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Tips & Tricks

How to manage the onboarding of IT contractors in 5 steps

Onboarding is the set of actions implemented by the company to integrate its new employees. It corresponds to welcoming and integrating new recruited talent, as well as investing in their internal career development. We often talk about onboarding for employees, but still little for external resources, such as IT freelancers. And yet, they are often called upon for strategic, long and customer-based assignments. It is important to manage onboarding well, cause a good onboarding system is therefore crucial for the success of their mission! It is therefore important for managing a freelancer to pay particular attention to onboarding.

But how do you properly manage the onboarding of an IT freelancer to get the mission of your tech or IT freelancer off to the best possible start? How to manage onboarding at the beginning of a consultant’s mission?

Discover in our article what are the best practices for managing the onboarding of an IT freelancer.

Why caring about onboarding?

Why take care of the onboarding of IT freelancers? Onboarding management is crucial at the start of a freelancer’s mission. Indeed, setting up a clear internal process can be very beneficial to gain in efficiency and optimize the simultaneous reception of several profiles. As a company, it is essential to establish a clear process for the onboarding of IT freelancers who come to carry out assignments within your company. Because if you have a clear and effective onboarding process, the freelancer will have all the elements in hand to be operational as quickly as possible and start his freelance mission well.

The onboarding of a consultant makes it possible to create a link with the IT freelancer and to lay the foundations for good communication. In addition, the onboarding period makes it possible to ensure that objectives are set and follow-up with the IT freelancer. Finally, the onboarding process will have the effect of involving and retaining the freelancer from the start.


Discover also our article: How to Manage the Offboarding of IT Contractors in 7 Steps !


How to properly manage the onboarding of an IT freelancer?

1. Upstream of the mission

Have you just recruited an IT freelancer? First, to properly manage onboarding, remember to check that the freelancer you have chosen is registered with the Business Formalities Center (CFE) (remember to ask him for a K-bis extract). You must also carry out the control of the obligations of declaration and payment of the social security contributions of the freelancer. Ask for a certificate of vigilance for this. Once these two elements have been verified, you can draft and have the freelancer sign the service contract (or subcontracting if you go through an intermediary). If necessary, you can also provide specific additional contracts such as a confidentiality agreement. Remember at this time to check that the freelancer has the necessary insurance, such as professional liability insurance (RC Pro) which is often essential. Finally define the terms of payment and provide timesheets if necessary.

2. Just before the start of the mission

Just before the start of the mission, it is important to warn all the teams of the arrival of the freelancer. Make sure you explain the scope of his mission to them. Also make sure to prepare before the arrival of the freelancer the material that will be made available to him in the event that he will use the company’s resources. Also ask that his computer access be created prior to his arrival.

It is also a good idea to plan a phone call with the freelancer before the start of his mission or to send him a complete email with all the useful information for the first day. Indeed, if the freelancer comes to work on your premises, it is important to communicate to him a certain amount of information such as the time at which he must present himself, what equipment is required or made available. But also what are the access or security constraints, in which department he will be installed and with which teams he will have to interact. Communicating all these elements to the freelancer before his arrival will allow him to arrive more serenely in your company.

3. Ensure the onboarding of the freelancer on the first day of the mission

On the first day of the mission, it is important to communicate to the freelancer a schedule for his first week. You must also give him all the equipment he will need (computer, access badge, etc.). Plan a briefing with the freelancer on the culture of the company, the rules, the organization of the team… Also give the freelancer all the technical documentation necessary for his mission from the first day. Finally, introduce the freelancer to the whole team. This is necessary to get the consultant’s mission off to a good start.

4. The days following the first day of freelancing

The days following the first day of the start of the freelance mission, organize an individual interview with him to set the objectives. Also remember to organize contacts with the key interlocutors for its mission. Throughout the onboarding period, encourage the freelancer to ask as many questions as possible. To improve contact you can also plan a lunch with the freelancer if possible.

5. And after the onboarding of the freelancer?

At the end of the freelance onboarding period, start taking stock. In some cases, especially if the project is still at the ideation stage, a few days of audit may be necessary to allow the consultant to better understand all the parameters and then participate in the scoping. Then set up at this time the framework for monitoring the mission (reporting, weekly, monthly meetings, etc.). Remember to ask the freelancer for his feedback on his onboarding to make sure he has all the keys in hand. But also to improve this process with a view to integrating future freelancers.

The expert opinion of Thomas Delfort, former DSI and co-founder of Mindquest:

“As for a recruitment of a CDI type profile, the onboarding process of an independent consultant within a tech or IT team is extremely important. A well-executed welcome will allow a quick and efficient handling of the subjects. The goal is for the freelancer to be operational as quickly as possible, and to be in optimal conditions to be efficient in his mission.”

Do you know that the offboarding of an IT consultant is just as important as their onboarding? Indeed, companies are generally concerned with taking care of the onboarding of their employees, but sometimes neglect the last step. The stage where the employee leaves the company for new professional opportunities. Find out why it is important to take care of the offboarding of your IT consultant. But also how to properly manage the offboarding of an IT consultant in 7 steps.


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IT’s Who is Who

Web developer: Job Description

Professional in computer languages, the web developer works on all the functionalities of a website. From a set of specifications, he analyzes the different needs of the company in which he carries out his mission. He then proposes a tailor-made solution. Discover in our job description below his missions, skills, training and salary.

Web developer: the job

The Web developer intervenes on the technical functionalities of the site of the company in which he carries out his mission. The sectors of activity in which it operates can be very varied: transport, insurance, trade, etc.
In the company, he is functionally attached to the technical project manager.

