Category Archives: Tech Culture

Everyone’s career journey, especially in software development is different. These days, you don’t necessarily need a masters, or even a 4-year degree in computer science to get into technology. As new tools emerge — seemingly a new one every few weeks or month — the most important thing is your willingness to learn and take on new challenges in this evergreen industry.

Rona Kilmer, director of engineering at Kenzan will be joining General Assembly in Denver on January 29 to moderate a panel on careers in web development. But before she does that, our People and Culture team sat down with Rona to learn about her career evolution in hopes that it will inspire many more to embark on a career in development.

RSVP for General Assembly’s “Career Conversations: Web Development”

If you’re interested in learning more about career opportunties at Kenzan, visit our Connect site.

How did you get into computer science/development?
During my senior year of high school I found out I could leave early if I took some classes at a nearby community college. I, like many at that age, was so over the whole high school thing (insert eyeroll). So I thought why not get a jump on college courses? I was really into art all through school and there was a multimedia class that grabbed my attention. In that class I learned how to use software like Adobe Premier and Macromedia Director. I saw the merging of art with technology and loved it.

That’s how I decided on my major in college, Media Arts and Design. It was a nice blend of graphic design and computer science. At the time, I didn’t know that I wanted to be a developer. My studies started with design and “dev” with GUIs like Netscape Composer and Dreamweaver. It wasn’t long before I realized the limitations of those tools and started looking behind the curtain at the code. That’s when I really started to get engaged. I loved the challenge of it.

My first job out of school was as a web designer for a small company in Arlington, Virginia. My very first project was to build out a small website for Exxon Mobil. I nearly had a heart attack when I got the assignment. I was just out of school and building a site for a huge corporation! To make it even more challenging, I had to use software I wasn’t familiar with, Adobe GoLive. It was even worse at generating HTML than Dreamweaver so I was forced to learn more and more code.

How did you get into leadership roles?
Over the years, I often found myself leading projects in both official and unofficial capacities. At one point I had to make a decision on where my career would go. At the time I was a designer, developer, and a team lead. I couldn’t take on all three roles effectively. I decided to stick with development and leadership. I was always a natural leader so I couldn’t walk away from that and I loved the challenge of development so I put the design role on a shelf. Occasionally, I get the opportunity to do design work and I always love it when I do but leading technical teams is where I belong.

At Kenzan I started as a technical architect which is a development team lead. I then moved up to the director position. Though I come from a front-end background, I now manage both front-end and back-end teams. I’m not in the code nearly as much anymore but I love seeing what our teams produce and helping them do it. As a director, I think my experience with the full spectrum of development has been invaluable. The UI/UX principles I learned as a designer still help inform the decisions I make today and my time spent as a front-end developer helps inform how we design APIs for our microservices today.

What kind of projects do you work on at Kenzan?
Large scale corporate microservices mostly. As far as technologies go, we use Kubernetes for deploying and managing our containerized services. We use Java and Node on the back-end. Front-end is typically React but we also use Angular. We work with Drupal and WordPress on a few projects but usually only in a headless fashion (we don’t use their theming engines).

What’s been your favorite project? Why?
We are currently building a tech radar and badge board as an internal project. It’s helping to drive how we make technology decisions on our projects. It is also a really cool tool for ensuring our teams are always in the know on where our technology stack is headed and how to get up to speed on the latest.

What tools and tech are you excited about right now?
There is so much happening right now to get excited about. I think everyone should be paying attention to IoT (Internet of Things), machine learning, and voice technologies (Alexa skills, etc). I find blockchain and it’s uses outside of cryptocurrency very interesting as well. Progressive web apps where you optimize your app for offline use is a biggie and I’m also seeing GraphQL pop up more and more. I haven’t used it yet but I can see it being very useful.

What qualities do you think make you a good Director of Engineering?
Ultimately, you have to get stuff done. So it’s important to be able to make decisions and keep people moving. You have to shield your teams from the political cruft that sometimes leaks into projects. You also have to be okay not knowing all the nitty gritty details about things. You have to know what questions to ask and who to ask and then you need to act on that information. Lastly and probably most importantly, you have to have empathy. You cannot effectively lead teams of humans if you don’t have it.

