Written by Adam Salk, Practice Manager in Jobspring Boston.
It’s in your pocket, it’s on your television and computer, and now for the first time it’s coming to your car. That’s right; I’m talking about everybody’s favorite mobile operating system, iOS. Finally, after a late 2014 announcement, automobiles are rolling off factory floors with Apple CarPlay ready to marry Siri and all her hands free capabilities with your car.
Instead of dangerously fumbling with your iPhone to switch Pandora to the perfect Summer Hits of the ‘90’s song you will now be able to turn a knob or tap a huge screen built into your dashboard. If you want to call mom, just tell Siri and keep your eyes on the road. And for those directionally challenged you can finally have the latest GPS systems integrated into your car’s dash.
Find a new tech role in Boston today.
Name brand automakers are building iOS into their entertainment systems including Ford, Nissan, BMW, Mercedes and even Ferrari. And for those who don’t have the extra dough or a need for new wheels there are plenty of aftermarket options to install in place of your current stereo without looking like you just rolled out of Pimp My Ride.
For those anti-apple fans out there worried about another missed out opportunity, fear not; Android has introduced a competing offer simply known as Android Auto. This will bring all the same features but in its familiar android operating system. The setup will make it easier than ever to get this operating system integrated into your daily commute—simply plug in your phone and then push information to the large display in your car.
While everyone has their own opinion on which operating system they prefer—both have the same mission with their automotive advancements; to offer the technology you want while keeping your eyes on the road. No matter which option you choose it’s a fair bet that the automotive future is directly tied to technology.
Article written by Shane Tomlinson, Practice Manager of Jobspring Boston
I would consider DevOps an umbrella term for many different types of positions. When someone is taking a DevOps job, they really need to look at the responsibilities they will have, and what the business needs are going to be. DevOps came around when cloud computing came into existence and companies realized they no longer needed a physical infrastructure. This created a butterfly effect, where startups saw this as an opportunity to hire additional developers to create their product, but also gave them the workload of maintaining their infrastructure while cutting costs. Since then, DevOps has evolved. My definition of DevOps would be someone that can really bridge the gap between development and operations. This would be someone that is a Senior Operations Engineer that also has an understanding of software development. With that role come the responsibilities of configuration management, cloud computing, and the ability to really make deployments seamless. Ideally, most companies are looking for someone that has specific experience doing repeatable builds through agnostic environments and deploying the same code/app on multiple environments such as physical and other cloud providers.
In the beginning, a technical department was very black and white. You could really look at it as employees either being on the operations/IT side, or the development side. The DevOps roles are very much in the grey area and straddle the line between both. When hiring someone in DevOps, it really starts with the company defining their needs and then customizing the position for the skillset of a candidate. Companies can’t expect to hire someone that is going to be at the senior level in all aspects of a tech department, but they can look for someone that is more of a generalist to help out with operations, programming, QA, and pushing out releases. This can be a double-edged sword though, as some candidates might only have an interest in, or experience with, certain pieces of that equation and can easily be misled by a job description or during an interview.
I believe this type of skill set is really going to be the future, and companies are going to continue to look for it. This skillset gives companies the ability to automate an infrastructure which will then drastically cut down on costs in the tech department. Automation can really help to make things easier by not only cutting down time, but also by making things more predictable which enables teams to be more proactive rather than reactive. Also, cloud computing can really cut down the cost, giving companies huge advantages, specifically in scalability. Instead of having to buy physical servers, it gives you the ability to not only scale up, but just as important, the ability to scale down. Cloud computing also saves costs by just reducing space needed to store servers and everything needed to maintain those servers.
In my opinion, the concept of DevOps is definitely the future. Maybe not from a skill set perspective, but from the perspective that companies are starting to become much more tech agnostic and are breaking the barriers between “department responsibilities”. This is especially helpful for continuous deployments and continuous integration for faster and more stable releases, and made possible by more and more companies moving to an agile environment.
Written by Sally Leung, Recruiter at Jobspring Boston
We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know”, but how true is that really?
