High Seas High Tech: How the Cruise Industry Is Personalizing Your Vacation

High Seas High Tech: How the Cruise Industry Is Personalizing Your Vacation

By DANA MCMAHAN

cruise-1236642_960_720Why leave your lounger to go order a drink when you can just tap your wrist to get a Daiquiri delivered to your deck chair?

The cruise industry is undergoing a sea change in the way passengers experience their vacation.

First limited to pockets of niche tech advancements (think robotic bartender arms mixing drinks), there’s been a shift in the mindset.

“It’s gone from ‘We’re going to gouge people for internet access,’ like technology not being something we want on the ship, to it being an integral part [of the experience],” said Mark McSpadden, head of travel and technology innovation lab Sabre Labs.

Royal Caribbean kicked things off in 2014 when they debuted RFID-enabled wristbands – WOWbands – that allowed passengers on board Quantum of the Seas to unlock their stateroom doors or pay for on-board purchases.

And earlier this month at the CES consumer electronics show in Las Vegas, Carnival unveiled a wearable device dubbed OCEAN Medallion that will, among other things, provide passengers with Netflix-style activity recommendations, give on-the-go directions, allow hands-free payment — and also serve as a key card.norwegian-jade-1498352_960_720 (1)

Additionally, the medallion lets travelers order drinks, locate friends and family aboard the gigantic ships, and identifies cruisers — along with their profile and preferences — to crew members.

“This replaces everything,” Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises and P&O Australia (which is owned by Carnival), told NBC News. “It’s about guests making the absolute most of their vacation time and money.”

And, while not all guests will be ‘on board’ with the new technology, “I suspect … some will see folks enjoying the features and say ‘OK, maybe I’ll experiment with it,'” she added.

Debuting this November on Regal Princess, the technology should be available on all Princess ships by 2020.

 

The Key to Efficiency

“It’s interesting to see this rolled out as a broader effort,” McSpadden told NBC News. “It’s a big step forward for the industry.” He’s not surprised to see it come from Carnival. “The folks behind the Medallion have a lot of experience with Disney’s Magic Band, with one of lead people coming over from Disney,” he said.

John Padgett, one of the creators of Disney’s colorful RF wristband used to open resort room doors, gain admittance to attractions, and make purchases at Disney parks, assembled the team and gave his vision for Medallion, Swartz said.

These advancements fit into the #1 megatrend in Sabre Lab’s 2017 Emerging Technology in Travel Report, McSpadden said. “Connected intelligence is bridging together systems that know things about you and about how cruise lines operate for a seamless experience.”

The wins aren’t just on the consumer side, he said. “It improves operational efficiency. Less time to purchase, fewer lost room keys, not as many lines to wait in.”

There are longer term implications for the cruise lines as well, McSpadden said. Using location awareness, they can discern patterns in how people move through ships – and these analytics can inform future ship building. “But even in real time it lets them see bottlenecks,” he added, and get staff where they’re needed.

Creepy or Cool?

Of course this all depends on passengers opting in. But Scott Lara, manager of Air Sea Travel in Jacksonville, and an avid cruiser himself, doesn’t see many balking. “I’ve only heard a couple of clients raise concerns,” he told NBC News. “They think it might be intrusive, the cruise knowing everything.”

But their fears are allayed, he said, when they learn it can be turned off. (While the Medallion itself has no on/off button, passengers can change their account settings on their own device or on screens throughout the ship.) “I think there’s a huge upside where it’s going to make things so much easier,” said Lara. “People can enjoy more time on their cruise. I wish it was like this in real life. Can you imagine pulling up to your McDonald’s and boop-boop-boop, it’s good to go?”

McSpadden expects vigorous adaptation, acknowledging, “At first it sounds scary when I say ‘I can track your every move on the boat.’ But we find over and over consumers are willing to give up personal information if they receive better service. That’s what these are all about. ‘Let me see where you are on the boat so I can bring you a drink.’ At the end of the day people are enamored enough with the cool to get over the creepy.”

 

Forget Selfie Sticks: This Drone Captures Photos and Videos in Midair

Forget Selfie Sticks: This Drone Captures Photos and Videos in Midair

Airselfie

Instead of extending your arm or using a selfie stick to snap shots of you and your crew, you could use a new pocket-size drone — dubbed the “AirSelfie” — to help you remotely capture aerial photos and videos.

