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  • UI and UX Developers and FinTech in Chicago

    Article by Riley Hutchinson, Practice Manager in Workbridge Chicago

    I have been recruiting in the UI/UX market in Chicago for two years now, and recently have seen a huge increase in demand for developers and designers in the financial space. Right now, my client list ranges from huge trading firms like the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, to companies on the verge of going public like Enova Financial, and up-and-coming start-ups with serious funding looking to build a product from scratch, like Avant Credit and Dough.com. For UI engineers, architecting the user experience of a financial product provides some really interesting challenges to solve.

    Financial technology or fintech, as it is more recently known, has seen a huge increase in popularity, especially in Chicago which has historically been a financial hub. Most of these fintech companies are centered on taking the archaic, slow moving, and overly corporate stereotype out of the finance industry. In a recent article in ChicagoInno, an online publication focused on online innovation, Will Flanagan, General Manager, sited, “With the city's storied history of innovation in the financial service industry and its emerging tech and innovation economy, Chicago will play a critical leadership role in the evolving worldwide financial frontier.” From my experience, that couldn’t be more accurate, and because of it there are a few points worth considering when talking about a career at a financial company.

    Money

    Engineers at trading firms are responsible for highly trafficked, low latency applications— companies recognize the high-pressure nature of this task and pay extremely competitive. This is, in part, why engineers rarely leave fintech companies. Their competitive salaries and overall benefits package makes for very low turnover.

    Tech

    Generally, there are two sides to working fintech that attract engineers searching for a challenge. First, there’s the task of taking complex – and arguably boring – B2B tools and designing them so that they’re easy to understand and navigate. Making algorithms, numbers, graphs and large sets of data look aesthetically appealing is a huge UX challenge. Then there is the UI challenge of exchanging money. Startups are popping up all over the place, making it easier and easier to make payments and exchange cash and with that ease comes an increased need for payment security. Ask any security expert and they’ll tell you constructing those secure channels is no easy feat.  Additionally, any company where money is exchanged internationally brings with it many additional complex legalities and moving parts.

    Autonomy

    If you’re looking into a well-funded startup not only will you be compensated competitively, but you’ll also be able to build a product from the ground up. Sure, that comes with working at any startup, but the financial industry isn’t going anywhere any time soon— a financial startup is a safer bet than investing your career in the next deal website or car sharing app. Many people don’t like the thought of working at financial companies because they view it as working for “the man”, but the reality is the work done is relevant, helps people, fast-paced and always changing.

    Culture

    One of the most popular misconceptions surrounding fintech is the perceived culture or lack thereof. The common stereotype has been that financial firms and companies are overly corporate, out of date technically, and giant cubicle farms where you have to wear a suit. But that is no longer the case.

    Take, for example, CME Group which uses one of the most cutting-edge Ruby on Rails stacks in the industry and has been at the forefront of obliterating that stereotype. Enova is another company that invests in their engineers and is very involved in the community. They host the Ember Meetup and senior engineers at Enova contribute to Ember on Github. Additionally, companies like Avant and other Ruby shops are putting a huge premium on company cultures and seriously investing in their engineers. They pride themselves on hiring smart people who can problem solve. Recently, I helped them hire a Notre Dame graduate with a couple months of internship experience at a very competitive salary solely because he was smart. To me, that seems like the most un-corporate move of all time. They’re confident they can fit him into their company structure as he matures technically. This candidate probably wouldn’t have been hired by a more traditional company because he didn’t have a ton of relevant experience. But Avant recognized his potential and snapped him up before their competitors.

    So if you’re a UI engineer or a UX designer in Chicago or elsewhere, turned off by the idea of working for a seemingly slow-moving, out-of-date, and overly corporate finance company—it may be time to rethink your stance.

  • How Company Brands Define the Type of Talent Attracted

    Article by Cory Eustice, Division Manager of Workbridge Orange County

    “One interaction at a time.”

