Women In IT

Women in IT_BlogAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 24% of the US IT workforce is female. In a male-dominate world, employers find themselves fighting for not only top IT talent, but for top female IT talent.  Why are women a priority in the workplace? Organizations strive to diversify. By adding women to the industry, studies have shown that companies are better able to attract and retain talent, enhance organizational performance and reduce turnover costs.

I’ve started to notice several common trends and strategies among organizations to not only make a work environment more appealing to women, but also on how to diversify the office environment in general. One of the most reoccurring themes many organizations offer is flexibility. Offering flexibility in the workplace will draw a much larger pool of candidates, in particular females. Flexibility can apply to work schedules and office hours or having a casual work environment. It can also mean telecommuting options or even, paid paternity leave.

I always want to understand our candidates’ “wish list” including the candidate’s top priorities and motivating factors when looking for a new opportunity. One of the top responses I hear when speaking with our candidates is flexibility. It is no secret that many women (and men) juggle both career and at-home responsibilities. Companies that not only recognize what motivates their employees, but offer solutions (work-from-home Fridays) are more likely to attract top talent.

Shelby KingsleyWomen In IT

Customer Centricity: Marketing Myth or Differentiator?

March CEO PerspectiveThis past weekend we celebrated our annual UDig President’s Trip where our top performers converge on a warm destination for 4 days to eat, drink, reflect and relax. This year, we chose the Grand Velas resort in Riviera Maya just south of Cancun, Mexico. The resort and service were top notch and the group was able to unwind, celebrate our 2014 accomplishments and escape the last days of winter.

The trip wasn’t without incident. The Thursday before we were to leave the Mid Atlantic was hit hard with a sleet, ice and snow storm. The storm subsided by early evening Thursday and all the airports were operational. We had groups leaving from Richmond, Raleigh and DC. My biggest concern was the Dulles airport due to the amount of snow they received. We made a group decision late Thursday, based on the information we had, all of our flights would be fine the next morning. I happened to change my preferences on the US Airways website to notify me of any changes regardless of time of day. Thankfully I made the change because at 1:30 am, I got the call. To make matters worse, it was a robo call with a pleasant sounding computer letting me know our flight from Richmond to Charlotte had been cancelled.

After getting over the shock I immediately called US Airways to search for alternatives. They told me without any empathy or alternatives our Richmond group had absolutely no chance of getting to Charlotte on Friday, meaning we would miss our connector to Cancun and miss our first day. At 2 am, the group decided to pile into 3 cars and drive to Charlotte. We mobilized quickly and made it to Charlotte by 7:30 am for a 9:30 am flight. Life was good and the trip went without incident once we got to Charlotte. I have loyalty status on US Airways as I prefer to fly with them and like flying through Charlotte.  I was amazed at how they handled the situation for a customer who chooses them for all of his flying needs. From the robo call to the indifferent customer service agent on the phone. How do companies get away with this type of service? How can their executives sleep at night knowing they leave many of their valued customers stranded without sympathy and an action plan?

For years companies have stated their business strategies as being focused on the customer and being customer centric. The basic premise is making the customer the focus of all your products and services while wrapping the company culture and values around the customer experience. The belief is you become so ingrained with your customer and their needs that you begin to differentiate, have stickier relationships, and provide more focused, custom solutions at better margins.

This concept has been around for years, going by many names and marketing slogans including 360 Customer View, CRM, OneCustomer, to name a few. The reality is many of these customer centric initiatives are built for the advantage of the seller, not the buyer.  With the goal of selling more features, increasing the client’s spend and margin with the company. Many organizations miss the basic concept – if you make your customers lives easier, they will find more ways to use your company.

Additionally, the aggressive nature of cross marketing and upselling has become obnoxious and the real opportunity to build a relationship by understanding a customer’s needs is being missed. These marketing strategies are getting worse with the proliferation of big data and the analytics provided by those solutions. Companies have more information about understanding buying patterns and preferences but they are missing out on the opportunity to leverage that information to be smarter, to differentiate by providing services that will simplify the customer’s life and make transactions easier.  Instead, US Airways leverages my loyalty status and travel data to continually promote their credit card with 50,000 bonus miles. They are missing the point. If the experience is terrible, nobody wants the miles or to deepen their relationship with you.

