Written by Lyndsey Lustig, Lead Recruiter in Jobspring Washington, DC
In the land of software development, there's more than one correct way to solve a problem. Since technology itself is limitless, it should come as no surprise that the available tools and resources are boundless as well. Now the question is, which tools should we choose, not only to get the job done, but also to best express oneself?
I work with technical people every day, particularly those proficient with Microsoft technologies. I've found that often the best technical people don't limit themselves to one brand of tools or frameworks. They step outside their technical comfort zones and experiment with anything they can get their hands on.
This article presents four reasons why you might benefit personally and professionally from trying out new technologies.
Learn New Paradigms
Learn New Ways to Use Old Technologies
Speaking of functional programming, your experience may cause you to look at LINQ on the .NET platform in a new light. One of my hiring managers was explaining that his organization’s use of Angular.JS (with its draconian dependency injection) caused his team to think differently about DI containers in their .NET server side, resulting in more flexible and more testable C#. In this way, working with one technology influenced how they interacted with another.
Here are four basic ways that broadening your technical repertoire can open up possibilities for career advancement.
- You can contribute to different areas of the same project (front-end to back-end, application to data analysis, etc.)
- You can move to new projects entirely (has your organization been piloting a new tech stack?)
- You can move to new organizations entirely. If this is the case, I can refer you to a specialist. (Wink!)
- Some organizations only fill full-stack or generalist positions. It’s worth mentioning that this is often true of smaller product development companies or startups.
Right Tool for the Job
Many organizations are pushing the limits of relational databases. The high performance or high availability required by their applications call for something new. NoSQL databases are answering this call, but often each in their own way. Spend some time understanding their relative merits and you can be your organization’s hero. Can you drop joins and go for the high performance of key store or document databases? Is your problem better suited by a graph database? What these specialized databases give up in the relational model they make up for by excelling in their particular area of application.
The following books are a great resource if you’re looking to expand your knowledge of current and new technologies.
- “Seven Languages in Seven Weeks: A Pragmatic Guide to Learning Programming Languages” by Bruce Tate
- “Seven Databases in Seven Weeks: A Guide to Modern Databases and the NoSQL Movement” by Eric Redmond
There are many benefits to be had from interacting with a range of technologies. Whether you’re looking for new ways to tackle an assignment or hoping to advance your career by opening new doors, I highly recommend not limiting yourself to one brand of tools or frameworks.
Carl Gieringer, a Darmouth College Computer Science graduate and Software Engineer at RevMetrix, was consulted on this post.
Written by Sara Mauskopf, Director of Product at Postmates. This article was originally published on TechinMotionevents.com.
Now that I’ve been at Postmates for almost 8 months, a lot of people have asked me the difference between Product Management at a larger company like Twitter where I worked from July 2010 to July 2014, or Google where I worked from 2007 to 2010, and at a startup like Postmates. I too was curious before I decided to join a startup.
So first, let me define Product Management at a larger tech company. As a Product Manager, you are responsible for defining a roadmap for your area and ensuring that roadmap meets the goals or objectives you set forth for your team, which should align with the goals of the company. You’re responsible for ensuring the items on the roadmap are prioritized, and that there are clear product specifications for those items. Finally, you work closely with the team to build, launch, collect data/feedback, and iterate to a standard of exceptional quality. Through all phases, including planning, you are working closely with engineering, design, and other key stakeholders across the company. And because everyone looks to you as a leader for your product area, it is important you are inspiring those around you to do their greatest work by setting the right context, establishing a sense of urgency, and working collaboratively.
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As it turns out, all those fundamentals remain the same at a startup. In fact, the fundamentals are so important that having experience at a larger company as a Product Manager is one of the best forms of training for startup Product Management. But on top of all that, at a startup you have responsibilities and challenges that do not exist at a larger company. If you are thinking of making the transition from big company PM to startup PM, here are some things you’ll want to know.
