Everyone knows by now that exercise is important to good health. The problem is that most of us don't exercise. We drive everywhere and park as close to the entrance as we can; we watch TV instead of playing games out in our backyards; we use Roomba instead of pushing a vacuum cleaner around. And, of course, we sit in front of our computers for eight hours a day – more, if you're a techie working on a project near deadline.
So, how do you stay healthy when the world conspires to keep you sitting still? Here are five tips that will help you build activity into your day and keep you fit for work, and, more importantly, fit for the rest of your life, too.
1. Move around the office. Email, instant messaging, and the phone mean you never have to track down a co-worker to get a question answered, but a face-to-face conversation is a good excuse to get up from your desk and walk around the office. Talking in person is more sociable and will help build your relationship, too.
2. Get a standing desk. If your desk is at standing height, you won't be able to sit down on the job. Some standing desks are easily adjustable, letting you switch between sitting and standing based on your energy. You can also try a treadmill desk, which requires you to walk while you work, but that can be difficult to adjust to in a job that requires concentration and keyboarding.
3. Get out of the office. Don't eat your lunch sitting at your desk. Head out of the office for a walk in a nearby park or even just around the block. Besides the physical benefit of moving, the change of scenery will help clear your head and get you ready for an afternoon of problem solving.
4. Try out an exercise ball seat. You wouldn't want to sit on a wobbly stool, but an exercise ball seat offers just enough of a balance challenge to force you to engage your muscles while you work at your desk.
5. Hold standing meetings. Not only will your meetings be shorter and more focused in a standing meeting, you'll engage your muscles, too.
Sometimes the best move you can make at work is to move to a new job. When you're ready to start your job search, The Armada Group's recruiters can connect you to the perfect opportunity. Contact us to find a job that excites you and makes you happy to fill your desk chair every day.
Recruiting new employees is as much about wooing as is it about screening. You want to find the right hire, and that requires attracting candidates who can help your projects succeed as well as screening out those who just don't fit. In order to draw candidates to you, treat them the way they want to be treated. When it comes to recruiting developers, this means:
Go beyond acronyms.
Developer resumes are filled with acronyms and buzzwords, which present easy filtering criteria. Think about it from the developer's perspective, though: the acronyms on their resume represent every technology they've ever worked with, not just the tech they work with now or the tech they want to work with in the future. Instead of mass mailing or calling every candidate with the skills you need on their resume, take the time to read the resume and see if their experience with that skill is recent. You might think it's more efficient to let the candidates screen themselves out, but overloading their inboxes with inappropriate job listings hurts your reputation and can cause candidates to ignore every mail from you – even if it describes a job they'd be perfect for.
Don't rely on interviews.
Sure, development is a team effort and everyone needs to be able to interact with their peers. But unless you're hiring a lead or support role, most programming jobs are more about spending time with a keyboard than time with people. So while the interview is necessary, don't overemphasize it; many developers simply are introverts and won't do well when pinned down for verbal answers. Instead, use tests to verify a candidate's technical ability to do the job. And when you give those tests, don't make developers talk through their solution standing in front of a white board. No one works that way in reality. Instead, let the programmers develop their solution sitting in front of a computer – the way they will when they're on the job.
Present the job the way it really is.
Both resumes and job descriptions have an element of exaggeration to them; after all, they're both advertisements, in a way. Despite that, don't stretch the truth in your job description or when speaking with candidates in person. Don't try to make the job seem more exciting than it really is. If it's mostly maintenance of existing code rather than new development or there's little opportunity for advancement, be honest about that. It might cost you the chance to hire this particular candidate, but hiring someone who then quits because the job isn't what they signed up for is more expensive.
The Armada Group has been recruiting top technical employees for more than 20 years. We understand the way developers think and what they're looking for at work, and are the experts at matching developers to opportunities. Contact us to talk about your hiring needs and how we can help you recruit the right developer the right way.
Want to reduce turnover on your technology team? You should; it can take months to replace an employee who resigns, and it can cost thousands of dollars to hire their replacement. Those are only the direct costs. There are also other costs that are harder to measure, like the impact on morale when the remaining employees need to take on additional work, and the impact on the business if a project is delayed due to a key employee's departure.
So managers should do their best to keep their developers happy with their work environment to keep them on the job. A recent survey identified the top factors that developers find challenging at work – and not in a good way. Make an effort to eliminate these six factors to retain the employees you need for your projects to succeed:
Setting challenging goals is one thing. Setting impossible goals is another. When management expects more from its developers than they can deliver, whether it's an unreasonable schedule or asking more of a technology than it's capable of, the developers know there's no way they can succeed.