Follow up: How do you manage shielding people while still allowing them to see big picture?
It’s totally fine to share information about what’s going on. I certainly don’t want to paint a rosy picture if things are not rosy. But you can’t let fear creep in. It is not a good way to motivate. I want my teams to be aware of what’s going on but to know and trust that we (leadership) are dealing with it. For the most part, that’s all it takes.

Where did you learn your skills?
I am surrounded by incredibly smart people that I get to learn from everyday. That is definitely my number one source. I also read a lot. We have a book club at Kenzan and we just finished reading Clean Code. That is great book every developer should read. I follow very smart people on Twitter and Medium. If I want to get my hands dirty, I’ll start with a tutorial on Pluralsight (or similar) and just dive in. Conferences are also a great way to learn about the cool things people are doing with technology. I went to AWS Re:Invent this year and learned a ton.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Don’t be afraid of failure. Failing isn’t always a bad thing as long as you learn something from it. Push past your comfort zone. Make the leap. Try something new. You might succeed, you might not. But the one guarantee is that you’ll never know if you don’t try.

Want to work with people like Rona? We’re hiring! 

What do you do when your monthly meetup attendance — usually around 20-30 people — all of a sudden jumps up to 100? Well, first you order a few more pizzas and a lot more beers. Then, you recruit a bunch of employees for some manual labor, start pushing desks out of the way, scramble for chairs, and hopefully end up with something like this:

That was the scene at Kenzan’s office in Rhode Island last week, and despite some last minute logistical hurdles, we couldn’t have been happier to see lots of new and familiar faces at our meetup. It’s a testament to the growing tech community in Providence, and we’re excited to be a part of it. As it continues to grow, Kenzan will also continue to be a resource for those looking to learn new skills and get hands-on with emerging technologies. With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of what we learned during last week’s presentation.

Thursday night’s topic was on serverless architecture, and was presented by Marie Schmidt, a Kenzan developer based out of our Denver office.

Serverless is a popular topic right now, and for good reason. Serverless technology makes it easy to spin up a web API or event based computing tasks, with minimal server interaction and low cost. It allows developers to focus on writing code, while handing server management and provisioning to 3rd parties. At Kenzan, we have found serverless functions and APIs to be a growing part of our modern architecture and we wanted to share these findings with the community.

During our serverless hack night, we discussed the pros and cons of serverless functions, and what we’ve found to be their best applications. We then looked at the architecture of a serverless API built with AWS and demo’d a simple example: creating an API with two serverless methods called by an API gateway. We believe attendees learned some key applications of serverless technology, and a basic implementation knowledge using AWS services. View the presentation slides here and follow along with the demo on your own!

See below some resources we’ve found useful when diving in to serverless.

Building an Alexa Skill

AWS Developer Introduction to AWS Lambda (paid resource)

Using the Serverless Framework with Node.js on AWS (paid resource)

Lambda Deep Dive (Paid resource)


Kenzan hosts monthly tech meetups, and for the very first time, we’re opening up the floor to presentations from the community for our December 7th meetup.  We’re looking for technical presentations in one of these categories: Progressive Webs Apps, Machine Learning, Native App Development and DevOps. If you’ve got an idea that doesn’t fit into those areas, we want to see that too.

Submit your idea by November 20th!

Early in september Netflix invited a handful of Spinnaker’s core contributors and companies to its engineering headquarters in Los Gatos California to discuss all things Spinnaker. Here’s a recap of some key takeaways:

Extending Spinnaker
David Stenglein, Kenzan’s SVP of architecture and engineering, moderated a panel focused on extending Spinnaker. Panelists featured speakers from Google, Armory, Netflix, Oracle and Cerner. The panelists gave advice on how to best extend and modify Spinnaker by doing things such as adding your package to the classpath of Spinnaker. If you want to extend Spinnaker to better support your company and infrastructure this discussion is a good place to start.

