Some companies have railed against the idea of remote work. Even though most IT professionals have the technical know-how to telecommute with ease, businesses often fear that employees who are working outside of the office aren’t as productive as they are when someone can peer over their shoulders.
However, by limiting remote work options, most companies are doing more harm than good. If your policy is incredibly strict, here’s what you may need to rethink your approach to remote work in 2019.
By and large, employees that have the ability to work remotely at least part of the time are substantially more satisfied with their jobs than those that don’t have telecommuting options. Being able to work remotely provides employees with a range of benefits including avoiding the daily commute, the ability to perform their duties in a comfortable environment, eliminate distractions for heads-down work, and more.
As job satisfaction rises, so does retention. Employees aren’t as inclined to seek out other opportunities with their employer meets their needs, so keeping your best and brightest on staff may be easier.
When they telecommute, most professionals become more productive, not less. They have the ability to focus with greater ease and don’t have to deal with the interruptions that come with being in the office.
For example, random visits from coworkers are a distraction. If a tech pro is dealing with a project that requires a high level of attention to detail, every time they are pulled away harms productivity beyond the minutes they spend dealing with the interruption as they have to take time to refocus before they can continue.
The ability to work remotely is a benefit many tech professionals seek out. Since not every company offers telecommuting options, revamping your remote work policy to be more flexible can differentiate your business as an employer. You may have an easier time attracting top talent simply because a remote work program is in place, making it worth exploring.
Additionally, if you are open to having staff members that telecommute every day, you can even expand your recruitment efforts into other cities, states, or potentially even countries. This can dramatically increase the size of your talent pool, making it easier to locate hard to find skill sets that aren’t readily available near your office.
Ultimately, having a remote work policy that allows employees to telecommute at least some of the time is beneficial. Retention rates will improve, productivity will increase, and recruitment may get easier, making it a win-win scenario for workers and employers.
The Armada Group Can Help!
If you would like to know more about how to update your remote work policy, the skilled professionals at The Armada Group can help. Contact us to discuss your current policy and which changes you are considering with one of our knowledgeable team members today and see how our expertise can benefit you.
Even if you are generally satisfied with your position, the idea of expanding your role can be exciting. This can include getting your hands into a particularly interesting project, gaining a new skill, or working with a team that you admire.
Branching out isn’t always easy, especially if you don’t want to overstep any boundaries that may exist within the organizational landscape. But failing to expand your tech role could lead to missed opportunities and stymied growth, making an attempt typically worth your while. To help you explore new opportunities without stepping on any toes, here are some tips to get you started.
Before you ask to be added to a specific project or request additional responsibilities, it is essential that you have a full understanding of how you can provide value to the business by getting involved in those tasks. This allows you to explain how your participation positively impacts the bottom line, making your case more powerful, especially if you can quantify the result.
Ultimately, you have to create a pitch to “sell” why the company should let you expand your duties, and your points can’t all be self-serving. Demonstrating your value shows the business what is in it for them, making it easier to secure their approval.
Make the Most of Learning Opportunities
At most companies, there is a range of learning opportunities available to employees; you just have to know how to spot them. Anything from formal training to workshops during lunches to job shadowing can be effective ways to branch out and increase your knowledge.
Start by exploring the kinds of options that are made available to workers and see if any catch your interest. If so, examine the requirements for participating and explore the value of your attendance.
In some cases, offerings that may not be specifically aimed at you could still be helpful, though you may need to pitch the idea to your manager to get approval. To do so, use the advice above and demonstrate how your participation benefits your department or the company as a whole. Whenever possible, use specific examples and quantify the information, as they will be the most effective approach.
Invest in Yourself
Sometimes, your company won’t have the kind of learning opportunities you need to help you meet your goals. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t invest in yourself and pursue additional education on your own time.
Often, the majority of your professional development falls squarely in your hands, so don’t let a lack of options in your workplace stop you from exploring skills that interest you. And, if your company has a training budget that allows them to cover educational costs for things like classes and conferences, see if you qualify.
If you are interested in branching out by finding a new position, the team at The Armada Group can connect you with leading employers in the area. Contact us today to see how our services can benefit you.
The competition for top talent is on the rise, and IT managers are looking for the most effective ways to find and hire top candidates. One of the best strategies for bringing in IT talent is to work with a third-party recruiter that specializes in the tech industry.
External recruiters can help you relieve the burden of talent management by sourcing highly qualified candidates for your open positions, quickly and cost effectively. But like all business solutions, there are things you can do to leverage your relationship with an external recruiter and ensure a smoother process with improved results.
Here are some of the best practices for working with third-party recruiters, temporary and staffing agencies to bring top IT talent into your organization.
Make talent acquisition a priority
When you’re looking to fill an open position, finding the right candidate quickly is a top priority. Professional external recruiters will understand this, and do everything possible to ensure that the recruiting process takes the least possible time.
