• Blog

    IT Staffing, Recruiting & Hiring News

Site Reliable Engineering

When software moves from test to production release, making sure it runs properly is the job of the site reliability engineering team. Sometimes the production environment is different from the development and test environment, so the application doesn't have the same performance it had during test. Sometimes there are more users than anticipated, and the application doesn't scale up. Sometimes real-world data causes problems that test data didn't uncover. Whatever the issue in production, site reliability engineers need to figure out the cause of the problem and put the necessary changes into place to make the application successful.

At some companies, the SRE function is called DevOps, because it's all about moving applications out of development and keeping them operational.

Monitoring and Planning Ahead

 A lot of the site reliability engineer's role is about keeping an eye on the system and planning for issues. For an SRE, the "system" means the entire system, including the application, third-party software, the hardware, and the network. The SRE team monitors the system to make sure it meets availability and responsiveness requirements.

The team also looks to the future of the system. They make sure any planned changes, to any component, minimize impact to users.  They review capacity and come up with plans for expansion. They also have the responsibility for dealing with unplanned downtime and planning for disaster recovery.

Site Reliability Engineer Skills

 Technical skills

Site reliability engineers need solid software engineering skills. They need to understand how software works and how different software products interoperate. SREs often write complex scripts to automate operational tasks. But they also need to bring a broader perspective than just application software development, and understand networks and system administration.

Non-technical skills

Site reliability engineers need to be creative thinkers and problem solvers, who can work under pressure to figure out a system problem and create a solid solution for bringing things back under control quickly. They need to be analytical, to review data about system usage and system problems, in order to develop plans for the future of the application.

Communication skills are important; SREs need to be able to ask questions of other technical teams to figure out the problem and also to explain to management both the problem and the solution. SREs are part of a team and need to be able to work with a variety of colleagues.

Site Reliability Engineer Career Path

 In some cases, SREs choose to strengthen their software engineering skills and move to the software engineering team to create the future of the application. Other SREs choose to develop their system engineering skills and continue to work within site reliability engineering. For those who are interested in management, success as an SRE can lead to firm-wide responsibility for managing infrastructure and shaping the future of the enterprise.

Published in Staffing News

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

Turn Your Year End Review into Fuel for 2015

Are you dreading your year-end performance review? Many employees would rather have a root canal than sit down with a manager or supervisor and discuss their performance one-on-one. But an annual review doesn’t have to be a traumatic event. Instead, you can use your year-end review to gain critical insight that will catapult your career in 2015.

Here’s how to plan for and carry out an annual performance review that will fuel your next year and bring your career to new heights:

Self-review: Compare your job expectations to your performance

The first step in preparing for a year-end review is to dig out your original job description and go through it line by line, evaluating yourself on how you’ve performed in each area this year. It can help to use a scale of one to five, with one representing areas where you had little or no skill, and five for those in which you excelled beyond co-workers or professionals with similar qualifications.

You don’t have to be overly critical. The main objective with this self-review is to identify your strongest areas of performance, so you can expand on your contributions and successes in the next step and build a case for personal advancement.

Generate performance proof

Regardless of the workplace culture at your company, at the end of the day, a business views its employees as investments — and they expect to see a return. What’s your employee ROI? The ability to spell out exactly what you’ve accomplished for the business will help you navigate your year-end review and come out ahead.

Consider your role in terms of how you’ve saved the company time and/or money. You might have delivered great customer service, which resulted in repeat business (and more money), or implemented a strategic plan that reduced delays (and saved time). Any measureable reduction in time or costs, or increases in profits, that you’ve accomplished are worth noting.

Plan your own reward

Once you’ve made a strong case for your contributions, you can leverage your performance presentation to ask for the type of reward you’d like for your hard work. You may simply want a raise — which is common and often expected for year-end reviews. But if you’re already receiving a competitive salary, more money might not motivate you or help you advance your career.

For example, you may be more interested in a promotion. If there is no higher position currently available in your company, you could request a change of duties to align more with the position you want to move into, or additional responsibilities that would help prepare you for moving up. Or you may want to advance your career through training, and request to be enrolled in courses or sent to workshops, trade shows, or industry events. Another commonly sought-after benefit is flexible scheduling or part-time telecommuting.

Ask for a review sooner instead of later

For those who dread year-end performance reviews, this strategy might seem counterintuitive — you may want to put it off as long as possible. But keep in mind that employee reviews are just as exhausting for management and HR. Whoever is responsible for the review process will be fresher and more open to discussion during earlier reviews, but as the process drags on, they’ll just want to get it over with.

Requesting an early review also demonstrates your motivation and willingness to improve. Managers will see this as a positive quality, and may be more enthusiastic about helping you advance your career.

Don’t forget to follow up

One you’ve gotten through your performance review successfully, make notes about what you’ve discussed and detail your understanding of the review session’s outcome. Include both the actions you’ll take to correct and improve performance, and the rewards that were promised for your performance to date. Send your quick recap to your manager or supervisor the same day of the review, so any miscommunication can be addressed before the results are documented.

Handled properly, the year-end review is your opportunity to move your career forward and accomplish your goals for the upcoming year. Contact The Armada Group to learn how to better be prepared and positive, and don’t miss your chance to elevate your career in 2015.

RockStarTalent cta

Published in IT Infrastructure


Secrets You Need to Know Before a Career Change

For the modern IT professional, career changes are not only normal — they’re expected. Over the course of your IT career, you can probably expect to change jobs, change companies, and even change fields or specialties. You might start out a Python programmer and make your way to Java front-end developer, or climb up from help desk support to IT project manager. The one constant in IT is that nothing is constant, and everything changes.