Canary Deployments
One of the most widely anticipated features of Spinnaker is first class support for canary deployments. Google and Netflix have teamed up to work on a new microservice called “kayenta”. While Spinnaker can already do the first half of a canary deployment it’s still lacking a proper judge. Kayenta plans to fix this by monitoring metrics such as disk utilization, CPU, and error rates and compare them to a baseline deployment to determine if any given deployment is healthy enough to get full production traffic or if it should be automatically rolled back and the developers notified.

At the end of the conference Netflix, Google, Kenzan and several other companies sat down to discuss the future of Spinnaker and its roadmap going forward. A few things stood out:

  • Many of us had faced the same problems and came up with identical solutions, often using the same programing language.
  • We realized just how big of an impact open sourcing even our smallest tools could have.
  • We also talked about the limitations of using Slack, Github, or Stackoverflow when used for long term planning, discussion, and sharing. We came to the consensus that we need some sort of message board system so that we can share our pipelines, projects, and ideas in a single and easily searchable place.

We all play a vital role in Spinnaker’s future and we very much look forward to more actively engaging with the entire community.

You can see all the main presentations and breakout sessions here:


As technology continues to evolve at rapid pace, it’s more important than ever that companies play an active role in the development and education of technology professionals. After all, we’re looking at 1 million technology jobs by 2020 and not enough skilled workers to fill those roles.  

Internships are a tried and true approach to engage students, recent graduates and new-to-the-market job seekers as they begin their careers. Three times a year, Kenzan hosts interns at our Denver and Rhode Island offices for 10 weeks. These internships provide hands-on experience with new technologies, an opportunity to collaborate with development teams, and to learn from industry veterans.

Before he ended his summer internship, we were excited to hear from Jacob Brauchler, a recent graduate from the University of Colorado. During his internship, Jacob worked with the Platform teams in our Denver office. Kenzan’s training and development manager, Kate Pisano, asked Jacob a few questions about his summer at Kenzan.

We’ll be accepting applications for spring interns in October. For those ready for the next step, check out our job opportunities here.

You’ve spent 10 weeks with us at Kenzan, can you  tell us about the project you worked on: A big project that I worked on was an evaluation of monitoring tools for Kubernetes. I tested the ease of setup along with confirmation that the metrics provided by the system match, at a minimum, the metrics provided by Heapster with InfluxDB and Grafana. I performed this evaluation on five different monitoring tools — Prometheus, Netsil, SignalFx, DataDog and Sysdig. At the end of my project, I wrote a white paper that included all my findings and provided rankings of the different tools based on setup, pricing, metrics and features provided by the tools.

What was your favorite part of the internship experience?
My favorite part of the internship experience has been learning and working with cutting edge web development frameworks. It’s been really awesome looking at the capabilities of new technologies that successful companies are using, and all with a very knowledgeable team to provide support in the growth and understanding of technologies.

Jacob Brauchler, one of Kenzan’s summer interns in Denver.

What was a challenge you had to work through?
Trying to setup Sysdig to test against the other monitoring tools I was evaluating was a real challenge. I attempted the follow the instructions provided by Sysdig, but along the way I encountered a number of errors. The first issue I found is that Sysdig can only be run on a Linux machine, and therefore I first tested on VirtualBox which does not support nested virtualization and would not work with Minikube. My next plan was to test on a dual booted machine which also ended in failure due to the fact that Sysdig had not been tested with Minikube and did not work due to the inability to update the Linux-Headers on the vm. At this point due to the fact that the other tools were successful and I had many struggles with Sysdig it was determined that Sysdig was not a tool we would recommend using.

What was the most important skill you learned during the internship?
Honestly, I would say the most important skill I gained during the internship would be the ability to share the process in which I completed a task; it helped me develop my technical teaching and sharing skills. As an extension to that I would say my ability to research and find solutions and to learn new things grew.

What surprised you about working at Kenzan?
The thing that surprised me about working at Kenzan most is how involved they keep their interns. In my past internship, they kind of just said, “hey go do this” and I was on my own. Here, it was a great experience where I was a part of a team doing work that is helpful to the company and pushed me to grow as a developer.

