Top 5 Skills All Tech Professionals Should Follow in 2021

Have you planned out your learning roadmap for the year yet? Do you know which skills you want to explore deeper, either formally or at least by following a couple extra blogs and Twitter accounts? If not, this video from David Bombal has five suggestions for you: Python, Linux, Cloud, Networking, and APIs.

Bombal believes that a lot of his career success is because he followed trends and knew which waves to ride. There is no need to become an expert in these skills but because technology is all connected, he states that you need to understand each of them to be successful at whatever it is you’re doing in the field of IT.

Want to know more? Take about 10 minutes to review the complete video below:

Contractor Quick Poll: What do you want to get from a contract?

Great IT contractors are service-oriented. You’re focused on delivering a quality solution to your client so their organization can thrive and you can leave knowing the team is in good hands. That professional attitude is great and all, but let’s be honest, you had some other, more selfish reasons for accepting that gig.

The majority of us are working because it pays the bills. Ultimately, we look for the contract that has the best rate, plus a few other outcomes that benefit you. In this month’s contractor quick poll, we’re seeking to learn what else gets you excited for a contract. When you finish, aside from having made money, how do you consider it to have been successful for you?

IT Industry News for December 2020

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee, Co-Founder of Eagle

This post first appeared on the Eagle Blog on January 11th, 2020

This is my 30,000 foot look at events in the Tech industry for December 2020. 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 Decembers …

Five years ago, in December 2015 M&A was quiet but there was some interesting activity.  The big deal saw Canadian telco Shaw make a big play into the cellular space with its proposed acquisition (subsequently approved) of Wind for $1.6 billion.  Meanwhile Rogers was also out shopping and growing its Maritimes presence through the acquisition of Internetworking Atlantic Inc.  Other deals in December were not large but did feature some of the big players.  Oracle bought Stackhouse a cloud company with a specialization in “containers”; IBM boosted its video in the cloud capabilities with the purchase of Clearleap; and Microsoft picked up a mobile communications company, Talko.  Other deals saw Ingram Micro buy the Odin Service Automation business from Parallels and in the storage world Carbonite bought Evault from Seagate.

Four years ago in December 2016 Adecco sold its majority stake in Beeline VMS to GTRC, a Uber logoprivate equity firm, for $100 million in cash plus a $30 million note; CRN solution provider SS&C purchased asset service firm Conifer for $88.5 million; solution provider QRX Technology Group acquired IT equipment provider Kerr Norton; networking solution provider, Juniper Networks acquired cloud operations management provider AppFormix; Uber bought start-up Geometric Intelligence Inc.; and Shopify acquired Tiny Hearts, a Toronto-based mobile product development studio.

December 2017 saw Atos enhance the footprint of their IT Services firm by paying $5 The apple logo and apple with a bite out of itbillion for Gemalto.  Apple were busy, paying $400 million for music recognition app Shazam, plus they invested $390 million into optical communications components company Finisar.  Finally, in a relatively quiet M&A month Ingram Micro increased its data protection capability through the purchase of Cloud Harmonics.

Two years ago, in December 2018 IBM sold off a portion of their software portfolio to HCL for $1.8 billion.  Cisco paid $660 million for optical chip company, Luxtera; and OpenText paid $310 million for data management company Liaison Technologies.  In other deals, Google bought “where is my train” app company, Sigmoid Labs; Corel bought desktop virtualization company Parallels; Trello bought Butler, whose product is a popular addition for Trello users; Kaseya bought IT documentation company IT Glue; and GE continued its restructuring efforts by spinning out its IoT subsidiary and selling its interest in Pivotal.  Finally the end of December was the beginning of Dell’s return as a public company.

Last year, December 2019 saw some big dollar deals in the M&A world with the biggest Intel logoseeing LogMeIn sold to private equity for $4.3 billion.  Intel shelled out $2 billion for AI chip company Habana Labs; and F5 Networks paid $1 billion for Shape Security.  In other deals Solarwinds paid $175 million for VividCortex; NTT picked up AWS company Flux7; Fortinet bought Cybersponse; CheckPoint Software bought security company Protego; Acronis bought security company 5nine and Opswat bought cyber security company Impulse.

Which brings us back to the present …

 In December 2020 the pandemic continues to dominate news, and with vaccines approved and beginning to roll out there is cause for some optimism but that Is going to take time.  Meanwhile increasing spread, and mutated strains of the virus are causing concerns.  When coupled with the current political upheaval in the US, small positive economic and job data indicators are not great indicators of where the economy really stands.  Lockdowns are only going to continue and the impact on small businesses continues to be devastating.  It remains to be seen what happens in the US and what the fallout will be on the markets and the economy in general.

