Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: skills

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to IT and business skills.

Career Advancement as a Contractor — Is it Possible?

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

Career Advancement as a Contractor -- Is it Possible?Contractors often ask me how they can “move up” or pick up new skills while being on contract.  Independent contractors do not always have the same opportunities as an employee for career progression or new skills training while on the job. They are most often hired for their current skill set and subject matter expertise so getting new skills on a contract is often limited.

This article from FastCompany lists ways a permanent employee can get new opportunities for career progression and new skill development without changing “titles” or jobs.  Here are some of the tips that are also applicable to contractors.

#1 – Always be on the lookout for opportunities to widen your skill level on your current contract.  If an opportunity to help out in another area arises and there is no current talent to take on the role, ask for the role.  Clients often will give current project team members an opportunity for a new role over bringing in new talent (if the position does not require deep expertise in a technology area).  Be your own advocate!

#2 – If you would like to pick up new skills or move into a new role but don’t know what this entails, talk to people who are currently doing what you aspire to do.  Be curious!  People love to speak about what they currently do.  These resources are an excellent source of what it takes to get into a role or pick up new technologies and how to do it.  Network, network, network!  I have seen many times that simply showing an interest in a new area leads to being chosen for new roles… even for contractors.  Attitude is key!!  As the article states, don’t underestimate the power of “Lets get a coffee.

#3 – Take an inventory of your current skills profile and compare those skills to what your ideal role needs.  Where there are gaps, ask for the opportunity to shadow someone on parts of their job.  When an opportunity arises, volunteer to help out.  As noted in the article, it’s helpful to start taking on some aspects of a role before doing the whole role.  This is an easy way to try out a new job function and build your skill set before taking on a new role without any insight.

#4 – Develop a vision of what you want to do and share it with others.  This includes current team members as well as colleagues and mentors from past projects.

#5- Pay it forward.  If you are on a project and see an opportunity to help out fellow team members by transferring skills… do it!  Leadership by example is a key for team members to pick up new skills, whether they are hard or soft skills.  By giving someone else the opportunity to grow, others will see this and in turn invest in your growth.

The key messages from the article is to be the master of your own identity and career path.  Don’t be shy to ask to learn and take every opportunity to put yourself in front of learning moments.

IT Challenges and Priorities of North American Companies

IT Challenges and Priorities of North American CompaniesHow up-to-date are you on the struggles and strategies of your industry? Understanding what companies are facing can help you plan which skills you will enhance over coming months, as well as help you develop a better sales pitch for your contracting business. There are plenty of sources and studies available to help you understand potential clients’ agendas, and new research is being published regularly. Here are a couple recent ones…

A CDW Canada survey of Canadian organizations learned that their top security concerns are intrusion prevention (39%) and Ransomware protection (35%). Even with these concerns, most are still exploring or implementing cloud deployments; in fact, half of them are planning hybrid solutions in 2017. While most organizations are adopting cloud strategies in one way or another, only 16% would consider themselves a “cloud-first” organization.

The survey revealed some additional IT-related priorities for Canadian organizations. For example, when asked about emerging technologies that will have the most impact on their business, the top responses were analytics and big data, as well as the Internet of Things (IoT). In addition, 10% plan to replace legacy tools and applications with new technologies and 31% plan to upgrade or update their current tools and applications in their unified communications strategies.

South of the border, mid-market US-based companies are having a challenging time attracting and retaining IT talent — that’s according to a recent CFO Research survey. The findings detail how 49% of finance executives state that their challenges to keep tech professionals in the company have an adverse effect on them. Once they do secure IT employees, the struggles with those people continue with technical competency, strategic planning and vision, industry knowledge, project management, and customer service skills.

Naturally, the US companies surveyed are dealing with their issue by turning to external services. Rather than training or continuing their search, CFO Research learned that most are bridging the gap by moving to cloud services and eliminating a need to source, manage and maintain computer hardware, as well as turning to managed IT services. Regardless of their concerns about costs, the provider’s ability to understand the company, service quality or security breaches, the overall feeling among the executives surveyed is that this solution has been successful.

Have you come across any recent studies about your industry that help you prioritize your training? If so, please share the links below so other readers can benefit.

Change Management – How to set yourself apart as an OCM Consultant

Alison Turnbull By Alison Turnbull,
Delivery Manager at Eagle

Change Management – How to set yourself apart as an OCM ConsultantWhen Eagle first launched the Executive and Management Consultant division back in 2011, Change Management quickly became an area of specialty. Clients often complained that there was a general lack of understanding about the skill, and when they asked technical staffing agencies for qualified resources they would often confuse it with technical change management and end up with a handful of ITIL resumes.

