IT

Never Memorize What You Can Look Up

By: Elias Cobb, National Recruiting Manager

Never memorize what you can look up…one of my best consultants said that to me one day.  We were discussing interviews, and the questions that come up in many of them.  His basic point, as I took it, was that as a software developer, one cannot truly memorize everything one would ever utilize.  There are going to be things to look up, and the important part of development is in problem solving, and basically using one’s brain power on tackling difficult issues, not rote memorization of something that could be looked up in three seconds.  And that software development has as much artistry to it as it does rigid rules, which means there is often more than one right way to solve a coding problem.

It also took me back to my teaching days, when, on one of my first days, my chemistry students asked if I was going to make them memorize the periodic table, as teachers in the past had done.  I turned around and looked at the gigantic periodic table hanging behind me, then turned back around to the class.  “Why would you have to memorize it?  It’s right here!”  I then made the point – someone doing actual chemistry is not going to rely on their memory of the periodic table for the atomic weight of an element for a calculation; they’re going to look it up to make sure they have it correct.  They will, however, know why the periodic table is organized the way it is, and how to use it in doing chemistry.

So, to get the point…why would one ask “book” questions, things that can be easily looked up, in a job interview?    Is memorizing something like that truly indicative of one’s overall skill as a developer?  I would argue that it isn’t.  I suspect it has more to do with having an “objective” interview process, but I can tell you, you’re missing out on great candidates if you rely on these types of questions.

Here’s another quick, real-life example for you.  I had a consultant several years ago, a COBOL developer, about whom our client raved.  They said they would assign him tasks that took other developers two weeks, and he would finish them in three days.  He had a couple of other clients who loved him as well, and would basically go back and forth between these employers on contract because of the outstanding work he did.  Well, we submitted him to a different client as he had some downtime.  This client gave him a technical test, and let us know that he failed.  He got back to us and said “I could have aced that test right after I graduated, but it mostly covered things out of a book that I never use in actually coding.”  I’ve never forgotten that example, as that client likely missed out on a consultant who could have helped them greatly.

I want to be clear; I’m not advocating not asking technical questions in an interview.  I am, however, advocating making it more of a discussion than a “right or wrong” proposition.  And don’t base your entire decision about a candidate on a technical test.  Perhaps some of the factors mentioned above are in play, or maybe the person is a terrible test taker, but a crack developer.  That’s certainly something I’ve seen as well, and again, you don’t want to miss out on someone who could be a great asset to your team.

Job Search Challenge for IT Executives

By:John Hutchins, Vice President of Client Services

Unemployment among information technology (IT) professionals is extremely low.  In the IT staffing business, it is reminiscent of 1998 and 1999 in terms of there being plentiful job orders, but a scarcity of talent.  Unfortunately, unemployed IT executives are still having a difficult time finding their next management position.  Why is this?  And, more importantly, how does an IT executive find a job?

IT executives have trouble finding a job, even in a hot IT job market, for a variety of reasons with the biggest reason probably being the evolution of the IT industry itself.  In the 1990s and even into the early 2000s, IT was separate from business.  Today, it is an integral part of every business, every sector, every industry.  It used to be that IT executives came up through the technical ranks, starting their careers as developers or in infrastructure support.  Today, every MBA program includes a significant technology training component to their curriculum.  As a result, nearly every graduate is technology savvy and, in theory, capable of moving into an IT executive role.  Add to this the fact that most employed business executives, even if they graduated decades ago, have been forced to add technology to their repertoire.  With the increased pool of viable IT executive candidates, it can be very difficult to set yourself apart from the crowd and get that interview, let alone that job.

The IT industry has evolved, but for IT executives, finding a job means returning to the tried and true methods of yesteryear.  Technology has made it easier to apply for jobs, but it also has made it much easier for recruiters and human resource professionals to screen out candidates.  Since IT executives are soft skills focused, rather than hard skills focused, as an IT executive it is nearly impossible to set yourself apart from the crowd using merely a resume and the internet.  You need to get out there, shake some hands, kiss some babies – you need to network!