It's impossible to develop a quality application if you don't understand the business requirements or how the existing code works. Documentation that leaves many unanswered questions, or is missing entirely, frustrates developers. It means they can't start developing the solution without spending a ton of time just figuring out what they're working on.
Related to poor documentation, unspecific requirements make it impossible to tell what needs to be done to make the end users happy. Developers often read between the lines and guess, only to find out at the testing phase that they guessed wrong and need to redo their work.
Inefficient development processes.
If the team doesn't have efficient tools and procedures in place, developers spend a lot of time on administrative and manual tasks to track, manage, and build packages. That's time the developers would rather spend developing.
Fragile code base.
It's tough to create a quality project on a shaky foundation. No matter what the vision of a new release is, if the existing code is poorly structured, difficult to reuse, and easy to break, developers have to spend a lot of time reworking existing code before they get to the fun part of writing new features.
A lot of mental energy gets invested in designing and coding an application, so developers get attached to the features they're working on. When requirements change often, developers have to put that aside and start something new. That can be tough for them to accept.
Of course, even if you avoid all these issues, you'll still have employees occasionally resigning – life happens, after all. When you need to find top talent, The Armada Group takes time to understand your needs and match your opening to the ideal candidates. Contact us to learn how we can help you find employees who'll be happily challenged working for you.
You've got all the right skills on your resume but still can't find the right job. Use these six job search tips to amp up your search and make the right career move.
Be prepared to prove your skills.
If you put an acronym or technical skill on your resume, be prepared to show you know what you're talking about. That means more than being able to explain what the acronym stands for. More and more companies will probe your technical skills in detail, either by having you complete an online exam or by answering tough questions at your interview. It's fine to brush up before the interview—it's even fine to admit during an interview that you need to brush up. But don’t claim skills you don't have. Even if you somehow fake it through the interview, if you get hired, but can't get the work done, you'll be looking for another job.
Expect a blind audition.
Performers aren't the only ones who need to audition for work, but those auditions are often more about appearance than talent. In technology, companies are turning to blind auditions to make sure they focus on talent and to avoid discrimination.
Meet coders and employers at hackathons.
Hackathons are a great way to learn and build skills, and they're also great for making connections. If you participate in a hackathon, you may have an "in" with a corporate sponsor. You'll also get to know other coders who may be able to recommend you for opportunities with their company.
Don't chase the hot technologies.
There's plenty of opportunity on the trailing edge, not just the leading edge. It may not be as glamorous as Hadoop, but knowing Cobol is still needed for plenty of tech jobs. While you may want to hold out for working with new technology, if your job search is taking longer than you'd like, consider looking for a position that works with more established tools.
Practice your people skills.
Even technical jobs require interacting with other people, and most companies will assess your interpersonal abilities as well as your technical chops. Behavioral interviews go beyond asking what you've done and the technical tools you've worked with to probe how you handle situations.
It gets frustrating to go to interview after interview, but it's important to keep your energy up. Employers want to hire someone who's excited to come to work every day, someone who cares about the work, not just the paycheck. Make sure you express your enthusiasm for the business and project, and that you can see yourself making contributions there long term. Companies want to hire people who'll stick around—they don't enjoy the search process any more than you do.
The letters "I" and "X" are pretty far apart on a keyboard, but type UI and type UX, and suddenly the distance between them isn't very clear at all. Both UI, which stands for User Interface, and UX, which stand for User Experience, relate to the design of a product's interface. Choose a job in one or the other and you'll be doing something very different on a day-to-day basis.
UI developers focus on the visible pieces of an application's interface. UI designers specify how specific elements are laid out on specific pages of the application. They also ensure that the overall look of the product is consistent. Their job is to make sure the application looks good using tools like HTML and CSS.
UX developers focus on the entire experience users have while working with an application. Their job is to make sure that using the application feels good, and often conduct experiments with users to identify troublesome spots in the application's flow. UX developers don't build pages; they create wireframes and storyboards to show how the application will work.
Which Career Should You Choose?
If you like the hands-on work of fine-tuning page layouts and creating graphic elements using Photoshop, working as a UI designer will satisfy your creative urges. If you tend to a more analytical kind of thinking and enjoy research, working as a UX designer will give you big questions to think about.
You don't necessarily need to choose one path over the other. At many companies, the difference between UI design and UX design isn't a hard distinction; one person may do both tasks for a project, depending on where it is in its development cycle. In those companies, whichever title your role is given, you'll enjoy the challenges of both kinds of design thinking.
