Ottawa is the coldest capital city in the world (along with Moscow). This
time of year the snow is melting, the temperatures moving above zero
Celsius and we are all looking forward to the coming Summer months.
This is also a time of year when people get a little “antsy” about their
lives. It’s a time of renewal and a good time to take stock of life. I
think it’s a much better time of year than the New Year to make some
resolutions. How about these …
1. Look for the good in people.
2. Look for the positives in situations.
3. Set some short term goals … keep them simple.
Eg. Lose 5 lbs in the next month! Read the newspaper for 10 minutes
every day before work. Stop smoking!
4. Set some longer term goals … where do you want to be in 5 years? How
do you get there?
5. Fix a bad habit. Do you talk on your cell when you are with other
people? Do you check you blackberry when you are supposed to be having
If you change just a little bit for the better you are heading in the right
direction. Do you really want to be slowly morph into one of those
overweight, miserable, negative old people who seems to hate life… or would
you sooner be that bright, interesting older person who is enjoying the
Following on to my blog from yesterday I thought I would list some of the lessons I have learned along the way.
1. You are responsible for your own destiny … don’t blame anyone or anything else for your failures!
2. It’s never easy! If it seems easy then check over your shoulder … maybe the “Mac Truck” is about to hit you!
3. Working through adversity shapes who we are. It’s how we react to the tough times that really defines us.
4. No one talent will get you to the finish line … you need to establish a balanced set of skills, or complement your strengths in some way.
5. Life balance means different things to different people. Only you can define the right “balance” that gives you success in the important aspects of your life.
6. Stay healthy!
7. “Every man dies, not every man truly lives!” — Mel Gibson (Braveheart)
Like most people that have achieved some success, I am often asked for advice on how to be successful in a career. Much of my advice would not be very different than things you read in many motivational books … but I like to talk about 4 “buckets” that need to be continually filled as you go through your career.
1. Knowledge. This is fairly obvious and not worth too much discussion. You need to be knowledgeable in your field and have the ability to operate at a strategic level. The ability to talk about current events does not hurt either. You also need to operate efficiently, employing great time management techniques.
2. Attitude. A “glass half full” attitude, looking for the positive in situations and a real enjoyment of life are key to “true” success. It’s not much good making money if you are unhappy!
3. Street Smarts. The ability to work within the rules, adapt to the needs of your organization and still excel. Companies have strategies and plans that you may not necessarily agree with … but to be successful you must embrace them and support them. Don’t gossip, make your boss look good and be professional (leave the personal baggage at home).
4. Energy. This is probably where I differ from some people. I believe that people with energy can make things happen and can positively influence those around them. It’s hard to consistently have energy if you don’t look after yourself, so my advice is to invest in your health. I workout most mornings for about an hour, I don’t let my weight get away from me, I take my vitamins, I try to eat healthy, I don’t drink to excess and I don’t smoke. (I’m not really as boring as that sounds … but maybe that’s another blog )
The key to all of these “buckets” is that as you move through your career you need to replenish them. You might be a great technician, but when you take a supervisory role there is a huge learning curve and that “knowledge bucket” needs a lot of work, and there are a whole new set of “street rules” to learn. When you go through a tough personal time your health might suffer so you need to take extra care of yourself, so that you have the energy you need.
Walk Fast and Smile!
As an independent Information Technology (IT) contractor, you know the importance of a good interview. But when it comes to choosing an agency to represent you, would you be able to do as well sitting in the interviewer’s chair?
Having an agency represent you is wise on many fronts but perhaps the biggest advantage is that it allows you to concentrate on your current contract while someone else searches for your next one. Choosing the right agency or agencies is vital to the success of your career. How well they do their job will determine whether or not you even have a job to do.
A good IT placement firm will answer as many questions as it asks. But there is only one person who can ask those questions — you. Would you know what to ask? Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Now that you understand my technical skills and what type of work I’m looking for, how will you find me a contract?
What suggestions can you make to enhance my resume?
Do you alter my resume to suit a particular position?
What do you think is an appropriate rate for my skills in today’s market?
What is your rate/percentage?
How do you get paid? Are you paid commission on my placement?
How will I get paid?
May I review your standard contract?
What systems do you have in place to support your process?
How many people in your organization will be actively seeking opportunities for me?
How much contact can I expect from your staff?
How many clients do you have? Are you on any preferred vendor lists?
Do you have access to positions in other cities in Canada, the U.S or internationally?
If you don’t find me something right away, how will you remember who I am?
If you find a contract that suits my skills, how will you contact me?
Will you present my resume without speaking to me first?
When will you check my references?
What else do you do for me as our relationship develops?
If you are not happy with the answers you get, move on. There is no understating the importance of choosing the correct agency to represent you.
