A Day for Heroes

On April 29th, a group of Primavera gurus gathered at Trump National Golf Club to support two great causes; Cure NF with Jack and Yellow Ribbons United.

Jack for Jack and Closest Putt

Cure NF with Jack is a nonprofit corporation founded by Jake Burke and Beth O’Brien-Burke, whose mission is to find an effective treatment or cure for individuals battling neurofibromatosis (“NF”) through the funding of research. The inspiration and motivation behind CNFWJ is their son Jack Burke, a dynamic, inspiring boy who lives with NF. Neurofibromatosis is a genetic mutation that causes benign tumors to grow on the nervous system. This can occur spontaneously or be passed down from a parent. I got to meet Jack and have a brief conversation with him and his mom, Beth. He was having such a great time and enjoyed the entire day.

Yellow Ribbons United is focused on bridging the gap between military service and civilian life by encouraging Americans to express their appreciation for military families through civic and social action and supports Children of our Veterans.

Sam and Ryan, Twining

There was a mix of players and volunteers from IntegrateIT to help with the various events set up throughout the course. One of the favorites was a shot of Jack for Jack and closest putt. Players could also try to get a hole in one for a free 2 year lease on a brand new Lexus and hang out with a Raven’s cheerleader.

Lauren and Allen riding in style

There was delicious food and plenty of drinks! Through the silent auction and raffle tickets, the organizations were able to raise over $10,000.00.

COVID-19: Wash your hands

And just like that, our daily life was told to change.

Practice social distancing.

Work from home.

Teach from home.

WASH YOUR HANDS. (We really had to say this?)

It’s been interesting to see how quickly our daily conveniences have been able to shift and redirect their marketing and business strategies. No more happy hours, no more sports, weddings being postponed, and most importantly, no more work. Not all jobs are able to be completed from the comforts of our own home. So what now? Initial panic subsided when I realized that I was still able to get my favorite beer from a local brewery. But all joking aside, how your company is able to handle this pandemic and what they are able to do to help provide continuity to their employee’s life is the red dot moment.

Mark Cuban was recently interviewed by CNBC where he explained that there is no right answer to when life will return to normalcy because we are still dealing with unsure data. And because of that unsure data, you can’t rush and make unsure decisions since it will affect your companies brand for the next decade. It’s a double edged sword. If you return to normal too soon and someone gets sick because of it, you’ll tarnish your reputation. If you wait too long, you could lose valued employees and potential customers.

It’s a fluid time and things are changing by the minutes. Literally. In the time it took me to write this, I can now only leave my house for a run or groceries until 10 June under Virginia’s mandatory stay-at-home order. But, what can we do as employees to help our companies? First, embrace the fluidity. Know that there aren’t answers yet and believe that your leadership is doing everything to make this situation sting less. Second, embrace the time away from the office. Set new goals, brush up on some new features that can be utilized when you return to the office, and soak in this mental refresh. Third, help your company by being a voice to your local, state, and national leadership. Write them to make sure your voice is being heard and our current situation is understood. Finally, read up on the CARES Act that was passed on 27 March, 2020 and how it may affect you.

Oh, and of course, wash your hands and stay home. If we all do our part, the quicker we’ll get back to the office.


Staying productive during the COVID19 Quarantine

Do you feel as if you’re living out a real-life rendition of the movie Groundhog Day? Do you find yourself having a case of the Mondays…. everyday? You’re not alone. What are your plans to stay productive and to keep your mind and body sharp? At integrateIT we have been afforded the benefit of essentially two week’s front pay of our salary without contributing any billable hours.  In short that means money out, no money in.  How can we, as employees maximize the return on that investment and ensure we come back ready to hit the ground running?

Although this forced time off may leave you feeling aimless or restless, not to mention distracted by kids, spouses, and even pets there are ways to take advantage of it as well. It could present an optimal time to learn a new skill, read up on job relevant white papers and technologies, or perhaps finally getting around to studying for your PMP or any certification for that matter.  

Coursera, an online learning platform founded by Stanford Professors offers hundreds of free courses instructed by world-class universities and companies, and best of all, it’s 100% online. More detailed certifications or specializations are also available, at a fee. Currently one of the most popular offerings is the Yale “Happiness” course which is also free. With over 1.3M enrollees it comes at a pivotal time during our current pandemic where good practices and routines prepare our minds to be equally as strong as our bodies as we keep the potential mental crisis surrounding COVID19 at bay.

