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If you lead a team, chances are you selected each of them—at least in part—because they seemed excited about the prospect of the role. For many people, this excitement wears off over time, but team outings, bonuses, and other motivational structures can help to keep the momentum going. But no matter how hard you try, some team members will get stuck in apathetic—or worse—negative ruts. These strategies can help you get them back on track. 

1. Set a collective vision

While most organizations set wider company visions, missions, goals, etc., that doesn’t mean your team can’t have its own—and specifically one that’s been determined by the members of the team, not just its leader. 

Set aside some time for the entire team to not only evaluate its role within the company, but also to determine how its contribution can be unique. A team vision should be much more than to serve the broader company vision, and it’s important to account for team members’ perspectives on how you can collectively add value. Doing so can give apathetic employees something bigger to work for, which may be important to people who are less concerned with shorter-term outcomes like financial incentives.

2. Dig deeper

Everyone is motivated by different things, which is where the art of being a manager comes in. If one team member seems less responsive to your tactics than others, spend some time trying to figure out what does motivate him or her—first by listening and reading behaviors, but perhaps by sitting them down for a conversation if you can’t seem to crack the code. The reality is that if you don’t understand what your apathetic employee wants, you may waste a lot of time trying various tactics, whereas your time may be better spent deciphering actions and attitudes—or simply asking how you can make their jobs better. 

3. Let them lead

If you always step up to lead so that your team doesn’t have to, they may feel discouraged to go the extra mile because the training wheels of a supportive manager will always be there. While your job as a manager is to set your team up for success, it’s also important to let them spread their own wings.

This can be in small ways to begin with, such as asking them to own a team meeting or suggest strategies for better team communication. If they react positively, create additional ways for them to continue owning leadership responsibilities.

4. Give non-monetary incentives

While money can be a strong motivator, it’s far from the only one—and there’s only so far monetary incentives can go. In addition to supporting the case for fair compensation for each of your employees when reviews season rolls around, create additional incentives to help keep them motivated.

Incentives which help employees to further grow their careers are a good starting place. You might suggest skills trainings, invite them to professional events or talks you’re attending, or offer the opportunity to attend and/or present in meetings with senior management. Use your findings from #2 above to determine what would be an attractive offering for the employee in question.

5. Create feedback loops

Putting a new vision, incentives, and leadership opportunities in place are good starting points—but you’ll need to create relevant feedback loops to understand if your strategies are working. Even if it’s not formal feedback sessions, create structures to monitor whether you’ve been effective, perhaps by measuring the employee’s output or implementing 360 reviews within the team to evaluate how others are interpreting their apathetic colleague’s performance and attitude. 

If you’ve already had a conversation with the employee about motivation and incentives, schedule follow-ups to discuss whether they feel things have changed for the better. Some people simply need their voice to be heard, and regular feedback can often help to foster that feeling.

The post 5 Strategies to Motivate an Apathetic Team Member appeared first on Tech Career Insights.

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So you’ve finally gotten over the emotional stress of getting let go from your last job—and it comes up in your first interview once you’re back on the job hunt. Being let go can be tough on the ego, as well as financially stressful if you rely on a monthly paycheck to pay the bills, but you shouldn’t let this impact how you explain the situation to interviewers. Here are some tips for explaining why things didn’t work out with your last job.

Stay cool with a prepared answer

Perhaps most important is your demeanor when you answer the question “why did you leave your last job?” Before you interview, practice your response and make sure your narrative is clear, as rambling on, fumbling over your answer, or over-explaining the situation can make it appear as if you’re covering something up. 

In your interview preparation, be sure to consider how you’ll approach a few questions around the topic, such as “why were you let go?”, “what would your last boss have said about your time with the company?”, and “what have you learned from the experience?” In addition, prepare the most eloquent way to bring it up if your interviewer doesn’t know you were let go and simply asks why you left: It’s much better to be transparent about the situation than run the risk of covering it up and them finding out later on in the interview process.

Add context and focus on learnings

While it’s important to keep it succinct, there’s often value in adding appropriate context to your answer. For example, if you were let go because the company was downsizing or restructuring, it’s fair to bring this up—particularly if the decision was unrelated to your performance. Even if it was, there may be additional color which can help your interviewer understand the situation. Perhaps the expectations of your role changed after you joined, and you didn’t feel you were given the appropriate learning tools to step up to the new skill requirements. Whatever the situation, practice a short but informative narrative about what happened. 

Importantly, conclude your answer with what you’ve learned. Some people will use the experience to assess their strengths and weaknesses and go in a new career direction as a result. Others may look for roles with bigger companies because they’ve determined the uncertainty of a startup environment isn’t for them. Whatever your learning, be sure to include it in your answer, as doing so can both bring the conversation back to why you’re qualified for the role in question as well as highlight the maturity in your ability to reflect and improve as a result of a tough experience. 

