Is It Time for the QWERTY Keyboard to Be Replaced?

QWERTY keyboards have been around for as long as most people can remember. We all learned how to type using these keyboards and they remain the primary way we interact with computers. But this layout is becoming more obsolete with smart devices.

In this video, Wall Street Journal’s David Pierce explores the new inventions that some companies are creating to potentially replace the physical keyboard. Some of these include voice to text and a wearable keyboard. This could be an interesting time for independent contractors in the IT industry who may have an opportunity to be involved with these new inventions. So what do you think? Would you use any of these alternatives?

Contractor Quick Poll: How long is a reasonable commute?

Unless you’re fortunate enough to work from your home-office every day, you have some sort of commute to get into your client’s place of business a few days per week. Recruiters at Eagle talk to independent contractors all the time, helping them look for the ideal tech job. We carefully evaluate what you’re looking for and work hard to find a client to fits all the criteria. Increasingly, especially in high population areas like Toronto, IT contractors list the commute time as a high priority consideration when evaluating job opportunities.

It’s clear that job seekers want to minimize their commute so they can maximize productivity and work/life balance. Interestingly, the definition of a “long commute” varies based on city and a person’s preferences. In this month’s contractor quick poll, we want to get a better grasp of what Canadian contractors generally consider to be a reasonable commute.

Regional Job Market Update for Calgary, Alberta

Kelly Benson By Kelly Benson,
Branch Manager at Eagle

Job SearchingAs we head into the last 6 weeks of 2018, it is a good opportunity to reflect back on how far we have come these past 11 months.  We entered 2018 with cautious optimism and – as expected – we have seen a slow and steady improvement in tech/IT hiring this year.

What is most encouraging is that the hiring activity spans many different industries and – with more diversification – comes more confidence that we can weather the setbacks that are inevitable on the road to full economic recovery.

That said, we still have a long way to go before we can remove the word “cautious” from our vocabulary when talking about Calgary’s labour market.  High unemployment rates, falling capital investments, high office vacancy rates and heavily discounted Canadian crude continue to challenge our city and the pace of recovery is not nearly as quick as we would like it to be.

While the unemployment rate remains high, technology is a great place to be with ICT careers expected to outpace all job growth in Canada by a rate of 4:1 (ICTC, Labour Market Outlook, 2017-2021, April 2017).  In particular, the trend toward automation and digitization in many sectors is creating interesting contract and career opportunities. Combine that with the limited IT spend over the past few years due to the recession and the resultant pent-up demand for IT project work.

So what does the current market offer IT professionals in Calgary?

Project activity centres around these four main buckets:

  • Big Data/BI/Analytics
  • Cloud Migration
  • Digital Transformation
  • SaaS Solution Implementation
  • Cyber Security

The most in-demand roles/job titles include:

  • QA Automation
  • Java Development
  • Cyber Security
  • Project Management
  • Agile Business Analysis

The overall supply of resources with these skills has shifted and we have moved into a candidate market.  There are less available consultants and – those who are looking – often have a choice when it comes to selecting their next assignment.

In these areas, it is of utmost importance for our clients to work closely with their recruitment partners to deliver the right message to attract the best candidates.  Additionally, we encourage our clients to speed up the hiring process and be flexible with “must have” technical skills when hiring.

Given the improving labour market, we are expecting to see a bit more labour movement in the first quarter of 2019 as both independent consultants and long-term employees pursue new opportunities more aggressively to gain new project experiences.

The landscape for technology workers in Calgary is improving and we expect it to continue into 2019.  Be sure to keep an eye on the Eagle job board and keep your recruiter informed as you start to think about pursuing new opportunities.

25 of the Best Picard Tips from the Past Year

Star Trek fans far and wide adore Patrick Stewart’s character, Jean-Luc Picard. They trust his ability as captain and would follow much of his advice. So much so that over 100,000 people follow the novelty Twitter account @PicardTips. It features daily tips that, while often humourous and relate to Star Trek, nearly always provides valuable advice on management, personal development, technology and other topics.

