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Archive: March - 2013 (13)

  • Tech in Motion Presents "Women in Tech" Panel Discussion

    This past week, Workbridge Associates' NYC office partnered with Tech in Motion to host an awesome event at Alley NYC in celebration of Women's History Month. Together they were able to gather an incredible group of influential women working in the tech community to speak on a panel regarding issues such as education, hurdles faced in and out of the work place, market news and much more. 

    We would like to thank our wonderful panelists:

    We would also like to give a special thanks to Rachel Sklar, Co-founder of and of Change The Ratio as well as member of the Lean In launch committee and board member of the non-profit She's The First for taking a moment to speak to our audience about the Lean In movement.

    Tech in Motion NYC members networking before the panel begins.

    Tech in Motion members networking and enjoying pizza and beer before the panel begins.

    It's a full house for Women in Tech at AlleyNYC!

    Beth Gilfeather introducing herself to the audience of Tech in Motion members.

    If you missed this event, check out our recap video of Women in Tech presented by Tech in Motion NYC.

  • The Path to Linux System Engineering

    By: Matt Rogers, Lead Recruiter at Workbridge Boston

    The tech world is moving towards Open Source, it’s a fact of life.  Many new and exciting companies and applications are appearing every single day because of this- just take a look at what Google is doing….it’s crazy!  It is very clear as to what this means for programmers, CEOs, CTOs and VC firms, but what does it mean to the System Administrator?  As a technical recruiter here at Workbridge Associates Boston, this is a topic that is brought to my attention pretty often so I thought I would share some of my opinions in a more public forum.

    Remember when Linux systems were pretty much a joke? This was true especially here in Boston.  No respectable company would set up such a thing. There was almost no documentation, security was a nightmare, and forget about setting up a large scale, high availability environment.  It was Windows or bust!  Then, the Open Source movement really took off and the top minds in software started working “together” in online forums to build not only really cool applications but developing some very powerful, object oriented languages.  These languages continued to be improved upon and used to build ground breaking applications; not just the website of your friend’s band anymore.  Fast forward a few years later and top companies such as Fidelity have a team that exclusively works with PHP while everyone and their brother is looking for that “Ruby on Rails Astronaut” or some such nonsense that pays them $130k salaries.  Open Source is not only a legit player in the tech world but has now become the dominant force. 

    Currently, there are large and small tech companies as well as major corporations that are running mission critical applications on 3000 server environment that are all RedHat, Apache and MySQL.  System Engineers that have this type of skill set are in high demand; the majority of the jobs that my team and I are recruiting for currently are Linux System Admin and Engineer positions.  Too many folks have been pigeon-holed down the Windows path and did not hop on the bandwagon early enough.  The good news for the savvy, interested System Engineers out there is that you do not need to be left at the station of this gravy train!  Linux is Free as are most of the tools that are hot and high in demand right now, and Linux hiring managers LOVE tinkerers!  I advise anyone who is interested in getting into this technology to download Ubuntu or CentOS to your home machine (these are GUI based Linux systems that are easier to cut your teeth on).  Many other resources are at your fingertips as well and here are a few that I thought were worth mentioning:

    Finally, set yourself up with a github account to document everything that you have worked on so far.  You can collaborate with other people, review your work, and have something to point to for potential new employers to check out, since again, they love tinkerers.   

  • Tech In Motion Silicon Valley: UX Meetup

    On Thursday, March 14th, Workbridge Silicon Valley hosted a Tech In Motion:SV UX Meetup event. It was an outstanding night that brought information about User Experience (UX) to the Silicon Valley Tech community.

    UX Meetup

    UX Meetup

    Tech In Motion:SV had the pleasure of having Wendy Johansson speak at our event. Wendy is the Senior Director of User Experience and UX generalist at Tout, a video social networking startup in the Bay Area. Before joining Tout, Wendy was the User Experience Manager at Oolaya where she not only developed the UX team, but also created a user-centered design strategy for the company.

