Contractor Quick Poll: Which soft skills will you improve?

At the start of the year, LinkedIn released a list of the most high-demand skills for 2019, based on data they collected on their social platform. The list includes both soft and technical skills. Given the range of IT contractors who follow the Talent Development Centre, the technical skills they list may or may not be relevant to you. The soft skills, however, are relevant to anybody who works with people (that’s you).

Nobody is great at everything and we can always improve ourselves. LinkedIn lists five soft skills that companies look for most: Creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and time management. In this month’s contractor quick poll, we want to know where you fall short and intend to build. As we start the second half of 2019, which skill do you plan on improving?

Career-Growth Advice for Employees That Also Applies to Independent Contractors

Career-Growth Advice for Employees That Also Applies to Independent ContractorsDo you ever look at your clients’ employees and think about how much easier they have it? Employees already have deductions removed from their pay, they can take advantage of company perks and benefits, they enjoy more job security and they need not worry about career advancement. Well… kind of.

While employees can usually lean on their boss for skills development and career progression, those who rely solely on the company are doomed to fall behind compared to those who take matters into their own hands. Similar to being an independent contractor, full-time employees must take charge of their own career growth to open up new opportunities and build their earning potential.

A recent article by Hanna Morgan and published by U.S. News provides tips for employees to do just that and much of the advice can be passed along to independent contractors:

Provide Solutions: The article starts by recommending an employee address their manager and recommend ideas to improve the organization’s processes and save money. This is a wise idea, but in a different context. Given you are your own manager, schedule time to reflect on your business processes such as accounting, resume-writing, and job searching and see if anything you’ve always done the same way can be re-thought.

Learn New Skills for Career Growth: We frequently ask job seekers not to apply to jobs for which they are not qualified. But that does not mean you shouldn’t still look at them. In fact, when any contract opportunity is appealing to you, thoroughly understand the required skills and technologies… then go out and get them! This also means identifying common soft skills that you should improve upon.

Expand Your Personal Brand: The IT contracting world is often transactional. You work for a client, you complete the contract, and you all move on to future business. Unless you made an outstanding impression, your client is not going to tout your brand through the industry to make you the most in-demand contractor of the city. This is something you must take into your own hands. The recommendations this article makes to employees in a similar predicament are also perfect for independent contractors: update your LinkedIn profile and resume with the narrative you want, and look for opportunities to write or speak about your skills.

Network for Career Advancement: The advice provided by Morgan in this section is so perfect, we’re going to quote her directly: “Think of networking as information gathering. It helps you learn about the challenges other workers face and it gives you the opportunity to talk about what you have learned. If you are networking-averse, keep in mind that all you are asking for when you meet with someone is advice, information or recommendations. Don’t forget to keep in touch with past colleagues and classmates. Maintaining these relationships helps you feel connected and makes networking more enjoyable. Creating time in your hectic schedule for networking allows you to meet people who can help spread the word about you and your personal brand.

Find Mentors for Career Growth: Yes, you need to adapt to changing trends and technologies, but there is no need to re-invent the wheel in IT contracting. Seek out an experienced, successful contractor who knows the game and ask them to be a mentor. They can provide career guidance, motivation and serve as a role model.

You May Have to Move On: Obviously you will need to move on to a new client eventually, that is the entire premise behind contracting. Independent contractors experience other forms of “moving on” when change is required. Should you start working with different recruiters? Should you try a new industry or even a new skill? Perhaps there are better opportunities in a complete different city.

The benefits of independent contracting come with a number of struggles that employees do not have to face, so it’s nice to recognize the ones everybody shares. In all cases, having a plan and then working on that plan is the only way to ensure life takes you to where you want to go. Otherwise, you will find yourself working on boring contracts at lower rates, when you know you have the potential to do so much more.

9 Steps to Better Business Meetings

Meetings. Never really touched upon in our educations but quickly become a driving force in our lives once we reach the work force. Independent contractors host a number of types of meetings for clients but if you lack the proper guidance and instruction, no attendee will get the most out of the interaction.

If you want to improve your meetings, check out the infographic below with 9 tips to a better business meeting from Teamweek and see how it can apply to your business whether it’s meeting with colleagues or your next big interview. If you like what you see, check out the original post for more in-depth details.

Better Business Meetings
Infographic by Teamweek

Data Science is a Hot Career Choice

Do you know a new high school graduate, or a student who’s heading into their final year of high school, and still has no idea what they want to do for the rest of their lives? Data Science is continuing to be a hot career choice guaranteed to have plenty of opportunity in nearly any industry for the coming years.

Anybody looking to make a decision about their career and who has any interest in technology should check out this video by 365 Data Science. It goes over the typical profile of a Data Scientists, talks about the opportunities, most importantly, explains how to go about becoming a Data Scientist.