    Everything that you do in business can be defined by this phrase, and one of the most important things that a business can achieve through interactions is their “hiring brand”. Your hiring brand is an extension of yourself and your business, and it can either open doors to potential employees for you or it can shut them out before you even have the chance to interact with them.

    Building a hiring brand starts with having a clear and defined vision of what you want it to represent. Your brand could be as simple as a personal reputation, or as large as the representation of your entire organization. Do you want to be known as the company that constantly has open roles, but is a resume black hole? Or do you want to be known for having a continuous feedback loop in your hiring process that gives potential employees an enjoyable hiring experience? Obviously these are two extremes, but where you sit on the spectrum will either bring you topnotch candidates, or it will shut someone off to giving your company a chance.

    As Division Manager of a technical recruiting agency, I deal with companies every day that find it incredibly difficult to attract top talent for their organization. The first thing I always do is dissect their hiring process and typically find that there is a breakdown in the feedback function of the process. Either candidates never hear back from the company, or they hear back in an untimely manner. Companies too often are drawn to solely focusing on their top targets, which causes them to let talent slip away and create an ‘outside looking in’ dynamic. What companies and employees forget is that everyone knows someone and that someone could be their next lead engineer, head of marketing, or vice president of sales. If you or your company left a bad taste in the mouth of a jobseeker, it can spread to their network and lead to individuals in their network not reading your emails or answering your calls without you ever knowing why.

    The way I practice having a quality brand in my office is making it a point to get back to everyone within 48 hours, whether it be about a resume submittal or an interview. These simple interactions help build my office’s own hiring brand and make it easily maintainable. I get that everyone is busy, but taking the time to write a quick email can save you the headache of not capturing top talent down the road. I have worked with countless people looking for jobs that were so appreciative of the feedback they received, good or bad, that they later referred their friends and colleagues to me even if I didn’t successfully find them a new role. The fact of the matter is this – because my hiring brand has a quality reputation based on the experiences of the people I interact with, my hiring brand brought candidates to me that I would have most likely otherwise not found. I strongly believe building this strategy within an individual company can bring the same results.

    Once your hiring brand is established, it is important to maintain it and ultimately expand it. There are various avenues a company can take that will do this. One of the most effective I have found is through networking events, like meet-ups. By going to meet-ups, you develop a face in the community and if you actually interact with the people, (I know, novel idea-right?), you can become an expert in that community on your subject matter. You can also take your brand a step further by either hosting your own meet-up or simply sponsoring one, which will give your company some type of interaction with a particular community.

    I’ve seen the advantages of building a hiring brand and encourage you to do the same. In what ways has your company established its hiring brand?

  • How to Hire a .NET Engineer

    Article by Kathleen Nealon, Practice Manager in Workbridge New York

    The competition for engineering talent around the country has become very stiff and one of the most competitive places to find good engineers is New York City. Here in NYC, the tech hub is growing rapidly and even starting to rival Silicon Valley. “Silicon Alley” is becoming a force to be reckoned with. Between 2009 and 2013, venture capital invested in the New York metro area was up 76% and the fourth quarter of 2013 was the first since 2001 to attract more than $1 billion.

    With all of this money going into startups, companies are looking to hire the best engineers on the market. Often the first couple of tech hires are crucial for the company’s growth and success down the line. When it comes time to hire the first couple of engineers and developers, whether you are looking for a PHP Developer or .Net Developer, it has become no secret that both are very hard to find. Why is that?

    As a Technical Recruiter who has been working the New York market for the past five years, I have seen a lot of changes from the 2009-2010 market compared to 2014 and have come up with four theories about why it is so hard to hire a .NET Engineer.

    The term “.NET Engineer” is used too broadly

    .Net is a framework created by Microsoft that developers can use to create applications more easily. A framework is essentially a bunch of code that the programmer can call without having to write it explicitly. Therefore .NET Engineers (and .NET Developers) are best defined as a type of web programmer with a strong understanding of the .NET framework.