1. You’ll often have to do things you have never done before and probably suck at.
Working at a startup, you quickly discover where your personal weaknesses are because on a daily basis you need to do something you have never done before and probably are not good at yet. Executing out of your area of familiarity manifests through needing to do something that larger companies have a person or team dedicated to doing. For example, at a startup you will most certainly not have a user research team that helps you assess how your feature will be received in the market. If you want user research or early feedback on a prototype, you will have to find and interview users yourself. Although it can be daunting to roll up your sleeves and try something you have never done before, it’s also the fastest way to learn how to do it. If you are lucky, you may discover a talent you didn’t know you had!
2. You’ll need gymnast levels of flexibility.
Imagine any company has 5 “fire drills” a quarter. In other words, 5 times per quarter, the average company has to quickly react to something in the market, change a plan due to unexpected data or user feedback, or get in a war room and really focus on a hard problem that has not been given enough attention. At a larger company, those 5 instances are spread out between a lot of people and teams, so you personally probably only experience a "fire drill" at most once per quarter. At a startup, any fire drill usually involves most of the product, design, and engineering team because the team is so small. It’s important at a startup that you can quickly tackle these fire drills, avoid getting thrown off course, and reprioritize your roadmap when needed. Most importantly, you need to mentally be able to deal with plans changing more frequently. It’s ok!
3. You’ll do less talking the talk, more walking the walk.
At a startup, there is nowhere to hide. People who can step up to the plate and tackle the challenges will shine and get even more responsibility. Underperformers who can’t cut it will quickly make their way out. In addition to not needing to worry much about whether your individual performance will be recognized, if you ask any good PM at a larger company they will tell you they spend some percentage of their time carving out territory for their team, evangelizing the great results of their team, and other activities generally thought of as “managing up”. It’s not because large companies are full of evil political people, it’s just because when you have a lot of people working in one place it’s easy to get lost in the noise if you aren’t making it clear what your team works on and the results they have achieved.
You don’t have to worry about that much at a startup. Now, I spend my time working and moving the company forward rather than evangelizing my team internally. With fewer people to communicate with, you can spend more time doing the work, which is great because there is a lot of work to do.
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About the Author
Sara Mauskopf joined on-demand delivery company Postmates in July to build and run its Product Management team. Postmates is transforming the way local goods move around a city by connecting customers with local couriers who purchase and deliver goods from any restaurant or store in a city in minutes. Prior to Postmates, Sara was a Group Product Manager at Twitter, having joined the company in 2010. She started her career at YouTube and Google as a Partner Technology Manager (a role that's a mix of partnerships and engineering). Sara graduated with a bachelors degree in Computer Science from MIT.
Article by Sandra Zawacki, Practice Manager in Jobspring DC and Co-founder of DC Security Meetup
Did you know that there are over 100 technology focused meet up groups in the DC metro area and in most other major cities? I’ve been in the technology recruiting industry for almost eight years, an industry that most would argue heavily relies on networking, and I have been pleasantly surprised to see the huge increase in groups and events over the past few years. People from all different verticals of the technology community are stepping out from behind their laptops, standing desks and online forums to, wait for it, engage with others face to face! While the technology field heavily relies on email, web conferences, virtual server environments and code repositories to make important decisions and move products forward—in the recruiting field—we still see most important hiring decisions made when a face to face meeting has occurred. How good are your face to face networking capabilities? The opportunity to improve on this skill is only one of the many reasons you should be an active member of your local meet up community—let’s explore a few others!
First, let’s lay a few common misconceptions to rest. One: community driven meeting groups are an “old-school” way of engaging with people in your field. Judging by the explosive growth of sites like Meetup.com, which boasts 21.6 million members world-wide and powers over 9000 groups meeting each week, meet-ups are clearly the “new-old” way of getting together. Two: techies are introverts who don’t like engaging outside of the comfort of their screens. There are thousands of registered meet up groups focused on different areas of the technology market. To use a more specific example, when my company founded Tech in Motion (a nation-wide technology focused meet-up) we grew our membership to over 40,000 members in under five years—clearly techies are getting out! Three: “If I want more information on something I can just find it online, I won’t get anything ‘extra’ out of attending an actual event, plus traffic is terrible at rush hour!” Well, I can’t argue on the traffic point…but there is plenty of “extra” to be gained at these events.
