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Team Contractor Spotlight - Q&A with Bob & James

November 2017

Teamwork, especially a team with diverse backgrounds, mentalities, approaches, and technical competencies, and empowering members to contribute their unique skills and viewpoints are powerful contributors to project success. That was one key take away we had from a wonderful Q&A with two of our top performing “rock star” contract employees, Bob and James, who are part of a vital project that’s implementing a new Identity Management platform for a global enterprise organization.

A second take away was that you have to constantly be “peeling back the onion” layer by layer, frequently re-thinking scope and strategy. Third, you also need to be “innovative” with communication, and adjust your messaging and approach. Look for situations or opportunities where you can use tools and tactics for automating some communication, to increase effectiveness and productivity, especially with limited bandwidth and resource issues!

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On our project, we went from a team of 8 down to 3 due to a reduction in project funding, and found ourselves in a situation where we had to quickly realign project objectives and priorities. However, we built a tool that then assisted us with the workload, bringing it to a point where it was more manageable. We researched and identified possible tools that assist with automating mass communication, and once we had buy in on a tool from the rest of team and management, implemented to help with thousands of pieces of communication. The email innovations James developed were so powerfully effective, our Project Manager Jim leveraged the technique and “borrowed” James as a resource to drive similar work on the parallel Active Directory project work stream. The lesson here is that bandwidth constraints and/or resource limitations can be solved through finding technology tools. You can’t just throw your hands up when you lose team members but still have the same workload, you have to get into problem solving mode. Resources and requirements change, and you have to adapt, adjust, innovate, etc. Understand “the new problem/challenge” and then identify “what technology/tools exist to help combat this problem/challenge?”

What contributes to team and project success?

  1. A strong relationship with your boss! As an employee/contractor, seek to understand how your manager thinks. Try to get to the point where you can anticipate what they want, how they’d react, what approach they’d use, etc.
  2. Understand your primary goals. What’s the main objective? What does management and/or client expect/want? How do they do things?
  3. Don’t let yourself be diverted from the primary “task at hand;” focus on the job your management expects you to get done! Minimize the “wandering” and focus on key work that needs to be done.
  4. Adapt to the new way/approach of your company/team. Companies tend to vary in their approach, and part of the learning curve is understanding the “how they do things” piece.
  5. Always brainstorm solutions before going to the boss. Generate several recommendations that could solve problem, and then go to your Manager to present the options.

We then chatted about what Bob and James appreciate in each other. Capturing 360 feedback (i.e. peer review/feedback) is a vital piece in understanding what you’re doing well and what else you could be doing to “become your best!”

  • Bob started by sharing that “I love that James is a mad scientist who comes up with new, innovative, different and creative ways to get things done that saves us times and money." In response, James shared that “I look for ways to automate to make our lives easier, somewhat out of laziness!” We doubt it’s from laziness, but rather, just seems like the smart thing to do, James.
  • James explained how “Bob keeps our team on track and grounded. He’s incredibly focused himself, but takes it a step further by keeping the entire team focused, always bringing us back to the goal or task at hand.”

What additional advice do you have for junior-mid level IT professionals entering today’s workforce on being successful?

  1. Bob: "Don’t get too boxed in. Don’t pre-determine the technology direction you want to go right out of the gates. Try different things (i.e. tasks, technologies, challenges). Ask for more, and ask for variety. You’ll then get to discover different things you love! Stay open to opportunities that might not have been on your roadmap."
  2. James: "Surround yourself with people who have different viewpoints and backgrounds. Prior to transitioning into IT, I was a distribution Manager for a Magazine, so I knew effective organizational structures and administration, but I was incredibly green with the “how technology can make things work” piece. Surrounding myself with people who had worked in different roles, for different companies in various industries, and then trying to learn from them, was very beneficial for me."
  3. Bob: "Learn the common acronyms and language of your industry, company, technology stacks, etc. Don’t get intimidated by not understanding the verbiage and acronyms of your new industry/organization, just capture what you can and create a mini dictionary for yourself!"
  4. James: "Don’t fear the unknown and just dive right in. I had to learn TFS (Team Foundation Server) coming into this project from scratch; I had no prior knowledge. So on top of learning a completely new environment and working as a contractor (this was also my first time as a contract employee), I had to learn a new tool while still trying to be productive ASAP, which is expected as a contractor. You need to be willing to dive in and invest personal time learning what you need in order to contribute immediately."
  5. Bob: "Patience is key. You’ll never grasp everything overnight. Recognize it takes time and don’t stress about not knowing everything! There is so much to learn, but you’ll learn it over time!"
  6. James: "A lot of the pressure you’ll experience is self-imposed. Give yourself a break and keep in mind that you’ll get it over time."
  7. Bob: "Understand the “hot buttons” of your organization, manager, client, etc. For example, our company is very particular about time cards. You HAVE to have your timecard done by a certain time on Friday, and it’s very aggravating to them if it’s not completed on time. Another big one is certain areas of training or compliance. Determine “are there any particular administrative, training, or compliance requirements?”

Congratulations Bob and James for being featured in our Contract Employee Spotlight and thank you for sharing some career advice with us!

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