It was an active month in M&A and some very big deals were announced.  The $27.7 billion Salesforce logoacquisition of collaboration software company Slack, by Salesforce was certainly an eye opener;  Platinum Equity paid $7.2 billion for Ingram Micro; Self driving startup Aurora is paying reputedly $4 billion for Uber’s Advanced Tech Group; and Google is reputedly paying $1 billion for data protection company Actifio.

There were a lot more deals too. Hyundai’s robotics arm paid $921 million for Boston Cisco logoDynamics, owner of Spot, the robot;  Cisco bought two companies, paying $730 million for contact center as a service company IMImobile and also picking up audience interaction tech company Slido; NortonLifeLock paid $360 million for cybersecurity company Avira; And Facebook is buying customer relationship management company Kustomer.

There were some other big names out buying, including ServiceNow picking up Canadian IBM logodarling AI company Element AI; IBM bought another Canadian company in the Fintech space, Expertus; Juniper Networks bought a startup, in the network space, Apstra ; Fortinet bought network tools company Panopta; RingCentral picked up AI comms company DeepAffects; Storage company Quantum bought media storage company Square Box Systems; and Goldman Sachs bought fraud detection system White Ops.

Cybersecurity continues to a be big news, with McAfee suggesting losses from cyber crime in 2020 were $945 billion, doubling the amount in just two years.  The breach of FireEye by a “state sponsored” hacker does little to help, given this was essentially a case of the best of the best being breached!

That’s my look at the tech industry for December 2020. The full edition will be available soon on the Eagle website.   Until next month Walk Fast and Smile … don’t forget to be safe, wear a mask, wash your hands and socially distance.  We will get through this together!   Let’s hope for a much better year in 2021.

Regional Job Market Update for Vancouver (January 2021)

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President Strategic Accounts & Client Solutions, Western Canada at Ea
gle
Downtown Vancouver Sunset
Downtown Vancouver Sunset” by Magnus Larsson is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Vancouver’s economy and labour market has gone through much the same challenges and cycles as that of other Canadian provinces over the past year.  With trade barriers thrown up by the US last year, government spending impacted by reduced revenues and emergency spending/measures, housing prices falling dramatically, and BC’s large travel industry being hammered by COVID accommodations, it is no wonder that last year was a difficult one.  However, BC also benefits from a burgeoning high-tech industry — a sector of the economy that actually benefitted from the health issues of 2020.  This sector helped to lessen the blow overall and helps to set up the province and its largest city for a nice recovery.

Due to changing conditions across the board, BC is set to enjoy a Canada-leading rebound in 2021.  According to the  Business Intelligence for BC website, the unemployment rate is expected shrink to 6.5% this coming year (from 7.5% in 2020), to become one of the lowest of all provinces in Canada.  And GDP is to expand 5.6% vs last year, again, more than what is forecast for any other province.  Demand for housing, a strong underlying economic indicator, is forecasted to be strong, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. In fact, the Canadian Real Estate Association predicts that home prices are set to rebound strongly, growing by 9% this coming year.  As well, TD Bank Economists expect that government stimulus will make a big impact this coming year.  In addition to the Federal Gov’ts pledge to provide $70 – $100 billion in fiscal spending (across Canada), the BC Gov’t is expected to invest $2 billion in new spending and contingencies in 2021.  All this, along with more favorable trading terms expected with the United States and some return to normal travel helping both the tourism and hospitality industries, BC and Vancouver are set up for a very strong economic rebound this year.

Most of the economic benefits are expected to be seen over the final 6 to 8 months of the year as COVID accommodations are relaxed in lock step with the availability of the new vaccines.  That said, businesses and industries are planning for these coming benefits now and this is beginning to drive additional demand for information technology knowledge workers.  BC has already replaced over 90% of the jobs lost during the worst of the downturn last year (source: TD Bank Economists) and, as such, it is expected that knowledge workers of every stripe will be in shorter supply; perhaps no industry impacted as much as the IT industry that had already been somewhat insulated from the worst of 2020 economic impacts.