The AirSelfie is the brainchild of Italian entrepreneur Edoardo Stroppiana, who came up with the idea in 2014. “AirSelfie is specifically designed and produced for people who used to think drone cameras are extremely complicated to use — too expensive and bulky,” Stroppiana said.

The AirSelfie is equipped with a 5-megapixel camera that can shoot full high-definition (HD) 1080p video, as well as a 4GB microSD card. Using the AirSelfie, people, groups and companies can take pictures of themselves, their backgrounds and their projects from distances, heights and angles that they never could using their arms or a stick, Stroppiana said.

The drone’s four rotors help it fly up to 65 feet (20 meters) in the air. The flying camera measures only about 3.72 by 2.65 by 0.42 inches (9.45 by 6.73 by 1.07 centimeters) — “smaller than a smartphone,” Stroppiana said — and weighs 1.83 ounces (52 grams).

The drone uses sonar to measure its altitude and keeps itself stable with the help of a tiny extra camera to monitor its surroundings for signs of jitter. It is also equipped with gyroscopes, barometers and geomagnetic sensors that help it navigate as it flies, said AirSelfie Holdings Ltd. in London, the company that Stroppiana co-founded in 2016 to manufacture the drone.

The AirSelfie is controlled via a free iOS or Android app. The app can make the drone take off; adjust its height and direction; let it hover autonomously; and help users take an HD aerial shot or video with just a push of a button. Users can also activate a 10-second timer, giving people enough time to hide their phones so they don’t appear in the picture or video. The drone can take up to eight consecutive shots, the company said.

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The AirSelfie uses Wi-Fi to send photos and videos wirelessly to smartphones. The app also allows users to post photos and videos taken with the drone immediately on social media.

 

After snapping photos, the drone can return to its departure point automatically with the touch of a button. Users can also guide the AirSelfie back manually, and its manufacturers said it is safe for the drone to land on a person’s open hand, or even for people to grab the drone while it is still hovering in midair.

A rechargeable lithium polymer battery gives the AirSelfie a flight time of 3 minutes, according to the company. An accessory known as the Power Bank slips over the AirSelfie like a smartphone case, and can recharge the drone in 30 minutes. The Power Bank can hold 20 such charges before it needs to be recharged, the company said. Users can also recharge the AirSelfie directly with a micro-USB cable.

 

The company said it developed a fully functioning prototype in August. On Nov. 17, the company launched a Kickstarter campaign to make the AirSelfie available via preorder, and it met its $47,714 goal in less than three days. The campaign, which is scheduled to end Dec. 24, has raised more than $500,000 from more than 2,300 backers. In addition, the company has received $3 million from private angel investors in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and China, Stroppiana said.

 

The first preordered drones are scheduled for delivery in March. The drone is expected to hit the market in 2017 for a retail price of $300.

 

 

Article courtesy of Charles Q. Choi, Live Science.

This Year’s Rising (and Declining) Tech Jobs

This Year’s Rising (and Declining) Tech Jobs

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The trends seen in the last half of 2016 will continue to influence the job market for technology professionals into the next year. Tech unemployment hit 2.9 percent in November, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which suggests that the market for tech pros remains strong heading into 2017.

 

Although many jobs will remain stable, major disruptors are poised to change the way businesses run, as well as the demand for technology professionals and the salaries they command, according to David Foote, chief analyst of Foote Partners LLC.

 

Foote reviewed his predictions from last year and referenced data from the firm’s “IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index” to forecast the roles that will increase in value (as well as those that might lose ground) in the coming year:

 

Trending Up:

Professionals in these jobs should expect rising or stable demand (and higher pay) in 2017:

 

Cybersecurity Pros

With 2016 another record-breaking year for cybersecurity fails, it’s not surprising that Foote continues to forecast strong demand for security professionals. Ten of the highest-paying certifications tracked by his firm are in the cybersecurity category.

 

These strong-performing certifications cover a wide range of skills, including cybersecurity, forensics, penetration testing, perimeter protection and enterprise defense, security analysis, risk and secure software programming.

 

However, security is no longer just for experts. Pay for noncertified skills rose 6.3 percent over the course of 2016, and Foote predicts that developers will increasingly be held accountable for insecure code in the future—making secure-development practices a valuable competency.