According to a recent survey done by the Department of Labor, networking accounts for at least 69% of all hires. Networking is critical for the success of countless careers. In our high tech world, our main forms of communication are email, text or phone calls. We are losing that face-to-face interaction. Routinely attending networking events will get you face time with others in your industry, with the potential for building stronger relationships and moving your career forward.
Since networking is so important, you want to use your time wisely and make the best-possible impressions. Here are some helpful tips when going to a networking event:
Go with a purpose
You are already busy, so don’t waste time-- make the most out of it! Set a goal for yourself to meet at least three new people.
The Lone Ranger approach
Personally, I often attend networking events by myself or with one other person. When you go to an event with a group of friends, you will tend to stick with each other and you’ll be less likely to talk to new people.
Scan the scenery
This goes back to purpose. Make sure you are using your time effectively. I like to look at the scene and approach individuals standing alone or in small groups. They’ll be the most likely to be open to new participants. It’s much easier to break into a conversation that way.
Make a good first impression
You can’t dismiss the power of a good handshake. You’d certainly don’t want to have a death grip, but you also don’t want to be remembered as the person with the dead fish grasp.
Be someone you’d want to talk to
Ask open-ended questions that will keep the conversation flowing, make direct eye contact, and give the person you’re speaking with your full attention.
As my colleague, DJ, likes to say, always be positive. You might go to a networking event and may not make any immediate contacts that could translate to anything right away, but the connections you make have a very real chance of coming back to you in the future (whether it’s a few weeks or months down the road), or that person might introduce you to someone who IS the right person to talk to.
Offer to help
…and don’t expect anything in return. This goes back to the previous point. Offer to help where you can. Most people appreciate a favor and want to reciprocate.
Keep those connections!
Bring business cards. Keep YOUR business cards in your left pocket and the incoming cards from others in your right pocket. That way, you wouldn’t get them mixed up. Make it a point to get their contact info, especially if it’s a great contact. Sometimes people will run out of business cards, so in that case, just grab their email or number and follow-up with them the next day. And remember to add them on LinkedIn- it’s a totally expected and professional habit these days.
With these helpful tips, you will be sure to make a statement at your next networking event!
Article by Casey Popkins and Matt Sottile, recruiters in Jobspring Boston
In the world of startups and software engineering, there are a slew of programing languages to choose from for cool, new software. How many IT pros are choosing COBOL? Better yet, how many of them have ever even seen COBOL?
COBOL, which was developed in 1959, is an acronym for Common Business-Oriented Language, defining its primary domain in business, finance, and administrative systems for companies and governments. This language is still responsible for more than 70 percent of the world’s business transactions, according to a report in FCW, despite the growing prevalence of modern programming languages such as C++, .NET and Java. If the rest of the world is adopting newer languages, why is COBOL still hanging around?
With new and more exciting ways to control and understand finances, one would assume that the language would evolve just as greatly as the technologies that are being used today. There is of course the concern of safety-- despite the defects that occur in the older code, it actually performs faster and is more secure compared to the other modern languages, such as Java. The growing concern however, is that the language is just not as popular, and as a result, only 20% of schools are requiring this language for their degree. While one would assume that with lack of developers for the code, there would eventually be a necessity to evolve with those who are in the field, instead, there is a concern for how these companies will be run without having the knowledge of this seemingly “uncool” language.
The shortage of developers without the knowledge of this code could affect many companies, the US government being one of the biggest examples. The coming shortage of COBOL programmers will affect the government’s legacy IT systems and core databases, which suck up approximately 70 percent of the government’s $82 billion IT budget, leaving only 30 percent to spend on innovative technologies.
So what does the future hold for COBOL? Well, at the moment, it could be sticking around for some time. As agencies begin to try to modernize their IT systems, the decision to keep or repurpose the code can be a difficult one to make. The longer organizations continue to use COBOL it becomes harder and more costly to switch to a modern language.
There could possibly be incentives given to colleges to reintroduce more COBOL training to their students in order to prepare the workforce that we’ll need. COBOL is like Latin, it provides the building blocks for the “newer” romance languages, and we know there are better ways to communicate. What COBOL-reliant companies will do to continue to find solid engineers remains a mystery. One thing this does accomplish is ensure that anyone using COBOL will more than likely have a job in that “niche” market for years to come.