Don’t waste your time submitting resumes via the job boards or applying through a corporate website.  Instead spend your time improving your network.  Get out there and meet people.  Begin by meeting with former coworkers, vendors and business associates.  Ask for suggestions on other people you should meet and then meet with those people.  Along the way, broadcast your experience and your employment goals.  Develop a target list of possible employers.  Send periodic emails to your growing network, asking for introductions or leads into these companies.  It takes time, but eventually you will hear about opportunities before they’re posted on job boards.  Instead of being part of the crowd, you’ll be an insider.  Even better, a position may be created with you in mind!

Technology maybe the basis of your previous success, but don’t lull yourself into a false sense of job search productivity if all you’re doing is applying to jobs on the internet.  Use your creativity, as well as those leadership and communication skills you’ve so carefully honed over the years to find your next successful position.

Please, Proofread Your Resume. Please!!!

By: Elias Cobb, Quantix Recruiting Manager

As an IT recruiter working in the staffing industry for the last 14 years, I have seen literally thousands upon thousands of resumes.  And there are many, many of them that have perfectly preventable errors. I’m here to tell you that I have ABSOLUTELY had candidates get rejected for spelling or grammatical errors or errors in technologies on their resume. I’m imploring all of you job seekers to proofread your resume!

Now no one is perfect with grammar. The English language seems to do a good job of ensuring none of us will ever actually know all the rules for grammar usage. However, here are some of the things I see that should never happen on a resume:

1) You should never be the “manger” of anyone or any department or “mange” anything. No, spellcheck won’t catch it. Yes, you should do a word find (CTRL-F) for “manger” and “mange” after you spellcheck your resume.

2) If you have worked with a technology, you need to spell it correctly. Most common one I see? “Novel” instead of “Novell.”

Image Credit: Answers

Image Credit: Answers

3) If you have worked with a technology and list it on your resume, you have to make sure the versions you list actually exist.

4) For you healthcare focused folks: HIPPA is incorrect.  It’s HIPAA.

5) “Orientated,” while technically not grammatically incorrect, is really British usage. For resumes and formal writing, and in the U.S., it should be “oriented.”

6) Make sure your fonts and bullet points match throughout the resume.

There’s a myriad of reasons you won’t get a job. Make sure it’s not for something you could have easily fixed and prevented!

Hiring Managers: How To Effectively Work With Recruiting Agencies

By: John Hutchins, Quantix Vice President, Client Services

Many hiring managers and human resource professionals utilize recruiting agencies to help fill their open positions, but very few know how to leverage recruiting agencies effectively. When you call a recruiting agency and ask for help, you are forming a relationship. As with any relationship, both parties must be invested in the relationship for it to work. Often times, managers aren’t willing to invest the time and effort necessary to create a quality relationship that benefits both themselves and the recruiting agency. As a result, they don’t receive quality candidates, become frustrated and engage a new recruiting agency only to make the same mistakes again and again. Improve your success working with recruiting agencies by following these simple recommendations:

1) Limit the number of recruiting agencies with which you work. If you’re the typical hiring manager, you probably receive in the neighborhood of five to 10 sales calls from recruiting agencies per day. The old adage “the more, the merrier” doesn’t apply when it comes to engaging recruiting agencies. Typically, two or three agencies are enough to get the job done. When you start adding more to the mix, it becomes really messy. For one thing, you won’t have time to manage or develop the relationships. And, more importantly, the recruiting agencies start tripping over each other. They quickly learn that they are one of the many, not one of the select. This causes recruiting agencies to lower you as a priority and focus on clients who value their services. Foster a sense of loyalty by letting recruiting agencies know they are unique and valued. The recruiting agencies will work harder, represent you better and help you fill your positions more quickly.

