So, Now What??!

So, Now What??!

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

I’d like to begin by stating that this is purely an opinion piece. I’ve no better access to information than most other people (the information I’ve reviewed comes from internet sources and my own discussions with contractors, consultants and clients) but, I think, that this may be the point. I don’t know what’s coming next, no one does. Many say they do… but they don’t. So in this COVID-obsessed and stressed out world, what is one to do?

There are very few people in this world who truly love and embrace change. (And no, I am not one of them!) Sure, many of us can appreciate the concept of change being needed for progress to occur, we may even agree that it could be a good thing. But it rarely “feels good” when we are in the middle of it. And, boy! Are we in the middle of it now!! Everybody has everything in their lives turned on its head right now. Sure, we’ve made accommodations and are in the process of defining our own “new normal”, but the truth is that the way things are today aren’t the way they are going to be in 6 months from now, nor will they ever be the same way they were before! It’s a scary thought for most people — the “future normal” is unknown.

Wait a minute… the future has never been known… how is this “new” in any way? What is different now, is the scope of the changes that we are facing. Too much of our lives have been changing too drastically too quickly and it will continue to do so for some time to come, for the foreseeable future, actually. I guess hyper-change IS the new normal. Or, to put it oxymoronically, un-normal is normal. And we would do well to get used to that idea.

So, back to the original question: what do we do now, today, to set ourselves up for success in this “oxymoronical” (not a real word) time. I don’t know (for sure). But here are a number of ideas that have shown to be useful when living in times of great change:

  • Accept that you cannot stop change. Your plans, whatever they were, may no longer be possible to accomplish — at least in the way or time frame which you’d intended. If your situation has created an insurmountable obstacle to your plans, stop trying to fight it. Your time and energy would be better spent focusing on something else, something that will lead to positive results for you.
  • Be flexible. Look for ways to adapt your plans so that your goals might still be met. Look for a “Plan B”. Expect that you might need to look for a Plan C, D, E…
  • Be engaged. As much as you might want to hunker down, withdraw and ride it out, these massive changes will continue. Unless you are retired, with everything paid off and have a sizeable, well-hedged nest egg, you are not going to be able to “sit this one out”. “Group Think” is real and it is a powerful tool for you to use to keep current. Working your network of family, friends, colleagues, etc. will help to keep you abreast of the changes as they happen and provide ideas for making the accommodations necessary to limit the downside and maximize the opportunities.
  • Limit the downside and maximize the opportunities. As we all know, change does not need to be a negative thing. Although it can be uncomfortable, there will be both opportunities to take advantage of and pitfalls which we’d like to avoid. Being “opportunistic” might not always have a good connotation; however, in times of great change, it is an approach one should embrace.
  • Give back. As bad as we might have it, others have it far worse. Helping others in need is a great way to do good while attaining perspective, lifting your spirit, and generally feeling better about yourself (and your own situation).
  • On the career side, if you find that you have unwanted-but-extra time on your hands, investing in your knowledge/skills through training, reading, networking, etc. often pays a good return. If you don’t have the time or wherewithal for a formalized course/certification, there are many free sources of information and training available. As well, there are user groups (albeit virtual these days) that you can join. Not only are these a great networking opportunity, they are also great places to learn!
  • Try something new. If you’ve ever thought to yourself “I always wanted to… ??, but never had the time“. Or, “Someday, when the time is right, I’ll try to… ??“. Maybe now is the time. You may find a hidden talent or something new that you love to do and the rest of your life may be richer for it. Learn a new language! The direction of macro-changes suggests that globalization will continue unabated and being bilingual or multi-lingual can be a real advantage.
  • Do some soul-searching. Most of us have been “running hot” for a long time. We’ve had our heads down, and pushing forward with our careers/lives/relationships/etc. When evaluating your opportunities, it is a good practice to challenge your own goals, philosophies, and ideals. Is what was important to you 10 years ago still important to you today? If you take time to peel back that “onion”, you might be surprised to find that your priorities are due for a change. What Color Is Your Parachute? is an old, tried-and-true, self-help book meant to guide people through a career change; but it contains excellent exercises that helps one to identify what is most important to them and set goals and priorities and make new, better-fit life plans. Resources such as this book (and countless internet sites) are valuable as guides to your self-awareness journey.
  • Exercise and take care of your health. The benefits of this go without saying… so, I’ll only say this: Regardless of the amount of change facing you over the coming months and years, attending to your physical and mental health will never be a wasted effort.
  • Take time to read — news sources, industry articles, biographies, editorials, training literature and whitepapers. Listen to podcasts on subjects of interest to you. It doesn’t even have to be career-related; it can be of general interest to you or hobby-related. Try to choose things that engage you and stimulate your mind… and minimize your time watching mindless TV shows, the black hole that can be YouTube, etc. because, in these, you lose hours of your life and come out no better for it.