Keep it positive

In addition to instilling a positive tone by explaining how you’ve used the situation as a learning experience, it’s important to keep your attitude towards your previous employer and team positive. Regardless of what happened, an interview isn’t the place to bad mouth them, as doing so can make you appear to be defensive, even if it feels like you’re simply recounting the experience. 

To be sure, there’s a fine line between explaining the situation and complaining, so practice spinning your answers towards the positive. For example, rather than blaming your old boss for failing to put more structure in place, explain that your working style is better suited to roles with clear expectations and deliverables (and perhaps tie this to your understanding of the role you’re interviewing for). Instead of bringing up team conflicts, focus on how you prefer a collaborative team structure and explain how you would personally work to foster such an environment.

‘Positive’ may be far from how you feel towards your last job, but don’t let that impact your chances of finding a role that you’ll have a better experience with. 

The post How to Explain in a Job Interview Why You Were Let Go from Your Last Job appeared first on Tech Career Insights.

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When you’re interviewing for a job—and particularly one you really want—it can be tempting to tell your interviewer everything they want to hear. But some innocent-sounding questions are actually inappropriate (and often illegal) given the context. Whether they’re being asked maliciously or not, here’s your guide to handling these types of questions if they come up in an interview.

First things first: An interview is about your qualifications for the job

There are some fine legal lines between what’s acceptable and what’s not when it comes to job interviews—but the general rule of thumb is that anything you’re asked should relate to your qualifications for the job in question.

At a high level, the regulations around interview questions and employment decisions are designed to protect potential employees from discrimination unrelated to their ability to do the job. In some cases, there may be mandatory qualifications (and therefore related questions), referred to as Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications (BFOQs), which may otherwise seem out of line but in the context of the employer or role make a lot of sense. 

Asking someone’s age, for example, is generally off limits, but may be permissible to ask of airline pilots as there are broader safety regulations around this. BFOQs have to do with hiring based on age, sex, race, national origin, or religion. Most tech roles, however, shouldn’t come with any BFOQs, so something that feels uncomfortable very likely is.

While many seemingly innocent questions appear to be the interviewer’s attempt to get to know you (and may well be!), answering questions about your family status, religion, etc. may unfairly bias your interviewer and distract them from the question at hand: Whether or not you’re the best candidate for this specific role.

What’s actually off limits?

Companies are not allowed to make hiring decisions based on any of the following (excluding in the case of BFOQs): 

  • Age
  • Marital and family status
  • Disabilities
  • Race or color
  • Gender
  • Religion
  • Birthplace, nationality, or ancestry
  • Salary history (in some places—check your state and city regulations)
How to tackle illegal or inappropriate questions

Your first and more extreme option is to refuse to answer or to end the interview, which may be a reasonable response if you’re feeling incredibly uncomfortable or notice that many of the questions being asked are trending towards the unacceptable. If this is the case, chances are you won’t want to work for the company in the first place, so there won’t be much to lose. 

The more common response, however, is a trickier one; it involves the delicate balance between avoiding a direct answer and keeping the conversation going. This requires signaling to the interviewer that they’ve crossed a boundary without accusing them of doing so with harmful intent. 

As a first resort, consider whether you can gracefully circumvent the question, which will likely require a fair amount of thinking on your toes. If you’re on the younger side and asked about your age, for example, you might say “I tend to be younger than my peers with the same amount of work experience and qualifications because ____ (I didn’t finish college and instead started working, etc.).” With any of these questions, see if you can reframe your answer around your skills and qualifications rather that the exact piece of data that was originally queried.

Another tactic is to flip the question around to them, as the laws about acceptable interview questions don’t apply in reverse. Questions around marital and family status are common, as companies like to get a sense of how committed you’ll be—but direct questions like “are you or are you planning on getting married?” and “are you thinking about having kids?” are technically off limits. Even if your answer is a hard “no”, the more neutral response is “I’m not really sure about that right now as I’m more focused on growing my career.”

If you’ve already avoided a question once but your interviewer keeps prodding, a simple way out is to ask them how it’s relevant to your qualifications for the job. If they can’t answer that, chances are they were out of line for asking it in the first place.

At the end of the day, most interview questions are asked with innocent-enough intentions, but your answers may lead to conscious and/or unconscious discrimination—so you’re doing both yourself and the company a favor to skirt around answering these types of questions. 

The post What to Do If You’re Asked an Inappropriate (or Illegal) Question During a Job Interview appeared first on Tech Career Insights.

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If you’re just getting into the world of programming, deciding on which tech stack to pursue can be a challenge, especially with so many new frameworks popping up each day. At some point, you may even start to confuse programming languages with frameworks with tools. 

There are also many DIY ways to build a website, such as Squarespace and WordPress. These are great when you want to make a simple marketing website, and even experienced programmers take advantage of them to save time with responsive templates that already look good. However, for programming fundamentals, you’ve got to know how to build a fullstack app from scratch. 

A common debate in programming is whether new students should take the approach of learning one language and tech stack well, or whether they should get a more broad understanding of many. My take is that new developers should briefly check out various languages to broaden perspective, but the majority of time should be spent on getting very solid in one stack. 

