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11 5 Tips for Running More Effective Weekly Meetings

Weekly meetings can be a great way to track company metrics and keep everyone accountable, solve problems by drawing from the collective intelligence of the team, and review customer feedback and issues that can help your organization improve performance. But they can also be a boring, non-informative, mandatory gathering that everyone in your office dreads.

Of course, you want your weekly meetings to be more like the former, and less like the latter. These tips will help you conduct more effective and engaging meetings that keep your team informed, productive, and looking forward to the next session.

1. Start with the executive team

In mid-sized or large companies, there may not be a need for every department to have a weekly meeting — but regular sessions with the executive team are a must. Smaller companies can condense weekly meetings into a single, company-wide event, while those with more staff can cascade up or down as needed from the executive meeting.

2. Know your priorities

One of the most important keys to effective weekly meetings is to know what you’ll be discussing ahead of time. For best results, determine your top three to five company priorities at the start of each quarter, and for each priority:

  • Assign accountability for various goals and results
  • Establish metrics and success criteria

You can then structure your meetings around these priorities, and leave each week with measurable results and detailed action plans.

3. Keep a log

Have some way to record the meeting or take notes, so you can refer back and review to look for issues or problem areas that will help to streamline future meetings. Make sure the meeting log includes who said they would do what, and when, to help continually track accountability and stay on point throughout the week.

4. Structure meetings intelligently

For best results, weekly meetings should be relatively short and follow a preset schedule. By planning ahead of time, you can hold effective weekly meetings in 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the size of the group.

Business coaching firm Positioning Systems suggests a strategic and highly effective weekly agenda that includes:

  • Good news: (5 minutes) Open the meeting by having everyone share two positive stories — one business, and one personal.
  • Numbers: (5 to 10 minutes) Review individual or team weekly productivity metrics, without conversation or comment.
  • Customer/employee data: (10 minutes) Discuss recurring issues or problems facing either teams or their customers, and assign at least one issue to a person or group to investigate in the coming week.
  • Review accountability: (10 minutes) Review the accountability notes from the previous meeting, reschedule or reassign tasks as needed, and discuss commitments for accountability for the next meeting.
  • Collective intelligence: (10 to 30 minutes) Choose a top priority and ask for everyone’s input on the matter. You can also use this section of the meeting for a presentation on one of the company priorities, led by the person who’s accountable for it.

5. End on an informative note

At the close of the meeting, ask everyone in the group to offer a word or phrase that describes how they felt about the meeting. This gives you the opportunity to gather feedback that can be used to adjust future meetings, and ensure that things go smoothly for everyone. Try to end with positive encouragement, so everyone looks forward to next week.

Published in Hiring Managers

03 The Big Data Technology Forecast for 2015

It hasn’t taken long for businesses to jump on big data in a big way. The hype surrounding big data’s potential has only been circulating for a few years, but the technologies of big data are already disrupting the digital age — in 2014 alone, big data initiatives within companies were rapidly moving from the test phase to actual production.

The coming year will see big data evolving more into real-time usage, as new technologies enable enterprise functionality that can actually impact business. Here are some of the major developments poised to take place in big data for 2015.

More focus on data agility

The enormous potential behind big data lies in the ability to actually use it — which requires making sense out of massive streams of warehoused data and finding actionable connections. Data agility is crucial for any organization looking to move forward from capturing and managing data, to actively using the information.

However, traditional data warehouses and legacy databases aren’t fast or flexible enough to structure data into a usable format. In 2015, more organizations will transition away from legacy data resources and implement more agile platforms, with the ability to measure results in response times and operational impact rather than data volume.

Data lakes continue to evolve

The data lake, an object-based storage repository that stores structured, unstructured, and semi-structured raw data in native format, became highly popular in 2014 — mainly due to their scalability, agility, and cost effectiveness. This year, the data lake will evolve and gain more capabilities that will enable this platform to process data internally.

With an evolved data lake, large-scale enterprise processing platforms will be able to migrate from batch processing to real-time, with file-based, Hadoop, and database engine integration. The ability to store massive amounts of data will be less important than having access to tools that can process that data quickly, and pinpoint actionable trends and results.

More organizations embrace self-service big data

Traditionally, companies using big data have tasked IT with establishing centralized structures before allowing users to access the data. This process creates a bottleneck that slows down business, discovery, and exploration. But more organizations are moving toward self-service structures as the comfort levels with structure-on-read increase.