 

DevOps Pros

In late 2015, Foote predicted big things for professionals in DevOps-related positions in 2016. As it turned out, the market value for DevOps pros remained flat for the first six months of the year, only ticking upwards in the third quarter. Through October, the average value for six DevOps-related certifications had increased 7.1 percent.

 

Foote expects this upward trend to continue as more businesses integrate DevOps into their operations. If you want to join the movement, hot certifications include AWS Certified DevOps Engineer, as well as Red Hat training and certifications.

 

Big Data Specialists

All evidence indicates that the Big Data jobs machine will remain in high gear for the foreseeable future, propelled by the IoT/telematics gold rush and a host of new certifications. Market value for the 100 certified and noncertified skills tracked by Foote Partners increased 4.7 percent during 2016, including 2.1 percent in the third quarter.

 

“IoT/ telematics is projected to become an $11 billion market,” Foote explained. “Wearable technology will eventually catch on and industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, smart cities, energy and automotive will continue to push IoT forward.”

 

Application Developers in a Microservices Architecture Environment

Businesses’ need for speedy delivery of new business tools is just one of the key factors that will continue to fuel the rise and popularity of microservices (and the jobs that go with them). Microservices Architecture is currently one of the highest-paying noncertified skills tracked by Foote Partners, and the trend will endure through 2017.

 

Digital Product Development

Virtually every business today is involved in digital product development, which Accenture defines as the integration of data, processes, business and IT. Foote predicts that this rising field will increase the demand for product design engineers and analysts, as well as digital specialists. Indeed, pay premiums for digital development skills rose 5.2 percent in 2016, and Foote expects more jobs in this category next year.

 

Help Desk Tier Two and Tier Three

 

No, that’s not a typo. “Pay is rising due to the consumerization of technology,” Foote said. “Companies are finding that they need to add staff in order to offer customers adequate technical support.”

 

Trending Down:

Foote predicted that SAP specialists, storage gurus and network infrastructure professionals (such as network managers and systems administrators) might face career headwinds in 2016; his predictions came true. For example, SAP skills declined 8.3 percent in value over the last 12 months, and he expects the downward spiral to continue in 2017. He’s also added some new positions to his list of projected decliners.

 

Datacenter Roles

Now that most datacenter modernization and optimization initiatives are complete, there will be a decreased demand for storage engineers, backup and storage administrators, and datacenter security specialists.

 

Architects

Foote predicated that architects would be able to write their own tickets in 2016, with security, mobile cloud and software pros leading the way. However, the value for 44 certified and noncertified architecture skills unexpectedly declined 4.10 percent during 2016. What happened?

 

“It’s not that companies don’t value architects or need their expertise,” Foote explained. “But they’ve staffed up, which limits demand and the need to offer premium pay, at least temporarily. That’s why I’m putting architects on the list of roles that may experience flat growth and possibly a small decline in market value in 2017.”

 

Article courtesy of Leslie Stevens-Huffman.

Drones Are Now Delivering Critical Medical Supplies in Rwanda

Drones Are Now Delivering Critical Medical Supplies in Rwanda

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The world’s first national drone delivery service for medical aid is literally up and running in Rwanda.

Months ago, drone delivery company Zipline and the Rwandan government launched a partnership plan which has the potential to reinvent the way medical aid is distributed in poor and rural communities around the world.

Now, in the same time it takes to donate blood, a rural hospital in Rwanda can send a text message and receive blood donations within a matter of 15-30 minutes.

Zipline had to overcome layers of bureaucracy and tough logistics to create a network that is filling a gap for medical aid that currently affects more than 2 billion people lacking access to medical aid. For the majority of those people, rough terrain and minimal infrastructure lies between life and death.

“You have a database of people. You know their lives are in danger,” said Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo. “Can you get them what they need fast enough? That’s been the mission from the start.”

So how do you transport a bag of live-saving blood across mountains, terrain with no roads, and account for times when the weather will be less than perfect?

Slingshot a “Zip” at 100km/hr with precise accuracy. The Zip includes a packaged and tightly sealed blood donation with the specified blood type. Zip drops off the medical supplies to a location range the size of several parking spaces and the healthcare worker who texted for the donation can go pick it up.

This system also reduces the risk of the wrong medical supplies from taking up shelf space in refrigerators at hospitals. Though the Zipline program, countries could save on healthcare costs since they can request and receive supplies as needed.