Why just one stack? First of all, in interviews and on the job, no one competes over how many languages or frameworks you know. Core programming concepts are the same in each language, and because of this, good companies will allow you to interview in your preferred language. If someone is able to do a killer job with all of the coding challenges in C, it would be silly to dock them points for not knowing Node, since they can probably learn it within a week or two. 

Now, to cut to the chase: I recommend learning the MERN stack first. MERN stands for Mongo, Express, React, Node. The only programming language you need to know here is JavaScript. 

Mongo

Mongo is a non-relational database, which has certain drawbacks but is overall easier to learn than a relational, so is the best to start with. A non-relational database has fewer ties between the data, so you can start to read and write from your database without much of a “plan,” which makes it perfect for a starter app. In either case, you need to learn both relational and non-relational, so best to start with the more simple of the two.

Express

Express is a framework for your Node backend. It gives you a series of abstractions for Node and essentially makes your life easier when writing server-side code. It is by far the most popular framework for Node, which means it also has the most documentation online, so no reason not to use it.

React

React is the most popular frontend JavaScript framework, alongside Angular and Vue. When first learning, you may try and make a very simple app, while using JavaScript for your logic, but you will soon understand why virtually all apps use a framework. They give architectural structure to your app, data-binding between the controller and view, and life cycle loops which can trigger certain functions at certain points or can re-render portions of your app.

React is a bit more lightweight than Angular. It doesn’t have quite as many features, which means the learning curve is not so steep. React is also a bit more concise, and with the recent introduction of both React “hooks” and “context,” managing the data-flow within the app is a bit more straightforward than in Angular. Vue is just as lightweight as React, but React has been around for longer, so gets the slight edge for beginners because of more thorough documentation and a larger community.

*One thing to note is that the assumption here is that the developer is already comfortable with basic programming fundamentals, and can build a static website in CSS, HTML, and JavaScript. 

Node

Node is essentially just JavaScript built to run on the server/backend. It can serve your frontend code, and read and write from a database, just like any other backend coding language, but you do not need to learn a new syntax, and for this reason alone it defaults as a good go-to for your first backend “coding language.” 

One fair criticism of why the MERN stack might not be the best initial tech stack to learn is that it is so open-ended, it’s not very “opinionated.” It gives the developer plenty of freedom to choose how they want to structure the app, what they will use for routing, what they will use for service calls, etc. An “opinionated” example would be Ruby with Rails. There are plenty of areas where there is simply one “correct” way of doing something, and this is perfectly ok, especially for someone first learning.

However, you can always layer on another framework, which will add a more “opinionated” structure onto your MERN stacks, such as building with Meteor. This will set up the routing, file structure, and connection to your database. Furthermore, the process of searching Google and learning the different options for structuring your app is a good learning process: it may take longer and you may make a few suboptimal decisions, but that’s part of the learning process. 

The post Which Tech Stack Should You Learn First? appeared first on Tech Career Insights.

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Telecommuting and distributed offices have become increasingly popular in recent years, particularly with the rise of digital productivity tools which teams can use to collaborate just as they would in-person. While the majority of employees still work from an office, the share of people who work from home in the U.S. has been steadily increasing in recent years.

However, as an employee working remotely—whether full-time or the odd day here and there—not being in the office presents a unique set of challenges. The following tips can help you to stay sane and increase your productivity while you’re outside the office.

Set some boundaries and establish structure

 Perhaps the first and most significant problem that arises from remote work is the lack of structure in your day. If you’re working from home, for example, it can be tempting to work from your bed or while lounging on the couch, but doing so can not only impact your productivity, but also blur the lines between work and your personal life. In addition, being outside of the office often allows greater flexibility in your schedule, but that also means you might end up unintentionally procrastinating for an afternoon, meaning you’ll need to work through the evening to make up for it.

While the flexibility can be nice, particularly for people with children or other commitments which would make a traditional 9-5 job more challenging, it’s important to be intentional about your hours, rather than working nights and/or weekends just because you haven’t managed to be productive during normal working hours. 

In addition, set boundaries around your physical work space. If you work from home, limit yourself to one or two working “spaces”. This can help to get you in the mental game when you’re in your working space, whereas your bedroom and other non-working spaces will remain safe from the stresses of work.

You might also learn that working home isn’t for you, or perhaps it’s only a good solution some of the time. In this case, find another place where you can reliably go for at least a few hours at a time—public libraries, friendly coffee shops, and co-working spaces are good starting points. Remember to account for your key needs as you look for alternative working environments; For example, if you’re on the phone a lot, a library likely won’t suit your needs, or if you need reliable internet access some coffee shops might not be an option.

Over-communicate and establish accountability measures

Another factor to consider when working remotely is the lack of human interaction, which can be an adjustment for even the most introverted of employees. For both your own sanity as well as for the sake of your working relationship with colleagues and/or managers, make a point of over-communicating whenever you’re not in the office. This might be a daily or weekly conference call or email, or perhaps a shared task board. Regardless of the method, work with your team to figure out the best way for everyone to be kept up to speed on how you’re spending your time.