    Saying you need a .NET Engineer/Developer is an extremely general statement and without giving any more information, you most likely won’t get exactly what you’re looking for.

    So, in other words, it isn’t .NET Engineers in general that are hard to find; it is the specific skill sets and areas of expertise that are a challenge to find.

    There are many .Net Engineers out there, but their skill set doesn’t always match what companies think they need 

    Speaking in terms of numbers, there may not be a lack of .NET Engineers but rather a lack of understanding about what skills would make a good fit.

    Most employers are currently looking for five plus years of .NET development experience even though the .NET framework has only become widespread within the last few years. A possible solution to this dilemma is for employers to start considering more entry level developers who have the passion, desire and potential to learn and grow into the role.

    Also, if hiring managers set their expectations or requirements too tightly, they can lose sight of solid developers. For example, say a company was ideally looking for someone with Java experience but come across an amazing C++ developer. It’s important to determine which skill sets and languages are “must have” versus “nice to have” at the beginning of the hiring process so as not to miss out on great developers with a lot of potential and flexible skill sets.

    Companies want an experienced and highly skilled employee, but aren’t willing to train to get that person

    A lot of highly qualified candidates are already employed and may, at most, be passively looking for new positions. The unemployment rate for technology professionals fell to 3.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 compared to the total U.S. Unemployment Rate of 6.3 percent.

    .NET changes very frequently, so it can often be hard for developers and engineers to keep up with every update. Realistically, it’s almost impossible for someone to know all of .NET, therefore, either engineers need to be constantly learning in order to stay up to date on what’s current or companies need to help them.

    A big part of my job is helping hiring managers set realistic expectations around skills and what they need in a candidate versus what they would really like to have. I also like to advise my candidates on what hiring managers are looking for and what training could make them even more competitive within the industry.

    Often, managers are looking for people who are experts in many aspects of technology. They spend months searching for these individuals and not find anyone because it is so hard to find candidates in this market who can hit every category on the hiring manager’s wish list. I always suggest that my clients hire people who are eager to learn and passionate about the role— the company can always train for the unmet points on the wish list.

    Companies hiring processes may take too long for “hot” candidates

    Lastly (and specifically on the .NET side) a lot of large corporations in New York City use .NET but, because of their size, the hiring process can be a timely ordeal with many different steps. This often results in hot candidates taking jobs at smaller to mid-size companies because they can move quicker.

    Overall, there may be a large number of .NET Engineers in New York City but finding the perfect candidate for you company can be very challenging. By determining exactly what skills you need in an employee, searching for someone who is willing to learn and train on new technologies, and is passionate about the opportunity you have to offer will help you speed up your hiring process in order to find the hottest available candidates for your company.

  • Wearables: The Newest Form of Mobile Technology

    Article by Ed Vitela, Practice Manager in Workbridge Los Angelos

    Wearable technology is the latest and most exciting form of mobile technology and is one which promises to bring even further changes to our daily lives. At this point in time, about everyone owns, or knows someone who owns, a smartphone. The 'smart' technology that we have become accustomed to associating with our phones is quickly branching out of 'phone only' territory and into other wearable devices.

    Apple Watch, Google Glass, Fitbit, Jawbone UP and other fitness trackers are just a few examples of the smart accessories, smart apparel, and smart "things" providing us with a glimpse into the ever expanding window of our technological future. Smartphones, such as iOS and Android devices, have produced capabilities and conveniences, in both our personal and professional lives, which were unimaginable a decade ago. Many would find it unnecessarily difficult to go a single day without utilizing at least one form of mobile technology or another, and it this mentality which has paved the way for wearables to be highly anticipated and sought after.

    As with any new technology, there are benefits as well as possible drawbacks given the wide array of wearables currently available. Ongoing arguments for and against wearables, both in their current state, as well the larger implications that may come with them in the future, may cause some to dismiss wearables altogether. However, this is a forward movement that cannot be ignored. Discussion is the impetus of change, and the first step to imagination becoming reality.

