Archive for the ‘Career’ Category

Are your IT certifications Helping your career?

There is no shortage of ways to advance your career, or your earnings potential. Racking up a bunch of certifications is one of them. But be careful it doesn’t have the opposite effect.

Specialization creates tremendous value in our economy. Adam Smith’s economic theory on the merits of specialization has been proven true over and over again. Yet, can you have too much of a good thing? That’s an important question for technology professionals and leaders to consider.

Key facts about IT specialization

How rampant is the scope of the IT specialization? Consider these facts:
IT specialization by industry. Following the 2007-2009 recession, many IT professionals have changed their focus to healthcare because that sector is adopting technology rapidly to improve care and comply with regulations. A 2015 Modus survey found that healthcare and education are forecasted to have the most significant need for technology talent. The increasing rise of start-ups focused on niche markets and products is another factor encouraging specialization.

IT certifications. There are more than 100 certifications available to IT professionals, including such popular one as the Project Management Professional (PMP), Microsoft certifications, ISACA certifications, Cisco certifications and Oracle certifications. Oracle, it should be noted, offers more than 30 certifications related to their products.

IT job titles. There are dozens of popular IT job roles in the market. Some titles reflect seniority (e.g. Developer vs Senior Developer, Software Engineer I vs Software Engineer II) while others speak to a technical focus (e.g. Infrastructure Manager and Java Developer).

Specialization means different things to different people. A college graduate might think of specialization in terms of hardware or software engineering. In contrast, a highly experienced developer may specialize in a certain flavor of Linux or the C# programming language.

Surely all this specialization leads to economic value, right? One way to answer that question is to look at data collected by recruiters.
The recruiter’s perspective: specialization boosts salaries … to a point

Recruiters have a unique perspective on technology talent and in-demand skills. After all, they’re interacting with a large number of candidates each year, and are able to determine which skills are valuable. According to Robert Half’s 2016 Salary Guide for Technology Professionals, some of the most valuable skills in demand in the U.S. right now include the following:

Microsoft SQL Server database skills: Adds 10 percent to salary.
Java development skills: Adds 9 percent to salary.
Microsoft Sharepoint skills: Add 9 percent to salary.
Cisco network administration skills: Adds 9 percent to salary.
Virtualization skills: Adds 8 percent to salary.

Those salary increases will vary by region and vertical industry, of course. But the above trends suggest a clear pattern: Becoming a specialist with a given company’s technology suite (e.g. Cisco and Microsoft) is an excellent way to build your compensation bracket. It’s also worth noting that Cisco and Microsoft are both large, well-established companies that have built loyal customer bases across corporate America. Specializing in software offered by smaller companies offering similar products and services may not add value because employers will not be able to understand or make use of them.

The way forward for your development: technical and leadership skills

Developing your career in the technology industry is a major challenge. In some cases, you may receive guidance from your managers and peers. In other situations, you’ll be left to your own devices. As you navigate to career success, there are two tracks to pursue in your professional development.

First, pursue the technical skills and knowledge you need to be successful in your current role. For example, you may specialize in Microsoft or Oracle products – applications that are in high demand according to recent research. These technical skills, especially for individual contributors, give you the ability to create results and earn credibility.

Second, look for nontechnology training and development to distinguish yourself from other technology professionals. If you frequently work with vendors, pursuing study in communication and negotiation training make sense. If your company is based in another country, you may want to add language skills to your toolbox.

Click here to view complete Q&A of 70-354 exam

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5 minutes a week to advance your career

Maintain contacts that can keep your career moving by reaching out to people from your past

The New Year is always a good time to reflect on your career: where you’ve been, where you’re heading, and where you’d like to go. It’s also the traditional time for people like me — industry analysts, pundits and consultants — to tell you what hot skills you’ll need to develop to advance your career in the next year. Of course, if developing your career were really that simple, every reader would be the CEO of a company by now.

In reality, simple advice like this is not as universally helpful as we would like to think. Focusing on hot skills may be useful for some, but for many it’s a complete diversion because the paths that people follow through IT careers are remarkably varied. Some pass easily from technical roles to management and back. Some oscillate between employment and contracting. Some even follow the traditional path of staying with one organization and climbing the corporate ladder.

But there is one thing that everyone can benefit from, regardless of what path you choose to follow, and that you can realistically accomplish given the day-to-day demands of work and life. Just take five minutes each week to reach out to someone from your past. Everyone can find five minutes a week — five minutes that would otherwise go to looking at your smartphone, waiting for people to arrive at a meeting, drinking your morning coffee or eating lunch at your desk.

What you do with those five minutes each week is to reconnect. It might be with someone with whom you worked, went to school or set up play dates for your children. All you have to do is think of someone and then call, leave a voice mail, drop an email or even send a physical postcard.