At UDig, our primary goal is to make life easier for our clients by providing services that deliver solutions to critical business and technical projects. Getting to know our clients business and understanding their needs is paramount to our success. We avoid selling services without understanding the opportunities and challenges.  In response, our clients have asked us to expand our services beyond a traditional staffing model to help them deliver on bigger, more strategic projects. This demonstrates to me that our strategy isn’t a marketing tactic but does differentiate UDig from our peers.

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Check out a few photos from our UDig President’s Trip on our Facebook page and congratulations again to our top performers!

 

 

 

Andy FrankCustomer Centricity: Marketing Myth or Differentiator?

Are you ready for the Reference Check?

Valentine Q1_Reference CheckThere’s a lot of time and energy that goes into looking for a new job and it’s important that as you’re going through the process, you have checked the necessary boxes along the way: Do research on the company, be early, dress professional, have copies of your resume, and knock your interview out of the park.  One of the last deciding factors if a company is going to extend an offer comes after checking your professional references.  It’s important that you have them ready to go and even more essential that they had a good experience working with you so they can provide a positive reference.   I’ve seen multiple situations where there have been two very qualified candidates that bring similar backgrounds to the table, but the one that ends up getting the offer is the candidate who has the strongest professional references.

First, I’d like to provide a couple tips on making sure your references are locked and ready to go. Secondly, I want to help you make good impressions in your current roles so that when you do have to use your references, they’re as solid as can be.

Tips for Getting References Ready 

  • Use Professional References - It’s important to have 3 professional references available for people to contact.  Only use professional references for future employers; personal references won’t provide any value.  They should also be previous managers or team leaders that oversaw your work and can talk in-depth about your past work experience.  Having peers as backups can be helpful but they won’t hold as much weight to managers who are making a hire or no-hire decision.
  • Stay in Contact - When you’re active in your search make sure you stay in contact with your references and ask permission to use them as a professional reference.   It’s also important to find out the most convenient way of getting in contact with them.  You want to make it easy for both your reference and potential employer to connect so there aren’t any delays in the process of making a hiring decision.
  • Use Current References – Make sure to only use current references.  It’s ideal to use a current manger as your best reference but that might not always be possible if they don’t know you’re actively looking yet.   If that’s not possible, only use references that are no more than 2 to 3 positions back.  It’s also important that you have all of their current contact information.
  • Be Specific - Let your reference know who will be calling them and what type of role you’re applying for at the company.  This will give them a chance to prepare and provide the best answers that will tie into your past experience and the role you want to get hired in.

Tips for Making a Good Impression  

  • Be Positive – It’s important to have a good attitude at work and not be a downer.  People like working with other positively thinking co-workers who are there to get the job done and who enjoy being at work.  I would highly recommend against constantly complaining or talking bad about the work or company.
  • Be Proactive/ Go Above and Beyond – These are two of the biggest traits that managers love to see in their employees.  You want to always try and take initiative on projects and complete tasks that might not be in your normal job description but will help the overall project.  Also, any time you can go above and beyond the norm this will help you stand out from other team members and will be speaking points for your reference when talking with potential employers.
  • Be A Good Teammate – Managers see who gets along with the group and who doesn’t.  It’s key for them to be able to say that you worked well with managers, coworkers, customers, and vendors.  Future employers want to be confident that you’ll not only be a good fit for the team from a skillset perspective but you will also gel well with others.
  • Be Professional – This seems pretty basic but you’d be surprised the stories that I’ve heard about people being unprofessional in the workplace.  To stay professional keep the following in mind: be on time, dress professionally, be reliable, be trustworthy, be organized, and be able to effectively interact and communicate well with others while being respectful.

It’s very costly for employers to make bad hiring decisions and on average it can cost $5,000 to $10,000 to fix a bad hire.  Managers are going to do everything they can to avoid this and it’s important to keep in mind that the last impression you’re going to make on them is not directly from you but from a professional reference.

Keep the above tips in mind while preparing to change jobs and you’ll have everything you need to land your next dream job!

-Greg ValentineValentine_Greg_resized

Greg ValentineAre you ready for the Reference Check?

Is IT Consulting for you?