We scrolled through and, as expected, @PicardTips has plenty of one-liners suitable for the IT contractor. Here are our favourite 25 from the past year…

  1. Picard programming tip: A computer is like a mischievous genie. It will give you exactly what you ask for, but not always what you want.
  2. Picard engineering tip: Even if computers can talk now, remember how deeply stupid they are.
  3. Picard management tip: Data is easier to manage than humans.
  4. Picard management tip: Break a complex, urgent problem into subcomponents, one for each of your lieutenants to solve.
  5. Picard devops tip: No, you are not allowed to connect your brain to the computer. Learn to type like everyone else.
  6. Picard diplomacy tip: When communication is breaking down, try to speak the other person’s language.
  7. Picard ethics tip: The fact that a conflict has many sides does not imply that every side has merit.
  8. Picard management tip: Tell your employees when they do well, even if you believe they are empathic and can read your mind.
  9. Picard social tip: A Vulcan can laugh. A Klingon can soothe. A Ferengi can give. Your preconceptions are not facts.
  10. Picard resistance tip: Occasionally there are times when you must draw a line and refuse to budge.
  11. Picard management tip: Everyone’s a critic, but some criticisms are more correct than others.
  12. Picard management tip: In a strange new environment, be wary of making changes until you understand more about what’s going on.
  13. Picard management tip: Put your experts in a conference room, tell them the problem, then shut up and watch the magic happen.
  14. Picard programming tip: When the holodeck malfunctions, stay in character. Don’t piss off the computer.
  15. Picard management tip: Give your crew the best technology available and you’ll be amazed what they can do for your enterprise.
  16. Picard programming tip: The first version of any software will be buggy. That’s why so many holodeck programs try to kill you.
  17. Picard technology tip: An advanced system isn’t always easy to use. Improve the interface, or try pushing buttons at random.
  18. Picard management tip: Adopt the latest technologies right away, even if they’re in beta.
  19. Picard management tip: Don’t negotiate absurd schedules with engineers. Encourage truth telling and reasonable time estimates.
  20. Picard engineering tip: Don’t allow the computer to push you around. Let it know who’s boss.
  21. Picard management tip: Be willing to ask for help, even from people you dislike.
  22. Picard technology tip: Sometimes your chief engineer can build new systems that are better than your existing enterprise software.
  23. Picard programming tip: Don’t be fooled. Machines have feelings.
  24. Picard management tip: If they know their jobs, leave them alone. If they don’t, help them learn.
  25. Picard management tip: Know when to put on a happy face. It’s part of adulthood, and essential for command

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

How to Get a Laugh From Your Google Assistant

Smart technology has become increasingly popular today. Many people rely on these devices for news, music and even setting alarms. But you can also have a bit of fun with these smart devices, like Google Home. Google Home is powered by AI and is typically referred to as Google Assistant. A video by TechGumbo highlights the top 100 commands you can give for funny or entertaining responses. So take a break, watch the video and make your Friday even better!

IT Industry News for October 2018

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

This post first appeared on the Eagle Blog on November 3, 2018
Tech News Header

This is my 30,000 foot look at events in the Tech industry for October 2018.

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 previous year’s Octobers …

Oracle logo a large software company originally noted for its databaseFive years ago in October 2013 Oracle announced two acquisitions, both “cloud-based companies: Big Machines (pricing and quote date for sales and orders) and Compendium (a content marketing company).  Other “names” out shopping included Avaya buying the software division of ITNavigator for its call centre and social media monitoring software; Rackspace bought ZeroVM a tech company with a software solution for the cloud; Intuit bought consulting company Level Up Analytics, primarily to acquire its talent; VMWare bought “desktop as a service” company Desktone; Netsuite bought human capital software company TribeHR; and Telus enhanced its mobile offering with the purchase of Public Mobile.