Technical analysis

When starting a mission in a new company, the first task of the web developer is to fully understand the needs and specifications of his client. It first lists the features requested in the specifications; then lists the existing solutions and checks for each feature whether or not it exists in the listed solutions. This initial work allows him to provide his opinion to the client on the most relevant technical solution to be implemented. He can then choose to completely build the site or decide to use an already existing solution. Such as Framework or CMS (Content Management System).

Website design

After the technical analysis, the web developer must design the website while respecting the specifications. The visual and technical architecture as well as the database of the site are determined during this stage.

Website programming

During the programming phase, he respects good practices and chooses the language used in the case where the site is fully developed. If it is built from an already existing solution, it makes changes and adaptations to the solution that has been retained.

Testing and validation

After programming, the developer enters a testing and validation phase. He will be in charge of testing each functionality of the site as well as their good functionality between them. He will then have to validate all the expected functionalities and conduct validation tests.

Technical support and technology watch

The last step of the mission consists in following the evolution of the site created over time. It will be necessary to correct any problems and troubleshoot users. In addition, technologies are changing rapidly. It will be necessary to ensure the sustainability of the solutions implemented on the site; and, why not make them evolve with new programming languages, if necessary.

Web developer : skills required

Mastery of languages used for web development

To exercise this profession, it is essential to master the programming languages PHP, Ruby on Rails, Node.js, SQL, Java, ASP… You must also know how to use CMS and Framework tools, but also code editing tools.

Capacity for continuous self-training

The Internet and programming languages are changing rapidly. A good web developer must therefore be able to self-train on new programming concepts; on developments or new languages; and also on developments or new technical solutions (CMS and framework).

Autonomy

For some missions the web developer works alone. He must therefore be able to exercise his profession independently.

Creativity

The web developer must be creative when designing a website.

Salary

The job of web developer has a bright future. Indeed, since its invention, the internet continues to evolve. Pushing the limits of creativity and development capabilities. Many companies do not have the skills or the personnel necessary to guarantee their effective presence on the Internet. They are therefore looking for web developer profiles.

After having worked on various projects, this professional can progress to the function of technical director and supervise several web developers. He can also move towards functions such as web technical project manager; IT Project Manager; webmaster; web architect; architect S.I.

His average daily rate depends on several parameters such as his experience and specialty. It is between 350€ and 450€ per day.

Training and education of the Web developer

The best is to enter a training course delivering a bac +5 level diploma (specialized masters, engineering schools, masters in computer science, etc.). However, companies recruit web developers with varying levels of education.

Following a school education allows you to understand the structure of computer languages. But the future web developer will have to stay on constant watch to stay up to date.


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Tips & Tricks

10 good resolutions for freelancers in 2022

2022 has already started, and it’s time to take new resolutions to start the year off right. Have you already made your freelancers resolutions for the new year 2022?

If you haven’t already, don’t panic! We offer you 10 good resolutions for freelancers to increase your productivity in 2022. Because productive days are a first step towards the success and development of your activity as an independent consultant.

1. Train yourself to stay competitive and productive

The tools, techniques, software and needs of your customers are constantly evolving. In addition, every day, new productivity tools are emerging: CRM, planning management applications, databases, corporate social networks … The start of the year is therefore the ideal opportunity to start investing in your training. To stay competitive and stay ahead of your freelance competitors, but also to work better on a daily basis, invest in your training! As a freelance, training ultimately means investing in the most valuable resource in your business: yourself! To do this, there are free and certifying courses, online or at university, workshops, webinars, online moocs or offered by organizations or major schools …

2. Resolutions for freelancers: declutter your workspace

The change of year is the perfect time to clean up! Now is the time to free your workspace from all the clutter. Sort and file invoices, letters and other papers from the past year. Also remove anything that is unnecessary on your desk or that may distract you: figurines, keys, books, smartphones … Also sort your emails and digital files on your computer to see more clearly. Then make sure to keep your workspace clean, tidy and organized to have a clear mind and boost your productivity.

3. Anticipate your peaks of activity

In this new year, choose to plan ahead. In 2021, what were the periods of strong activity? Analyze your previous year to prepare in advance and anticipate the highlights of your business. The more prepared you are, and the more you anticipate, the more productive you will be! Also consider hiring other freelancers to help you out in these tense times. For example, you can delegate your tasks with low added value. In 2022, consider outsourcing the assignments that take your time, you will easily find other freelancers ready to take on these assignments for you. This resolution will undoubtedly increase your productivity!

4. Take breaks

Whatever your freelance activity and your workload, you need to take care of yourself: physically, mentally and emotionally. This is important for having a fulfilling and productive freelance life. Sedentary lifestyle at work by sitting at your desk every day can lead to many health problems, as well as reduced motivation. In 2022, you need to somehow add exercise to your daily routine. For example, you can go out every two hours to get some fresh air, walk, do some stretching exercises, and relax. You will find that by the time you get back to your desk, you will be more productive!

5. Resolutions for freelancers: work on your adaptability

With the health crisis, we have all learned more or less about adaptation. As a freelancer, your adaptability has been greatly strained, for example you may work at home one day and the next day be required to work in your client’s offices. Faced with this constantly changing environment, you need to be flexible and adaptable more than ever. In addition, your activity as a self-employed person requires a lot of flexibility. Particularly because you are required to practice in sometimes diametrically opposed worlds, which require a strong capacity for adaptation in order to meet the needs of your clients.

But how do you work on your ability to adapt? First, learn to step out of your comfort zone. Dare to respond to missions that go beyond your usual field. By going on new paths you will be able to evolve and grow your business more easily. Plus, remember, it’s never too late to improve your adaptability.

6. Set goals for the year

To get the year off to a good start, you need to think about what goals you want to set and achieve in 2022. Among the resolutions for freelancers, start to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it a certain number of missions to be carried out?
  • A certain number of clients to prospect?
  • A turnover to achieve?

