Workbridge Associates: Where People Meet Performance

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  • The Future of Infrastructure in an Agile World: DevOps and Release Engineering

    Article by Max Schnepper, Practice Manager in Workbridge Orange County.

    Systems Engineering is literally the only profession I’ve ever heard of where the term “Lazy” was used as term of endearment, “a lazy sys admin is a good sys admin.” If you hadn’t heard this phrase, what they’re getting at is doing something right the first time so that you don’t have to deal with it again, usually through scripting, automation and making everything scalable.

    DevOps: It’s nothing that new. You or your favorite admin could have been doing this for quite a while. Whether or not you’ve ever heard of it, DevOps has been given an actual title, a more formalized structure/methodology and has been growing exponentially. As Software-as-a-Serive (SaaS) companies continue moving towards more collaborative development environments utilizing Agile/Scrum methodologies from the more traditional Waterfall methodology, so too does the way the software teams collaborate with Operations teams.

    Even in more traditional brick and mortar markets such as Orange County where financial, Real Estate, and Insurance type companies rule the market, DevOps and Build/Release has recently picked up substantially. Want to know why? Whether you’re a start-up looking to release your product onto Beta, concerned about scalability when your company hits critical mass, or you’re a highly profitable fortune 500 company trying to keep up with your updates on heavy production servers, you should be hiring a DevOps engineer. The future of technology is collaboration and scalability, and that’s the goal of DevOps.

    If you want to learn more about DevOps, I encourage you to research resources like Chef Cookbooks, perusing Github, follow twitter handles like ScriptRock and see what is out there. Take a look at what’s going on in your local market with networking groups and events specifically geared towards DevOps. As an emerging market, there’s only room to grow!

  • Five Ways to Keep Top Contractors Engaged


    By: James Vallone and Ben Sanborn

         You know how hard it was to find a top contractor, right? Well, now that you have him or her onboard, what are you doing to ensure they stay engaged and retained? Contractors today have a plethora of offers to choose from. Since most work on a temporary basis, they are continually evaluating offers and lining up their next job – even while they work for you. If they have a bad experience with your company, you risk losing them and you risk the potential loss of referrals of other great contractors. (Yes, contractors refer non-competing contractors to companies they know are reliable and great to work for! They also warn others to stay away from bad experiences.) You are not only vying for a contractor’s expertise, but for their loyalty. So, how do you keep contractors engaged and happy?

         The best way to do so is to understand what contractors value in their work experience. Most contractors are independent, pride themselves on providing great customer service, love the thrill of fresh challenges, value open communication, want to feel as if they are part of your team, and appreciate clear direction about what your project objectives are and how they can meet them. There are ways to ensure that you create a positive experience for contractors. Here are the top five:

    1. Onboard quickly and completely. Just because they may not be in the office every day, doesn’t mean they don’t need to know where the bathroom is! Provide a full orientation. Give them a building tour and introduce them to key people they will work with or need to know. Discuss hours, break times, access to the building, and parking. Make sure they have the right technology and equipment to do the job, know how to access systems, and how to communicate with your Helpdesk. If they are not working for an agency, be sure they understand how and when to submit their timesheets and who to contact if they have an issue. You want to make a good first impression. If you don’t, contractors will assume you do not fully value them or will end up feeling less than confident about how to fit in and meet your needs.
    2. Treat them like a team member. Too often, contractors are left out of the game. While they work for you, treat them like a true member of your team. Be inclusive. This is particularly important if your contractor works offsite. Invite them to company events, celebrations, happy hours. Keep them abreast of internal news and updates. Clue them in about company politics and any pertinent historical info that would be useful to know. You want to make them feel welcome and included. That said, be mindful that some contractors do not want to be down in the weeds more than they have to be. If a contractor doesn’t jump to attend happy hours, be respectful and don’t take it as a negative sign. Many contractors became contractors to avoid the hassle and extra-curricular activities that being an employee entails.
    3. Dedicate time for one-on-one meetings. Include your contractor in team meetings, but don’t overlook the value of having regular one-on-ones. Weekly check-ins or even just an informal coffee or lunch on a regular basis can help you keep tabs on how satisfied the contractor is with your company and if they are running into any hindrances that they don’t want to discuss in front of the entire team. Contractors want to be included as a team member; keep in mind that that they are not employees though. As an outsider, they can provide you invaluable insight into your culture, team dynamics, process workflows, and input on how you can improve your contractor/company work arrangements. Contractors bring third-party eyes to your internal processes. Don’t be afraid to tap into their perspective.
    4. Honestly discuss performance. Contractors want to make you happy. They want to leverage their expertise to ensure you get what you need. Unless you provide performance feedback, it’s hard for them to know if they’re hitting the mark. Rather than holding a typical boss-to-employee type performance review, open up a dialogue about performance in general.  The best contractors are service-minded and will ask you for feedback so that they can make things easier or more effective for you. Return the favor and ask them as well. Discuss how things are going, what feedback you’re hearing from stakeholders, and any adjustments that need to be made to stay on track.
    5. Pave the way for future success. It’s not your job to help a contractor line up more work, but if you are pleased with their performance, by all means refer them to other groups within the company. You can be sure they won’t forget your kindness. If for any reason a contract is expected to end before the agreed-upon time, give them a heads up. If there is potential for converting to a perm hire, discuss it with them and offer them the option. You want to keep a positive relationship going so that you have the opportunity to work with them again in the future and to garner referrals from them. One thing companies often overlook is the business development aspect contractors naturally bring. Contractors that have great experiences with client companies become evangelists and often refer other clients to each other. They want you to succeed and are more than happy to help bring you business.

    These tips will help you go a long way to creating a positive experience for contractors so you can keep them engaged, retained, and returning to work for you again. By taking a look at what contractors value, you can address their needs and ensure that the project is completed in a mutually satisfying manner.

    To learn more about how Jobspring Partners can help with your IT staffing needs, please feel free to contact an IT staffing consultant at any of our locations through out North America.

  • Increasing Your Brand Image in a Changing Marketplace

    Article by CJ Terral, Recruiter in Workbridge San Jose.

    What value do you provide to the marketplace? Think about it. It’s not a question most people answer for themselves, because it’s not easy to answer and certainly more difficult to properly manage.

    The value you add is a direct correlation to your “brand”, the nebulous concept that marketers around Silicon Valley seem to chatter about on a daily basis. It’s important to realize, though, that increasing your personal brand is much more than a task on a to-do-list. It should be a lifestyle choice.

    Why do I say this? It’s simple: increasing your personal brand enhances the way others think about you, your work, and your contribution to society. It’s more valuable than money, because it’s the reason why people choose to promote you, invest in you, or even want to work with you in the first place. Increasing your brand makes you a more valuable individual to those who you directly and indirectly associate yourself with.

    Increasing your brand image is simple, but not easy. The result you’ll receive out of doing it depends on the amount of time and effort you choose to invest in improving it. As I see it, these are the 3 pillars of branding that you may want to consider when working on increasing your value in the marketplace.

    1. Consistency

    First, establish a set of guiding principles which fit around your particular lifestyle. Lacking consistency may portray you as a flaky, non-committal person who can’t be relied upon. Working on being a dependable person will help you in most any place throughout your life. It starts with understanding where you want to go, while focusing on the present and staying mindful of how to accomplish your goal at a steady, daily pace.

    2. Execution

    Learning how to implement the goals and tasks you set-up for yourself will demonstrate to others that you stay true to your word. It is much more likely for people to request your assistance on critical projects and areas of improvement with your company. Learning how to execute your goals on any level takes discipline, yet will be the reason behind your largest personal and professional achievements.

    3. Leadership

    Achieving an image in other peoples’ minds is one thing. Teaching these same lessons to others is another. Leading people who need help in increasing their personal image in the marketplace helps you as much as it does for them. You can become a resource for many groups outside of your own business industry, and that is powerful.

    All in all, increasing your brand image can be easy when done correctly. Make sure to be consistent in your beliefs and actions. Secondly, make sure to put into practice what you say you will do. Lastly, keep focused on adding value to others by leading them in the ways that allow them to also add value in their respective marketplaces. Other than that, you should aim to add value to those around you.