With direct access to big data, developers, data scientists, and data analysts can explore data directly, without waiting for IT to establish structures. This will allow companies to reduce costs and time-to-implementation, leverage new sources of data, and respond quickly to both opportunities and threats.

New business models evolve through Hadoop vendor consolidation

Hadoop is a big name in big data, and initially large enterprises like Intel were investing in the development of their own Hadoop distribution. But even with the unusually rapid pace of global Hadoop adoption, the big data platform is still in the innovation stage — and more companies are turning to established Hadoop vendors for support in the stack. Intel, for example, stayed with its own distribution for just one year before switching to distribution vendor Cloudera.

This year, the evolution of open source software (OSS) platforms like Hadoop will continue, with new models blending deeper innovations and greater community involvement.

Enterprise architects take the lead

The hype surrounding big data is already giving way to real-world usage, and enterprise architects are leading the way. As the understanding of the Hadoop technology stack improves, professionals who have been working most closely within this platform are creating more sophisticated and well-defined requirements for big data applications that are highly usable and scalable.

Last year, the Hadoop ecosystem introduced a landslide of tools, applications, and components. This year, those tools will be put to use as enterprise architects work to integrate Hadoop into the data center, and deliver the type of big data business results that have until now existed only as possibilities.

How to Make a Final Selection from a Pool of Qualified Candidates

You’ve scoured resumes and held interview after interview, and now you’re faced with a happy dilemma—choosing your new hire from several equally qualified candidates. While this is a problem most IT managers love to have, it can be challenging to make the final decision. You want the best possible hire, one who’ll make a long-term, productive employee and add the most value to your company.

And of course, you don’t want to second-guess your decision down the road.

If you’re struggling to choose between two or more candidates with excellent qualifications for the job, these tips will help you make that important final selection.

Take your time

Hiring in haste often leads to significant, or even disastrous, mistakes. While your company may be operating short-handed right now, it’s better to give yourself the time you need to make the best decision and hire an excellent employee who’s likely to deliver value for years. Otherwise, you risk hiring the wrong candidate—and if things don’t work out, you’ll have to start the hiring process all over again.

Consider cultural fit

With technical qualifications being equal, an important differentiator for the right candidate is cultural fit. Look for a candidate with soft skills and personal qualities that will balance out the team they’re being hired to, as well as the organization overall. Choose someone who holds values and ethics that align with the company, and who will get along well with other employees.

Identify unique skills

Review your top candidates’ backgrounds and ask yourself what kind of unique skills each of them would be able to bring to the company. For many organizations, one of the best deciding factors is finding a candidate who has demonstrated the ability to adapt their expertise to various environments. A sense of willingness to learn new skills or adopt new viewpoints is also a big plus.

Hold a final interview round for outside opinions

Ask your top candidates to come back for another interview—and this time, have the department manager or other team members sit in. This will give you a working idea of the chemistry between the candidates and the existing team, helping you determine the best cultural fit. It’s also an opportunity to ask further, more in-depth questions about the candidates’ specific skills and experiences in areas that are most important for the position.

Look for the little things

Did one candidate arrive for the interview in formal attire, while the rest were somewhat dressed down? Did any of your top choices send a handwritten thank-you note as a follow-up to the interview? Consider hiring a candidate who took things a step further than the rest—their attention to detail is a good indication that they’ll make a valuable employee.

Pick the passionate candidate

If you’re still struggling to make a final decision, passion may be your trump card. A candidate who’s passionate about the profession, and the specific position at your company they’re interviewing for, may be the best choice.

Consider personal passions as well as professional aspirations here, and look for places where the two align. Employees will be putting 40 or more hours a week into their jobs—so they should be doing something they enjoy, or their morale and productivity will suffer.

Published in Hiring Managers

How to Stand out in Your Next IT Interview

Most IT candidates view job interviews as a passive event. They’ll prepare as well as they can ahead of time for the questions that are most likely to be asked, but once the interview starts, the hiring manager directs the conversation. It’s the interviewer’s job to ask questions, and the candidate’s job to answer them.

But if you change your perception of job interviews, you can become an active participant with a role in steering the conversation, and substantially increase your chances of getting hired.

Essentially, a job interview is a sales presentation. You are the salesperson, and the product you’re selling is yourself — your skills, your experiences, and the potential value you can bring to the company. Preparing for your next IT interview the same way a sales pro puts a presentation together can help you stand out, get noticed, and get the job.

These tips will help you develop a powerful sales presentation that will sell hiring managers on you.