Having personal goals will allow you to track your progress throughout the year. They should be seen as stages to be crossed in order to reach your final objective: the success of your activity.

To define a realistic action plan, use the SMART method (Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time).

Starting 2022 with clear and precise goals will give you a long-term vision. It is also a good source of motivation to boost yourself in times of blur or low motivation.

7. Check your emails and social networks less and better

As a freelancer, you have no boss and are free to organize your working days as you wish. But it also means that no one is there to control your productivity during working hours. However, we all know that distractions can quickly mar the day. By distractions we mean social networks and emails.

Although this is your work mailbox, stop checking it every 5 minutes. The same goes for your social media accounts, even if they are your work social networks.

Among the good resolutions of freelancers, choose to schedule a time during the day to check your social networks and emails. For example, choose a time slot in the morning before you start your work day, a time slot at noon after your lunch, and one in the evening before shutting down your computer.

8. Take care of your online reputation and develop your network

When you’re a freelancer, it’s almost impossible not to have an online presence. This is all the more important in these times of pandemic when all conventions and meeting places are closed. To increase your bottom line, you need to convince other customers to trust you. The best way to do this is to take care of your online reputation. Be sure to showcase an authentic image that looks like you. Develop your profile on LinkedIn, and ensure a quality presence on social networks by posting your own articles relevant to your activity which will highlight your skills. Also refine your presence on freelance recruitment platforms like Mindquest.io, with a fully completed profile, if you find it necessary, you can also create your website. Finally, for a perfect e-reputation, take care of your current customers! There is no better ambassador than a satisfied customer.

Discover in our following article: How to Optimise Your LinkedIn Profile as an IT Consultant

In addition to taking care of your e-reputation, maintain your network! Because that’s one of the most important things about being a freelancer. It is with word of mouth and your ability to bond with others that you will be able to land new assignments. You can join different groups on social media to interact with other freelancers and there are many events online that will allow you to meet new people.

To learn more about it, we recommend you to read our article: 6 Simple Steps to Improve Online Visibility as an IT Professional

9. Resolutions for freelancers: choose the missions that interest you

One of the main advantages of being self-employed is being able to choose your projects and missions. So why work on missions you don’t like?

For this New Year, only take on missions that are truly valuable to you. The more you like what you do, the more you will want to invest in it and the more productive you will be.

On the other hand, if you’re used to working with clients who always ask for more (without paying more), who don’t showcase your skills and stress you out, it’s time to change them. It is important that you find customers whose values are close to yours.

10. Learn to invest

Sometimes you have to spend some money to make more money! It may seem paradoxical, but have you ever counted the time lost on tasks that you do not master, such as web writing, community management, accounting, graphics, administrative management…? In some cases, calling on another more competent service provider and delegating the mission to them leaves you more time to devote to your customers or to the search for prospects.

Investing in your equipment is also part of the good resolutions of freelancers. If your hardware is failing and slowing you down, invest in better performing hardware. Sure, it’s a cost, but it will save you productivity in the short term. And more productivity means more profits.

In conclusion, stick to all the resolutions for freelancers we have put forward to you to ensure a much more productive year 2022!

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IT’s Who is Who

Agile Coach: Job Description

The Agile Coach is an agent of change for companies on the path to agility. It helps businesses transform over the long term. This professional trains and supports the various stakeholders of the company (Product Owner, Scrum Master, analysts, developers and testers), with the aim of bringing them to a common goal of agility. He leads, manages and animates organizational transformation projects through management and agile engineering practices.

The Agile Coach supports his interlocutors on best practices in defining needs, planning and development practices, pair programming, refactoring, etc. Overall, he ensures the progress of projects in all phases of the development cycle.

An agile transformation is a project that can be very complex for the company. A project that can end in failure for many reasons: management not very open to agile, change of direction and objectives … The Agile Coach must then know how to face the unforeseen and disappointments without losing his dynamism, and lead change.

Agile Coach: the job

Analyze the situation and propose an adapted organization

After having analyzed the existing organization, this professional must make the choice of the agile methods to use and determine the roles within the teams.

Offer different practices and different frameworks to the team who will make their choices

He should not impose his ideas but lead the teams to make their own choices. He offers his methods to the team, who may or may not be free to apply them. The goal is to achieve the best possible results, guiding the team to gain autonomy for the future.

Supporting the entire company with change with fun workshops, training and excellent communication

The Agile Coach can support teams in groups or individually, with a real role of trainer. It must make things fun so that the transformation is accepted voluntarily by all stakeholders. These can be group training sessions, job specific training, or participatory workshops to easily assimilate agile methods to the team.

This professional is generally requested by large companies wishing to be supported in their agile transformation. However, it can very well support a person, a team or an organization.

Required Skills

A high sense of leadership

The Agile Coach trains teams in agile methods and teaches them this new culture. He must become a mentor to people who want to evolve to improve performance.

Great educational qualities

Very good at communicating, he must be a comfortable teacher trainer in his interactions. Moreover, he must know how to adapt to the different situations encountered and to the different interlocutors. He must be able to present the project, to convince and to bring the team in the same direction.

A good technical mastery

The job of Agile Coach requires knowledge of agile project management approaches (Scrum, Kaban) & V-Cycle, as well as technical environments and design / development frameworks.

Salary

The salary of an Agile Coach varies depending on his experience. Thus, the average daily rate of an Agile Coach is between 300 and 700 €.

Training and education of the Agile Coach

To become an Agile Coach, you generally need to have a bac +5 level as a State Engineer in IT Development or in quality management.
Ideally, experience as a developer, within an IT department or as a pilot of production teams is preferable.