HP logoIn October 2014 we saw a new trend, with two public companies both choosing to split into smaller entities.  HP announced it was creating a business service focused Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and personal computing & printer company HP Inc.  Symantec also chose to split into two independent public companies, one focused on business and consumer security products, the other on its information management portfolio.  Other interesting news saw IBM pay $1.5 Billion to GlobalFoundries so it would take away its money losing semiconductor manufacturing business.  NEST bought competitor Revolv; EMC bought three cloud companies: The Cloudscaling Group, Maginatics and Spanning Cloud Apps; and in Korea, Kakao and Daum merged to form a $2.9 billion internet entity.

dell logoOctober 2015 brought some big deals with the biggest seeing Dell offer $26 billion to buy storage company EMC.  Interestingly, an EMC subsidiary, VMWare was also out shopping, picking up a small email startup, Boxer.  In another deal involving “big bucks”, Western Digital paid $19 billion for storage competitor Sandisk.  IBM were also writing a big cheque, paying $2 billion in a big data/internet of things play for The Weather Network (minus the TV operations), and IBM also picked up a storage company, Cleversafe.  Cisco paid $522.5 million for cybersecurity firm Lancope; LogMeIn paid $$110 million for LastPass; Trend Micro paid $350 million for next generation intrusion prevention systems company HP Tippingpoint; Red Hat picked up deployment task execution and automation company Ansible; Vasco Data Security paid $85 million for solution provider Silanis; and Apple bought a speech processing startup, VocalIQ.  As industries converged, it was interesting to see Securitas pay $350 million for Diebold’s US Electronic Security business.

In October 2016 there was not a lot of M&A action but Qualcomm paid $47 Billion for NXP Semiconductor.  The only other sizable deal saw Wipro pay $500 million for IT cloud consulting company Appirio.  Google picked up Toronto-based video marketing startup FameBit and Pivot Technology Solutions picked up Ottawa-based Teramach.

Cisco logoLast year in October 2017 Cisco paid $1.9 Billion for Broadsoft to improve Cisco’s software capabilities.  The only other significant deal saw Telus beef up its service provider capability with a $250 million purchase of Xavient.

Which brings us back to the present …

October 2018 was an interesting month, with some significant M&A activity and the sad passing of yet another tech pioneer, Paul Allen, who cofounded Microsoft with Bill Gates.

IBM logoOn the M&A front, IBM’s $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat was a game changer, leaping IBM to the top of the pack in the cloud systems arena… until the next mega deal!

It is a rare month when a $2 billion deal is eclipsed, but this month two of them look small next to the IBM deal!  In the red hot cybersecurity space PE company, Thoma Bravo paid $2.1 billion for Imperva.  Twillio also shelled out $2 billion to acquire email company SendGrid rounding out their API offerings.

Other deals saw Honeywell bolster its IoT offerings, paying $493 million for Transnorm; Palo Alto Networks is paying $173 million for security startup Redlock; Computacentre is paying $70 million for FusionStorm to grow its consulting business in North America; GTT Communications is paying $40 million for Access Point to add to its network; and Fortinet is spending $18 million for ZoneFox to improve its threat analytics capability.

ACCENTURE LOGOThere was plenty more M&A activity with big names involved.  Some of them include: Google (chatbot company Onwards); Accenture (DAZ systems); DXC (agodesign); Samsung (Zhilabs); CapGemini (June 21); and NTT Data (Sierra Systems).

Other companies in the news include Google who are closing their Google+ social network amid security concerns and Amazon who announced 1,000 new jobs in the UK.

On the economy and jobs front the news was generally positive around the world.  The US economy continues to steam roller along creating skill shortages and positive economic indicators; Canada’s economic indicators were generally positive and all around the world we hear of job growth and some areas of skills shortages.  Interesting that Japan is considering an incentive to bring blue collar labor to the country, and announced record numbers of women in the workforce among widespread labour shortages. Even when indicators drop, like the CEO confidence indicator it is still heavily in the positive … so CEOs around the world are generally confident, just marginally less confident than last month!