  • Interviewing a Passive Job Seeker

    Article by Joseph Walsh, Practice Manager in Workbridge New York

    Often, when hiring managers have an open position, they assume the majority of the resumes they receive from their networks, job boards, or recruiters belong to job seekers that are actively looking for just any job. In the technology market, this could not be farther from the truth. Many high-level IT professionals these days have the luxury of not simply accepting the first offer they receive, but instead, looking for the job that best suits them.

    The interview itself plays a huge factor in determining whether the job seeker will accept an offer from a company or not. Traditionally, interviews in the most simplistic form consist of the company bringing in job seekers to their office, asking them questions, having them meet other employees and then explaining to them what the company does and what it stands for. The person chosen for the job is most likely the best at selling themselves to their new employer during the interview process.

    This traditional interview scenario does not play itself out as often as many would think, especially in the IT industry. We are seeing more and more often, it's job seekers who are the ones interviewing the company! With the technology market as competitive as it is today for companies, the top talent often has choices when it comes to deciding on opportunities. In order to separate your company and get the best possible talent, you need to put on your sales pants!

    This means that every perk or benefit you can think of should be brought to the job seeker’s attention during the interview process. Sometimes it’s a very small detail that can make all the difference, and the reasons that people take jobs often surprise me.

    Many startups boast perks that can range anywhere from free lunches, to pet friendly offices, to pool tables, or having a sleeping room where employees can catch some Zzz’s. These perks are important to many people not because of the actual perk itself, but rather because it shows that the company CARES about its employees. That can be one of the bestselling points of all: how much do you care?

    Now, as great as these perks can be, they aren’t going to do for just anybody. Job seekers don’t take a job to do something they have been doing previously, but instead, to do something new. What new and exciting opportunity does your company offer?

  • Interviewing IT Contractors? Four Topics That Employers Mess Up

    Article by: James Vallone - Director of Business Development

    Have you ever interviewed a contractor and realized that something you just said caused them to be noticeably less interested in the job? Interviewing IT contractors is very different than interviewing perm candidates. There are a lot more land mines to look out for. Contractors think and act differently during their job search. To successfully engage IT contractors, you must be fully aware of what’s on their mind at all times and tailor your conversation to their agenda.

    Begin by understanding that a tech contractor’s job security is based on weeks or months, not years. Typically, contractors are not as interested in long-term career development at your company (unless it’s a contract-to-hire position). They will want to focus more on the specific challenges and expectations of the project at hand. Contractors also greatly value their independence and will view the employer on a peer-to-peer basis (or service provider to client basis) rather than an employee/boss relationship. They are chameleons, fitting into different cultures and becoming members of teams for temporary periods. Many are contracting with more than one company at a time, so time is their chief currency.

    To keep contractors fully engaged during the interview process and interested in your opportunity, here are some important things to pay attention to during the interview:

    1. Don’t be vague about the contract length. Let’s say the contractor asks you how long the contract period will last. You waffle and admit that you are not exactly sure or give a wishy-washy response. What does the contractor hear? They hear that maybe you’ll consume far more time than the contractor wants to commit to this engagement or, conversely, that you may not provide a long enough engagement to make it worth it for them. 

    • Advice: Always be specific about both the estimated minimum and potential timeframes so they can feel more secure about the engagement.

    2. Don’t disclose the specific contractor pay rates you are willing to pay. First off, if you’re working with a staffing firm, redirect any questions the contractor has about pay rates back to the agency. It’s the agency’s responsibility to address this. If no agency is involved, it is still not in your best interest to specify rates early on the process. Why? Because if you throw out the rate first, you may risk being too low and turn them off. He or she may decline your contract on the spot without taking the time to explore if there is room for negotiation. On the other hand, if your rate is higher than what the contractor expects, then they’ll hold you to this rate and you may end up paying more than you needed to. 

    • Advice: Ask the contractor to provide their pay expectations first so you can establish more control during negotiations.