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Featured Interviews

The Transition to Independent PHP Developer

Christoph Rumpel is a PHP developer and Laravel expert from Vienna who has his own development and consulting company and teaches others through Laravel Core Adventures and Mastering PhpStorm. He discusses how he got started with coding and his transition from employee to independent developer.

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Interested in more coding tips? Discover how to learn Python.

How did you start coding?

I began coding 10 years ago when I was at university. I started university a little bit late because I was playing in a punk-rock band for around 10 years, and we tried to make that happen. We started when I was 14 and we played till I was 25 or something like that, and we really wanted to make this dream come true. But the music business is so hard, and it was very difficult.

After three albums and a lot of concerts in different countries, it was going quite well. But it wasn’t enough to say “okay, this is working out as we expected.” And then, 24, I thought “okay, what should I do next? Should I get a normal job, something similar to what other people have?

I had had contact with doing little websites for the band, making videos, recording a little bit. So, everything regarding multimedia was of interest to me. Then I started university doing something where you did all those things, but also where we had design and programming. And that’s when I started programming.

And yeah, right from the beginning, I thought “okay, this is really cool. You just have a text editor, you type something, you code something, and suddenly you can create something.” And it was this feeling which really got me right from the beginning. I switched my focus from audio and video recording to coding, and that’s when I really started coding and started using PHP. I think I’ve been using PHP for 19 years now, so quite some time.

Why did you decide to become a PHP developer in particular?

I chose to use PHP first because it was very easy for me to use. We also had Java at university and I struggled a lot with it, especially coming from a creative design perspective. Java wasn’t something that I enjoyed, right from the beginning.

PHP was pretty cool because it was very easy to start with and you had a lot of dynamic features already. And, yeah, those easy wins I think is what drove me to use PHP at the beginning. But it wasn’t like it was always fun.

After the first two years of PHP, I felt that I was evolving but I felt like “okay, it’s cool, but it feels like PHP is holding me back.” Especially back then, like 8-10 years ago, PHP was in a phase where you felt like it was getting old. It was maybe not maintained that well anymore. The sources available were not that good anymore.

It didn’t feel like professional coding to me at that time, so I thought about switching to something else like Ruby. I started with a little bit of Ruby for a few weeks or months, and I really enjoyed it. Everything is an object, it’s still simple, but also clean and more professional. And, I thought, “okay, I’ll stop with PHP and I’m going to be a Ruby developer now.”

And then what happened?

But then I got a new job and they were using PHP and then I was back with PHP again and I’m like “oh my, okay, so I still have to work with PHP.” But it was like a turning point for PHP, I felt.

I think the release back then was something like 5.3, and I think they introduced namespaces and also closures, and then, suddenly, there was Composer. Suddenly, everything changed because now you had this way of getting packages, of getting code from others. You could also check out those repositories, see if there were tests done, how many people were working on it. Suddenly, you had this scale. It was like suddenly PHP is evolving again and there are a lot of things happening.

It was also back then when I started with the Laravel PHP framework, and Laravel at that point was using the latest features of PHP. It felt like PHP but also looked very different. I thought “okay, maybe I should give PHP another chance.” And yeah, I’m pretty happy that I did and don’t regret my decision at all.

Speaking of decisions – after some time being an employee, you decided to go off on your own and become an independent PHP developer. How was the transition?

The transition from being employed to having my own company was, of course, a big one. Everything changes from one moment to the other for me.

I was pretty happy at my last company. We had a really amazing team and amazing company. But I always had it in the back of my head that I wanted to try something on my own.

I also enjoy working alone quite much so you have to think about several things. Do you like working alone? Do you like doing your own taxes, your own finances?

These are things that definitely change a lot, and you switch from maybe coding 80% of the time to maybe only coding 50% of the time because the rest you have to be thinking about your company.

You have to get clients. You have to talk to them. You have to go to meetings. Everything that is normally spread amongst all the employees, you have to do on your own, and you have to think about that a lot before being self-employed.

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But for me, I was always the type of person who really wants to be involved in every task at a company. So, if there is a design decision, I wanted to be involved in it as much as possible. Why are we doing this? What is the benefit? I always ask myself that, and not every company wants you as a developer to be involved in everything because it could be difficult. I really like being involved in all the tasks, and this is why it was a perfect fit for me.

Another thing you have to think about a lot is how you get clients, or what you want to do to make money. For me, currently, it is about doing freelancing. So I help other companies with coding, maybe just helping them out as a consultant. So, I can help them in very different ways. But I also have my own products, video courses. And these are the two different ways how I get my income.

What was particularly helpful during this transition?

The one thing that helped me a lot while making the transition from having a company to being self-employed was that I was already quite active in the community. On Twitter, and I was also active at local meetups one or two years before I switched, etc.

I didn’t notice it back then, but when I decided to go self-employed there were already people coming to me and saying “hey, I know you’re self-employed now, could you help us with this or that?” So, I didn’t have to ask anyone. People were already coming to me and asking me if I could help them with stuff.

I just realized this later, how much it helped me being out there. Sharing the code on Twitter, repositories, or GitHub, writing blog articles, etc. With everything you do, at some point, people will notice you and they might come back to you for help, and this is what helped me a lot too.

It helped me get clients and projects. Especially the first year, when you want to have something so that you can make some money and that the transition is not too big.

What’s the best career advice you have ever been given?

It’s a very boring one. But it’s just true and it just has helped me so much. And that is going step by step with everything that you do. It sounds super boring but it has helped me so much in my career, with every project, with every goal that had in my life.

It feels super overwhelming at the beginning, it feels maybe even impossible. But if you break everything down into little steps, then you see a road down which you can go. You have those little wins with every step that you take and that will help you stay focused, stay motivated and keep going and going step by step.

