Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: learning

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

2018 in Review: Personal and Professional Development

“New Year, New Me!” That’s the attitude people around the world are taking today as 2019 has officially kicked off. Of course, there’s no reason to be a completely brand new you if you’re generally happy with how things are going, and certainly you can improve on yourself any time.

Year-round, we share content for IT contractors to help them improve on themselves. Some posts relate to specific skills development and others suggest ways to improve soft skills. In the staffing industry, recruiters recognize time and again the importance of improving skills and updating your resume with new value-adds and differentiators. To help you succeed this year, here are the best posts about personal development that we shared in the past year…

Technical Skills

Softer Skills and Development

Which Skills to Learn First?

Age is Just a Number: It’s Never too Late to Learn Something New

There seems to be a common belief that at a certain point in your life, you’re too old to learn something new. However, if this was actually the case then many creations and companies wouldn’t exist today. According to an interactive infographic from Funders and Founders, the creator of Starbucks, Gordon Bowker, was 51 when he started the company and an even better example is that IBM was created when the creator, Charles Flint, was 61! These are perfect examples of how you’re never too old to take on the challenge of starting something new.

The same thing goes for IT contractors. Our technology is always changing and improving, so to keep up with industry requirements you need to be learning about latest technology. Because, the reality is that late bloomers can be successful. Funders and Founders created another infographic (see below) demonstrating late bloomers who were successful later in life. For example, Julia Child was a famous French cuisine chef, but knew nothing about French cuisine until the age of 30.  Anyone can learn something new!

 too late to learn - late bloomers-people who succeeded infographic

Develop a Learning Plan as an IT Contractor

Develop a Learning Plan as an IT ContractorConsumers around the world have come to accept that as soon as they go out and pay big bucks to have the latest and greatest technology of any sort, it will quickly be outdated. That’s because technology evolves and grows at a rate faster than we’ve ever seen. Companies are always researching and developing their products to remain competitive, and that means they need IT professionals working for them who are also always growing.

If you’re an independent contractor and decide at some point in your career that it’s alright to stop learning, you will quickly find yourself in serious trouble when trying to find new work. To stay on top, you must develop a training plan for yourself and to do that, you have to know the up-and-coming skills clients are seeking. For example, Dice claims the top 5 programming languages expected to dominate the future are Kotlin, Swift, Rust, MATLAB and Python.

Of course, depending on your situation, knowing the hottest programming languages may not be useful to you. Simple Programmer also compiled a list of upcoming skills to learn, and they broke it down based on specialty. With some broader areas, this list is especially helpful to the IT professional looking to expand into new areas:

  • Web Development
    • js
    • Functional Programming
    • Browser Extensions
  • Software Development
    • Blockchain
    • Internet of Things
    • Cybersecurity
  • Mobile Apps
    • Augmented Reality
    • Mobile Payments

Even when armed with the knowledge of what to learn, the next step in building your learning plan is knowing how you will acquire that information. Learning new skills, especially tech skills, does not come easily to everyone, and we all learn differently. Dice suggests some of these methods to pick up new skills:

  • Shadow a Mentor
  • Break Down Skills into Microbehaviours
  • Train for Programs You’re Passionate About
  • Be Flexible with Your Training Methods
  • Attend Conferences and User Groups
  • Apply New Skills Quickly

The 5-Hour Rule states that you must spend at least 5 hours per week learning new skills if you want to stay relevant and succeed, and inspirations such as Barack Obama, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates all subscribe to it. How much time do you devote to building your IT skills and knowledge? Is it time to get your plan on to paper?

A Faster Way to Learn New Technologies

Technology is always changing with new advancements becoming more and more frequent. Sometimes it can be hard to keep up. This can especially be the case when working in a technology career. As an independent contractor searching for IT jobs, it’s important to keep yourself up to date on the new skills, such as new programming languages, needed for these positions.

Practical Psychology has published a video that suggests using the Feynman technique to help you learn faster, which is ideal when you think about all the new technology that is being created. Take a look at the technique’s four step process to make you a quick learner.

Life-Long Lessons Learned from Boxing

 

Alison Turnbull By Alison Turnbull,
Delivery Manager at Eagle

Fight to End Cancer LogoThis post is a follow-up to the one I had published back in February describing an upcoming event that I was fortunate enough to be selected for – the annual Fight to End Cancer.  As I mentioned back in February, starting this adventure was about as far outside of my comfort zone as one could get.  In six short weeks I will be stepping into a boxing ring at a Black Tie gala in front of over 500 people to compete in an Olympic style boxing match.

When I look back at my previous post, it’s hard to believe it has been only two months because those two months have taught me more than I ever thought possible.

If there is one thing I want to share from this, it’s the recommendation to everyone out there that no matter how old or how ‘stuck in your ways’ you feel, you will benefit greatly from committing to something that requires physical and mental endurance.  Here are some of the key lessons that I’ve learned over the past eight weeks:

1 – HARD WORK PAYS OFF!  You must commit yourself wholeheartedly to an event like this, whether it’s a competition, a tournament, a marathon or a sprint.  There will be days when the last thing you feel like doing is training, but those tend to be the days when you leave the gym feeling like you are on top of the world.  No one will put in the hard work for you, you have to just DO IT!

2 – FOCUS IS EVERYTHING!  It took our coaches awhile to drill this into our heads.  While there will always be time for socializing, chatting, and sharing a few laughs, the boxing ring is not that place!  When you are actively training and/or sparring, it just takes one moment of your mind drifting to get clobbered.  One well placed left hook that you didn’t see coming is a quick reminder to keep your head in the game – at ALL times!  I have found that this has translated to other areas of my life and hope it’s something that sticks.

3 – POSITIVITY IS KEY!  When we started this adventure, we were told ‘you will have your best days and you will have your worst days leading up to this fight.’  There are definitely days when you feel overwhelmed with information and just plain exhausted.  Keeping the cause (fighting cancer) and the end goal (getting into the ring!) in mind is key to getting through the tough training days.

I encourage everyone reading this post to challenge themselves to do something that you’ve always wanted to do or never thought you would – and if there is a charitable focus attached to it, all the better.  Our team is on track to meet our goal this year, which will mean over $1 MILLION has been raised in donations by this event alone for the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation – one of the top 5 cancer research hospitals in the world.  As rewarding as this has been for me personally, the big picture is even better.

You can also watch the following news segment from Global News to find out more about the Fight to End Cancer and my inspiration behind wanting to participate in this amazing event.

Contractor Quick Poll: When Should Kids Learn to Code?

Earlier this week we shared results of a HackerRanker survey of 40,000 developers. Among many interesting findings, it pointed out that the majority of developers started coding before the age of 20 and many while they were just kids. Others, however, didn’t start to learn until they were over 30.

IT professionals of all kinds are in high-demand and to ensure the top skills are available in Canada, it’s important we encourage training for such skills at any age. That means that a young child with an interest in technology should have access to expand their knowledge, and an adult looking to start a new career should have an easy avenue to learn more.

More than 2 years ago, David O’Brien, a Vice-President at Eagle, wrote a post here stating that Coding is the New Cursive.  He argued that it is now just as important, if not more important, for students to learn coding skills in school as it is for them to learn cursive writing. Would you agree and, if so, what age do you believe kids should start learning to code?

5 Reasons IT Contractors Should Learn Another Language

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

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

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

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?