Having this accountability can also keep you on track in the less-structured environment. If you know your manager or colleague is waiting for a certain project or task to be completed by an agreed-upon date or time, you’re more likely to push to get it done rather than adding it to an endless to-do list.

Schedule in human time

Whether it’s a work trip to see your team in person, spending part of your week in a co-working space, or even making frequent evening plans with friends or family, spending time with people is an underestimated—but crucial—part of working remotely. While it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’ll be more productive if you just stay at home for days on end, the lack of human interaction will get to you over time.

Instead, be proactive about scheduling things to get you out of the house (or wherever you’re working from). Contact your manager to see whether the company would be open to paying for you to travel to spend time with the team on a regular basis. If you work from home, consider a routine such as going to a favorite coffee shop once a week. And your life outside of work is important too—perhaps even more so if you’re not around people in your day-to-day working environment—so the extra effort to establish routines and social events can be worth it to keep you sane, even if you spend your working days alone. 

The post How to Work Remotely and Keep Your Sanity appeared first on Tech Career Insights.

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The nature of a mentorship is a pretty simple one: someone with more experience helps someone with less experience learn, grow, and progress. That relationship in the professional world has been shown to be beneficial to mentees, companies, and mentors, alike. It’s why 71% of Fortune 500 companies employ some form of mentorship program. Pairing “proteges” with experienced employees in a structured manner improves employee engagement and retention, giving you a “strong bench” of employees, thereby improving the resilience of your business.

Having a strong bench works within the microcosm of your own team as well. It creates flexibility for your team, helping improve internal growth opportunities for members, which in turn drives loyalty and engagement. 

In some ways you should be a mentor to all of your direct reports, helping them perform their best and continuously learn. Being involved in this way keeps you aware of what’s going on at the lower levels, which helps you be a better leader. 

There is, however, a special mentor-mentee relationship that you should consider developing, and that is grooming your replacement. If you’re hoping to make professional moves, this can be one of the strongest programs to develop with one or more people directly underneath you. 

Why? You will:

  • Develop your own leadership and communication skills
  • Showcase your leadership skills
  • Remove a key hurdle in making your own professional moves
Step 1: Self-Reflection

To get started, you should first pause and ponder on a couple of ideas: (1) whether you should be grooming your replacement and (2) what skills you have or need to develop in order to be successful as a mentor.

Is it time to start grooming someone for leadership?

This takes a little bit of foresight, as grooming someone for leadership does not happen overnight. And putting someone into a leadership position without proper preparation comes with the definite risk of failure. At minimum, you should plan for 1 month–and more ideally 3-6 months–before a new leader might be asked to step up. This could be because of personal role changes you plan for yourself, goals for your own promotion, or if the company is growing rapidly enough that there may be a need for a second person to help with the load.

What does it take to be an effective mentor?

This list doubles as your own development plan. If you find yourself short in any characteristic, either takes steps before you begin to improve that skill or verbalize to your mentee at the beginning of the relationship that you’ll be working on yourself at the same time.

Qualities for a mentor:

  • Intrinsically motivated by the success of others
  • Available time and energy to commit to the relationship
  • Extensive knowledge in the focus (in this case leadership)
  • Open to sharing personal successes, failures, and the reasons for both
  • Good active listening skills
  • Good open-ended questioning skills
  • Good ability to provide clear feedback
  • Able to identify opportunities and clear strategies for improvement
  • Ability to use personal examples, from anecdotes to case studies to insights
Step 2: Identify Your Candidate(s)

While the purpose of grooming is to develop certain skills, you should also be selective with who you are selecting for this program. The right candidates should show certain characteristics that identify them as being right for becoming a mentee and with the potential to become strong leaders.

Are they right to become a mentee?

Pulling from the same source, here’s a good quick summary of qualities that make a good mentee:

  • Commitment to expanding their skillset and seeing results
  • Vision for what they want to achieve through mentorship
  • Able to admit what they don’t know, show vulnerability, ask for help and try new solutions
  • Able to take both praise and (especially) critical feedback in a healthy, constructive way
  • Personally accountable
  • Available time and energy to commit to this development
Do they show potential for leadership?

Not only do your candidates need to be well-suited to be mentored, but they should also show the potential to become good leaders by the end of it. Employees that show these characteristics have the potential to become strong leaders:

  • Meets or exceeds expectations of the current role
  • Shows a desire and aptitude to grow
  • Feels rewarded when they can help others
  • Invested in the team’s and company’s missions and values
  • Actively offers ideas to help beyond the scope of their personal goals
  • Early adopters of their own work and new ideas
  • Accountable to their own success and especially failures
  • Able to multitask
  • Displays empathy and emotional intelligence
  • Great listening and communication skills
Step 3: Mentor!

Once you’ve got your candidates, it’s time to start the mentorship. This begins with defining the relationship and then sticking to the plan.