It’s the one tip that was shared with me many years ago and that now I’m sharing with others because it has just helped me so much on my journey.


For more tips from an expert PHP developer, courses, and Laravel tips make sure to follow Christoph on Twitter, LinkedIn, and through his website.


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Featured Interviews

From Oracle to Developer Advocacy: A Database Career

Franck Pachot is a Swiss database career expert working as a developer advocate at the open-source distributed SQL database firm Yugabyte. Here’s how this Oracle ACE Director, Oracle Certified Master, and AWS Data Hero went from consulting to developer advocacy, his take on new database technologies and his advice is for those looking to go into the field.

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Interested in more database management career advice? Here’s how becoming an Oracle Certified Master led this expert to a stellar DBA career.

How did your database career start? What’s your career story?

Actually, I’ve always been working with databases. At university, I even started some projects on Oracle. I did my first internship developing with Oracle Forms, and then I’ve been working in development teams on Oracle and Db2. I also did a lot of data warehousing with business objects on Db2, then on Oracle. And mostly as a consultant.

My big change, a few months ago was to move out of the consulting part. But before I was always working at the customers’. Also, I started to look at open-source databases a few years ago with mostly Postgres because this is where users of Oracle are looking at when they want to move to open source.

So, I started on the development side, and I learned and enjoyed working with databases. Then I did also some DBA stuff and some operations work, as well as things to do with the development and data modelling. And what I really like is the communication between the two, developers and operations. That is not always something easy to see in all companies.

Why Oracle Database?

The database I know the best is Oracle because I’ve been working with it many, many years and I really like the technology. I think that the decisions that were made at the beginning are really good ones.

I mean, the architecture made at a time where databases were in megabytes or gigabytes is still valid for databases today, so this is really great. And also because this database is quite old, it has a lot of instrumentation and troubleshooting tools. And this is really what I like about it.

You can really try to understand what happens, in fact, What I’ve seen with many other databases is that people try to guess: what about adding memory? What about adding this index? And my experience on Oracle is that you can understand what happens, where the time is spent, and then try something, but based on facts and things that you can measure.

Also the community around the vehicle. I’ve been an Oracle ACE and an Oracle ACE Director. Going to conferences and the communication with the Oracle product managers, that is really good.

What about NoSQL databases? What’s your take on them, what’s making them so popular?

It was first about the scaling, but I think really that the thing that platforms like MongoDB or AWS DynamoDB are doing really well is to provide the API that the developers wanted rather than telling the developer: it’s not efficient to get things object-by-object from the database. But they wanted to get objects because they have objects in Java, and then Mongo DB provides this API. Then you lack some features, some performance. But at least you provide really what the users want, and then they improved the things behind.

And that’s really different from what I’ve seen with SQL. I’ve seen a lot of people just telling developers: your code, your design is bad. For example, I have a lot of colleagues, DBAs who hate Hibernate because they see bad queries coming from it. But they do not realize that development today needs something more agile than building complex SQL queries that are difficult to test. I mean, you can test them, but it’s a different language, different test suites and all of that.

We need to listen to the users that need it. Maybe we think it’s not the right choice, but they have all the constraints and they need that. And we need to provide them with that. And this is what NoSQL vendors like DynamoDB, MongoDB are really good at, selling this API.

What would you encourage newcomers to the world of IT to focus on?

I would encourage people to look at databases because we really lack people in databases, in both development and in operations. But, of course, it depends on what you like to do.

I really enjoy databases for many reasons. First, because you really get to have a look at the basics of the software, the data structures. Also, in the business world, you work with users from different departments, and that’s also interesting. I especially loved data warehouse projects because you talk to the user directly and you provide them value in a direct way.

They spend the day entering data into the system, and you can show them the value of having all this data. That they can query it and make reports, and that’s interesting. Everything that touches users, developers and operations is interesting. And it’s a good thing about working with databases.

What would you recommend to those looking to get started with their database career to do first?

My advice is: to try to learn SQL.

At first glance, it looks like an old language, like writing in English like in COBOL or those old languages. But manipulating data with sets of wholes is really powerful.

I would encourage anyone who has to develop with or for a database to at least understand how the database works, that it provides a service to process data and not only something like an object store or JSON store.

Data scientists and DBAs: how do these two positions fit together?

We need communication between the two.

If the data scientist manipulates a lot of data and does a lot of analytics without knowing how it is stored behind, well — they will get frustrated if they expect the same response time as a search on Google for example because they think that it’s just data they query and that they should have the result, without understanding the complexity of storing, indexing, partitioning, and all of that. So, communication between the two is quite important.

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The task of the DBA will probably change with managed services with cloud. Less time spent on patching and what I call the boring stuff. Some people like to do recurrent tasks. But installing, patching, that’s not where I like to interact with databases. I prefer performance training, looking at the design and working with the users and developers.

You went from a database career in the consulting world to being a developer advocate at Yugabyte. What was the transition like?

The advocacy part was already something I was kind of doing, being an Oracle ACE director, being an AWS Hero, blogging a lot, and being probably too much on Twitter. So, this advocacy part was something I was doing. The difference is that now it’s my full-time job. I don’t go to customers, so this is just another step into this world.

The big change for me was that the technology I was using for 20 years, Oracle, I just stopped using. I didn’t connect to an Oracle database for a few months. And that’s a strange decision, taking the thing that you know best and saying: okay, I will not use that anymore. I have to learn new things.

But in the end, it’s also very rewarding because then you realize that your experience is not only about one technology or a few keywords. And what I was doing on databases, I’m still doing that on the same concepts and learning moving is also very interesting and motivating.

