Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: learning

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

Life Long Learning

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

This post first appeared on the Eagle Blog on September 21st, 2016

learning quote from Brian Herbert

When did you last take some training?

When did you last invest in your own career?  (Forget about what your employer does.)

Do you have a personal training plan?

Do you have a career plan?

Do you understand how your industry is being affected by technology, by regulatory change and by global competition?

Can a call centre in Africa do a part of your job … for a fraction of the cost?

Can a robot replace you … or some part of what you do?

Is your company being overtaken by disruption?

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.  Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”  Henry Ford

Take control of your own destiny, because life has a way of happening:

  • have a great attitude (its all in your head);
  • have  a good work ethic (anyone can do this, but many don’t!); and
  • have great skills.

Take advantage of every training opportunity possible AND invest in yourself!

“Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.”  Brian Tracy

Pretend to Be a Genius (Even if you’re not bright)

Let’s face it: some of us just aren’t smart. Even fewer of us are geniuses.  But that doesn’t mean we don’t all have the potential to enjoy the same success as people like Bill Gates, Albert Einstein and Thomas Jefferson. All we really need to do is act like a genius, which can be done by understanding their top traits.

This video from Entrepreneur summarizes the good and bad habits of super smart people. Have a watch to learn what you can do to make those around you believe you’re a genius; and become more successful in your IT career.  While we strongly recommend only picking up the good habits listed in the video, it is interesting to learn about the bad habits commonly held by the upper echelon of intelligence.

RSS Feeds Can Help Improve Your Skills

The Easiest Way for Independent Contractors to Increase Training and Development… for Free!

RSS IconIT professionals are always busy juggling contracts, submitting applications and proposals for future work, managing their business and, of course, balancing all of that with their personal life. As with any competitive market, though, if you fall behind, you quickly lose your edge when being considered by recruiters. While you need to stay above water in your day-to-day life, you also need to be planning ahead to keep your skills relevant with the newest trends and technologies.

There are a number of training opportunities out there for independent contractors and free resources to improve your skills, but just learning about them can be time consuming. Rather than wasting time seeking out the latest trends or searching for the best development courses, we recommend letting them come to you! The simplest way to do this? Set up a valuable feed in your favourite RSS Reader.

This isn’t the first time we’ve mentioned RSS Feeds in the Talent Development Centre. To review, nearly every quality blog, periodical, or online resource that regularly publishes information has an RSS Feed, which lists all of its latest content. With the right feed reader (for example Digg or Feedly), you can easily manage each of these feeds.  This video from earlier in the summer provides instructions for setting up your RSS feed.

The first time we suggested setting up an RSS Feed was last Spring, in a post that provided tools to be the most informed independent contractor in your network. It boasts the advantages of LinkedIn and Twitter, along with explaining the benefits of RSS Feeds. In this post, we focused on following clients and job searching opportunities, but the same can be applied to your training and development needs.

The sources you follow don’t need to be geographically close to you, nor do they always have to have content specifically for you. An advantage of feed readers is they allow you to quickly skim through content from a wide array of websites. To get started, think about:

  • Blogs or websites related to your discipline (you probably already know of a few)
  • Larger publications that relate to technology trends
  • Sources that give advice about business and management
  • Any of the sources we suggested last June to keep up-to-date in business and tech trends

Once you’ve set your feed reader, you can forget it, at least until you have time to read it. The best RSS feed readers have a mobile app, so you can check out your articles on the bus, in a waiting room, or when dealing with awkward moments at a family reunion. That’s right! While your annoying cousin is babbling about his trip to the Grand Canyon, you can be learning and moving your business forward!

Bonus: Don’t waste time, use Pocket!

It’s impossible to only come across great articles when browsing your feed reader, but reading the best ones as you find them can be a terrible use of time. To solve this problem, we recommend Pocket. With pocket, you can install a Chrome Extension or download a mobile app, and when you come across that fantastic article, just hit “Save to Pocket”. Now, it will be available for you next time you log into Pocket, at your own convenience.