“What we’re trying to do is, instead of them trying to predict what they need and having a large percentage of that blood go to waste, they can basically keep all of the blood centralized in two blood banks in the whole country. Then every single hospital and health center is in a 15- to 45-minute delivery of any blood transfusion regardless of the type of blood, all the time,” said Rinaudo.

Mothers and children need blood the most. Half of blood transfusions are used for mothers who hemorrhage after giving birth. Another 30% of blood goes to give children more iron in their blood who have become anemia – a side effect of malaria.

Now that Rwanda is officially out of “pilot” mode, Zipline plans to expand to other countries and broaden medical supplies.

If you think your country could be helped by their services you can check out their site, or contact Zipline.

 

Article courtesy of Meghan Werft at Globalcitizen.org

Are ‘smart’ high heels brilliant or terrible?

Are ‘smart’ high heels brilliant or terrible?

 

A French company named Zhor-Tech was showing off two pairs of “smart” high heels at CES last week, adding to the list of tech companies that are trying to appeal to women with a variety of Bluetooth-connected, traditionally femme products.

The Zhor-Tech Digitsole heels come in two models: a pair with heated insoles and another pair with an adjustable, mechanical high heel. The heated insoles build on previous technology that Zhor-Tech has made under its Digitsole brand, whereas the adjustable heels are new. Both pairs also track your activity (of course!) and pair wirelessly with an app, where you can control the temperature or the height of your heels. shoe-447866_960_720

The adjustable high heels, which range from 1.7 inches high to 3.1 inches, are in theory a modern woman’s dream. Rather than schlepping around an extra pair of shoes — so when the high-heeled ones you feel obligated to wear start to hurt, you can slip into flats — you can just tap a virtual button and feel your heels sink closer to the earth. Sweet relief: there’s an app for that.

But the heated heals are probably much more useful. And if we’re talking aesthetics — and who isn’t when it comes to $300 high heels? — the Zhor-Tech adjustable heels aren’t exactly elegant. They look like an exaggerated tap shoe, with a chunky metal stump protruding from the heel, and feel heavier than most normal pairs of heels.

Not to mention that your high-tech high heels will need to be charged. For some reason, finding a microUSB port on the underside of the adjustable high heels gave me a strange delight, which was also possibly just CES delirium. The warming high heels charge wirelessly through a pad on the sole of the shoe, a much better solution. Zhor-Tech says the pairs should last four days on a charge.

Zhor-Tech is just one of the companies that showed off a connected product at CES last week aimed predominantly at female consumers. Nokia-owned Withings and L’Oreal introduced a Bluetooth hairbrush, Willow showed off a wireless breast pump, and there was even a mirror that scanned your face for flaws. The not-so-subtle underlying message of these products is often one of “You’re doing it wrong,” whether it’s letting you know your hair is tangled, your eyes have crow’s feet, or… let’s not even get into the unending pressure on women to breastfeed.

At least the smart heels claim to offer something more akin to comfort, rather than shaming. Zhor-Tech says the high heels will be shipping this year for $299 a pair, though the company didn’t say exactly when in 2017.

 Granted, anytime you add tech to clothing, whether a smart shirt or self-lacing sneaker or self-raising high heel, all of those sensors and motors and wireless chips will have to go somewhere, adding some bulk to the product. But still, clomping around in thick high heels to relieve yourself of the burdens of high heels seems counter-intuitive.

 

 

Article Courtesy of TheVerge

 

 

Windows 10 Will Soon Lock Your PC When You Step Away From it

Windows 10 Will Soon Lock Your PC When You Step Away From it

windows-10-1535765_960_720Microsoft is working on a new Windows 10 feature that will automatically lock and secure a PC when the operating system detects someone has moved away from the machine. The feature is labelled as Dynamic Lock in recent test builds of Windows 10, and Windows Central reports that Microsoft refers to this as “Windows Goodbye” internally. Microsoft currently uses special Windows Hello cameras to let Windows 10 users log into a PC with just their face.

Big corporations teach employees to use the winkey+L combination to lock machines when they’re idle, but this new feature will make it an automatic process. It’s not clear exactly how Microsoft will detect inactivity, but it’s possible the company could use Windows Hello-compatible machines or detect idle activity and lock the machine accordingly. Windows can already be configured to do this after a set time period, but it appears Microsoft is streamlining this feature into a simple setting for anyone to enable. Microsoft is planning to deliver Dynamic Lock as part of the Windows 10 Creators Update, expected to arrive in April.

