Does My Tech Team Trust Me?

Increasing Trust for a Productive TeamBuilding Trust with Your Tech Team Can Lead to Company-Wide Advantages. ESP Uses Tips from Their Blueprint to Help You Get Started.

As a leader, “Does my team trust me?” is a question to ask on a regular basis. Trust isn’t inherent. It must be earned and shared. As a leader working with technology professionals in the midst of a talent shortage, earning the trust of your team becomes even more imperative. Tech execs play a pivotal role in the success of their team, overall workplace satisfaction, and ultimately, retention. Because of this, trust has always been a core value for our company. ESP has learned that implementing trust tactics not only is essential for doing business with our clients, but it also helps foster positive relationships within our in-office team, and with our consultants.

Below are some of the building blocks of trust we have found to be successful. Though these principles will hold true to leaders in all departments and industries, we’ve found that they hold special value for IT departments, who have always faced the challenge of integrating with and supporting business objectives. Sometimes this means that IT departments have needed to prove their worth, and other times they are the ones driving business goals themselves. Regardless, if you lead well, your team will follow your example and assist in building the bridge between departments. Establishing trust between departments as well as within your internal tech team is an essential element of your success as a leader.

Honor Commitments

Your team expects you to lead with integrity and consistency. Honor your commitments by doing what you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. Others have accredited the success of Google’s new CEO Sundar Pichai to this very principle – joking that his “boringness” (even-keeled, steady, and predictable management style) is a key trait to his effective leadership. But honoring your commitments is about much more than consistency and follow-through on the day-to-day. While your leadership style should be steady and not easily changeable, you can foster change and growth by continually encouraging success and offering long-term opportunities for growth and advancement to your team, and looking for big-picture ways to improve yourself and your workplace.

Act with Integrity

Set yourself apart from others by acting passionately, ethically, and fair in every situation. Passion for what you do shows your investment and builds trust by giving you the motivation you need to achieve more or get through tough times. Passion also makes others excited about the work you are doing and can attract new tech talent. The ability to give direction and avoid micro-managing is key because extending trust is a great way to build trust. Share the intent and motivation behind your actions to instill confidence that they are for the good of all parties concerned.

Treat Others As Equals

Display equality towards all your members of the team because all roles are important. Take the time to get to know your employees – from the rookie developer to the most experienced project manager. Listen to the ideas and feedback from every member of your team and know them by name. Then, whenever possible, implement ideas from your team, or, if that’s not possible, explain why it isn’t and what you learned from their input. This principle was an overarching theme of a recent Gallup survey, which found that leaders who invest in individuals’ strengths, recognize that their team is critical to their own success, and understand the needs of their team outshine all the rest. Showing your tech team that you value each and every one of them will go a long way toward success as a department and the cohesion of your group.

Show Meaningful Acknowledgement & Appreciation

Acknowledging your team’s hard work and victories is vital to building trust, especially when you can give kudos to others without measuring their success against your own. In the same way, it is important to feel their pain and struggles and to help them work through professional setbacks. It’s easy to feel “invisible” appreciation, and leave your thoughts unexpressed to your tech team. That’s why clear, outward, positive reinforcement is so vital. Positive reinforcement can be as simple as sending out an email to the entire team giving accolades to an IT pro’s successful moment or highlighting someone’s hard work. No matter how you do it, by making recognition a matter of priority and action you can keep the morale of your team strong and motivate individuals to continually strive toward improvement.

Assume Positive Intent

Assume that the IT pros on your team want to work hard and do the right thing. Trust that they will work diligently on a project and behave in the best way possible for the company. Have faith in the people on your team: most desire to put in a full day of work, do their job right, and have a positive work environment. If someone misses a deadline or is leaving work early, ask them what barriers they’re facing, with the assumption that there is a good reason. If they don’t seem to have one, be very clear about the behaviors you want to see change, and affirm positive change when you see it.

Set Expectations

Share your vision and values as an individual tech team leader as well as the company’s vision and values. These values may not always align perfectly – in fact research has shown that the best-performing organizations have leadership teams who challenge and compliment the culture of their company as a whole. However, communicating these differences as well as your expectations lets your team know where you and your company stand, and gives them a common goal to work towards as a team. This common goal will help foster trust because your employees will know what you expect. It also gives them a better picture of how to do their job well. If you have consultants on your team, be clear with them on their role and their alignment with your team’s values.

Practice Direct, Open and Honest Communication 

Have open and honest conversations. Hidden information can make people feel they are not trusted and they might respond with distrust for you. Be willing and open to talk about difficult topics: an open line of communication is vital for a healthy company culture. When a new team member or consultant joins your team, be clear with the rest of your team about why that person is there, the special value he or she brings, and how the whole team can benefit from working together. Open communication also helps to dissuade gossip, complaining, and other negative talk by getting it out in the open before it has time to grow into a bigger problem.

Listen with the Intent to Understand

Practice active listening. We are constantly bombarded by noise and, as a result, are experts at listening for key words and tuning out the rest. However, people can tell when you are actually listening to them. How do you show that you are invested in what they are saying? Ask open-ended questions, use nonverbal cues to show that you are listening, such as nodding your head. Rephrase what they’ve said to you to make sure you understand, and, when appropriate, respond with your view or opinion of the situation, asking for their feedback in return.

 

You’ve probably heard about most of these behaviors before, and so you know they can’t be faked. To secure the trust of your tech team, you must be sincere in your efforts to earn it. Trust works toward creating a healthy company culture and increases your tech employees’ and consultants’ satisfaction. Continue to work on implementing trust tactics in your work environment and, if you haven’t already, incorporate trust into the core values of your company – ensuring better practices in the future.

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New Tech is Changing How People Solve IT Problems

The IT field evolves at a rate at which few businesses can ever hope to keep pace.  Mobility has become a key factor within what used to be a highly contained internal environment.  Additionally, the demand for solutions that allow access to advanced resources and capabilities, regardless of an employee’s location, has also shifted the priorities within the IT landscape.

To meet the demands of today’s work environment, IT teams need an open mind toward the advances in cloud solutions and mobile technology in order to provide the solutions of tomorrow, today.

Cloud Solutions

Cloud-based technology has already moved beyond the basics of cloud storage, and even cloud computing.  Instead, the cloud is seen as a method for providing an entire IT solution, one that is expected to offer both a high level of technical capacity while also offering a simple solution that can be accessed by any applicable employee from a variety of in-house or remote locations.

Initially, the desires to extend cloud-based services beyond the idea of simple shared storage posed a significant challenge within the IT sector, as software that was previously contained within a user’s computer was suddenly required to provide the user with full utility through a virtual desktop interface that was also easy to use regardless of the user’s technical prowess.

In order to meet the changing demands of the workforce, IT teams had to change their perspective from being a provider of service options and support to becoming the facilitators of a new business infrastructure.  New tools began to focus on application integration and creating a dynamic environment that promotes seamless collaboration, regardless of physical location.

Mobile Technology

While the days of the corporate Blackberry are generally considered long gone, mobile devices as a whole are here to stay.  As the technology progressed, and the number of available devices skyrocketed, IT teams were faced with new dilemmas regarding device and network security, as well as the ability of valuable business assets to travel freely within and outside of corporate facilities.

As the use of personal mobile devices increased, most commonly through the BYOD movement, the demand to integrate business functions into personal devices increased.  IT had to further work to segregate critical corporate information from regular casual use, regulating the transfer of critical information between secured and unsecured portions of the device, while keeping the activities generally convenient and user friendly.

