The benefits of having an internship program

The process of finding the right talent that will fit with the company culture is challenging alone.  At the same time, you want people that possess values that align with that of the organization. We get it! It's tough going. In the pool of people with great resumes or maybe the lack of it, the HR department faces a really big question: how can you have active involvement and be the decision-maker in molding a talent right from the start, especially when you are an IT company? The answer is very simple – a company should develop an internship program. This is why.

internsThe bridge between the talent and opportunity

Yes, trying to find a talent that fits the requirements for a particular job can be a challenge. This is because you don't choose a person just based on the resume. That person should possess soft skills and personal traits that add to what's written down on paper. So the question arises: How can you develop talent instead of looking for it?

Additionally, you will find young talents who have theoretical knowledge, which on its own, simply isn't enough to be competitive in the tech industry. So, how do you find the middle ground in this? One of the answers is developing an internship program that will allow your company to mold the next tech generation, and create conditions for interns that will lead to full employment. This is a win-win situation. If you are a graduate that faces the competition and has no practical knowledge, being part of an internship program is a great opportunity to overcome this obstacle. The internship program is literally the bridge between the talent and the chance to become a permanent member of the team or be ready to face the competition on the field.

Companies that have internship programs also have a great ratio between interns that became employees. IT Labs is a great example of this – our program dates from 2010, and over 95% of our interns have become permanent members of our team.

It will give you a perspective on how things change

Do you think you know the talent market? Think again. Things are changing fast with every new generation. They think, behave, and feel differently from the previous one. Your company should be able to catch that on time because the new generations are your future employees, and if you don't see how things are changing, you won't be able to provide what they need or expect. There are a number of important things that companies should be aware of - the employees want to be understood, accepted, and easily adjusted too. You can't create the conditions to do that if you don't know how the new generation thinks or feels.
The internship program is the best way for your company to get introduced to the new generation, and give you a fresh perspective on how things will develop so that you can adapt on time. This can be interpreted in lots of things, starting from how a job position is perceived, introducing new benefits, and create better environments for work.

Attractive young woman working in modern startup office

Develop mentorship and leadership skills

It's not easy to be a mentor. It's a valuable skill that connects knowledge with the ability to share that knowledge while still delivering tasks. Having employees who actively mentor others and have a leadership role in molding the new tech generation makes your company stronger. This is because you are also investing in the skills of your current team. The more often they practice these skills, the better outcome you will have for your organization and the business culture you nurture.

It simplifies the hiring process

Having an internship program is a way for the company to meet future employees. Scanning the talent market and searching for the right person can be time-consuming. The whole process can be simplified if you create strategically and well thought of internship programs that will attract talented people eager to learn, and also motivate them to contribute with their ideas. It is a two-way street! Yes, it is an opportunity to train people and adjust them to the company culture and see if they fit with your vision and values. At the same time, this is a fantastic opportunity for a company to embrace changes in the market and get a fresh perspective. You never know what kind of initiative or idea can come from a talented young mind.

Giving back to the (tech) community

Having a direct role in developing the new tech generation isn't just a way for the company to find the best talent and adjust it to its surroundings and values. It's also a way to contribute to the big picture and to the whole tech community. It is one of the best ways to enrich the market, share knowledge, and prepare the next generation for what awaits, thus helping the tech industry itself.

 

Maja Tanushoska

Digital Marketing Specialist


The man behind the IT Labs mic - meet TC Gill

He is a person with an extraordinary professional journey and a persona that you’ll instantly recognize once you get to know him. He has a contagious, positive approach to work and life that motivates all around him to give their best. If you check his bio, you’ll find that you’re speaking to a man with an impressive background: a former engineer transformed into a business agility coach, as well as being the host of the IT Labs podcast CTO Confessions and Webinar series. That’s TC in a nutshell, but there’s so much more, which is why we set up an interview with the man behind the IT Labs mic.

ITL: Hello, TC… 

TC: Well helllloooooo. Always good to be speaking with you.

ITL: How is living in London at the moment? 

TC: I work in London. Which is a city I love! Or the big smoke as we like to call it. The energy and diversity of thinking is huge there. You can feel it in the space. I remember speaking to a business leader who had settled in London, and of all the travels he had been on, he felt London was the most international in the world. A real constructive mix of cultures. I agree with this. The variation in people, their thinking, and ideas are huge there.  

So, I work in London, but my home-home is in a lovely town at the heart of England called (Royal) Leamington Spa. In fact, there is a tree not far from our house that used to mark the center of England. I think the true mathematical/science-based location has shifted now, but historically Leamington was one of a number of towns/villages that tried to take this crown. I love it here as it’s a short walk out into the countryside, with reliable transport links to the north and South (London, etc.) 

Love London, Love Leamington Spa, love the UK. Even in these challenging Covid19 times. 

ITL: This COVID situation changed plenty of things overnight. How did things change for you? 

TC:  Well, it was an interesting time personally when the “interesting-times” landed on us all (i.e. Covid-19). I was in New York at the time helping out at the Business Agility Institute conference when the pandemic got announced. Once the conference had finished, I managed to get an early flight back to the UK. Just in time by the looks of it.  

