Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: training

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

Contractor Quick Poll: 2017 Training & Development Plans

How Much Training & Development Are You Planning in 2017?

There are many ways an independent contractor can improve their skills. From working on certifications to staying up-to-date on the latest trends to networking; every little bit counts. Recruiters at staffing agencies keep a close eye on this section of an IT professional’s resume as they want to know they’re presenting clients with the top skills available.

The reality is, though, finding time for these activities isn’t the easiest thing for an IT contractor to do. Especially when you’re already juggling projects, managing business tasks, and keeping up with finding your next contract, this can be a major challenge and may not always be top priority.

In this month’s contractor quick poll, we’re asking how much training and development you plan to do in 2017. Perhaps it was a higher priority last year than it will be this year, or you’ve set a goal to improve in a specific area. We won’t judge, we’re just curious…

Programmers: This Video Could Get You a Job Next Year

There are so many programming languages out there that it’s impossible to keep up with everything. Some tech professionals don’t let this bother them, and focus at getting awesome at a select few. Other people like to keep up with the latest trends and be able to brag to recruiters and clients that they can code using the newest technologies.

If the latter sounds like you, then we have a resource for you! This 16+minute video from Chris Hawkes is packed with great information and goes over the top 10 programming languages that you should learn in 2017. Watch it and see which languages you can pick-up over the next couple months, then watch as you become the go-to independent contractor for some of the coolest projects in the coming year.

How Postgraduate Study Can Improve Your IT Career

Guest Post by Claire Payne at the London School of Business and Finance

How Postgraduate Study Can Improve Your IT CareerThough many may believe that getting to the top of IT mostly requires technical knowledge, the field is not that different from the others: you still need managerial experience to succeed.

A postgraduate MBA can help you do just that, offering an ideal opportunity to develop your skills and ultimately improve your long-term career prospects.

You can pursue a range of different postgraduate programmes in Canada, helping you to acquire new useful skills as well as refining your existing abilities. This is invaluable when it comes to your professional advancement, and it will give you a helping hand onto the next rung of the career ladder.

You may also find your salary increases, as most sectors hold MBA qualifications in high regard.

  1. Communication

Being a strong communicator is vital if you’re looking to reach the top – even in the tech industry, which has a reputation for being anti-social as everyone focuses on their own project. To progress in your career, you must be able to communicate effectively with clients and with your staff.

Developing your workplace communication can also improve your knowledge of conflict resolution – something that is extremely important for managers. Managing your clients’ expectations and pushing back on unrealistic project deadlines is a vital skill for management.

Postgraduate study can help you to build on these skills, as the courses often involve group projects and practical work for businesses.

  1. Practical skills

Many postgraduate courses can help to develop your practical and technical skills, as there are many specialised subjects that you can choose from. With technology advancing rapidly, there are always new skills to learn –a postgraduate degree will help you keep on top of the latest techniques and tools.

Another important skill you will learn or improve in most postgraduate degrees is negotiation. The ability to reach compromises and get the best out of deals is vital, especially for those working freelance or as consultants.

  1. Managerial skills

Postgraduate programmes, particularly MBAs, can help you with the skills you need to apply for senior roles.Among other things, MBA’s can help you to develop:

  • A better overall knowledge of your field, so you’ll know what works and what doesn’t
  • Strategies to help increase everyone’s productivity – not just for your project
  • An understanding of how technology and business intersect, such as how new innovations can help with marketing tech products
  • Better approaches to product development
  1. Entrepreneurialism

How Postgraduate Study Can Improve Your IT CareerIf you want to create a start-up company instead of working for someone else, a postgraduate degree can be invaluable to you.

For one, you will immediately be managing a lot of people and projects. This means you will have to develop an understanding of how your company will work at an individual level for your employees, and in the wider context of where you want to take it.

It’s not enough to know how to successfully complete individual projects – you will now have to oversee multiple tasks that are all happening simultaneously. Often, the owner of a tech start-up is the person who came up with the innovative idea. They may be a genius on the technical side, but they will still need guidance when it comes to leadership.

This is where a degree like an MBA will come in useful, teaching you how to guide your business in the direction you want to take it and help others to help you.