After all, it’s your career that’s on the line.
In the last 30-45 days, Western Canada has seen some interesting spikes in activity. A number of the Provincial Governments in the West have gone on very rapid hiring subcontractor sprees for their projects prior to fiscal year end, a number of organizations, especially in the energy sector, launched large scale hiring programs for IT people to become full time employees (or announced the outsourcing of their IT groups), and lastly, there is a clear indication that many IT professionals have multiple offers and options to consider at contract signing time, hence the competitiveness of organizations’ trying to land top people for their teams has become much more challenging for them. Hot skills in the marketplace in the West include: high continued demand for functional expertise in Project Managers (especially ITIL or Agile), Business Analysts and/or Testers, intermediate level application developers with either Java or .Net experience, and Oracle or MS SQL DBAs. SAP and Peoplesoft demand flattened recently in the West but is expected to re-surge in the very near future. Overall, the IT market remains very robust and active from Winnipeg to Victoria.
In the Central region, many permanent employees are looking to jump into contracting. There has been a rise in international opportunities which has led other countries (not only the United States) to entice contractors from across Canada. Contractor talent pools are getting tighter with contractors having a number of offers at once. The year-to-date has been busy with companies having new budgets to get new projects started. There has also been an increase in RFP activity from many organizations resourcing for new projects. Government departments have also been busy, as they use up their 2005 fiscal year budgets for projects before their fiscal year end. Hot skills within the central region include: Livelink, SAP, Project Managers and Security Consultants.
A relatively mild February in Eastern Canada was a sharp contrast to what looks to be a hot market for both contract but even more so, permanent requirements as clients act on what were previously only positive predictions and intentions. It is now evident that for some sectors, a full blown recovery is gaining traction and resourcing is a huge challenge. The telecommunications sector in general, and in particular companies that provide software and application development to companies that develop telecommunications products are having tremendous success as near shore outsourcing partners. US based telecoms appear to be looking more and more to Canada as a viable and in many respects cost effective alternative, and on shore partners have regained some market share. Several Ottawa based companies in this space are looking to external resourcing partners for Java, J2EE, C, C++ and C# developers with telecom backgrounds in addition to strong , experienced telecom PMs with extensive experience and ability around customer interaction. Several of the former titans in the industry have moved aggressively to hiring recently causing ramifications throughout, not anywhere near the extent of the heady days of the 90′s but enough to warrant observing for clients and staffing agencies alike. We have yet to see a corresponding spike in rates and salaries as organizations are acutely aware of bottom lines and cost containment and not likely to repeat the same mistakes of earlier days. Supply and demand will no doubt bring pressure to this marketplace and it would be a safe assumption that salaries will predictably rise.
In Ottawa, several departments and agencies continue to wrestle with the notion that the Federal Government’s new procurement vehicle is not expected to see the light of day before late spring if not early summer and with contracts and supply arrangements running into their natural expirations, options to continue to procure technology are limited. The amount of effort required to write, tender, evaluate and award RFP’s and SO’s is daunting, indeed from both the issuer and supplier communities, hence departments are hopeful that the delay is temporary and not something that signals a new strategic direction on behalf of the government. Hot skills this month vary by branch. Halifax saw demand for .Net Developers, Remedy Developers as well as Java resources, in Montreal there was a continued need for Healthcare IT resources Maximo candidates. Ottawa has several needs for Java, J2EE and .Net Developers and Testers with telco experience in addition to customer facing telecom PMs.
Imagine that a contractor is doing some work in your house. Halfway through the job he comes to you and says, “Sorry, I’m going to have to quit this job on Friday because I got a different job that pays me an extra $1 an hour” … or maybe he says, “The market is really heating up and so, even though we agreed on $20 an hour for this job I’m going to need $25 to stay and finish it”. I’m guessing that you would be less than impressed, and it is certainly not how you would expect your contractor to act.
Now let’s look at the independent IT contractor. The majority of IT contractors are professionals who would never operate in the manner described above. However the few that do have those business ethics are the ones that get the attention and give all contractors a bad name, bringing our whole industry into disrepute.
What can we do about it? It’s a tough one, because it’s hard to establish industry “black-lists” although most agencies have their own list of people they will not work with again. We can have policies around not employing contractors who have broken a contract, but it’s not always easy to find that information. Eagle has decided to approach this “ethical” issue from the positive perspective, by identifying and rewarding the good contractors with a special status.
We believe that the Eagle Certified Professional Contractor program is the first of its type, certainly in Canada. A press release yesterday announced the program that certifies IT contractors willing to sign a Code of Conduct, and the live by that code. They also need to be excellent technically, and have good references.
It’s a small step … but let’s hope that through education, we can convince ALL IT contractors that the right thing is to finish their commitments.