After self-isolating for two weeks away from my family in the same house (which was fun ?), we managed to get into a good routine as a family. My 12-year daughter slipped into a productive routine of schooling remotely. Rebecca, my partner, has done an absolutely heroic job of supporting our daughter and me. We are very lucky beneficiaries of her kindness and support. 

As for work, I was in a period that meant that working from home was already part of my routine. When the Covid-19 hit, the work with IT Labs went up a few notches. This is around creating the tech community. The outcome of this has been the CTO confessions Podcast and Webinar series.  

Though I prefer to be in the company of my team, working remotely with IT Labs CEO and his sales and marketing people has been hugely fun (and challenging). I just love the culture we have here. We are professional with a good serving of all the other activities and behaviors that bring out the best in people (a nice mix of learning, fun, and experimentation) 

On the downside, not being able to visit family (especially my mum) has been tough. However, that is starting to ease up now.  

ITL: Spending so much time at home has its perks. You are working and having fun as a host of IT Labs Podcast and Webinars. 

TC: Yes, I love this. Meeting lots of interesting Tech leaders, leadership, and business transformation people. Weve also been working on setting up the IT Labs Business Agility service offer. This is where the core of my passions resideBut interviewing people from all around the world and bringing those recordings to the tech community with insights and takeaways is great. It’s fun, and also a really smart way of supporting others. I love the idea of helping others and creating communities that do the same.

ITL: How does the process of prepаration look like for you for the Podcast and the Webinars? 

TC: That’s a good question. It starts with a name. Either someone we know or someone interesting that has appeared on our radar. We prepare a document for them, knowledge of the person (why we find them interesting), and then extract out potential subjects and ideas. 

We then proceed to have a discovery meeting with the potential guest, with myself, one of our tech leaders or co-founders. A warm chat to explore ideas. This then sets the scene for the headline topic and questions that can spark a thought-provoking conversation. 

On the day of the recording, we have a nice warm-up session where we talk about “stuff.” This is so that host (me) and guests can connect on the human level and just relax. With my sense of humor and personal curiosity, we have a good conversation and set ourselves up for the recording. By the time we start, I like to think the guest is solely focused on the interactions between the two of us and not concerned about the recording of the session. I want to believe this creates a warm atmosphere to have an enlightened conversation. 

ITL: You are an engineer, in love with business agility, and now a host. How does your background help with the preparation? 

TC:  I have lived and breathed technology for many years, from: 

  • Semiconductor engineering at university 
  • Acquiring a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Electronics 
  • Designing industrial embedded controllers (computers) 
  • Developing-designing embedded software systems 
  • Leading teams that do the above. 

By “knowing”, “leading in”, and “living” technology, I feel gives me a good perspective. In the later years, my passions turned to help the amazing boys and girls that work in this field, work as high performing teams. So, I guess it’s a heady mix of experience, curiosity, and passion for an industry I love. 

ITL: You are a big part of IT Labs initiative to share knowledge with the tech leaders through various channels (Podcast, Webinar, White Papers, Articles…). In your opinion, what are the biggest lessons that a tech leader can learn through our content? 

TC:  For me, its about sparking alternative thinking and developing a discussion around important topics. We here at IT Labs are passionate about the Tech community, and the role tech leaders play. Its about putting these incredibly smart people more to the forefront of organizations, challenging them to stretch their ideas and be brave to try new things. This is what mine and IT Labs hopes are. Not forgetting the quality and innovation of what we deliver as tech leaders. Its not just about outputs, but outcomes that serve the end customer and the wellbeing of the organization. 

ITL: And what did you learn through this whole experience? You have an amazing chance to talk with people who walked the walkwhich lessons had the biggest impact on you personally? 

TC:  The impact on me personally is the journey these leaders have taken. I always find this fascinating. The lessons there are inspirational and trigger new paths of curiosity for the listener. From the key takeaways, the journey creates deeper learning. Learning to learn almost, in the spirit of changing the game of ones progression, and that of the teams we lead. I guess what I am talking to here is the human element of tech leadership. 

ITL: What makes a great tech leader?  

TC:   Someone who has the following characteristics 

  • Great people leadership. Life-affirming leadership while delivering the outcomes that customers need. Making sure what they are working on is the right thing for the current time, with a solid business case, even if it’s an innovation in a market that is yet to be realized!  
  • Curious. Willing to experiment and encourage it in their teams. 
  • A people person. Understanding the human element of organizations 
  • Business Agility Leader: Someone that sees the importance of their role in the organization as a whole. Not just delivering what is asked of them, but the outcomes the organization needs. 

ITL: Do you have a specific person in mind as an example? A person that is a fantastic leader in today’s world? 

TC:  Bill Gates. He is someone whom I look up to. On top of that, he’s a good person (I believe). His impact is far-reaching and still relevant. He holds many lessons and learning for leaders in technology and leadership in general. Not forgetting the philanthropic humanity activities with his wife. 

ITL: And what are the biggest challenges in a world where technology changes at a fast pace?  