Define the Relationship

At the start, there needs to be a discussion to lay out the vision, SMART goals, and expectations of the process. How often will you meet? What are appropriate topics to discuss? What should be considered public versus private knowledge?

Make a Plan

Using the skills of great leaders, identify which skills need work and which are already strong. Obviously, the point is to develop those skills that are lacking. Based on these skills, identify methods/strategies of improvement as well as benchmarks of success.

Continue to Add Responsibility

The nature of leadership is that you need to manage many things at once. And the benefit of starting this mentorship months before a real need for a new leader develops is that they can take on bite-size pieces at a time and adjust to them before taking on a new responsibility. This does not mean these responsibilities are off your plate. This is why this process will take more of your time and energy (at least to start). You are still the one responsible for results, but now the responsibility is doubled because you are responsible for two sets of results: those of your team and now those of your protege.

Listen, Learn, and Adjust

Both you, the mentee, and the program itself will need constant observation, open criticism, and tweaks to continue improving. Ask for direct feedback from your mentee. Maybe you yourself have a mentor or superior that’s invested in this program, so keep them informed and elicit feedback from them. 

Step 4: Make Moves

Once your protege is prepped and willing to step into your shoes in an official manner, great! And when you are no longer indispensable in your current role, double great! This means you are ready to make your own moves. 

Make Your Intentions Known

You have to “ask for the business” as they say on the sales floor. Make sure your direct manager is the first to know and try to get them to become an evangelist for you. Make your career goals and interests known. Do you want to continue advancing in leadership roles or make a horizontal move?

Make It Clear That You’ve Prepared Your Replacement

This does not mean to go shout from the rooftops that you’re leaving and your protege is taking your place. There will still be a process to follow and, by the way, your company may choose to hire someone externally or even a different person internally. 

However, if you’ve invested the time and energy and have tangible proof to show of your protege’s capabilities, it makes thee decisions much easier. The best way to do this is to have your superior involved and aware of your plans and the purpose of the mentorship from the beginning. 

— 

Mentoring a replacement for yourself is both selfish and selfless. The concept here is to free yourself from indispensability so that you are not locked into your current position. If you are looking to make vertical or horizontal professional moves, consider identifying a good candidate to replace you at least a few months before your desired changes.

Not only will you free yourself up, but you will also undoubtedly improve and showcase the leadership skills that identify you as a good candidate to make those moves. So go forth and mentor!

The post How to Mentor Yourself Out of a Job (So You Can Get a Better One) appeared first on Tech Career Insights.

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After an interview, it’s generally a good idea to send a short but thoughtful follow-up email to your interviewer(s) to not only thank them for their time, but also to reiterate why you’d be a good fit for the role and team, and remind them of where you shined in the interview. These thank you notes are generally pretty innocuous and thought of as a bit of a formality, but there are a few ways they can go wrong. Here are five things to avoid in your interview follow-up:

Spelling or grammar mistakes

This should go without saying, but just because you had a strong interview doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve gotten the job. An oversight like a spelling error or the wrong company/role (if you’re sending multiple thank you’s) could indicate that you’re not very detail-oriented—or perhaps worse, that you don’t care much about the outcome of the interview. Before you hit send, triple check your note for any errors to avoid coming off as careless.

Apologies or excuses

Thank you notes are not the place to make up for poor interview performance. If it didn’t go well, the reality is that either 1) the team will make the decision not to proceed with your application, or 2) they’ll choose to ignore your mistakes or weaker answers because of your other answers and qualifications for the job. Further, bringing weak points up will just draw attention to them as the team is evaluating the various candidates you’re competing with for the role. Instead, focus your messaging on where your application stands out and any unique qualities you will bring to the company.

Salary, timeline, and role concerns

Even if you’re concerned about what the salary offer might be, it’s best to reserve this conversation until after an offer has been made, as bringing it up before then might push the team to extend an offer to a different candidate who might be more accepting of a lower salary. The same goes for things like start date, contract length (if it’s not a full-time role), and any concerns you might have about the suitability of the role (unless they’re significant enough to make you question the role in the first place).

One exception might be if you receive another job offer with a set decision date. Including this shorter timeline in your thank you note may help to push the decision forward—and companies will generally understand that the situation is out of your hands.

The same note to multiple interviewers

It can be tempting to copy and paste the same note to all of your interviewers, particularly if you’ve spent a day there and met with multiple people. But it’s not uncommon for teams to share the follow-ups they receive internally, so take the time to personalize each message. If you’re sending multiple thank-you’s, not every note has to reiterate why you’d be great for the job; perhaps you bring up an interesting point one interviewer made, while you remind another of a specific skillset or experience you’ve had that makes you a strong candidate. 

That said, don’t use the extra time needed to personalize thank you’s as an excuse not to send them to all of your interviewers. Even if you have one key contact such as the hiring manager or a recruiter, anyone who took the time out of their day to meet with you deserves a short follow-up email. 

