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With so many resources available online, self-taught developers are becoming more common. While some may have formal education or training in development, augmenting their skills on their own time, others have never set foot inside a classroom.

When you’re a self-taught developer, you may face obstacles that hinder your ability to find a new job. Many employers rely on resumes to make hiring decisions, and not having a degree to back up your capabilities could lead them to eliminate you from contention even if you have the right skills.

Luckily, there are things you can do to increase your odds of landing a great employment opportunity. If you are a self-taught developer, here’s what you need to know.

Published in Recruiting

05 Top Ways to Bridge the Gap between IT and Customers

The idea that the IT staff remains tucked in the back room surrounded by machines, emerging only when some technical problem occurs that no one else understands, is rapidly becoming a myth. Today’s IT shops are moving toward greater collaboration, with the understanding that when users and IT work together, better systems result.

Increased collaboration between IT and customers is best-accomplished through greater integration with the rest of the business. This organizational collaboration can not only improve the technologies being used, but also help IT pros advance their careers through better soft skills and more recognition.

Here are four ways your organization can bridge the gap between IT and its customers, whether they’re business users or company clients.

Partner IT staff with other departments

In an organization with multiple departments, IT typically serves a function for all of them. One of the best ways to bridge tech people with the rest of the company is to assign IT staff to a specific department, allowing them to partner with a business unit and focus on solutions for that unit.

By working directly with another department, IT can solve problems more efficiently. In these types of partnerships, technology may actually be the last solution IT turns to — the partner should first consider whether the issue can be solved by bringing in different people, or implementing new processes. This improves IT efficiency, reduces costs, and diminishes wasted time and resources.

The partner approach can also help IT professionals enhance their careers. Opportunities to work directly with another department allow them to broaden their soft skills and increase problem-solving abilities, while exposing them to different processes within the company.

Consider decentralizing

In larger organizations where IT is responsible for keeping multiple departments up and running, creating centers of innovation can vastly improve processes and efficiency. Build small, specialized IT teams, each focused on working directly with one department, and maintain a core IT department to oversee the individual teams.

This type of structure works best in organizations that rely on innovation and integration, such as medical facilities, corporations, and large-scale or industrial production. A decentralized IT program also encourages tech employees to participate directly in other aspects of the organization, and develop a greater understanding of their focus areas to streamline operations and drive innovation.

Connect IT with end users

Even integrated IT staff are often confined to working within the organization, and rarely have the opportunity to interact with the people who use the company’s products or services. By facilitating interaction between IT employees and end users, you can encourage fresh ideas and stronger motivations to perform.

There are several ways to connect IT people with customers. Regular visits to other business units is a good start, but you can also send IT staff out with sales reps or other external-facing employees to shadow their interactions, or even organize business functions where the staff and customers have the chance to mingle. When IT is able to see the impact their work has on real people, they’re more engaged and motivated to deliver the best possible experience for end users.

Come out of the cave

In small to mid-sized companies and more integrated work environments that don’t necessarily have many departments, IT employees should be encouraged to leave the back room and spend time on the shop floor, so to speak. The more interaction IT has with the rest of the employees and the rest of the business, the better their understanding of their own function within the company.

Through direct observation of business processes, IT professionals can often spot issues that no one had been able to pinpoint previously, and make changes that will improve efficiency. Encourage IT staff to ask other employees questions and listen carefully to the responses, so they can develop a sense of the real needs of the business — and come up with more creative ways to meet them.

Regardless of company size, frequent interaction with other employees and end users can help IT professionals further their careers. They’re able to develop skills that are underused in direct IT work, and demonstrate that tech people are people, too — breaking down the stereotypes and perceptions that would otherwise prevent them from advancing.

04 10 Key Ingredients for a Successful User Experience

As the digital landscape becomes increasingly crowded across every channel, and users continue to tune out traditional advertising, it’s more challenging than ever to differentiate online. For this reason, more companies are seeking IT pros who are able to provide exceptional user experiences.

What makes a great user experience? Here are 10 important considerations for making your websites, apps, or programs user-friendly — and more likely to succeed.