There is no question that Change Management is an essential part of project success, whether for system implementations, business transformations or organizational change efforts. Data available on Prosci’s website sites that “Initiatives with excellent change management are six times more likely to meet objectives than those with poor change management.” This highly specialized skill requires that consultants can operate at both a strategic and tactical level, working closely with senior executive level stakeholders to drive transformation efforts, while understanding how the nuances of business change will impact employees at all levels of an organization and ensuring that they are not only adequately trained but ‘bought into’ the efforts.

With many people becoming interested in the field and Prosci and other certifications readily available, there has been a notable increase in consultants coming into the market over the past 2-3 years. So how do experienced Change practitioners set themselves apart in this ever-competitive market?

The ACMP is the global Association of Change Management Professionals. Last year, they introduced the CCMP designation – which is a globally recognized credential that ‘defines best practices in Change Management’. Unlike other certifications that require no previous experience or training, the CCMP has stringent eligibility criteria (similar to the PMP certification process). This has given the CCMP certification much more credibility in the market. Gaining the CCMP is one of the ways that experienced Change practitioners can differentiate themselves in the market. Are there other ways that you have set yourself apart? We’d love to hear from you!

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?

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!

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!

Have You Learned Kotlin Yet?

Are you staying up-to-date on the latest skills? Technology changes are always happening and to remain competitive as an IT professional, especially a programmer, you need to stay on top or you risk falling behind.

Kotlin was recently announced as an official language for Android and this infographic from Programiz proves that it’s growing at outstanding rates with plenty of opportunities for programmers. According to their website, Kotlin is concise, easy-to-use, tool-friendly and, above all, safe. Have you become well-versed in it yet?

Kotlin Infographic

Are You Really “Detail-Oriented”?

Are You Really "Detail-Oriented"?There are a number of buzzwords and phrases that show up on resumes and LinkedIn profiles across all industries, whether you’re an IT contractor, a fast food worker or anywhere in between. Perhaps one of the most over used is “detail-oriented”.

Most people do pay attention to detail to some degree, but if everyone does, then is it really a differentiator worth putting in your profile summary? If you truly want to stand out as a detail-oriented person, then you need to demonstrate it in everything you do. Here are a few places you can show that you’re detail-oriented before you even start your project with a client.

The Application

Applying for a job through a job board, recruitment agency or directly through a client is usually a simple process but you’d be surprised at how many candidates miss a field or add the wrong information because they failed to read instructions properly. When a recruiter notices this, they immediately laugh at your “detail-oriented” claim in the first line of your resume.

Your Resume

Speaking of your resume, that may be the easiest way to show you pay no more attention to detail than the average person. Spelling and grammar are obvious must-haves, but consistency is another crucial element. Are you using the same fonts throughout? Do you keep the same format for each of your headers, bullets and body text? Does the tense remain the same as you describe your experience? The unfortunate part of a resume that achieves these points is that people rarely notice, but you stick out like a sore thumb when you don’t consider it.

Social Media

Often when creating social media profiles, we quickly fill out the information to get started and promise ourselves we’ll go back later to enhance it. When this next step gets forgotten, it leaves a blank, non-detailed profile for the world to see. Another area to review, especially LinkedIn, is how often you update it. It’s no secret that recruiters compare resumes and LinkedIn profiles to verify honesty, so they will notice if it’s outdated.

Completing Forms and Contracts

Similar to the job application process, but usually more complex, when contractors are asked to complete forms — contracts, security clearances, client policies — we sometimes see them miss important sections or insert the wrong information. More often than not, it’s because the form wasn’t clear on what it was asking. In these cases, it’s best to ask for clarification than make assumptions. Asking for help and admitting to trouble understanding the form may require some humility, but showing that you’ve read it demonstrates your attention to detail, and it’s better than submitting the wrong information.

The Interview

When detail-oriented people attend a job interview, they’re well prepared at a minimum. This means arriving on time, knowing who they’re meeting with and having a copy of their resume and portfolio available. Those who stand out demonstrate their attention to detail throughout the interview. They take extensive notes and ask good questions, building on what the interviewer has told them and proving they’ve been absorbing every word that’s been said.