Don’t worry. It won’t be a big commitment, and it won’t take over your life. The people you reach out to are just as busy as you are and don’t have hours to talk on the phone. But those five minutes a week could do more for your career than you can possibly imagine.

Why? Because opportunities are the fundamental building blocks of careers — opportunities for new jobs, contracts or even volunteer work. You can talk in the abstract about building your career all you want, but if no one wants to hire you to do whatever you decide your next step should be, then you’re not translating your intentions into reality.

And where do opportunities come from? Mostly from people who know you. It may have been 15 years since you have spoken to each other, but if the other person remembers you fondly and your work respectfully, she will likely be happy to tell you about opportunities that she’s aware of.

Don’t expect her to do so right away. Don’t call and ask for referrals.

Just check in, person to person. For example, this past week I’ve been upgrading my home audio equipment. It made me think of a guy I worked with 20 years ago who was obsessed with stereo gear. I’ll probably just write a note saying that I was thinking of him and wondering how he is doing. That’s it.

Your greatest career advancement resource is not your résumé. It’s the people who know you. And they will bring opportunities to you if they feel good about you and you are top of mind for them when opportunities cross their path.

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8 skills to look for in IT project managers

Good IT project management can make or break key business initiatives, but finding top talent means identifying a unique mix of technical know-how and soft skills. Here are eight skills to look for when hiring project management professionals.

Skills to Look for in IT Project Managers
As the economy continues to climb out of recession, demand for project management professionals has skyrocketed. Finding the right project management talent for mission-critical IT projects can be difficult, as the role requires a unique mix of technical and soft skills.

In addition to the usual suspects — attention to detail, focus on process, time management and capability to multitask, for instance — there are some less obvious, but equally crucial, skills that separate the good from the great. Here, our experts weigh in on what to look for when hiring IT project managers.

Ability to Manage Resource Conflicts
“No matter how big your business, no matter how large your company, you always have these kinds of resource allocation conflicts. You’re always limited by costs, by technology constraints, by time and by personnel availability. The project managers who can decide how to best allocate limited resources to the projects that will have the greatest positive business impact are very valuable,” says Tushar Patel, vice president of marketing at Innotas, a cloud-based project portfolio management solutions company.

Familiarity With a Variety of Technical Platforms/Methodologies
For IT project managers familiarity with the standard way in which software and applications are developed, designed, built and delivered is a necessary skill, says Patel. Nowadays, most IT organizations are using the agile development methodology, so that’s an important framework to understand.

“In the past, agile was only used by software development teams, but more than half of the companies we talk to today are applying the agile methodology to an increasing number of their technical projects. So, concepts like iteration, sprints, scrum, and how to translate changing requirements into end-user functionality based on customer feedback are some of the skills IT project managers must possess,” says Patel. Of course, every organization interprets agile differently, so project managers must also understand how agile is used and applied in the organization they’re working for.

A Focus on Business Strategy and Agility
A project management team that’s focused on how projects contribute to a company’s growth, innovation and the greater business strategy rather than simply on completing discrete tasks can give businesses can a major competitive advantage, says Patel. “Using agile concepts outside of the IT department to create business agility is critical for good project management,” he says.

“You want project managers to understand not just how to be responsive to customers and markets, but to do so even when your market changes, or your internal strategy changes; to do so if your company’s acquired, if your company’s acquiring another, getting a new CEO – any number of major changes. Project managers must be able to show they have the ability to turn on a dime. To manage the business’ priorities in the face of sweeping change,” Patel says.

It used to be enough that businesses were quick to react when markets changed, but nowadays, project managers must be proactive and anticipate every possible change and shift that could happen and how those could affect not just their projects, but their business as a whole, he says.

“One of the traits we’re evangelizing is being predictive – forecasting the need to be flexible and adaptive; planning staffing, costs, time constraints and the like as much as six months out and determining which projects will be the key to success then,” he says. “It’s not easy, for sure, but this is something good project managers must do.”

Excellent Communication Skills
Communication is obviously a must-have when hiring project management talent, according to Hallie Yarger, regional recruiting director, Midwest region for Mondo, a digital marketing and tech talent sourcing and consulting firm. Project managers must be able to reach people from all different backgrounds, with all different personalities, and to be able to quickly and concisely inform employees, executives, customers and all other stakeholders about the status of the project. “Communication skills are a no-brainer for PMs, but the key is that these skills be multi-dimensional, touching on both internal and external stakeholders,” says Yarger.