RMC (Rita Mulcahy’s) Learning Solutions is a fantastic resource for those seeking a PMP. Rita has authored 9 editions of the PMP Exam Prep book and now offers an online based PMP Exam Prep system which includes an Exam simulator with over 1600+ questions. Benefits here are learning at your own pace vice a crash course where a month’s worth of learning material is crammed into your head over 40 hours.

With all that brain, make sure you balance things out with some brawn. Remember, while we are out of the office we have a chance to combat the “Sitting Disease”. Studies have shown that a sedentary lifestyle (i.e. – sitting for longer than 8 hours a day) is a leading risk factor for high mortality. The good news is lifestyle changes where we stand up more, sit less, and move more can make a big difference in improving our health. A healthier lifestyle means fewer sick days and subsequently less time out of the office. With many gyms and studios closed these days, virtual classes have become the norm.  Find something that suits your lifestyle whatever it might be but give your body what it deserves!

Stay healthy and see you all soon.

-Allen Chang

Batting for a Winning Team

“Is a shirt and tie too much for tonight?”. I ask Dave in the afternoon before the event. 

“Don’t wear jeans”. He replies (big help, thanks Dave). 

I honestly felt over dressed for this thing. I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into on the evening of November 8th. All I knew was that I was attending a small business awards ceremony of sorts in Loudoun County. As usual, I chose my shmedium blue button down (so I could show off my widely average biceps), slacks, and went with a tie. As I said, it felt like a bit much…

I met the CEO (Dave), his Mother, and others that would attend the event with us for pleasantries prior. After, we all hopped in an Uber and headed to Leesburg. As we pulled up to the venue I quickly realized I may not be dressed as formal as I originally thought…We step out of the van and onto a red carpet (seriously). All of a sudden I’m expecting to see the likes of  Emma Stone or Emily Blunt as if I rolling into the Academy Awards. And honestly, it didn’t feel far from that.

I peered through the window and see some several hundred people dressed up to the nines as if they’re about to attend Senior Prom. Hats off to the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce for putting on the event that was more lush and elegant than I could have ever imagined.

More than anything that evening, I enjoyed getting to know my colleagues. In my space as a recruiter I spend the majority of my conversations with the people at integrateIT over the phone or email. It was so great to put faces to names, and to hear the stories of the people that built this company. I was in awe. I felt as though I was a rookie making his big league debut. Everyone was so nice, helpful, and intelligent. 

We were nominated for the “Best Virtual Business” award that night. I was enamored to listen to our President, Geoff Keller, talk about the company. More so, I was honored to be a part of the team that walked up and took the stage. I enjoy success, awards, and being part of a winning culture.

Turns out at integrateIT that’s exactly what you get to be a part of.

My First Day at integrateIT

The company CEO and VP are in the front of the Yukon and we’re talking about god and greater realms of the universe…Exactly where I thought things would begin on my first day in the intelligence industry! 

We’re rolling down US-15 and we get into the greater details of the company. PMPs, clearances, portals, LinkedIn, prospecting, so many topics of discussion. I was amazed at the attentiveness of the two in front of me. Clearly they’re brilliant. And yet, no question was dumb. They educated me on  all aspects of my role and the  history of the company. This may very well have been one of the most informative afternoons of my life. 

Pretty solid start to a new career. Where else and what other company can you kick your first day off with the CEO and the VP, to learn the ropes? integrateIT. 

A couple hours and several discussions later we roll into Charlottesville on the campus of the University of Virginia. We’re here to present on the clearance process to an audience of students looking to move into the intelligence community. 

The presentation was smooth and formal. I really enjoyed getting to interact with the candidates and teaching them about what an incredible opportunity is front of them. 

Off to dinner with Dave (CEO) and Doug (VP) where I’m sure we’ll get to dive further into all realms of life. 

What a first day at integrateIT. 

Summer 2019

It’s the official end of Summer and as many look forward to the change of season and hoodie weather, it’s also a great time to look back at the fun we had this Summer. IntegrateIT hosted two great events to get the team together, enjoy the weather, and have a few adult beverages.