Demand for Eagle’s staffing services were relatively strong throughout December of 2020. December is typically a slower month given year-end, vacations and holidays, but January is expected to be red-hot and, even during these first few days of January, requirements have been strong.  Vancouver has always been rather steadfast as far as swings in contractor rates go.  Never being the highest in Canada, but seldom being the lowest, 2021 may challenge this trend.  Human resources (IT workers) that are experts in specialty roles in such areas as Cloud, Security, eCommerce, and Machine Learning/AI /Data Science will be harder to find and the expectations are that rates will increase over the coming year.  Whereas roles in areas such as infrastructure, server, raised floor, networking, and application management are likely to have rates remain mostly unchanged.  Experts who can build business /customer understanding, better insight, and drive scalable and secure efficiency will be in highest demand and earn the highest rates increases.

On a micro-level, the following are some of the hiring trends that Eagle is witnessing:

  • The level of experience demanded from our clients is higher, typically senior resources with solid project and/or domain knowledge.
  • We are being asked for more specialists than generalists. This is different from the “bottom” of the economic cycle, where our clients were seeking people who were generalists and could wear multiple hats and “keep the lights on”.  Today, our customers tend to ask for people who have expertise in a certain area and can go deep, delivering value to new projects.
  • There appears to be a balance between technical and functional roles. Demand is rising for both.
  • The “type” of technology being implemented is leading-edge vs. mainstream, with many cloud and AI projects and supporting business transformation initiatives. (although most organizations had to move their business transformation initiatives up earlier than they might have wanted to support work from home, etc. in 2020)
  • Contract hiring activity was slow-paced last year, but is now picking up its speed-to-hire. This will become critical as the market heats up this year. Companies who are slow to make hiring decisions will lose top candidates to others who are motivated to hire quickly.
  • As mentioned above, last year saw some downward pressure on contractors’ rates. This year we expect this to rebound. How far and how fast depends on the speed with which the economy rebounds.  All indications are that the economy is in for a strong improvement; rates will tend to follow.
  • Hiring organizations are more open to remote workers. This is a direct impact of the COVID accommodations that the entire world had to manage.  Companies have learned how to operate effectively using people working remotely from one another.  Organizations are able to cast a wider net for talent by adopting a work-from-anywhere approach.
  • Finally, we are seeing a change whereby job seekers are more active. People have been hunkered down, happy to have a stable position (if they were working through 2020).  These people were not looking to make a move, afraid of jumping from the frying pan into the fire!  This is rapidly changing as opportunities begin again to expand.  People are open again to considering new opportunities that will allow them to learn new skills and/or advance their careers.

All in all, 2021 appears to be highly promising for BC, Vancouver, and the IT industry as a whole as we bounce back from the impact of the slowdowns of this past year.

How to Make Sure You’re Paid on Time

How to Make Sure You're Paid on Time

Of all of the benefits of IT contracting, a steady and reliable pay cheque is not at the top of the list. Work is not guaranteed and you always have to set cash aside for the slow periods. Even when you do have a gig, all independent contractors have a story about payments arriving late which can have a ripple effect on your life.

Especially if you’re set-up as an incorporated business, you have a responsibility as the supplier of services to provide the proper requirements and paperwork to the client before they’re obligated to make payment. There is no employer/employee relationship that mandates you receive your pay cheque on time. Here are a few tips to help make sure your money gets to you when you need it:

Get Set-Up and Understand the Process as Soon as Possible

As soon as your new contract is signed, scour the documentation and ask your recruiter questions about how their payment process works. Every staffing agency has unique processes so don’t assume it will be the same as your last gig. As soon as possible, be sure to send over all of the documentation they ask for, such as EFT information and business details. Submitting this at the last-may hold-up your first payment.

Respect Deadlines

Don’t just get your EFT information submitted on time, but ensure your approved timesheets are always submitted on time throughout the entire contract. Know the deadlines for each period and set reminders in your calendar so you can complete the documentation as necessary. Since each client will have different requirements, some timesheets will need more detail and, therefore, a time commitment from you. Build that into your planning.

Follow-Up with Your Approver

This is the part of the process where you have less control but you can still take some ownership. When you notice your timesheet has not been approved and the deadlines are looming, give the approver a nudge. It may have gone to spam or there might be a discrepancy they’ve been meaning to discuss with you. Either way, when deadlines are missed and your pay doesn’t arrive, pointing blame back to the approver won’t bring your money to you any faster.

Pay Attention to the Detail on Your Invoices

Going back to point number one, understand what your staffing agency has to see on your invoice before making a payment. Perhaps its detailed timeframes or explanations of projects. If you’re charging HST, the proper HST number must be included. It would suck not to receive timely payment simply because your invoice was missing a line that would have taken you a minute to include.