Favorite snack in the office?
My favorite snacks in the office were probably the different desserts in the office, such as cookies, ice cream and ice cream sandwiches.   

What was your favorite timesheet giphy Kate sent?
My favorite timesheet giphy Kate sent, was the guess what day it is gif. I choose this gif because it provided a fun time to joke around with other interns, as well as Kate.

What piece of advice do you have other folks looking at internship opportunities?
One piece of advice I have for other folks looking at internship opportunities is to find an internship that wants you to be involved with the team, and wants to help you grow as a developer. If you find a company that wants to do this and wants to prepare you for a future in this industry you will get a lot more out of your time.

What new tools or tech were you exposed to or got to work with?
The tools and technology I was exposed to were Kubernetes (an open-source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications.), Prometheus, SignalFx, DataDog, Netsil (The past 4 are monitoring tools), Jenkins, React, and Webstorm. I got exposure to a wide variety of tools and tech during my time at Kenzan, some on the development side of things and some on the DevOps side of things.

How did the experience guide your career goals?
This experience guided my career goals in that I started out with a focus on just being a fullstack developer but after my time as an intern I would like to have the opportunity to dive into DevOps further in the future.

After completing his 10-week internship, Jacob was hired as a full-time employee.


As the tech skills gap grows and more IT roles remain unfilled, the search for top tech talent has never been more competitive. Companies are upping the ante with perks like yoga classes, nap pods, free meals, unlimited vacation days and more in order to attract and retain employees. But according to Stack Overflow’s annual developer survey, there is one factor that potential employees in the tech sector value more than anything — even more than pay and compensation — and that’s opportunities for professional development and continued learning.

developer learning and education
Source: Stack Overflow

The response from more than 22,000 developers that Stack Overflow asked shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has ever worked with developers and programmers. With 90% of the survey’s respondents also stating that they are at least partially self-taught, it’s clear that the industry is a community of learners. Many of our leaders have been self taught and driven by pure passion for technology — Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg all famously left prestigious universities in their pursuit of technological innovations.

Investing in continued learning and education isn’t just a good way to attract new talent, but can also be used as a tool to keep current employees engaged, productive and feeling empowered — making them less likely to take their skills elsewhere. The impact of disengaged employees can be staggering, affecting everything from staff retention to morale to a company’s bottom line. Gallup estimates that a disengaged employee costs an organization about 34% of their salary per year, but re-engaging these employees offers an opportunity to improve performance, profitability and customer experience.

At Kenzan, continued development and learning is not only a big part of our culture, but part of our business. As a software engineering and digital consulting firm that is tasked with helping clients make the most out of technology, it’s crucial that our teams stay current on the tools and tech that are leading the industry.

We are continuously improving how we enable our employees to skill up. Here’s a few things that we’ve learned that help ensure a well-supported learning community within an organization:

Develop a continuous feedback loop of learning.
Managers who recognize progress, tangible goals, and teach-back opportunities will have stronger relationships with their reports and a clear roadmap for their team.

Provide a structure for training requests.
A clear process allows all staff to understand what is considered a reasonable request and that requesting training is not considered self-serving. Providing structure opens the door for new or shy team members to take opportunities because they know it’s appropriate and valued.

Share a clear strategic vision with your team.
Most employees want to make sure their training aligns with the organization’s future. Setting the goal posts gives employees the agency to plan their path forward.

Implement a way to track skills and progress.
Tracking progress means you value the effort that your team is putting in. Unless the team prioritizes training the way you approach other tasks, it will always be at the bottom of the list. At Kenzan, we’re developing a Badge Board to assess team members’ skills and growth based on the organization’s goals and technical vision.

Encourage developers to manage up.
Managers have a lot on their plate, and in the tech world, are usually more than just managers. It’s often up to the developer to make sure that their learning needs are part of the regular conversation. For employees who aren’t quite comfortable approaching their manager about training opportunities, we’ve got some tricks for them too:

Set up a clear need that keeps the core of your request in focus. Make sure you have an answer to questions like: “What is your learning goal? How will growing in this area make you a better employee?”