Image Credit: Digital Deconstruction

Image Credit: Digital Deconstruction

2) Don’t engage a recruiting agency until you’re ready to hire their candidates. Hiring a recruiting agency too soon will only cause frustration for everyone involved, including the hiring manager, internal recruiters, recruiting agency recruiters and the candidates. If you have internal recruiters, give them the first crack at filling the position. During this initial period, reach out to your team and ask for referrals. Only after you’ve exhausted your internal resources is it time to contact the recruiting agencies. This is important for a couple of reasons. First off, you don’t want to pay a placement fee if you can avoid it. Secondly, you don’t want to hurt the relationships you’ve developed with your valued recruiting agencies by wasting their time. Engage recruiting agencies only when you are able to interview and hire within a couple of weeks.

3) Provide quality information in the beginning and throughout the process. As with any relationship, good communication is imperative. Starting the process by sending a blanket email with a generic job description may be quick, but it is far from effective. Now that you’ve narrowed your list of recruiting agencies to two or three, you have time to contact each recruiting agency personally. Schedule a meeting or, at the very least, a 15 minute phone call. Provide them with a job description, but then go a step further by letting them know what skills / experience is truly important, why you are filling this position and what this person will be doing on a daily basis. Be honest and reasonable with regard to required / desired skills and especially the salary range. Encourage the recruiting agencies to ask questions about the position or to come back to you with questions after the recruiting process has started. Most importantly, provide quality and timely feedback on the candidates. Provide clear and detailed reasons why you are rejecting someone or even why you like a candidate. Good feedback not only helps the recruiting agency find quality candidates for you, but it sends yet another powerful message that you value the services they provide. This message will trickle down to the recruiters at the recruiting agency and they will work extra hard to fill your positions.

When it comes right down to it, working effectively with recruiting agencies isn’t that complicated. It is similar to developing any other valued relationship. If you want the relationship to flourish and benefit both parties, you need to let the other party know they are special, you need to respect them and their services and you need to take the time to foster open lines of communication. Implementing these recommendations will greatly improve your success with recruiting agencies and, ultimately, help you fill open positions with better candidates in a shorter amount of time.

ER Doctors Use Google Glass And QR Codes To Identify Patients

As seen on ArsTechnica.com

By: Jon Brodkin 

A tech-savvy hospital in Boston developed a custom information-retrieval system for Google Glass, which lets ER doctors scan a QR code on the wall of each room to call up information about patients.

Dr. John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, described the system today in his blog (a cached version is here as the original post seems to have been shortened significantly):

In the Emergency Department, we’ve developed a prototype of a new information system using Google Glass, a high tech pair of glasses that includes a video camera, video screen, speaker, microphone, touch pad, and motion sensor.

Here’s how it works.

When a clinician walks into an emergency department room, he or she looks at [a] bar code (a QR or Quick Response code) placed on the wall. Google Glass immediately recognizes the room and then the ED Dashboard sends information about the patient in that room to the glasses, appearing in the clinician’s field of vision. The clinician can speak with the patient, examine the patient, and perform procedures while seeing problems, vital signs, lab results and other data.

Image Credit: Ars Technica and John Halamka

Image Credit: Ars Technica and John Halamka

Beth Israel has been using the Glass application for three months and will make it available to all interested doctors this month. The hospital took its Emergency Department dashboard and integrated it with Glass, making sure to deploy “the same privacy safeguards as our existing web interface,” Halamka wrote. “We replaced all the Google components on the devices so that no data travels over Google servers. All data stays within the BIDMC firewall.”

A custom user interface takes advantage of Glass gestures such as tapping and swiping, scrolling by looking up and down, and voice commands. Information displays were simplified and re-organized to fit the doctors’ view, and as such “Google Glass does not appear to be a replacement for desktop or iPad—it is a new medium best suited for retrieval of limited or summarized information,” Halamka wrote. “Real-time updates and notifications is where Google Glass really differentiates itself. Paired with location services, the device can truly deliver actionable information to clinicians in real time.”