    Wearable technology will not stay limited to its current state, but will progress and evolve just as its technological predecessors. While leisure and luxury products receive the most attention, the technology also provides huge opportunities to businesses and quality of life with its unique ability to capture data that had previously been unable to be gathered, analyzed and used in a meaningful way. Wearables should not only be utilized, but fully embraced. They are powerful tools to facilitate and ease our work and our personal lives, and may even one day help us overcome our own limitations.

  • The Growing Demand for Data Scientists

    Article by Scott Brosnan, Practice Manager in Workbridge San Francisco 

    Companies are using data to better understand consumers and the immense amount of new data pouring into their system. They know that this just might be the most important driver of business for success in today’s world. Whether it is a small startup or a multi-billion company like Netflix or Facebook, data is at the core in making better business decisions. Companies now save every detail about every click of the mouse. Online companies are able to track the browsing patterns and habits of their users. This allows them to use that data to attract new users with similar profiles and characteristics of existing users. 

    There is a growing demand for individuals who can analyze this data and derive insights from it. This trend will continue to grow as more companies are trying to find ways to capitalize on this information. Companies are willing to (or having to) pay top dollar for individuals that possess these abilities.

    A recent McKinsey report revealed some staggering statistics in the data science field.  There are roughly 140,000 people that are working as data scientists right now, and by the year 2018 there will be a shortage of 150,000 to 190,000 people with data science abilities. The field is just so new that it is a simple supply and demand issue. Every company is trying to make more sense of their data and find ways to most effectively use it. There are just not enough people with the skill set to keep up with the demand. 

    Most data scientists right now have studied mathematics, statistics or computer sciences.  Unbelievably, up until 2 years ago there was no data science or data analytics programs or major option in any university or school. One of the best indicators for the increasing need for data scientist, are the number of programs that are popping up around the country. We have seen programs begin at University of California, Berkeley, University of San Francisco and Indiana University.

     

    As more and more companies look to take advantage of their data, the demand for data scientists will continue to grow.

  • San Francisco’s Latest Tech Problem: Everyone Has a Job

    Article by Lauren Winklepleck, Lead Recruiter in Workbridge San Francisco   

    It seems like almost every technology-based startup in the San Francisco area is hiring for someone that is technical. Whether that be for a DevOps Engineer, Big Data/Hadoop Developer, Ruby on Rails Engineer, or a UI/UX Designer— the SF tech market is booming dramatically and now more than ever…even more than in the dotcom boom of the early 2000’s!

    Back in the first quarter of 2001 there were roughly 32,521  high tech jobs open in San Francisco whereas in Q4 of 2013 there were approximately 53, 319 open tech jobs (source: CBRE research analysis of CA employment development data). That’s a 63.9% increase in 12 years!

    So with over 50,000 open tech jobs in San Francisco, how are these startups filling their roles and capturing great talent?

    There are a several ways these startups are filling their roles— the most effective way, I’ve observed, is keeping in touch with personal networks as well as expanding them.

    Successful hiring managers are reaching out to past colleagues, buddies from college, and even developers they overhear doing a technical phone interview on the MUNI train! 

    In San Francisco, specifically, software engineers have a 2% unemployment rate compared to 4.4% unemployment nationwide. The job market for engineers is hotter than ever, meaning companies will do whatever it takes to make their next great hire.

    As startups continue to receive more funding, more tech jobs will open, which will continue to make the competition for candidates harder than ever—this trend shows no sign of slowing. It’s exciting to see where the San Francisco tech market will be a year from now!

  • The Growing Relationship Between Tech and Education

    Article by Christine Arnold, Lead Marketing Specialist in Workbridge Chicago.