Mobile technology now has its own solutions, particularly in the areas of mobile device management (MDM) technologies, which are designed to coordinate information from other internal resources like Active Directory, as well as provide access to secured portions of the internal network.  IT teams have had to adapt as the areas of IT security, mobility, network storage and access, and data management had to contend with the demands a user is likely to place on a personal device.

This is Only the Beginning

New technologies seem to present themselves on an almost daily basis, with today’s solutions being considered unthinkable even 10 years ago.  As more IT professionals look for solutions to problems related to mobility and communication, and the further integration of business needs and accessible technology, we can expect the landscape to change even further.

If you want to know what steps your business can take in order to use advancing technologies to solve common workplace issues, the professionals at ESP are here to provide the guidance you’re looking for.

Contact ESP today!

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How To Write A Standout Technical Summary

Your NFL Preseason:

Writing a Standout Technical Summary

Photo: U.S. Bank Stadium webcam

IT job and gig seekers in need of inspiration for a winning resume, look no further than ESP…N? NFL preseason has officially begun, and believe it or not these exhibition games have more pointers to offer IT professionals than meets the eye. Perhaps influenced by the awesome tech features of the new U.S. Bank Stadium, which boasts “an exceptional fan experience,” we’re definitely seeing a connection between IT and pro ball. In particular, we’ve noticed that preseason football for new players is a lot like the technical summary of a resume for IT pros: its purpose is to catch the attention of important viewers to successfully advance one’s career.

A technical summary is a vital component to include for IT job seekers. It provides a succinct “snapshot” for hiring employers to assess whether a candidate has the expertise necessary to fill a team’s tech talent needs. So consider the following when honing your resume — and craft that technical summary like it’s your NFL preseason!

It’s Not About the Number of Points, but the Quality of Play:
The results of preseason games have no impact on the actual competitive season; they are, rather, opportunities for new players to prove they’ve got what it takes to make the team. For IT pros, making an impression with your technical summary does not mean creating an exhaustive laundry list of every technology you’ve ever learned how to use. List only those proficiencies that you could confidently discuss and demonstrate in an interview. Do not include outdated or insignificant skill sets.

They’re Narrowing Down the Roster — So Showcase Your Skills in the Best Way:
Just as players have only a month of preseason to showcase their skills and make the regular-season team, resumes have a very limited time to impress before being placed in the “yes” or “no” pile. In fact, a 2012 study found that recruiters spend an average of only 6 seconds initially reviewing an individual resume.

With only seconds to impress, formatting and concise language are key. To make sure nothing gets overlooked, break your technical summary into five or so subcategories. They may include (depending on your qualifications and the position to which you’re applying):

  • Technical Certifications
  • Hardware
  • Operating Systems
  • Programming/Languages
  • Networking/Protocols
  • Office Productivity
  • Databases
  • Web Applications

Remember: This is not the time to be wordy. The technical summary is meant to be skimmed, and therefore lengthy explanations will likely be overlooked, or may take away from other key information that you want a recruiter to instantly glean. Save elaboration on your experiences and accomplishments for the employment history section of your resume. A standout technical summary should pique recruiter’s interests and leave them wanting more.

Identify Your Coaches, and Don’t Stray From Your Audience:

Not only do preseason games give players the opportunity to showcase their abilities to coaches, but the exhibitions are also a chance to adjust to playing in front of a large audience. Likewise, IT pros must consider their audience when crafting their technical summary and make adjustments accordingly. By this stage, you’ve ensured that your content is quality (reflective of your strongest assets) and easy-to-read, but now is the time to ask yourself “who’s reading?” This step is especially key for IT consultants who may have many proficiencies and accreditations that they could include in a technical summary, but may not need to include due to the unique demands of the specific role to which they are applying.

Focus on including only qualifications that appeal to your audience. Don’t bog down your technical summary with so many skills (even if they’re all “quality”) that recruiters wonder whether you’re an expert in any of them. Use certifications sparingly, and only list those that are most important for the tech role you are applying to. Focusing on fewer, more strategic details ensures that recruiters notice your most important technical proficiencies and gives them a clearer understanding why you’re their best fit for a particular role.

Crafting your technical summary to include quality, easy-to-access, and relevant information is key to making your resume as attention-grabbing as our new stadium. By ensuring you include only honest, expert-level skills, organize your summary in a readable manner, and remove any details that don’t appeal to the specific role which you are applying for, you make it easy for even non-technical hiring managers to pick up on keywords and understand your fit. Just as an NFL player’s preseason performance can get him to the competitive big leagues, your IT resume can get you one step closer to advancing your tech career!

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Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published in 2013, and has been updated to reflect current best practices in the tech industry for IT consultant and job seeker resumes.

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An Empty Tech Seat: The High Cost to You

Are IT consultants your best solution to the talent shortage?

The High Cost of An Empty Tech SeatDemand for tech talent is fierce. The Twin Cities alone boast 164,500 opportunities for tech pros, and that number is projected to keep growing. Unfortunately, high competition also means that employers face high tech talent turnover. Though many have implemented retention-driven strategies and launched specific perks designed to hold onto these fleeting IT pros, reports still reveal a turnover rate of between 9.1% and 10.6% for employees in the tech industry.

For companies, finding ways to minimize the cost of these empty seats can be as high of a priority as developing retention strategies. In addition, some solutions that minimize turnover costs can be easier and faster to implement. One such solution: working with tech consultants.

Though working with IT consultants won’t be the right solution for every employer, we’ve compiled some key information surrounding the ways consultants can minimize the cost of an empty seat. You may find that this change to your hiring strategy is all you’ll need to combat the tech talent shortage.

Understanding the Hefty Prices: You’re Already Paying

Replacing top tech talent can cost you a pretty penny. More than likely, you’re already aware of the tangible, trackable investments, such as recruitment costs and/or staffing service fees and training expenses. These are by no means to be disregarded. The cost of losing an entry-level Millennial IT pro is estimated to be between $15,000 and $25,000, and the cost of replacing a developer making $90,000 a year estimates between $45,000-$67,000 – a hefty sum.

However, the greater costs are not as easily measured. The most dangerous of these include lost productivity and engagement from other tech employees and lost productivity from your new hires while they train in at your company, which in turn can lead to your tech team feeling overworked and dissatisfied – resulting in even more turnover. It’s a dangerous cycle. One study suggests a company can expect to pay 50% of an employee’s salary and benefits each week a position is vacant, due to production and productivity loss. Another estimates that a company’s “true loss” can be up to 213% of the previous employee’s salary when all is said and done.

Given the startling numbers, what are hiring managers doing to keep their tech teams – and budgets – afloat? For many, developing new retention strategies has been a top priority. However, despite best efforts for retention, the facts remain: it’s a competitive market. You will face the occasional empty seat. It’s the cost of that empty seat that can be managed.