Know your prospect

Before the interview, research the hiring manager and find out as much as you can about their profile and background. LinkedIn is typically a good place to start, and you may also find some information on the company website. Look for potential icebreakers or any connections you can mention.

While you’re on the company’s website, gather background information on the company itself — make sure you understand their markets, products and services, and brush up on their history. Note the name of the CEO as well.

Take the wheel

At the interview, once you’ve introduced yourself and broken the ice, start out by asking the hiring manager a few specific questions that illustrate your knowledge and interest. Your questions might be related to the particular job, the company, or the hiring manager personally, such as “What was it that attracted you to this company?”

While you’re asking the initial questions, confirm your understanding of the essential requirements for the position with the hiring manager. This sets the stage for your presentation, and helps you uncover any additional interest areas that you may be able to address to strengthen your position.

Connect the dots

When the hiring manager asks traditional interview questions, answer by relating your skills and experiences directly to the job requirements you’ve already confirmed. If you have nice-to-have or non-essential expertise, feel free to highlight those areas with examples that tie them into the role.

In addition, relate your best professional achievements and success stories that tie into the confirmed requirements. You can also share information that falls outside your professional life, to highlight your personality and cultural fit.

Illustrate the future

Let the hiring manager know that you’re looking for a career, not just a paycheck, by asking questions about the company’s current and future projects. Ask about expectations for performance, and listen for potential “hot buttons” where you can speak directly to your experience in handling these issues.

Finally, close out your presentation by restating your genuine interest in the position, summarizing the benefits of hiring you — and asking for the job.

With preparation and groundwork, you can sell yourself as an IT candidate and impress hiring managers with a stand-out presentation. Contact The Armada Group to learn more about how to get out there and close the sale!

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Published in Recruiting

IT Management How to Be Hands on without Micromanaging

Being a hands-on IT manager is good for you, and good for your team. The hands-on approach ensures that you’re aware of how projects are progressing, how your employees are performing as individuals and as a team, and whether you’re on track to meet deadlines. Hands-on management allows you to be involved without demoralizing your team, and enables you to address potential issues proactively, before they become serious problems.

But there’s a fine line between hands-on IT management and micromanaging. Take over too much of the process yourself, and you’ll have the opposite effect: slowed progress, reduced productivity, and gutter-level team morale. Micromanagers dictate instead of delegate, and rob themselves of their most powerful resource — their team.

The differences between micromanaging and hands-on leadership

A good manager will be heavily involved in making desired outcomes clear, checking in on staff progress, and reviewing projects after completion to find lessons that can be applied to the next project. A micromanager will be overly involved, to the point where team members feel they’re not allowed to make decisions or take responsibility — and they’ll never learn or grow from the experience.

Here are some specific differences between micromanagers and hands-on managers:

  • Hands-on managers communicate expectations clearly; micromanagers dictate how expectations will be met
  • Hands-on managers offer feedback and ask team members to redo work that isn’t quite right; micromanagers redo tasks themselves
  • Hands-on managers place the responsibility for projects on employees and expect their best efforts; micromanagers assign work task-by-task and retain responsibility for the project themselves
  • Hands-on managers ask for representative samples of the work to review; micromanagers insist on reviewing every email and being present at every meeting
  • Hands-on managers adjust their approach to managing employees of varying skill levels and projects of varying importance; micromanagers are uniform in managing every aspect of employees and projects, regardless of skill level or importance

How to implement a hands-on approach

How can you strike the right balance in a hands-on approach to management, without crossing the line into micromanaging? The first step is to make sure you and your team are on the same page, by clearly conveying goals and objectives that paint a picture of what success looks like. This paves the way for handing off responsibility to your team, so you can step back and measure the progress.

Once you’ve developed an effective strategy for clear communication:

  • Spend less time doing, and more guiding: If your expectations have been clear, you won’t have to monitor every detail of your team’s progress. Instead, spend your time serving as a resource, offering guidance as needed to keep everyone on track.
  • Check in regularly: Make time to touch base with your team, both collectively and individually, to review their progress and results to date. Offer constructive feedback and go over current project priorities, making adjustments as needed to keep things running smoothly.
  • Be forthright about concerns: If an employee is not meeting expectations, or work is not progressing the way it should, take a proactive stance and address the issue right away — rather than waiting to see if it will work out, or taking over an aspect of the project yourself. Whether the issue requires simple feedback, or reconsidering the fit of a team member to a current role, resolve the problem quickly so the project continues to progress.