IT Consulting (1)We’re over half way through Q1 and this year is off to an exciting start at UDig.  We continue to support a strong pipeline of demand for high impact, consultative expertise within the software development, data management, and project execution arenas.  So why be an IT consultant?  First, let’s look at where IT budgets are being allocated.  Recently, Computerworld published their Annual Forecast Survey of IT Executives which showed that IT budgets are projected to grow, as 43% of the respondents surveyed expect to increase spending in 2015.  Below are the top five budget priorities for this year as reported by Computerworld’s Forecast Survey:

Application Development

  • Mobile apps, upgrading, and/or replacing applications will consume a large share of 2015 IT budgets. This area also represents the most potential for innovation, as companies scramble to connect consumers with products and services in as many ways possible.

Cloud Computing

  • Companies will continue to move away from big infrastructure investments and will spend more on software as a service (SaaS) and a mix of cloud solutions in 2015. For many companies, migrating to the cloud doesn’t require new IT dollars, but a shift away from infrastructure spending. Small and midsize companies may need to spend more for cloud services, but they may have the most to gain from the increased capabilities and lower maintenance needs of hosted systems.

Business Analytics

  • Big data is still a top priority for enterprises.  Some 38% of the IT executives surveyed report they will dedicate IT dollars to enterprise analytics, data mining and business intelligence in the coming year.

Security

  • High-profile security breaches and the explosion of mobile technologies have moved security spending to the top of the IT priority list for 2015. Key areas of focus include access control, intrusion prevention, identity management, and virus and malware protection.

Wireless/Mobile

  • Mobile spending for 2015 will include new investments in remote access tools, Wi-Fi, mobile/wireless devices and mobile device management systems with a focus on the infrastructure and custom application development for various platforms. Companies will be investing in technology to support bring-your-own-device programs and the technology necessary to provide secure mobile access to internal systems.

The forecast for IT spending 2015 looks strong as IT budgets are increasing and a large percentage of companies will continue to leverage contract staff in support of their upcoming initiatives.  A January study released by CareerBuilder reported that 46 percent of the employers surveyed are planning to hire temporary or contract workers this year with IT topping the list.  Driving factors include the need for specialization, the ability to maintain workforce flexibility and scalability, access to high caliber SMEs, and a lower risk approach to ‘getting the right fit’(i.e. temp to perm).   Furthermore, companies may also find themselves struggling to fill in-demand FTE or perm roles, resulting in a greater opportunity for consulting.

So why might consulting be a good move?  A few benefits to consider…

Increased Compensation

  • Consulting typically comes with a high hourly wage as related to skillset and demand.  With the right experience and credentials, it is possible to earn far more as a consultant than as an employee. It is not uncommon for contractors to earn up to twice as much as their permanent counterparts, with the added bonus of overtime pay for every extra hour worked.

Enhanced Skillset

  • Exposure to a wider variety of projects and work environments can not only accelerate how quickly you’ll build your skills, but can keep these valuable skills sharp for future employment opportunities.  Consulting is a great way to broaden your experience and diversify skillsets keeping you up to date on the latest trends and technologies in your industry.

Flexibility

  • Consulting can provide more independence than a salaried role giving you greater control over your work/life balance. This can allow you the flexibility to work in a way that suits your personal circumstances and can provide you the freedom to choose when and where you work, as well as the assignments you would prefer to undertake.

Increased Exposure

  • Most consultants list variety as the number one benefit of contracting. Exposure to new industries, companies, projects, and technologies can provide constant stimulation for people who enjoy or who are seeking more diversity in their career. Contractors often work on a variety of projects across different environments, meeting new people with each new assignment leading to a broader range of experience.

Marketability

  • If you are out of work or between jobs, consulting is a great way to stay current in the job market. Contracting can be a useful stepping-stone to your next role taking the pressure off the job search while continuing to build your reference network.  If a permanent position is the ultimate goal, contracting is a great way to get your ‘foot in the door” leading to your next position.

Contract and temporary employees are a critical part of many workplaces and companies will continue to rely on consulting to meet demand.  The trend toward employing contract staff continues to grow as companies are recognizing the benefit of a more flexible workforce.  Although, permanent employment has its advantages, the combination of the right candidate and consulting opportunity can be an exciting career path to consider.  If a move to IT consulting is in your future, be sure to visit UDig.com for an update on our open positions and current projects.