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At most of the events I attend, and host, it’s as Forrest Gump would say “a box of chocolates—you never know what you are going to get”. But that, in my opinion, is what’s so great about it! There will always be the real experts at whatever the topic of the event is; the people truly passionate about that technology who are eager to share their knowledge and exchange ideas. There are others at the event who are just there to learn more and who serve as a grateful audience to the first group. Inevitably, there are also a few who just came for the free food and drinks—that’s ok too. The point is to not be afraid to put yourself in a position where, even if you are unfamiliar with the topic, you learn something new or share some of what you know. This is not only the best way to actually gain some new knowledge but also an important networking skill that may have gotten rusty as you tapped away at your keyboard for the past few years!
That brings me to my next point—don’t underestimate the value of human interaction. As mentioned previously, despite much of business being conducted in online capacities these days, most companies still make important hiring decisions after face to face meetings. As much as you have to be “good at what you do” you have to also be able to explain what it is you do, and to some extent “sell yourself” to get the job you really want. Meet-ups are an excellent forum to practice these skills by talking to people you’ve never spoken to before (like you would in an interview), describing what you do and then connecting with them over what it is they do. These interactions can greatly help improve the thing most people struggle with during interviews; nerves! Additionally, you are meeting people at these events who are in your field; the bigger you can make your network the easier looking for a job will be, if or when you choose to do so.
One last point from a hiring perspective; the number one quality hiring managers tell me that they are looking when they describe the “perfect” candidate (outside of technical skills) is passion and desire to learn. These intangible skills can be difficult to qualify and even more difficult to represent on a resume. Consider the approach high school students take; they fill their free hours with extracurricular activities that will look great on a college application, ideally a variety of them to suggest a broad and general interest in being an active member of their communities. Perhaps it’s not a bad idea to take a page out of the book we wrote as 17 year olds and incorporate it into our professional lives. Being an active member of your professional community and attending events that further your skills and knowledge is an excellent way to show potential employers that your application should stand out!
So join your peers; take a night or two a month and find an event that interests you; a topic that you could learn more about. Wear your nametag proudly on your chest and don’t be afraid to walk up to someone you don’t know to ask them what they do. You might meet someone whose knowledge helps your project, whose network impacts your career path or who you simply enjoy exchanging ideas with. Or just come for the food and drinks…
Article by Patrick Tafua, Practice Manager in Jobspring Orange County
My fascination and curiosities of Artificial Intelligence (AI) began at Disneyland. It was my first job and I worked on attractions in Tomorrowland, the futuristic themed area of the theme park. While working at the resort you really gain an appreciation for the innovative or ‘magical’ mind of Walt Disney. One particular favorite innovation of mine is Audio-Animatronic figures throughout the park. Audio Animatronics is a form of robotics animation. These robots move, make sound that is generally recorded and are often fixed upon whatever supports them. Although the movements and sounds of the robots are prerecorded it brings these figures to life for its audiences. I feel that this innovative technology sparked the wishes of engineers to make AI more of a reality and a part of our lives. Which asks the question; should all wishes come true?
AI has the potential of making lives easier by understanding our desires or driving our automobiles and more. If uncontrolled though, the technology could be a serious threat to society. At least that is what many of the top scientist and technology leaders in world, such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, are proclaiming. A letter written by Musk, Hawking and other prominent scientists, stated that, "Because of the great potential of AI, it is important to research how to reap its benefits while avoiding potential pitfalls.” Also stated was that these systems should be controlled to do what we want them to do and add benefits to society. Stephen Hawking had gone further stating that AI development could “spell the end of the human race”. So where do you stand on AI?