TC:  From an organization level, it’s about reinventing what organizations are doing and the way they go about it. From a systems-thinking perspective, it’s regarding the creation and maintenance of healthy social and operational systems within the org.  

So, while we live in this “innovation storm,” it’s the speed of change that I think is the issue now. Change that batters these two systems (social and operational). The key here is to create more distributed leadership, with an increased number of people throughout the organization taking the lead in their local work, and then feeding back relevant information to the layers above. Again, there is a social and operational perspective on this. Both of which need to be maintained, refined, and maybe even reinvented periodically. 

ITL: Which person would you like to interview in the future? 

TC:  Probably the singer Florence Welch (Florence and the Machine), and what she thinks about leading in technology. O… that won’t be possible. I see what you are saying… Yes, on reflection, she probably wouldn’t have much to say on technology. Maybe she could sing about it ?

Seriously though. It would have to be Bill Gates, and maybe his wife as well (on what it’s like living with a tech leader). 

I just want to know more about a man who technologically went from technological advances to advance. Also, to know more about the mistakes.  

Areas I would love to cover are: 

  • His journey as a leader 
  • His personal development over that journey 
  • How technology can be a force for life-affirming change 
  • His and his wife’s philanthropy 
  • Where he sees technology going 

ITL: What’s your message to the tech leaders out there?  

TC: I have lots of things to say on this subject, probably too much ? haha. I will try and keep it to the top three.  

#1 Leading the organization: 

To you, tech leaders… Dont underestimate the importance of your role. Yes, of course, you are important to the technological side of the organizations activities. What I am referring to is the Business Agility piece, i.e. seeing your role as important to the wellbeing of the company as a whole. Everything from serving the customer, the central actor in everything we do in and for the organization, and also the organization itself. Most (if not all, organizations) are woven into the digital fabric of the world. Anything the organization does touches technology in one way or another. So, its imperative that you and your teams sit alongside the other key activities in the organization, and collaborate on how they can run more smoothly with the best ideas and most progressive outcomes. You, the tech leader, understand the landscape of your current and future technology needs and driving these forward. Not just delivering what the business wants, but what it needs to grow and innovate continuously. 

#2 People & Leadership: 

 Yes, we are delivering technology. And yes, that can seem very logical and easier to focus on in many respects. The And to this is that the people are equally important. The way you lead has a direct impact on the creativity, productivity, and innovation that your people will deliver. Im going to point to a perspective of leadership that I train others in, which is Co-Active leadership. The time we have is not going to allow me to cover all its many facets and outcomes it can encourage. But what it does is deliver collaborative, transparent, challenging, productive work environments. One where all players in the game win; the people (including the leadership), the organization (including suppliers), and finally the customer themselves (Win3) .

#The right people:

Surround yourself with the right people around you. This isnt just skilled individuals. This is people that have the right attitude, ones that are team players, and have an Agile mindset. Remove problem generators from your teams as soon as possible, no matter how smart they are. These toxic individuals are doing the teams and organization no favors in the long run. And by keeping them in their status quo, you are doing them no favors either.  

Turn people into life-affirming leaders in their own right. Not only will this make your life easier, but there is also something noble and satisfying in knowing that you are growing people.

ITL: Well, thank you for your time TC. Actually, before we go, what’s your real name? 

TC:  Haha ? It’s a tricky one, but I like it. It’s just a challenge for others. 

Wait for it. My real full name is Tarlochan Singh Gill. Though I am not a practicing Sikh, the middle name ‘Singh’ means Lion or Lion’s heart. My heritage is one of a warrior class that fought for justice and equality since the 17th century.  

Fun fact: Sikihms was the first major religion to give women equal rights. Something we see a lot of in my family. Tough, strong women with good hearts that speak as equals. 

And my first name! Sounds like something out of Game of Thrones, right!? Its pronounced “Tar-Lock-An”. It’s another interesting name, meaning the all-seeing eye. 

ITL: Well, that was interesting, thanks for sharing that. Thanks again, TC. 

TC:  It’s been nice to share my thoughts and reinforce what I and IT labs are about. I look forward to another interview with one of our esteemed tech leader guests. Meanwhile, a big shout-out to our tech audience to subscribe to our Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes, and make sure you follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter so you can be notified on time when we organize a new Webinar.

PS: Are you sure you can’t arrange an interview with Florence? 

ITL: We’ll see what we can do TC ? 

 

Maja Tanushoska

Digital Marketing Specialist


IT Labs Online Internship Program – Building the next tech generation

Sharing knowledge and having a direct role in building the next set of high-performing teams, is a major part of IT Labs working culture. It is our continuous aspiration to be actively involved in molding the new IT generation, which is why we created an internship program ten years ago. This year we decided to make changes and fully adapt the curriculum to remote learning. As a result, we carefully developed an Online Internship Program. After a month and a half of selection, we can finally say that our search for young talents is over, and they start the journey of learning at the beginning of July. 

The beginning of summer is an exciting period for us at IT Labs. It is when we embrace the opportunity to develop the next and newest tech generation. In this period, we start our three-month internship program and open the doors of our office in Skopje for young-eager minds. Thus, introducing them to the IT Labs world filled with many exciting possibilities.