This part was probably what I thought would be the most difficult, but it’s perfect and I really enjoy the developer advocate position.

What does the developer advocate position exactly involve?

It’s a lot of different roles. I help some users, but I’m not in support. I discuss with our development team, but I’m not in product management. I also help with presales and advocating for and showing the database at conferences, but I am not in sales.

I really consider the developer advocate role as a paid user that gets to play with the product, learn about it and advocates for it to be sure that people know about it and that, if they try it, they try it in the right conditions. That’s also something important, being in touch with the users to be sure that they use it correctly, in the right way. If not, they will be frustrated.

What’s the best career advice you have ever been given?

I think the best is one I got when was a junior, from someone with whom I wasn’t working directly. She was in another team and, when left for another company she told me: do not change. Do not change yourself, stay the same. And I think it’s the best advice I’ve been given.

Of course, you change a lot, you get more experience, you learn things. But it’s important also to know that you don’t have to change that, that you have the right approach, that you might want to change and improve things, but you don’t have to.

And that’s probably a good thing. That’s also why I stayed in the area where I was happy, databases, and still changed a lot of things around.


For more tips on pursuing a database career and working with database technologies and Yougabyte, make sure to follow Franck on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Medium.


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Featured Interviews

Why An Economist Turned Data Scientist Is Now Pursuing a PhD

Maxence Azzouz-Thuderoz is a data scientist specialising in AI and natural language processing at French consulting firm Axys Consultants. Here is how he went from studying economics and econometrics to embracing data science, and why he is now thinking of pursuing a PhD in automatic speech recognition.

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Interested in more AI and data science tips? Here’s how to unlock the power of data through a career in data science.

Your background is in economics. How did you end up working as a data scientist?

I went into economics and econometrics because I wanted to be an economist when I was younger. But at the end of my graduate education, I discovered data science.

I got some short lessons and, in the last year of my studies, I decided to change my plans and move to data science.

That’s how I started with economics and ended with a data scientist job.

What did the shift to data science require of you, how was the process?

It requires coding. In economics we didn’t study code that much, so I learned coding. But the transition was kind of easy because I had the mathematical and statistical background that we have in economics and specifically in econometrics, a domain of statistics and economics.

And the transition to data science and traditional machine learning tools was kind of easy because it is about the same mathematical tools, the same statistical tool. So, it was kind of easy.

What was the most challenging part then?

To work with real data. You can find open-source data that is very clean, very nice for studying something, but when you are working with real-world data it can be very complicated.

So, how did you actually manage to get from your economic studies to your current position as a data scientist?

I got a very good friend that found a job in a consulting company in northern France, and he knew that I was looking for an internship. So, he called me and said “Max, I have an opportunity for an internship as a data analyst that I think could be a nice first step for you.”

So, I started at the of commerce with a little internship for my studies and then, when I finished my studies, I went for an internship as a data analyst. Then I found a data scientist job in the consulting industry.

What’s a typical day like in your current role as a data scientist?

Our days are very different because we are always making different things, but, in general, the data scientist job is 70% working with data and 30% is about modelling. No, actually, I would say it’s 70/20 and then maybe 10% is for industrialization. That’s something we have to consider.

What’s the hardest part of working with data these days?

It’s about the information you have about the data.

Some time ago, I was working with a big French banking group, and we did not have all the documentation about the data. Documentation is a very important aspect because you can have the data, but, if you don’t know what it corresponds to, how to work with it, that is a big problem. Sometimes we were working with data that we didn’t completely understand, so we didn’t really understand what we were doing.

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It’s about the information you have about the data.

Some time ago, I was working with a big French banking group, and we did not have all the documentation about the data. Documentation is a very important aspect because you can have the data, but, if you don’t know what it corresponds to, how to work with it, that is a big problem. Sometimes we were working with data that we didn’t completely understand, so we didn’t really understand what we were doing.

Where do you see data science and AI 5 years from now?

I think we will see the first industrial applications of quantum computing in AI.

Additionally, 5G is going to change many things. We will have super-connected houses, apartments, etc. So maybe we will have new projects for AI.

Also, cell phones are becoming more powerful every year. So, I would not be surprised if we have AI technology that today we cannot make work on our phones become a reality in coming years.

For example, automatic speech recognition needs a lot of resources. It’s a big challenge. A big part of current research in automatic speech recognition is about the reduction of the parameters in models so that it all needs fewer resources. So, in the years to come, we might see some kind of automatic speech recognition technology working on smartphones, for instance.

You have decided to pursue a PhD. Why is that?

In my current job, I discovered what it was like to work on research and development projects. It was the first time I was working on such ambitious projects, and I found it very interesting. And I really became aware of the difference in understanding between someone who is simply a skilled data scientist and the scientists, PhD people.

People with a PhD were working on the same project as me, and we were absolutely not at the same level of understanding. I think this is one of the reasons why I want to go ahead with a PhD program. Because I want to reach another level.

And the other reason is that I’ve always been interested in research, the university research system. So yes, it’s a little dream, an old dream that I have and that I think could be nice to realise soon.

So, I recently started to check out universities, looking for a PhD program around automatic speech recognition. It’s a big area.


For more tips on data science, AI and automatic speech recognition, make sure to follow Maxcence on LinkedIn.


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Tips & Tricks

IT Pros: How to Work On Remote in the Post-Pandemic World

Remote work is becoming increasingly common amongst IT pros. The way in which tech experts look for jobs and carry out missions was already changing before Covid-19 hit. IT freelancing was on the rise; With higher levels of remote work; slowly becoming an industry standard and the figure of the digital nomad gaining acceptance.   