The IT staffing industry must be one of the enigmas of the 21st century. We are currently on the verge of substantial skills shortages, we have an aging workforce, an education system in North America that is not producing enough students in the technology world and yet still our margins get squeezed. The laws of supply and demand certainly seem to be forgotten as companies in our industry accept terms that do not make sense.
The staffing industry offers incredible flexibility to companies in staffing levels, a low risk ability to scale up or down to meet changing business needs without the encumbrance of employment contracts. Employers are not responsible for all of the day to day issues associated with employees (a huge saving in management time). The client ONLY pays for time on the job, not for training time, waiting time, sick time and any other kind of non-productive time. That is a SWEET DEAL.
So … why is our industry under so much pressure? Its time that staffing companies started to push back and get paid for the value provided … not accept what client think they can get away with!
Change! The very word causes a whole range of emotions with people and yet in the 21st century change is constant. Earlier in my career I was reluctant to embrace change, it took me out of a comfort zone, made me work, rocked my world a little and if I’m honest my attitude to change stunk! Over the years I have learned that change is welcome, needed even … and without change my company would stagnate, I would become bored, and worse I would become boring!
“It’s the most unhappy people who most fear change” – Mignon McLaughlin
How do you change? It’s a hard thing to do and requires a conscious commitment to embrace the change in addition to a plan of how to get there. One of the common examples of a situation requiring change follows a training course. The participants learn new ways to do things, perhaps some new techniques and more knowledge. How many of you leave a course thinking “that was good” only to go back to doing exactly (or very close to) what you did before?
“Change is inevitable: Growth is optional” – Ken Blanchard
Last week we spent two days training our sales team. We introduced new tools, clean processes and strategies for success. The results will take a little time to percolate and it will become very evident who is embracing the change … and who is fighting it. Early signs are there that some are making a good effort, others … it doesn’t look so good! It should be an interesting time over the next weeks and months as management reinforce the principles and the stragglers fight the process. Old habits die hard!
“Change is the process by which the future invades our lives” – Toffler
Change is always difficult, but when the writing is on the wall … just do it, you might surprise yourself!
I had a debate with some friends on the weekend about the future of shopping. Will the retail stores still exist in the future? Will the on-line revolution change our shopping experience forever?
There have been any number of reports recently citing the phenomenal growth in internet commerce, and certainly my experiences have been mostly (see my February 10th Blog) good.
There are many people that will always need to touch and feel the item they are buying. There are many who enjoy the hustle and bustle of the shops and there are those who find joy in the act of shopping.
On the other hand, there are many who would avoid shopping at any price! The trip to the mall being akin to some kind of torture! There are also people that are “matter of fact” shoppers. They do it because they need something, take no pleasure from it … just do it!
The on-line shopping experience is changing … retail store with on-line virtual models that show how things will look on you. The catalogues are complete and easy to search. Its easier than searching through a large store and all from the comfort of home. To be able to shop last minute for birthday presents and have them delivered (even thousands of miles away) is particularly useful for those of us with family in other countries.
One of the biggest concerns in on-line shopping has to be security. The latest news that there have been breaches in security involving debit cards is particularly disconcerting. There are stories every day about identity theft, I think every level of government has website information on the issue. It appears to be an ongoing battle with bad guys finding new ways to hack in and cause grief.
So … does the internet spell the end of the retail store as we know it. Despite the security challenges I certainly don’t think that is the case. I do think the landscape is changing, competition is more fierce and we may see some hybrids pop up. I could see a demand for stores that are a warehouse (requiring cheaper space than a retail outlet) with a nice internet catalogue browsing area. The power of the internet search, the immediate touch before buying and instant gratification to the shopper. Hey … maybe that could be “The Department Store” of the future.
Meanwhile … the average “do it yourselfer” is still going to be found at Canadian Tire or Home Depot on a Saturday morning, even though both have pretty good on-line shopping websites!
The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility is well documented and there are many articles on the subject. Overwhelming management opinion points to the need for companies to give back to the society in which they operate.
Eagle is a huge fan and if you are interested you can see some of the stuff we are involved with on the Corporate Philanthropy page of our website.
Last night I was at a charity auction in support of Prostate Cancer Research (the Green & White Gala) and was again impressed by the calibre of companies that do support charity, our client EDS was a huge sponsor and we were just a bit player, buying a table and enjoying a good event. Every year I look forward to the Children’s Aid foundation Teddy Bear Affair, which is probably the biggest and arguably best charity auction in Toronto. I think its fair to say that you can have fun AND support charities!
So … my question to the world is, are you doing your bit to support charities? All companies need to get involved, even if its small its a start … and that grows over time. Get out there, donate money, give time, get involved and practice the management strategy of Corporate Social responsibility!