Motivated to bring the best from every generation, share new perspectives, and teach interns how to implement learned knowledge into practice, we here at IT Labs developed a highly successful internship program. One that has a great legacy, and at the same time, is continuously being upgraded to grasp the future.

This year, we decided to make a change and crafted an Online Internship Program. With over 200 entries for three different areas of learning, we can honestly say that we are more than pleased with the feedback from applicants.

What is the Online Internship Program?

The Online Internship Program preserves the same high-quality standards as before, but we have adjusted them to a fully online implementation from start to finish. Starting from initial entry (exam questions) to the recruitment process, where we select the best candidates, we then move into a process of learning and implementation of knowledge.

The interns will be guided by mentors with years of experience in worldwide projects, and are proven professionals in their respective fields.

One of the best perks of our program is that the candidates that will successfully complete it will have the opportunity to become permanent members of our team.

„The idea for an Online Internship Program came from the change in circumstances due to COVID-19. This quick adjustment is a testament to our ability to pave the way towards the future of learning. Training the new IT generations is an honor and an obligation that we take very seriously and also with lots of pride. I can say that the interns that had, or will have the opportunity to learn from our team, will be prepared for every challenge“ – says Frosina Zafirovska CHRO at IT Labs.

With that said, we wish a great warm welcome to the first generation of our Online Internship Program.

 

Maja Tanushoska

Digital Marketing Specialist


Keeping the human touch for full online recruitment

Digitalization is not new in the recruitment process. It has been here for long enough to become a regular part of each of its stages.

Sourcing is entirely online, and the recruitment process is using more and more online assessment tools. Interviewing, tech assessments, even personality and skills tests are done online using a wide variety of instruments. But what is crucial for a successful outcome in the recruitment process, was, and always will be the human touch.

In the past, we've all faced significant challenges with everything going virtual, including the in-person meetings necessary for creating and maintaining human contact. After all, the initial social interactions are an essential part of why someone decides to become a part of a company. The candidate's experience no longer lies only on the in-person interviews, but on all the interactions that can happen in the recruitment process. Now, more than ever, we should aim to create unique candidate experiences that have a narrative, that's well thought through and carried out effectively through the platforms we use to interact with them.

At IT Labs, we quickly adapted to the new situation, creating best practices so that the whole process of recruitment is effortless even in challenging times like these (i.e. COVID-19). The core idea is to create a unified experience, well designed so that the candidate can feel that every contact in the process is part of a whole.

When switching to full online recruitment processes, some essential items ideally need to be considered to enhance the candidate experience:

Be truthful

From the initial contacting to hiring, it's important to let the candidate know what to expect and when. Openly communicate the recruitment flow and the design of each stage. Present the roadmap so that they feel fully aware of where they are in their unique IT Labs recruitment journey. Provide details on time frames, tools used in the process, roles and names of people that the candidate will meet during the recruitment process. Explain what the expectations are as an outcome of each stage. During the interview, don't avoid addressing if the candidate is too close or too far from the camera. The eye contact is essential for giving the right impression and creating that human connection.

The best part of being involved in recruitment is matching people with their exciting future career opportunities. The tricky part is telling someone they are not a fit for a given role, but we have to be honest and be clear as it's part of the job. For those who are not hired for the open position, just be truthful in a life-affirming way. Whenever possible, communicate this message via voice (phone). Openly go through the reasons for the decision and discuss the potential future possibilities. If a phone call is not viable, don't keep the candidate waiting. Write a personalized letter explaining the unsuccessful application as soon as the decision is made.

Keep in touch

Now, more than ever, keep in touch with candidates. People will appreciate hearing from you, even if the update is not a final decision. Go back to them and communicate that the process is still running for them. We are all facing uncertain times right now, so bringing clarity and communication goes a long way for all candidates and recruiters. Interacting at all stages of the recruitment process and maintaining contact via multiple channels of communication will ensure that candidates feel looked after and respected.

 

Be there

How were you feeling on your first day on the job? Nervous? With a lot of questions on your mind? Now, imagine that in the middle of a pandemic and having to work remotely. You have to agree; it's not an ideal situation. The onboarding process is a crucial part of making the new reality acceptable for the new hire. Making your onboarding process online is not enough. It needs to be as personal as possible. Adding a simple gesture such as sending a hiring kit or a team t-shirt will add another dimension to it. Sending a personalized welcome email on the first day and a simple social media post, welcoming them to the team should help them feel appreciated. Be there for the new hires. Ask them how they are doing. Answer their questions timely, schedule video calls to make sure they feel welcomed and prepared, and ensure their team and line manager are responding to their needs.

Empathy above all else

In these turbulent and challenging times, having the capacity to understand others is one of the most vital qualities one can have, whether it's with current employees or prospective ones. Everybody is trying to make the best of a bad situation, people have a lot going on right now, and anxiety is high. Let's be respectful and understand that candidates may not get back instantly, or their circumstances can change quickly. Putting ourselves in other people's shoes and imagining what they're experiencing helps us to react to stressful situations with kindness and compassion, which are essential during times of uncertainty, right?

