Differences Between Hiring a Contractor or Consultant

In my session at Agile 2015, (Agile Hiring: It’s a Team Sport) one participant asked me if I hire contractors the same way I hire employees. I do. I use the same approaches for reviewing resumes, phone screens, interviews and decisions. The one difference is the offer—instead of a yearly salary paid in some form of incremental approach, contractors get a dollar/hour over a timeboxed period. One of the people in my session called contractors “consultants” and tweeted about it. She wanted to make sure the contractor had the same respect as a consultant. That concern goes to why the hiring manager hires a contractor or a consultant. If I need an extra pair of hands for a limited period of time, I hire a contractor. If I need guidance—which might include some hands-on work—I hire a consultant. You might like this perspective on how consultants work, from Choosing a Consulting Role: Principles and Dynamics of Matching Role to Situation, by Champion, Kiel and McLendon: What’s important to me is who has the responsibility for client growth. I expect a consultant to help me (or my team or organization) grow in some way. I expect a contractor to provide extra pair-of-hands services. I do not expect them to help me grow. I might get that, but I definitely don’t expect it, especially when hiring a developer, tester, project manager, Scrum Master, or some other individual contributor position. To me, that is a big difference between contractors and consultants. I don’t expect contractors to contribute to anyone’s growth. I do expect consultants to contribute to growth. That’s why I expect to...

Do You Need a Degree to be Hired to Develop Software?

I retweeted a link to Here’s a Thing: There’s No Correlation Between a College Degree and Coding Ability. I was a bit surprised by some of the reactions to that link. One colleague said, “I question whether people who wait until a college assignment to learn to code have the same obsessive interest in the topic.” I was quite surprised. Back when I went to college, people didn’t have access to computers except in school. And, what about those of us who only discovered programming by accident, say our sophomore year in school (me), or a few years later (another colleague)? Would a hiring manager penalize us for not knowing about programming when we were 12? Do developers need an “obsessive” interest in programming? I don’t think so. When I hired developers, I looked for a number of preferences, qualities, and non-technical skills: Ability to learn our system fast Ability to get along with the rest of the team Ability to take feedback and provide feedback Problem-solving abilities in several domains: ways to look at both technical and non-technical tradeoffs More things depending on the role and environment Of course, I looked for technical skills also: Ability to explain their code to me and others We always did a technical audition, so we could see somebody’s technical skills at work Ability to explain how their code fit into the whole of the system they were working on at the time More things depending on the role and environment In all the time I hired developers (about 10 years), I never made a college degree a requirement. Nor did I make obsessive...

What Traits Are Most Valuable in a Career?

If you read Thomas Friedman’s interview with Laszlo Bock, How to Get a Job at Google, Part 2, you see that these qualities are the things that Bock discusses: Grit, which I refer to as perseverance Adaptability General cognitive ability, the ability to think and solve problems How does Bock look for those skills? He looks for some form of STEM: science, technology, engineering or math degree. Not just courses, degree. Why? They show that a candidate had the perseverance to stick with a difficult undergraduate program, that the candidate has analytical ability (yes, I admit of a certain type), and you can adapt those skills to whatever job you have now. If you read the interview, you can see that liberal arts are important, but not by themselves. BTW, I have an English degree. I read Chaucer. The challenge there was not the same as designing device drivers, two things I did for my undergraduate degrees. If you already have a technical background, great. If you don’t, what now? Take classes, and more importantly, practice. Volunteer on some open source projects. Try something on your own. Go to code.org and see if you like coding. Don’t do something you don’t like. Maybe Google or a place like that is not for you. But I have to tell you, I am not doing what I started doing over 30 years ago. Even if I had continued to write code, I would not be using the same languages, solving the same kinds of problems. I would have changed domains several times over. My adaptability has been key to my career...

The Company Doesn’t Love You

I’m rearchitecting Manage Your Job Search (again). One of the things I’m doing is working on the introduction, explaining to people why they need to consider agile and lean as a system in which to work on their job hunt/job search project. I’m selling agile and lean to people. The reason you want to consider agile and lean is that your job search project is complex. You want to use a strategy for that project that fits that project. And, there is a meta-reason also. You always want to move your career forward. Why? You need to plan your career. You are in charge of your career. Only you. Your manager might help. But, your company does not love you. Let me repeat that. Your company does not love you. Only the people in your life love you. That means that you are responsible for creating your career. You need to consider what will move your career forward, day in, day out, year in year out. You are responsible for thinking about “How do I learn something this year? How do I make this year a year of learning, not just another year of experience that looks like last year’s of experience?” This is your lifelong quest. Yes, it is a lifelong quest, unless you want to die of boredom. Unless you want to have merely an okay career. Have you ever seen Larry Smith’s Ted talk, Why you will fail to have a great career? Careers are not linear. You will learn something technical here, some interpersonal skills there. You will increase your domain expertise, your functional skills at...

Volunteering: Set Yourself Apart in the Hiring Process

Today’s guest post is from Melissa Russell. As a consequence of the recent recession, many people have suddenly found themselves either unemployed or underemployed. Landing a job in this climate can be a challenge for anyone, so finding a way to separate yourself from the crush of applicants has become more important than ever before. Volunteering is a great way not only to stand out from the crowd, but also to add experience to your resume, build a network of career contacts and develop new skills that will serve you well in your career advancement. As an IT professional, there is an advantage to having specific skills that can benefit a company looking for some extra help. Great places to start looking for volunteer work are nonprofit and community organizations such as libraries and schools where help is often appreciated. Many don’t have the funding, staffing or time needed to get everything done. Find a Volunteer Program Specific to Your Career Goal If you’re considering a career change or just want to take a step further in your current field, volunteering in your area of interest can help you make connections in that particular field.  For example, if you want to become a computer technician, you could volunteer at your local community center’s IT department, which would put you in contact with professionals who could eventually help in your job hunt. For workers looking for career advancement, volunteering can offer the opportunity to hone particular skills that may position them for a promotion, such as communication, problem solving, organization and project planning. Websites, like TechSoup.org, which are specific to...

The Road to the CBAP is Not Paved by Applied Knowledge

I have the pleasure of introducing a guest writer for today’s post, Tina Underhill. Take it away, Tina! The Road to the CBAP is Not Paved by Applied Knowledge The glorified CBAP credentials have been a desire of mine since their inception.  How awesome it would be to stand up and say, “Yes, I am a Master BA and can help you solve your business problems.”  Unfortunately, this week that did not happen. I have been a Business Analyst, well, before there were Business Analysts.  Documenting very detailed requirements, facilitating meetings, resolving conflicts, bridging gaps between functional departments, mapping processes, have been the strong suites that paved my career for many years serving health insurance, professional liability insurance, property and casualty insurance. I have changed industries when the economy went downhill; moving into e-commerce and the wonderful world of websites and mobile applications, becoming very successful. My phone, email, and LinkedIn page “blow-up” every week to see if I am available to help companies. By now I am sure you are wondering, “How did you prep?”  Below is a list of the things I engaged in to best prepare and the costs associated with each: Joined the IIBA – $125 for 2011 Applied to the CBAP $125 October 2011 and my application was approved within 2 weeks Joined the Greater Boston IIBA – early bird special $28 Renewed IIBA membership $110 Purchased Watermarks online test simulator $200+ for 90 days Used test simulator, mapped out BABOK 2.0, flash cards, etc. Volunteered to be a contributing author for BABOK 3.0 Paid for exam $325 Total study time = over 200...