage our project sponsors in a meaningful way.

Have you experienced one or more of these challenges?

  • You have a disengaged project sponsor and critical project decisions are made late
  • Project scope is bigger than expected and your sponsor is demanding to meet it within the initial set timeline and resources
  • Some project team members are consistently late on their tasks without a good explanation
  • There seems to be a project grapewine and you are not part of it
  • Not sure on how to communicate ‘bad news’ to your project sponsor?

Being a project manager is a very demanding role. The objective of project coaching is to become a trusted partner as well as a sounding board for ideas and a safe space to talk through project challenges.

How do we do it?

  • Set-up of 6 coaching sessions
  • Each session is between 45 and 60 min long
  • First Meeting: set coaching objectives and manage expectations
  • Discuss potential coaching themes
  • What worries you most on your projects?
  • Do you have specific coaching situations that you would like to discuss?
  • Is there a specific skill that you like to develop?
  • Agree on meeting logistics
  • Second, third, fourth and fifth meeting: Coaching sessions on agreed upon topics or on a specific situation that has arisen in the previous week
  • Sixth session: Coaching, recap and conclusion

Learning about project management in a classroom setting is very different than applying them in real life work scenarios. Coaching provides “on the job” support and skill enhancement in a safe and positive way.

What are the Options?

  • A coaching contract to sign up for 6 virtual coaching sessions (45-60 min each) in exchange for a $150 donation for your local Foodbank or United Way.
  • One on one virtual coaching sessions (60 min) in exchange for a $20 donation to your local Foodbank or United Way

How to Get in Touch

For more information, please contact me through LinkedIn or email me at gmaussner@sympatico.ca.

About Gabriele Maussner-Schouten

Gabriele Maussner-Schouten is a respected project consultant and coach with more than 20 years of experience developing and implementing practical solutions for project management success. Her expertise ranges from managing large IT projects for both private and public-sector organizations, ranging from mission- critical ERP implementations and content management solutions to providing leadership for major special events and support for enterprise-wide communication strategies.

A (Real) Day in the Life of a Software Engineer

If you’re looking to get into the IT field, specifically as a Software Engineer, and looking forward to the lattes, catered lunches and Ping-Pong tables you’ve seen on YouTube, we have some bad news for you… it’s not the reality of your typical day. Especially now that so many tech companies, including Canada’s tech sweetheart Shopify, have used the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to a move to work-from-home model. These previously touted in-office perks should now have a minor influence on your career decision.

A more realistic video surfaced on YouTube a few months ago from Sierra Nguyen. She shadows Google Software Engineer Neil Fraser and, as you can see just by reading through all of the video’s comments, it’s one of the most honest and accurate representations of a Software Engineer’s true life. While being a Software Engineer with the right company can certainly be exciting, it’s also hard work, sometimes boring, and requires exceptional problem-solving skills.

Check out the video and let us know what you think! If you’re an experienced Software Engineer yourself, we’d love to hear your opinion and if you think anything’s missing. What other advice would you give to someone considering this career choice?

What’s More Important? A Certification or Experience?

Eagle’s founder, Kevin Dee, recently had the opportunity to participate on a panel in a webinar hosted by CPA4IT. The event, titled The Future of Work for Independent Contracting Webinar, set out to discuss how Canadian IT contractors can survive and thrive in this time and what practical tips that they can utilize to achieve success at work as an Independent Contractor.

An age-old question was asked to the panel: What’s more important — Experience or Certifications? Kevin Dee shared an adage that was passed around at one of his previous companies — “If you do the same job for five years, do you have five years’ experience or one year’s experience five times?” See the full discussion in the video below.

Eagle’s CEO, Janis Grantham, is joining the panel for the next webinar hosted by CPA4IT on Thursday, October 22nd. They’ll be building on the previous discussion and answering questions about the future of work for independent contracting in Canada. Click here to register today.

Are You Keeping Up Compared to Other Developers Around the World?

Are You Keeping Up Compared to Other Developers Around the World?

The Stack Overflow 2020 Developer Survey was released this Spring and, as usual, delivered tons of statistics about developers, what they’re working on, how they’re thinking and where their future is going. One chart they published is of particular interest to any developer looking to remain competitive in the job market.