The question that remains about this code and other older codes, is at what point does a system become outdated? Is it possible to create something that is timeless, or is it better to keep changing along with the newer, more innovative technologies that are being created every day?
Article by Matt Sottile, Recruiter in Jobspring Boston
Bitcoin has been all over the news recently with its fluctuating value, increased acceptance by online marketplaces, and moneymaking opportunities. This cryptocurrency became popular in the underground online market because it cannot be duplicated and can be exchanged between parties safely and anonymously without the use of a third party like Paypal. The Bitcoin network is a public ledger that includes the history of every Bitcoin transaction, adding new ones to the end of what is called the “block chain”. The block chain is maintained and supported by the power of a globally distributed computing network made up of all Bitcoin participants. Transactions are added through hashes within nodes and verified to be legitimate by hashing pre-existing nodes. This action is called a “proof-of-work”, and once enough transactions have been proofed, they are grouped together and added to the chain, completing a block. As blocks are completed, new ones are discovered, rewarding the finder(s) with newly minted Bitcoin in return for the use of their computing power. Unlike Paypal, who charges a fee for its verification and transactional services, the Bitcoin network incentives its members, as they are required for it to opperate. It is important to note that Bitcoin itself is backed only by supply and demand and that there is a finite amount of Bitcoin that can eventually be minted. The rest of this article will be about how ANYONE can get started mining for free, so if you are interested in learning more about the system, check out Bitcoin.org and the original spec document by the creator.
A Bitcoin “miner” is simply a device connected to the Bitcoin network that is contributing computing power. To access the network, simply click this LINK and download the client for your appropriate operating system. Make sure you have enough memory (12-14K MB) and time (~24 hours based on your bandwidth) because the client will download the entire history of the block chain to your computer. Once you are caught up to the end of the chain, the client will let you set up a new “wallet”. Your wallet is an encrypted account within the network obtainable and recognized by a character address. For example, mine is: 1B2tNjrB78siE6D9kVi6zhguStiFrrcodR (feel free to send me Bitcoin!). To receive/send Bitcoin, a user simply exchanges this number with another user, setting up a transaction allowing for anonymity with one another if they choose. All of this is done within the client, which is simple and easy to use. From the client, you can view your current balance, transaction history, and even save addresses of other users’ accounts for reference.
Once your wallet is created and you have your address number, it is time to contribute to the network! This is done through a separate minting application linked to your wallet. Bitcoin itself is open-source, so developers have written their own applications for computing additions to the block chain. (Personally I use the application BitMinter for Mac which I will explain in the next paragraph). Mining is based entirely on computing power. The more power a miner has, the quicker it can complete blocks and be rewarded with Bitcoin. As an individual miner accessing the network through your PC or laptop for the first time, computing power is delivered by your graphics card. To increase power, you can purchase an Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) designed for Bitcoin mining or build your own. These devices are pieces of hardware sold in a variety of shapes and sizes advertised by a numerical representation of how quickly they can process hashes and validate transactions. Price correlates to speed, but other factors to consider are the electricity needed to run the device, cooling, and noise.
Unless you have a massive Bitcoin mining hardware farm already put together, chances are you won’t find any Bitcoin by letting your mining application run solo. You are competing with all other participants, so a good way to increase your chances is by joining a mining pool. Here, a group of participants link up to combine computing power into one focal point. When a block is discovered, the rewarded Bitcoin is divided up by the amount of computing power each member individually generated. Members are typically rallied around one central mining application developed by the creator(s) of the pool who sometimes take a small cut of the rewarded Bitcoin for putting everything together. The application I mentioned above, BitMinter, is part of a pool and I’d definitely suggest it to anyone curious about getting started mining for free. The website and associated client are very informative and kept up-to-date with real time data on the amount of power being generated by all members, the time and difficulty of the last block discovered, the percentages paid out, and historical information of the pool.