But that doesn’t make a career change any easier or less personally nerve-wracking.

If you’re in the midst of changing your career or thinking about making a move — whether it’s up, down, lateral, or a quantum shift to something completely new — here’s what you should know to make the transition smoother.

It’s not a challenge — it’s an opportunity

Starting something new can be exciting, but usually it’s more terrifying. When you step out of your comfort zone into unfamiliar territory, you’re likely to experience fear that you’ll do something wrong, and regret that you’ve left your safety net behind for something you might not succeed with.

Your new area may be challenging, but what’s most important is the opportunity you have to test yourself, improve your skills, and expand your accomplishments. Learning that you can complete something you’ve never done before gives you an incredible boost in self-confidence, and primes you to try even more new and exciting things.

Interviews are your chance to learn

When you’re facing a career change, you may be dreading the very idea of job interviews. Maybe you were feeling relieved when you landed your current job because you’d never have to interview again, or maybe it’s been so long since you’ve been on a job interview that you’ve completely forgotten the basics — do they still shake hands, or should you just wave casually when you walk in?

In any case, keep in mind that interviews are just as important an opportunity for you as they are for the interviewers. They’re your chance to learn more about your new career, to ask questions about the team, the infrastructure, and the job itself. When you treat interviews as your opportunity to interview a department or company, you’ll be better positioned to make sure the new job is a good fit for you — which enables you to start with more confidence.

Understand what you bring to the table

A career change means you’re starting a new position for the first time. But it also means it’s the first time the new position has you — and all of the unique skills and experiences you’re bringing along. Your newness is an asset in an IT world that thrives on innovation.

Because you’re working in a certain capacity for the first time, you don’t have the ingrained habits and perceptions of your more experienced colleagues. You’ll be able to bring a fresh perspective to the work you do, and view challenges at different angles that can produce unexpected results. This is the definition of innovation, and you are uniquely suited to achieve great things in your new IT career.

For more help with a new career or career transition, contact the recruiting experts at The Armada Group. They can assist you in finding the IT career you’re looking for, today.




Getting the Most Value out  of Your Recruiting Support

Finding a job isn’t easy, especially in a highly competitive industry like IT. Many tech job candidates choose to work with a recruiter during their job search for a variety of reasons, from finding employment faster to landing the best possible position that matches their skills and abilities.

Here are some of the benefits of using IT recruiters for your job search, along with tips on how you can work better with recruiters to gain maximum value from your working relationship.

Get both feet in the door

While recruiters certainly work with IT job applicants, they are employed by hiring companies, either as in-house recruiters or third-party recruiting services. This means recruiters work to develop relationships with hiring managers and human resource professionals in the companies they work for — and those hiring managers prefer applicants who are referred by a trusted recruiter.

When you work with a recruiter, your resume typically goes to the top of the pile, and you’re more likely to be called for an interview than candidates who submit their resumes cold.

Gain access to “secret” jobs

Many companies don’t advertise their best IT positions. They may not have the necessary infrastructure to handle the flood of resumes, or they may prefer to choose candidates from a select pool of trusted resources — which typically includes recruiters they’ve developed relationships with.

Working with a recruiter gives you the opportunity to apply for positions that aren’t advertised to the public. Not only are these often better jobs, but there’s also a shorter time from application to employment, as the company doesn’t have to deal with hundreds of hopeful candidates and endless rounds of interviews.

Land the perfect career

Hiring managers and human resource personnel will typically have several responsibilities within their organization. But an IT recruiter has just one job — matching the right candidates to the right positions. Recruiters are familiar with the companies they work for, and the candidates they represent. They’re able to give you inside information on why you would (or wouldn’t) fit well with a particular company or position, and ensure that you get hired at a company you’ll love to work for.

Free career resources

IT recruiters can help you with other aspects of your job search, beyond the application process. Most recruiters offer interview practice and training, skills development opportunities, and other resources that will help you with your current job search and beyond. Recruiters can provide you with career guidance and direction, especially if you’re not sure which employment path is the best to take.

Tips for working with IT recruiters

Recruiters can benefit you in many ways during your job search, but there are some things you should do to ensure a smooth path to employment:

  • Stick with one recruiter. Some IT job candidates believe that working with multiple recruiters will increase their chances at getting hired — but in fact, the opposite is usually true. Companies may work with more than one recruiting agency, and if two recruiters present your name for the same position, it can keep you from getting the job and damage your relationship with both recruiters.
  • Be honest. If you’ve sent out (or you’re still sending) resumes directly to companies in addition to working with a recruiter, let the recruiter know if he or she offers to send your information to a company where you’ve already applied — especially if you’ve been turned down. Referring a candidate who’s previously applied can harm a recruiter’s reputation, and chances are they won’t want to continue working with you.
  • Stay organized. Keep track of your job search, even if the recruiter is also monitoring your schedule. Note which companies you have resumes in with, who’s contact you, where you’ve interviewed, and who you’ve followed up with. Maintain detailed notes, along with dates, about all of your job search activities so you can reference them later.

Working with an IT recruiter like The Armada Group can help you ramp up your job search and find a great job, faster. Make sure you keep the relationship honest and professional, and you can enjoy all the benefits of having a recruiter on your side while you find the perfect job. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.



Published in Recruiting

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