Keeping on top of technology trends and your trade can be a time-consuming task where you may not feel you’re getting value, but in the long run, you definitely are. As long as you can remain organized and fit it into your schedule properly, you will soar ahead of your competition and gain the attention of recruiters in no time. While there are many elements to training and development, organizing your feeds is certainly a great start.

How to Teach Yourself Code (Infographic)

Knowing a programming language is a great addition to anyone’s skillset, whether you’re in IT or not. Being fluent in multiple languages would make somebody even more valuable. If you want an advantage in your job search, you may be considering learning a new coding language but are unsure where to start. In which case, review this infographic from Lime and see if there’s anything there that can help you. The pricing and info is UK-based, but in most cases, these resources offer Canadian packages as well.

How to Teach Yourself Code (Infographic)

Fun Ways Kids Can Learn to Code (Infographic)

In David O’Brien’s article last December, Coding is the New Cursive, he explained the importance of coding for the up-and-coming generation and how many young children are already learning the basics of the important skill in school. If you’re an IT contractor, then you probably also buy into this train-of-thought and want to ensure your children are picking up some of this basic knowledge in school.

In case your school isn’t offering it, or you’d like to help move it along, this infographic from WhoIsHostingThis? is an awesome resource. It suggests helpful ideas, games, and apps that making learning to code fun for kids.

Fun Ways Kids Can Learn to Code - Via Who Is Hosting This: The Blog

Source: WhoIsHostingThis.com

If Your Up-Front Planning is Measured in Weeks…

…Then a Lean Startup is Going to Eat Your Lunch

This post by David Sabine was originally posted on the Agile Advice Blog on October 30th, 2015. Title inspired by Michael James… see below.

If Your Up-Front Planning is Measured in Weeks, Then a Lean Startup is Going to Eat Your LunchOne of the most powerful assumptions built in to Agile methods is that we learn by doing — that our learning, our planning, our problem-solving, and ability to mitigate risk is enhanced when planning is performed inline with active development and in the context of deliberate experimentation.  Scrum, for example, is based on empirical process control theory which means that we make decisions based on what is known.

One of the most common pitfalls we see among organizations trying to “adopt” Agile is excessive pre-planning — their assumption being that we can decide by planning, learn by planning, or mitigate risk by planning.  This sometimes manifests as an anti-pattern that people call “Sprint Zero” — a signal that an organization misunderstands Agile methods fundamentally.  More importantly, a signal that the organization may incorrectly perceive Software Engineering — or any team-based work — as predictable

If your organization injects a “Sprint Zero” or a planning phase (that is measured in weeks rather than days or hours) ahead of the creation/development of real product, then these two posts are of interest to you:


Learning from the Past

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

Learning from the PastIt’s a New Year!  A time to reflect and look at lessons from the past.  Being that I’m located in Calgary and, with the market the way it’s been, there have been a good number of lessons doled out this past year –many of which have been the hard kind.

Unless you are a particularly introspective person, days/months/years may come and go without taking a pause to reflect.  As Maslow suggests, a person cannot become fully competent without first achieving a level of conscious competence and one can’t do this without occasionally stopping to take stock of what they have learned. And making the necessary adjustments.

Sometimes one finds some old lessons reinforced. Sometimes, like in the final scene of the movie “Burn After Reading”, we learn not to do it again — whatever “it” might be. And sometimes we learn something new and truly valuable that helps to reshape our approach to business, relationships, life.

Years ago, I came across the following list of “11 Things That I Wish I Knew When I Was 20.” I’d kept it without really having any purpose for it and I stumbled across it again recently*.  Likely 10 years have gone by since last I saw it and now, reviewing it again, I still see the truth in the ideas expressed.  I’m definitely going to share these with my children in a few years as they prepare for their first jobs.

Perhaps you will enjoy them as well. If you have any of your own “words of wisdom” that you’re willing to share, please post a comment.  I’d love to hear from you!