You should also realize that you can choose more than once; you can change your mind. Career paths don't have to be a straight line. When you work as a UX developer, you'll work with UI developers, and vice-versa, so you'll be able to see the responsibilities of both titles. If you think you'll be happier in the other role, work with your employer to make the switch. There are plenty of design challenges to go around however you abbreviate your job title.
Do robots hurt manufacturing jobs? As with almost everything, it depends on who you ask and how you word the question. Since technology is continuing to develop – there are now robots that can learn new skills by watching videos on YouTube – understanding their impact on human society is becoming more and more critical.
Yes, Robots Hurt Manufacturing Jobs
Until now, robot workers have been able to perform limited functions that they're programmed for, but that's changing. A robot developed at the University of Maryland learns by watching YouTube videos. It's able to learn new fine motor skills, like cracking an egg, and turn that into a repeatable process. Another robot, created in Finland, was built with a neural network that let it improve its welding skills on its own.
Once robots are able to learn and effectively reproduce procedures without being programmed, they'll be able to move to new areas within the factory more easily. Not only will this hurt assembly-line workers, it will hurt the workers who've moved into robotics programming jobs.
No, Robots Don't Hurt Manufacturing Jobs
Although there's no doubt that robots can replace manufacturing – Foxconn last year announced plans to replace iPhone assembly workers with robots – the overall statistics on the impact don't actually support fears of a robot takeover.
The loss of jobs in manufacturing in the United States is correlated with increased use of robotics, but there were many other economic changes that contributed to job loss at the same time, including globalization and offshoring of jobs. A recent study showed that Germany uses more robots than the U.S., but lost a smaller percentage of its manufacturing jobs. Other countries that use fewer robots than the U.S., such as the United Kingdom and Australia, experienced larger drops in manufacturing employment.
Meeting the Challenge of Robots
The same study found that the biggest impact of robots on workers was for low-skilled workers. Improved vocational training may help workers remain employed. Still, as robots become smarter and more flexible, finding the balance between automation and employment will remain a challenge.
Some companies think DevOps is "just" a support role. Smarter companies realize that DevOps performs a critical business function, and reward their DevOps staff for contributing toward business success. For tech workers who want to make a high income in a DevOps position, identifying companies that value DevOps is key to achieving their goals. If you're considering a DevOps position, look for these signs that the company treats its DevOps team with respect:
The company uses DevOps in its job titles.
Recognizing DevOps as a distinct position means the company has thought about the DevOps role. Companies that align responsibilities with the job title usually align salaries with the responsibilities, as well.
The company looks for specific DevOps skills when hiring.
DevOps positions require more than certification in specific technologies. They require a deep understanding of the business, plus the ability to interact with customers (internal and external) to understand their needs and develop solid solutions to their problems.
The company has integrated DevOps across the development lifecycle.
DevOps is intended to span the development lifecycle, but in many companies it simply covers the turnover to production status when testing completes. Companies that understand the value of DevOps allow developers and operations staff to work cooperatively through the entire lifecycle.
The company has been using a DevOps approach for a while.
The DevOps term was only coined in 2009, and the concept is still spreading across the industry. Companies that bought into the idea early and have been using it for a while are more likely to understand the value of the role and pay DevOps workers high rates.
The entire company culture is collaborative.
DevOps can only flourish in an organization that doesn't have strong boundaries between departments. Companies where DevOps succeeds encourage communication between teams, with a sense of shared responsibility rather than silos.
The company's DevOps employees are enthusiastic.
When you interview with a company, pay attention to the attitude of the employees you talk with. Listen to how they describe their work, its challenges, and its rewards. While you can't ask someone to show you their paystub, you'll get the best sense of how a company treats its DevOps staff by talking to the people currently doing that work.
Nearly everyone carries a small computer in their pocket – there are 120 million smartphone owners in the US. Companies are rushing to redesign websites to work on mobile devices, especially with Google now considering mobile friendliness a factor in search result rankings. That, plus the development of mobile apps, creates a lot of opportunity for smart mobile developers. Because mobile is so hot, though, there's a lot of competition for those jobs. Developers can stand out in their interview by having answers ready for these 10 questions:
1. Can you show me samples of your mobile work? Companies want proof of developer skills, and there's no better proof than a working app or website.
2. What smartphone do you carry? There are quirks on every phone that delight or frustrate end users. Developers who are familiar with the end-user experience on a specific platform are in the best position to develop apps that delight, rather than frustrate.
3. How did your previous apps make money? Apps can use different models to earn a profit; potential employers want to make sure their developers understand how to incorporate features that let the app make money.
4. How do you define the requirements and features for the app? Communication is key to delivering a successful product. If the developer will be working as part of a corporate team, understanding the software development methodology used is critical. If this is an independent development gig, the client needs to know how the developer will keep in touch.