IT Industry News for June 2019

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

Tech News HeaderThis is my 30,000-foot look at events in the ICT industry for June 2019. What you see here is a précis of the monthly report I produce, which will be available in more detail at the News section of the Eagle website, where you will also find back issues.

A Little History of June in previous years 

Five years ago, in June 2014, Oracle paid $5 billion for Micros Systems; Sandisk paid $1.1 Oracle logo a large software company originally noted for its databasebillion for solid state storage company Fusion-io. Google continued its push into home automation, witnessed by its subsidiary Nest paying $550 million for cloud-based home monitoring service Dropcam. Google itself paid $500 million for Skybox Imaging, a satellite maker to enhance the Google Maps capability. Twitter paid $100 million for mobile marketing platform Tap Commerce and Red Hat paid $95 million for eNovance.

In June 2015, Intel paid $16.7 billion for semiconductor company Altera Corp. Cisco paid Intel logo$635 million for security firm OpenDNS in addition to picking up OpenStack company, PistonCloud Computing. Microsoft bought 6Wunderkinder, maker of task management app Wunderlist; Ricoh Canada bought Graycon Group, a professional services firm headquartered in Calgary; and finally, IBM bought OpenStack company Blue Box Group.

Three years ago, June 2016 saw Microsoft buy LinkedIn for a whopping $2.6 billion. There were other billion dollar deals that month too: Salesforce paid $2.8 billion for e-commerce Microsoft logoplatform maker Demandware and Amazon announced an extra $3 billion investment in its India operations. Other significant deals included Daetwyler Holdings AG paying more than $877 million for Raspberry Pi maker Premier Farnell Plc; Red Hat paid $568 million for API management software company 3Scale; and OpenText paid $315 million for HP’s Customer Communication Management products. Other noteworthy deals included an investment group’s purchase of Dell’s software arm; Microsoft bought natural language start up Wand Labs; and Samsung bought cloud computing company Joyent. Also, Google Capital announced its first investment in a public company, investing $46 million in Care.com, an online personal services marketplace platform.

June 2017 saw Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. Westcon-Comstar’s Amazon logoAmerican business bought by Synnex for approximately $800 million. US fintech provider, Fiserv purchased British financial services technology firm, Monitise for $88.7 million. Microsoft purchased Israeli cloud startup, Cloudyn, for a price between $50 million and $70 million. Rackspace bought TriCore in an effort to increase Rackspace’s business from customers who want help running their critical applications.

Last year, June 2018 saw a fair bit of M&A activity, the biggest deal seeing Synnex pay $2.43 billion for call centre company Convergys and AT&T pay $1.6 billion for advertising tech IBM logocompany AppNexus. Palo Alto Networks paid $300 million for security company Evident.io; PayPal shelled out $120 million for fraud detection startup Simility; Splunk paid $120 million for incident management platform company VictorOps; Ribbon Communication paid $120 million for Edgewater Networks; and Sharp shelled out $36 million for Toshiba’s PC business. Other companies out shopping included Cisco, who bought WiFi analytics company July Systems; IBM bought maintenance and repair company Oniqua and Shopify bought app company Return Magic.

Which brings us back to the present

June 2019 saw some significant M&A deals with the Salesforce acquisition of Tableau for Salesforce logo$15.7 billion, the largest deal of the month. Infinion Technologies paid $10 billion for Cypress Semiconductor; Google paid $2.6 billion for data analytics company Looker; Capgemini shelled out $3.6 billion for engineering company Altran and in the robotics world, Blue Prism paid $100 million for Thoughtonomy. Other companies with smaller buys included Apple picking up the assets of Drive.ai and Twitter buying machine learning startup Fabula AI.

The Canadian Federal Government invested $5 million into an innovation centre in Markham, which is a trend we are seeing more often. There was also more news about CyberSecurity breaches, with suggestions of state sponsored hackers focusing on telecommunication companies.

canadian flagIn Canada, the job numbers are interesting, with Statistics Canada suggesting May was a bumper month, and ADP suggesting we actually lost jobs. The methods of data gathering differ so it will be interesting see how it works out over time.

The US had some mixed reports regarding the economy but overall the story is still positive, with some reports focusing on the growth being not as great as it was… still growth! Generally, indicators in the US economy are positive. Likewise, indicators on jobs and employment around the world are also positive.

That’s what caught my eye over the last month, the full edition will be available soon on the Eagle website. Hope this was useful and I’ll be back with the July 2019 industry news in just about a month’s time.