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It seems that there isn't much you can do at this time to stop AI developments from happening if you were opposed. This battle to bring AI to the hands of consumers has been in motion for long time. Recently we are seeing developments of robots to be personal caregivers. For example Robear, a high-tech teddy developed in Japan with a mission to help make elderly care much easier. There are many other technological advances being made in AI. These robotic figures do not have prerecorded audio or movements like those at Disneyland. Some of these machines can process regular spoken language and not only recognize human faces, but also read our expressions. It only seems fitting to discuss what AI will become in the workplace.
Zeynep Tufekci of the New York Times wrote that computers do not just replace humans in the workplace. She states, “They shift the balance of power even more in favor of employers. Our normal response to technological innovation that threatens jobs is to encourage workers to acquire more skills, or to trust that the nuances of the human mind or human attention will always be superior in crucial ways. But when machines of this capacity enter the equation, employers have even more leverage, and our standard response is not sufficient for the looming crisis.”
AI could have machines doing our jobs well enough to make it cheaper for employers and easier to control than an employee that would have their own opinion on work matters. Certainly, engineers in technology may not have to worry about their job security right now because of the high demand recently in our county for engineering talent, but these engineers may create the reason they are out of a job in the future. In Orange County, there isn't much AI development being done, but we still have Disney’s Audio-Animatronics to inspire local engineers to come up with the next big AI. It’s just - do we really want to make these dreams become reality?
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.
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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 by Del Crockett, Regional Director in Jobspring Washington DC
If you are one of the many tech hiring managers or HR managers out there right now, being tasked with hiring niche-specific technology professionals (i.e. Software, Mobile, Security, DevOps and Front-End Engineers among the most popular), there is a good chance you are utilizing recruiting agencies.
Congratulations, that’s typically a necessary first step for most companies outside of Google and Facebook!
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Unfortunately, many of you are still not getting the attention you want from your vendors. As The Regional Director of our entire Washington, D.C. based tech recruiting operations, I am here to give the inside scoop on why your vendors are not servicing your accounts the way they do some other companies.
#1 – Communication Is Everything
Anyone who has been in a relationship knows it all starts and ends with healthy communication. I often find it perplexing that company representatives (HR and / or hiring managers) want to limit the communication with recruiters.
Using a recruiter is like hiring a consultant from the Big Four – you are bringing on a specialist to provide a service that cannot be fulfilled by internal staff. So why muzzle that consultant? Isn’t the purpose of hiring a consultant to get their perspective and expertise on how to solve the problem at hand?
In a relationship where both company and recruiter have the same goal—namely, getting the position filled with the best applicant in an efficient manner—you would expect a healthy amount of interaction is expected.
The truth is that the best recruiters have deep networks, which means they are getting multiple requests from companies on a daily and weekly basis. Like everyone else, his or her time must be prioritized. When companies minimize or even restrict recruiter communication you can ensure your position will get minimal to no attention. Like anyone else, we find the lack of communication to be a major turn off. Our time is better served where company representatives see value in building a relationship.
The real truth is that the companies who have high communication standards with their vendors typically get first dibs on the best referrals and the best overall quality of service!
#2 – Great job Negotiating Your Vendor to Lower Terms than the Industry Average, But…
Listen, we get it! Every company and department has a budget and paying less when possible is the logical method to running a business. The problem is that in the tech world, demand grotesquely outweighs supply… and then some.
With tech department’s livelihoods dependent on the talent within their teams and the ability to retain and grow staff, handicapping your growth by negotiating below average terms isn’t doing your company any favors. Here’s why.
All respectable agencies know their worth and minimally know what the market standards are for recruiting services. Those standards are in place because a high majority of companies agree to those terms, if not higher. So to come in below those standards in a high demand market where companies have minimal leverage because of the demand is a very ineffective strategy to capturing consistent, high-end referrals from good staffing firms.
