Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: learning

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to learning.

5 Reasons IT Contractors Should Learn Another Language


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5 Reasons IT Contractors Should Learn Another LanguageCanada is a multilingual country. Aside from English and French as its two official languages, the extremely diverse culture means there are over 200 languages spoken in workplaces throughout all 13 provinces and territories. In fact, while a 2015 Workopolis study found that 60% of Canadians believe knowing multiple languages is essential, they were split between whether or not English and French are vital to the mix. Why, specifically should you care about learning a second (or third) language if you haven’t already? Here are just five reasons…

  1. There are More Job Opportunities
    The same Workopolis article that summarized the study above noted that 11% of their jobs published at the time required fluency in both English and French. At Eagle, we also regularly see this requirement, especially in areas like Ottawa/Gatineau — the National Capital Region where most Federal Government jobs require knowledge of both official languages — and Montreal, possibly the Canadian city with the largest English/French mixture (on top of the city’s multi-cultural mosaic).
  2. Your Resume is More Appealing to Recruiters
    Even without a specific job available, recruiters still hold resumes that state bilingualism a little closer. That’s because they’re well-aware that they have clients who value the skill and the many benefits that come with it (see below for more of those benefits). If you want to jump to the top of a recruiter’s list, add fluency in multiple languages to your skills (and be able to back it up).
  3. It’s a Differentiator
    Not just when comparing resumes, but when comparing multiple candidates throughout the entire job search process, being bilingual is often a distinct differentiator against your competitors. There will be situations when you come to the end of a client interview and the hiring manager must decide between you an equally qualified IT contractor. Knowing that extra language may push you to the top and get you the job.
  4. You Will Build Better Relationships
    The Canadian IT industry has a reputation of being diverse as professionals come from around the world to work here. There is no way that you will learn every language that all of your co-workers know; however, just having empathy for the complexities of languages and communication barriers will work wonders in how you interact and build relationships with your peers. In addition to building stronger teams, you will also form better relationships than your competitors with recruiters and clients.
  5. You Become an Overall Better Worker
    You may not know it, but in general, people who know multiple languages perform better at work. As we touched on in the previous point, having the empathy and understanding of another language naturally allows you to view different perspectives, even your perception of time.  In addition, studies have shown that people who are multilingual are better equipped to process information and are better at multitasking.

If you’re reading and understanding this post, then it’s clear you already know English. Do you know any other languages? If so, do you believe it has helped your career thus far or has potential to open more doors in the future? Please share your experiences in the comments below. We’d love to hear everything from the benefits, the challenges and the techniques you’ve used to improve your language skills.

Be More Competitive with Certifications


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Most IT contractors understand the importance of certifications in their profession. Having certifications and keeping them up-to-date ensures that recruiters and clients trust you and your abilities, and immediately puts your qualifications ahead of others without certifications.

A recent IT World Canada article explored the importance of certifications, specifically when it comes to cyber security. They offer three strong arguments for obtaining a certification and we would agree they move beyond just cyber security and are relevant for any certification:

  • The certification gets you to the shortlist
  • A certification is a quick way to fill gaps in an employee’s skill set
  • Certifications can indicate strengths and passion

There are plenty of certifications available and to receive each one would be nearly impossible, given time and cost factors. Instead, IT professionals should choose based on which ones fit their career path as well as which hold the most clout in the industry. According to Glass Door, there are 14 certifications that impress recruiters most – 11 that are role-specific and 3 software certifications. They may not all fit for Information Technology, but they’re still worth being aware of:

Top Role-Specific Certifications

  1. PHR & SPHR (Human Resources)
  2. SHRM (Human Resources)
  3. PMP (Project Management)
  4. Challenger Sales (Sales)
  5. Spin Selling (Sales)
  6. Sandler Training (Sales)
  7. A+ (Help Desk/Desktop Analyst)
  8. Network+ (Help Desk/Desktop Analyst)
  9. CCNA (Network)
  10. CCNP (Network)
  11. CCIE (Network)

Top Software Certifications

  1. Salesforce
  2. Hubspot’s Inbound Certification
  3. Google Certifications (Publisher, Analytics, AdWords, etc.)

What Kind of Learner are You? Use the Flow Chart to Find Out


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Learning new skills and keeping on top of your current ones is one of the main recommendations we give to independent contractors to remain competitive in the technology space. This industry advances quickly and clients are always seeking IT professionals with the best skills and knowledge to help them advance and compete.

For some, learning new things is a breeze. They can pick up a book, read it once, try it a couple times, and they’re already approaching “expert” level. For others, this is far from reality. If you find you have trouble learning, or you hate having to do it, perhaps it’s because you’re not fully understanding your learning style. This infographic from PoudPlace provides a flow-chart to help you identify what kind of learner you are, as well as some tips for you based on the results.

What kind of learner are you? Did the outcome surprise you?