Tech Consultants: High Value, Low Obligation

When companies turn to firms like ESP seeking experienced tech consultants to help manage turnover costs, they are sometimes surprised to find that consultants’ competitive hourly rates can end up costing “more” per hour than a full-time IT pro’s salary would. However, we encourage our clients not to let a consultant’s sticker price prevent them from reaping the many hidden cost savings to consulting services. And keep in mind: choosing to work with an IT consultant doesn’t necessarily mean an end to your search for the perfect permanent tech hire. While some companies find consistently working with IT consultants is their best long-term fit, others see consulting services as a short-term solution – allowing for continued productivity while giving hiring managers the time they need to find the right fit for a permanent IT role. Either way, we’ve pulled out some of the key reasons why investing in IT consultants can lead to long term-savings for your company:

  • Jump Right In: Not only is consultant staffing the fastest way for you to fill your talent need, but it also significantly cuts down on onboarding costs. Experienced IT consultants are very adaptive and innovative, which means that they can jump in and start helping your team out right away. What’s more, they aren’t required to participate in any company-wide onboarding procedures, presentations, or trainings, making it truly possible for you to see a fast turnaround on your investment.
  • Slash “Extra” Costs: Part of the reason consultants bill at a higher rate is that their clients (that’s you) are not responsible for providing them with benefits and perks – including PTO, health insurance, 401Ks, etc. In some instances, consultants even work remotely or with their own technologies – saving you set-up time and the costs associated with it. Some of these details are dependent on whether a consultant bills as a 1099 or W2 status, which is a distinction your recruitment firm will be able to explain to you. Contact us for a more comprehensive understanding of the different types of IT consultants.
  • Don’t Pay for Thumb-Twiddling: Sometimes your tech needs won’t be extensive enough to justify opening up a new permanent tech role. Perhaps you’re looking at a website redesign, or are wanting to move forward with some specific maintenance or development projects that your team doesn’t have the bandwidth to take on. Working with consultants allows you to complete these projects without taking on the commitment of another salaried employee.
  • Reap The Benefits Of An Empty Seat: Though the end-goal is to increase retention and keep your tech team’s seats “filled,” there are many benefits to working with a “rotating” team. Because consultants work on short-term contracts or a project-to-project basis, they are much less likely to burnout or check out from their work. Remember that a tech pro who has given his or her resignation may have been disengaging from your team and his or her work for a while, and that such behaviors in and of themselves can be detrimental to your team’s overall productivity and workplace satisfaction. Ensuring that your team is comprised of only those who are engaged and satisfied with their work, including consultants that you have on board, is essential for maximum team productivity.
  • Embrace The Snowball Effect: For companies who work with revenue-generating software, empty seats are a major hit to the bottom line. By filling your IT pros’ seats faster, you not only help to control lost revenue and productivity, but you also drive additional revenue – a snowball effect that benefits your tech team and leaves your company on top.

 

The tech talent shortage means that demand for IT pros is no longer limited to the Silicon Valley. Hopefully, the tech hire initiatives of today will mean a future where tech talent supply meets demand. Until then, companies will need to continue to employ hiring tactics that both attract talent and effectively manage the costs of their empty seats. While working with IT consultants is certainly an effective tactic, it is by no means the exclusive solution to your talent needs. We’ve found that offering both consulting and permanent tech hire solutions to our clients has helped them to meet their short and long-term needs: introducing them to faster and more flexible hiring (and a new pool of qualified candidates) while maintaining permanent opportunities that are also an important part of their company’s culture. By identifying the ways IT consultants can support your unique tech team, you can mitigate costs and propel your success.

Ready to see what an IT Consultant could do for your team?

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ESP IT Welcomes Tim Schinke as VP of Sales & Recruiting

Tim Schinke VP of Sales for ESP ITWe are pleased to announce that Tim Schinke joined ESP IT in June as VP of Sales & Recruiting. His responsibilities include providing effective and inspiring leadership, creating and developing new sales strategies for ESP’s future growth, and ensuring ESP’s clients always receive the highest level of care.

Prior to joining ESP IT, Tim gained 25 years of leadership experience, holding several Vice President of Sales positions within the technology and software industries. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated success in teaching and mentoring technology and sales professionals and shown expertise in ERP software at companies including PeopleSoft, SAP, and Salesforce.com.

His extensive experience and passion will play a key role in ESP IT’s future growth strategy and success. Tim will also foster powerful collaborative partnerships between ESP IT and our clients. Tightly aligned to ESP’s mission of placing people first, Tim encourages his team to care and listen at a higher level to better serve our clients. He will continually strive to hire smart and energetic people and to encourage and equip them to grow and succeed in their careers.

Find out more about Tim by reading his full bio on our website.

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4 Reasons to Celebrate the Twin Cities’ IT Job Market

Reasons to Celebrate Balloons ImageBrilliant, lustrous fireworks along the Mississippi. Barbecues in the lazy warmth of summer. Water sports, hiking excursions, and (for better or worse) family road trips. As we continue basking in the fun of the three warmest months of the year, we’re once again reflecting on why we love the Twin Cities. And, as an IT consulting and staffing firm, we’d be remiss not to give special attention to our number one reason: The Twin Cities rank among the best in the U.S. for tech opportunities. From its growing number of available tech jobs, to its recent acclaim as a hot spot for tech startups and companies, the Twin Cities offer IT opportunities like those in the Silicon Valley, plus higher collaboration and a lower cost of living. Though Minnesota has graced the tops of multiple “best” lists for various reasons, we’ve pulled out the top 4 reasons Twin Cities IT pros should celebrate where they work:

1. Minneapolis Is The “Silicon Prairie”

The Twin Cities are a burgeoning mecca for IT startups and small businesses. Recently, the Star Tribune highlighted the continued growth of “The Silicon Prairie” through Twin Cities small businesses and the growing capital raised by local tech companies. In 2013, Minneapolis ranked third among the largest metro areas in the U.S. for employee success in small businesses based on such factors as job growth relative to overall workforce and population trends, monthly earnings for new hires, unemployment rates, and cost of living. The following year, NerdWallet named Minneapolis the 4th best place for startups based on determinants such as affordability, access to funds, networking and mentorship, and the success of the local economy.

Not only do these statistics bode well for entrepreneurs and CEOs, but an ever-expanding tech industry also means an abundance of opportunities for tech pros – 164,500 opportunities according to the Cyberstates 2016 report. While a large portion of those roles are within the tech industry, demand for IT pros in the Twin Cities is also high in the financial services, healthcare, and manufacturing industries. Best of all, those opportunities are poised for continued growth, as the beginning of 2016 saw Minnesota ranking the number 1 state for job creation.

2. The Twin Cities Knows How To Compensate

Though a large number of opportunities in and of itself is good news for IT pros, the profitability of those opportunities is even better news. CIO ranked the Twin Cities #4 on their 2015 list of 10 hottest cities for IT pay, and the numbers have only improved since then. The average salaries for tech workers in the Twin Cities cracked six figures in 2015 – rising 9% from the previous year (a whopping 1.3% above the national average for IT salary increases), and the average tech industry wages were 78% higher than those of workers in the private sector.

What’s more, this high compensation pairs with the low job-related stress of Minneapolis’ small business community and the nationally-recognized high work-life balance of tech jobs. Data Scientists, Software Developers, and Web Developers are listed among the 10 best careers for work-life balance.

3. We Welcome Women Techies

You may have heard recent rumblings of a report that claimed the Twin Cities are not the place for women techies. Nothing could be further from the truth! Not only has the study’s accuracy and methodology come into question, but many other recent reports directly contradict such findings, and point toward the opportunities available to not only Twin Cities women in tech, but all Twin Cities female professionals – with Rochester, Minneapolis, and St. Paul locking in the top three spots respectively on NerdWallet’s list of Best Cities for Women in The Workforce 2016.

As for the tech sector specifically, both Minneapolis and St. Paul graced SmartAsset’s 2016 list of the Top 15 Cities for Women in Tech, due to low gender pay gaps, a higher-than-average percentage of tech jobs filled by women, and a high three-year employment growth. And we expect that growth to continue. In its pilot year, the Twin Cities TechHire initiative trained over 300 people through accelerated IT programs, with women comprising 32% of graduates and minorities 24%. Other groups have launched additional programs to encourage diversity in the Twin Cities tech sector. Though these initiatives are still in their early phases, the Twin Cities tech community is excited to see the change and growth that may be enacted in the next few years.