However, it’s essential to keep in mind that finding high-quality candidates is a time- and labor-intensive process. You should expect a high-priority candidate search to take around six weeks — and during that time, be prepared to prioritize dedicated time and resources to the process on a daily basis.
Keep communication lines open
Staying in touch regularly with your external recruiter is crucial for the success of your talent search. In order to maintain strong communication and cooperation, the following best practices are recommended:
- Maintain a direct working relationship between the third-party recruiting team and the decision makers in your company, without relying on “gatekeepers” to relay communications.
- Be responsive, returning important calls and emails within one business day of receipt — particularly when a decision is required.
- Deliver timely, detailed feedback on interviews and candidates submissions, also within one business day.
Maintaining a high sense of urgency and responsiveness throughout the recruiting process will enable an external recruiter to deliver the timely results you want.
Have realistic candidate expectations
Every IT manager wants to hire the “perfect” candidate — but keeping your expectations reasonable and realistic is essential for success. In order to ensure that your positions are marketable, and you receive an adequately sized candidate pool to choose from, work with your external recruiter to develop:
- Quality job opportunities that will interest top candidates
- Well-written, streamlined job descriptions with the best chance of being read
- A strong employer brand that attracts the right candidates with good cultural fits
- Realistic sets of desired skills and competencies (no “purple squirrels”)
The Armada Group is committed to the success of your organization. With our top-priority requisitions, you’ll receive at least one qualified candidate for your review within 48 hours of initiating the talent search process, or a progress report detailing key findings for further discussions. Contact us to learn more about our IT talent recruitment solutions.
Today’s IT professionals have a diverse range of career paths, options, and specialties to choose from. If you’re creative and detail oriented, enjoy working with machinery, and want a well-paying job with plenty of opportunities, you may be a good candidate for a career in automation engineering.
What is an automation engineer?
Automation as a field involves creating and applying technologies that control or monitor production and delivery. There are automation opportunities in both product- and service-oriented industries. Two professional associations, the International Society of Automation and the Automation Federation, are involved in promoting and supporting the field of automation.
The duties of an automation engineer include designing, programming, simulating, and testing automated machinery or processes that are intended to complete precise tasks — for example, robots used in packaging, food processing, or vehicle manufacturing. Automation engineers work with automated machinery from concept to prototype, and are responsible for providing detailed documentation including design specifications that enable the production or application of their products.
Educational requirements for automation engineers
In the United States, there are not many degree programs specifically offered for automation engineering. Most automation engineers start out with a bachelor’s degree in either electrical or mechanical engineering, which may include courses in relevant subjects such as robotics, fluid dynamics, statistics, and databases. Some automation engineers continue to earn master’s degrees before entering the job market. The bulk of relevant automation engineering training is then gained through hands-on career experience.
Licensing and certification for automation engineers
As with most IT fields, licensing or certification can enhance your prospects for landing a career in automation engineering. One of the most popular certifications in this category is the control system engineer license, which demonstrates an understanding of instrumentation and automated controls.
Obtaining status as a certified control systems technician can also qualify you for a wider range of career opportunities, as more than 40 organizations that use automated systems recognize this title. The top level certification for automation engineers is certified automation professional — a title held by only around 400 professionals in the world.
Important skills for automation engineers
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the following qualities are required for automation engineers:
- A firm understanding of software development and computer programming
- Equipment troubleshooting skills
- The ability to perform complex system tests
- Creative thinking and detail oriented
- Excellent manual dexterity
- Strong communication skills to support interactions with other members of the development team
Employment outlook for automation engineering
Manufacturing is moving increasingly toward automation, and the demand for qualified automation engineers is rising as more manufacturers turn to automation for efficiency, cost savings, and increased output. A survey from Automation.com reports that the average annual salary for automation engineers is $103,910.
In the not-too-distant past, work was something you went to five days a week, and left at the office on weekends and holidays. But today’s business world is dominated by always-on technology, and the boundaries between work and personal life are increasingly blurred, if not obliterated.
It may be logical to believe that company expectations for employees to be constantly available are the cause of eroding work-life separation, but even in demanding companies, this isn’t the sole reason. Human nature and societal norms contribute significantly to the disappearing divide between work and home — and as a consequence, we’re focusing on the wrong problems.
What causes work-life imbalance?
There are real business reasons that most employees are unable to separate eight hours a day from the rest of their lives. Email is one — it’s omnipresent, available anywhere there’s a connection, and most employers don’t think twice about expecting their staff to keep up with email at all times. There’s also the globalization of business, and collaboration with co-workers and partners in various time zones that skew the start and close of the “business day.”
In addition to the modern corporate environment, the nature of people encourages a blending of work and life. American employees take pride in hard work and self-sacrifice, and many people thrive on being needed. Furthermore, some work activities — such as opening a new, unread email — influence us chemically, releasing dopamine that makes the action addictive.
