How I Got My Start in IT Consulting

The funny part of my career is that I never imagined myself being in an IT role. In 1976, I had recently been discharged from the Navy, had a new family and was in need of a better job. Finding nothing interesting in the general ‘Help Wanted’ section of the newspaper, I decided to be adventurous and checked out the ‘Engineering/Technical’ section.Daniel Morehouse

Low and behold, there was an ad from IBM, something that was unheard of in those days. Upon reading the requirement, I thought, "“Hey, I think I can do that!” So I went to the IBM building, applied for the job, passed their test and soon found myself training to be an IBM Customer Engineer servicing IBM typewriters. (For some of you that would be a “pre-computer/printer document generators”).

After a number of successful years servicing a variety of office equipment, an opportunity presented itself. IBM needed instructors for their new Print Application software at their Dallas Training Center. This was something that I was certainly not qualified for. However, I was willing to learn and my track record, along with support from my management, enabled this opportunity to become a reality for me.

Since then, there have been many other opportunities through which I have been privileged to achieve great success both as an employee and as a consultant. There is much more to this story but this is what I think is most important: I didn’t go to college (much to my colleagues’ surprise.) Please don’t misunderstand; I am not discounting the importance of education. It is more important today than in the past. However, education will only take you so far in this world.

To achieve true success in any field requires the right ATTITUDE.

If it’s all about you, you’ll lose. I have achieved great success because I determined to always do my best for my employers, my customers, and most of all, my fellow co-workers. Everything we do leaves an impression. What impression do you want to leave?

This quote has been a source of encouragement over the years:

It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belong to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who errs and comes short again and again; who know the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat. -Theodore Roosevelt

About the Author: 

Daniel Morehouse has been working in the IT industry for over 30 years. He initially started out servicing typewriters, and eventually moved into consulting, which led him to multiple positions with MATRIX as a technical trainer.

Posted in: 
Fun

Which Hat Do I Need Today?

Most corporate software developers are expected to perform a multitude of tasks outside their level of expertise. Often developers are asked to tackle QA, Technical Writing, Business Analysis, Project Management, and the beat goes on… Now pile on the fact that you are surrounded by lazy and sometimes inferior talent and you’ve got a ‘Kobayashi Maru’, the no-win scenario. You simply cannot do it all, so what now?Which Hat Do I Need Today?

Educate
Make sure all parties involved understand the development process and what is required for success. Enlightening stakeholders concerning the SDLC (software development life cycle), or at least some equivalent, will ensure the business is educated on required processes.

Oftentimes business management has no idea on complexity. They think creating a contact is trivial, but we know differently as this depends on such items as scale, localization, and roles. Communicate this through emails, blog links, sequence diagrams, discussions, and any other way you can. Business doesn’t know about software development. That’s your job.

Organize
Regardless of team or project size, you must know what the finish line looks like; otherwise, you’ll never get there. Along with the business, define the end goal and formulate a plan to get there. If compromises are agreed upon with the business, ensure they understand the ramifications.

Process
Your plan needs to include solid processes such as agile in order to keep stakeholders and developers engaged and on the same page; especially, since you’ve been wearing multiple hats. This will quickly show the organization your worth and expose slackers and misplaced developers. You won’t have to say a word.

Document
Try not to get to involved with this stage as hopefully you’ve obtained someone who can help (see technical writer role below), but the minimum following items need to be defined and documented:

  1. Sprint Deliverables i.e. On 1/22 users will be able to enter and save contacts.
  2. Project Responsibilities i.e. The business must deliver requirements two weeks in advance and be placed in the task backlog.

Now we are getting organized and acting like we know what we are doing. Expectations are everything. If everyone knows what is expected and it is clearly defined, then all parties are covered.