What’s more – there’s good news for techie moms and dads alike: Minneapolis has been called the #1 place to raise a family in the US. Just one of the many reasons we’ve found working moms who love IT, also love the Twin Cities.

 4. The Market Demands Learners – The Twin Cities Delivers

The market value for IT certifications in Security, Dev Ops, and Big Data has continued to rise across the board, with Security and Data Presentation skills falling among the most in-demand Tech skills for the Twin Cities, specifically. Clearly education – whether in the form of IT certifications or degrees – is important to IT hiring managers, and we all know the value of niche skills in the midst of today’s ever-evolving tech market.

Luckily, when it comes to education and learning opportunities, the Twin Cities delivers. One 2015 list ranked the Twin Cities among the top 10 most educated cities in America, and Travel and Leisure also included Minneapolis/St. Paul in their top ten list of “America’s Techiest Cities” – not to mention their list of top 5 cities overall. And yes, being so highly-educated we are aware that ‘techiest’ isn’t exactly a word (but we maintain the legitimacy of ‘you betcha’).

Furthermore, the University of Minnesota’s business programs in Management Information Systems (B.A.) and Information Systems (M.B.A.) are nationally ranked 3rd and 4th, respectively. The school also ranks in the top 100 for computer engineering and computer science. It’s no wonder, then, that in 2013 the Twin Cities increased their IT higher education output, despite an 11 percent national decline in IT degrees completed in the U.S.

 

We know you’ve enjoyed taking time out of the office get outside, go on an adventure, or spend time celebrating summer with family and friends, but as an IT pro working in the Twin Cities, you have reasons to celebrate year-round. Perhaps the knowledge that sub-zero weather lies ahead makes us feel extra appreciation during these beautiful mid-summer days, but we think that Minneapolitans in general are living the good life. And don’t just take our word for it. The Twin Cities have been named the best place to live in the nation, and New York Magazine has dubbed Minneapolis the “capital of Midwestern cool”. Even in the dog days of summer, or the wintry days that loom in the not-so-distant future, as an IT pro you will always have myriad reasons to love where you live and what you do.

Are you an IT pro looking to advance your career by moving to the Twin Cities? Or a Twin Cities business looking for developers or other IT professionals for your next project? We’re here to help.

Contact Us To Learn More About Twin Cities Tech Opportunities

Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published in 2013, and has been revamped to reflect updated tech industry information as it pertains to the Twin Cities’ IT job market.

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Removing The STEM Learning Gap: You Need Girls To Code

Girls Who Love To Code ImageSheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer at Facebook, Yahoo!’s Marissa Mayer, and IBM’s president and chief executive Virginia Rometty prove that while the representation of women in tech is disproportionate, it certainly still has a presence and success rate to boast of. The significance of three women at top tech companies may somewhat discredit the belief that a lack of women role models is the main reason for the female talent shortage, but that the gap exists and is in fact growing, can’t be ignored.

One of the most popular explanations behind why there aren’t enough women working in tech is that there aren’t enough women trained to work in tech. Not only significant for the negative impact that this lack of diversity can have on STEM workplaces, the dropping number of women studying computer science also limits opportunities for women and hurts the economy as a whole. Though groups such as Girls Who Code and Women Who Code, and programs such as the national Tech Hire Initiative have all made strides to encourage increased female tech education and provide learning opportunities, the success of the movement ultimately depends on your help.

Whether you are a decision maker at a tech company, or you’re an individual working in the tech sector or elsewhere, you can make a big difference. By learning more about the long-term benefits to your investment in female tech education, and the three simple yet significant ways that you can motivate change, you’ll not only help the tech industry and national economy to thrive, but can change the future for yourself and the women and girls in your life.

As a Business

The Value of Stepping In:

Women Can End the Tech Talent Shortage

In the ever-growing tech industry, opportunities are plentiful – and in fact, overabundant. The tech talent shortage threatens that there are not enough skilled IT workers to fill current tech needs. Ultimately, this leads to lost productivity and high turnover due to overworked staff and a highly-competitive tech market, and some fear there isn’t a solution in sight.

Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani disagrees, citing that as 71% of all STEM jobs are in computer science, the obvious solution is to encourage more women to pursue computer science degrees. According to Reshma, at the current rate of women pursuing tech jobs, only 3% of the world’s 1.4 million IT jobs will be filled by females. In Minnesota alone, 164,500 people work in tech occupations, and last year saw a 4% increase in tech opportunities overall for the state. Women will likely be the key to filling these additional needs.

Luckily, the Twin Cities are among the best in America for women in tech, with the percent of women holding jobs in tech in St. Paul and Minneapolis equaling 26.5% and 25.2% respectively, and an average annual growth rate of 18%. Still, that percentage has room to grow when you consider that woman make up around 50% of the population, but hold only about a quarter of the available tech jobs.

Though increasing STEM educational for women won’t yield immediate results to help fill your company’s female tech talent needs, by supporting educational programs or working to develop or strengthen your own, you’ll be among the first to reap the benefits of a diversified tech team.

What You Can Do:

1. Educate to Employ: Build Your Own Pipeline

Etsy has been one of the most successful companies to increase its number of women in tech. In just one year the company’s number of female engineers grew 500% – from only 3 engineers, to 20. They’ve accomplished this through sponsorship of a summer Hacker School, which has allowed them to build their own pipeline by gaining access to a pool of qualified, up-and-coming women technologist. These programs are a win-win, as they allow you to support the female tech education movement while simultaneously helping you bridge the tech gender gap in your workplace by training your own future employees.

2. Ditch “Trial and Error”: Develop Targeted Trainings

Gender learning differences are a major deterrent for some girls who would otherwise enjoy studying computer science. Many girls feel frustrated by and uninterested in their high school and college programs, which teach computer science using “trial and error” methods that aren’t as effective for women’s learning styles. Whether you’re looking to build your pipeline by creating a summer school for girls, or are interested in opportunities to train your current female employees more advanced tech skills, ensure that your teachings are structured, and help women feel safe by encouraging them to ask questions rather than “figuring it out” without guidance. By helping them to build a foundational knowledge and gain some confidence with coding, you will encourage them to continue their learning and eventually become more comfortable with the “trial and error” nature of tech programming.

 3. Assemble The All-Stars: Team-Up with Local Initiatives

Get involved with initiatives such as the Minnesota High Tech Association’s Tech Experience tours, or consider partnering with the National Center for Women and Information Technology by sponsoring their Aspirations in Computing Award Program, which honors high-school women for their STEM achievements. Not only will your involvement and support help empower women to learn programming, but as with “building your own pipeline” this initiative could directly benefit you by increasing the pool of qualified female tech candidates interested in working with you in the future.

As an Individual

The Value of Stepping in:

Eliminating The Skills Gap Creates Equal Opportunities

Why should bridging the stem-education gap take precedent over other gender inequality issues? In one TED talk speech, Reshma Saujani cited a study that found bright girls were more likely to give up when challenged, while bright boys were more likely to double their efforts. In her own time at Girls Who Code, she said she’d witnessed similar attitudes by girls who were uncomfortable with their imperfect work. Overcoming these perfectionist ideals could help women to become more confident and more employable, giving them the opportunity to reap the financial perks of the tech industry, including high compensation and competitive health benefits.

Additionally, by transforming the tech industry from a male-dominated field to a more gender-balanced field, women could help end stereotypes that they are “less-qualified” to work in tech. One Digital Trends article reported studies from Harvard Business School, Wharton, MIT Sloan, and Yale, which all uncovered accounts of gender bias for tech workers. Increasing the number of women would lead to a better understanding of the value of women techies in the workplace, which in turn could lead to a larger societal awareness about gender equality and promising future prospects for your daughters, friends, and loved ones.