Courtesy of: Pound Place

Making Artificial Intelligence a Priority


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Making Artificial Intelligence a PriorityIt’s no secret that AI is the next big thing and has been dominating technology headlines throughout 2017. Microsoft, although a little late to the party, recently released their annual report for the company’s 2017 fiscal year, which made it clear that AI is now their top priority. According to this article from CNBC, AI had 6 references in the report, compared to last year’s which had 0. On top of that, their corporate vision statement removed references to “mobile first” and added a line about AI, as well, the company has been out buying AI startups like Maluuba and Swiftkey.

Given Microsoft, one of the world’s tech giants, is clearly prioritizing AI in their future strategy, what are you doing to ensure you don’t fall behind as an IT professional? If you’re interested in moving into the Artificial Intelligence space, here are some AI skills a recent ZDNet article says you’ll need:

  • Machine learning
  • Programs such as R, Python, Lisp, Prolog, Scala, as well as some classics like C, C++ and
  • Mathematical knowledge such as probability, statistics, linear algebra, mathematical optimization
  • Understanding of specific platforms and toolsets (ex. TensorFlow)
  • Deductive reasoning
  • Decision making
  • Business development

This article from The Institute (the IEEE news source) also weighs in with what a technology professional needs in their arsenal in order to get into AI. It suggests that while people do come into the field from data-heavy science fields such as physics and biology, a background in software engineering is critical a must-have. A sense of curiosity and drive for problem solving is also mandatory to land a job with the top companies.

Is AI something that interests you? If so, how have you made it a priority to develop your skills and ensure you’re positioned at the front of the line for a long career in Artificial Intelligence?

How Bilingual Brains Perceive Time Differently


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New scientific evidence claims that there is a link between language and time. Did you know that each language has its own way of measuring time with either distance or volume? In a recent study, bilingual individuals were asked to describe different scenarios that portrayed time (ie. watching a line grow, or a container be filled) in different languages. Based off the results, it was then discovered that the language you think in can actually have an influence on the way you perceive time.

This episode of Seeker will fill you all you need to know about bilingual brains and time. No matter where you are in Canada, you are probably working on a team with other contractors who are bilingual. This video may help you understand some communication breakdowns.

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!

Calgary Economic Development – Efforts to Diversify Making a Difference!


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Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

Calgary Economic Development

I thought I’d use this blog entry to give a shout out to the CED (Calgary Economic Development) for the great work they are doing to attract new business to Calgary.  They are a relatively small group of very dedicated and committed people working to make a big impact.  In order to stretch a fixed budget, their marketing plans are lazer-focused and, as it turns out, they are gaining the ears of companies south of the border!

Calgary faces a number of challenges as a result of the changing business dynamics within the global Oil & Gas industry.  These challenges manifest themselves in several ways:

  • Increased unemployment/underemployment in all sectors, but especially in professional STEM positions which are typically higher income (tax paying) positions;
  • Down-town vacancy rates are over 40% by many accounts and this threatens to put additional tax burden on the remaining businesses, making a bad situation worse;
  • Reduced spending by the companies that have been driving our economy produces a trickle-down effect that has impacted small and medium sized businesses as well whether in the Oil Industry or not.

These issues could start a downward spiral if not for the efforts of the CED, other like-minded businesses and the municipal government who are taking this slow-down as an opportunity to attract new businesses across other industries.  Calgary has had some extreme advantages over other North American cities for some time – a young highly-educated workforce; an entrepreneurial spirit second to none; fantastic and reliable infrastructure; and it boasts the most head offices and small businesses per capita in Canada (and being one of Canada’s 5 largest cities is saying something!).  All this, while being a place where people want to work and live (Calgary ranks second of major Canadian cities for healthy lifestyle and life satisfaction according to the Conference Board of Canada).  AND NOW… we have ample (and affordable) downtown office space and available highly motivated and educated workers too.  This is an unprecedented opportunity to bring in new industries.

Rising EconomyThe CED have set targets for themselves based on the goals of increasing levels of employment, filling unused office space and diversification of the local economy.  To accomplish this, they target companies that require knowledge workers and who struggle in their “local” labour market to attract/keep top talent.  Some smaller to medium sized high-tech companies struggle to hire technologists with competition the likes of Google and Apple.  Other US-based companies have hired huge numbers of foreign workers for their expertise in areas such as engineering, software development, and technology hardware; and, with the new Trump administration threatening to “send foreign workers home”, there is an opportunity to potentially move these people lock, stock and barrel to Calgary and continue to have them be productive employees.  Yet other companies are looking for affordable places where people want to work to help start-up companies get a foothold and succeed…  Rocketspace is such a company and is one of the first to commit to opening new offices in Calgary.

After a couple years of economic misery, there is a new “buzz” in Calgary and a new feeling of optimism as the city rebuilds (and rebrands) itself!  New opportunities are coming… as a professional contractor, are you ready for this?  Do you have the right “transferable skills” to take advantage in new industries?  People who have chosen to specialize in Information Technology have embraced the notion of life-long learning and, as such, can and will adapt and pick-up the needed knowledge to enable them to work in any industry.  The following are links to other TDC articles written on the topic of professional development… I hope they share some insights that you will find useful!