Finally, exceptional employees are always working, even outside the office environment and without being required to. For many people, dedication to great job performance means constantly thinking up new ideas and planning ahead. This process naturally works itself into everyday life.
Conquering the work-life balance myth
In order to successfully address the issues surrounding work-life separation, we first need to accept that separating them is impossible for most people. The good news is that blending work and personal life doesn’t have to mean erasing your identity as a person, eliminating all free time, or becoming defined by your job.
What is the best solution for achieving both professional and personal satisfaction? For many, the answer is to embrace the blurred lines, and strive for a work environment that grants more control over personal time with flexible scheduling. The typical nine-to-five workday is practically extinct — and the best way to thrive in the modern business landscape is to get rid of rigid boundaries and time clocks, so the stress of “balancing” personal and work life is eliminated.
Any employer looking to provide work-life balance for their employees should institute a more flexible scheduling process. Despite beliefs to the contrary, studies have repeatedly shown that workers who have more control over their schedules are more productive and motivated, produce higher quality work, and have a greater sense of loyalty to their organization.
There are several reasons why flexible scheduling is so effective. One is that allowing greater control over work schedules allows employees to work at their personal optimal times, rather than conforming to a one-size-fits-all, eight-hour shift. Some people are much more productive first thing in the morning, while others don’t really get into gear until the afternoon.
Another, perhaps more impactful reason this arrangement works is the blending of personal and work time a flexible schedule allows. When employees can take time off in the middle of the work day and make it up when it’s convenient, they’re able to accomplish personal tasks they’d otherwise have to skip with a rigid schedule — like getting school-aged children on and off the bus, banking, attending personal classes, or caring for elderly parents. This allows employees to reduce or eliminate the personal stress that would otherwise affect their performance at work.
It’s in the best interests of any company to care for their employees as a whole person, rather than an eight-hour chunk of labor. By allowing and encouraging overlap between personal and professional lives, your company can bust the work-life balance myth and achieve a truly happy, productive, and loyal workforce.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Driverless cars have been a dream for decades — but these days they’re moving from science fiction to science fact. The first self-driving vehicles have already been developed, and while they’re not on the market yet, researchers are working toward the glorious day when cars drive themselves, and humans can sit back and enjoy the ride.
Because driverless cars aren’t in widespread use, there are plenty of rumors surrounding this technology. Here are some of the top myths about driverless cars, as well as some truths that may shape the self-driving future.
Myth 1: Driverless cars eliminate the risk of human error
In a utopian world, self-driving cars would completely eliminate accidents because machines don’t sleep, text, get drunk, or stop paying attention. However, driverless cars do contain room for human error in their programming and design.
This could be a positive or a negative. On the positive side, the ability to program a self-driving car in a non-stressful environment — rather than while it’s being driven — can lead to significant increases in safety. But there is also risk with programming driverless cars, which must be ready to handle any situation. If the developers haven’t envisioned a particular scenario, the car won’t be equipped to handle it.
Myth 2: Self-driving cars can drive anywhere
It’s nice to envision driverless cars able to take on any road, anywhere, in any condition. But the fact is that at least for now, self-driving cars are extremely limited on where they can go. Because they rely on GPS for direction, these cars can only operate in very good weather conditions and can’t navigate in places like tunnels or parking garages, where there’s no GPS signal.
Myth 3: People are bad at driving
Anyone driving in rush hour traffic would disagree, but the idea that humans are inherently poor drivers is a myth — especially when compared to machine drivers. Experience and intuition go a long way toward making human drivers superior to mechanical ones. People also have the advantage of being able to understand their environment, and factor context and perceptions into their driving reactions.
Myth 4: Driverless cars are hands-off driving
The idea of climbing into a car, programming your destination, and curling up to sleep in the back seat isn’t possible with current driverless technology. The human owners of self-driving cars still have to pay attention during the drive, and keep a hand on the wheel and a foot near the brake. In fact, driverless cars have safety features that require at least one hand on the wheel at all times — because the car could fail at any point.
Fact 1: Self-driving cars can be more energy efficient
Cars require a lot of energy to move — but a majority of that energy is used to move the car itself, rather than the person inside it. Modern cars contain thousands of pounds of steel, which is primarily for crash protection. But if driverless cars moving at lower speeds remove the possibility of deadly collisions, they can be designed with more energy- and fuel-efficient materials.
Fact 2: Driverless technology is steeped in ethical debate
The ethics of allowing self-driving cars are a major hurdle for the automotive industry. Questions that must be answered include how conservative these cars should be in the interests of avoiding accidents, whether cars should be programmed to break laws and speed limits if required to keep passengers safe, and how much control the car’s programming should have over the driving process.
