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How to Change IT Tracks Mid Way Through Your Career

 

Many tech professionals would assume that switching to a new IT specialty wouldn’t be overly challenging. After all, they have a base level of technical expertise to draw from, so wouldn’t many of their existing skills be highly transferable?

While that is true to a degree, that doesn’t mean there won’t be some difficulties ahead. Changing IT tracks does take work, particularly if you are shifting into a tech field that is highly different from where your career is today.

However, just because it may pose a challenge doesn’t mean it is impossible. If you want to change IT tracks mid-way through your career, here are some tips to help you pull it off.

Published in IT Infrastructure

Privacy Regulations

 

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has already led to trouble for one major American tech firm. Google will have to pay a €50 million fine after a privacy watchdog noted that the company was not properly informing users about how the company was using their data.

While Google intends to appeal the decision, the incident showcases how privacy is taking center stage in 2019. This is especially true as new privacy regulations begin to take effect and more are considered to be on the horizon.

Here are the privacy regulations that need to be on every tech pros radar.

Machine Learning

 

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have taken the business world by storm, with more and more companies becoming interested in how they can integrate these technologies into their operations so they can experience the benefits for themselves. However, there are a limited number of skilled professionals available to support these emerging systems.

 

While the high level of demand is excellent for AI specialists, it leaves companies struggling to find the skilled workers they need to reach their technology goals. But Google is releasing a solution that may make AI and machine learning technologies more accessible to businesses.

 

Say Hello to Cloud AutoML

Google has begun rolling out Cloud AutoML, a solution focused on automating the creation of machine learning models, to help bring the emerging technologies to the masses. The first product in the release, Cloud AutoML Vision, provides developers with an easy to use, drag and drop interface, allowing them to craft image recognition models with greater ease.

 

According to the company, the system allows organizations to experience more accurate results, when compared to generic machine learning APIs, which can easily be considered a significant benefit for businesses looking to implement the technology.

 

 

It should be noted that the Cloud AutoML platform is still in the Alpha phase of development, so growing pains are likely as Google works to iron out the kinks in the technology. However, it represents a potentially significant step forward, even if there is still work to be done to make it viable on a larger scale.

 

Additionally, the question as to whether something as inherently complex as AI and machine learning can be automated, a point that is particularly relevant should the technology be added to critical systems. But, if it is deemed a success, it could signal the beginning of a revolution in the field, encouraging more firms to explore the associated possibilities and giving companies a new approach that can help them overcome skill gaps in their teams.

 

Will AI and Machine Learning Specialists Still be Relevant?

While the idea of an automated or simplified approach is enticing, most companies would be wise to maintain an AI or machine learning specialist on their staff, particularly as the technology still has a long way to go before it can be deemed suitable for all situations. In the meantime, working with experienced professionals will continue to be the norm, even as Cloud AutoML exits Alpha, or even Beta, as businesses will need to learn what the solutions can and cannot do effectively.

 

If you are interested in hiring an AI or machine learning specialist to join your team, the professionals at The Armada Group can connect you with some of today’s top talent. Contact us to speak with one of our skilled recruiters today and see how our services can help you achieve your AI and machine learning implementation and support goals.

 

 

12 Uber

 

After accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination had reached the media, Uber came under fire for many of its practices and its poor corporate culture. Both the CEO and a board member have since resigned from the business, highlighting the level of turmoil experienced by the company.

 

Uber’s failure to create a culture that focused on supporting and caring for their workforce had serious consequences for the business, resulting in a situation that could have otherwise been avoided. Learning from their mistakes gives you an opportunity to avoid a similar debacle, ensuring your employees are working in an environment that promotes inclusiveness and safety. To help you benefit from the situation, here are some tips regarding what your company can learn from Uber’s culture mistakes.

Craft Strong, Clear Policies

Policies regarding issues relating to harassment and discrimination in the workplace are your first line of defense against improper behavior and guide the actions of leadership whenever an incident occurs. Uber failed to apply their policies universally, allowing certain members of upper management to operate with different standards than those assigned to the workforce. This creates a “them versus us” mentality, separating the workers from the leadership team and poisoning the culture.

 

All policies need to apply equally to employees, regardless of their level of status. This ensures everyone is suitably protected and provides clear guidance regarding associated disciplinary actions.

Document Complaint Tracking Procedures

Uber didn’t provide definitive guidelines regarding grievance tracking, and that led to inconsistent processes being used. Over time, critical information was lost, and follow-up opportunities were missed due to the lack of data.

 

Companies need to have thorough complaint tracking procedures, documented in such a way as to guide the actions of human resources professionals and members of management. This ensures vital information is recorded, including any course of action that is taken and their ensuing results. It also increases the likelihood of consistency throughout the organizations, making it easier to maintain standards as decisions are made, and plans are put into action.

Monitor Culture Shifts

A company’s culture develops over time, and it can change even with strong policies and appropriate measures on the part of the leadership team. Businesses need to monitor their climate for shifts, giving them the opportunity to intervene if things begin to move in an unfavorable direction.