 

Article Courtesy of The Verge

Angular Jumps to Version 4

Angular Jumps to Version 4

Angular

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The team behind Angular has decided to jump from Angular 2 to Angular 4. So if you’re waiting for Angular 3, it’s not going to happen.

Angular is a framework for building JavaScript apps and dynamic web pages. It has gained widespread support, partially because it’s a good framework, partially because it’s being developed by Google. The change in numbering is mainly to ensure that the new version has the same version number as the Angular version 4 router that will be used with the release when it is available.

The router is designed to deal with the problems associated with managing state transitions on the web, including the need to include state information in the URL, and to load applications in partial bundles on demand. The Angular router lets you specify the application state declaratively. It also deals with the management of state transitions including the URL, and to load components on demand.

Angular 2 was a major rewrite and introduced a lot of breaking changes, but announcing the new version at the recent NG-BE 2016 Angular conference in Belgium, Google’s Igor Minar, lead Angular developer at Google, said that going forward, the steps will be evolutionary, not revolutionary.

When Angular 2 was released in September after two years of intense development, it took the form of a major rewrite, and at that time the development team said they would also be switching to semantic versioning (SemVar).

SemVar is the scheme whereby products are named as produce x.y.z, where x is the major version, y the minor version, and x the patch number. You get a new patch version every week consisting only of bug fixes, not new features. A new minor version is wheeled out every month. It can have new features but doesn’t have breaking changes.  A major version will be created every six months, having new features that might introduce breaking changes.

In a blog post on the Angularjs blog by Juri Strumpflohner, the original creator of Angular.js, he said that:

“Changing from version 2 to version 4, 5, … won’t be like changing from Angular 1. It won’t be a complete rewrite, it will simply be a change in some core libraries that demand a major SEMVER version change. Also, there will be proper deprecation phases to allow developers to adjust their code.”

The blog post also said that:

“Internally at Google, the Angular team uses a tool for handling automatic upgrades, even of breaking changes. This is still something that has to be planned in more detail, but the team is working hard on making this tool generally available, most probably in 2017 in time for Angular 5.” Other features of the new version announced in the keynote are better Angular compiler errors, and Angular itself is smaller and faster.

 

Article courtesy of Kay Ewbank, published at I-Programmer.info

Career Paths for Programmers

Career Paths for Programmers

Programmer

I recently interviewed for a Business Analyst position with the CIO of a large multi-national software development firm. This man was in charge of the company’s worldwide IT operations, including offshore development projects, for which he was searching for qualified Business Analysts. The interview quickly became a casual conversation about current trends within the IT service sector, how the company was planning to take advantage of those trends, and, most importantly, how I could fit into those plans. It was during his evaluation of my skills that I asked how I fit and whether it was technical or business skills that were most valuable to his projects. The CIO summed up his advice about my career path with one small sentence: “Stay on the business side.”

 

Business skills, in this CIO’s view, were most important to his future projects and the industry as a whole. His reasoning was that he could train anyone in the technical skills he needed for a project, but finding those people with the necessary business skills to guide an IT project to success was something that could not easily be obtained. He went on to say that he found it difficult to find people who could communicate on even the most basic of levels. I asked if my background as a developer would help in getting a business analyst job, and he conceded that although it’s not a requirement, it certainly would help matters as long as I could prove that I wasn’t “too technical.”

 

His comments are consistent with the trend that all US-based programmers have observed since the late 1990’s: global salary competition amongst programmers, and a growing view in big business of programming as a commodity skill. It’s hard to compete with a developer in Russia or India who can work for a fraction of what I make minus benefits. The CIO managed to reaffirm the subtle, but major, shift from technical skills to business-technical skills in today’s labor market. I gave weight to his viewpoint since the people in his position are the trendsetters of the technology industry. They are the ones who set the directives for a company’s IT needs, and often, the requirements desired for the higher-paying positions.

 

I did a little research and found that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook predicts that computer systems analysts are expected to be among the fastest growing occupations through 2012. The Handbook describes a systems analyst as someone who may plan and develop new computer systems or devise ways to apply existing systems’ resources to additional operations. It describes a computer programmer as someone who writes programs according to the specifications determined by systems analysts. (The book does not separately list business analyst as an occupation.)