Patients are “intrigued” by Google Glass, but haven’t expressed any concerns about them, according to Halamka. “Boston is home to many techies and a few patients asked detailed questions about the technology,” he wrote. “Our initial pilots were done with the bright orange frames—about as subtle as a neon hunter’s vest, so it was hard to miss.”

During the beta period, Halamka’s team made various modifications including “an external battery pack, increasing the wireless transmission power, pairing the headset with our clinical iPhones, using head tilt to control vertical scrolling, revamping our QR code reader to improve application stability, [and] adding an Android status bar to show wireless connection strength and battery power.”

Dr. Steve Horng, one of the beta testers, recounted a case in which Glass speeded up his ability to treat a patient who was unable to talk at length. “I was paged [urgently] to one of our resuscitation bays to take care of a patient who was having a massive brain bleed,” Horng wrote. “One of the management priorities for brain bleeds is to quickly control blood pressure to slow down progression of the bleed. All he could tell us was that he had severe allergic reactions to blood pressure medications, but couldn’t remember their names, but that it was all in the computer.”

This isn’t unusual for a patient in distress, Horng noted. In this case, “Google glass enabled me to view this patient’s allergy information and current medication regimen without having to excuse myself to login to a computer, or even lose eye contact. It turned out that he was also on blood thinners that needed to be [urgently] reversed. By having this information readily available at the bedside, we were able to quickly start both antihypertensive therapy and reversal medications for his blood thinners, treatments that if delayed could lead to permanent disability and even death.”

Doctors today also commonly use iPads to view patient information.

Beth Israel has deployed Glass to four doctors and conducted “impromptu testing with at least 10 other staff members,” Halamka wrote. Within two weeks, the hospital will do “a full roll-out to all interested clinical providers in the ED.” Halamka believes that wearable computing devices “will replace tablet-based computing for many clinicians who need their hands free and instant access to information.”

Emotient’s Face-Tracking Google Glass App Can Identify The Mood Of People Around You

As seen on TheNextWeb.com

By: Ben Woods 

Emotient has announced a private beta of its facial recognition and emotion tracking tech for Google Glass, as well as revealing that it has secured an additional $6 million in funding.

The US-based company shared details of the private beta today, confirming that, for now, it’s only available to select partners and customers.

In essence, what the company does is use cameras to identify and process facial expressions and provide an emotional read-out that measures overall sentiment (positive, negative or neutral), primary emotions (joy, surprise, sadness, fear, disgust, contempt and anger) and more advanced emotions like frustration and confusion. It doesn’t really require any special hardware, for the demo we saw a run-of-the-mill Logitech webcam was used.

So, in this case, the wearer of Google Glass can simply fire up the app and have the emotions and sentiments of everyone around them displayed in their line-of-sight and fed back to the software platform.

In the demo, the recognition happens very quickly and has no problem dealing with more subtle expressions (like looking deliberately slightly sad) or very quick smiles, for example. While it’s easy to think of the one-on-one benefits this could bring, the app is really a proof of concept for Emotient – the ultimate aim is to get its facial tracking tech in all manner of different devices and services.

On one side of that equation you have a deal with Intel that will see the tech feature as part of the Intel Real Sense SDK and reach a far wider audience than it otherwise could.

“Intel Capital is our first institutional investor and they are also a customer of ours, our technology is going to be integrated into the upcoming version of its perceptual computing SDK – renamed Real Sense at CES. That will open up the capabilities of our technology out to all of the developer communities that are a part of its perceptual computing division,” Dr. Marian Bartlett, one of the co-founders of Emotient, told TNW.

To give an example, imagine the Virgin Atlantic staff wearing Google Glass being equipped with this software. Not only would they be able to recognize passengers, but they’d also have a pretty good idea of exactly how they were feeling as they got on board. To be clear, there’s no suggestion that Virgin Atlantic is working with Emotient to achieve this, but there’s no reason it couldn’t.