    Wendy spoke about "Making UX Matter to Your Company" and shared her thoughts on making UX a strategy within a company and not just a deliverable. The energy in the room was ecstatic! UX professionals and techies came together and everyone seemed to agree that user experience should matter to every company. The crowd was so engaged and beguiled that the presentation became more of a discussion between Wendy and the audience.

    UX Meetup

    We were able to ask Wendy a few questions about User Experience after the event. Check out what she had to say!

    WB: A lot of Silicon Valley companies are building in house design teams from scratch. I know that you were the first designer at Ooyala and helped build that team. What is some advice you can give companies when building a team from the ground up?

    Wendy Johansson

    WJ: Don't just hire a bunch of UX folks and expect great UX to be the result! You need to  have every team in the company understand what value UX will bring to the success of your product and be inviting and inquisitive in integrating UX into the company. Without everyone on board, you'll have a frustrated UX team that focuses more energy on fighting for their voice to be heard, instead of fighting for the user's voice to be heard. Second key is to stop seeking a unicorn - you want a UX designer that also front end codes? That's like asking your hairdresser to also design your wardrobe because they both concern outward appearance. It's not the same thing!

    WB: When and how should companies incorporate UX researchers into their team?

    WJ: At Ooyala, we didn't have a dedicated UX research team until we were ready to start building brand new products based on discovery and exploration of the industry. So we hired a really smart UX researcher to join the team and she started working directly with the Account Management team to set up a Customer Database to define what customers we talk to and when. This really helped us as a Product team to build trust with customers by not overloading them with research requests, and by ensuring we work with the same customers through the lifecycle of a product (from exploration to beta to release).


    WB: How can companies do a better job to bridge the gap between engineering and design?

    WJ: Create opportunities for engineers and designers to socialize, debate, and talk outside of a project! During a project, tensions may be running high, so bridging the gap isn't the goal everyone has in mind. Setting up an opportunity like a brown bag lunch or happy hour where the two teams can make mini-presentations about their process, how they make engineering/design decisions, etc. would be a great start. Then I think a lot of the work sits in design's court - designers need to educate the engineers about the user they're designing a product for. Help engineers understand why feature x and y are must-haves for a product launch, help them empathize with the user/persona and want to build something for that user!

    WB: What do you do to motivate your team and foster creativity?

    WJ: I think of my team as people, not as designers. People need to be challenged, need to have room to breathe and do what they're passionate about, and need to have work/life balance. So I'm incredibly concerned about how my team members are feeling as people and like to have very open communication with them about what's exciting or demotivating them. I also want each team member to feel accountable and proud of the quality of the user experience they're creating, so I enjoy "show and tell" of work to other designers (or the entire company!). This gets feedback from your peers and colleagues that you respect and pushes you to always do your best.

    WB: What products inspire you or do you feel have great design that values user experience on a high level?

    WJ: I'm in love with Airbnb! Not only does it give me the opportunity to live as a local during vacations, but their design is elegant, intuitive and friendly - the same vibe I feel from the Airbnb hosts I meet. I think their ability to project their brand values into the user experience on the website/app and in person is amazing.

    Workbridge would like to thank Wendy for accepting our invite to be our guest speaker and for helping us host a successful event! Everyone had a great time and we hope to see more of Wendy in the near future; possibly a UX conference?

  • Tech in Motion Boston: Tech Mixer

    Last week, Tech in Motion hosted their first Tech Mixer, an event that hopes to be repeated. Seeing how Boston's tech scene is absolutely thriving, Tech in Motion wanted to host an event that would bring the people of this community together for a night of great conversation and idea sharing. Boston techie's congregated at Lir on Boylston to enjoy an after work drink while chatting up some of Boston's finest technologists. Also at the event were three start-ups demoing their platforms and services; Fashion Project, Studifi, and ZeroTurnaround. 