Obviously, tech recruiting is a for-profit business and no respectable sales organization is going to discount their services without a great reason. A trend that I have found to be more often true than not, is companies who pay below average vendor fees typically pay below average salaries—and this is a common viewpoint among those who work the industry. Again, this is not an ideal strategy for capturing talent.
In my experience working with companies across the nation for the last nine years, the most attractive companies to work with and work for don’t blink when paying industry standard vendor rates (and employee salaries); and most, pay slightly above to ensure vendors give them top priority when considering where to send their best of best referrals!
#3 The interview - It’s a Sales Job… for you, the Hiring Manager!
Simply put, this is a candidates market; the best in years for technology professionals. Unless your strategy is to wait for the next bubble, by now you should have realized an adjustment is necessary in the way you approach interviews with job seekers (most of which are passive and currently employed).
Some of the most successful companies I have worked with constantly evolve their interviewing practices with a focus on impressing the applicant, not solely just screening them. On the other hand, I often see companies overcomplicating the hiring process. Many of these same companies struggle in the communication department with vendors as aforementioned in the first section. The companies that lack proper communication and overcomplicate the process tend to make the same mistakes.
The most common mistakes?
Managers just screen for technology and culture… and forget to sell themselves and the company: If you want to hire good technical talent, your hiring manager needs to be impressive. Nowadays, it takes a manager who can really sell him or herself, their leadership, vision and management style to capture talent. How good are you at selling yourself? If you have to think about it, then it’s a good idea to put yourself in the position of the applicant and evaluate how the opportunity is presented from the interviewee perspective.
Asking applicants to take a test—especially before 1st round technical interviews: The truth of the matter is that most technical tests, especially the ones created by internal team members simply do not work. They screen out way too many candidates, many of which end up being great additions to other companies. One of the biggest common mistakes is when companies use Google style test to screen for talent despite not actually being Google. Just a reminder, your company is probably not Google, so copying their interview tools may not produce the same result for your company since Google can sell their opportunity on brand alone. Additionally, asking senior level professionals to take a test is almost insulting. Instead, invest time in human interaction first. Otherwise it gives off the perception that you don’t have the internal resources technically to confidently screen for good talent.
Both mistakes not only deter candidates from wanting to work for your company but also deter your vendors from sending you good referrals early and often. If the vendor thinks it is a waste of time because candidates can’t get interested in your opportunity then you can bet your account is not getting the attention it needs to be successful.
Overall, in order to get the best service possible from your vendors, it's important that everyone focus on the end goal. This means leveraging the expertise of your consultant(s) to put your company in a position to be successful hiring the best talent available. It's a competition for talent right now... don’t forget that. Get all the help you can get!
Looking for ways to get more out of your current vendors? Addressing these few pointers should start returning better results almost immediately. Have questions? Feel free to contact Del Crockett at [email protected].
Article by Alston Chiang, Practice Manager at Jobspring New York
Jobspring Partners is a staffing agency that only promotes from within, and moving from an entry-level employee to a manager can happen quickly, or it can take some time. In my case, it happened within a year and a half. The stages of growth are exciting and at times overwhelming as the job functionalities change drastically.
A year and a half ago I moved from San Francisco to New York City in nine days to open up a brand new recruiting team focused on UX, UI, and Product Management. I had to hire a sales team, train them, build a pipeline of business, and recruit candidates in a completely unknown market in a town that was foreign to me. My biggest insecurity was managing a staff that was my own age, and possibly even older than me. How would they respect me if they knew I was the same age as them? Could we have a relationship that went beyond peer to peer contact? Would they be motivated to perform?
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To facilitate this process, I came up with a few simple guidelines to ensure success:
1. Set the example – Sales is all about numbers. If you’re team is going to perform, you need to set the example on your own desk. This also means coming to work prepared and showing them how you want the job done. No one will take you seriously if you roll into work 15 minutes late with your shirt untucked.