  1. Networking

Networking can be incredibly useful when it comes to taking the next step in your career. Postgraduate education gives you with valuable networking opportunities, as the connections you make while studying could very well be the people who help you secure employment for an exciting new project.

Your new connections might not always be your fellow students – most universities and colleges that offer postgraduate degrees also arrange events where you can meet successful business people and entrepreneurs. If you make the right impression, you can find business partners, consultancy opportunities, or freelance work with ease.

How to Become an Android Developer

Mobile technology is one of the fastest growing trends across all industries making mobile development a fantastic skill to have in your skillset.  In this video, Hooman Mardokhi explains how anybody, from beginner to advanced programmers, can become Android Developers.  There is a lot to learn, with many steps, but if you’re interested, this video is a great starting point.  For any mobile developers currently reading this, do you agree with Hooman?  Is there anything you would add?  Share your thoughts below.

3 Attributes for a Job: Experience, Skills, Attitude

There are basically three things you bring to a team and project when you start a new Woman searching for a job onlinecontract: skills, experience and attitude. By improving each of them, you can secure great references from clients and impress during interviews which will significantly increase your chances of scoring your next contract .

You can’t do much about your experience, but you can do a couple of things to enhance it…

  1. add to your experience through charitable/volunteer work;
  2. put your experience in its best light highlighting how it can benefit an employer.

In order to get a job you need to stand out from the other candidates. Remember it doesn’t matter how many people are looking for a job, you only need one!  You can differentiate based on skills and most definitely on attitude!


What can you do to add to your skills?

(i)      Take some courses;
(ii)    Get an unpaid job (intern) that gives you new skills;
(iii)   Do some self-learning online.

If your skills are too generic, can you consider going back to school and starting a new career?


This is THE number one way to differentiate from everyone else but to truly take advantage of it you need to really buy in to your new attitude.  It is not enough to say the words, you need to live and breathe it.

  • Recognise that your job is an important part of your world so be truly grateful that you have it no matter what the job is!
  • Do everything you can to be a great contractor.  Even if it’s not your ideal contract, do it better than anyone else would and with a smile on your face. You can find a better contract after this one’s over.
  • Refrain from telling a client “that’s not my job.”  Add value by helping out on other projects and mentoring other contractors or employees when possible.
  • Dress for success take pride in yourself.  Take your cues from those around you but always try to dress at the upper range of your peers. If you’re in a casual environment where jeans and a t-shirt are acceptable, always wear presentable and clean jeans, a collared t-shirt, and nothing inappropriate.
  • Go the extra mile. Putting in a little extra time when it’s needed can make a huge impression.
  • Adopt a positive attitude. You have a job, your health, live in a great country etc.  Don’t get dragged down by negativity.
  • The world is full of people that expect the world to cater to them they expected their parents to give them “stuff”, they expect their government to provide them with “stuff”, they expect their client to pay them while they give as little as possible back!   You can beat them to the jobs every time, IF you can demonstrate a positive ATTITUDE.

How do you differentiate yourself to clients and recruiters?  Do you do anything extra that you believe has led to success?  Share your tips and help other contractors across Canada find opportunities too!

Invest in Yourself!

When creating your resume, networking and, for some contractors, responding to RFPs, you should always consider your Return on Time Invested (ROTI).  In a nutshell, it means that you should spend your time building relationships that are going to generate your revenue — short, medium and long term.  You should invest your time to commensurate Piggy Bankwith the returns expected.

We can use the same theory to consider the term Return on Self-Investment.  This is basically a way to look at investing in your own success. If you adopt a mentality that investment in your success is very beneficial to you, then you can differentiate yourself from other contractors.

In fact you can measure your ROSI (a) in your own advancement over time; (b) your increased productivity; (c) your performance against your colleagues; or (d) your self-satisfaction.

Here are some thoughts for you:

  1. Lifelong Learning.  The Talent Development Centre has a few articles and the majority of independent contractors agree that this is important.  The progressive contractor, looking to increase their ROSI will:
    1. Take full advantage of every learning opportunity and networking event;
    2. Always look for learning opportunities even if they have a cost (in dollars or in time invested);
    3. Develop good habits for learning, including reading relevant articles, periodicals and books;
    4. Will seek mentorship and feedback.
  2. Personal Branding.  Again, we’ve written a lot about this, so the progressive contractor will:
    1. Invest in appropriate dress for work (looking a little better than their peers) ;
    2. Will seek to establish themselves as a thought leader in their field (get involved in associations, write thoughtful comments on blog entries, contribute articles, provide thoughtful feedback to management).
    3. Will network outside of work with industry colleagues, interesting organisations, charities, etc.
  3. Productivity.  The progressive contractor will:
    1. Adopt and continually work at GREAT time management techniques & tools;
    2. Set goals to measure themselves;
    3. Monitor their ROSI to ensure they are investing in the right areas.