As an IT manager, your job involves getting the results you need, both short-term and over time. A hands-on management style will help you monitor your team’s progress without meddling, and empower them to generate the right results.

Want help becoming a hands-on manager, or getting away from micromanagement? Contact The Armada Group today! 

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Published in Hiring Managers

 

Large-Scale Hadoop Installations are the New Norm

What web-based company has the world’s largest Hadoop cluster? Surprisingly, it’s not Google, Facebook, or even Twitter — it’s Yahoo!, with 455 petabytes of data stored on over 100,000 CPUs in more than 40,000 servers. The company’s biggest Hadoop cluster, at around 4,500 nodes, is around four times the size of Facebook’s largest cluster.

Hadoop is a hot topic in today’s tech world, especially when it comes to Big Data. As more organizations work toward mining and implementing Big Data strategies, the use of Hadoop on a larger scale is set to become the new standard for practical, results-driven applications of data mining.

What is Hadoop, and why does it matter?

At the most basic definition, Hadoop is a free, open source software library that makes useful, cost-effective processing of Big Data possible. The Hadoop library, developed by the Apache Software Foundation, is built on underlying technology that was invented by Google to index the massive amounts of data collected by the search engine and transform it into relevant results for searchers.

Hadoop consists of four modules — Hadoop Common, Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS), Hadoop YARN, and Hadoop MapReduce — and includes several compatible add-ons such as programming languages and databases, which enhance the real-world applications of the library.

Providing scale and flexibility for large data projects, on a basis that’s affordable for both enterprise and small business, makes Hadoop an attractive solution with endless potential.

The appeal of Hadoop

As Yahoo! has come to realize, Hadoop provides a wide range of flexible, scalable capabilities and vastly increased potential for the real application of Big Data. In most large organizations today, data is siloed — stored and worked with in separate systems with little to no cross-functionality. Large-scale Hadoop installations make it possible for organizations to share data quickly, easily and effectively, with strong security measures still in place to prevent data breaches and malware attacks.

With an organization’s data stored collectively, Hadoop installations can then run YARN to manage data ecosystems. Hadoop YARN is a framework that provides job scheduling and cluster resource management, enabling the system to spread resources out sufficiently across multiple machines and deliver increased flexibility. The YARN framework also maintains redundancy to guard against data loss and system failure.

With YARN, engineers and developers can work immediately on small clusters within a larger deployment, and collaborate with others without sacrificing security.

Combining Hadoop with other systems

Within Hadoop, there are several distinct systems that can be operated independently, but still remain part of the larger ecosystem. This includes elements such as Hbase, the non-relational distributed database for Hadoop; Pig, a high-level platform for large-set data analysis; and Hive, a data warehouse infrastructure.

Hadoop has the capabilities to handle large swaths of an organization’s data needs, but depending on the individual company, other systems may be used to supplement a Hadoop installation — and the library integrates well with popular enterprise systems. For example, Yahoo! employs other systems for email serving, and photo serving in Flickr, but stores copied data from these systems in Hadoop.

The rise of Big Data and the need for efficient, cost-effective analytics has paved the way for Hadoop to become standard in organizations of all sizes. To find out if your organization should be undergoing a Hadoop installation, contact the IT experts at The Armada Group.

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Published in IT Infrastructure

 

Why Your Employees Should be Hands-Off Sometimes

Technology is irresistible to humans. We can’t help pressing buttons, flipping switches, or rearranging those tangled cords — and if we’re at work with no clue what we’re doing, it’s only a matter of time until disaster strikes and IT swears revenge while they spend hours fixing what took us seconds to break.

At InfoWorld’s Off the Record blog, IT professionals share anonymous stories of tinkerers, button-pushers, and clueless people who “know what they’re doing” — when it comes to bringing the office workflow to a crashing halt. Here are five of those stories illustrating why sometimes, your employees should really resist the temptation to fix things that aren’t broken.

Network admin disconnects the employees — all of them

A senior network administrator was showing off two relatively new servers in a data center to managers, boasting about uptime with claims that there was no need for an uninterruptible power supply. The admin touched the dedicated circuit breaker for the first server to prove the point — which promptly kicked 500 users off their server connection.

Apparently not satisfied with cutting office productivity in half, the admin then touched the second server’s circuit breaker and severed the connection for the remaining employees. Management decided to increase their investment in server infrastructure.

Operator powers down

A data center operator committed to easing workflows and expediting tasks noticed a loose ring on a piece of glass, and proceeded to improve efficiency by moving it. But the glass happened to be covering an emergency power-off button, which the operator managed to press — causing a blackout and a systems shutdown. The company experienced no long-term damage, but the operator decided to stick to a broader scale for improving efficiency, and leave the little details alone.