2. Implement structures that are easy to follow – Hold them accountable for the goals that you set together. Make sure you and your team are actively tracking and discussing progress. Give feedback using concrete facts as opposed to generating feedback that comes from a personal or emotional place.
3. Empathize with your staff – You might be their age, but remember that you have more experience in the field. Use this experience to help guide them while using your age to relate to them on a personal, yet professional level.
Since implementing these guidelines, which actually weren’t that different than the guidelines that my first managers used back in San Francisco, I have been able to find success. Growing pains are common and normal being a new manager and the road certainly hasn’t been easy—people have come and gone just as stress and doubt have ebbed and flowed.
I’ve come to understand that age really is just a number, and that experience is what actually matters. Experience is what gets you promoted and age is an unrelated signifier. Success comes from vision; specifically, your vision to see goals, how to achieve those goals and build confidence based on experiences. Anyone who aims to succeed in their career listens to their mentors. A good mentor guides staff to inspire them to hit their goals.
Above all, I’ve discovered that success is relative. Some days success might mean that your team is dominating the competition, but other days it may mean that you accomplished a simple task. And that’s okay. As a young manager, I’m going through my own growing process and perhaps that has been the biggest success of all.
To this day I’m proud of myself for taking a huge cross-country leap to start my team here in New York. Never be afraid of an opportunity – especially an opportunity to challenge yourself.
Article by Daniel Urbaniak, Practice Manager in Jobspring Silicon Valley
Running a sales and recruiting team comes with many challenges; keeping up on technology trends typically falls on the back burner for most. However, those who keep up with the ‘latest and greatest’ trends have the upper hand in educating those you are assisting with their search. The UI/UX design world is no exception, with 88% of young adults being connected to a smartphone it has become imperative to deliver the best user experience to compete. (Creativeblog)
2014 brought us design trends like: The hamburger menu, pushing the limited when it comes to resolution, and the expansion of in-house design teams. With the end of the first quarter on the horizon, I thought it would be a great time to discuss a few of the design trends we will be seeing in 2015.
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Lean design has been leading the way in recent design trends. This will continue, but as companies and designers continue to hone lean design and how it lends itself to mobile applications, they also need to set themselves apart. In 2015, we will see (and we have already started to) skeuomorphic cues in lean design. Keep an eye out for additional physical presences; transparency and layers will become more common, apps will continue to look flat and conform to strict grids. The focus of design will revolve around movable objects within the screen. In the summer of 2014, Google transposed this design trend on Material Design.
I am definitely guilty of (over) using the term sticky or stickiness when talking about design. I like the idea of creating applications that not only engage a user on their first use, but also ones that keeps the user interested over extended periods of times or uses. The more our devices become connected to our everyday lives, i.e. thermostats, home security, or digital experience with our cars, the greater the need is for efficient and effective delivery of information. Slippy UX is giving the user an application designed for “glance-ability”. Coined by Jake Zukowski, Assistant Creative Director at Frog Design, "slippy UX is intended to be invisible-enough and non-distracting enough for the user while still delivering and absorbing information".
There are two emerging trends in connectivity, the first being something more apparent every day, even if we are not aware of it. The ability to send information to many devices, syncing with the cloud, and allowing users to maneuver their information has already started to be a driving force in design. Forrester Research found that 90% of users who own multiple devices start a task on one device and finish it on another. In 2015, we will see user experience that functions across all platforms seamlessly, regardless of device or screen size. The second connectivity trend will be an extension of what some of our mobile apps already do: accessing GPS and Bluetooth to respond better to user needs. The combination of these integrations, wearable technology, and the Internet of Things will result in apps that collect data on the user to deliver advice and infer when the device should be delivered. The term to look for here is Ambient Intelligence.
With worldwide IT on track to spend a total of 3.8 trillion in 2015, we will see the above trends and many more, become apparent in our every day lives.(Gartner.com) What trends are you excited about in UI/UX Design for 2015?