Now that digital transformation efforts have accelerated and companies have had to adapt their hiring strategies to a world in lockdown; remote work across countries and time zones is out in the mainstream. Regardless of country reopenings and a slow return to the office, remote work is here to stay. Here’s how you can benefit from this trend and what you should keep in mind when pursuing a new gig from the comfort of your home or personal office.   

Finding IT remote work – Identify your target employer  

First of all, you need to pinpoint your target company type. The kind of company you will be applying for jobs at and that you will turn to support your remote work lifestyle. Whether that is as a freelancer or as a full-time employee.   

For that, you need to make sure you are aiming for industries and organisations that have friendly policies towards remote hiring and working. Most big tech companies have fully shifted to remote work after the start of the outbreak. So they will be open to receiving applications and collaborating with fully remote employees. Other sectors of activity will be less prone to hire remote employees due to a lack of organisational readiness or the nature of the job to be done; jobs relating to IT infrastructure and cybersecurity tend to involve an on-site component because of its confidential and hands-on nature.   

IT remote work: Make sure your environment and tools are ready  

This one sounds rather obvious. But you would be surprised to learn how many IT projects encounter roadblocks along the way. Due to unforeseen technical limitations on the remote worker’s side of things. And we are not talking here about a stable internet connection. 

Make sure you have analysed the project requirements and spoken with company stakeholders to understand the technical needs of the project. And also see if you should ask for extra equipment or services – think of cloud processing resources, networking equipment, etc.   

The social component  

Working remotely can make collaboration with other team members more difficult and requires you to put in some extra effort. The social component of remote working should not be overlooked, but you can follow a few easy steps to ensure you are properly connected with project stakeholders.  

First and foremost, make sure you are conducting a proper onboarding. As with most things in life, setting a robust foundation is key. If the employer doesn’t have a fully fleshed out onboarding process, be proactive and put together all the questions you will need clarification on. Make sure you get acquainted with the rest of the team. Even if that means proposing quick one-on-one virtual chats to get to know them a bit.   

Secondly, set up follow-ups and regular check-ins with your colleagues to keep track of the progress and let them know you are there and on top of things.   


The Top IT Skills to Master in 2021


Not interested in fully IT remote work?  

Maybe looking for a job remotely sounds good, but you would rather work on-site at least some of the time. Or maybe you are looking for a job remotely as a way of moving to another country. No problem. The IT jobs market has never been better for that.   

Just make sure you are considering everything first, like immigration regulations and demands (visas, health insurance, etc.). Sometimes, working with a recruitment partner who has experience relocating IT experts is the best choice. They will help you figure out all the details so you can get started with your new life as soon and as easily as possible. 

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Need more tips on how to find a job in IT? Check out our IT job hunting guide.

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Interviews

Keep Learning and Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

Andy Jones is a London-based Microsoft Technical Architect working for BT Enterprise. He writes about modern desktop solutions on his blog Move2Modern and is a co-creator of the Cloud Management Community YouTube channel.  

He recently sat down with us to talk about the work he is doing helping the endpoint management community and share some tips for those just getting started.

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Interested in Microsoft cloud? Here’s how you can become an Azure MVP.

How did you get started in tech?

I didn’t start off down the tech route, to be honest. I wanted to be a quantity surveyor but ended up decided to make a move and do an MSc in computer science. Then, on the back of that, I got offered a position for coding, and I went to a bespoke development house. And that role basically put me on the road. I was going from place to place and basically living in different towns, spending a contract here and a contract there. Coding banking systems, mainly.

And, while I was doing that job, I kind of got picked up by a company I was doing some work for, and it transpired that there was a good position back in central London. And I was kind of living there at the time, my mum was quite ill. So, it served a purpose, and I decided to jump ship. And I’ve worked for them ever since. I’ve actually been here for quite a few years, like 25 years or so.

Why did you end up not going down the quantity surveyor career path?

The time in which I graduated wasn’t a good time in the economy, so I had to make a decision about what I wanted to do. I was finding it difficult to find a job, so I decided to go back into education.

And I’ve actually got a twin brother who’s always been into engineering, and he already had a job. He’d been through university, and, funnily enough, he works for the same company as me. It’s come to a point where people get us mixed up. He lives in a different part of the country to me, but I’ve had people in America come up to me thinking I’m him and what have you. But he’s always been technical, and I kind of followed his lead a little bit and we kind of do fairly similar stuff now.

What do you do these days? What does your job involve?

In theory, I work within the pre-sales team, but my specific unit is pretty small, so I get involved with basically talking to the customers with our account teams picking up the requirements for modern management type solutions, largely Windows devices but it also might be iOS or Android. And then I take that requirement, put it into a proposal and that goes back to the customer. And then, if and when we win, I lead the engineers, assigning engineers to that project and overseeing it. In some instances where we don’t have the resources, I implement the solution myself as well.

So that’s why I like to keep technical. I don’t like to be in front of customers and not know what I’m talking about. You know, it’s a bit like going to an electronics store and asking someone about this latest TV and they don’t have a clue.

You need to know what you’re talking about, so I kind of challenged myself to bring my skills up to speed and learn a lot of the stuff, which ultimately lead me to create a YouTube channel and get involved with the community.

Let’s talk a bit about that. You are the co-founder of the Cloud Management Community YouTube channel, which focuses on the modern management of end-user devices and identities using Microsoft’s cloud. How did it all start, what prompted you to begin this adventure?

I started this community around about seven months ago or something like that. I started it with a colleague who worked with me at the time, and it was during the lockdown period. Everyone was online. Everyone was looking to do more online. My job kind of continued because I work from home anyway the majority of the time, but I challenged myself to learn. And the way I thought would be a good way of doing it was to write a blog and create a YouTube channel. So, we started the channel.

