Balancing Hard and Soft Skills in Project Management (Infographic)

In its simplest form, a Project Manager’s job is to ensure a project is completed successfully. In more complex terms, it includes managing countless aspects from people to budgets to timelines.

You don’t always need the title of Project Manager to be responsible for the completion of a project. Independent contractors are often brought into lead a specific task due to their niche skillset, and naturally end up taking on these responsibilities.

As the infographic below from Brandeis University shows, projects fail for any number of reasons. And, if you read further down, it implies that the root of these failures is lack of specific skills, both hard and soft. The infographic goes on to explain that most people excel at only one type of skill and need to work to develop the other.

Thankfully, this helpful infographic goes further to provide tips and tricks on how you can improve your hard and soft project management skills. If you’re in the profession, or a subject matter expert who gets pulled into leading projects, have a look and see how you can improve on your skills.

Staffing & Recruitment Industry South of the Border

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

Staffing Industry Analysts LogoLast week I attended the Staffing Industry Analyst‘s conference that was held in San Diego. In addition to taking a break from the cold Canadian winter, it provided the opportunity to get a sense of the current state of the staffing market in the USA.  This is important as the American market tends to lead the Canadian market in trends and innovation. It provides a glimpse into what may be coming for us in Canada.

Before I share some of my observations, let me explain what the Staffing Industry Analysts organization is and does.  The SIA describes themselves as:

Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) is the global advisor on staffing and workforce solutions. Our proprietary research covers all categories of employed and non-employed work including temporary staffing, independent contracting and other types of contingent labor. SIA’s independent and objective analysis provides insights into the services and suppliers operating in the workforce solutions ecosystem, including staffing firms, managed service providers, recruitment process outsourcers, payrolling/compliance firms and talent acquisition technology specialists such as vendor management systems, online staffing platforms, crowdsourcing and online work services.

This organization is really connected. Their research is significant and the huge sample-size ensures accuracy.  Eagle is a member and we follow their publications religiously.  Over many years, their outlook has consistently been proven correct.

With this said, I’ll share a sample of interesting things that I learned… some of which may confirm what you already know/believe while some others may surprise you as it did me:

  • There is a world-wide shift in employment from permanent employees to contract/temporary labour.  This is both being driven by the people themselves as their preference and by employers recognizing the value of employing contingent workers.
  • Contingent workers grew from 12% of the working population in 2009 to 22% in 2016 with 44 million American workers now doing contingency work.
  • The adoption of MSP (Master Services Providers) has plateaued in the USA.  Although this offering is still growing globally, it is no longer the case in the US market.
  • Moreover, I was surprised to find that there was a marked move from outsourced, off-shored service solutions, back to in-house-managed solutions; companies are repatriating their business and technical teams to manage their own projects and operations.
  • The staffing industry in the USA is also getting crowded with nontraditional service providers such as online staffing solutions, cloud-based solutions with AI (artificial intelligence) and Robotic solutions coming on strongly.  This is resulting in a more complex and potentially confusing ecosystem.
  • Niche/specialized contingent labour providers are growing their market share at the expense of the generalists.
  • Globalization of staffing companies appears not to be growing as quickly as it had previously.  Through technology, globalization is in the reach of most companies big or small, but “buy-local” political philosophies and increasingly complex legal structure, laws and regulations are curbing the ease of expanding to new markets.

Although this is a very short list of information from the conference, you can find many more reports and statistics at SIA’s website:  http://www2.staffingindustry.com/row/Research/Research-Topics-Reports.

In summary, the staffing industry in the USA is very active and the outlook is quite positive. Technologies are coming out that will change the way recruitment agencies and the hiring companies source candidates and appears to be playing the role of disrupter for MSP’s going forward.  The overarching trend is for companies to bring their own projects back in-house after having tried off-shore or outsourced solutions.

Facebook and LinkedIn Groups for Contractors (Part 1)

Part 1: Which Network Has Better Groups for Independent Contractors — LinkedIn or Facebook?

Why Facebook and LinkedIn Groups are Perfect for Independent Contractors in Technology (Part 1)Social media groups are rooms or forums within a social network where like-minded people gather to share discussions, pictures and connect with each other. They have the option to be private or public and are used for unlimited reasons, from planning a family party to school projects to business networking. Depending who you ask, groups on social networks are either a productive way to network or a waste of time filled with garbage. That’s because everybody’s had a different experience with groups. While some experiences are beyond your control, when you know what you want to get out of a group and how to do it, your chances of a positive experience are higher.