1. Familiarity

The majority of companies still use Windows tools and operating systems for one primary reason: It’s what they’re used to. Familiarity is a key component for a successful user experience. Basically, it means that accomplishing something within the environment should be obvious and not require explanation, such as a back button — a familiar tool that’s used in every Internet browser.

2. Responsive feedback

Websites, programs, and applications often include a number of micro-tasks, such as login screens. These tasks should include validation through feedback whenever possible — such as notifying users when they’ve successfully logged in. Without relevant and responsive feedback, users end up focusing intensely on micro-tasks and become frustrated.

3. Smooth performance

It goes without saying that performance is a crucial issue for user experience. If a website, program, or app suffers from performance issues, the user perceives the product as poorly designed or malfunctioning, and won’t be likely to continue using that product.

4. Intuitiveness

This attribute relates to the level or degree to which the use of an application, website, or program is obvious to the user. In addition to an intuitive interface, efficiency in features and functionality can enhance the user experience — particularly if there are more advanced tools that can be used with greater efficiency as the user becomes more familiar with the product.

5. Utility

Products that are actually helpful to users in accomplishing real goals deliver a better user experience. If a program, website, or application solves a business problem but disregards user needs, the experience is diminished for the user.

6. Relevant content delivery

A satisfying user experience should include relevant and valuable content, delivered in a timely manner. Ecommerce giant Amazon has mastered this aspect of the user experience with features like product recommendations, customer reviews, and a powerful and intuitive search function that deliver the right content at the right time.

7. Internal consistency

The user experience is enhanced when an interface or application handles similar tasks in similar ways, making the overall experience more intuitive and shortening the learning curve. In addition to internally consistent functionality, consistence in visual design is vital for presenting a professional and well-organized product.

8. External consistency

This refers to the visual appearance of a program, website, application, or interface aligning with its purpose and matching the expectations of its target audience — such as a polished and professional look for a website offering legal services, versus a fun and colorful theme for a site offering products for children.

9. Contextually appropriate

The interface for the user experience should match the environment in which the product will be used. For example, a product used for military applications should be more compact and rugged than one used in a restaurant, where the environment allows for a larger and more detailed interface.

10. Trustworthiness

In many cases, there is an implicit trust when users first work with an application or interface that the product will work as intended. Any issues that impact user engagement, such as error pages or non-working features, can erode that trust and diminish the user experience.

Published in IT Infrastructure


Is There a Way to Close the Tech Skills Gap

Technology is growing and changing faster than the workforce is able to, and the business world is experiencing an IT skills gap as demand for tech talent exceeds supply. This gap offers both opportunities and challenges on all sides.

For graduates and employees, transitioning to an IT career can mean higher salaries and greater opportunities for advancement, but many may not be able to afford the cost or the time of acquiring these skills. For employers, the IT skills gap means that top tech talent can give them a real competitive edge, but recruiting and retaining talent is more difficult when demand is high.

How can this problem actually be solved? Some organizations are already taking steps to raise awareness of the IT skills gap, and attract more qualified potential candidates to fill the void between rapid IT growth and a slowly adapting workforce.

Education: The first key to closing the skills gap

Many students and adult learners believe that a four-year degree is required for an IT career. But the fact is that many employers are dropping requirements for a bachelor’s degree and hiring for skill levels over education — and in fact, almost 30 percent of Americans with associates’ degrees earn more than those with bachelor’s degrees.

The skills gap can be narrowed by making affordable two-year schools more attractive to IT candidates. Showing them the numbers can help: in addition to the earning potential for associates’ degree holders, the current breakdown of degrees held by IT engineers is:

  • Community colleges: 44 percent
  • Bachelor’s degrees: 50 percent
  • Master’s degrees: 30 percent

Nearly half of IT engineers in the workforce hold only an associates’ degree. The quality of community college education is rising as well — with 46 states having adopted rigorous Common Core Standards for math, and 20 states considering the recently released Next Generation Science Standards to boost the quality and rigor of school-taught sciences.

Looking within: Re-skill existing employees

When companies need to fill IT positions, many launch extensive and costly recruiting campaigns that are designed to attract top talent — both job seekers and passive candidates who are working for other companies. But there may be a better solution, one that helps to close the IT skills gap: re-train existing employees to fill open positions.