Roles
Each person within the organization needs to understand their role within the project. This is your opportunity to again show everyone the amount of business value you provide. At minimum, define the following:

  1. Business Project Manager. Your go-to person for all things business. When you need answers, this is the person who has them.
  2. Project Manager. Someone has to keep things in order and be responsible for development. All communication between the business and developers must go through this person; otherwise, you’ll open yourself up to misinterpretation. This person will end up setting schedules, allocating resources, controlling scope creep, and driving the project.
  3. Technical Writer. Who is going to work with the business to document use cases, user stories, deliverables, and requirements? The business needs to stay at least two weeks ahead of development with what they want to see delivered in the coming sprint. Now the business is driving exactly what they want to see developed. Beautiful.
  4. QA. Developers do not make good testers, so if you are pinned with this responsibility, make sure the business acknowledges the time requirements and risks. TDD (test driven development) will be your best friend in this case. Hopefully, at minimum, you’ll involve a few actors/users for regression testing.
  5. Development Team. Architect, Back end layers, Front end layers, middle tier, and production support. FYI… You can’t do them all.
  6. Systems Integration. Who’s responsible for saying the software is ready for production and where does the software live? Hopefully, you’ve negotiated getting everything up in the cloud as this will greatly speed up development and simplify items such as security, backups, and disaster recovery.

Sale
Time for you to wear yet another hat: sales. There are several ways to go about getting the above implemented into your everyday life. Threaten physical violence (highly recommend), tell your boss he’s a moron (highly likely) and threaten to quit, or be the consummate professional and present the facts.

  • Fact 1: Current processes are not rendering expect results. You’re not happy and neither is the business. Change is in order.
  • Fact 2: Current processes (if the are any) are not sustainable. High levels of anxiety prevail and top talent cannot be attracted. They know better than to enter here.
  • Fact 3: You must run software development like a business within a business.You cannot treat it like customer service or purchasing. It doesn’t subscribe to traditional business departments.

I could go on, but you’ll find plenty on your own that apply directly to your business.

Conclusion
The business needs you. You are the one who provides ‘business value‘. You’re asking for something that will improve the business by creating sustainable, extensible, and maintainable software that the organization can go forward with for years to come.

Time for business to realize chaos and grinding on their best performers is not a sustainable paradigm and will ultimately cost the business time and money, giving their competition the edge.

In the end, if the business does not want to listen to the wisdom with which you speak… Then it’s time to move on, professionally.

About the Author: 

Tom Williamson has thirteen years experience in project management, enterprise software development, and four years of cloud computing with specialized expertise in business process improvement, change management, and Business Analysis. Hates zombies, clipping toenails, and fighting with bullies. Follow Tom on Twitter and at his blog.

Posted in: 
PM-Agile

Inevitable conflict: Navigating difficult conversations professionally

Resigning your position and giving two weeks’ notice? Firing an employee or delivering a bad performance review? Turning down a job offer or having to back out of a commitment?

Eventually, we are all faced with situations that require difficult conversations. For many of us, these conversations can be stressful and cause angst, but they are conversations that must be had. It may seem surprising, but handling these types of conversations professionally and effectively will go a long way in building your reputation and personal brand. Conversely, making bad choices in these situations will burn bridges and potentially be career-limiting.Inevitable conflict: Navigating difficult conversations professionally

Due to what I have learned to call “Selfish Passivity”, far too many individuals, including myself, naturally want to run from the smallest of conflicts. Often unknowingly, we choose to damage business relationships, tarnish our reputation, and lose credibility rather than tell the truth. However, if we are intentional in our dealings with inevitable conflict, we can turn these difficult conversations into positive growth.

My role at MATRIX gives me a unique perspective on this topic. Every year my recruiting teams guide thousands of technology professionals through the process of interviewing for a new job. We coach people each day on resigning professionally and also hear every excuse in the book in terms of declining interviews and rejecting job offers previously accepted. But leading recruiting is also running a sales organization, which means I know all too well about firing people you care for and the disappointment caused by resignations handled inappropriately.

It is your career. Conflict is inevitable. Relationships do matter.

Below are a few tips on handling difficult conversations professionally.

Tell the truth & Do the right thing

It sounds so simple but when we know our actions are going to disappoint someone, telling the truth can be hard to do. Whether it’s quitting a job, changing your mind on a big decision, delivering bad news, or backing out of a commitment, the best thing you can do is tell the truth. The other person will not always like what you say but they will respect the fact you were honest with them. Admit and own your mistakes. You will build a character of integrity and sow relationships built upon trust.