*Note: I wished to credit the source of this list but, as it was so old, I was unable to find the original source

11 Things I Wish I Knew When I was 20

  1. No one pays you to solve a “non-problem”… seek out challenges – the bigger, the greater the recognition!
  2. The harder I work, the luckier I get! Work hard to put yourself into a position to get lucky:
  3. Don’t wait to be anointed… Stretch your role. Don’t wait for someone to empower you or give you a title… Solve the problems of your boss and your boss’s boss.  Don’t get hung up on titles… what’s important is what you accomplished.
  4. passion-skill-marketThe idea: “Follow your Passion”… is CRAP!  Without skill and a market that wants your product or service there is no career opportunity.
  5. Don’t burn bridges… The toes you step on today might be attached to the butt you need to kiss tomorrow.
  6. You can do it all… just not at the same time. Set priorities and re-evaluate them and change them regularly. Life is a circus; keep your plates spinning!
  7. There’s no such thing as a balanced life over the short term. One needs to find balance over the longer term. And get stuff done when you need to regardless of how it impacts the work/life balance… whether it is the work or the life side of the equation that needs the attention. Know when sacrifices are necessary.
  8. The little things mean the most. “Please” and especially “Thank You” make a very big difference. It sets you apart and helps to formulate a strong and respected personal brand.
  9. Team… The key is making everyone else successful. If you do this, it will come back to you many times over.  Pay it forward.
  10. Take every opportunity to deliver excellence. Good enough is not good enough. Do not “phone it in”. If you are not going to do the very best work that you can right now, today, then when are you planning to do it?
  11. Find a job with a culture that fits you. Individualistic or team based?  The wrong place will crush your soul.

Coding is the New Cursive

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice-President, Government Services at Eagle

Coding is the New CursiveIn a recent conversation with a couple of young millennials, it struck me — as I blabbered on bemoaning the fact that schools no longer teach cursive, these two well-educated , tech savvy new entrants in to the workforce bowled me over with the idea that they themselves were worried about their own potential pending dinosaur moment. Explain?

Completely cognizant of the pace of change, I was informed that just as I as a boomer sometimes feel a step or two (okay maybe a full lap or two) behind on tech pace, they too are fearful that they will be the proverbial deer in headlights as the generation just behind them rolls in. Why? Coding.

Coding, it now would seem, is the new cursive in schools. The coming generation of kids is the first to have started with tablets and other technology pieces from kindergarten on. While these millennials are the most tech savvy generation in the workforce, if the new advocates of coding as an essential subject in school like math or science have their way, the next generation will be much better suited for the workforce and likely to be the most innovative generation ever.

A new national curriculum in England has every primary school and secondary school, that’s nearly 20,000 schools, with computer science as a mandatory subject starting at age 5, just like Math and English. In Canada, Nova Scotia has also implemented coding in primary grades while PEI and other provinces are evaluating it. Let’s be clear, though, this movement is all about coding. As opposed to the traditional Computer Science programs, these classes teach the computer code that drives the traditional programming. Kids who are already familiar with navigating already built programs go deeper to build new and innovative programs. It’s potentially an education revolution that Canadian schools need to get on board with like the UK, US, Australia and Holland.

The longer run game is that these kids will increase interest in choosing Computer Science in University and of course create both the workforce of the future and the new innovators for startups that competitive economies will so desperately need in the years ahead.

As the aforementioned millennials so rightly recognized, they too need to continue to learn and grow for fear some 8 year old coming along will make them feel the shivers Boomers have been dealing with for years… the circle of life.

Retrospective Technique: What Did You Learn?

By Mishkin Berteig
President, Co-Founder of Berteig Consulting

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The original version of this article can be found on the Agile Advice blog.

Retrospectives are a key part of continuous improvement in Agile teams.  The retrospective techniques that a team uses should be adjusted to the needs of the team.  In a Scrum team, for example, the ScrumMaster will often decide on the techniques to use based on the current issues facing the team and then facilitate the retrospective for the team.  There are some great resources which give you collections of tried-and-true retrospective techniques including Esther Derby’s book “Agile Retrospectives” and the amazing online tool “Retr-o-mat“.  As an active consultant and trainer, I am always looking for new techniques to share with my clients.  Sometimes, I even create a new one (or at least new to me).  The “What Did You Learn” technique is new: I’ve been using it and testing it for a few years now to refine it.