    Fashion Project offers people the exclusive service to donate and shop designer labels with a portion of every sale going to charity. Attendees had the chance to talk with Principle Engineer, Chris Jackson, to learn how this philanthropic minded company has brought nonprofits, high tech and high fashion together.

    Studifi, an LMS & Collaboration Platform in the cloud, allows students to team-up within their classes, schedule meetings, exchange files, chat and more. This ground-breaking user experience is designed to increase productivity for students, instructors and institutions. Thomas Lextrait, CEO and Founder, demoed the site and was a great addition to the evening.

    "ZeroTurnaround is dedicated to changing the way the world develops, tests and runs Java applications. Powered by award-winning Hotpatching Technology, JRebel and LiveRebel are revolutionizing the way Development and Operations teams work with Java." Offering Java Productivity tools, a few folks from ZeroTurnaround had the chance to teach attendees about their product and how it could help them in deploying their work.

    Overall it was an amazing night of networking and discussion and we want to thank everyone who came out to the event to put Tech in Motion.

    Our next event is on Tuesday, April 30th where we will host a debate: Clash of the Clouds. Panelist made up of cloud-based developers that have used Azure and variety of open source cloud services will go head to head to discuss which is best.

    Tech in Motion is co-hosted by Workbridge Associates Boston. If you are on the market for a new tech job, check out our open positions.

    Join the conversation and follow us on twitter for the latest tech news, job postings, and #TechinMotion event info! @WorkbridgeMA

  • Understanding Your Job Search as an Entry Level IT Job Seeker!

    By Matt Najera, Vice President of Workbridge Associates

    The biggest mistake entry-level job seekers make is that they are too focused. Remember, your first job is your first job, so focus on just getting an opportunity that is going to give you skills to have options in the future. The other big mistake I see these days is that entry level IT graduates and recent college graduates rely too heavily on online tools. While Twitter, Facebook, Monster and other online services can be very helpful, remember that they are only a piece of the job search, and you still need to get out, network and make connections with people. People hire people, not your resume. This means the more face time networking, the better your chances at making an impression at getting hired.

    Be specific in your job search and resume. Entry level job seekers always want to open themselves up to as many opportunities as possible, but when HR staff and Hiring managers see these resumes, and it looks like the person doesn’t know what they want, they typical pass on that candidate.  If you want to be a Software Developer say so; if you want to get into Systems Administration, then go after it!  People who are specific about what they want, get hired before the people who are still trying to figuring it all out.

    With any job seeker, it’s important to have skills that will allow you to hit the ground running. On your resume, you need to list skills you have that are needed to do the job you’re applying for. Employees are no longer interested in hiring someone they need to train for three months to a year, so any skills you’ve gained, even if it’s from an internship or college work, are important to list.

    One of the best ways to differentiate yourself is to show an actual project you have worked on, whether it’s your own project or one done for a job. It is easy to say, “I worked on a CRM application in my first job, but I can’t show you the source code.” It’s not very common for someone who can come in and leave a copy of the code with the interviewer that proves that they can write quality code. One of the biggest concerns to an employer is your ability to pick up skills fast and mange yourself when hiring entry level IT. 

    In the current market, if you have a good background and strong communication skills, you will have many job options to choose from. However, some of the critical mistake that many entry level IT job seekers make is to think they are “above” a certain job or technology. I hate to tell you this, but, like any industry, you have to work your way up the food chain. Yes, working with some technologies, or in some specific industries, may be potentially career limiting, but they can give you the experience you need to step up to the next level. There are companies in every city that like to hire people directly from college to work on technologies that may not be the most in-demand skill, but those folks are learning a lot about the Big Data techniques and the enterprise environment. That kind of experience will be a big help for them to move on to their next position and give them opportunity to develop skills and critical thinking you may not get in many jobs.

    So the main theme in your job search is take a job based on upon the experience and skills you will learn, and not just have money be the primary factor! You can’t put a price on the skills you will develop now until 3-5 years from now, and it's a pretty safe bet that you will not be retiring after your first job.