External hiring costs a business 20 percent more than internal hiring. When you re-skill your current employees, you’ll not only save money, but also expand the general IT talent pool and help to narrow the skills gap. Consider the following when you look into re-training employees:

  • Know your team. Some of your employees may already have the skills you need to fill IT positions. In fact, 75 percent of employees feel that their employers are not leveraging their work experience.
  • Investment pays off. Investing in employee training and development accomplishes more than re-skilled workers. Employees who receive training from their companies are more loyal, more satisfied, and more productive.
  • Use the resources you have. Internal staff training is more convenient and cost-effective for most companies. You can also augment your training program with contractors, who represent a lower investment than hiring more full-time employees.
  • From a distance. Distance learning and e-learning are less costly than sending employees to campuses for training. These options are also more convenient for busy employees who are trying to balance work, family, and education.

Seek out IT education partnerships

Colleges and universities are willing to work in collaboration with organizations looking to train employees or hire IT graduates. Programs like the National Math and Science Initiative have been developed to increase enthusiasm for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education and career paths, with staggering results. After the first year of the program, qualifying scores on AP Math, Science, and English exams increased by 79 percent for students within the NM&S initiative, compared to a seven percent increase nationally.

A recently developed online education partnership between Udacity, Georgia Tech, and AT&T offers great opportunities for IT students and candidates. Participants in this partnership program can receive a Master’s degree in computer science, called an Online Master of Science, for under $7,000 total.

Education, information, and collaboration are the keys to closing the IT skills gap and ensuring there’s enough tech talent to go around. To learn more about closing the skills gap, contact IT and recruiting experts, The Armada Group, today.

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Published in Recruiting

When considering the hottest skills for software developers, the first thing that comes to mind is usually programming languages, platforms, and technology types. But you may be surprised to learn that the most important skills for developers might not be the kind you use for writing code.

The reason is that many software developers have the same technical skills set—but not all of them have the right non-technical skills. For today’s employers, good soft skills are in high demand. In a field crowded with candidates, these skills can help you stand out and land the career you want.

Dealing with people

The notion of the awkward, anti-social IT person that everyone tolerates because they can talk just fine to the machines is heading for extinction. No matter what kind of work you do—unless you’re a solo entrepreneur with a huge, independent cash flow—your software development career is going to involve other people.

Employers are looking for software developers who can work well not only with the rest of the development team, but also co-workers in other departments, managers and executives, investors, board members, and even customers. These people skills involve tact and diplomacy, a willingness to listen and take feedback, and often, the ability to explain complicated technical concepts in non-technical terms.

Problem solving

This is an absolutely critical skill for any software developer, because it is the definition of the work you do. No matter how complex or time-consuming the work, every software development project is about solving problems.

Software itself is something that solves a problem for the end user. Developing it means solving a series of problems on the way to the final solution. Without good problem-solving skills, you can’t be a good software developer. This is why technical interviews are often so difficult—employers want to know that you can solve problems, preferably quickly and creatively.

Self-directed learning

Technology is changing rapidly. Every day, some portions of technology decline toward obsolescence, while other portions rise to take their place. For this reason, employers prefer software developers who can learn new things on their own, quickly.

Even more importantly, you should be able to demonstrate your enthusiasm for learning and trying new technologies. It’s often easier than you might think to learn a new programming language, framework, or platform—because in most cases, you’ll have a decent foundation in place. Earning new certifications or developing side projects using different technologies is a good way to show an employer that you’re all about learning.

Naming things

In software development, naming is important. You’ll often deal with reading and understanding code that includes components named by someone else, and when you write code, you’ll have to come up with several names for objects, concepts, and data along the way. These names need to help other people understand your code—and serve as a directory for yourself as you make changes.

You can impress an employer if you hand them a piece of code you’ve written, and they’re able to follow it through your logical naming methods, variables, and classes. Naming is a skill you need, both to make yourself more employable, and to improve as a software developer.

Developers need to have a solid foundation in some core technical skills. But when it comes to getting hired, you’ll also need these essential soft skills that enable you to work within a team and demonstrate your value to employers. Be sure to invest your time in improving your soft skills as well as your tech knowledge.

If you are looking for software developer employment in Sunnyvale, contact us today.

Published in Recruiting