 

Typically, this means communicating with employees regularly to assess the current state. By cultivating conversations between workers and management, it is easier to create a sense of community and take advantage of opportunities to make course corrections at the earliest sign of trouble.

Provide Appropriate Training

Conscious and unconscious biases can hurt company hiring, firing, and disciplinary standards. Those responsible for these decisions must be suitably trained to ensure certain opinions aren’t incidentally affecting outcomes in these areas. Additionally, making transparency a priority can alleviate concerns employees may have about the fairness of actions, helping them see why decisions are made instead of simply witnessing the outcomes.

 

If your company would like to work with a skilled staffing firm to ensure biases aren’t impacting hiring decisions, the professionals at The Armada Group have the training and expertise necessary to provide an appropriate solution. Contact us to discuss your hiring needs and see how our services can ensure bias doesn’t come into play.

 

Published in IT Infrastructure

What Creeps Along With The Internet Of Things

Every new technology brings along with it new risks, and the Internet of Things is no exception. Smart, connected devices can make our lives simpler and streamlined, but every connected device presents a new potential target for hackers. Before consumers are willing to use smart door locks, they'll want to be sure that the lock is smart enough to keep out hackers. Different companies are addressing these security risks in different ways to reassure consumers their data and products are safe.

 

Use Secure Networks

The connections to the network make these devices vulnerable. Many devices have connections via Wi-Fi, but cellular connections are more secure.

 

Use Opt-In Rather Than Opt-Out

Once devices connect to the network, they typically send information to a backend server for analytics. Backend servers can also store personal information, like payment methods. Rather than automatically participating in this data collection, newer devices require users to opt-in to the data gathering.

 

Develop Better Security Tools

Part of the reason security is so challenging on these devices is that they're small; they run on batteries and have low computing power as well. Some standard encryption methods simply can't run on the devices. Vendors need to develop smaller, better algorithms to protect these devices.

 

Implement Automatic Updates

Vendors need to ensure that security patches get installed on devices. They'll need to build functionality to push updates rather than relying on users to download updates. They'll need to push firmware updates as well as updates to their device application software.

 

The aspirations for the Internet of Things are enormous. The market includes consumers and enterprises; factories, offices, hospitals, and agricultural fields. The scope extends from smart homes to smart cities. Because security will be so important in achieving that vision, the tech industry is working hard to fix the problem. The International Standards Organization is examining how its security standards could be applied to IoT, and reference architectures are being developed that should help ensure security isn't an afterthought in designing an IoT device. There are also several vendor alliances tackling the security issue. While threats can never be fully eliminated, they can be reduced while the use of IoT spreads.

 

Tips for Keeping Top IT Talent

One of the biggest headaches for any manager is replacing an employee who resigns. Not only does losing an employee mean you need to spend time and money recruiting their replacement, it also makes it difficult to get your department's work done. Other employees need to pick up the departing employee's work; they may resent it and start thinking about resigning themselves. The best way to solve this headache is to prevent it from developing in the first place, by reducing your turnover. Here are some things to look at to help you keep your top talent.

Offer financial rewards.

Periodically review your compensation bands and make sure you're paying market-level salaries. Beyond the paycheck, make sure your company offers other competitive financial benefits, including a well-structured 401(k) plan.

Understand your employees' perspective.

Don't wait until an end-of-year annual review process to find out how your employees feel about their jobs. Talk with them informally throughout the year. You can also conduct surveys to collect anonymous feedback that may include opinions no one would tell you to your face.

Tailor work assignments to employees' preferences.

It's probably not possible to ensure that your employees will enjoy all of their work responsibilities every day, but you can make sure they're assigned to projects and roles that are in line with their interests and abilities. Make sure employee reviews include discussions of what they'd like to work on. When new projects come up, don't simply assign people based on what they're currently doing; assign them based on what they would like to do.

Offer emotional rewards.

Saying "thank you" costs nothing but goes a long way in making employees feel like their work has meaning and is valued. Praising someone's work in public is especially valuable. Make employees feel like they're part of a team, and that the team matters, by having occasional low-cost team celebrations. These acts boost morale and make employees less likely to give notice.

Don't wait until they give notice.

In most cases, if you're an involved manager, you should have a sense that someone on your team isn't happy. There will be even more signs when they progress to actively interviewing, such as moving away if you pass by when they're on the phone or showing up to work late wearing nicer clothes than usual. You probably don't want to flat-out ask them if they're looking for another job, but you can and should make the effort to ask how things are going. If you find something you can change for them before they give notice, you may never have to deal with their resignation at all.

Published in Hiring Managers

3 Ways to Get Hired to a Mobile Team

Mobile application development is hot. According to Gartner, demand for mobile apps will grow five times faster than companies can deliver them. The salaries for mobile app developers reflect that, averaging around $102,000 and going up to $135,000. For developers who want to get in on the mobile development action, make sure you have the skills that will make employers notice you.

Know how to develop for Android.