  • Why Your Job is Still Open: Bachelor’s Degree Requirements

    By Benjamin Eisenberg, Lead Recruiter for Workbridge DC


    The market for strong Systems and Network Engineers is as competitive as it’s been in recent memory. Most good candidates are fielding multiple offers within weeks of beginning their search, so the margin for error is thin for hiring managers looking to bring someone on board. One of the most common mistakes companies make when looking for talent is to put self-imposed constraints on their search. Chief among these is a Bachelor’s Degree requirement, which can lead to weeks of frustration as qualified candidates accept jobs with companies that are more flexible.

    It’s easy to understand why HR departments implement degree requirements across the board. Certain professionals are expected to have completed degrees at the very minimum in order to compete in the modern market (accountants, doctors and lawyers come to mind).

    However, when it comes to technology professionals, there are a couple of important distinctions to make. One is that talented IT professionals are in higher demand than most other types of employees, even in the post-recession economy.

    According to Techflash, the unemployment rate among software developers in the U.S. was just 4.4% in the fourth quarter of 2011, about half the national unemployment rate. It’s a matter of simple supply and demand – there are very few engineers who are good at what they do and a lot of companies that need them.

    It’s also important to understand the differences between software developers who write code and network/systems engineers who deal with servers, security and network infrastructure. Network infrastructure engineers are similarly in demand, but unlike software developers many of them don’t have college degrees. That doesn’t mean they aren’t very good at what they do.

    In fact, if your company needs a Linux or Security Engineer with a degree, you’re likely in for an even longer wait than if you need a Windows Engineer (and if you’re wondering if Linux is in demand, you probably missed this Wall Street Journal article )!

    Passing on a qualified systems or security engineer because they don’t have a bachelor’s degree is recipe for leaving your vacancy open for months on end, putting additional strain on the rest of the team and potentially leading them to post their resumes online as well.

    Not hiring a Linux, Security, Windows or Cisco engineer based on their lack of bachelor’s degree is the equivalent of a general manager in baseball passing up on an all-star shortstop because they didn’t graduate with a master’s in economics. If the candidate you’re interviewing seems like a good fit for the job, pull the trigger and hire them!

  • Why Do Start-Ups Fail?

    By Dan McGuigan, Practice Manager of Workbridge Chicago.

    There are many reasons why start-ups fail, but the majority of them fall under one vague heading of: Founder’s don’t know what they're doing. I have noticed throughout the last 2 years of working with many start-ups that often, the co-founder will either have good business savvy but no technical experience or vice-versa. It’s important that there is a good combination of both.

    There are so many variables that go into the broad/vague heading of "clueless founders". I have put them into 4 distinct categories: Technology, Location, Funding, and Market.

    Technology is an important aspect for any start-up, and not only the choice of technology. Obviously there are advantages and disadvantages to each language, but it's important to consider the ability to scale, find talent, and to make sure to instill best practices from the beginning. This choice isn’t something that needs to be set in stone, and can change throughout the process. However, it’s important to focus on the choice early and to address the advantages and disadvantages of each option. You should ask yourself these questions: 

    1. How easy is it to find engineers or developers that are experts?
    2. Are your technical choices attracting the best talent; i.e. are you using cutting edge tech?
    3. How easy is this platform going to be to scale?
    4. Can we build this from a prototype into a platform where you can attract and handle users? Are we committed to best practices with coding?
    5. Are we implementing unit testing and making sure that we are building a solid foundation?

    Location is another huge consideration when opening up a new shop. Not only is it important to consider what city to open up in, it’s also important to consider what part of the city to open up in. Although settling in the suburbs can be a lot cheaper in terms of rental space and overhead costs, in my experience, I’ve seen it deter many top-tier candidates because they’re unwilling to make the commute. This will actually raise costs because if you can't find the talent, it will take longer to deploy your product. Another consideration of picking out your prime real estate is the availability of developers. Ask yourself, are you really in a place that will attract the top talent?