Now that you know the basics of Bitcoin, how to access the ledger, and contribute to the block chain, it’s up to you to determine your method moving forward. This is a way to get started for free, but it takes money to make more money through the purchase of hardware or buying space in cloud-based Bitcoin mining operations. Also, stay current with news on Bitcoin. Each day, new companies form around mining, opinions are shared on the future of Bitcoin, and innovators discover a new way to use this awesome currency.
Jobspring Boston recently visited Cradles to Crayons, an organization helping provide low-income children from birth to age 12 with essential items they need at home and at school. Cradles to Crayons has helped provide packages of clothes, shoes, books, toys, baby safety equipment, and school supplies to 87,000 children in the Massachusetts and Philadelphia area.
While at the Cradles to Crayons warehouse, our group assigned the task of sorting clothing. We had the important undertaking of making sure all the clothing going to families was in the best condition, and in the right sizes. With our watchful eyes, the clothing we sorted was then taken to the next station where other volunteers put together a week’s worth of clothing for children in need.
By the end of our shift, we were able to help create 75 individual care packages. All of Jobspring's participants were delighted to take some time out of their Tuesday evening in order to help an organization that helps better the Boston community.
Thanks for letting us help out, Cradles to Crayons! We'll be back soon!
Article by Matt Sottile, Recruiter in Jobspring Boston
Regardless of what sports you follow, odds are you’re using your smartphone or tablet to track scores, stats, news, or your fantasy teams. With the football season in full swing, many people spend their Sundays watching the games and taking in all that there is about football. It’s no surprise tech becomes an important factor while watching games. From checking your fantasy player real-time stats, posting a status about an incredible upset on Facebook, or live tweeting about your favorite team, it seems like technology has helped create a new way to experience the game. And in this age, sports apps can do a lot more to help fans, from watching live video streams to managing their fantasy teams. There even is an emergence of mobile apps that focus on the social aspect of sports. Fancred, a Boston based mobile app, allows fans to create forums around their favorite teams and allows those who are far away from the stadium to still feel connected to the team. Spogo, another Boston-based app, changes how people watch games with each other at the bar, allowing people to compete for prizes and cash while watching games with friends.
For those who prefer to watch games on a slightly bigger screen, the way that games are presented on television has even evolved! One of those ways is through the NFL Red Zone, which is produced by NFL Network. The basic idea is that the channel follows every NFL game on Sunday afternoons, delivering the touchdowns and most exciting moments as they happen, all in high definition. When a team goes inside the 20-yard line, NFL RedZone takes fans there. The channel’s focus is to keeps fans up-to-date in real time, switching from game to game with live look-ins, highlights, and a chance to see the key plays. While this innovation came around in 2009, the idea of having information delivered in real-time is still relevant to today’s sport watchers. With the ability to access information instantly through our smartphones and tablets, it only makes sense that the way games are shown is instant too. It is pretty exciting to watch your favorite team on one screen and quickly glance over to watch your fantasy running back score a touchdown on Red Zone.
The question, however, is with all these new ways of watching the games, do we still get the same satisfaction and enjoyment as if we were at the stadium watching the game live? Better yet, does this new way of receiving information about football make watching a full game more exciting? Of course this all depends on what kind of fan you are. For some, there is nothing that can truly beat the roar of a full football stadium on a Monday night. While it doesn’t seem like the pastime of watching games with friends and family is going to end anytime soon, it is an interesting concept to think about how technology truly has changed how we watch and enjoy games, and how much we rely on it to get the most out of our game day experience.
Q&A with Ashley Verrill, Software Advice
Every week our office conducts Market Knowledge Monday, as a fun way to stay up-to-date on industry news and educate blog readers on what’s going on in the tech markets of some the Jobspring office cities. During a recent Market Knowledge Monday, Shane Tomlinson filled us in on a TechCrunch article, which discussed how Apple trains their At-Home Advisors, a group of customer service representatives who work remotely. We wanted to learn more about the tools and training methods Apple employs for their remote teams, so we followed up with the article’s author, Software Advice CRM Analyst Ashley Verrill, to find out how other technology companies might leverage Apple’s tactics.