An interesting observation about the points above is that few have to do with financial investment and many are about time investments.  That means many of these can be easily achieved with some simple planning and time management.  So what’s stopping you? Be responsible for your own success!

Rain or Sunshine after the Cloud?

Gilbert Boileau By Gilbert Boileau,
Vice-Président, Québec at Eagle

Last July, I wrote a post on the need for contractors to keep their skills updated based on clients’ willingness to adopt cloud-based solutions.  Some have asked me if, since things were changing at such a fast pace, if they should be worried.  I decided to write this to go more in-depth to the July post.

The first important thing to understand is that the drive for cloud solutions (applications,Cloud Solutions infrastructure, data, etc…) is mostly “human” driven versus technology driven.  Yes, it allows selection of best-of-breed solutions (SaaS, IaaS, PaaS) and creates greater computing and application elasticity, but it comes first from the need for more agility, greater business flexibility and cost containment.  Those are the big drivers.  And those drivers are way more important than if it was only a technological fad, because they answer fundamental business issues. 

What we are seeing is a normal evolution, not a revolution. In that respect, IT contractors will have to adapt to the changes by elevating their skills but most importantly, their way of practising their trade pertaining to that service/technological transition.

On the infrastructure side, system administrators will not lose their potential contract tomorrow morning. But they will certainly need to understand how cloud solutions enable clients to change the way they “interact” with technology.  As an example, some of the basic system admin tasks (configuration, sizing, etc…) will clearly not be needed.  As with other functions, they will be part of the provided cloud service. System administrator will need to understand the use of cloud configuration tools, Open Source or proprietary, and also security issues related to the use of the new cloud platforms. Additionally, they will probably spend more time taking care of service agreements and less time maintaining the service, which entails enhancing their soft skills. As for network administrators, their job will probably evolve to become cloud administrator.

On the security side, the move of core business processes and data to cloud solutions will push security specialist to stay on top of new security models and technologies.

On the application side, given the flexibility provided by solutions in the cloud, there will be even more pressure on the actual trend for rapid delivery on business requirements. 

In general, moving to the cloud is more than a virtualization mind shift. New paths will be presenting themselves and options will be there. Whether you deepen your technical skill sets to design those new services or become the liaison between business and IT, you should look forward to the change. Much of what you have today will be transferable.

Rain or sunshine?  It is for you to decide how proactive you want to be in this “service” model transition. 

Here’s Why You Should Always Be Improving Your Skills

If you are not improving your skills in a world that is changing at an ever increasing pace then, effectively you are going backwards.   So, what are you doing about it?

Some people will point to their past contracts and suggest that their years of working in that role make them very experienced. Others would argue, though, that a Developer, for example, with 10 years of experience brings very little extra value than one with 2 years of experience.  Their on-the-job skills improve dramatically in the early years, but the rate of improvement drops off dramatically after a while.

So ask yourself some questions:

  • What are you doing to improve your skills?
  • What could you do to be better?
  • Are you still competitive compared to your colleagues who work in similar roles?
  • What if your contract ended tomorrow?Target Professional Skills
  • What could you do to get a better contract?
  • Do you have any niche skills that set you apart?
  • Are you willing to invest time/money to improve your situation?

When you really think about these things, it takes you a little out of your comfort zone; however, as a contractor, there is no way you can afford to be complacent. So get out of your comfort zone and invest in yourself.

  • Take some courses.
  • Take on special projects.
  • Read plenty. About your industry, about the economy, about what is happening in the world, about other industries that might interest you, about different jobs and roles that might interest you.
  • Get involved outside of work in non-profit organizations, sports clubs, charities etc.
  • Keep building and maintaining relationships with recruiters.