 

According to the Handbook, in the US systems analysts held an astounding 487,000 positions in 2004 (up from 468,000 positions in 2002) compared with 455,000 jobs in 2004 for computer programmers (down from 499,000 in 2002). The Handbook also states that employment for computer programmers is “expected to grow much more slowly than that for other computer specialists.” And recent estimates by the Economic Policy Institute have put the number of jobs being offshored at approximately 330,000 to 500,000 jobs. About 100,000 of those were full-time computer programming jobs.

 

The key to maintaining a good employment outlook in IT, it seems, is to move out of programming and up into more business-oriented IT positions such as systems analyst, business analyst, project manager, or systems architect. However, a computer programmer can’t just decide to become a systems analyst or project manager overnight. The journey takes time and requires the right amount of experience and learning to be successful.

 

Making the Shift

So you’ve seen the statistics and watched as the jobs in your market slowly disappear. You want to move more to the “business side,” but you don’t quite know how to do it. As I’ll describe next, making the shift can be done on-the-job by gaining more responsibility, polishing up your problem-solving skills, and using creativity in your work.

 

I began my journey into systems analysis and design by accepting more responsibilities throughout the project I was on when things proved too overwhelming for my superiors. I gradually accepted more of the project management and business analysis responsibilities when the opportunity presented itself. For example, I would walk to Suzy in accounting and work out a new enhancement with her one-on-one rather than wait for my manager to do so. Over time, as my manager’s confidence in my abilities grew, these responsibilities became a part of my job. It wasn’t long before I became the Programmer Analyst, and ultimately the Project Manager, as new positions were created to fulfill demand for our work.

 

When the need arises, I recommend walking to the end user yourself and working with her one-on-one. Your manager will be relieved when he discovers that you are capable of communicating with his end-users, identifying their issues, and resolving those issues before they are brought up in the weekly manager’s meeting. Even the best IT managers need a subordinate who is visible to the users who they can trust to get the job done. If a manager is slowly factoring himself away from the day-to-day workings of the project, welcome it. The higher visibility that you are obtaining can be translated into higher value—and that can result in a promotion. Over time, your increased interactions with more business-oriented people will make you more sensitive to business concerns.

 

A good subordinate has to be open-minded and creative. When solving problems, one has to always believe that there is a way to accomplish something, even if it’s never been done before. Sometimes, just listening to the user will produce an idea. A lot of issues may come down to the business process that the system is attempting to replicate. I have had users actually solve a business problem for me just by listening to what they had to say!

 

Whether you’re open-minded and creative or not, you can still work towards more business-oriented positions. After all, business systems analysts and project managers are only a small subset of the many positions opening up each year to address the issues of complexity through simplicity. If you love programming, you don’t have to necessarily give it up.

 

Jobs To Pursue

Senior Technical Positions

Developers will often find that they may have to work side-by-side with the users to iron out difficult bugs. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to fix these problems when both parties can’t communicate effectively. There was always a time in most of my work situations when the developer had to talk with the users or other developers directly to fix difficult issues. This is the programmer’s chance to show management that he or she is someone who can communicate and utilize analysis methodologies—otherwise known as a “programmer analyst.” A programmer analyst is also usually someone who has some years of technical experience, and a certain depth of technical knowledge.

 

Programmers who seek advanced technical skills without too much end-user interaction may find themselves gravitating toward the design & architecture side of the business. Although these types of positions are still relatively technical, they often involve making key decisions to address how the new system will fit into the organization’s overall IT plans. In order to be successful, the architect needs to understand and control the elements associated with the utility, cost, and risk factors of the proposed solution.

 

System architects must make very educated decisions about how to decompose and isolate the different components that will be required, how to fit these components into the existing infrastructure, and in what order to implement each component. It can be a disaster to implement an online ordering system that isn’t compatible with the organization’s current accounting packages. The architect must identify these types of issues and present them to non-technical management in words they can understand.

 

Business and Systems Analysts

My job searches have suggested that business and systems analysts with a good programming background and a high-level of “business savvy” are becoming the next hot ticket. More and more organizations are finally hiring business analysts to explore, record, and recommend systems that fit the business—as opposed to the other way around.