-Matt BixlerBixler_Matt2_resized

 

 

 

Matt BixlerIs IT Consulting for you?

5 Tips for Communicating at Work

5 tips for communicating at workNo matter what the industry, communication is arguably one of the most important business skills. But most companies do not offer training around how to communicate more effectively with co-workers and clients. Here are just a few tips that may help you become a more effective communicator.

Ryan Judy5 Tips for Communicating at Work

UDig Raleigh Spotlight: Transitioning to the Triangle

RVAtoRaleighA few months ago I received an opportunity to move down to The Triangle to run UDig’s recruiting operations here. It has been quite a whirlwind since then. In the span of about 3 months I sold my house in Richmond, bought a house in Raleigh, packed up everything I owned, loaded a box truck and headed south about 180 miles.

As a recent transplant from our corporate office in Richmond I am quickly learning there are quite a few differences between Richmond and Raleigh from both a city/layout standpoint as well as from a market standpoint. At first glance the most obvious difference is how spread out the Raleigh-Durham area is compared to Richmond. Richmond is an old city and much more packed in from a space standpoint. The Triangle area has several distinct communities (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary) with different identities. I am still learning the lay of the land down here but the location of our UDig Office seems to be very centrally located with quick access to just about anywhere.

From a technology standpoint the markets could not be more different. Richmond has historically been dominated by the Financial Services and Legal Industries with major companies such as Capital One, Wells Fargo and SunTrust having a major presence. The Triangle has the vastness of RTP and a predominance of Biotechnology and software development. Technology actually seems to be a main driver of business rather than a supporting function. Fortune 500 companies like Quintiles, Cisco, NetApp and SAS reign supreme. One reason these companies decided to set up shop here is the fact that three major universities are situated in the area. The likes of NC State, Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill can quickly help fill the ranks with a well-educated workforce eager for experience. As Raleigh is one of the fastest growing cities in the country more and more highly skilled technology workers are moving here daily. This is a recipe for explosive growth and lots of opportunities.

UDig is very excited about the future here in the triangle and will be greatly ramping up our presence here. Keep an eye out for us at local networking events and meet ups. If you find yourself curious about the market feel free to give me a call here at our office as I am always up for conversation. Cheers to growth in the Triangle in 2015!

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Rob BrinkleyUDig Raleigh Spotlight: Transitioning to the Triangle

The Unemployment Funk

Getting UnStuckEver been unemployed for a long period of time? If so, you know all about the unemployment funk and just how hard it is to find a way to get back on the right track.  First, know that all of the blame for being unemployed doesn’t rely completely on you.  New technology and the state of the economy have changed the landscape of work. There are new standards for both employers and job seekers.

One of the main reasons people remain unemployed for a long period of time is simply, employers and recruiters alike are hesitant to work with someone who has a long gap in their work history. Why? They are stuck in the mindset that if someone was talented enough, they would have found a new role. They have automatically rejected people who currently do not have a position and only actively recruit currently employed people.

How do I get unstuck? No need to fear, there are a couple of helpful tips to improve your attractiveness to potential employers.

  1. Leverage LinkedIn. Keep your LinkedIn up-to-date and have a clear, professional picture.  Professional is the key word!  Stay away from “selfies” or informal family photos. Check out our recent blog post – 5 minute LinkedIn Check-up for tips.
  2. Better Yourself. Do something, anything, with your spare time.  Be ready to have a strong answer to what you have been doing with your time off.  Try improving your skills by volunteering in your field or something related to it, or take courses in your field.   Take every opportunity to network.  So much to success in today’s job search is about having a connection to the role. Having just one person speak up and recommend you can mean the difference between no response and an interview.
  3. Be Active. Another common reason for the unemployment blues is lack of effort.  Some people think the job is coming to them, or they have never had to worry about finding something new.  With todays’ competitive market, it is tough out there.  You have to be as active, but truthful, on as many places you can.  This includes Dice, Monster, LinkedIn, and even Facebook.  Dice and Monster are two great ways to let recruiters and employers know that you are actively looking.  Ensure you are not misrepresenting yourself (no one will hire a liar) and post your resume. When you do, you will almost certainly get a call from a recruiter somewhere.  LinkedIn and Facebook are two ways to let your extended network know that you are looking.  What better way to network than to let your “connections” and “friends” know you need something new, and fast.
  4. Apply! Lastly, just go for it! Get out there and be active.  If you see a job posting you would fit 75% for, apply! The worse they can say is no.  I hate when people told me they didn’t apply because they had 5 of the 7 years of experience the position listed.  GO FOR NO!