Silent intent

On the other, arguably more important, side of the equation, Emotient is looking at which key industries it could best be applied to initially, although it’s clear that there are many more potential uses for future diversification.

One of the most obvious ones on that list is retail. The ability to really know what a customer thinks of a product or service without them needing to say a word is a powerful tool. Whether or not customers will be happy giving genuine feedback that they perhaps had no intention or desire to give remains to be seen. In theory though, it’s a mutually beneficial deal: the store gets to know what you think, and using that feedback it should be able to offer more of the things that make you happy and less of the ones that you’re indifferent about.

Image Credit: The Next Web and Shutterstock

Image Credit: The Next Web and Shutterstock

Right now, the system is capable of automatically identifying the gender of a person, but in the future it will also be able to identify their age and eventually their ethnicity too – allowing for an even more detailed analysis of group sentiment filtered by various factors.

Ken Denman, CEO of Emotient explained a little more about the company’s multiple routes to market:

The real power of this is to be able to basically aggregate real feedback, the implicit response people have to various stimuli and situations…to aggregate that information in an anonymized fashion such that you really have a sense of what groups and sub-groups think about a particular customer experience, a particular product, merchandising,[or] audience measurement of some content. That’s the real value here in my opinion.

The one-on-one is interesting and people get intrigued by it, but it’s not really where the value is. If you look at this in the context of how do you add value economically to the world, it’s about helping consumers, users, customers. In the end, systems will have a better understanding of what they value and what they don’t value – and that will translate into faster product developments, faster product changes, faster customer service improvements. So, in thinking about the long-game, that’s what we’re focused on.

The near-term intrigue and interest is really cool but the value here is going to be picking up information ‘in the wild’ as we move around… We’re not storing the images and we’re not really interested in who you are, so to speak, it’s more about how you feel about whatever you’re experiencing.

Some of the emotions it tracks, like disgust, are more closely linked to things like buying intentions rather than just general feeling about a product, so tracking that allows for actual prediction of future sales. Offered up as anecdotal evidence of this, the company told me that as part of its testing it had compared its facial recognition system to a traditional survey to see whether fragrance buying behaviour could be predicted by either. To cut a long story short, the survey couldn’t predict the outcome accurately but the Emotient tech could.

“Disgust is an important emotion because it’s closely related to dislike. So, when someone dislikes something, an offer – including a financial offer – people will [pull a face] without even realizing they are doing it… Contempt is also an important emotion because there’s often a disconnect between what people say and what people do,” Bartlett explained.

There’s obviously a rather large privacy-shaped elephant in this particular room, though. Despite multiple assurances from the company that no picture data is stored, I can see the idea of having your non-verbal communication scanned and analyzed not sitting too well with some people, whether that’s in a retail setting or some other situation. For me, there’s also an issue of taking feedback that the individual perhaps had no desire to share with you. To be clear though, the company reiterated several times that the aggregated emotional responses are the only data that is stored. Once a ‘score’ has been assigned, no other data is held – and it’s not held on an individual level.

Momentum

Despite some potential privacy concerns, the idea is clearly gaining some traction. In addition to already scoring the deal with Intel this year, the company is also today announcing that it secured an additional $6 million in Series B funding in a round led by Handbag LLC. Intel Capital also participated in this second round.

While Emotient is focusing on industries like retail and healthcare for now, there are big ambitions to reach out into other sectors too, according to Denman.