Newbie pushes the embarrassment button

A junior tech on a mission to turn off a non-critical server headed to the server room, located the machine, and pushed the button — only to instantly realize it was the wrong server, one housing files that were currently in use by more than 600 employees. Letting go of the button would wreak havoc, but there was no one around and his phone wasn’t getting service.

With a landline phone just 10 feet away, but out of his reach unless he released the critical button, the tech heroically took off his pants and used them to pull the phone over. Help soon arrived in the form of several eyewitnesses, who received the best office story ever in exchange for saving the day.

Paperclip panics the boss

It was a classic computer room — three mainframes with several attached tape drives, four printers (three line, one high-speed laser), dishwasher-sized disc packs, and a huge Halon fire suppression system to protect the investment. As the boss and the operators disagreed on handling shutdowns in case of fire, they met in the computer room for a test run that the boss insisted should include the main operators staying behind to take care of the mainframes.

Just before the test, a stray paperclip dropped into a control box, creating a short circuit that triggered the Halon. But the drill went as planned when the boss was the first one to speed out of the room.

VPs make executive decisions

Admins get a little worried when execs start poking around servers — with good cause, as this story proves. One day, in the middle of a difficult data center consolidation between two tech departments, employees suddenly found they couldn’t get email or connect to certain remote sites. IT traced the issue to server failures, which seemed to have happened all at once.

Amazing coincidence? Not exactly — a couple of VPs visiting the acquired company had ruled the critical servers “unused” with no impact on production systems, and had turned them off.

IT turns on itself

Non-tech professionals aren’t the only ones who make critical mistakes. A large, busy data center tasked an IT pro with deciding which servers were unnecessary and decommissioning them. The tech, perhaps having an off day, chose a critical management server to unplug and bring back to his desk, where he reformatted the hard drive. A flood of issues ensued with the loss of the database, extending to backups and firewalls. The tech was promptly transferred to a less disaster-making department.

While these stories are humorous, they all have a common theme – sometimes your employees need to be hands off. If you need assistance managing employees or finding better adept tech talent, contact the recruiting experts at The Armada Group today.

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Published in IT Infrastructure

Things change in the business world, and there are few places the changes are happening faster than in IT leadership. Today’s IT management looks very different from what it was 10 years back, or even 5 years ago.

Leaders in IT are no longer simply the best at technology—for great IT managers, the requirements are more complex and demand stronger soft skills. The uber-geek stereotype has long vanished from the IT leader lexicon.

Here are four traits that define the true greats in IT management.

Mastery of communication

Communication is a fundamental skill for any business leader. Those who struggle with communication are unable to coordinate team operations, report results to superiors, or launch elaborate initiatives—and therefore don’t make good leaders.

For IT managers, the necessity of communication goes beyond the ordinary business requirements. Leading tech professionals must be able to communicate complex technical concepts in terms non-IT people can understand, such as other departments, upper management, stockholders, and end users.

Confident collaboration

IT professionals don’t always believe in the importance of collaboration, since many of the most skilled believe (sometimes rightly so) that they’d do a better job handling things themselves. However, great IT leaders recognize and embrace the value of collaboration—because they know that no one person, even themselves, has all the answers.

Along with encouraging collaboration comes the need for confidence in the rest of your team. If you’re unable to hand over control of a project or task to someone else, you’re making things harder for yourself, and ultimately the entire organization.

The courage to let employees fail

In technology, innovation arises from risk—but risk can lead to failure. Leaders who don’t allow their employees to take that chance typically see their team stagnate and fall behind the curve.

A great IT leader will create an environment where employees feel safe taking risks. This doesn’t mean your team should go ahead and try every crazy idea that crosses their minds. Instead, learn to encourage calculated risks, and refrain from setting harsh consequences for failures.

Taking the long view

Finally, truly great IT managers aren’t continually focused on the current project or rollout. While it’s important to remain involved in the day-to-day operations of your team, you also need to see the bigger picture. Strategic, forward thinking can help you elevate your organization and capture a greater market share.

This skill also involves the ability to look ahead at the industry as a whole, and anticipate upcoming trends and marketplace demands, while maintaining critical functions like security. The best IT leaders are ahead of the curve, making strategic decisions on new directions for their company.

If you are looking for IT manager employment in San Francisco, contact our team today!

Published in Recruiting