Most of the major social networks have some sort of Group functionality, with the most popular being Facebook,  LinkedIn and Google+. A Contractor Quick Poll conducted in March 2015 concluded that 75% of independent contractors log into either LinkedIn or Facebook more than any other network, so let’s look closer at those two options.

LinkedIn Groups

You already know that LinkedIn is the professional social network. Those who use it correctly understand that they need to maintain a professional image, so content and discussions are generally business-related (some people like to bring in politics and fluffy content, but we’ll save LinkedIn etiquette for a future post). In addition, you will find senior professionals who are willing to connect with you on this network more than any other, making it the prime choice for business networking. So, naturally, one would think that LinkedIn groups are the best option for independent contractors in the technology space. In the November 2015 Contractor Quick Poll, only 33% of independent contractors said they use LinkedIn for Groups. There are many valuable groups; however, there are unfortunately more groups that have been filled with SPAM and sales people trying to take advantage of their captive audience. In fact, this combined with the fact that engagement in LinkedIn groups is at an all-time low have many people across the internet wondering if LinkedIn Groups are dying a slow death.

Facebook Groups

The Facebook Groups functionality was popular about 10 years ago, during Facebook’s earlier days, and started to trickle away for similar reasons as LinkedIn — engagement wasn’t there. Recently, Facebook Groups have been making a “comeback” and communities are embracing the functionality all over again. Because of its mainstream popularity, professional networkers may not believe there is as much success. Facebook is used less by senior professionals than LinkedIn and those who do use it tend be more hesitant about connecting with anybody who is not a close friend or family. Therefore, finding a valuable networking group may not be as easy to do.

So which social network should you use for business networking? LinkedIn or Facebook? In typical cliché fashion of most comparison articles you read online, we’re going to recommend the grey area in the middle. Every situation is unique, with factors such as who you want to connect with and the types of topics you’d like to discuss. As such, review the pros and cons above, as well as review the groups on both networks before deciding. If anything, we strongly discourage joining multiple groups and hoping for the best — this will either result in lot of lost productivity or you will be so overwhelmed that you will ignore it all and be no further ahead.

The biggest question you may be asking yourself right now is “Why would I want to join a group at all?” We’ll answer that and provide some tips on how to use social media groups as a technology contractor in the second half of this series.

5 Things Recruiters Hate About Your Resume (Video)

For IT Contractors, recruiters are the gatekeepers of your employment destiny as they are the ones who read and evaluate your resume. If they like what they see, you’ll move on in the process; if not your hopes for that role are over and your jobs search starts over again. So, it is pretty important to tailor your resume to what they want to see.  This quick video shows you 5 things you absolutely must avoid having on your resume, under any circumstances, no matter what, if you want to keep your recruiter happy!

Contractor Quick Poll Results: Training Plans

Every technology professional has a unique training and development plan. Each contractor has different skills sets in varying demands and requiring specific qualifications. Furthermore, depending on the stage you’re at in your career, you may have completely different goals than the person sitting next to you.

In January’s contractor quick poll, we were curious about how much time our readers plan to invest in furthering their education and abilities this year. Here are the results — two-thirds of respondents say they’re planning to up their training and development in 2017. Are you surprised? Do you think there may be some crushed New Years’ resolutions?

Compared to 2016, how much training and development are you planning for 2017?

Quick Poll Results: Compared to 2016, how much training and development are you planning for 2017?

2017: The Year of Encryption Everywhere (Infographic)

Security is far from a “rising trend” in 2017 — it’s a fact that has now ruled the internet for years and is not going anywhere. One thing we can be certain of is that as hackers get more sophisticated, so too must our security, and specifically encryption.

According to this infographic from the SSLShop, 2017 is going to see the most encryption yet, due to a number of factors, including Google’s upcoming browser features. If you’re involved in any website or security projects, have a look to see what you can expect in the coming months. Is there anything you can add or would reject from the list?

2017 The Year Of Encryption Everywhere #Infographic

Can You Solve the Counterfeit Coin Riddle? (Video)

Are you one of the many Canadians preparing to head into a long weekend? If so, you may be seeking ideas for conversation with friends or activities with to do with family. Look no further than this video from Ted-Ed!