First, what started as some friendly office banter, turned into a Crossfit challenge and happy hour. A few team members brought their A-game back in June for a friendly competition and some just came to spectate. Everyone gathered at our favorite wine and whiskey bar after for a few drinks and apps.

What are we doing?
What did I get myself into?
We survived?!

Our second group outing was the Florida Georgia Line concert in August. We piled into the party bus and headed to Farm Brew Live for drinks and dinner before making it to the concert. It was a great night to listen to some country music and to get to know our team members and their significant others.

Farm Brew Live

A Warm Turnover

Reading the title of this post, your thoughts may have gone to a delicious pastry of some type. While we can all agree that may be a more delectable topic to cover, the type of turnover I am here to talk about is the turning over of a position (aka starting a new job). There are countless posts on job hunts, interviews, and acceptance criteria (negotiations, etc.) but we tend to ignore what happens on the first day.

So you’ve been through 2-3 interviews and feel fairly comfortable. You know the requirements and expectations of the new position you are stepping into, but when you arrive on that first day, you realize you have no idea “how things really work here”.

You understand what your tasks technically are, but you have no idea about the answers to the “really” questions:

  • Who is “really” in charge here?
  • Who should I “really” go to with any questions?
  • What is/are the main task/tasks that are “really” the most important to my job?
  • Who are the people I can “really” count on for quality work?

This is the type of info you want to get in a turnover and what I will be discussing in this post.

Before we get into exactly what a “Warm Turnover” is and how to masterfully create one, it may help to define the other two types of turnovers we have all experienced when we start a new position.

Cold Turnover: These are (depressingly) the most common way to start a new position. You walk in on Monday only knowing that “Brett from HR” will meet you in the lobby at 8am. Brett will have you sign a bunch of paperwork and probably show you where you sit and where the bathroom is. If you are lucky, Brett might even show you where the coffee is. You can, however, forget about any of the turnover gold I described in the bullet points above. Brett has no idea about the politics of the office you are working in and probably doesn’t really understand what your office even does.

Hot Turnover: These are awesome on the rare occasion they actually happen. This normally takes place when you are able to start your new position while the person you are replacing is still working full-time in their/your position. (Disclaimer: we are assuming that this person is leaving voluntarily/happily for greener pastures.) You have the most wonderful of terms here: “overlap”. This is a dream because you have someone who literally has been doing your job AND they are able to spend 100% of their time getting you up to speed. If you have ever had one of these, you know how helpful they can be in setting you up for success.

This brings us to the often ignored middle child, the Warm Turnover. What is a warm turnover you ask? At its most basic, it simply means that the person you are taking over for still “exists” in some way that you can reach out for occasional and quick guidance. This usually means that this person has taken on a new role somewhere else in the company. That means they still have to be a “team player” and help get the new guy up to speed. While this person may or may not want to spend time getting the new guy up to speed, one thing is for certain: The quality of their advice will go down as the amount of their time taken to give it goes up. What does this mean you may ask? Simply, you will get much better data on the first question than you will on the fortieth question.

First off, I highly recommend you take your predecessor out to lunch or coffee (on you) for this session. You are much more likely to have a fruitful conversation in person than via email. Please note that I am making the questions as straight-forward as possible for this post, but I highly recommend you put all of these through a full “professional filter”, especially if it is with someone you are not familiar with. With that said, what questions should you ask the “old you”?

  1. What did you find the most important aspect of this job to be?
  2. This sounds insanely simplistic, but it is very helpful to be able to discern the thirty things that were in your job description from the one to three things that really matter and will be the sink/swim factors in your job.
  • Is there anything you can tell me about the office or people I will be working with?
  • Keep this as open ended as possible because his question is pure fishing on your part.
  • Best-case scenario, they will freely share their thoughts and you will get some huge insight on how the office really works. Maybe even an idea on who to go for things and who to avoid at all costs. If they are willing to share, your best course of action is to keep them talking for a long as possible. If you are lucky, the answers to this question will take the majority of your one-on-one time with them.
  • Worst-case scenario, they are about as forthcoming as a rock. They only took the meeting with you because it is the bare minimum of what it takes to be considered a “team player” and because they wanted a free coffee/lunch. The other possibility here is that they give you the most plain and generic answers that offer no true insight. If this happens, you end up with no useful info and out a few dollars for the coffee or lunch, but at least you tried.
  • Done!
  • That’s it! Save all your future questions (and their time) for future situations where their answers on process or technical situations will truly prove invaluable. Remember what I said earlier, “The quality of their advice will go down as the amount of their time taken to give it goes up”. Save some of that goodwill for later. This is definitely a situation where you do not want to go to the well too often.