Apple's iOS products get lots of great press, and there are plenty of jobs for iOS developers, but there's even more demand for Android developers. While the two platforms split the U.S. market almost evenly, Android has a far larger share of the global market. So make sure your resume has the skills you need for Android development, including the Android SDK, Android NDK, Java, and C++. If you can develop on multiple platforms, that gives you additional options, so learn Objective-C or Swift for iOS devices.

Build your own app.

There's no better way to demonstrate your capability to build a mobile app than demonstrating a mobile app that you built. You can point to an app that you built at your previous employer, but because company projects are team efforts, it's difficult to really claim credit. Instead, create your own sample app in your free time. The development tools are available for free on multiple platforms. If you take the app live, you'll learn the necessary skills for packaging it and publishing it in an app store. Taking your own idea from concept through deployment shows initiative and drive that impress potential employers beyond the technical skills you develop through the process.

Have skills that go beyond mobile.

Knowing the SDK for a specific platform is only part of knowing how to create a mobile app. Like any software project, you need to understand the business requirements, so business analysis skills and communication skills are still valuable. Databases were invented long before the smartphone, but mobile apps still store data in them, so understanding SQL and database technology is necessary. Many tools generate XML automatically these days, but it's still helpful to understand the syntax.

Published in Recruiting

Armada Nov Data Protection Are We Focused on the Right Issues

When corporate leaders think of protecting corporate data, they usually think in terms of protecting it against cyberattacks. But in reality – even if a company is fully protected against external threats – those aren't the biggest issues companies face with respect to their data.

Device Failure

Storage devices have high reliability, but they aren't fail proof. Companies need their storage plans to account for failures. This means using clustering, mirrored disks, and replication to ensure that data is available on another device. 

No Backup

Most companies have automated backups, but the backup plans often aren't reviewed and updated. This means it's easy to miss new devices and omit them from the procedure. Backups also need to be monitored, to make sure the automated scripts work properly. Lastly, companies rarely test restoring from backup, but this should be done in order to verify the procedure and understand how long it will take. 

Human Error

People make mistakes that expose corporate data. Phishing campaigns have convinced users to provide corporate bank accounts. But it doesn't take a phishing campaign. Users often send sensitive data through unencrypted email. They share passwords because getting set up properly takes too long. They mistype a command and the system doesn't require confirmation before executing it. Issues like these can largely be addressed through better training or redesigning systems. 

Corrupt Data

The biggest data issue companies face, though, is corrupt data. When incorrect data feeds into other corporate processes, the company's decision making is inevitably adversely affected. Corrupt data entry is often caused by poorly designed applications; it can also occur when data is force-fit into legacy systems because creating a new application with appropriately named data fields would take too long. At the same time, migrating data from legacy fields to new applications introduces possibilities for error when fields are mapped wrong. In many businesses, the same data is entered into multiple systems, with chances of incorrect or inconsistent values.

Data is at the heart of business operations, and it's unquestionably important for companies to protect it. Doing so effectively requires taking a broad view of the data at rest, in transit, and when it's accessed by both man and machine.

refining sourcing strategy

How can employers best meet the challenge of sourcing top IT and engineering talent? Professionals with the right skills and experience can be in short supply or tough to find, and making the wrong hire can be expensive. Improving your sourcing strategy can help you to identify and attract the best people.

Improve Your Job Postings

Craft job postings that will interest and intrigue the people you want to attract. Treat potential candidates like your customers and your postings as your sell sheet. Once you've created an attention-grabbing post, share it where top IT and engineering talent is likely to find it, including:
• Your company website
• Major job boards, like Monster and CareerBuilder
• Niche job boards like Dice or TechCareers

Leverage Social Media

Technical professionals tend to be connected on social media. In order to attract them, go where they are. Keep your company social media updated and engage with potential employees on platforms such as:
• LinkedIn
• Facebook
• Twitter

Recruit Directly

Access to top talent may be easier than you think. Search online or internal databases to identify likely candidates or look to your current employees for referrals. Start your search here:
• Resume databases
• Internal databases of past candidates/contractors
• Employee referrals

Reach out to Your Networks

If you're still not getting the results you need, cast your net wider to groups and organizations that cater to people with IT or engineering skills such as:
• User groups
• Alumni groups
• Professional networking
• Business schools/colleges/technical institutes

Enlist Third-Party Recruiters

Chances are, you have neither the time nor resources required to source top technical talent and still accomplish the rest of your goals. Consider enlisting these professionals to handle recruiting for you:
• Staffing firms
• Recruiters – contingent and retained
• Executive search firms
• RPO (recruitment process outsourcing) firms

Once you’ve determined the positions you need to fill and the qualifications of the ideal candidate, put a strategy in place to identify and attract them. Write compelling job descriptions, post them in the most strategic sites and platforms, optimize the use of your internal and external resources. Most importantly, don't hesitate to reach out to recruiting experts who can manage your search while you focus on other tasks.

Published in Recruiting

12 Work Life Balance Still Exists Fact or Fiction

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.

Published in Staffing News
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