Biljana Stefkov
Senior Recruiter at IT Labs


What IT Labs employees do while stuck indoors?

Staying at home is not just a great way to protect ourselves and the people around us, but also it is an essential moral measure to help the authorities flatten the curve. The fact is, during the pandemic, concerts, workshops, cinemas, museums, bars and sports events are cancelled or closed, and we are all encouraged to social-distance. So what can you do with all of your free time while indoors?

The current events are a whole new situation for all of us, but it shouldn’t be as bad as it sounds. Psychologically, having rituals and rules at home are essential for our well-being. Possibly you were extremely busy to exercise and get back into shape before? Or maybe you didn’t have time to prepare and eat slow-cooked food? Healthy rituals translate into being a healthy person, and now is the perfect time to dedicate some time to designing and setting new rules and routines at home.

Let’s give that creativity that’s been asleep in you a wake-up call. It is there; it’s just been dormant while you were super-busy doing all your different duties. So let’s find what makes you happy during your time at home.

As a start, you can set a healthy time to wake up and to go to bed.

Even if you are not seeing anyone during the day, take off your pyjamas in the morning, put on some comfortable clothes, brush your teeth and get going. If you don’t have any idea of how you can be creative, please be inspired by some of the examples presented below on how our team is spending their spare time in their lovely abodes:

Aleksandra Angelovska

I never thought I would be able to work out at home. To be honest, even though the last couple of years, I’m physically active a lot, I never do workouts at home. I prefer the group cardio workouts where you are surrounded by people, you are chatting before the workout and during the brakes and you are motivated by the crowd to give more from yourself.

But as social distancing continues and gyms and exercise studios are closed as a protective measure that prevents spreading the coronavirus, a lot of people are changing their workout habits, so am I, even though I must admit I was lazy at the beginning.

I am a big fan of effective training that does a total body workout, so I started to practice those training after working hours. I really feel much better after that. Good music and gym clothes on during the workout is a must. The workouts that I follow come up with embedded music and the focus is on mixed martial arts, sit-ups, pushups, kicks, jumps, exercise for every part of your body.

Things are changing, my room became my WFH office and working out at home became my routine.

It is good to have things that occupy your spare time outside of your working hours during this quarantine time, so I also like to spend my time with my family, online chats with friends, watching movies, cooking, etc.

Angela Trenchevska

It can be challenging to stay at home with kids and try ignoring the good weather outside. But there is always a way to keep children entertained even when they spend the whole day at home.

There are lots of activities that can be done, and they can also be fun for the whole family. We usually spend our time playing board games, computer games, table soccer, make creative DIY crafts, watching movies and cartoons, putting things in pots or bottles (for example put straws in a bottle), playing with kitchen dishes, clothes pegs, hide and seek and many more, depending on the child’s age.

And if you need some time to have the coffee in peace and you do not want to get up at 5 AM than give the kids something they haven’t seen before. Like a piece of wood for sliding balls and cars and try to hit things placed on the ground. You’ll get at least 30 min peace. In case you have no idea and inspiration for games that can be played at home you can always find some on the Internet.

Maja Lazarovska

DIY crafts are the perfect way to forget that you are at home. For me, it’s like a trip through your imagination, exploring the hidden parts of your creativity.

If there is no specific occasion like a birthday or holiday, you can always find inspiration from your home. And since now we are spending lots of time in the house, just take a moment to think about what you need, what would make your room look nicer, what is causing you trouble, and you finally need to organize. For sure you will come up with some.

There are many ideas online which I usually use just as a starting point. Seeing such nice crafts from real passionates truly boosts my creativity. And then I create my own unique project in my head. Of course, given the materials I have at home, I rarely buy extra stuff.

So it’s fun, it’s cheap, and definitely a boredom killer.

Risto Ristov

As the coronavirus is spreading throughout the world, we are all spending more and more time at our homes. Restaurants, bars, pubs are all closed, and more people are cooking at home while self-quarantined.

Cooking, in combination with music, is what is called behavioural activation. It allows me personally to channel all my fears in these challenging times. Of course, part of it because it satisfies an immediate need, but also because it relaxes me and makes me feel productive as it certainly brings up creativity. It helps me focus on the task at hand during which I feel engaged because I need to taste, to make decisions, to add or subtract ingredients. At the end of the day, cooking is an art.

Aleksandra Koceva

Staying at home, it’s not such a bad thing after all. Despite all the negative sides of this situation, many of us can find interest in doing different things. Even when everything else is on hold, our creativity is always here to take place. Being at home these days is important, so now is the period to spend some time on our hobbies or even start a new one. My hobby and favourite thing to do in these days is painting. This is one of many other creative things that can keep you entertained for hours and make you lose track of time. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t have a talent or you don’t know how to do it because if you like it, you will simply enjoy it. The reason I love doing paintings is because painting is a great way to release your inner thoughts and the best way to release stress. This is how I found a way to entertain myself after work during this isolation period.