Respect your supervisor’s time. Follow set procedures and follow up with your needs. Even the most thoughtful, learning-minded supervisor is going to forget about the registration deadline. It doesn’t mean they don’t want you to go, but just that they probably had a few fires to fight this week.

Be Flexible. Sometimes your request will be denied, perhaps due to timing or cost. If this is the case, there is likely another resource that offers growth in this skill, but is less expensive or time bound. If the no is because your supervisor doesn’t see a connection to your learning goals or a value to the organization, make sure you’re continuing the conversation to align your goals with your company’s strategic vision.

Whether your goals are in recruiting, employee retention or tied directly into business drivers, the value that learning and development brings to an organization is clear. Far too often professional development is overlooked, and far too many talented employees leave a company because their success is stymied by lack of support.

Kate Pisano is the Training and Development Manager at Kenzan, based out of our Rhode Island office. She is responsible for managing Kenzan’s internship program and supporting Kenzanites through continued learning opportunities. With a background in AmeriCorps and program development, Kate’s always excited to help team members grow and advance.

For companies looking to grow their digital footprint, an increased investment in new tools and technology is a no-brainer. This may also mean expanding technical teams in order to support the needs of an organization. That said, finding and retaining top tech talent can be a major concern for businesses.

Despite thousands of new jobs opening up in software development, engineering and architecture, companies are hitting a hiring wall, unable to fill the roles they need to take their digital game to the next level. Failure to meet hiring needs has managers and CTOs alike nervous about meeting business goals. 83% of hiring managers cite the inability to fill roles as having a negative effect on revenue, market expansion, product development and employee turnover.

Likewise, job seekers are struggling to meet the criteria set by hiring companies. With a laundry list of requirements, many applicants simply don’t check off all the technical boxes in a job description.

What’s standing between companies and job seekers?
On February 23, Kenzan and Dev Bootcamp hosted an event, “Rethinking Tech Talent” to address that question. We brought together speakers from our own organizations, as well as from Uncubed and Andela, to discuss the current tech recruiting climate and actionable solutions to close the skills gap.

digital skills gap
“Rethinking Tech Talent on February 23 at Dev Bootcamp. Panelists included: Uncubed, Andela, Dev Bootcamp and Kenzan

We wanted to share some key takeaways  that came out of that conversation.

Alternative Education
One reason for the skills gap: Education just can’t keep up with technology. The tools and skills needed to develop software are evolving quicker than most colleges and universities can teach them. By the time a course is complete in one technology, another has emerged.

Instead of turning to higher education, job seekers are now starting to approach learning differently. Alternative training, like the immersive coding courses that Dev Bootcamp offers, are becoming an increasingly popular choice among those wishing to get into technology. In 2016, there were almost 18,000 graduates from coding bootcamps across the US and Canada, with that number to likely increase in 2017.

Training and Mentorship
It’s not just jobseekers that are seeking more education. According to Stack Overflow, 70% of working developers say that learning new technology is a priority. Companies looking to retain top tech talent would do well to look at continued learning opportunities for their current workforce and to invest in programs that help employees skill up. By introducing more employer-sponsored education, companies will not only be able to keep workers happy, but will also be able to provide less-experienced developers with on-the-job training.

Rethinking Recruiting
Our panel was lucky to be joined by Andela, an organization that is helping companies look beyond the usual recruiting sources in order to tap into a market with plenty of tech talent: the African continent. Rather than focusing on education, the organization vets developers based on skills, putting applicants through a rigorous assessment before presenting them to hiring companies.

While organizations like Andela are getting more attention, many companies are still hindered by their limited definition of what it means to be highly-qualified, looking solely at candidates from specific colleges or with experience at a well-known brand. Even as the number of people gaining skills from coding bootcamps and similar technical schools increases, more than half of employers still say that a computer science degree is the most important qualification. Instead of focusing on an applicant’s education, companies could benefit more by shaking off that narrow criteria in favor of a more holistic, inclusive hiring policy.  