    It’s crazy how much back-to-school checklists have changed since I was in school. I remember how excited I used to get to pick out a new matching set of folders, a pack of fancy roller-ball pens, a trapper-keeper I could decorate with white-out doodles. Fine, maybe I was an office-supply nerd. But those lists these days read a little differently. My sister is going into her freshman year of High School this year, and I was shocked when she told me that her school required the use of tablets in place of text books. Computers? In the classroom? I wasn’t even allowed to remove my Walkman from my backpack while I was on premises!

    She has the option of bringing her own tablet, or of renting one from the school. I assume there’s some sort of financial aid system in place to provide them to students who can’t afford the rental fees. Then, a week before school starts, the students are invited to a mandatory orientation where instructors walk them through which apps to download, and how to navigate them once they do. You’re probably wondering what’s stopping these kids from playing Angry Birds all class. The apps lock down the device so that they can’t access other applications.

    All of this got me thinking about the growing relationship between technology and education. What else is out there that wasn’t around while I was in school? Well, it as it turns out, there’s a lot. In Chicago alone, we’ve got an array of companies doing some really amazing things in the education space. Packback Books, a company that was recently featured on SharkTank, is making huge waves in the textbook industry. They offer affordable short-term rentals of many college textbooks, and their inventory is only continuing to grow. How amazing would that option have been when you were in school? I know I spent upwards of $1000 each semester on my textbooks alone. It would’ve been nice to put some of that money toward tuition instead.

    Another really cool company is Overgrad. They’re a student tracking system that helps create awareness about colleges starting day-1 of your freshman year of high school. They use student data to project which colleges the student will be a good fit for. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even start thinking about college until after I took the ACT my junior year. Not that I regret my decisions, but I imagine that whole process would have been much less overwhelming if the onslaught of information had been gradual. And think about kids in lower income or rural areas, where going to college isn’t necessarily a given. Starting students off prepared and with realistic goals and expectations, and the chance to alter their performance based on those goals, will set them up for a life of success. It gives them more control over their own future.

    If you’re interested in learning about more Chicago companies revolutionizing education, check out this event we’re sponsoring on August 20th: Back to School Ed Tech Demos & Drinks.

  • The Power of a Thank You Note

    Article by Anneika Kerr, Lead Recruiter in Workbridge Boston

    In your job search, chances are you will be introduced to a variety of companies and, most importantly, to many people. Therefore following up those interactions to show your appreciation can positively impact both your job search and your future. In fact, studies have found that a “thank you” note can help you land a new job.

    ·         90% of hiring managers said that being thanked for a job interview had a helpful impact on the candidate’s chances

    ·         Over 80% of hiring managers stated that email and phone calls are appropriate ways to thank an employer

    These notes shouldn’t be long and laborious; instead, it is always best to be concise but memorable. Your note should cover 3 parts: appreciation for their time, why you would be a good fit for the role and in the company, and mention of the future. See below an example:

    Hi Rick –

    It was wonderful meeting you on Monday for an initial interview. I appreciate you taking the time to explain to me how Spear Mint, Inc. works and what you’re looking for in a developer for your team.

    We’d spoken about the need for a full stack developer who understands how to design a simple solution for a complex problem. While at Bubble Yum, Inc. I’d worked on two projects from soup to nuts and feel confidently that my skill set would be an asset on your team.

    I look forward to continuing our conversation with your team in the future.

    Best,

    Solomon

    No hiring manager is looking for a 2 page letter. Just a few quick thoughts on why you are a great fit is all that’s needed. These notes assist in the building of a relationship between you and the interviewer, as well as their company. Here in our SF office, we have seen the benefits countless times.  

    Recently we worked with a candidate, Mike, who was newly on the job market. He mentioned a response he had received, a year prior, to a thank you note he had written. During the initial interview process, he’d found another job and let the manager know while also thanking him for his time. The response Bob received was to get back in touch if he was ever looking again, so he had us reach out. After two interviews and two more thank you notes – my office congratulated him on his new job with that same manager.

    That is the power of a thank you note. 

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