Here are some links to websites that share ideas on how to cope with change. They are good “reads” and can augment my own list here:

That’s my list for coping, Mid-COVID – August 2020. As I said at the beginning of this blog post: this is an Opinion Piece and I am the world’s leading authority on my own opinion. I’m sure you have your own advice to add to this list… and maybe even counter points to argue! I’d be pleased to see you share your own ideas with our readership by leaving a comment below! In the words of the great and wise Red Green: “Remember, I’m pulling for you. Were all in this together!”

Take care, stay well, be strong… and thrive!

The Devil is in the Details and Why It Should Matter to Contractors

The Devil is in the Details and Why It Should Matter to Contractors

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

For most of Eagle’s clients, extensive background checks are part of the onboarding process. Gone are the days when a client would accept reference checks and a simple criminal check.  Due to increased privacy and security issues, along with global security standards such as ISO 27001, clients require extensive background checks that include verification of past employment (often for the past 5-7 years — this includes every contract a contractor may have held), education verification, and criminal checks. In addition, many organizations, specifically financial institutions, also require a credit check.

Some of these checks extend beyond Canada and include extensive international checks that take several weeks to complete.  Due to the rigorous process involved with completing these checks, it is critical that contractors complete the intake forms properly and ensure that ALL data is accurate, properly aligning with past contracts and information found in your resume.

Varying details may seem minor, but we’ve seen these inconsistencies create huge headaches for independent contractors. First, it can extend the process, and ultimately the project start date, as companies keep coming back for additional information. We especially run into trouble when the in-depth security process follows up with past clients and insitutions. Some common issues have included:

  • Project dates listed on the resume and the background check form not aligning with what the actual dates verfieid by the end client;
  • Job titles on the resume and/or background check forms not aligning with what the client has listed; and,
  • Education degrees and completion dates being different than what the contractor lists on their resume and background check form.

If the data comes back incomplete or false, the agency and the end client are allerted to the information discrepancies.  Sometimes, and this is more often that case these days, contracts are then cancelled. Clients whose projects require the utmost integrity feel they simply can’t take the risk. If a person is willing to lie about their job title or education, where else might they cross the line.

Contractors are often rushed when completing this part of the onboarding process or they might brush off the importance.  As we’ve learned, though, it is critical that contractors cross-reference the data in their contracts (you do keep them, right) and the information is found on their resumes and background check forms.  A simple, honest error can make you appear unethical and lead to losing a valuable contract. Worse, your entire career could be affected by potentially being flagged for future contracts with the agency and the end client, all due to a preventable mistake that led you to providing false information.

As the saying goes, the devil is in the details so take the time to own your data and ensure its accuracy.

Don’t Let Knee-Jerk Decisions Destroy Your Career

Don't Let Knee-Jerk Decisions Destroy Your Career

We work with thousands of senior IT contractors. They have incorporated a contracting business and have been participating in the gig economy for years. As the economy gets challenging and contracts get halted, we’ve seen an increase in these professionals deciding that they’d prefer the lower-risk position of a permanent employee. They start seeking out these jobs and, because of their high qualifications, many companies are thrilled to have the opportunity to scoop up such talent. On the contrary, it’s common in economic downturns to see IT professionals who are typically more comfortable as an employee embrace the IT contracting side of things, and start to pick up these contract opportunities.

For some of these people, the change is perfect. Whether it’s the individual who gave up contracting or embraced it, the economic uncertainty forced them to review their career paths and do something they needed to do long ago. But that’s not everyone! If you’re considering this type of career change, you need to first ask yourself if you’re reacting too quickly with a knee-jerk decision that, although is a short-term solution, will have negative consequences down the road.