 

The business analyst must often work with project managers, systems architects, and systems analysts, all of which are growing occupations that can make the difference between success and failure. In some cases the business analyst’s responsibilities are being combined with that of the systems analyst or the project manager under the guise of “business analyst” or “business systems analyst.” A quick search on Dice.com will reveal that many business analyst jobs have hidden deep within their job descriptions requirements to develop technical specifications or to guide and manage projects. My first business analyst job required both project management and systems analyst skills. These positions are sure to become more common as organizations struggle to reduce project failure and development time.

 

Project Management

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Handbook, employers prefer project managers who possess advanced technical skills that have been acquired through work experience. The project manager is often responsible for hiring the staff, setting the schedule, and keeping track of the progress through every phase of development. This person is also responsible for assigning the work, dealing with everyday problems affecting that work, and making sure each analyst or programmer is carrying his own weight. The project manager can best carry out this function if he truly understands the work he is managing.

 

The project manager must also be a “people person” as well as a “technical person” in order to succeed. This individual must work with technical and non-technical staff at every level of the organization in order to succeed in his goals. Additionally, the project manager has to manage his team effectively to produce the desired product on time.

 

Management

The ultimate assignment for many IT professionals looking to move up the IT food chain is to become the manager. The Occupational Handbook explains that “employment of computer and information systems managers is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2014.” These job opportunities are best suited for applicants with computer-related work experience and often require an advanced degree, such as an MBA. And of course, strong communication skills are a requirement for any management job in IT.

 

Skills To Develop

Okay, so you’ve heard all about what’s required and where IT is going, but how can you capitalize on this new information?

 

My interview with the CIO and my experience in the field have shown me that companies want IT professionals who can understand what their business is and how to apply technology to make it better. Being able to follow directions is important, but being able to take some initiative and make your own judgments without handholding is equally important. The solution is to differentiate yourself from the traditional developer.

 

We have already discussed two ways of building up your current skills—acquiring business knowledge and advanced technical knowledge—but two other areas are important as well: communication and leadership.

 

Whether that CIO I interviewed with believed that communication skills could be learned or not is irrelevant. Everyone can learn to be a better communicator with practice. The difference is that communication skills take much longer to develop. Communication takes the right mix of experience and training to become effective. I have worked on this since my college days and have had great success in my career as a result.

 

I learned to communicate more effectively by dealing with those who couldn’t. Many software users can’t understand the technical side enough to describe any of their requirements in any type of detail regardless of their background. On the other hand, many technical people don’t understand the intricacies of the business processes they are implementing because they can’t openly communicate with the users. Learning to communicate, and having the patience to gain knowledge from the user, is an essential skill that many of my former and current coworkers don’t have.

 

To add to your problem solving skills, instead of asking your superior or a more experienced programmer to help with a problem, take it upon yourself to find the answer to that complex problem. Before too long, you can be the one who others consult when there is a problem to fix or a new project to complete. Gaining problem-solving experience not only improves communication, it also improves your chances of moving into analyst and management positions. Eventually, you can do as I did and get your own project to manage.

 

The key to moving up the ladder at any company is to let them know what you know. Answer those questions, solve those problems, accept those new projects, and don’t be too shy to share a better solution. It could mean the difference between being “just another programmer” or being the top candidate for a promotion.

 

Article courtesy of John Bennett, Jr. at developerdotstar.

GM’s Chevrolet Bolt electric car wins North American Car of the Year

GM’s Chevrolet Bolt electric car wins North American Car of the Year

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General Motors picked up the crown jewel in the trifecta of trophies Monday for its new long-range electric car, the Chevrolet Bolt.

The Bolt was named North American Car of the Year, beating two conventionally powered luxury sedans, the Genesis G90 and the Volvo S90, in an announcement delivered at the North American International Auto Show.

Several dozen auto journalists who regularly test-drive vehicles vote on the annual awards.

The Chrysler Pacifica minivan was named North American Utility of the Year, the first time the award has been distributed. The Pacifica has been hailed for shedding the traditionally stodgy image of minivans by embracing technology, sleek design and an alternative powertrain.

The Honda Ridgeline pickup was named North American Truck of the Year.

Bolt is the first U.S.-made, mass-market, fully-electric car, beating Tesla Motors’ Model 3 to production. The vehicle has a range-per-charge of 238 miles, double most electric cars on the market except those from luxury automaker Tesla. Yet the Bolt, in many cases, is about half the price of Tesla’s Model S or X. It just went on sale with a starting price of $37,495 before federal tax credits kick in.