The First Day

Finally, your first day on the client site plays an important role on showing that you didn’t just add another cliché to your resume. After all, first impressions will form how a client rates you through the entire project. As with the interview, being organized is a minimum requirement. Truly detailed people will have already done their homework on the project and organization so they’re ready to start immediately. Like the interview, ask questions based on what you learn and dig deep into the layers of the project as you familiarize yourself with it.

The term “detail-oriented” makes regular appearances on resumes, but it’s also in many job descriptions, proving clients do believe it to be important. With everybody claiming to have this trait, your challenge is to prove that you are above average and that needs to begin immediately.

The Future is Yours!!

Brendhan Malone By Brendhan Malone,
Vice-President, Central Canada at Eagle

Why independent contractors in IT should always be on top of the latest tech trends

The Future is Yours!!When I first started in recruitment immediately following Y2K, the market was very slow. Seasoned professional contractors were having tremendous difficulty landing contracts. Unless of course you were a technical or functional consultant in the ERP world and your experience was in the right module, it was tough.

What is the point of my statement?

There are trends in the industry that are worth following. After the most recent economic crash in 2008, financial institutions were looking for any way possible to reduce risk. Consultants and contractors with risk system experience were in tremendous demand in a down market.

Which quickly brings us to today. Is it luck if your area of expertise becomes in high-demand? Sometimes I’m sure good fortune plays a role. I would argue, however, that being on the cutting edge of market trends can take some of the luck out of it. Asking yourself a few key questions in regards to where you see demand for your skills and area of expertise going forward should be a weekly exercise.

The key point to mention is that the current in-demand skills are often times no more difficult to obtain or develop an expertise in than those that are diminishing in demand.

Artificial Intelligence is a perfect example of the importance of identifying current and future demand for your skills. AI is not going anywhere and companies will be relying on it more and more every day. Can your skills be augmented to provide value to this emerging area?

Automation is coming and coming fast, particularity in administrative processes. How do your skills apply here and if they don’t, how can you obtain relevant skills to automation?

People are browsing, shopping, and purchasing on their mobile devices at staggering levels. Only a few years ago it was primarily a device for browsing. Those who had the foresight so obtain mobile development skills have reaped the rewards of this demand.

This may seem like obvious considerations but the difference between having in-demand skills and not can drastically affect your standard of living.

A contractor should be on the hunt to educate and further their own skills and knowledge. Make sure you are always evolving in your professional life and you won’t be left behind but will stay at the forefront of technology changes.

Top-Paying Skills for 7 In-Demand Tech Roles

Top-Paying Skills for 7 In-Demand Tech RolesA couple weeks ago we shared some interesting salary data based on the findings of Dice’s annual Tech Salary Survey. While this is great knowledge, it may not be helpful to those deciding where to invest in training to get the best return. Fortunately, the survey went on to answer that question by providing the top-paying skills for the most in-demand tech roles. Here’s a quick summary of the findings:

Top Paying Big Data Skills

  1. MapReduce ($125,009)
  2. HBase ($123,934)
  3. Cassandra ($123,459)
  4. Apache Kafka ($122,728)
  5. Elasticsearch ($120,002)
  6. PIG ($119,118)
  7. Solr ($119,032)
  8. Hadoop ($118,625)
  9. Hive ($118,589)
  10. RabbitMQ ($116,909)

Top Paying Cloud Skills

  1. HANA ($128,958)
  2. Cloud Foundry ($124,038)
  3. PaaS ($120,403)
  4. Amazon RedShift ($119,197)
  5. Cloudera ($118,896)
  6. Docker ($118,873)
  7. Amazon Route 53 ($118,828)
  8. IaaS ($117,422)

Top Paying DevOps Skills

  1. Ansible ($121,382)
  2. Korn Shell ($118,273)
  3. Jenkins ($113,354)
  4. Puppet ($112,883)
  5. Chef ($112,523)
  6. Vagrant ($111,422)

Top Paying Project Management Skills

  1. CMMI ($119,466)
  2. PMBOK ($118,233)
  3. Kanban ($112,932)
  4. ISO 270000 ($112,556)
  5. Lean ($111,970)
  6. Scrum ($109, 876)
  7. Agile ($108,459)

Top Paying Mobile Skills

  1. Objective-C ($116,667)
  2. Swift ($110,877)

Top Paying Design UI/UX Skills

  1. OmniGraffle ($123,782)
  2. Balsamiq ($110,744)

Top Paying Front-End Dev Skills

  1. JSON ($107,258)
  2. Angular ($105,496)

Keep in mind, the findings above are based in the United States. While we expect these are still high-paying skills in Canada, rates and salaries will differ depending on your industry and region.