Any other superfluous information

An interview follow-up is meant to serve as a thanks and a reiteration of your skills and excitement for the job—period. Other information, such as sending over references or asking about reimbursements for interview expenses (if this was something that was agreed upon in advance)— can distract from the key points. Additional issues or questions can be addressed in future emails or phone calls, so keep your immediate communications clear and focused on the take-home point: The strength of your application and interview. 

The post What to Avoid in Your Interview Follow-Up Email appeared first on Tech Career Insights.

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Whether you’re just starting out in your career or you’re years in, the habits you develop at work can massively influence your success—both in your current role as well as throughout your career. While positive habits can make it easier to build credibility, less constructive ones may prove inhibitive to building relationships, gaining influence in your team and company, and ultimately progressing in your career.

If you catch yourself picking up any of the following habits, use the following tips to recover before it becomes damaging:

Procrastinating

Some people can’t help but procrastinate, and some of us operate at our highest level when put under time pressure. But regardless of your working style, being known as a procrastinator at work can damage your reputation if not handled appropriately.

If you’re that person who’s always running around to avert a crisis, for example, colleagues and managers may be reticent to hand over time-sensitive or stressful projects—which are sometimes the projects which will win you a raise or greater visibility within the company.

Perhaps more important than trying to change your working style entirely is having a self-awareness of how you operate, and adjusting your outward communication and pre-planning accordingly. If you prefer to work under pressure, for instance, putting off work a bit might not be a bad thing (and can still give you that adrenaline rush of working against the clock)—but try to avoid complaining about how stressed you are or asking colleagues for favors in order to pull things off at the last minute. Instead, allow yourself some procrastination, but do put a plan in place which will allow you to deliver a high-quality output, on time, without asking others to fill the gaps for you.

Over-apologizing

Don’t take this in the wrong way: There is a time and place for apologizing. However, apologizing for everything that goes wrong, no matter how big or small, can erode your colleagues’ confidence in your abilities (not to mention your own self-confidence).

Further, research shows that gender impacts how often people apologize. While men and women apologize just as frequently in response to offenses they’ve committed, men have a higher threshold for what constitutes an “offense”—resulting in fewer apologies. Women in the workplace should thus be particularly aware of this potentially damaging habit.

In order to course-correct, start by monitoring yourself for when the habit shows up. Being mindful of your own behavior can help, but you might also ask friendly colleagues to point it out for you. Once you have a better understanding of when you fall into apologizing, prepare in advance for those situations by reframing your “sorry” as something more positive. Lastly, take note of your colleagues’ reactions, which can often function as positive reinforcement that you’re heading in the right direction.  

Overusing jargon or unnecessarily complicated words

When it comes to missing the mark on your communication style, the overuse of jargon and/or pretentious-sounding vocabulary is a key offender which can quickly undermine your credibility.

If you leave people guessing at what you’re trying to say, they’ll likely miss the point entirely and may take your word choice as evidence that you’re trying to cover up lack of actual knowledge with fancy phrasing. Less experienced employees sometimes adopt this habit (often unintentionally!) to compensate for the fact that they’re still learning, but this will only get you so far and will likely annoy your colleagues along the way.

Instead, focus on simplifying your communication style from the beginning, asking yourself if the words you’re using are really necessary to getting the message across—and, if not, how you can strip out jargon and other unnecessary words to get to the point faster.

Start with self-awareness

Regardless of which bad habit you’re trying to correct, the first step should always be gaining the self-awareness to be able to identify when you fall back on it, and what might trigger it. Once you start to realize when and why the undesirable behavior arises, you can start introducing better alternatives whenever you come across a trigger.

Building good habits is rarely an easy process, but the hard work pays off in the end—and constantly pushing towards better behaviors at work can do wonders for your professional reputation, both immediately as well as in the longer-term as you progress through your career.

The post 3 Habits That Kill Your Credibility at Work appeared first on Tech Career Insights.

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With Pride Month in full swing, we’ve seen a plethora of companies advocate for diversity, inclusion and LGBTQ+ rights. But, an authentic commitment to equality and inclusion goes beyond a rainbow logo.

Our annual Wage Inequality in the Workplace report reveals that LGBTQ+ men and women tech workers earn less than their non-LGBTQ+ counterparts. That’s why this year, we are highlighting 5 companies that are doing more than just celebrating the LGBTQ+ community — they’re making a real impact that outlasts the month of June.

1. Lime

Lime is partnering with the It Gets Better Project to share stories of freedom and inclusivity within the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. Lime will donate $1 to the It Gets Better Project for each story and unique mention of the hashtag #UnlockPride shared on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram during the full month of June worldwide. To contribute: 

  1. Take a self-portrait
  2. Take a photo of a handwritten note sharing your Pride story of how you found a sense of freedom and be the inspiration you wish you had growing up
  3. Upload both photos to Instagram, Facebook or Twitter along with hashtag #UnlockPride

Lime’s mission for equality moves beyond this one campaign. In a recent report, Lime found their user base is 33% more likely to represent people of color and 43% more likely to represent female consumers than the average commuter. It’s no doubt, equality starts with the product. And with Lime’s mission to provide access to mobility for all, they’re truly leading the way for equality in the transportation industry.