The Bolt was previously named Motor Trend Car of the Year and at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Green Car of the Year. It is not to be confused with the Chevrolet Volt, a pioneering plug-in car with a backup gas engine. Bolt is a pure electric and has no gas engine.

Chevy has been unabashed about trying to get out the message that it’s first with a mainstream-priced fully-electric long range car.

“There’s been a lot of talk about building an affordable electric car with a 200-mile range that brings electric vehicles to the mainstream, but only one manufacturer has done that, and it’s us,” Chevrolet marketing manager Steve Majoros said when Bolt won the Green Car award, given for environmentally friendly cars, in November.

 

Article courtesy of USA Today.

Five Company-Culture Clues You’ll Spot on the Job Interview

Five  Company-Culture  Clues  You’ll  Spot  on  the  Job  Interview

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When you’re job-hunting it’s easy to convince yourself that your problems will be over as soon as you accept a job offer.

Job-seekers often think “I just need a job — any job that pays what I need to earn is good enough for me!”

Once you take a job with the wrong company, you’ll never feel that way again. All jobs are not alike. Some employers simply don’t deserve you, and if you take a job working for one of them you’ll realize the horrible truth within a week or two of starting the job.

Something will be off in the energy at work, and little by little you’ll see and feel the dysfunction. You’ll see it in the way colleagues communicate with one another, face to face and via email.

You’ll feel the bad energy in the way meetings are conducted and the fact that everybody spends their mental and emotional energy trying to deflect blame rather than solving big, meaty problems and beating their goals.

Your sweetheart or a close friend will ask you “How do you like the job so far?” and you’ll say “Honestly, there’s something wrong in that place. Nobody is honest. Nobody wants to speak up, even about obvious things that are broken.”

You can make yourself sick working for the wrong people. If it happens to you, you’ll be doubly diligent on your next job search, and every one after that!

Here are five clues to a company’s culture that you can spot when you’re on a job interview. Pay attention to them! There are almost always warning signs of a toxic culture, but when you’re eager (or desperate) to get a job offer, you can miss them.

If they require you to interview over and over with so many different people that you lose track of their names, something is wrong. You shouldn’t have to meet half the people on the payroll in order for them to decide whether or not to hire you. Companies that take forever to make hiring decisions and involve too many people in the decision are organizations where nobody dares to make a decision on their own.

If your interviewer is blasé about the fact that people who were supposed to meet you are out for the day or never knew you were coming, that’s another bad sign. Too much disorganization in the interview process (accompanied by little or no concern for your time) is a big red flag.

Sometimes you will see and hear hostility right in the job interview conversation. Pamela went to a job interview with a large technology firm. Her hiring manager “Meg” gushed about the company and her own department in particular. The next manager Pam met with said “You seem like a smart person. Why do you want to work in Meg’s second-rate department?”

Pay attention to the employees you don’t get to meet — the people who are sitting at their desks, walking around the facility and meeting in conference rooms. Listen to snippets of their conversations and you will learn a lot about the culture. Is it friendly and casual, or ‘strictly business?’ Read their body language. Are the employees relaxed, or tense?

Finally, notice the communication between you and the employer during the hiring process. You should have access to your hiring manager once you’ve met that person and then are told you’re being considered for the role. If your hiring manager doesn’t have time to read and respond to your email and/or voice mail messages now, when will they have time for you?

Don’t be fooled by the fact that a particular organization is a household name or has a reputation as a “cool” company to work for. Cool companies can have as many problems as uncool companies do!

You can have a great time, learn a ton and grow your flame tremendously working for a “boring” firm that none of your friends have heard of.

Over the years as an HR person I have met dozens of brilliant leaders who run companies that will never make the Fastest-Growing Companies list or the Fortune 500 — and so what? They are sturdy businesses that deliver good products and services and take great care of their employees.

Work for people you like and trust — that’s the best way to go. If they are smart people and their product doesn’t sell, they’ll regroup and come up with a new product idea. If they are arrogant, clueless people, it doesn’t matter how great a product or service they sell.

If you have to watch your back at work and the stress level is so high that you can’t sleep, how good a job could it possibly be?

Walking away from the wrong job opportunity is a courageous act. Something in you changes when you stand up for yourself. Slamming the door on a bad job is a great way to bring new opportunities in!

 

Article courtesy of Liz Ryan at Forbes.