Good luck in your job search and getting out of the unemployment funk.  Stay active, network at every opportunity, and update your information to show, even though you’re not working, that you are working to better yourself and career.Lantor_Sam_resized

 

Sam LantorThe Unemployment Funk

The Continued Rise of Consultants in the Workforce

The Rise of Consultants In the Workforce2015 is predicted to be a great year for IT professionals.  The unemployment rate is continuing to drop for IT workers and pay is increasing.  Competition in the technology world continues to increase and therefore companies are forced to keep up by raising pay rates.  This also means that there are more opportunities to work with different companies and on exciting, new technologies.

There has also been an increase in consulting work over the past few years, and that trend is expected to continue.  There seems to be a continual shift and increased focus from traditional, full-time employment to consulting and contracting positions, especially in the IT world.  The consulting workforce is currently around a $1 billion global market, but is projected to be $5 billion over the next 5 years.  In 2014, around 50 percent of employers reported that they hired temporary workers, which is up from 40 percent the year prior.

While contracts exist among various jobs, consulting in the technology world is extremely prevalent.  As a strong IT professional there are certainly benefits in seeking a consultant gig rather than a full-time position. The biggest advantage is typically a higher wage per hour than a full-time employee salary.  Consultant positions allow liberty for the consultant to receive more versatile experience with different companies and technology portfolios.  Having the ability to move from project to project every few years or even months is a very attractive model for many candidates in the work force.

For employers, there are also many benefits to bringing on board a consultant or freelance workforce.  In IT, there are often hard-to-find or very niche skill sets.  The expertise the employer is looking for is often more easily found in the consulting world.  Having the ability to find the desired specialization without having to pay for a long time/ full- time employee supports many business models.  Temporary consultants also allow employers to have flexibility in their workforce, so that as the market demand changes, companies can easily scale up or down as needed.

Some candidates seeking employment are afraid of the perceived uncertainty, or perhaps the lack of job security of consulting positions.  However, there are no guarantees even with a full time position.  As the technology world continues to increase leveraging consultants, why not take advantage of the perks that come along with these positions?

Currence_Joanna_with border

Joanna CurrenceThe Continued Rise of Consultants in the Workforce

Life at UDig an interview with Director of Marketing, Amy Thompson

Life at UDig_Thompson2015 promises to be an exciting year at UDig!  As Andy mentioned in his recent blog post, we are evolving our organization to allow us to continue to develop the best consultants to be better partners to our clients.    We have aggressive plans for the months ahead, so make sure you are following us on LinkedIn and Facebook to stay up to date.

If you’ve been following UDig for a while, one change you may have already noticed is that we are getting more social.  This trend will continue in 2015 as we update our website, refresh the Blog and connect more  frequently.

We are getting started today by introducing our new series, Life at UDig.  In these posts, we will talk with UDig employees to learn why they Do What They Dig.  Our first interview is with our new Director of  Marketing, Amy Thompson.

Amy ThompsonLife at UDig an interview with Director of Marketing, Amy Thompson

The Future of Cloud Services

cloud servicesThough there are many Cloud services available today, Amazon Web Services (AWS) continues to dominate the market. Within the past few years there has been a huge increase in competing services that offer a variety of features in order to attract buyers.  However, AWS has still managed to come out ahead of them. Why?

One of the biggest, most obvious, reasons for AWS market dominance is the impact of the Amazon global footprint. Everyone, both technical and non-technical, knows Amazon is continually advancing new technology and deploying constant “futuristic” products (such as the latest drone package-delivery prototype). Over the past few years Amazon has become known for their superior technology and efficient products, so small and large companies trust Amazon as a reliable source.

Connor TromblyThe Future of Cloud Services