Walk Fast and Smile

Where is the ICT Labour Market Going — Part II

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President Strategic Accounts & Client Solutions, Western Canada at Eagle

In my last Talent Development Centre post, I spoke about the looming tech skills shortage. One that is beginning in the USA and is expected to be “exported” to the rest of the world. In this post, I’m taking the discussion a bit further by discussing a “leading driver” for this shortage — Digital Transformation Projects.

According to a recent Mulesoft Connectivity Benchmark Report, almost all companies surveyed are either implementing a digital transformation strategy or are planning to deploy one within the next 3 years. From the same report, the top 5 goals of digital transformation are reported to be: Increasing IT’s operational efficiency, improving customer experience, increasing business efficiency, introducing new products and services faster, and improving employee experience.

Is your company currently undertaking digital transformation initiatives?
Source: Mulesoft Connectivity Benchmark Report 2019

Strategies such as these, and the projects that follow, require heavy investments in technology and in the people needed to design, built, test and implement the new solutions. Unsurprisingly, given the huge number of organizations working towards this, there is a growing skills gap — one that threatens to impact the industry. According to Constellation Research, they found that IT and Business leaders now see this as the greatest threat to their strategy’s success. In fact, recent reports suggest that lack of talent/human capital is a leading factor impeding US economic growth. They are currently experiencing 50-year lows in their unemployment rate.

The Factors Impeding Digital Transformation

This is great news if you are an ICT contractor! …especially if you have the right, in-demand skills. From Eagle’s own experience across Canada, these skills/roles would include the following:

  • Project Managers
  • Business Analysts
  • Security/Cybersecurity
  • Cloud
  • BI, Data Analytics and Data Science
  • Business Transformation/Change Management
  • Agile Developers
  • Mobile Technologies Experts
  • SAP
  • AI/RPA/Automation Testing

In case there was any question whether the skill shortages experienced south of the border might make its way to Canada, the table below, created with data from e-Talent Canada, suggests that we are already at full-employment right across Canada (or already constrained in some regions).

ICT Employment Across Canada (December 2018)
Source: e-Talent Canada

These are exciting days to work in the field of Technology!

AI is Changing the Way Clients and Staffing Agencies Recruit (and you need to pay attention)

AI is Changing the Way Clients and Staffing Agencies Recruit (and you need to pay attention)Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming our world every day and regularly changing the way we live our lives. Whether you’re listening to music, ordering fast food, or interacting with an online customer service agent, AI lets you work faster, be more efficient and get what you need.

There are many implications of AI to an IT contractor. First, as implied above, AI is bringing new opportunities to companies across all industries, and that results in more IT projects across the board. More specifically, you should take time to understand how AI is affecting the ways clients and staffing agencies hire, so you can better adjust the way you search for jobs.

Clients are Re-Evaluating their Job Opportunities

There is an ongoing debate of whether or not robots will steal all of our jobs, leaving more people unemployed. According to this recent article from Entrepreneur, though, companies are not using AI to replace skilled professionals but are using it to fill talent gaps. This is especially true in the IT industry.

The article references research by Korn Ferry that predicts a talent shortage of 1.1 million in the US technology, media and telecom industries by 2020, and a 4.3 million shortage by 2030. To fill that gap, AI will be used for some coding tasks, as it can identify an objective, autonomously develop a framework, generate code and find the ideal mixture of APIs and SDKs.

Of course, companies know that artificial intelligence cannot replace the critical thinking and human element that a real person brings to the table. So, instead, they’re using new tactics, combining multiple job roles into one and recruiting skilled talent that work with the AI. Hiring managers are analyzing specific job postings and determining which tasks from a job can be handed off to a computer, thus allowing one person to do more value-added work. In theory, your work should become more interesting with fewer monotonous, “housekeeping” tasks.

Recruiters are Looking at Your Resume Differently (if at all)

This Fast Company article is written around the fact that staffing agencies, clients and employers are mostly using some form of artificial intelligence within their recruiting processes, and that changes how you should write your resume. Sometimes tools are used to screen your resume against a specific job after you apply, and other times it helps a recruiter search a database of thousands of people for the right matching candidates. In all cases, it means a human is not going to evaluate your resume unless you first make it past that AI gate keeper. The article offers three suggestions for your resume:

  1. Focus on Your Skills: This is the most important tip. The article stresses not to bother with fluff in your resume like metaphors and weird titles like “Coding Ninja”. It even goes so far as to suggest that soft skills are not relevant to get past an AI. What really matters is to include specific skills you use in a project, and known titles to match those skills. It is also wise to include common seniority terms, such as “Lead” or “Senior” before your title.
  2. Skip the Personal Statement: The personal statement is similar to the soft skills — computers don’t care. Of course, if your resume does get into the hands of a human, a brief elevator pitch to sell yourself might benefit you.
  3. Customize Your Resume, But Not Too Much: The article says not to waste too much time customizing every resume to every specific job. Instead, as long as you weave the proper skills throughout the resume, the AI should be smart enough to recognize you are a fit for a job.