Do it in a timely fashion

Always give two weeks’ notice. If you feel wronged by an employer, the best revenge is to act with character. Stooping to their level and leaving them high and dry may make you feel better in the short term, but it will not help you sleep more peacefully and can come back to bite you in the future. Communicate in real time. If someone is not performing to expectations, let them know. Don’t blindside someone assuming they should have seen it coming.

Don’t feel guilty

Everyone makes mistakes. It is going to happen. Everyone has to make tough and unpopular decisions. Handle them like a professional. Address the inevitable conflict and difficult conversations professionally and move on. If you do the right thing, your reputation and personal brand will flourish. Don’t limit tomorrow’s potential by avoiding conflict today. If I can handle conflict and difficult conversations, you can too.

About the Author: 

Justin Thomason is the Regional Director of Recruiting at MATRIX. His expertise includes hiring, training, and leading world class recruiting organizations. With a focus on innovative delivery strategies, Justin's recruiting teams specialize in leveraging social media to develop lasting relationships with talented IT professionals.

Posted in: 
Hiring Manager

This Thanksgiving: Reflect On Your Career

Thanksgiving: endless plates of food, football playing on TV all day, family you haven't seen in a while, kids running around on a sugar high, Dad falling asleep in the recliner, arguing with teenagers to get off their phones and join the conversation...

Maybe your Thursday will look like this, or maybe it will look completely different. Still, this holiday is an important time to rest and be with family and friends. But if you do have extra downtime this week, it might be a good time to reflect on your life – and how your career is impacting it.

Most of us spend the majority of our time at our jobs. Studies show that nearly two out of three workers are not happy in their careers. If you’re not happy at your job, chances are it’s affecting your happiness with life in general.

This Thanksgiving: Reflect On Your Career

Write down the following steps to determine if you’re truly satisfied in your career:

Reflect on the positives of this year.

  • What have you accomplished? What were the highlights? What are you thankful for about your company?

Reflect on the negatives of this year.

  • What were your biggest challenges? What didn’t you like? What would you go back and do differently if you could?

Make a list of the values and benefits that are important to you in a company.

  • How many of these does your current employer have? How important is each one to you?

Think about what you want to accomplish in 2015.

  • Set goals/resolutions. Can these be accomplished at your current employer? Is there anything standing in your way of achieving these goals?

Decide what matters most to you in your career. Rank the importance of these factors:

  • Salary
  • Work environment
  • Technologies used on the job
  • Benefits, perks
  • Flexibility
  • Telecommuting
  • Good team/leadership
  • Other: _____________

Ask yourself: are you doing what you want to do at a company that you want to work for?

Hopefully you’ll be inspired this Thanksgiving to think about what you’re thankful for. Researchers have found that gratitude is important to emotional well-being. If you don’t feel thankful for your job, it might be time to start thinking about other options.

Tweet your response at @MATRIXResources or leave your questions/comments below. Happy Thanksgiving!

About the Author: 

Jennifer is the Digital Content Specialist for MATRIX. Her primary mission is to understand what information our various communities want and need from MATRIX, and to deliver it to them in ways that are enlightening, engaging and in sync with who we are as a company. She loves pop culture, Oklahoma football and the great state of Texas. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.

Posted in: 
Fun

Acquiring The Souls of Boomerangs: The #NewWayToWork

We live in an age of diminishing talent in many fields, tech being the most obvious. With the proliferation of mobile technology and do-it-yourself apps, there is less interest in pursuing software development degrees.

Companies are going to extremes in interviewing and screening to hire the top people. Google may put a candidate through 25 interviews. Twitter does 5 interviews in one day with interviewers from different parts of the company and must have a consensus of at least 4 to make a job offer.

Acquiring The Souls of Boomerangs: The #NewWayToWork

At the same time there is a dearth of tech talent to be found in Silicon Valley. Google, being the behemoth, will buy candidates right out of Twitter's hands with shares. Google will also hire people to get their ideas off the street. But not everyone is Google. And more often companies are now opening remote offices in order to hire talent in other parts of the world or country.