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There were very few options out there where people provided videos around the nuts and bolts, a step-by-step approach to do things like configuring, rolling out, you know — managing devices through the cloud. There was one other channel that’s still quite big out there, but we thought we could give a slightly different take on it, and I wanted to give content to which someone who was in my shoes, starting out, could relate to. I wanted to give back to people that might be starting in their journey and, in a way, document my own journey. The other colleague that I worked with on it was more advanced. And he had more experience, so he could kind of tackle some of the more complex solutions. But we started out doing videos together.

What was the most challenging part of that process?

The whole environment, starting up, trying to give yourself a persona and basically not embarrassing yourself on camera, editing and what software to use — there was a whole new field for us there.

But gradually we learned it. Gradually we got better, and that enabled us to concentrate more on the content rather than on the quality of the videos, etcetera. So yeah, it’s been a long journey, although it’s only been seven months but I think we are progressing quite well.

What have you learned so far from the experience?

I’ve learned that there’s a hell of a lot of people in the community that are really open and willing to help you. They’re on a learning journey themselves. They’re raising their status, if you will, within the technical community but, at the same time, they’re really learning a lot, and I think that’s probably a call for a lot of people. Yes, they probably want to develop their career to a higher status, but they’ve also got a hunger to learn.

What’s your advice for those just getting started?

I would certainly say get some qualifications under your belt. But that’s not everything.

Build yourself a reference system. Get hands-on experience. Play around with it for yourself and use that as a model going forward. If you’re in a community and you’re asking a question and someone says, try this, try that — you’re not going to be able to do that unless you’ve got your own computer system. Set up your own lab to try and test things out. I think that’s really key.

And keep learning. Keep up to date. But be curious. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to fail. We kind of live in a society where people are maybe a bit afraid of that. But you learn from your mistakes and it’s only then that you really get to the bottom of understanding, sometimes, when you make a mistake or you’ve done something wrong.

Where do you see the device management world going? What are the most promising areas in the space from a career perspective?

In the modern management world, pretty much it won’t be too long before the majority of people move over to cloud management of devices. We’ve already passed the 50% mark from on-premises to cloud, and I think that will accelerate.

But within that whole realm of device management and cloud management, database management, artificial intelligence and IoT — I think those are going to be clear winners for a number of years to come.


For more tips on cloud management, modern desktop solutions and cloud careers, make sure to follow Andy through his blog and the Cloud Management Community’s YouTube channel, as well as on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Check out more of our interviews in our podcast episodes.

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Business Lounge

Why Enterprise Cybersecurity Should Start at the Boardroom Level

Cybersecurity is becoming increasingly complex, and it is no secret by now that the number of cyber threats companies face on a daily basis has increased dramatically as a result of the pandemic.

All in all, IT teams and their security experts are pulling extremely long hours to come up with better and more efficient ways of protecting their digital operations and data. And that is accelerating digital transformation in the area.

According to IDG, most CIOs consider cybersecurity a top priority, with 65% of companies planning to increase their security budget this year. This increase in demand involves hiring extra staff to tackle cyber threats – a push that will surely accentuate the already severe drought of cybersecurity talent.   

But all of this effort will not translate into long-lasting changes unless organisations institute a security-aware culture and take a more strategic and proactive approach to cyber protection. And that must necessarily start from the top.  

Accountability

Nobody would be too surprised if a CEO was ousted after a major financial fiasco. Why would it be any different with cyber incidents?

A Centrify study from 2019 revealed that almost 40% of UK businesses had dismissed personnel for security-related incidents. You can bet not many of those employees were part of their company’s executive team.

Traditionally, security breaches have been considered a responsibility of technical teams and IT leaders, who often end up tracing the incident to a reckless employee who accessed sensitive information while sipping on a cup of coffee at a local café. Sure, human error and shadow IT are behind most cyber attacks, but, like with all systemic problems, a real cultural shift requires everyone’s involvement.

The truth is that technology is too integral to today’s businesses for companies to afford to have leadership that is not directly or at least ultimately responsible for it. Accountability not only ensures better performance; it drives innovation and promotes continuous improvement.

When an executive’s reputation and livelihood are at stake, they are more likely to push for deeper, company-wide initiatives to address potential cyber threats. They will invest more resources in protection and become cybersecurity ambassadors within the organisation, setting into motion a series of changes spanning areas from HR to external contractors and business partners.         

But to be accountable, business leaders first need to be knowledgeable.

Executive cybersecurity expertise

Recommending that executives be security-savvy is not to say that CEOs and other members of the board need to have deep technical knowledge of cybersecurity infrastructure and best practices, but they at least must be able to make informed decisions and factor cybersecurity into every key move they make.

One way to achieve such a boardroom environment is to hire executives with an IT background – a trend that is quickly gaining traction among the world’s top companies thanks to the inherent benefits that a strong technical foundation brings to business processes.

Another is to involve CIOs in the strategic decision-making process. IT leaders have acquired a bigger role since the start of the pandemic, growing closer to CEOs and becoming even more pivotal to business continuity than they were before. Companies should keep moving in this direction.

Newer IT-focused executive positions can also be created. Unfortunately, the figure of the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) remains a rather rare occurrence in the c-suite. Although many companies have dedicated IT leaders in charge of cybersecurity, these are often confined to the IT department and do not get enough executive powers and visibility. Elevating CIOs within the organisation would certainly improve cybersecurity.

But not all solutions involve prioritizing executives with a technical background. Training is always an option. CEOs and their peers can learn to assess cyber threats and keep their company’s cyber resilience in mind when making business decisions. CIOs and their team have a key role to play in this training process, sharing their experience and actionable insights while delivering periodic security audits to inform the executive board.

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