What happens when the economy starts picking up and operating at healthy levels again (and it will!)? If we consider the long-time contractor who transitioned to becoming a senior employee, are they going to want to get back into the game and leave the company high and dry, shortly after it invested significant time and money into that professional? Or, is that new-found contractor going to take the first secure permanent job opportunity they can, breaking whatever contract it is that they’re working on? In both of these cases, the results are angry companies, bad references and tarnished reputations for the IT professional.

We’re certainly not saying that IT professionals should remain without income and pass up opportunities. When you find yourself out of work, of course the best thing to do is to get back into the game. And when the economy is going through a rough patch, you have to take the jobs that are available. What you do need to ask yourself is whether or not you’re making a decision based on an immediate, emotional reaction without taking time to think it through — a knee-jerk decision.

The above is just one example of reacting to a situation without enough thought. Something goes wrong and we need to stop the bleeding so we implement a solution as soon as possible, without much analysis. The problem is, that quick a reaction opens up another problem which leads to another knee-jerk reaction and the vicious circle continues. It’s a common shortfall in management and leadership, with plenty of literature on that topic, and we also see it with many job seekers.

Suddenly quitting because a contract isn’t going your way, severing ties and burning bridges with recruiters because of one bad experience, or even picking up and moving the family to an entirely new city are all other overreactions that happen more often than we’d like to see. Next time you find yourself in a brutal situation where you are making decisions that you might regret down the road, consider some of these tips:

  • Take Time: When it comes to your career, very few (if any) decisions need to be made within hours. Often you even have a few days. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Before making any rash decisions, sleep on it and talk it through with others.
  • Understand Your Emotions: It’s important to know yourself and what kinds of triggers in your life might spark which emotions. From there, dealing with the emotions and understanding why you’re feeling them will help to put you in a more rational state-of-mind.
  • Don’t Judge the People: Too often we make decisions based on the other people involved. We have a preconceived judgement of that individual’s character and assume that their behaviour is malicious. The resulting reaction is unnecessary and out-of-place.
  • Ensure You Have the Facts: Taking time, understanding emotions and keeping feelings towards people out of the way are all steps you can take to gather the facts from experts and view the big picture.
  • Avoid the Herd Mentality: Related to gathering the facts, often we see people make bad decisions quickly simply because everyone else is doing it. They’re not always right.
  • Set Goals as a Guide: Great leaders look to their company’s mission and values before making important decisions to ensure their being guided by the right principals. Set goals today and know what you want. Then, when it comes to making that quick decision, you can look back on your original goals and ensure you’re following your guiding light.

There is a definite balance between making a quick decision and taking too long to make decisions. While some situations need faster action than others, always ensure you’re going through a rational decision-making process, especially when it comes to your career.

The Video Meeting Gone Wrong That We’d All Love to Join

In the last few months, leaders have been forced to manage their teams completely online. Team meetings, performance reviews, project updates — they’re all being done by video call. On top of the natural communication challenges from this new set-up, some team members are absolute nightmares during these virtual calls. They don’t focus, can’t figure out the technology and seem to have no etiquette at all.

This quick video by mrandrewcotter shows a perfect example of a company meeting that would make a manager want to rip their hair out. Fortunately for the subordinates, their puppy dog eyes will always get them out of trouble and are guaranteed to make you smile!

Top 10 Data and Analytics Tech Trends, According to Gartner

Top 10 Data and Analytics Tech Trends, According to Gartner

Data, analytics and artificial intelligence are some of the hottest topics today and there is little doubt that they are going to continue to grow throughout the decade. They present outstanding career opportunities, including a variety of paths for specialization.