“As the global leader in micromobility, Lime is committed to providing sustainable, affordable transportation options that can transform urban life. Our goal is to not only improve the way people get around their communities, but to promote a cleaner, healthier planet – a better world and a better life for future generations. We are passionate about supporting our diverse riders and unlocking opportunities that allow them to open up their own world and experience more.” – Alex Youn, Communications and Public Affairs, Lime

2. Levi’s/Snapchat/Shopify

Admittedly, this isn’t just one company — but Levi’s, Snapchat, and Shopify are joining forces this year to launch one of the most innovative pride month campaigns of the bunch. Starting June 7, anyone visiting one of 30 Levi’s locations will receive a Snapcode that unlocks a unique Levi’s Pride Lens in their Snapchat app.

This new AR-functionality will allow snappers to customize their own virtual denim jacket with six different pride month pins and patches. The patches and pins are more than just an opportunity for people to wear their pride – 100% of the company’s net proceeds from it’s Pride Collection (including these pins and patches) go to OutRight International, a leading human rights advocacy group that’s been fighting for LGBTQ rights across the world for the last 29 years.

Our partner, Shopify, is helping Levi’s fulfill their orders. The company is giving free 2-day shipping to anyone ordering through the Snapchat store so users can be on-time and pride-ready for their city’s parade.

3. AT&T

Since 1975, AT&T has been championing LGBTQ+ rights in the workplace. In 2018 they committed an astonishing $1,000,000 to the Trevor Project, allowing the Trevor Project to continue their mission of ending suicide for LGBTQ+ young people. They’ve powered their call centers, they’ve represented the organization at important social events, and are even producing LOVELOUD a music festival benefit with the sole goal to prevent teen suicide amongst the LGBTQ+ community.  

AT&T at Wango Tango 2018

AT&T has been a true leader in creating inclusive spaces, both at work and at home, for years. They were one of the first American corporations to adopt a policy prohibiting discrimination amongst employees based on sexual orientation. They were early adopters for domestic partnership programs, transgender-inclusive health care benefits, and most recently was ranked #1 on DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity in 2019.

4. Postmates

This month, Postmates is utilizing their popularity among consumers to spread the LGBTQ+ community’s message in an impactful way — beyond a marketing program. Not only are they donating $10,000 to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) to help HRC continue fighting for equal civil rights for LGBTQ+ people, they’ll be sharing stories from real people from the Postmates/LGBTQ+ community, every Monday for the month of June. Keep an eye on their “stories” page for inspirational stories of people living their true and authentic selves. In a recent story, we meet Steve, an Orange County local who’s pushing gender boundaries in a community that’s historically been reluctant to support LGBTQ+ rights.

Interested in working for Postmates? Check them out.

5. Orbitz

Orbitz has been a champion of LGBTQ civil rights since its founding in 2001. Beyond participating in pride parades across the nation, Orbitz is helping LGBTQ+ travelers find safe, reliable travel destinations through their “Gay Travel” feature and city guides. This year, Orbtiz is also hosting Pride Island – a multi-day music festival featuring the queen herself, Grace Jones.

As for Orbitz’s culture, before joining Expedia Group, Orbitz was named Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality by HRC. But it doesn’t stop there, their focus on equality continues, now under the umbrella of Expedia Group, an organization that has always been a strong advocate for equality. The company also published their internal compensation data in order to fight the wage gap and maintain global pay parity for all Expedia Group employees —  now that’s what I call championing equality.

To learn more about Hired’s diversity initiatives, visit https://hired.com/diversity.

The post 5 Companies Supporting LGBTQ+ Rights During Pride Month and Beyond appeared first on Tech Career Insights.

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When you start a new job as a software engineer, whether it’s your first or 10th, one of the BEST things you can do to make an impact quickly is to get up to speed in your new codebase. Depending on the type of company you join, you may be eased into the work, or you may be thrown right in and expected to start contributing right away. Understanding how things work at your new company, both at a high level, as well as at a micro level, will help you figure out how you can make a big impact in both the short term and the long term.

Though you might not be expected to contribute code right away, it’s still important to get familiar with the new codebase you’ll be working in. Whether someone is assigning you your first project or you are in a more self-directed role, getting up to speed fast is a great way to impress your new team.

I remember the first time I started working in a real production codebase. I had just finished a 3 month teaching assistant role after completing a bootcamp and I’d only worked on codebases from my or my classmates’ projects. Even though the company I joined was small and had a relatively new codebase (< 4 years old) that was virtually free of technical debt, I was overwhelmed by the size and scale of everything. The first thing I noticed was that there were so many more files. I felt like I had no idea where to find anything and my bootcamp projects suddenly felt tiny!