5. What features make an app stand out? Demonstrate knowledge of features like GPS and social media links that can provide innovative functionality and let an app stand out in the crowded marketplace.
6. How do you test an app? Apps that don't work are worse than no app at all for a business. Be prepared to speak to how you test apps and ensure they work across multiple platforms.
7. How is an app submitted to the app store? Demonstrate an understanding of the app lifecycle by being able to explain how an app is approved for sale in the relevant app store.
8. How do you design an app to work on multiple platforms? There are several strategies for creating apps that work across iOS and Android versions. Be prepared to speak about several approaches and their strengths and weaknesses.
9. How do you handle security in a mobile app? High-profile data breaches have made users more aware of risks to privacy and security. Interviewees should be able to discuss the security issues relevant to mobile applications, and how the applications they've previously developed defended against that risk.
10. Can you provide references? Because developing apps is often a team effort, even after companies review work samples, they'll want to speak to previous employers or clients to verify a candidate's role in the project.
When employees could collect a gold watch and a pension check at the end of their career, companies could count on employee loyalty. Now that those perks of longevity are gone, it's harder to find employees who won't chase after bigger rewards elsewhere. But because the impact of turnover on business is so significant, companies can benefit by trying to assess whether an interviewee will stick around to make a long-term contribution.
Review Their Employee History
If a candidate's held eight jobs in six years, that's a sure sign they're likely to move on rapidly from your company, too. On the other hand, if they've held six jobs in eight years, that may not indicate a lifetime commitment, but does means they've stayed in one place long enough to see a project through to completion.
Ask Why They Left Previous Jobs
Sometimes there are good reasons for leaving a previous job after a short time period. Moving on because a company failed is different than moving on because of boredom. It's also useful to note how they describe their previous employers. Speaking positively about former employers is a form of brand loyalty that can benefit you, even once they've moved on.
Discuss Why They're Interested In Your Company
If the interviewee has researched your business and can talk about the specifics of your company, that level of interest can mean they're emotionally invested in the idea of working for you. It also indicates they would be committed to the position.
Assess Whether the Candidate's Values Match Company Values
Keeping employees isn't only about tangible rewards like money, or offering them interesting projects. The employee also needs to feel comfortable about themselves after a day spent at the office. Ask about the candidate's personal values to see whether they mesh with the business's values. If the company operates in sensitive lines of business, ask the candidate whether they're comfortable working in those areas.
Discuss Their Long-Term Plans
Candidates who've thought about their career path are often motivated strivers. Ask them about their long-term goals, and discuss how they can achieve those objectives within your company. Help candidates envision themselves staying with your company before they start the job; once they begin working for you, be prepared to back up your interview talk and support them on their career journey. Company loyalty goes both ways, after all.
There are many business applications still running on Cobol, but new developers would never base their career solely around learning Cobol. Even for developers who are working with more modern languages and methodologies, specializing in a single technology isn't the best basis for a career.
Besides the fact that technology changes rapidly (Cobol aside!), developers with a skill set across the technology stack are more valuable to their organization. These developers can step up and pitch in wherever help is needed, and their understanding of the challenges of different technologies provides a foundation for working in architecture, project lead, or managerial roles in addition to a varied programming career.
Software ultimately runs on physical facilities, so understanding the limitations of hardware and networks helps engineers make appropriate design decisions. Projects can either take advantage of, or be limited by, the specific operating system they are running on, so understanding this is key. Network configurations raise performance issues and security concerns, especially with growing use of the cloud. Mobile devices offer unique challenges as well. Applications won't succeed unless developers understand these issues and handle them appropriately.
There are fads and trends in programming, so while knowing a specific language is helpful for a while, having a solid foundation in good software engineering practices is more important. Developers need to fully grasp the concepts of object-oriented design in order to write reusable code that speeds projects. Debugging skills are often overlooked, but crucial. So is the ability to reverse engineer and work with existing code, so developers should practice reading and analyzing code they didn't write.
Ultimately, most applications require manipulating data, so developers should be comfortable with a variety of databases. Developers should be able to write SQL queries and work with stored procedures. Although many data-dependent projects will have DBAs to fine-tune the database, developers should be comfortable with the basics of database design and performance tuning. Because "big data" is increasing in importance, developers should learn how to work with very large datasets.
Understand Front Ends
Applications aren't useful until someone uses them, so developers need to understand what makes an effective front end. A designer may polish the look and feel, but developers should understand what works well on different platforms – thick clients still exist, and web applications and mobile apps present different challenges.