Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: learning

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

4 Ways to Learn New Technical Skills

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!

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

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

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

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.

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)