Stack Overflow asked developers how frequently they learned a new language or framework and the results were a testament to how fast innovations are happening in tech. Around three-quarters of all respondents — professional developers and hobbyists — learn something new at least once a year, and around half of those people said it’s closer to every few months.

Stack Overflow Survey Results: How Frequently do developers learn a new language or framework?
Stack Overflow Survey Results: How Frequently do developers learn a new language or framework?

What is Learning?

Learning can be as extensive or as simple as you’d like, depending on your goals and time available. As long as you’re expanding your mind and putting something into your brain, you’re making yourself more valuable to future clients. For example:

  • In the case of this Stack Overflow survey, respondents are saying they learn a new language or framework. We’ve shared loads of resources with suggestions on where you can pick-up these new skills.
  • You can also force yourself into learning as you go by taking on new challenges that require you to do some research and solve different problems. The Stack Overflow survey also summarized where developers turn to when they need to solve such problems.
  • There are tons of skills you already have, but might have gotten rusty. If you maintain a certification, you’re forced to keep up on skills, but how many others did you learn a few years ago and haven’t used since. It’s great to go back and refresh those every once in a while.
  • At the other extreme, some professionals look to get into a brand-new field of work which often requires more formal training. That comes with more financial and time investment, but pays off.

The Next Step is Getting There

Regardless of what you want to learn, nothing is going to happen unless you create a plan that will put you where you want to be. A high-level roadmap might be:

  1. Decide exactly what you want to do. Maybe it’s based on in-demand skills or just something you’ve been interested in picking up. Pinpoint exactly what it is you want to learn and where you want to be.
  2. Find Out What You Need to Get There. If you’re looking to expand on a language you’re already familiar with, a few websites and weekend exercises may suffice. As noted above, if you have a more ambitious goal that requires extensive learning, you’ll need to investigate formal training.
  3. Build Your Timeline (with milestones). Knowing what to do is one thing, but doing it is a whole other challenge. Create a schedule of when you’ll learn what, including milestones to keep it from being overwhelming. Now you know when to set time aside to learn and ensure you’re on track to accomplish your goal.

Learning is such a valuable and necessary task for an IT professional who wants to keep up in a fast-pace, innovative world. As the chart above shows, the majority of your competitors are developing their skills so if you’re not, then you’re quickly falling behind.

How Many of These 79 MS Word Shortcuts Do You Already Know?

Microsoft Word is filled with handy keyboard shortcuts that can help you get through writing long documents much quicker. Everybody knows a few but how many of us take advantage of everything that’s available?

GoSkills put together this cheat sheet of 79 Word shortcuts for both PCs and Macs. Some are basic and obvious but others will blow your mind. There might even be a few that you’ve hit accidentally and then sat in a state of confusion as to why Word did what it did. Regardless, this infographic will be helpful next time you’re writing a resume, putting together a technical document or submitting a report. Enjoy!

How Many of These 79 MS Word Shortcuts Do You Already Know?

Contractor Quick Poll Results: How Many Languages Do You Speak?

Canada has two official languages: French and English. Unofficially, there are more than 200 languages spoken nation-wide and the 2016 Canadian Census found that 17.5% of the population spoke at least two languages at home. That’s a lot of diversity!

Speaking multiple languages can help you in your job search as it simplifies communication and building relationships with more people. In last month’s contractor quick poll, we decided to get a grasp on our readership and understand how many languages you can speak. The results have been fascinating with roughly 75% of respondents being able to speak more than one language and a few who can even speak 5 of more!

Quick Poll Results - How many languages do you speak?

Contractor Quick Poll: How many languages can you speak fluently?

Canada is a diverse country with people coming from many cultural backgrounds. This brings communities and organizations opportunities to grow with different points-of-views and an array of unique approaches to problem-solving. At Eagle, we’re proud and fortunate to have worked with individuals from around the world with varied cultural backgrounds.

Being fluent in multiple languages can raise your profile as an IT contractor. Naturally, it opens up opportunities to better communicate with more recruiters, clients, their teams and their customers. According to this TED video we shared a couple years ago, it even contributes to how you approach problems!

In this month’s contractor quick poll, we want to get a snapshot of our readers and how many languages the average person speaks. Answer the poll below and if you’d like, add which languages you speak into the comments underneath.