Fact 3: Experts disagree whether cars should be connected
Connectivity may seem like an obvious good feature for driverless cars, and many feel they should be connected. Allowing self-driving cars to communicate with each other may make driving more efficient, and provide enhanced safety. But others feel this level of connectivity is unnecessary — because human drivers use only their eyes, driverless cars should in theory be able to rely on camera vision alone.
Fact 4: No one is empowered to decide these issues
Even if the ethical and connectivity debates could be settled, driverless technology has no centralized governance that is able to enforce decisions. While states and government agencies are working with the issues, and a standards committee with the Society of Automotive Engineers is developing voluntary standards for driverless vehicle design, there are currently no decision-makers to guide the industry into consumer markets.
Want to learn more about the cutting-edge of IT innovation? Need top IT candidates to fill open positions at your company? Contact the experts at The Armada Group today!
Especially after a very strong interview, most candidates impatiently await the news from a recruiter. However, it’s a professional faux pas to call a few hours after interviewing to see if the interviewer has made a determination. This causes frustration and – chances are – there’s other candidates who have yet to interview. Here are a few keys regarding recruiter etiquette and proper follow up contact:
- Be patient. There are usually between three and five final candidates for a single slot, and some companies require interviewing them all prior to making a determination. Most recruiters have a massive workload, so it’s nothing personal – there’s just a lot going on behind the scenes.
- Send a follow up email first. This is the best and quickest means to professionally tell the interviewer and recruiter “Thanks for your time and the opportunity.” It’s generally accepted best practice to send this email the day after. The only exception is if your interview is early in the morning; in this case, sending an email that afternoon is acceptable.
- If you don’t hear back from your recruiter after a few days, don’t fret. The worst mistake a candidate can make is to not follow up. The second worst is to call the recruiter repeatedly.
- After three days or so, it’s within the expectation to call the recruiter. If he or she doesn’t answer, leave a voicemail. Most professional companies will call you and tell you either way, but after a few days, a reminder is warranted.
- If, after following up, you don’t hear from the recruiter for a few days – try again. Try different methods every few days, and vary calling times. However, it is not customary to call or email more than twice a week. Any more than that is unprofessional. However, after a two week period – it’s probably time to send a final email thanking them again, and request that they hold on to your resume for future career opportunities.
- Asking for the position subtly is great – especially in person – but on a follow-up call, do not ask “Did I get the job?” Instead, try “I wanted to follow up and see if you and/or the manager have made a determination?”
Finding a new job can be stressful, but it’s worth it once you get the best offer from the right job. There’s a lot of time that goes into it on the recruiter’s end, and it’s not usually an overnight process. Follow these tips for professional etiquette in following up.
At The Armada Group, we take the stress out of the process. We work directly with candidates to ascertain their skill set and company view, and pair them together with the best fit. This helps long-term job satisfaction, and increases overall success. We work with elite talent from some of the largest and fastest growing tech companies in the world. Contact us today to see how we can help you
As the microevolution of IT continues, positions and occupational roles change functions. A helpdesk specialist, for example, has entirely different focus now than even a decade ago – and for that matter, requires a different skillset. With the rapid changes over the last few years, here are some of the professions facing the greatest change.
1. Business Intelligence Analyst. This position has seen a drastic shift recently, in part brought on by big data and cloud solutions. The collection, accumulation and assimilation of big data into actionable intelligence has become the primary purpose for many business analysts and business intelligence professionals, and it’s rapidly becoming an important role to fill as more companies are searching out aggregated data for their own purposes.
2. Application Developer. Speaking of big data, there are different needs for the data. A Business Intelligence Analyst will need a means to access and analyze data. Because there are so many different types of data and databases – and purposes behind them – having an application developer to create the method is a pivotal role and changing the face of IT.
3. Programmers. Similar to the circumstances of the app developers, programmers need to know multiple languages – unlike a few years ago when one could learn Java and be gainfully employed, or land a job based exclusively from C++ expertise. Having a comprehension of a half dozen languages is common practice, even if you only use one or two frequently.
4. Mobile. Mobile browser optimization, mobile app developers, and localized SEOs have all fuelled the mobile arena. WAP browsers have gone by the wayside, and Mobile Chrome, Safari, Yelp, Poynt and Google Maps have replaced them. One report estimated as many as 60% of product inquiries are performed via mobile, and companies have caught on to this trend.
IT has always been a very rapidly evolving field, and the last few years have held no exception – except, if anything, to evolve faster. The face of IT will continue to evolve as business needs arise, and will be shaped and reshaped over the coming years.
At The Armada Group, we stay at the forefront of that curve. We recruit for some of the most innovative companies in the world, and we retain elite IT talent. Based in the heart of IT growth in Silicon Valley, we want to help your business grow both locally and around the world. If you are looking for technical employment in the Bay Area, contact our team today.