I truly hope this post has helped with defining the turnover process and my thoughts on how to navigate the process. Please stay tuned as I hope to post more here in the future.

Furloughed Federal Employees Should Just Stay Home

Hi, has anyone noticed that traffic in the WMA has improved this past week? I am getting to office 20 minutes faster than I normally would. It’s awesome. Who would have guess taking the 7% of the federal workforce off the road would improve my quality of life so dramatically? I think the federal government should look for ways to make this permanent. Ha, I am not calling for the firing of tens of thousands of federal workers. I am not that heartless. Plus, it’s almost impossible to fire a federal employee. They are more likely to get audited by the IRS (0.5%) than they have fired/layoff (0.2%) according to a recent GAO report. When the federal government does re-open, we should look for ways to keep these employees off the roads and working from home.

With the way technology is progressing, it will not be long before almost all work is done remotely. Why not start this grand experiment with a majority federal workforce we already deemed non-essential to the day to day operation of the federal government? If we can get this part of the federal government workforce to be as productive and not have their work products slip, we will feel more comfortable allowing more vital work to be done remotely. The federal government will be able to test out software packages and management styles when the stakes are not as high and will be able to use those lessons learned for the more vital projects.

integrateIT is well positioned to help our federal clients and future federal clients with the transition from their teams being co-located to being remote. For one being a small business and not having our own facility, our management team understands the complexity of managing a workforce that is spread throughout the WMA. As an employee, I admire the way the way our management team prioritizes communication and employee engagement. Both will be vital in the success of remote work. Strong communication is needed for the success of any project regardless if the team is co-located or remote. If the project is all remote, it is important that nothing is lost in between the lines. Our company knows how to effectively communicate with each other when a face to face is not possible.

Humans are also a communal creature and without the sense of community, it will be hard to retain employees or keep them from depressed. integrateIT understands that some of their employees need that sense of community and as such hosts team building events, happy hours, social events, and charity events. We know how to retain and keep employees engaged, and are more than happy to share our lessons learned with our clients.

Another aspect that positions integrateIT well for the remote workforce, is that we have been successfully implementing software packages for our clients since our inception in 2004. Any successful implementation relies on a strong change management plan. Our project manager staff are well verse in designing and implementing change management.

I know the federal space that I am in will probably never allow remote work. But if my commute improves then I will be happy. Also, I know complaining about your commute in this area is like complaining about the weather.

Below are some of the pros and cons list of moving large parts of the federal government remotely. I am sure I missed plenty, but feel free to leave comments

Pros of Remote Workforce

  • My commute improves and my children and wife get to see more of me
  • Saves the federal and local governments money
    • Leasing space and owning buildings cost significantly more (over time) than buying software and hardware packages.
    • VA, DC and MD roads in theory will last longer with less drivers on them. Saving our local governments’ money
  • Access to a larger pool of quality employees.
  • Improves Quality of Life of Federal Employees and Contractors
    • Happy employees are productive employees

Cons of Remote Workforce

  • Not everyone is tech savvy and be able to work in this environment.
  • Not everyone is self-motivated to work from home and need the motivation from their boss
  • Employees will feel less connected to their mission (or company) being remote
  • You may have stinky neighbors. If people do not have to drive to work, they may think “what’s the point of showering?”
  • Until the artificial intelligence is sophisticated enough for tracking and prioritizing, there will be no way of knowing if someone actually worked a full 8 hours
  • Employees will be expected to be available 24/7 and responsive to emails
  • If you get to telecommute, you are going to run out of Netflix shows to binge pretty fast
    • Those of us that will still have to commute, won’t be able to talk about Netflix shows with any of our friends since we will be 6 months behind