What is the price of this war? There is a definite price on hiring, training, and turnover. In this economy, many companies' main goal is to just hire the brightest people from their competitors.

How do the best companies retain this talent? If they go to extremes to hire from competitors (and they do), then the goal ceases to be that of just putting butts in seats.

The goal must shift. Turnover is now so common that many Gen Y and millennial workers will know within the first few months of employment how long they will stay with an employer. Workers see jobs more as projects which can be done with many different employers over a career.

So they leave every 2 or 3 years. But are some companies keeping these workers longer than others? And what kind of praises do these workers sing of their former employers when they do leave? Are some companies winning the war on employer brand and reputation?

Yes and yes.

The war on talent is won today not with a continual churn of warm bodies. This war is won by acquiring souls.

We must make work so compelling, vital, and urgent that our workforce feels constantly challenged, appreciated, and that they are continually growing. We must give them the tools to be more efficient. And we must make it easy for them to work when and where they want.

Most importantly, we must make an effort to court boomerangs. If we play our cards right the best workers will work with us again and again in some capacity.

Kevin Wheeler of FutureOfTalent.Org says "We're heading to a world of what I call "Career Mosaics" where people move through various types of employment as their interests, needs, and skills change. One day an employee, another a part-timer, and another a contract worker. This may be interspersed with times when they do not work (at least for money), but travel, learn, chill out, etc. It will be very fungible and much of it will be virtual."

This week I will be in New York participating in a Thinkathon hosted by Purematter and IBM. The Thinkathon is a hands on, interactive think tank-meets-workshop event. It serves as the kick-off event to a three-day experience in partnership with IBM, all centered around hacking the future of work and the unveiling of IBM's new Mail Next product.

I will be reporting back here with some of the sure-to-be-interesting ideas that come out of this week.

Food For Thought

Here are a few fun resources some of my colleagues who will be in attendance have shared to think about the #NewWayToWork.

Dion Henchcliffe: The new digital workplace: How enterprises are preparing for the future of work

Acquiring The Souls of Boomerangs: The #NewWayToWork

Kevin Wheeler: Future of Talent Work Trends

Acquiring The Souls of Boomerangs: The #NewWayToWork

Some interesting stats from our friends at IBM and Purematter:

  • 82% used social networks to recruit, versus the 16% average determined in an Jan 2014 IBM Smarter Workforce Institute study*
  • Mining community expertise is a grassroots effort (compared to other ambitions where it’s more top-down) – 43% rely on employee evangelists to help kick start adoption*
  • Most organizations know what it means to be “social” but many don’t know where to start or how to achieve their goals:*
  • 74% of respondents define a “social” business as one that uses social technology to foster collaboration among customers, employees and partners
  • Only 20% believe their organization is currently acting truly “social”
  • Embedding social isn’t just about bolting on a few extra components onto an existing process. It’s about building social capabilities into the underlying systems and making them an integral part of the process: 43% of respondents said company systems are now set to default to social capabilities*
  • Despite access to a wealth of social data, less than a fourth surveyed use social analytics to inform their marketing decisions*
  • Uncertain ROI is a top two concern across aspirations, yet few (34%) have established formal metrics*

What do you see in your future? Is it possible for an employer to capture your undying loyalty for a long-term career these days? Share your thoughts here or on Twitter @fishdogs, and I'll share them with the "futurists" at this week's #Thinkathon.

Follow the conversation at #NewWayToWork

About the Author: 

Craig Fisher is a recruitment consultant, social media strategist and trainer, and serial entrepreneur. He consults with some of the world’s top companies on using social media for sales, marketing, recruiting, employer branding, and talent attraction. He is a featured author and speaker in industry publications and at conference events internationally. Craig created and hosts the original social recruiting forum on Twitter, TalentNet Live (#talentnet), and the TalentNet Live Social Recruiting/HR conferences. Follow Craig on Twitter @fishdogs and @TalentNet.

Posted in: 
Hiring Manager