Jobspring Partners: In your article you discuss the “At-Home Advisors” program at Apple, which is for employees who are hired remotely and never enter an Apple office. Do Apple employees who work on one of their campuses have a telecommuting option? And if so, how do they become eligible for it? And what is their training process?
Ashley: The only people I interviewed for this article were the at-home advisors, so I can’t really speak to that with exact certainty (I did get a hold of Apple, but they refused to comment). However, I did get some really active discussion on the article from people who claimed to work for Apple, who said they don’t have an official telecommuting policy. One person said they work in an onsite call center providing “chat” support for Apple and can work overtime from home (specifically, she said “we can also work as much overtime as we want, which includes taking PlayStation games home over the weekend to test them out.”). So, it’s possible their policy varies by department or is less defined than what they use for their at-home advisors. I would definitely be interested to know more details. Maybe they’ll read our interview and chime in!
Jobspring Partners: In your opinion, could Apple’s At-Home training program work for similar tech companies? Or does it only work because Apple is such a successful, well known company?
Ashley: Yes to both questions, because there are some tactics that could work for other companies, and others that only Apple can get away with because everyone wants Apple on their resume. For the latter, I think some of the intense monitoring they do during training, as far as watching mouse movements and calling your cell phone if they suspect you aren’t there, would cause a lot of candidates to head for the hills in another context. But then there are things like the way Apple fosters camaraderie that I think could be really successful for any company. The biggest complaint I hear from remote workers in general is that they feel really isolated. This doesn’t sound like someone who is engaged and excited about what they’re doing, which inevitably leads to turnover issues.
Apple always starts trainings in groups of 20-100 people all in the same area. They meet for “class” online all at the same time and constantly chat and even talk on the phone with each other during training. Between classes, the moderators encourage trainees to talk about themselves. One of the advisors I spoke to talked about a crazy hat day where everyone turned on their camera to show their hat. Another person talked about days where everyone sent pictures of their lunch. This sounds kind of juvenile on the surface, and the folks I spoke to laughed about it, but it was clearly successful. Even people that no longer work at Apple told me they keep in touch with other former advisors.
Jobspring Partners: You discuss the tactics for At-Home training quite extensively but do not address the technologies used in the training process. For instance, is the video chat feature that managers employ, Skype? Or has Apple created their own software simply for this training program?
Ashley: The advisors I spoke to mentioned using Cisco’s WebEx for online meetings, iDesk for content and lluminate Education for training modules, which is interesting because that’s actually made for K-12 educators. Then, of course, every advisor is shipped a box before training with an iMac desktop computer, headset and their phone. Some advisors said they would get other products, depending on which division they were providing support for (services versus hardware).
Jobspring Partners: Outside of their managers, do remote employees have contact with employees that work on Apple’s campuses, or are their remote teams within their “city hubs” their only connection to the Apple family?
Ashley: They didn’t talk a lot about contact with any other physical Apple locations. One of the first things they do in training is talk about the culture, Steve Jobs, and working from the corporate office. They watch some videos and see pictures of the main office. Beyond that though, they don’t make a concerted effort to connect remote works with physical locations. Some of the workers actually work for a contractor after training is over, so they are technically employed by someone else.
Jobspring Partners: In your research, were you able to get in touch with any managers of the At-Home Advisors program? And if so, do they have any advice for other managers in how to monitor and manage remote employees?
Ashley: No, but the advisors all spoke extremely positively about their managers. They said they made a real effort to “speak at their level.” They weren’t stuck on a high horse, and they were really proactive about making sure everyone in the group understood all of the training and were successful in the role. If someone failed a test, they would take time to review what answers they did get wrong and help them study up for the retake. They talked a lot about feedback, but not in a negative way. If something went wrong in their mock call, the whole group would immediately talk about it. This made it feel less like someone just wagging a finger at you. The advisors talked about them as being “mentors.
Metrics are also extremely important for advisors’ success after training. Remote workers are monitored extremely closely, primarily by way of time-to-resolution and customer satisfaction. The agents with the best performance get the better schedules, time off, and even prizes like lunch paid for by Apple. So, I think as long as companies set clear expectations and have methods for monitoring performance of remote workers, they can moderate any productivity issues.