I’ve since worked in a few different codebases, and each one has been vastly different from the next. Most have had technical debt in some form and I’ve had to get up to speed quickly in each one in order to start contributing.

Here are some strategies I’ve learned that you can use to get up to speed:

  1. Take a wide view and a detailed view
  2. Read the code!
  3. Fix bugs
  4. Write tests
  5. Pair with other engineers and ask questions
  6. BONUS: Hackathons
Take a wide view and a detailed view

Whether you usually focus on the big picture or prefer the small details, it’s important to look at the codebase from both perspectives. If you’re stronger in one area, you may gain some new insights from looking at the code from the opposite perspective than you’re used to. When you take a wide view, you could be looking at the overall organization of a codebase or how several systems work together. When you take a detailed view, you could be trying to understand the implementation of a specific module.

Here are some questions to answer when looking at the codebase from each perspective:

  • What languages and libraries/frameworks are used?
  • What is the file structure?
  • What are some commonly used external dependencies?
  • You’ve picked a file or a module – what does this file or module do and how does it do it?
  • Do you notice any coding style patterns?
  • What’s your overall impression of the code quality?
Look at the file structure

One of the most important goals of taking a wide view is looking at the file structure. If you’re working in a monorepo, this could mean looking only at a specific subset of files rather than the entire repo. If you’re working in a smaller service or app, looking at everything together can be helpful.

Understanding how the codebase is structured will help you with knowing where to write or debug code. Often when starting a new job, the where can be trickier than the what or the how. If you already have a general sense of the organization and structure behind what you’re working on, you’ll have an easier time finding the files you need to edit or the right places to add new files.

For example, here’s a sample file structure for a small app I created using create-react-app:

Read the code!

This next suggestion might seem obvious, but it’s so important! When you’re starting a new job, actually reading through existing code is a great way to get up to speed. This can be through code reviews, or just on your own as you’re investigating a task. Reading the code will help to give you a more detailed view of what is happening in specific files and help you gain context on the area of the codebase you start working in.

Also, make sure to pass the knowledge along! For example, if you ask a question in a code review, you are now empowered to answer that question when someone else asks.  

Fix bugs

Fixing bugs is one of the BEST ways to get up to speed in an unfamiliar codebase. Not only will it help you learn more about the product you’re working on, but you’ll also be actively helping users as you fix problems. Fixing bugs can also help you understand how something works end-to-end or how a few systems tie together.

One personal example of this was when I fixed a bug where a CSV download was incorrectly including extra data. It was a problem that had been reported for awhile, but no one had taken the time to look into it. In working on that bug, I went through the flow in the UI to understand what our users were experiencing. I then walked through the code to figure out what was actually happening. As it turned out, the bug fix was just a simple deletion of a few lines of code, but in the process of figuring that out, I learned a ton about that specific part of the product and how it was implemented.

Pair with other engineers and ask questions

Another way to get up to speed quickly is by pairing with engineers who have been at the company for longer than you, even if by just a few months. These engineers will have more domain knowledge about specific areas of the codebase – they will be able to help give you context around why a system was built a specific way or potential “gotchas” and hacks due to technical debt.

For example, I was working on building out a new feature, and initially thought I would need to build a complex UI component from scratch. However, when I paired with my teammate, she showed me an existing component that I could leverage. This saved me time as I was able to focus on understanding the code that already existed rather than starting from scratch. Even better, I knew where to check for existing components the next time I was starting a similar project.

Write tests

Unless your company is extremely strict about following Test Driven Development, there are likely to be several areas of the codebase that lack test coverage. When you come across any code that doesn’t have tests written, write some! Writing tests will help you understand how the code you’re looking at works and it will require you to think of edge cases around that code. You may even discover a bug because the code is not handling a certain edge case.

BONUS: Hackathons

If your company runs hackathons, these are a great way to learn more about a part of the codebase or relevant technology that you may not already be familiar with. In this case, it’s important to spend time up front investigating and planning so you don’t run out of time when it comes to the actual implementation of your project. During that investigation phase, you’ll likely encounter code that is unfamiliar to you. I would recommend picking projects with very limited scopes if you’re new to the codebase or hackathons in general.

For example, I worked on a hackathon project to add a different colored favicon for each environment, so when developers have many tabs open, it’s easy to identify development vs. staging vs. production. This was a case where the implementation was relatively straightforward, but finding where to write the code was more challenging. This project was a great learning experience because it helped me understand some parts of the codebase that I wouldn’t have necessarily encountered. I also learned about some quirks within our codebase that will be useful to keep in mind for future code reviews.

Conclusion

So, there you have it, my 6 tips for getting up to speed in an unfamiliar codebase. If you’re starting a new job or even changing roles or teams, hopefully these tips will help you feel comfortable and confident in the new codebase. Do you have any other tips or tricks that have worked for you? Please share them in the comments!

To read more from Jane, check out her blog, Full-Stack Interviewing.

The post How to Get Up to Speed in an Unfamiliar Codebase appeared first on Tech Career Insights.

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