    3. Don’t discuss your overall budget in too much detail. Any talented IT contractor will want to work for a company that has a solid and reasonable budget in place for staffing. However, they do not need to know exactly what your entire budget is. Communicating that you have a significant budget in place will certainly prove to the contractor that IT is an important initiative for the company. But the contractor may leverage this information against you and inquire as to why you’re not paying them more. And, of course, disclosing a budget number that is very low will have the obvious impact of stirring up concern about the commitment to IT spend. 

    • Advice: Use adjectives, not numbers, to discuss the financial context such as, “We have a solid or healthy or strong budget in place for this department.”

    4. Don’t make promises about contract-to-perm conversions. Some contractors may inquire about a potential conversion to permanent hire. They may ask because they are interested in converting to perm, or they are really looking for a permanent position, or because they are not interested in a permanent position altogether. It is really important to understand where this question is coming from before you provide an answer.

    • Advice: Ask the contractor first about their interest in becoming a permanent employee. If you find they are ideally looking to be converted to perm, give them a realistic timeline of when the job could convert, but be honest and explain that any conversion would be based on the contractor’s performance during the contract period and that this is not guaranteed.

    Remember, it’s your job to sell the contractor on the great opportunity they have to work at your company. You will always be competing with other employers and must differentiate your opportunity. Avoid these common interviewing obstacles and keep the interview hyper-focused on the selling points to attract the best IT contractors.

  • Is Tech the New Black?

    Article by Katie Bowles, Recruiter in Workbridge Orange County

    With the presence of technology becoming increasingly necessary in our everyday lives, it is no surprise that wearable technology is gaining so much attention. Although the thought may seem like something coming out of a science fiction movie, people have been entertaining the idea for decades. From the calculator wrist watch introduced in 1975, to the digital hearing aid in 1987, it is clear wearable technology has come a long way over the last few years. We now have technology capable of monitoring your sleep, tracking the amount of calories burned throughout the day, and allowing people to control prosthetic limbs with signals from the brain. Although still not widely used in the public today, it looks like wearable technology won’t be going anywhere soon. Here in Orange County, many companies have taken notice of the trend and begun introducing their own pieces of wearable tech.

    One of the most talked about pieces of wearable technology is the smart watch. Irvine-based Martian Watches allows customers to get notifications on the go, text hands-free, answer and make phone calls, and even includes a speaker and noise cancelling microphone. Another company based in Irvine that is gaining a lot of attention is Oculus, who recently introduced its Rift goggles. This computer-generated reality headset allows individuals to enter their favorite games and explore another virtual world. With an idea so innovative it is no surprise Oculus was recently acquired by Facebook for $2 billion! Although the goggles are still in the works, it is only a matter time before they create the ultimate 3-D world for gamers and become increasingly popular when released to the public.

    Foothill Ranch-based Oakley has also joined the fad by introducing snow goggles that can display mph inside the frame, as well as the location of other individuals wearing the goggles on the same mountain. They have also paired with Google Glass, which will “combine high-end technology with Avant-Garde design.”

    Google Glass has become one of the more popular wearable tech devices in the news, which consists of voice recognition software allowing individuals to take pictures, videos, send emails, access the internet, receive notifications, and more. University of California Irvine, UCI, has recently teamed up with Google, becoming the first medical school in the United States to bring Google Glass into the classroom. The Dean of UCI’s medical school, Dr. Ralph V. Clayman stated, “Enabling our students to become adept at a variety of digital technologies fits perfectly into the ongoing evolution of health care into the ongoing evolution of health care into a more personalized, participatory, home-based and digitally driven endeavor.” UCI is beginning to introduce the use of wearable technology in the medical field, and will allow students and future physicians to communicate with each other hands-free, learn how to perform minimally invasive surgeries, and view live broadcasts of training activities and medical procedures.