Ask Around About Your Agency

Let’s back-up to before you even accept a placement. Did you reference check your new recruitment agency? Surely your network will have a few other contractors who have worked with this company in the past, so ask them those important questions, including information about their time entry process and reliability for payments.

There are plenty of ways the time-entry, invoicing and payment process can go off the rails when you’re on contract, but the five tips above are the most common preventative measures you can take. Throughout your placement, continue following-up and asking questions to ensure things are running smoothly, and hold the staffing agency accountable if they do miss payment at no fault of yours. Finally, take advantage of all the tools at your disposal. Accounting software, calendar apps, reminders, the client’s timesheet system — all of these tools combined will help you get your time submitted quickly and properly, and ultimately, paid on time.

Google’s 3-Minute Video Summary of 2020’s Most Searched Question

Why? That’s the question that Google said defined its search service in the past year and the basis for their annual Year-In-Search video. “In times of uncertainty,” says Google, “people seek understanding and meaning. This year, the world searched “why” more than ever.”

Check-out this 3-minute video wrapping-up 2020. It goes beyond just the pandemic, and highlights all of the ups and downs of the year (many of which you may have forgotten about) including politics, tragedies, and above all, inspirations.

Review of the Top 25 Job Search and Contracting Tips You Might Have Missed

2020 will go down in history as an unpredictable year, full of surprises and learning experiences that, although often stressful, will make us all better people in the end. The holidays are a great time to look back and reflect on the last year — What went well? What could have gone better? How will it be better next year?

The Talent Development Centre had 145 new posts over 2020, including job market updates, quick polls and some excellent tips and tricks from industry experts. Many of those posts were packed with valuable knowledge and were well received, so we want to make sure you saw them. Here’s a collection of the top-viewed informational posts from 2020:

COVID-19 Support

There’s no ignoring the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic defined 2020. When it hit, Eagle was quick to gather as much information as we could regarding government support to help IT contractors navigate the fast-changing updates. Over the following months, we provided some additional articles for coping, as well as uplifting success stories, all of which are still very relevant today:

IT Contracting

Even the most seasoned IT contractors continue to learn the ins and outs of the independent contracting world. It can be complex and, like everything else in today’s reality, it’s always changing. These articles were among the most popular guidance we provided to IT contractors in the past year:

Working with Recruiters

A natural part of being a successful IT contractor is building great relationships with recruiters to leverage your network and gain more access to jobs. Here are the top tips on that topic:

Job Interviews

There are many steps in a job search, but it turns out the area our readers were most interested in learning about in 2020 were job interviews. Specifically, these posts were most popular:

Other Job Search Posts

In addition to interviews-related articles, here are a few other job search tips and tricks that hundreds of contractors grabbed knowledge from this year:

Personal Development

Finally, whether it’s professional skills or soft skills, helping yourself become a better person is not only beneficial for your career, but your personal life as well. Here are a few posts we published in 2020 that help you add new lines to your resume, or just become a better individual to work with:

What was your favourite post in 2020? Is there a topic you would like to see more of? Please share your feedback with us so we can continue to provide the best resources that IT contractors need to be successful.

Quick Poll Results: Do you listen to podcasts?

Podcasts are a great source of education, entertainment and a combination of the two. People love them for keeping up with current events and trends, hearing an interview with their favourite influencer, learning more about an interesting topic or just killing time.

In last month’s contractor quick poll, we were curious about how many of our readers embrace podcasts and build them into their regular sources of information. It turns out there is a fairly equal mix among Canadian IT contractors. While the majority of respondents did say that they either have a favourite or check-in now and then, a good chunk also said they rarely or never listen to podcasts, or at least haven’t in a long time.

The full results are below. Do you listen to podcasts? If so, what’s your favourite one to check out? If not, what’s been stopping you?

Quick Poll Results - Do You Listen to Podcasts?

Contractor Quick Poll: How do you spend those Lazy Days?

It’s that time of year! Those months when it’s more comfortable to stay inside and enjoy the comfort of your home rather than be outside in the winter weather. And that’s especially more enticing over the holiday season. Even for those Canadians who love being outdoors this time of year, inevitable extreme cold, snow storms, and ice rain will force everyone to cancel plans and stay home here and there.  Throw in physical distancing measures and you’re guaranteed a few lazy days in your near future. So, what are you going to do?

Sure, there’s work to be done for clients and chores to tackle around the house, but we all need time to do absolutely nothing. In this month’s contractor quick poll, we want to know your favourite way to spend a do-nothing, lazy day when you’re stuck inside.