How else has AI affected the way you search for jobs? Leave your experiences in the comments below. We’d love to hear more and share our advice to overcome obstacles you may be facing.

The Harmful Impacts of IT Downtime

The infographic below from ers IT Solutions confirms something all technology contractors already know — IT downtime can be an expensive disaster for clients. As you scroll down the page, you may be shocked at just what kind of impact companies experience, why these downtimes happen and even how frequently.

Truly understanding this infographic and having empathy for a client during these times might be a game-changer for your reputation and your career. A couple years ago, we shared a post with some tips on leading your client through a technology crisis. It reminds us that even when the cause had nothing to do with your work, clients will remember the IT professional who can react properly and help them through a disastrous time.

The Harmful Impacts of IT Downtime

Knowing Their People – Apple’s Sixth Sense When It Comes to Their Latest iOS Update

Apple was one of the first companies on the market for smartphones, so it’s no coincidence that they are still coming out with great updates. The iOS 13 update is going to give iPhone users what they want out of their phones – speed and reliability. Apple has even opted to give users easy access to dark mode. In this video from Marques Brownlee, you’ll get to know what to expect from the new update and if you’re not an iPhone user, you’ll find out what you’re missing!

Get the Best References and Testimonials for Your Independent Contracting Business

Get the Best References and Testimonials for Your Independent Contracting BusinessA stunning testimonial can grab a recruiter or new client’s attention and get you considered for an interview before they begin to look at your qualifications. The right reference will seal the deal on a new contract and might even help negotiate a better offer. Above all, a well through-out approach to securing and displaying these assets is invaluable to your IT contracting business.

Testimonials and references are a marketing tool used by all businesses, from international corporations with thousands of employees and selling hundreds of products to independent contractors going from gig to gig. Regardless of the business size, it’s a struggle to get detailed references and not everyone uses them to their highest potential.

Having a list of great references is a mandatory requirement for any job seeker. It’s often advised to have a number of recent ones up your sleeve, guaranteeing you have a back-up if one is suddenly unavailable, a new client or recruiter requests something else, or you learn that a reference you thought liked you is actually giving some unpleasant feedback.

And what about testimonials? A great description from a client explaining your invaluable contributions to a project or from a recruiter vouching for your work ethic and dependability can go a long way if you use it correctly. For example, adding more chunks of text to your resume is bound to be ignored by a busy recruiter or hiring manager; however, glowing reviews fit perfectly on a LinkedIn profile or personal website and immediately add credibility to your story.

Given the benefits, what strategies can an independent contractor or technology professional use to source the best testimonials and references?

  • Develop a formal process. Work out the exact plan and approach of how and when you’ll ask for references for every single project you work on. It will get easier every time and you’ll end up with consistent information saved in one file, plus a variety to choose from to match on relevant project applications.
  • Keep notes. Make a note every time you receive a compliment or great feedback during a project. Remind your client of that when asking for their support. You’ll also have specific examples for your client to reference.
  • Do the legwork. It is certain that whoever you are asking is busy, so make their life as easy as possible. Prepare all of the details, contact information and a draft testimonial of what you think they would say. The only work left for them will be minor edits and a signature.
  • Understand what they can say. Recruiters and staffing agencies can rarely give a reference about your work because they were not there and their feedback is only second-hand. They may, however, confirm you worked on that project for a period of time, as well as speak to your ethics and work habits. Asking “Can you give me a reference” may not be successful, but phrasing it as “Would you be willing to speak to my work ethic and ease of working together” can have a positive impact on your relationship with future recruiters.
  • Use LinkedIn testimonials. Ask for testimonials on LinkedIn. Once you have them, display them proudly on the social network and ask the person for permission to use their words elsewhere in the future.
  • Timing is key. Asking for a reference or testimonial is generally not a good idea while simultaneously seeking payment or when you know the project went terribly wrong. Wait until you’ve added value and they’re already giving you positive feedback before you ask “Would it be alright if I shared your words on my marketing material?”
  • Endorse them. Your clients and recruiters are also running a business so testimonials are just as important for them as they are for you. Before or after you receive a reference, look them up on review sites like Google, Glassdoor, Indeed, Yelp or LinkedIn to tell other independent contractors how happy you were working with them.

For every reference or testimonial you receive, always remember to show appreciation. It doesn’t have to be complicated and showing gratitude for a favour is necessary to build relationships. Like so many situations, a hand-written thank you card goes such a long way, it’s incredible.

How do you solicit client and recruiter feedback?