More than technical skills
Gone is the image of the hoodie-wearing developer, secluded behind his computer, headphones blaring, locked into a coding marathon. In 2017, developers work on cross-functional teams, connect with clients, and give demos and presentations in public venues. Collaboration and communication are among crucial soft skills developers need to possess.

Bring hiring companies and education together
Despite the growing popularity of alternative education and a change in recruiting policies, the biggest change can come from companies and educational sources working together.

Uncubed is an organization helping to facilitate that kind of dialogue and also, as it turns out, was a panelist at our event. As a video-first jobs platform, they know all too well the challenges both companies and job seekers face. Beyond their recruiting tools, Uncubed addresses the tech skills gap by bringing together educators and companies to develop more effective education that meets the needs of hiring companies and better prepares students for a career in the digital economy.

As more and more business are going digital, the question many companies are asking themselves isn’t how they’ll make this transformation, but who will help them do it.

That question is becoming increasingly more difficult to answer. While technology is evolving with lightening speed, the demand for highly-skilled employees who will support this work is far outpacing the supply.

Kenzan and General Assembly are bringing together Denver-area technology companies and educational resources to address the tech skills gap in Colorado. On January 19, at Kenzan’s office in downtown Denver, we’ll discuss actionable solutions to the challenges both job seekers and hiring companies are facing. Our panel of industry experts from Galvanize, Skillful, Istonish and GoSpotCheck will talk about:

  • The challenges tech companies face when looking for tech talent;
  • Why you shouldn’t disregard a candidate that doesn’t have a degree in computer science;
  • In-demand skills and where you can find employees that have them;
  • How tech companies and educational organizations can work together to grow the talent pipeline;
  • Supporting tech workers through continued learning and development programs

RSVP for Closing the Skills Gap:
Join the conversation on January, 19th at Kenzan:
1743 Wazee St, Suite 200 at 6pm

Rona is a Director of Engineering for Kenzan where she leads technical teams in the production of web applications. She is active in the hiring of development resources and helps drive initiatives that encourage the growth of Kenzan’s employees.

From the cloud, to the Internet of Things, to big data, companies are embracing digital transformation to help them quickly react to marketplace shifts, consumer demands and new opportunities. The roadmap for digital transformation is different for all companies and often calls for customized software, which can be a significant investment of time, money, attention and resources.

Software development can sometimes be seen as a slow and expensive process, especially at the enterprise level. Managing these factors are fundamental priorities and few people are better equipped to keep things under control than project managers.

Many organizations that are on a path towards digital transformation don’t fully recognize the value PM’s add to software development teams. According to a 2016 report from the Project Management Institute titled “The High Cost of Low Performance”, less than two in five companies surveyed place a high priority on creating cultures that recognize the importance of project management as a driver of better project performance.

That’s not the case at Kenzan, where our project managers play a central role on each development team and are vital for success. We’re not the the only ones that have seen the positive results of project managers. Organizations that invest in project management waste 13 times less money because strategic initiatives are completed more successfully.

But for those who might disagree, we’re here to dispel some myths about Project Managers:

Myth: Project managers are clueless.

Busted: Technical comprehension is as critical to the success of a project as leadership and strategic business management. While a PM doesn’t write code, they spend their days working with those that do. In order for a PM to adapt quickly to changing conditions, assign and re-prioritize tasks, communicate effectively and spot risks, they need an understanding of  relevant tools and technologies that the team uses.    

Myth: Project Managers just schedule meetings and manage calendars.

Busted: Project managers guide the structure, scope, quality and budget of a project while also representing the interests of the product owner. The real value of a project manager is as a leader, liaison and mentor. With a big picture point of view, the project manager balances and guides software development teams while defining requirements and goals to ensure the teams meet expectations — on time and on budget.

Myth: Project managers are just paper pushers.

Busted: Project managers define policies and procedures that enable success. Without the structure of process, a project can easily fall apart. A project manager knows the operational requirements (things like time sheets, budgets and resource allocation) and can navigate communication channels with clients so technical team members can focus on what they do best – developing software.

Myth: A Project manager’s top priority is execution.