The Counterfeit Coin Riddle will leave some people scratching their heads and confused yet be a breeze to many others.  It may only fill a few minutes of time, but it will force you and your friends or family to think a little bit before returning to a more relaxed state of mind.

How Canadian Developers Can Remain Competitive

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

How Canadian Developers Can Remain CompetitiveLooking for new development skills to remain competitive in your field?  Perhaps Rapid Application Development and Front-End Design are in your future.

An interesting question in mapping out your career and determining what skills are most important for you involves both an evaluation, through research and data analysis, of the current market as well as what is coming next.  None of us have a crystal ball, but there are certain trends and information out there that can give us a better understanding of what is coming.

As the majority of consumers shift to their mobile devices to browse and purchase, so will employers’ demands in the skills they seek. Mobile development is one of the fastest growing environments in IT.  Skills such as Android app development, HTML5, iOS, CSS, JavaScript, and Angular are in such an incredible demand that there is simply not enough people to do the work that is already funded.

Over the last decade we have seen an incredible amount of development work move overseas.  Heavy development lifts are being completed in countries where labour costs are a fraction of what it would cost to do it here. Employers in Canada are no longer looking for consultants to sit behind a desk and code, that work has predominantly left the country.

As the Agile Methodology grows in popularity and consumers move to the mobile space, having the technical skills combined with an understanding of marketing and brand objectives of the end client will make you in high demand. What employers want now are collaborative, creative developers with an acute understanding of marketing and sales objectives who can work in a team environment.

Do you have the skills required to stay competitive and relevant in Canada’s fast-paced development space? If not, it may be time to take an inventory of your skills — hard and soft — and refresh or upgrade those that are lacking.

Contractor Quick Poll: How do you prefer to get job opportunities from recruiters?

A couple years ago, we asked Eagle’s recruiters about their preferred method to be contacted by IT contractors and passed it on to help our readers understand the most successful ways to build a relationship with a recruiter. Not surprisingly, we learned that everybody has different preferences for being contacted, based on their time management and organization processes.

This month, we’re curious to learn more about technology independent contractors and how they prefer to be contacted by recruiters at staffing agencies regarding new opportunities. What’s your preference in most cases? Do you like to hear a voice so you can ask questions immediately? Would you rather an email with the details or a text with a brief overview? Do you like to be contacted on LinkedIn? Or would you prefer to do your own searching and reach out to the recruiter when you find something that interests you?

Terrible Tax Advice Exists — Here’s How to Spot It

This post by Janet Berry-Johnson originally appeared on the Freshbooks Blog in March 2012

Terrible Tax Advice Exists—Here’s How to Spot ItHow do you know you have a great accountant? He has a tax loophole named after him… All jokes aside, tax is a complex subject and, despite decades of talk about simplifying the tax code, it just seems to get more confusing each year. After a decade of working in public accounting, I can’t count how many times clients came to me to ask about sketchy tax advice they’d received from dubious sources.

“My neighbor says Social Security income isn’t taxable.”

“My girlfriend’s dad told me I can deduct all of my vehicle expenses if I set up an LLC.”

“I saw an ad on TV that promised me a bigger tax refund than the competition.”

“I heard that paying taxes is voluntary.”

When you’re seeking out sound financial answers, be wary of the source. Next time someone offers their tax advice, look out for these 8 red flags.

  1. The Advice Sounds Too Good to be True

This kind of advice usually involves tax-free income or being able to deduct personal expenses.

According to the IRS, all income is taxable unless the law specifically says it isn’t. Life insurance proceeds, scholarships, gifts and inheritances, child support payments, welfare benefits and damages for physical injuries or sickness are all types of income that may not be taxable. However, there are a few situations where they might be. When in doubt, consult with a qualified tax pro.

Personal expenses are rarely deductible. Some common exemptions are home mortgage interest, real estate taxes, medical expenses and charitable contributions. They’re allowed as itemized deductions on Schedule A of your Form 1040. Other expenses for your personal residence or vehicle are only deductible if they are used for business. If a friend tells you he writes off all of his home or vehicle expenses, he’s practically telling you he’s committing tax fraud. Don’t take tax advice from a crook.