Like mine, or other peoples hobbies? Have something different on your mind? Just do it. Do not forget that productivity leads to increased happiness, and that’s why I am encouraging you to find what makes you happy at home, and spend some time doing it.

In the past month, we dedicated two articles on the current COVID-19 pandemic. If you didn’t have a chance to read the previous articles, in which we pointed on two challenges –professional advice on how to sustain your mental health during COVID-19, and some ideas on how to spend your time and have fun during the quarantine, please take a look.

 


Giving back to the tech community

Hello friends,

I know we are all going through challenges in these disruptive and possibly concerning times.

Firstly I would like to send you wishes of wellness to you and your loved ones. I hope you are all keeping safe. Like you, I care deeply about my staff. I am proud of all of my teams, the leadership, developers, operations and all the other essential functions that we all too easily take for granted. They have been amazing troopers in handling the current situation, making the needed adjustments, with our productivity actually increasing!

In an effort to be proactive and valuable during this world pandemic, we asked ourselves what value could we contribute to our communities, in addition to what we are already doing. We realized that the distribution of our value could be even more comprehensive than what it is today. Instead of being communicated internally, with our clients, their customers, our advisers, investors, and partners, we could just share it with the world. To that regard, we put together a content force, comprised of members of the senior technical team who have started several new initiatives:

  • White papers, to be released as often as possible, featuring technical, operational and talent best practices.
  • Podcast 'CTO Confessions' led by our truly, agile coach, TC Gill, on varied subjects and guest to spark new thinking in the business and technological world.
  • Host webinars, moderated by TC Gill, inviting some of the most senior technical experts to talk about their lessons learned, and sharing their wisdom to the world.
  • Data-centric, pandemic-related projects, such as making delivering products/solutions to the community of developers, focused on solving real-life problems around the current and future pandemic.
  • Creating insightful newsletters, acting as an efficient vehicle to get this valuable content over to you regularly and promptly.

Our team did a fantastic job of coming up with ideas and content that can serve our community of technology leaders. I can't wait to share it all with you.

Over the years, we have gained a lot of experience in handling many aspects of developing technology, platforms, processes, and even ventures. We've accumulated a lot of lessons learned (or, scars) that we are thrilled to share with the community of tech leaders in the hope that it assists you in your endeavours and challenges.

Talk to you soon!

Branislav 'Banne' Gjorcevski
CEO Of IT Labs


How to spend your time and have fun during quarantine?

During the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, companies worldwide are implementing work-from-home policies to protect the health of their employees. Software industry companies are often familiar with the work-from-home benefit, but in the long term, it's going to be challenging for everyone.

You can find many articles with useful tips and tricks to increase your productivity and effectiveness while working from home. Still, there is one crucial element that shouldn't be forgotten - entertainment.
We are spending most of our time at home, and while the world is in self-isolation, our activities for having fun are limited. The fact that we are going outdoors for the essentials, shopping super-fast in the market, or buying supplies at the local pharmacy can be frustrating.
Here are some ideas on how to spend more fun-times with your colleagues and family.

HAVE SOME FUN WITH YOUR COLLEAGUES

Organize a conference call after-work

Missing after-work parties with the colleagues? Organize one. Buy yourself a drink and invite your colleagues to do the same. Chatting with someone who is not a family member can be a luxury these days, so treat yourself!

Play online multiplayer games

  • Ludo King
    A well-known board-game. You can play it on Facebook, or download the app on your smart Android or iOS device. You can add up to 6 players to each "game room" and chat with your colleagues while playing
  • Little Big Snake
    Warning! This game is so good that it's addictive! You can add friends and play together as a team!

Or if you are into "hard-core" gaming, you can play more sophisticated free games. Here is a short list of some great examples of free multiplayer games:

In addition to these free games, you can always find discounted games, like these.

Play challenges.

Yes, Instagram challenges can be tedious. But, you can create dedicated chat rooms on your company IM platform and play it with selected colleagues. For example, you can make a 10-days-song-challenge where you can post your favorite songs (e.g. Day 1: Song that contains the word "home" in the title; Day 2: Song that makes me happy). You can go a step further and relate it to a current situation in the news or in work-life.

HAVE SOME FUN WITH YOUR FAMILY

Play couch multiplayer games

Most of them are not free to play, but they are well all worth the money.

  • Overcooked
    Super-fun cooking simulation game. It does not require any special skills. Just be focused and ready to laugh.
  • Worms
    Turn-based strategy game. Each player controls a team of worms. During the game, players take turns selecting one of their worms, then use whatever tools and weapons are available to attack and kill the opponents' worms. The last worm standing wins the game.
  • Drawful 2
    Like drawing, but awful. The game challenges players to draw weird, funny, and often ridiculous items from prompts on their smartphones and tablets. It requires at least three players.

Or just Google some other games and play something of your choice.

DIY arts and crafts

There are thousands of ideas on Pinterest. You can dye your old white t-shirts with natural beet's color, make a stool for your balcony from recycled plastic bottles or even re-paint your old desk.

Play board games

Before playing, set a ground-rule. Something like "The player who loses should wash the dishes".