Busted: Project managers support the team from start to finish. While the software delivery lifecycle (SDLC) is the guiding framework for development, it doesn’t stand alone in supporting and achieving business objectives. Project management methodologies work in tandem with the SDLC for the initiating, planning, monitoring and delivery of projects, which provides consistency and stability of process through every phase of the SDLC.

Now that we’ve dispelled some of these major misconceptions about project managers, it’s (hopefully) clear how important they really are. Think about all the projects you or your organization have worked on that went over budget, missed a deadline or derailed entirely. It may be too late to go back and right those wrongs, but it’s not too late to consider how future projects — and your company as whole —  will benefit from the guidance of project managers.

For companies that are looking to get or stay competitive, strong project management practices can play a crucial role in driving the business forward through digital transformation. Contact to learn more about our project management and other services.

As a certified Scrum Master in Agile methodologies, Jennifer Aczualdez leads Kenzan’s project management and business analysis team . She manages the scope, budget and timelines of projects and acts as a central point of contact for both internal and client teams. She is involved in the full software delivery cycle, from initiation and planning to monitoring, delivering and closing.

by Doug Melvin

As a professional and consulting services firm within the ever shifting technology industry, Kenzan is trusted to consistently deliver high quality products and services. We take this expectation seriously and use the most progressive tools and approaches to ensure we meet those standards. Kenzan’s Project Management/Business Analyst (PM/BA) team is critical to our success as they support and guide the development teams through each project.

Working between multiple internal and client teams, our PM/BA’s plan, consult, organize, communicate and manage a vast amount of resources and information each day. To make sure projects are meeting deadlines and teams are communicating effectively, time management and prioritization are key.

Luckily, there are some techniques that can help keep the days running smoothly.

The Eisenhower Matrix
While navigating multiple projects, the Eisenhower Matrix  helps project manager organize their days while juggling unexpected tasks. Based on the criterion of importance and urgency, PM/BA’s sort their tasks and complete, delay or delegate  by categorizing them into one of the below four quadrants:

Time management means prioritizing your tasks

The simple framework of the matrix allows for easy visualization without  complicated tools; a whiteboard or corkboard will do just fine. or those interested in a more portable method, Trello published a great blog post on how to use their tool to apply the Eisenhower matrix. If you’re familiar with Agile, an Information Radiator can also be used to visualize and sort tasks.
EisenhowerRegardless of how you draw the matrix, getting all the information out of your head and organized in one place makes decision-making less arduous and your work day more productive.

The Pomodoro Technique
Instead of racing to a deadline or fighting the lure of procrastination, the Pomodoro Technique is a simple time management system that breaks the work day into intervals with short breaks designed to eliminate burn-out and fight distractions.

Created in the late 1980’s by Francesco Cirillo, the approach divides each day into 25 minute work-periods — or Pomodoros — that are surrounded by short and long breaks. Short breaks are 5 minutes; long breaks are 25 minutes and are allowed only after four Pomodoros have been completed. Work should be done consistently through each Pomodoro and should stop only at break times. In a professional setting where email and IM’s are constant, it’s important not to use the break times for checking email. Instead, short breaks are good times to get up, get a glass of water or a snack. Long breaks are well spent getting some fresh air, getting lunch or just going out for a cup of coffee.

There are even some tools to help keep you on track. This Google Chrome extension blocks websites until it’s time for a break.

Time management with the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique was named after the Italian word for tomato. It’s creator, Francesco Cirillo, was inspired by his kitchen timer, shaped like a tomato.

For our project managers whose goal is ensuring development teams meet deadlines and complete deliverables, the Pomodoro Technique is  especially helpful for creating accurate project timelines by estimating the number of Pomodoros it will take to complete a task.

While these methods can work on their own, the true magic of the Pomodoro Technique and the Eisenhower Matrix become apparent when the two systems work in conjunction. Using the Eisenhower method for decision-making and the Pomodoro Technique for execution leads to  a more efficient and productive workday, while maintaining quality and consistency throughout every project.