What You Can Do:

1. Combat “Perfection or Bust”: Adjust The Messages You Send

During her time at Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani said she’s witnessed an attitude of “perfection or bust” among high school girls, who would rather “show nothing at all” instead of showing failed attempts to write code. In many ways, encouraging girls to learn coding has more to do with teaching them to be confident and take risks than it has to do with trying to interest them in “tech” as a subject matter. If you are a parent, teacher, or friend, encourage the young girls and women you know to follow Reshma Saujani’s advice and “be comfortable with imperfection”. By teaching girls that perfection isn’t everything, you instill in them the confidence to take more risks and ultimately pursue STEM careers.

2. Encourage ‘Play to Win’: Explain That STEM Opens Doors

Computer science opens doors to a variety of career opportunities in the same way that a foundational knowledge of other core subjects does. You wouldn’t let high school girls choose whether or not they wanted to study English, math, science, or history, and neither should we be viewing computer science as optional. While some schools, such as the Chicago School District, have made computer science courses mandatory as part of a local and national Computer Science for All initiative, many others have yet to follow suit. That’s why it is especially important for individuals to promote and support early female tech education. Remind girls that tech skills are required for a surprising variety of positions  – from writing and literary opportunities to more-traditional business roles. Learning computer science isn’t only for girls who want to work in the tech industry: it’s for anyone who wants to stay competitive in the job market.

3. Follow The Leaders: Connect With Female Tech Role Models

There are a plethora of programs and female leaders who can motivate, inspire, and educate young girls in technology. While it’s encouraging to know of the existence of these successful women in tech, physically connecting young girls to female role models is even more important. That’s why UK company “Everywoman” launched its “Modern Muse” app, which connects women to others in their field and provides tips and inside information regarding opportunities. You can help women to get involved and access resources by launching your own networking groups on LinkedIn, or even creating your own app to connect women. Just by being tuned-in to the opportunities for female tech education, such as Hackbright Academy or the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program, you can become part of the movement to empower girls to learn tech and gain IT career opportunities.

 

Girls Who Code’s COO Solomon Steplight recently shared his personal mission, and motivation for teaming up with the company. “I wanted, at the very least, to create thousands of potential mentors for my daughter,” he said. No matter what your motivation for supporting increased female tech education – be it helping your business to succeed by increasing the amount of qualified female techies who could work with your company, ensuring a daughter or niece isn’t limited in her future opportunities, or even advancing your own career – your efforts make a difference. We could all benefit from a future with more women in tech, but in order to achieve that, we need to encourage girls to learn computer science today. No matter what your involvement in or knowledge of the tech industry, by implementing these simple strategies, you can become a key part of the movement toward a thriving future.

For more about Women in Tech and bridging the gender gap, read our first blog in this series:

Know a female techie who’s looking for a great new opportunity? Contact Us today or Send Us Your Referrals

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Do Working Dads Love IT?

While articles are frequently published about the challenges of being a working mom, the challenges for working dads have historically stayed off the radar. But as more male millennial professionals step into fatherhood, the importance of work-life-balance for dads has become a hot topic. One 2013 survey revealed that fathers, even more so than mothers, reported unhappiness with the amount of time they had to spend away from their families, and reports since then have boasted similar findings. Luckily for dads working in tech, balance can become a reality.

Most tech employers already know the importance of offering competitive benefits and fun perks to attract and retain top talent. What they might not realize is that many IT pros seek family-friendly benefits over some of the flashier perks (i.e. unlimited massages, free meals, and yoga) offered by the tech behemoths of Silicon Valley. ESP IT’s own Millennial employees agreed that in both their own professional experiences and through the years of helping their peers in the tech industry to advance their careers, perks that encouraged work-life balance and time with family were a top priority.

Luckily for tech employers and IT pros, the tech industry has made a name for itself for allotting increased flexibility to fathers – including paid paternity leave, flexible scheduling for full-time IT employees (and even greater flexibility to tech contract workers), the ability to work remotely, and ever-increasing paychecks that allow dads to comfortably support their families. Because of this, tech jobs recently comprised approximately half of a 2016 list of Best Jobs for Work-Life Balance.

Not only are dads in IT able to spend important hours at home with their families – they’re able to strengthen and encourage their children by including them in their work. In one article, a techie dad writes that by engaging with his daughters about his work he is able to expose them to the tech industry (something we encourage all IT pros to do to promote a future gender-balanced IT workforce) while bonding with them over his passions – thereby strengthening their relationship in new ways.

Whether it’s an issue of spending more time at home with the kids, being able to support the family, or fostering valuable skills for your loved ones by sharing in what you do, dads (and moms) who work in IT really can ‘have it all’. For more information about working dads and IT, check out our infographic below.

IT Pro or otherwise, wishing a very happy Father’s Day to all!

Do Working Dads Love IT Infographic

Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published in 2013, and has been revamped to reflect updated tech industry information and working dad statistics.

Dads: are you searching for your next IT opportunity?

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Give In To Summer Fun: How To Keep Your Tech Team Productive

Give In To Summer FunFrom weddings, to family vacations, to daycare needs, the summer months demand more time of your tech employees than any other season. Not only can these busy schedules pose a threat to your team’s engagement, but conflicting vacation schedules and availabilities can also lead to lost productivity and delayed project timelines. However, the opportunities presented by this season far outweigh its challenges. Tech employers who strategically leverage the summer months by offering additional workplace perks and tactically navigating schedules create an open environment conducive to employee happiness – a key factor to increasing retention and engagement throughout the year. Rather than panicking over the obstacles that lie ahead, consider the following strategies and perks that you can use to boost productivity and keep things running smoothly.

Summer Strategies That Save

No matter what perks you can offer to boost your IT pros’ happiness, your team is still likely to encounter productivity road-blocks. Not all vacations will line up, and the dog days of summer can make employees feel lethargic and cooped-up. Luckily, you can help your team to overcome these challenges with some simple strategic planning. Hint: get ready to mix things up!

1. Re-Prioritize, Re-Arrange, Re-Organize

Prime vacation season doesn’t have to be the most unproductive time of the year. You might need to cancel a meeting where only 3 of the usual 15 people are present in order to be respectful of everyone’s time, or encourage a re-organization or re-prioritization of projects. Think of it and promote it as an opportunity for your employees to be productive in new ways like using the quiet to focus on more strategic or creative projects, explore/learn new technologies, or develop career-advancing practices such as coming up with innovative ways to compile code faster. Your IT pros will enjoy the change of pace from their “usual” schedules, and might be able to wrap-up important projects that have been sizzling on their back-burners due to time constraints.

2. “Plan” Vacations

Studies have shown that tech pros are more productive when they are well rested emotionally and physically. “The impact that taking a vacation has on one’s mental health is profound,” said Francine Lederer, a clinical psychologist who specializes in stress and relationship management. “Most people… are more motivated to achieve their goals after a vacation, even if it is a 24-hour time-out.”

However, encouraging vacations doesn’t mean allowing your IT pros to go off without a plan. Before he or she leaves, talk to your employee about what needs to get done, and how involved they will be when they are away—will they check their email occasionally or be without cell coverage?—so you can plan accordingly and keep things running efficiently. To keep morale up and resentment low, create clear back-up plans so employees still in the office know what tasks they are and are not responsible for covering while their teammates are away.