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 November 2018 tech news in just about a month’s time.

 Until then, Walk Fast and Smile!

Artificial Intelligence: The Opportunities and Threats are Up to You

For years, we’ve been hearing that advancements in technology will steal our jobs. Innovations like robots, automation and artificial intelligence will all apparently be equipped to perform the tasks of humans and we’ll all find ourselves on the side of the road with no money.

This discussion frequently divides people into two schools of thought. The first states that continued technology and innovation will only create more opportunities as people will have to teach the robots and a more efficient economy will lead to more jobs. Vice-versa, some experts will tell you that while that may have been true 100 years ago, our current generation’s technology revolution is a different story that will hurt workers. Since reality is yet to be proven, like many other debates, it comes down to how you choose to perceive the situation.

Just One Opportunity from AI and Automation

There is no shortage of articles and case studies showing how artificial intelligence has changed the way we do nearly everything. As far as technology roles go, many can be complemented. Simple Programmer provides a fantastic example of how software testers and quality assurance professionals can benefit from AI’s influence in a number of ways:

  • Faster and More Stable UI Tests
  • Reducing Maintenance and Eliminating Flaky Tests
  • Continuous Learning from Production Data
  • Removing Dependencies
  • Ease of Authoring and Executing Tests
  • Releasing at the Speed of Development

Tech Jobs at Risk Due to Automation and AI

Last month, Dice published an article about the 4 tech jobs most at risk from automation and artificial intelligence. They say that while automation might help tech pros, it won’t be great for everyone, with these for jobs being most at risk:

  • Data Centre Administrators – “Backups, provisioning virtual machines, and security are just three core processes that companies can leave largely up to software.”
  • Help Desk Staff – “Talk of “responsibility” aside, it stands to reason that if Google (or any other tech firm, such as IBM) can create an automated assistant with human-like speech, companies will use that to eliminate call-center staff.”
  • Programmers – “The rise of no- and low-code application builders is just one facet of this evolution; in theory, future software platforms will be able to assemble relatively simple programs with just a few mouse-clicks.”
  • Data Analysts – “Instead of having a dedicated person to analyze in-house data, businesses could rely on this software in conjunction with employees who receive some training in data analysis.”

To be fair, this article referenced from Dice did explain which predictions were a stretch and provides advice to IT professionals on how they can remain competitive; however, the base embraces the negative side of AI.

The way you interpret unknown situations and debates is your choice. You can choose to focus on the positive or get stuck on the negativity and fear. What do you think AI and automation will do to the future of your job? Will it complement your profession like the example given by Simple Programmer, or is your job at risk and you’ll have to strategize how to keep it as described by Dice?

How to Stop an Argument from Getting Out of Hand

Every independent contractor knows how a simple conversation with a colleague, client or even recruiter can go from good to bad in a matter of seconds. Your first instinct is to become defensive and argue your point. Unfortunately this may not be the best tactic.

Business Insider put together a list of ways to get your point across without the debate getting out of hand. This includes not trying to be the winner of the argument and to respect the other person’s point of view – even if you don’t agree!

How To Win Any Argument Graphic

How Does Blockchain Work? (“simply” explained)

It’s nearly impossible to scroll through tech blogs or business articles these days without reading about some form of cryptocurrency or other technology secured by a Blockchain. Last week, we shared a video showing how hackers crack passwords and explaining some basic hash techniques that help protect passwords. That technology is child’s play compared to Blockchain technology.

Most of us can accept that Blockchains are one of the best ways to secure information today, but understanding how they work and what they do is a whole other story. If you do understand, then how are you at explaining it. Regardless, this video from Simply Explained is touted as the best video on YouTube for explaining how a Blockchain works.