Doug Melvin is a Senior Project Manager and Business Analyst for Kenzan based out of our Denver offices. When he isn’t working, he does his best to keep his puppy out of trouble and experiments with different programming languages. At Kenzan, Doug is responsible for ensuring that development teams deliver on time and on specification, with the resources they need, and assisting with the management of Kenzan’s Atlassian suite. His background in Computer Science originally brought him to Kenzan and has enabled him to support, and interact with, the highly technically-focused platform and development projects that Kenzan engages in.

By Isaac Lavoie

We’ve all been there before. You’ve combed through job listings and found one that seems to be perfect. You submit your resume and land that first phone interview. After hanging up the phone you feel good about how it went, send a thank you note and wait, hoping for that elusive second interview with the hiring manager. But it never comes. You meet the technical requirements, you have the education and experience, so what went wrong?

Being a talent acquisition coordinator (read, recruiter) for a technology company, I can tell you that it takes more than technical skills and a computer science degree to make it to the next round of interviews. It’s my job to not only make sure you fit the technical bill, but that you fit the cultural one too.

As tech companies shift to adopt more collaborative development methodologies and organizations restructure to foster more connected workplaces, it’s never been more important for hiring managers to ask the question, “Are you the kind of person we want at our company?”

This is often the first hurdle an applicant needs to clear in their interview process. The trouble is, no one ever asks the question out loud. Instead, a mix of technical traits and personality traits are used to arrive at the answer. Where many applicants fall short is understanding how best to present their non-technical assets in our deeply technical field.

While the mix of technical and personality traits may shift for any given opening, some of the easiest ones to bring to an interview don’t take any training at all.  Ask yourself these questions as the answers can easily influence the hiring manager’s decision to move someone forward in the interview process.

Do you have the Drive? This is the precursor to all that follows. How have you been guiding your own career? Can you answer the questions: Why do you do this work? How do you hope to grow? You should have the answers — not only for the interview, but for every day interactions and career planning.

Do you have Initiative? You’re an active participant in our communities such as GitHub, meetups, and specialized user groups. Show the employer that you have a passion, that you are curious, hungry for more and eager to expand your skills.

Do you have Enthusiasm?  This is shown not only through your presence when interviewing, but also in your work history and community engagement . You never know which conversation will lead to a job offer, so bring your A-Game to everything you do.

Are you Honest? If your resume reads 4 years in Apache Spark (insert new hot tech here) and it’s only been around since 2014, you definitely will not be getting an interview. If your code is pulled from someone else’s public github… well you know.

Are you OpenShow openness to criticism and new ideas. Embracing other ways of solving problems or challenges is a key indicator for how you work with others. No (wo)man is an island, and, no one wants to work with someone who is right all the time. Exchanging ideas is how we learn and get better. 

Are you Humble? Too much boasting about a success or making excuses about a failure can turn off a recruiter quickly. Being humble shows that you can learn and help others to learn. In this case, humble pie really does taste good.

Do you have a solid foundation? No AngularJS without solid Javascript, friends. With a plethora of bootcamps, online trainings and more out there, the pressure to list hot tech on your application is on. But beware, it’s easy to poke holes in someone’s facade (testing, code samples, anyone?)

You don’t even have to have a technical degree to prove you have a solid base. Hiring managers know that there are many valuable routes into technical work: school, work experience and natural curiosity all matter. As a job seeker you should display a mastery of core concepts before you highlight the technology du jour.

With the tech industry booming and more and more jobs opening everyday, you need to show that you are  not only the right technical solution for a company, but also the kind of person a company wants to be part of its team.

So why not turn this all on its head? Next time you’re in an interview, ask the company what it thinks about community or team work? This is a conversation that tech recruiters want to have. Perhaps if you bring your A-Game, they will have to bring theirs as well.

Isaac Lavoie is the Talent Acquisition Coordinator for Kenzan and is based out of our Rhode Island offices. Though most of his time is spent riding around on his bicycle, he is also responsible for supporting the Kenzan HR team and for bringing new Kenzanites on board. With a background in the environmental education, mechanics, and group consensus building, Isaac is well suited to introduce applicants to the dynamic organization we call home.