3. Find Time For Vitamin D

Eat lunch with your team outside, find a park nearby where you could hold a more-casual meeting, or simply take a walk around the blog with your team to relax and reset. The vitamin D will do everyone good, and after you all get over the initial sunshine or full-stomach haze, you’ll have a more productive afternoon. As with most things, people need to find a balance for work-life in the summer: the trick is to not over-deny or over-indulge. Employees are likely to spend as much time being unproductive thinking about, craving, and hoping to be out of the office as they would be by taking a little time away. Rather than continuing to feel cranky or resentful, these small ‘give-ins’ are likely to boost their attitudes, and your team’s productivity, through the “real” end of summer in late September.

Summer Perks That Pay-Off:

As a tech employer, you already know that incentives are hugely important when trying to attract and retain the best IT talent. The summer months are a great opportunity to put a few additional company perks into place – giving you the chance to truly showcase a flexible and fun workplace environment without breaking your budget. Whether you are a business owner who is able to implement all five or an IT manager who could organize just one or two, by investing in the following perks and promoting your team’s happiness, you can expect an output of quality and efficiency.

1. Don’t Just Allow Vacations – Encourage Them

If offering unlimited vacation isn’t the right choice for you, consider helping your employees to fund their vacations. Moz’s $3000 vacation reimbursement program for staff members who take advantage of their allotted 21 days of vacation per year is a unique perk that garners a lot of attention for the company.  While such a large amount isn’t realistic for everyone, you might consider using travel funds as a reward for employees who hit important milestones (i.e. 1 year, 5 years, 10 years) working with your company, or offering bonuses to contract employees in the form of airfare or hotel bookings that could be paid for with company frequent flier miles.

2. Invest In Team-Bonding

One survey revealed that “company retreats” are among the top 7 perks valued by tech pros – including those who work at big-name companies such as Airbnb. Taking time out of the office reduces your team’s stress and increases their workplace satisfaction by throwing hierarchy’s out the window, fostering friendships, and giving team members the opportunity to interact with others (perhaps remote employees or IT contractors) who they don’t get as much face-time with during a normal day. Such outings are especially popular among tech startups, who see these events as a “rest and recovery” from the hard work that goes into launching a new company.

Whether or not you are working in the booming Twin Cities startup industry, rest and recovery is always important for your IT pros’ well-beings – and physical fitness is a great way to promote increased brain functioning. Consider taking your team to do something active, such as kayaking/canoeing, laser tag, or jumping at a trampoline park. It doesn’t’ matter if your plans are extravagant or simple; the most important thing is to get out and have fun together.

3. Keep it Flexible

While some IT employees and contract workers may always work remotely, consider allowing others the flexibility to take increased remote working days during the summer. If your IT pros are seeking regular remote time (i.e. one or more days a week) work out a schedule with them to establish which days must be worked in-office, and which can be remote. If possible, try to coordinate your out-of-office days as a team, so that time spent in-office can be used most effectively.

Some companies also allow IT employees and contractors to use flexible scheduling, letting them work weekends or nights as needed to reach 40 hours instead of a typical 5-day work week. This work-life-integration model is an especially important option for tech contractors, who might otherwise avoid vacations for fear of losing out on their hourly rate.

4. Hail Happy Hour

Whether in-office or out-of-office, hosted or not, happy hours are a great way to have some fun. Though these do fall under the umbrella of “team bonding”, happy hours can be an easy and affordable opportunity to get together for more than just one big activity during the summer. As a manager: consider taking your team out a little earlier than usual and buying the first round. Or, coordinate a company-wide happy hour in your lunchroom or at a local pub. These can be as often or sporadic as you like.

5. Close the Doors and Don’t Look Back…For a Bit, Anyway

As with mandated holiday closures in December and January, summer closures can be a good way for business owners to save money on their overhead, and encourage the team to all take vacations at once – thereby reducing the amount of lost productivity due to differing summer vacation schedules. Adobe closes its office for 1 week during both the summer and winter, and tries to align these closures with the holidays. Most companies offer this time in addition to any vacation hours allotted.

Is a week-long closure just not possible for your company? Other options include offering an extra day or two off surrounding holidays (for example, the weekdays before or after the 4th of July), instating an “early office closure” policy on Fridays or closing the office one Friday a month.

 

All work and no play does not make for a successful tech team! The summer months are a time for fun – and that should include time spent in the office. At the same time, you don’t want to host so many activities that the office becomes a distraction. By employing strategic planning and special perks to maintain a healthy balance of work and “fun” over the next 3 months, you can lead your tech team to success. Who knows – with their creative juices flowing, maybe your team will create the next big app, or experience a breakthrough in your data analytics strategies. Give in to summer fun, and reap the rewards of a happy, productive, and creative IT team.

For more tips on managing your tech team and fostering a successful working environment,

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What Do Millennial IT Pros Need to Know?

The Millennial members of ESP’s team weigh in on how their own professional experiences and their recruitment interactions with Millennial IT pros have shaped their view of the Millennial generation, and provide some advice to their peers in the tech field

What Do Millennial IT Pros Need to KnowIn many ways, the challenges of a Millennial workforce have already been addressed. The internet has produced extensive myth-busting content about the Millennial generation, as well as tips to help bridge the gap between Millennials and older generations. We’ve learned that there are gaps even within the Millennial generation that can cause workplace tension, and that ultimately, Millennials are comprised of individuals with unique needs in much the same way as their predecessors’ generations were. But the question remains – why do Millennial stereotypes persist, and how can we end them for good? Perhaps the answer involves Millennials looking inward to identify the ways they are perpetuating these stereotypes, and seeking solutions that will turn the talk in their favor.

Working at an IT consulting firm, ESP’s employees get the chance to interact not only with Millennial IT consultants and job seekers, but also with Gen-X and Baby Boomer tech hiring managers. And because Millennials comprise over 60 percent of our in-office staff, we experience our own workplace gaps while also having the opportunity to witness how other Twin Cities businesses operate. That’s why we decided to host a “Millennial Round Table” and discuss what advice we’d give to our Millennial IT consultants and job seekers based on these observations and experiences. The resulting 3 “need-to-knows” for Millennial IT pros can not only help you bridge the generational gap with coworkers and have a more positive working experience, but can also help you become more established in your tech career – ultimately leading to career growth and success.

Need-To-Know #1: There Are Things We Could Collectively Be Doing Better

In 2015, Millennials (those born between 1980 and 1999) officially surpassed Gen-X to become the largest generation in the American workforce. Couple this with the fact that 36 percent of all millennials ages 18 to 34 have cited a desire to work within the tech industry, and you can guarantee that Millennial IT pros comprise a large majority of the candidates that tech hiring managers are interviewing.

As Millennials helping other Millennials grow their careers, we understand how easy it can be to point fingers, claiming “them, not us” about others in our generation. But working in an IT consulting and staffing firm, we’ve had the rare opportunity of experiencing firsthand some of the difficulties Gen-X hiring managers encounter when interviewing and working with Millennial tech pros – and believe us, many of them are founded in first-hand experiences, not preconceived notions. Craft a more positive narrative for Millennials by adjusting your mindset, and developing new habits.

Throw Out Lofty Expectations and Prepare to Climb the Ladder

“It’s a constant bombardment of: ‘what is ideal?’ or ‘what does everyone else have, relative to where I “should” be, or where I’m at right now in life?’ That creates unrealistic, lofty expectations.”

When it came to discussing the career expectations of the Millennial generation, we were all in agreement: we need to be more prepared to work our way up, gradually.

Shannon Paradis, one of the ESP IT recruiting team’s Millennials, said, “Frequently when I work with Millennials seeking new tech opportunities, there’s a lot of false expectations, usually too high, about culture, work-life-balance, and salary. A lot of the younger candidates that I’ve talked to that are right out of college are expecting moon and stars because they’ve seen some of their friends land great jobs, but the reality is you’re not always going to have the perfect job, particularly right out of school.”