    Overall, the idea behind this technology is simple: to improve the quality of life, as well as simplify obstacles we encounter in our everyday lives. With all the different types of wearable tech coming out every month, we can be sure its presence in the media isn’t going away anytime soon. According to researcher Mike Liebhold, “Both Google Glass and Samsung watches are very early, crude prototypes for much more interesting and useful devices that will be widely used by 2025.” Although it may not seem like a necessity now, there is no telling what role wearable technology will play in our future. It wasn't too long ago when smartphones were first introduced. Today it seems almost impossible to live without an accessible GPS system or immediate access to our social networks. Some people debate that wearable technology introduces ethical, safety, and privacy concerns. Most companies have taken measures to address these issues, but for the most part, the pros of this cutting-edge technology definitely seem to outweigh the cons. If research is correct, wearable tech will continue to become increasingly popular among the public, and may one day become a necessary accessory to accomplish our everyday routines. 

  • 4 tips to help you hire engineers in a world where devs hold all the cards

    Engineering is such a specific industry where experience, education, and background are some of the top things to look for in a candidate, and certain companies won’t hire a candidate if those three categories are not up to par. However, the alignment of those categories should not be the only determination in moving forward with a candidate. That would be a huge mistake and can cause serious repercussions. Practice Manager Samantha Epstein explains in VentureBeat how recruiters and hiring managers alike can fully evaluate engineering candidates and ensure there is a mutual fit for the position and the company.

    VentureBeat: If you’re an engineering hiring manager, chances are you have a list of technical questions that are your gold standard for evaluating potential hires, right? Technical ability is imperative, of course. But are you getting the talent you really need? Hiring managers make the mistake of leaving it up to HR or the CEO to keep tabs on the hiring landscape. You can’t afford to do that anymore.

    In the article, Samantha has highlighted four key recommendations for hiring managers who are looking to hire top talent, including:

    1. Know the hiring landscape. - It’s absolutely essential that, as a hiring manager, you understand the hiring conditions in your market. As the boss of the people you hire, finding the right person to hire impacts you more than anyone else.
    2. Up your game. - How fast are you able to hire? If your competitors are hiring in five days, and it takes your company 15, you are going to lose the opportunity to hire top talent. Be aware that, like you, the best candidates are simultaneously interviewing more than one company.
    3. Sell your company. - No, you don’t have to be a salesperson; you do have to let your passion for your company shine through. Why do you love working for the company? Talk about it. What has enhanced your own career here the most? Candidates are looking for challenges they can thrive on. What are you offering that will do that?
    4. Ditch the script. - Every interview is unique and situational. Toss your script and instead use a guided conversation. In fact, move the interview out of your office and go grab a cup of coffee with the candidate. Then talk.

    You can read Samantha Epstein’s full article here on VentureBeat: 4 tips to help you hire engineers in a world where devs hold all the cards

  • The Importance of Learning How to Code

    Article by Ryan Brittain, Division Manager of Workbridge Chicago.

    Let’s face it, our school systems are outdated in a lot of ways. We still teach cursive, and while it looks nice, I haven’t written in cursive once as an adult. I sometimes think how much more useful it would have been to learn basic HTML rather than mastering something that is reserved for Thank You letters. Most people aren’t exposed to any sort of computer class that encompasses anything other than learning how to type or play Oregon Trail (I always go meager rations and strenuous pace) until college, if that. And then in college, you will only learn if you elect to take those classes.

    Increasingly, there has been a movement for people from other disciplines to learn how to code.  It seems logical considering that almost everything from our financial systems, infrastructure, and even military run on software that only a small percentage of people actually understand. 

    In Chicago specifically, there are more companies hiring SW Developers than there are people who know how to code! Those interested in learning have to pay, sometimes a significant amount, to get started at places like Code Academy or Dev Bootcamp.

    The truth is, there are recourses out there for people interested in learning that don’t have the money to invest up front. My office has recently begun co-organizing a meetup group called Anyone Can Learn to Code. It meets once a month and spends an evening teaching people the basics of how to code. Our first meeting was on April 7th and we learned about Ruby, and practiced coding. We've also explored how to use HTML to build webpages. We did a presentation on Rails in May and next up is JavaScript!

    Chicago's not the only city involved in this movement. If you do a little research, you should find that most big cities where developers are in high demand have resources that can help get you started. An intro meetup group is only a small step towards changing the way society looks at code and the people who are actually equipped to write their own. Hopefully, in the next few years we'll see more schools taking notice and giving students access to this knowledge at an earlier age.

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