What Did You Learn?

OpenAgileBy itself, this is a powerful question.  As part of my work with OpenAgile, I’ve been helping teams and organization to focus on learning as an even broader category than continuous improvement.  The Learning Circle and the processes in OpenAgile help with focusing on learning.  The question “what did you learn?” is very open ended, and can certainly work as an extremely simple type of retrospective in OpenAgile or in Scrum or other Agile methods.  Often people like to have a little more structure and guidance so the “What Did You Learn?” retrospective technique provides four categories of learning for people to think about, share, and discuss within a team.


Setup for this retrospective is very simple: a flip chart or whiteboard divided into four sections or columns works fine, along with a piece of paper for each person in the retrospective, divided up the same way, and sufficient markers and pens for everyone.  Here is a downloadable PDF version of the handout for the “What Did You Learn” retrospective.

The facilitator will also participate at various points if they are a member of the team (e.g. a ScrumMaster).  It is easiest to do this with a group in-person, but can also be done reasonably well with video or teleconferencing.


The facilitator introduces the retrospective with a welcome and, if necessary, a recitation of the Retrospective Prime Directive.  Then, the process is described to the group.  Each of the categories of learning is also explained as follows:

  • Question MarkQuestions.  When you can formulate a question about something, it means that you have learned about a gap in your knowledge.  In other words, you have discovered something that you would like to learn.
  • Information / Data / Facts.  These are specific details that relate to some area of knowledge or skill.  This category of learning is the simplest and is often what people focus on when asked “what did you learn?”  Information tends to be dry and unemotional.
  • Insights / Concepts / “Aha!” Moments.  Often when we have a collection of facts or an experience, we see a pattern or make interesting connections between things.  This leads us to the great feeling of an insight.  Insights tend to be exciting or scary and have an emotional component.
  • Action Items.  These are decisions about what we would like to do in the future, but they could be extremely short-term or very long-term or anything in between.

There are three main stages in the retrospective as follows:

  1. Individual Reflection.  For 10 to 15 minutes, each individual works silently to write down the things that they have learned in the appropriate category on the handout.  Everyone should try to get at least a couple things into each of the four categories, but more is welcome.
  2. Sharing with the Group.  Systematically going around the group and getting people to read from what they have written.  This is another 10 to 15 minutes.  This stage should not get bogged down in discussion, but brief clarifying questions should be welcome.
  3. Identifying Important Learning.  The group now has open discussion to decide on a small number of things it considers the most important that it has learned.  This could be based on popularity, but impact, depth, or uniqueness might also be factors in considering importance.  These are the items that get written down on the flip-chart.  This is usually the longest part of the retrospective and can take up to 30 minutes.


This is an excellent retrospective for a team that is going through a significant transition such as starting a new project, a major change in business direction for a product, or as a wrap up technique for sharing lessons learned with other parts of an organization.  It is not a good technique for a brand new team that hasn’t worked together before as there will be little common ground for deciding on the importance of peoples’ various shared learning.

About the Author

Mishkin Berteig is the President and Co-Founder of Berteig Consulting Inc. He has been Mishkin Berteigtraining, coaching and consulting for organizations adopting Agile methods since 2001 and is committed to helping individuals, teams and organizations apply Agile methods. Mishkin is a Certified Scrum Trainer, and qualified to deliver OpenAgile and Agile Project Management training.  He has developed and delivered Agile training both in public and in-house seminars for over 3000 people in Canada and abroad. Courses have been as short as three hour intro-style and as long as five day boot-camp-style, and audiences have ranged from junior team members to senior executives. He has also assisted organizations of all sizes to make the transformation from traditional methods to Agile/Scrum methods (Extreme Programming, Scrum, Lean, OpenAgile).  Assistance includes Agile Engineering Practices, Agile teamwork, Agile project and product management, Agile management and executive management.