    Funding, funding, funding. Funding makes the world go ‘round and ultimately will be the determining factor of success. There are many types of funding: venture, seed, and angel are some of the most common. Whatever option or options you choose, find it sooner than later. Pitching for funding is one of the best ways to engage really smart and experienced people in a conversation about your start-up. Not only is it a great way to get advice and feedback from people who actually know what they're doing, it’s also going to get your idea to the market sooner, which, especially in the tech industry can mean everything.

    Funders are going to look for ways to rip holes into your concepts and ideas, (this is a good thing). They are literally going to be invested in you and your idea; they want to make sure it’s a good investment. Most of the time, these individuals have had experience in the industry and can teach from their mistakes.

    Lastly, one of the biggest reasons start-ups fail is because their market is too niche. Maybe there isn’t as much of a demand for the service or product. Or, on the other hand, there’s too much competition. To avoid these mishaps it’s important to do your research before you launch, build your network, engage investors, and accept criticism.

    Networking is a key player when in early launch. Get out to meetups and get your name out there. For nearly the past two years (Wow! Time flies!) we’ve been hosting a meetup called Tech In Motion: Chicago which features an early stage start-up discussing their idea to a panel of Venture Capitalists, VPs of Engineering, and other highly experienced individuals in the industry. The idea behind this is to have a forum that will allow for “constructive criticism” from the panel and audience to poke holes into the idea. The belief behind this is that 2 heads are better than 1. My advice is to own this criticism and to keep an open mind to some of the advice because it’s free, it’s knowledgeable, and it can’t hurt to address the concerns.

  • Tread Lightly When Discussing Reasons for Leaving Your Job

    By Evan Gordon, Regional Director of Workbridge Philadelphia

    In today's market, some candidates have trouble explaining the reason they left their last position in a way that doesn't set off red flags with their perspective employer. During the course of my career I have heard a multitude of reasons, because candidates often feel more comfortable being "blunt" with a recruiter. However, it is important to realize that a hiring manager or human resources professional will often use these facts to decide whether or not to move forward with a candidate. It is important to be honest, but remember to try and look for the positives when explaining why you are looking, or have left positions in the past.

    Let's look at a few common reasons for leaving a job:

    • Career Growth
    • Commute
    • Technology
    • Compensation
    • Issues with coworkers/manager

    Keep in mind that inherently, these may all be valid motives for looking for a new position. And quite frankly, the people you are interviewing with have probably left occupations in the past for some, or all, of the same concerns. A phrase I learned years ago applies here, “it's not always what you say but how you say it.” The way that a job seeker describes the situation which is causing, or has caused them to look for work is usually more of a red flag than the actual issue.

    It is important, when explaining the above, to remain upbeat and go into as much detail as possible. For example, if your main motivation for looking for a new position is due to your career hitting a wall, explain this by going into specifics, instead of just saying "I am looking for a better opportunity." Instead, illustrate why you feel you stagnant, and how this new position will offer the possibility for career growth that is lacking in your current role.

    Also, remember to be conscientious about what you say. Your explanation can be interpreted incorrectly and you don't want your new employer to think you will be quick to jump ship, which will most likely result in no job offer. Perception is reality, and the reality is how you explain your reason for leaving a position is usually a major factor in screening out potential candidates.

    The best thing to do, when preparing for an interview, is to plan exactly what you want to say, and the desired perception. Once you have that down, do a dry run with a friend that you trust, and get their feedback. If your friend comes up with any questions, be sure to practice addressing the various concerns, and edit your explanation, if need be. This is a situation where the old idiom, “practice makes perfect” really applies. You don’t want to sound rehearsed, but going in prepared will make you more comfortable and confident. That will be sure to give you a leg up on your “looking for a better opportunity” competitors.

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