Image Credit: The Next Web and Shutterstock

Image Credit: The Next Web and Shutterstock

What we found is that the technology applies horizontally in some many ways that it’s almost overwhelming. There are so many opportunities to leverage the technology, but of course when you’re bringing a new concept to market, the important thing to do is decide on a focus area and go deliver in that area. That’s not to say we’re not interested in these other areas that will evolve over time, but we’re focused on a couple of areas – retail and healthcare – where we’re engaged with some of the largest players and names you know who definitely want us to deliver applications to meet their needs in the near-term, so we’re going to focus on getting those done and stay close to other areas. There are some non-obvious places that we can’t just fully focus on as the other opportunities are bigger and nearer.

Honda was an early purchaser of our technology… In the research area they began to spend time thinking about how to improve the infotainment center, the cabin of the car – cars turn over nowadays based on the electronics and entertainment, so there’s a lot of interest from the auto industry but that’s just a little further out.

The other natural match, given what the technology does, would be combining it with voice analysis software like Beyond Verbal’s for an even more accurate picture of sentiment or emotion, but for now, Denman says this isn’t on the cards.

Voice is obviously another measure that could be taken and integrated with facial expression, clearly, and our team has worked on voice in the past, but we’re not currently focused on that. We may partner with some one in that regard, or we could develop our own. Right now, we think we have the sweet spot and want to be the best in the world at facial expression recognition – we believe we are already… but that’s an ongoing conversation within our team – how and when do we integrate voice.

If, however, it does get to the point of drawing on voice data too, it would become all the more powerful. Facial expression might be a good indicator of how someone is feeling, but it’s by no means a guarantee of their true thoughts; adding more information can only result in a more accurate overall picture. Whether that’s an exciting vision of the future or a terrifying potential invasion of your privacy is up to you.

Job Search Challenge For IT Executives

By: John Hutchins, Quantix Vice President, Client Services 

Unemployment among information technology (IT) professionals is extremely low. In the IT staffing business, it is reminiscent of 1998 and 1999 in terms of there being plentiful job orders, but a scarcity of talent. Unfortunately, unemployed IT executives are still having a difficult time finding their next management position. Why is this? And, more importantly, how does an IT executive find a job?

IT executives have trouble finding a job, even in a hot IT job market, for a variety of reasons with the biggest reason probably being the evolution of the IT industry itself. In the 1990’s and even into the early 2000’s, IT was separate from business. Today, it is an integral part of every business, every sector, every industry. It used to be that IT executives came up through the technical ranks, starting their careers as developers or in infrastructure support. Today, every MBA program includes a significant technology training component to their curriculum. As a result, nearly every graduate is technology savvy and, in theory, capable of moving into an IT executive role. Add to this the fact that most employed business executives, even if they graduated decades ago, have been forced to add technology to their repertoire. With the increased pool of viable IT executive candidates, it can be very difficult to set yourself apart from the crowd and get that interview, let alone that job.

The IT industry has evolved, but for IT executives, finding a job means returning to the tried and true methods of yesteryear. Technology has made it easier to apply for jobs, but it also has made it much easier for recruiters and human resource professionals to screen out candidates. Since IT executives are soft skills focused, rather than hard skills focused, as an IT executive it is nearly impossible to set yourself apart from the crowd using merely a resume and the Internet. You need to get out there, shake some hands, kiss some babies – you need to network! 

Image Credit: Degroote

Image Credit: McMaster University

Don’t waste your time submitting resumes via the job boards or applying through a corporate website. Instead spend your time improving your network. Get out there and meet people. Begin by meeting with former coworkers, vendors and business associates. Ask for suggestions on other people you should meet and then meet with those people. Along the way, broadcast your experience and your employment goals. Develop a target list of possible employers. Send periodic emails to your growing network, asking for introductions or leads into these companies. It takes time, but eventually you will hear about opportunities before they’re posted on job boards. Instead of being part of the crowd, you’ll be an insider. Even better, a position may be created with you in mind!

Technology maybe the basis of your previous success, but don’t lull yourself into a false sense of job search productivity if all you’re doing is applying to jobs on the Internet. Use your creativity, as well as those leadership and communication skills you’ve so carefully honed over the years to find your next successful position.