In an extremely hot, candidate-driven tech market, high and even unrealistic expectations are natural. Often times, these expectations are not the result of an IT pro’s “inflated” sense of worth, but are instead the product of false information about the tech market. Many recruitment firms use dollars as a hook to attract IT pros and stand out from the crowd of other offers in the competitive market. Unfortunately, these promisers don’t always deliver. Though the Twin Cities tech market is booming, what’s true of the Silicon Valley doesn’t always apply to employers in the Silicon Prairie.

The bottom line: though you may hear talk of first jobs that live up to your ideal, those opportunities are not the norm.

Getting ahead in the corporate world sometimes means playing whatever role your company needs you to be in. You might not get to work with the “sexiest technologies” or make groundbreaking decisions about the direction of your company’s tech department right off the bat.

But the good news is that by not limiting the kind of work experience you’re willing to gain, you’re much more likely to ultimately achieve your “ideal”.

Talk to tech hiring managers and recruiters about your career path, the experience that you’ve earned so far, and where you want to go. With a mapped-out path ahead of you, you can focus on moving up and growing your skill sets.

Don’t “Ghost” On Your Professional Connections

“Myths about how Millennials are ‘lazy’ or ‘impatient’, can just come down to a lack of understanding about how we operate in a different world from what others grew up in. But if we’re coming to be known as ‘flaky’ then we need to be educated about the importance of calling ahead, arriving on time, and engaging with our network.”

Don't Ghost On Your Professional ConnectionsA few rules of the professional world stand the test of time:

  • Never be late to an interview
  • Maintain connections – don’t burn bridges
  • Practice open and honest communication

Though Millennials should all be well aware of these best practices, many of our Millennial staff have had an encounter with another professional in their generation who left the negative impression of being “flaky”.

While a hot tech market may lead some Millennial IT pros to believe that making connections has become a less-important industry practice, maintaining a strong professional reputation remains one of the most important aspects to advancement in IT – and particularly in tech consulting.

In our round table, ESP’s HR Generalist Emily Zlab compared some of the behaviors that she’s noticed to “ghosting” – a term used in the Millennial dating world to describe someone who’s dropped off the digital face of the planet. “But when it comes to professional interactions” she says, “you can’t just drop off. You need to respond in a professional way.”

IT gig-seekers: it’s much better to communicate with a recruiter or hiring manager if you have lost interest in a position, than to simply “drop off”. Clear communication and a reasonable explanation will not only help you to keep your professional reputation intact, but can actually enhance it.

Whether or not the opportunity before you is one that you want to pursue, by maintaining connections, not burning bridges, and otherwise exhibiting reputable behavior (i.e. following these tips for interview success) you leave your options open for future opportunities with a consulting firm or employer.

Need-To-Know #2: If You Want to Overcome Stereotypes, Become A Millennial Advocate

The real reason Millennial myths need to get “busted”? Much of what we hear about Millennials isn’t founded in research or facts, but instead comes from opinions and individual interactions. Yet, there are some truths about the Millennial generation that differentiate them from those who came before.

For example, the “sharing culture” of Millennials means that less working professionals ages 18-34 invest in items such as cars, houses, and luxury bags. While some from the previous generations see this as a “negative” quality, for many Millennials, these purchasing decisions are the result of economic constraints (i.e. the hefty amount of college debt accumulated by the generation, and the proven decrease in Millennial’s household earnings) rather than personal preference, or indifference to long-term investments. In the same way, there are misconceptions surrounding many other Millennial “myths” – but it’s up to you to reveal these areas, and prove that they shouldn’t be perceived in a negative light.

Cater To The Positives

“I’m tired of being told that our generation is all go-with-the-flow. No plans, no commitments, no investments. There are some positive truths about the Millennial culture that are often misunderstood.”

Millennial IT pros must answer the question: What differentiates you from your predecessors? Is it simply an increased familiarity with the newest technologies? Or do you bring other unique contributions to the professional world? The truth is that not all “stereotypes” about Millennials need to have a negative stigma, and many of them can be presented to tech hiring managers in a way that showcases the value Millennials bring to a team.

  • A Fresh and Enthusiastic Perspective

In general, someone who is new to or a few years into his or her IT career brings new knowledge, creative ideas, and a fresh perspective. Regarding the Millennial generation specifically, we’ve learned that Millennials are eager to rise up and achieve, and search for feedback (both positive and negative) that will help them to do so. As the only Millennial member of ESP’s leadership team, AnnaLisa Krupnick shed further light on the way these behaviors can appeal to a hiring manager. “The question frequently is – do I hire someone with enthusiasm and fresh perspective? Or do I hire someone who’s been in the industry for longer? It’s a hard question to answer, and will differ for every opportunity. Sometimes hiring managers just have to go with their gut.”

  • Fusing Passion and Creativity with Tech

A popular truth about Millennials is that they want to feel like their work makes a difference. Not only has this lead to a generation that is more passionate about the work that they do, but it’s also led to a generation that places a high value on creativity. Because of this, many Millennial tech pros seek to work in creative industries, or industries that they are passionate about. Millennials can use this as a “selling point” during an interview by explaining what they value most in a workplace, why a particular company appeals to those values, and also how having a passion for different fields uniquely qualifies them to succeed in a contract gig. By showcasing a level of investment in a given company that extends beyond your day-to-day tech work, you’ll prove to a hiring manager that you are a good fit, and worthwhile investment.

  • A Culture That Shares, Invests in The Community

Another positive stereotype about the Millennial generation is that they are more invested in their community than previous generations have been. This can mean that Millennials are more likely to volunteer within and outside of an organization, and strive to give back to their professional and personal communities. And, as ESP recruiter and Millennial Alex Webb pointed out, “The scope of our ‘communities’ are so blown up, too – if I share something with my LinkedIn community, all 500+ of my connections know about it.” Let hiring mangers know what community means to you – whether you’re interested in helping to organize your company’s volunteer day, or you’re an IT consultant whose network of connections could prove valuable to your client.

Understand How You Interact With The Stereotypes

“Some Millennial stereotypes are true of you as an individual and others are not – we’re a whole generation of individuals.”

Whether perceived as positive or negative, most Millennials likely do identify with a few of the stereotypes about their generation. The key to acknowledging when you do align is first understanding why this stereotype is true of you, and then exploring ways in which you personally live it out. These questions for Millennials will help them to identify where they land on important Millennial topics, and what their tech hiring mangers or IT recruiters need-to-know.

  • Can We Keep our Flexible Hours but Prove We’re Not Lazy?

Working From Home ImageHow can Millennials prove that leaving by 3 or working remotely doesn’t mean they’re putting in less hours, or being less productive? The key is understanding that what may seem “lazy” to others is often actually “efficiency” to the Millennial generation. As ESP Account Coordinator Monica Matson explained: “I would much rather have the flexibility to respond to emails at night and connect with consultants when they are available. I enjoy that I can minimize my commute by leaving a little earlier, get home at a decent hour, help my fam cook dinner, and continue to work later in the evening.”

Yes, it means abiding by the stereotype that Millennials are “plugged-in” to technology much more than other generations, but this allows them to practice the highly-valued work-life-integration model of working different hours, not less. Make sure to tell your IT recruiters up front if you prefer opportunities with flexible scheduling, or remote capabilities. On the other hand, if you differ from the pack and prefer a standard 9-5 schedule (as some of ESP’s Millennial teammates do), make sure to share that information with hiring managers to avoid being stereotyped.

  • Do Job-Hoppers Have a Positive Case for Themselves?