Management Skills
Hand-in-hand with communication skills are management skills. Project managers must be able to navigate tough situations and make difficult decisions based on the needs of the business without being political. Being able to understand and empathize with stakeholders that may have different viewpoints, personalities, communication styles and needs is difficult when projects are going smoothly — being able to do so in times of crisis is incredibly valuable for a project manager.

“You almost have to have a little bit of a psychology background to figure out how to effectively motivate, push and cajole each person involved to make sure projects are completed on time and with a minimum of conflict,” Yarger says.

Ability to Accurately Assess Risk
“With every IT project, there are risks involved”, says Yarger. Risks that resources are allocated to certain projects and not others, risk that projects will not meet the expectations and standards set by clients and stakeholders, risks that deadlines will be missed and projects won’t be delivered on time. However, a good project manager should be able to assess and mitigate all these by prioritizing the value of each asset, while minimizing the risk of project failures by ensuring the right team members have the tools, knowledge and information they need.

Speaking the Right Language
Especially in IT, trust is a key factor in establishing rapport as a project manager. Software developers, in particular, can be a finicky bunch, according to Yarger, so it’s crucial to find project management professionals with the street cred to manage and motivate developers.

“You have to find someone with whom software developers will gladly work and who they will respect; someone who’s familiar with the languages and platforms they’re using, who knows the ins-and-outs of the software development lifecycle (SDLC), who understands their challenges and strengths – someone who can talk the talk and walk the walk,” Yarger says.

Global Experience or Vertical Experience
Today’s current global, digital economy means that some projects will be handled by teams in distinct geographical locations. Yarger points out that project managers with experience working with or managing offshore teams, or who’ve worked on projects in other countries are in especially high demand.

“What our clients are demanding right now are project managers with global experience, as well as experience in verticals like healthcare — especially EHR/EMR experience — and finance, for issues like regulatory compliance,” says Yarger.

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The Best IT Resume Tips of 2014 takes a brief look back at the IT Resume Makeover series and some of the best resume advice from the past 12 months.

The Best IT Resume Tips of 2014
Over the last year, our resume experts and career consultants have helped numerous IT professionals put their best foot forward. Here’s a quick look at some of the top resume tips from 2014’s IT Resume Makeover series.

For a deeper dive on resume tips with expert commentary, please read, IT Resume Makeover: Top 11 Resume Tips From 2014.

Clear Out the Clutter
Instead of a “laundry list” of job responsibilities and daily tasks, focus your resume on how you’ve solved problems for employers — and in what context.

Know Your Audience
Tailor the message to your audience. Ask yourself who will read your resume and what they expect to see.

Tell a Compelling Personal Story
Finding a career success story within your work history will make your career narrative more interesting and engaging for potential employers.

Use Sales Tactics to Sell Yourself
A sales resume is built on metrics: sales figures, number of deals closed, revenue targets achieved. Without these metrics, it can be nearly impossible to differentiate yourself from other sales candidates.

For a deeper dive on resume tips with expert commentary, please read, IT Resume Makeover: Top 11 Resume Tips From 2014.

Keep Your Resume Fresh and Updated
Make time to review and refresh your resume each year. Make sure all information about current and past employers and responsibilities is correct and add any new skills, experience or knowledge you’ve gained.

Don’t Sell Yourself Short
This is the place to showcase your achievements. Make sure to hone in on unique achievements, successes, skills and knowledge to really grab the reader’s attention.

For a deeper dive on resume tips with expert commentary, please read, IT Resume Makeover: Top 11 Resume Tips From 2014.

Don’t Lie
It can be tempting to embellish your work history, exaggerate your IT skills or even claim to hold advanced degrees. In the long term, this can not only kill your chances to land a specific job, it can be a black mark that follows you your entire career.

Avoid Information Overload
Most employers want to quickly see dates, the scope of an applicant’s responsibility, the types of projects managed, and other pertinent details, but make sure you’re not using too much detail, which can become overwhelming to a reader.

For a deeper dive on resume tips with expert commentary, please read, IT Resume Makeover: Top 11 Resume Tips From 2014.

Avoid Buzzword Burnout
If your resume is crammed with buzzwords, jargon and gibberish, you’re dooming yourself. Make sure your language is plain and clear to better appeal to readers.

Know How (And When) to Break the Rules
If you’ve created something big at the beginning of your career and spend the rest of your professional life building on that initial success, you must turn the traditional resume on its head to showcase that accomplishment.

Position Your Accomplishments for Maximum Impact
Typically, a resume has between 10 and 15 seconds to make an impact on a recruiter, hiring manager or HR professional. That’s why it’s crucial that attention-grabbing achievements and information be positioned close to the top of the first page, where it’s more likely to be seen and have maximum effect.

For a deeper dive on resume tips with expert commentary, please read, IT Resume Makeover: Top 11 Resume Tips From 2014.

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