Now as we are a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Gartner monitored how companies have been using the technologies and recently published some trends they’re seeing, as well as predictions for where the industry will go in the next few years. Here’s a brief summary of their top data and analytics tech trends:

  1. Smarter, Faster, More Responsible AI: Machine learning, optimization, natural language processing, reinforcement learning and distributed learning are all helping companies through the COVID-19 pandemic, and that’s just the start. Gartner predicts that by 2024, 25% of organizations will shift from piloting to operationalizing AI.
  2. Decline of the Dashboard: Rather than static, predefined dashboards, users will be working with dynamic data stories to see the most relevant insights based on their context, role and use.
  3. Decision Intelligence: This brings together several disciplines, including decision management and decision support, and Gartner predicts that by 2023, more than a third of large organizations will have analysts practicing decision intelligence.
  4. X Analytics: Referring to a range of different structured and unstructured content (ex. text analytics, video analytics, audio analytics, etc.), X Analytics will help identify, predict and plan for future crises.
  5. Augmented Data Management: These products will continue to improve as machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques help optimize operations, and metadata is used for powering dynamic systems.
  6. Cloud is a Given: Gartner predicts that in two years, 90% of data and analytics innovation will depend on public cloud services. They note that “Data and analytics leaders need to prioritize workloads that can exploit cloud capabilities and focus on cost optimization when moving to cloud.”
  7. Data and Analytics Worlds Collide: As the two lines between data and analytics blur and their capabilities continue to interact and collaborate, we’ll begin to see new roles for the people and processes that support them.
  8. Data Market Places and Exchanges: More and more organizations are either selling or buying data using formal online data marketplaces, and these platforms will consolidate third-party data offerings to reduce costs.
  9. Blockchain in Data and Analytics: Gartner expects that ledger database management systems will provide a more attractive option for single-enterprise auditing of data sources. In fact, they estimate that by 2021, most permissioned blockchain uses will be replaced by ledger DBMS products.
  10. Relationships Form the Foundation of Data and Analytics Value: Graph technologies and analytics are expected to help more leaders find unknown relationships in data, easier than they can with traditional analytics

Data and analytics are possibly some of the most exciting and fast-moving areas we’re seeing in technology today. Organizations world-wide, across all industries, are investing in different capabilities in order to compete and the need for talent in these areas is increasing. Understanding the trends and where they’re going can help you plan your professional development roadmap and get access to the best contracts in the future.

Contractor Quick Poll Results: When do you prefer to hear from recruiters?

When the perfect opportunity for you comes across a recruiter’s desk, they want to get a hold of you as quickly as possible to find out if you’re interested and submit your application to the client. For some jobs, it’s a matter of hours before the opportunity closes, so speedy contact is key. Emails and texts are great, but there’s no better way to contact somebody quickly — and to have a good quality conversation — than by phone.

We all have different schedules and there are points in our day where a phone call with a recruiter simply isn’t feasible. In last month’s contractor quick poll, we asked you what times of day would be best to hear from a recruiter. The results were mixed, but it looks like we can draw one conclusion: few people want to talk to anyone before they’ve finished their morning coffee!

Statistics Canada’s Most Recent Visual Insights of COVID-19 in Canada

The Federal Government has been carefully monitoring all effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of keeping a close eye on infection rates and the economy, Statistics Canada is researching people’s behaviour and how their coping, then sharing their findings in various formats. Here are a couple infographics that StatCan shared in early July that we found particularly interesting.

COVID-19 and the Labour Market in June 2020

StatCan has always released monthly job numbers to provide an understanding of the country’s economic health. Since the pandemic began, they’ve also been publishing more specific insights to help us understand the effects of COVID-19. The most recent infographic outlines June’s job numbers and compares them to February. It shows that slowly but surely, numbers are returning for normal, but some industries and demographics continue to suffer more than others.

Labour Market

 

Precautions that Canadians will take or continue to take as COVID-19 safety measures are relaxed

Last month, StatCan also conducted a survey to examine the attitudes and concerns of Canadians. As restrictions lift, who will continue taking measures to protect themselves, and to what extent. It’s worth noting that since the survey, many jurisdictions across Canada have made masks mandatory in public places, but overall, this infographic provides an interesting snapshot at the opinions of Canadians during these bizarre times.

COVID-19 Precautions Across Canada

Contractor Quick Poll: Do you screen your LinkedIn requests?

A powerful LinkedIn network can go a long way in helping you build out your professional connections, build your industry reputation and secure future contracts. As such, it’s great practice to connect with past and present colleagues, clients, recruiters and anybody else where you can add mutual value to each other’s professional lives.