  1. The Advice Lacks Context

Above, we mentioned that certain types of income are usually non-taxable, but may be taxable under certain circumstances. The tax code is rarely absolute. When you read the code, you’ll see a lot of words and phrases like “generally,” “except under certain conditions,” “usually” and “in most cases.”

Most tax pros joke the answer to any question starts with the words “that depends.” Be wary of any advice that doesn’t take your unique situation into account.

  1. You Have Difficulty Understanding It

The tax code is complicated, but a good tax pro should be able to explain any basic rules, deductions and credits that apply to your return.

Remember: you are responsible for everything on your tax return, whether or not you paid someone else to prepare it for you. If you don’t understand something, ask! If you’re getting a much larger return (or owe more money) than expected, consult someone and find out why.

  1. There Might Be a Conflict of Interest

Look out for tax advice from people who are seeking to receive a commission or kickback. Some tax pros are also qualified to give financial advice but avoid taking advice that comes with an ulterior motive. The person might suggest you invest in a real estate venture that they hold a stake in or recommend financial products for which they receive commissions or referral fees.

Don’t be afraid to ask, “How will you benefit from this?” if you suspect the advice is not in your best interest.

  1. The Advice Suggests Taxes is Voluntary

No matter how many times these arguments get shot down in court, some people continue to claim that the payment of federal income taxes is “voluntary.” This claim is based, in part, on the fact that the IRS itself describes the way we file and pay federal taxes as “voluntary compliance.”

As the fact-checking website Snopes points out, “common sense dictates that if paying income tax were really voluntary, that tidbit of information wouldn’t be known to only a small cadre of tax protesters while millions of other Americans annually forked over considerable amounts of money they weren’t obligated to pay.”

As numerous tax court cases have shown, neither the obligation to file a tax return nor the payment of income taxes is voluntary. File your return and pay what is owed. Otherwise, you’ll soon find out just how mandatory paying taxes really is.

  1. The Advice is Referred to as a “Tax Shelter”

There are a few bonafide tax shelters such as those related to oil and gas exploration and development. However, most are at least bad deals from a business viewpoint, and at worst they violate tax law. Any business deal that needs to be structured as a tax shelter to be profitable is not a sound business deal. Good business deals show profits before tax considerations.

There are also tax shelters that promise you’ll receive $400 in deductions for every $100 you invest (or some similar “too good to be true” scenario). The tax authorities are constantly investigating such tax shelters. If you get caught avoiding income taxes by illegal means, you’ll have to pay back taxes, plus interest and some hefty penalties.

  1. Someone Promises You a Big Refund… Before They Look at Your Info

Every year during tax season, the commercials, ads and billboards that promise huge tax refunds begin to flood in. No accountant can get your refund faster or bigger than anyone else. You are entitled to the same refund, whether you prepare the return yourself or hire a professional.

Anyone promising they’ll get you the biggest refund may be padding your return with credits you’re not entitled to. Don’t fall for the hype.

  1. You Receive No Advice at All

Even if you normally prepare your own tax return, you may occasionally run into a new situation and need help. Major life changes, such as selling real estate, buying your first home, starting a new business or adopting a child usually means significant changes to your tax filing.

Don’t be afraid to seek out the advice of a professional. Even if you want to prepare your own return, most tax pros will be willing to sit down with you to answer questions and offer advice on your unique situation. The hourly rate they’ll charge may be well worth avoiding an audit—or paying a penalty for filing an incorrect return.

If you’re unsure, seek that advice from a certified and experienced tax pro. Look for someone with a credential, such as a CPA or EA. These professionals are well-trained, held to a code of ethics and required to maintain up-to-date knowledge.

At a minimum, all tax preparers in the United States are required to obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). You can use this search tool available on the IRS website to find a preparer who holds a professional credential or voluntarily obtained a certain number of continuing education hours each year.

Getting professional advice is more expensive than getting advice from your skateboard buddy, but think of it as insurance: pay a small premium today to avoid an expensive disaster tomorrow.

About the Author
Janet Berry-Johnson is a CPA and a freelance writer with a background in accounting and insurance. Her writing has appeared in Forbes, Parachute by Mapquest, Capitalist Review, Guyvorce, BonBon Break and Kard Talk. Janet lives in Arizona with her husband and son and their rescue dog, Dexter. Outside of work and family time, she enjoys cooking, reading historical fiction, and binge-watching Real Housewives.