Broadening your horizons, demonstrating interest and showing initiative will (1) increase your worth and service offerings, (2) it will make your work day that much more interesting, (3) it will reduce the chance that “you” will be left behind and without a contract and (4) it positions you well for your next contract.

Are you improving your skills?  How do you do it?  Do you have any tips for balancing continuous improvement with your contract commitments?  We’d love your thoughts!

3 Decisions You Should Make When Personal Branding

Your personal brand defines who you are and will have a strong impact on your success as a contractor.  Have you thought much into what your personal brand represents?  It’s never too late to get started, but while you plan it out, here are 3 important things you should decide:

  1. Decide what your personal brand looks like. Perhaps you want to be seen as a professional, accomplished, ambitious contractor. “The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear” Socrates.  (Clearly this is not a new concept!)
  2. Decide what actions will always support that brand.  Others will associate your decision-about-personal-brandactions to the type of person you want to be.  The following might be examples that support the “professional, accomplished, ambitious” brand.
    1. Dress professionally;
    2. Invest in training – continue to learn;
    3. Take on more responsibility;
    4. Always take accountability and do not look for excuses;
    5. Be a cheerleader. Take on the glass half full attitude;
    6. Look after your health. Stay relatively fit (you don’t need to be an elite athlete) and eat relatively healthy (you don’t need to be a model);
    7. Look for ways to give back to charities, to the industry, to colleagues;
    8. Be a team player.
  3. Decide how you will protect your brand.  You’d hate to go through all of the steps of creating your personal brand, only to jeopardize it with inconsistent actions. Following the same concept, that you want to cultivate, for example the “professional, accomplished, ambitious” brand, here are some don’ts!
    1. Don’t use abusive language in any circumstance when dealing with your clients, especially never in writing.
    2. Don’t let your communication style be “un-business like”. You may use text messaging or IM shorthand with your friends, but business communication should be understandable to everyone;
    3. Casual work days should not mean ratty jeans and well worn sweat shirts. Adopt a smart casual approach (always dress just a little better than you need to);
    4. If you write “stuff” outside of work (blogs, facebook posts, articles etc) you might want to be sure that if your clients read them they would not raise their eyebrows;
    5. Don’t compromise your own principles. Work with clients that have your kind of principles;
    6. Don’t let your personal life encroach unduly into your work life. It’s OK to be proud of your kids, but most clients don’t need a blow by blow of their lives and they certainly don’t want to be dragged into your personal “dramas”.

What are your top branding tips?  Leave us your thoughts below!

Are You Ready for a Test?

Gilbert Boileau By Gilbert Boileau,
Vice-Président, Québec at Eagle

Many consultants who have been in the business for years will skip some of the fundamentals when preparing for client interviews.  Even with many years of experience (or perhaps because of them), they rely too much on their practical experience and skip the basic interview preparation.  Whether you are a junior resource or seasoned professional, you should gather as much information on the specifics of an assignment from your IT staffing firm.

Consulting interviews never have the same format.  They can be very casual, mostly Unprepared Person Writing a Testaimed at verifying team fit and background.  And, they can also include a technical or functional component with an expert asking very specific questions.

More and more, we see interviews with a test component to validate the consultant’s technical or functional know-how.  You would be surprised at the number of senior consultants who score low to average grades on these tests.  Why? Most of us who have been in our respective disciplines for a long time assume that if there is a test component to an interview process, we will ace it.  We are good at what we do, we are experts in our field and we should ace it, right? Wrong! Tests are just that — tests. Some of them echo real life scenarios and some do not.  In order to “ace” them, as we did in school, we need to freshen up on our technical or functional knowledge (even more so if we are experienced).  The good news is that today there are many internet tests available to review our skills and most of them are free.

To summarize, before an interview get as much information as possible from your recruiter about:

  • the overall interview process
  • how many people will be interviewing
  • what are their respective roles and profiles
  • what you should focus on
  • whether there is a test component

If there is a test, try to get as much information as you can on it.  The types of questions and focus of the test are very important to know beforehand in order to nail down the areas that you need to focus on and which skills you should freshen up.  And then, spend the required time on testing sites to work on the areas where you may have weaknesses.

In a hot IT market, poor test results will not stop you from finding other opportunities.  But they may stop you from getting the contract you truly wanted!