At the same time, we all receive connection requests from individuals who appear to be completely random. Maybe you appeared in one of their searches, or maybe you have worked with them but you just don’t recognize them. Either way, this invitation to connect suddenly appears, with no personalized message whatsoever, and you’re left scratching your head. What do you do? Do you connect with them or do you ignore them? That’s what we’re looking to learn in this month’s contractor quick poll.

Regional Job Market Update for Montreal

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Senior Vice President, Business Development at Eagle

Panoramic Photo Montreal city fron Mount RoyalThe COVID-19 Pandemic and associated deep recession in Canada has made market,  job and employment reports a bleak exercise indeed. As GDP has shrunk substantially in Canada and in fact globally , employers shocked with an unanticipated event reacted initially by stopping hiring then, implementing layoffs, and finally followed by a” how do we survive” — more specifically “Are we prepared to compete in a fully digital marketplace?”

Quebec, and more specifically Montreal, was hit very hard and early by the pandemic. The unemployment rate in Quebec went from a near full employment rate of 4.2% in February to 14.2 % in May. We know from previous data that the technology unemployment rate is about half the general  broader unemployment rate.  The question is where did the Montreal tech job market go? Well, we know that at the same time the pandemic was raging through employment markets and economies, there was an incredible Big Tech rally that completely defies what was happening on the street. This added hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth to companies like Apple, Amazon , Microsoft and Ottawa’s own Shopify, which recently passed RBC as Canada’s largest capitalized company  worth $164B !

Montreal is one of 3 big Tech hubs in Canada, along with Toronto and Vancouver. We certainly saw this market resilience in Montreal as it was one of  Eagle’s busiest branches relatively speaking throughout the Pandemic. The city, while also hit hard early with the Pandemic, also led Canada in restoring some sense of the new “abnormal ” as it moved first to open the economy in Canada. With diverse sectors along with Tech, for example Telco, players in Montreal moved quickly and continued to hire what now was more generally available resources in an strategic effort to amp up their digitized commerce and service offerings.

We have seen now many organizations in Montreal and elsewhere take the event as a time to evaluate their digital strength and no doubt in time refocus on projects to ensure they are able to survive and thrive in an ecommerce world. In demand roles in Montreal include PMs, Full Stack and Application Developers , QA resources along with Security and Cyber resources.

IT Industry News for June 2020

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee, Co-Founder of Eagle

This is my 30,000-foot look at events in the ICT industry for June 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 June in previous years … 

Five years ago, in June 2015, Intel paid $16.7 billion for semiconductor company Altera Corp. Cisco paid $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.

June 2016 saw Microsoft buy LinkedIn for a whopping $2.6 billion. There were other billion dollar deals this month too, Salesforce paid $2.8 billion for e-commerce platform 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.

Three years ago, in June 2017 Amazon bought Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. Westcon-Comstar’s American business was 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 to increase Rackspace’s business from customers who want help running their critical applications.

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 company 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 Toshibas PC business. Other companies out shopping include Cisco who bought WiFi analytics company July Systems; IBM bought maintenance and repair company Oniqua and Shopify bought app company Return Magic.

Last year, June 2019 saw some significant M&A deals with the Salesforce acquisition of Tableau for $1.7 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.

Which brings us back to the present …

June 2020 was the fourth month into the pandemic and the fallout continues, the Canadian Federal government announced increased spending in the last 4 months that is higher than their usual annual budget, and Canadian debt passed $1 trillion … hence a recent downgrade in credit rating.  A quick look at reports around the world show unemployment levels and GDP impact that according to the OECD makes this recession the worst in nearly a century.

Companies are still making acquisitions and in June we saw IBM pick up cybersecurity vendor Spanugo; Apple bought device management company Fleetsmith: And here in Canada, Bell sold off 25 of its data centres to Equinox, to build its war chest for the upcoming Spectrum auction; VMware bought anti-malware company Lastline; and there were a couple of smaller deals that caught my eye in the full report.

Other companies in the news, include Deloitte, Accenture, DXC and At&T who are all announcing layoffs.  Dell seems to be strengthening its position as the #1 in the server business and Microsoft has decided to get out of the physical retail space, and sell its gear online only.

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 2020 industry news in just about a month’s time.

Walk Fast and Smile.