Movie night

Make popcorn or other snacks, turn off the lights, set the volume up, and enjoy. You can also make a movie club with your co-workers so you can share ideas about what to watch and collectively review the movie together the next morning.

Stay safe!

Ana Georgieva
Recruiter at IT Labs


How can managed cloud services help your digital transformation?

Nowadays, if you use managed cloud services to simply manage basic configuration and maintenance tasks, it means missing out on the greatest value that cloud services can offer. Contemporary Managed Services Providers (MSP) don’t only perform tasks that IT departments would normally do, but rather act as drivers to digital transformation and as advisors that enable customers’ success.

Each client has different business goals, parameters, and objectives that require a specific cloud solution. An MSP should work closely with their customers to design an optimal cloud solution and help them prepare for effective migration and implementation, embracing agility and flexibility from the beginning to ensure it is quick and seamless. The consultancy should be highly personalized and adjusted to the customer’s specific demands in order to meet their expectations and tackle their challenges. A cloud migration and integration will ideally be focused on the services that will make an immediate difference to business consumers first and tackle the more complex or supporting services later. With this approach, the client gets premium support while creating a sustainable company IT strategy, risk analysis, platform identification, and cloud-enabled app architecture, determining a total IT cost, and integrating with bespoke and/or on-premise applications, etc. As a result, the client will be able to efficiently evaluate what applications within the on-premises data centers can be replaced with SaaS (Software as a Service), refactored, or rebuilt.

Gartner estimates that by 2022, 90% of the corporate strategies will mention information as a critical enterprise asset, and analytics as an essential competency. Creating a selling strategy based on analyzing customers’ social behavior is one of the best examples of using big data. However, there are endless opportunities for the utilization of data analytics, and they can vary depending on the business needs and the area of technology. For example, applying predictive maintenance in production and manufacturing could increase quality significantly.

Data and analytics (D&A) are the key enablers of digitalization, transformation, and continuous improvement in digital business and society. As a result, data analytics providers will have a huge impact on customers’ corporate strategy and value, change management, and performance. In order to be effective, a good understanding of both the data sources and data quality is an essential prerequisite. Once understood, the most appropriate analysis methods can be defined and created, incorporating continuous intelligence and using real-time data from different sources such as transactions, media, various logs, and sensors. Converting this wealth of unstructured data into usable reports and dashboards offers endless opportunities for improved processes and business decisions.

IT Labs as a Managed Services Provider can offer its expertise in creating a strategic IT approach to resolve specific business challenges that a client might face. We proactively work with our clients to identify the opportunities where big data and data analytics can create tangible business value, and we offer support to implement either market services or custom-built analytics solutions.

IT Labs goes beyond providing services that include automation, efficiency, optimization, and control. We want to inspire and implement agility, innovation, and scalability to create an environment in which clients’ IT team can focus on strategic initiatives within their industry.


Sustaining mental health during COVID-19

In the past few weeks, we have witnessed a coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic and a serious shock to health systems across the globe. Although a certain level of anxiety is quite normal under these extraordinary circumstances, it is important to us, as well as to our community, that we stabilize ourselves and channel our anxiety into precautions for our own and others’ safety. With that in mind, we look at some of the psychological effects that can occur as a result of the current pandemic, as well as certain measures that we as individuals can take to preserve our mental health and that of colleagues, friends, and family.

One of the major differences between our experiences of seasonal influenza and coronavirus is that we perceive the first as a virus we generally know well. We know seasonal influenza’s diagnostic criteria and symptoms, how it is transmitted, how to treat it, to whom to turn, and what to expect.
On the other hand, we currently see the coronavirus as something unknown and threatening, which contributes to a feeling of unpredictability about the whole situation, accompanied by feelings of anxiety, fear, increased alertness, and tension.

What do the terms social distancing, quarantine, and isolation mean?
Non-standard situations such as the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) can endanger the health of many citizens. In many countries around the world, local authorities are taking serious measures to limit and control the spread of this infectious disease. The most successful methods to manage it emphasize the importance of social distancing, as well as quarantine and isolation in rare cases, all three of which can have a negative impact on our mental health. Let’s look at what each of these terms means, as they are often mentioned in the media these days:

  • Social distancing is lessened interaction between people, a restriction on the closeness and frequency of personal contact, with recommendations of 1-2 meters minimum distance between people.
  • Quarantine involves the physical separation and restriction of movement for people who are well but may have been exposed to a communicable disease (ex. coronavirus), to see if they will become ill. Such separation is continued until medical staff ensures that those people have not developed symptoms of the disease.
  • Isolation is the physical separation of people who have the virus from those who do not. This usually takes place in a health care facility or your own home (self-isolation), as appropriate.
  • It should be noted that “isolation” and “quarantine”, especially “self-isolation” and “self-quarantine” have been used heavily by authorities and the press, not always specifically referring to the potentially ill and confirmed ill, but as a preventative action the general public should take to help stop the spread of the disease.
  • The whole situation with coronavirus is a great and unwanted change for all of us. Very often, this provokes a reaction that goes to two extremes in people. One extreme is overestimation or a so-called disaster when the interpretation of reality goes to worst-case scenarios and outcomes. The other extreme is an underestimation, being indifferent to what is happening and doing absolutely nothing, even engaging in risky behavior unsuitable for the circumstances.From a psychological point of view, when these significant changes occur, there are several stages through which each person goes: Denial, Anger, Depression, Bargaining, and Acceptance. For some these stages are slower, for some faster, until they reach a final acceptance of the current situation, which results in taking appropriate measures.Be patient and understanding towards yourself and your loved ones, who are also somewhere in the process.Every unwanted change causes stress to lesser and greater degrees, which different types of people manifest and deal with differently. It is also important to note that there are two types of stressors on people as a result of this newly emerging situation with the coronavirus and all the related events. One such stress is associated with the uncertainty of the situation itself – how long will it last? What will happen? What are the consequences, and can it be repeated? The second stress is related to the situation of isolation itself, which is imposed and undesirable. Although isolation is initially perceived as a measure of protection, if it is for a prolonged period, it causes significant stress. The first stress is short-term stress, and it’s much more intense than the second, which can cause mental health consequences after awhile. After all, people are social beings, and isolation from others can be a real punishment.

    It is important to be aware that people can manifest stress in different ways, and their symptoms can be reflected in the emotional, cognitive, conative or behavioral realm, ranging from overwhelming agitation to significant withdrawal and isolation in every sense.

    Below are four strategies that are recommended to reduce the effects of stress and/or prevent mental illness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Identify your stress

    What are your internal alarm bells? Low tolerance, headaches, stomach pains, or a combination of the stress symptoms listed above?
    Even if you notice these symptoms, it’s tempting to think that you can manage them by brushing them under the rug. If you have been noticing these symptoms since you learned about coronavirus, it is possible that you may be experiencing a normal stress response.

    Start managing the things that are under your control

    There are many things in life we can’t control. But, of course, we can control our reactions to all the things beyond our control.
    It is important to manage what you can with the information provided, but also very important to release the need to control the uncontrollable.

    Know your limits

    Your limits may vary based on who you are, how you handle stress, and the level of stress you are experiencing. It may be difficult to set the boundaries you need, however, creating these limitations is a helpful tactic to reduce the amount of stress you let into your life.

    Whether in your personal or professional life, taking on more than you can handle is a surefire recipe for stress. Distinguish between the “should” and the “must”, and when possible, say “no” to taking on too much.

    Practice self-care

    Self-care is the active process of acknowledging and tending to your needs. Self-care includes practices that invest in your general wellness. Find what helps and works for you, including with whom talking has a healing and calming effect, and who is your source to vent negative energy.

    In a professional context, in terms of both caring for employees and taking action to alleviate the overall situation, there are also activities that can make a difference, and are part of our response plan at IT Labs in this situation. These are small but important things, especially if our professional role involves managing and leading people. This is also a time when people more than usual strive to strike a balance between private and professional life. Besides all the media information, employees face another major challenge to keeping their productivity up as family members, especially children, are also at home, expecting attention, an active presence, and other family needs being attended to.

    Coronavirus: IT Labs advice for employers and employees:

  • Have a plan. Let employees know that you are thinking and looking ahead, that you will stay well-informed, and that you can answer the questions they already have: What if I get sick? How do I take time off work? What if one of my family members contracts the virus? You may want to compile frequently asked questions and direct employees to them often.
  • Communicate, share, and be open. Worry and fear grow in the absence of up-to-date information. Let your employees know that they can expect regular updates from you. Communicate even if the situation remains unchanged.
  • Empathize. Share that you know it’s stressful. Recognize that it’s okay to be anxious. Remind your employees of resources that are available for those who are experiencing stress.
  • Understand. Recognize when stress has become unmanageable for individual employees. Stress can lead to anxiety and even panic. Some employees may need mental health days and medical intervention to cope. Encourage employees to practice self-care activities on-the-job and reassure them that it’s ok to take steps to manage stress, such as relaxation exercises, listening to relaxing music, or taking regular breaks.
  • Here are some tips that all of you who lead people or teams can use to proactively give advice. This is a time when you need to show people that you are here for them, that you are available, even just to talk to them about how they feel, to show understanding and care.
  • Limit the amount of information you consume.
  • Focus on the things you can control.
  • Take break from work when you feel pressured.
  • Encourage video meetings or short breaks with your team.
  • It is allowed and ok to show fear.
  • Speak about your feelings.
  • In the face of intense virtual communication, what do you say about launching a company “virtual coffee” project where the focus will be on wellbeing? I’m convinced the effect will be phenomenal.Of course, throughout this period it is important to be informed, but it is even more important to consider the relevance of the source from which we derive the information. At the same time, it is extremely important that we do not allow our whole day to be consumed by the topic of the virus. Identify a time interval within which you will update yourself on the conditions and the events associated with it, and promise yourself that the rest of the time you will do something else, something more constructive. And yes, this is part of things that are under your control and will at the same time help reduce your stress level and anxiety.Frosina Zafirovska
    CHRO at IT Labs
    Phd, Licensed Psychologist