Awkward is the New Awesome


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If you ever get called “awkward” don’t take it as an insult. That’s according to this video from Business Insider. Psychologist Ty Tashiro, author of “Awkward: The Science of Why We’re Socially awkward and Why That’s Awesome,” explains the reasoning behind people’s awkwardness and why it actually speaks volumes to their abilities.

It turns out, those of you “nerding out” and dressing up in elaborate costumes at Comic Con may be considered awkward, but it also means you’re focused and very knowledgeable at what you do!

From Standard to Stand-Out


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Brianne Risley By Brianne Risley,
Delivery Manager at Eagle

Turning “Good” Interview Responses into “Great” Ones

From Standard to Stand-Out -- Turning "Good" Interview Responses into "Great" OnesAs a professional recruiter, I am often struck by how many job seekers answer common interview questions in the exact same way.  Technically, there is nothing wrong with giving an “OK” answer that 4 out of every 5 people will give.  It’s safe.  But for the job you WANT, your response to every question should help you Stand-Out and offer the hiring manager a taste of your ‘unique value proposition’.

Here’s an example of a common question that you can turn from a Standard response into one that Stands-Out!

The Situation: You are asked by the Hiring Manger to describe your experience with a tool / skill you do not have.  How do you tackle this?

The Standard Response: “It’s not hard… I can learn it.”

Consider this:

  • “I can learn it” is a nice sentiment, but you’re asking the hiring manager to essentially ‘take your word for it’ with no facts, figures, or scenarios to provide them context. “Trust me” isn’t a strong value proposition.  Give the hiring manager a map of how you’ve handled a similar challenge in the past and come out on top!
  • The skill is clearly a pain-point, or the hiring manager wouldn’t be asking about it. Sometime, somewhere, this manager had a bad experience with someone lacking this skill.  A Stand-Out response will acknowledge the skill as an important one, and offer a ‘sell-message’ outlining your past success learning new skills.

How does this help you stand out from other candidates who can also ‘learn it’, or worse, those that “have” it!  Here is a better way!

The Stand-Out Response: “I can see why that is important to you.  I haven’t yet had the opportunity to work with that exact version; however, as an Analyst at XYZ Company, I was faced with learning a similar tool with very little ramp-up time.  I reviewed training on my own time, collaborated with co-workers, and attended industry events to come up-to-speed and producing with the tool within 4 weeks.  Before leaving that company, I even had the opportunity to train new users on it.  Would that approach work in your environment, Ms. Hiring Manager?”

Here’s the framework:

  • Acknowledge the need is an important one
  • Provide a specific time and place where you learned/used a very similar skillset
  • Outline how you used your own initiative to learn it
  • Outline the success you had in learning it
  • Get the hiring manager’s acknowledgement that your approach would work in their environment.

That’s a response that a Hiring Manager can take to their boss or HR to argue in favor of hiring YOU over someone who has the skill.

Do you have an interview question that you’d like a recruiter’s perspective on?  Add a comment – we would love to take your response from “standard” to “stand-out”!

How to Learn When It Doesn’t Seem Feasible


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How to Learn When It Doesn't Seem FeasibleForget the ABC (Always-Be-Closing) approach Alec Baldwin made famous in the in the 1992 movie Glengarry Glen Ross. As Kevin Dee’s recent post indicated, independent contractors — and all professionals — need to Always-Be-Learning if they want to stay competitive within their industry.

A recent Contractor Quick Poll revealed that our readers want to increase their training and development this year, but the reality is few people have the time and/or money to go back to school and take courses to learn a new skill or improve a current one. The alternative is to get creative and figure out how you can learn and expand your knowledge during your everyday life. There are unlimited ways to achieve this and it often only takes a bit of creativity and innovation, or a simple Google Search.

Learn While at Work

This article from The Muse outlines unique learning opportunities for full-time employees and there are some helpful take-aways for independent contractors as well; for example, earning a free MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) Certificate and Joining a Professional Network. The referenced article suggests these are ways to learn at work, but we recommend holding off on taking an online course or attending a networking event until a time when you’re not billing the client. That said, you can use work time as a chance to network with fellow IT contractors to learn about professional networks and courses that they find helpful.

Learn While Winding Down

According to this Entrepreneur slideshow, the average person spends 17 minutes on YouTube every day, making it the #3 biggest time waster stealing your productivity. Fortunately, Dice found a way to make YouTube productive with these 6 channels for developers that help you build your skills and learn various languages and platforms. If you’re interested, check out:

We also recommend Eagle’s YouTube channel which features quick, helpful videos for independent contractors.

How do you learn? Everybody has their own way of keeping on top of the latest trends. We’ve shared some unique training ideas for contractors on the Talent Development Centre and if you have new ones, we want to hear about them! Please share your secrets with our readers in the comments section below.