Research has shown that the average worker will hold 10 different jobs before age 40 – a statistic that leaves tech hiring managers especially fearful in the midst of the talent shortage. But as ESP Associate Recruiter Armel Martin pointed out, just as IT consultants learn and grow from their many different experiences, this sort of job-hopping can “make us much more adaptable and versatile.” Though some hiring managers see this frequent job change as Millennials having “short attention spans”, oftentimes the job change results from Millennial’s desiring further growth, which they feel can come only by having a variety of experiences.

That’s not to say that growth opportunities are the sole motivator behind frequent Millennial turnover. Another common reason that Millennials leave companies is in pursuit of increased work-life balance. And though some may negatively label this desire as “self-love”, statistics show that employees who feel they have a greater work-life balance are more productive, more engaged, and are better brand ambassadors for your company than those who burn out from overworking.

Millennial IT pros: if either the desire for further growth or the pursuit of work-life balance have been reasons for your previous job change, share that information with your technical recruiter. Knowing what has and hasn’t worked for you in the past will help him or her identify the types of opportunities that will better serve you in the future. On the other hand, if you are a Millennial tech pro with a track record of loyalty to one or two companies, or who has held multiple contract gigs that got extended due to the excellence of your work – point that out! Always seek to identify the ways that you stand out from the crowd.

Need-To-Know # 3: Part of the Generational Gap is an Experience Gap

By the end of our round table, the ESP team had acknowledged quite a few “truths” about the Millennial generation that all seemed to share a common theme: many of the negative “true stereotypes” about Millennials might not really characterize us as a generation. More commonly, they seemed to be the result of inexperience.

Whether you’re an IT pro who is newly graduated from college or graduate school, or you’ve been working in the tech industry for a few years already, acknowledge the areas where you may still be on a learning curve. In doing so, you not only show respect to your Gen-X coworkers and supervisors by recognizing their expertise gained through the years, but you also give yourself permission to take a step back, and be comfortable with where you are.

It Takes Time to Establish Yourself Professionally

“When people are new in their careers and are coming-of-age professionally, they’re figuring out who they are and what they’re good at and how they work. People make mistakes early in their career that they wouldn’t make later on.”

The big question for both older Millennials and professionals born in previous generations: what mistakes did you make when you were first starting out? As a group, the ESP Millennials caught themselves more than once referring to the youngest in our generation (those just now graduating from college) as “they”, not “us”. We had to ask ourselves – have even those within the Millennial generation been associating the “Millennial” term with professional novices?

ESP IT recruiter Devin Fischer thinks so. He reflected on his own journey and his professional interactions with both Gen-X and Millennial IT pros, saying: “For a 21-year-old to be perceived as ‘immature’ by someone who’s been doing their job for 15 years… it isn’t that shocking. I’m sure that those folks also had mentors early on in their career who perceived them in the same light. Maybe it’s not a generational thing – maybe it’s an age thing, a maturity thing, a life thing.”

Perhaps the most important tip for Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers to help bridge the generational gap, then, is to take a step back, remember what challenges they faced when they were first starting out in their careers, and see if there are any parallels in their current experience with Millennials at their workplace.

Alexis Will, ESP’s Administrative Assistant, agrees. “I feel like there’s always a sense of ‘this generation isn’t living up to us.’ Or ‘things aren’t as good as they used to be’. That keeps happening –we are guilty of doing that when we look down on Gen-Z. It’s part of history repeating itself.”

But taking a step back and reflecting on Millennials’ inexperience isn’t only the responsibility of the previous generations. Millennials, too, need to learn how to acknowledge the areas they have yet to grow in.

Debunking the common myth that Millennials are entitled, our Millennial team instead acknowledged how much pressure their generation puts on itself to succeed. Rather than thinking they deserve to hold a high-level role, Millennials seem to be worried that they are somehow not achieving what they “should” be, or (as Alexis stated) not living up to expectations. Our advice? “Get rid of that pressure. Take a job, figure out what you like, what you’re good at – then move forward.”

Finally, sometimes advancing your career in the long run means “taking a step back” early on. For many tech pros, higher education can feel like one such step back. The tech talent shortage has increased the number of tech pros able to find work without first earning their degree, and many have debated whether or not computer science degrees are still valuable. Factoring in the cost of school, those who choose to earn their degrees may feel that they start out their adult lives “behind” those who entered tech careers right out of high school. But the long-term benefits to choosing school can mean greater opportunities for career advancement in the future. Seek to understand the long-term outcomes of your hard work and early choices, and be okay with waiting to reap the rewards.

You’re Adapting to a Different World

“We’ve said we’re adaptable. If that’s true – let’s adapt a little. Your first job might not be your dream job. You might have to work different hours than you want to until you have proven yourself and earned some flexibility in that area. We can’t just walk in with a plan that, ‘we want to work this way’. We’re playing in ‘their’ world, and it’s a game we have to play.”

Adapting To Business WorldMillennials want to change the world – and that can be a really great asset of the generation. Generational-cycle science identifies Millennials with the Civic generation model: “focused on ‘how to clean things up’”.

But the world won’t change overnight, nor should it. Positive change happens gradually, over time, from the inside. In order to enact change, we have to first embrace the current systems, and understand why they are in place – recognizing the good intentions of those who came before.

For Millennial IT pros, this means understanding that your previous experiences (in part-time jobs, colleges, and internships), and your expectations entering a new career might not translate. The working world is a meld of Baby Boomer, Gen-X, and Millennial practices – and we all have to “give” a little to help this world run smoothly.

If you seek flexibility, you too must be flexible.

This means being prepared for a few hiccups your first time in the professional world, and trying to be open to learning opportunities and growth within your current role before job hopping. Consider how often others really land their dream opportunities right out of college, and you’ll probably discover – despite the few instances you read about on social media – that this doesn’t commonly happen. Adjust to a supervisor who may prefer phone calls or in-person interactions to text or IM (or try meeting him or her halfway with email). In turn, you may earn yourself the flexible hours, remote working capabilities, and career advancement opportunities that you are searching for.

To any future IT pros who are still in school, we encourage you to use college as an opportunity not only to gain knowledge about the newest technologies, but to learn about building a resume, interviewing, and life in the professional world. Seek internship opportunities that will help you to gain the soft skills and professional experience you need to land a job. The youngest Millennial of ESP’s team, Kelsey Lyngdal, explained how valuable working in our downtown office has been for her career. “That’s something unique that I can have coming out of college that my friends don’t have,” she said.

Understand that, no matter what, no one enters the working world 100 percent prepared. When asked if they felt that their expectations were ‘totally realistic’ upon entering their professional careers, the Millennial members of ESP’s team responded with a resounding ‘No!’

Many on our team encountered difficulties when they were first starting out in their careers – and a large majority of our Millennial employees began their careers in our office. However, just as we have experienced success and a high level of happiness as a team, we are confident that Millennial IT pros – those sought-after commodities with the hottest skills on the job market – will experience great satisfaction in their careers, as well.

 

With a little introspect, and a lot more understanding on both sides of the generational divide, Millennial IT pros can overcome stereotypes, experience satisfaction, and thrive in their careers. Though the term “Civic generation” will probably never stick over “Millennial”, when we recognize our historical role to be a generation that enacts positive change we are able to confidently move into the future that’s being crafted. By adapting to the world that they are currently operating in, looking inward to make self-improvements, and advocating on behalf of a generation that is setting out to do great things, Millennial IT pros can earn their place as leaders and experts in the tech industry.

Are you a Millennial IT pro seeking new opportunities, or a tech hiring manager seeking fresh talent? 

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