Working at GovTech: A Fresh Grad’s Perspective

With the increasing prevalence of cyber attacks, more and more companies are looking into hiring professionals to keep their information safe. Cybersecurity is certainly financially lucrative but these professionals are not doing it just for the paycheck. We speak to Keith, who shares with us his recent experience as an Incident Responder- drawing parallels to a firefighter, and the immense value his role brings to the company. In addition, we have Keith’s mentor, Liyana Fauzi, from the Strategic Planning and International Division to share with us how her GovTech journey has helped in her mentorship with Keith.

Keith Tay.jpg

Why did you join GovTech’s Technology Associate Programme? 


Before I graduated, I was actively looking for a job in the Cyber Security technical field. One distinct reason on why I applied to GovTech’s TAP was the programme’s structure. I personally felt that the programme was well crafted for fresh graduates who wanted to develop a career in the IT industry. The programme encourages rotation, a mentor to guide you and offers several job roles to select from to kick-start your career.

Describe a typical working day at GovTech

I am an Incident Responder in the Cyber Security Operations team. What that basically means is that, my role is comparable to the functionality of a firefighter when a fire breaks out. The firefighter will be alerted of the incident immediately and tasked to contain the fire. They will then need to remediate the issue, provide root cause analysis on how the fire started as well as recommendations on how to prevent such a situation from happening in future. When the firefighters are not reacting to incidents, they will be at the station finding means to increase their skills or sharpen the tools they have.

This is similar to the reactive and proactive role as an Incident Responder. When a cyber-security incident occurs, we will be there to perform both forensic/memory image on the system and bring it back for further analysis.  

My typical workday typically consists of these 3 fundamental roles- malware analyst, data/log analyst and incident response. Malware analysis involves examining malicious scripts/executables and determine what are its capabilities. This could involve reverse-engineering an executable in assembly language. In addition, as a data/log analyst, I am involved in analysing the huge amount of raw data from network, application and database logs. In order to understand how the incident happened over the network, I have to correlate the data from multiple sources and make sense of what the adversary was trying to perform. Lastly, for incident response, I work as an incident Handler for security events.

As a proactive individual, I am always finding ways to reduce the time taken for investigation either by automating the investigation process or by looking for new tools out in the market which could aid in investigation.

However, GovTech is not all about work; till date I was involved in many other exciting events such as being part of the planning committee for Cyber Security Group (CSG). I also had the opportunity to participate in GovTech’s Dinner and Dance performance which gave me the opportunity to make a lot of wonderful friends from the different departments. My team also makes an effort every once in a month to head out and enjoy ourselves with activities like bowling, badminton, dinners and drinks, and many more!

Talk about the technical skills you have been working on at TAP?

Since my time here in GovTech, I have been exposed to various technical skills such as reverse engineering, data analytics and scripting. For reverse engineering, my role as a malware analyst is to understand the capabilities of a malware. This involves looking at assembly codes, understanding different API calls or even looking at malicious scripts/programs. In data analytics, there are countless opportunities to work on big data. I picked up numerous pre-processing techniques and analytical skills such as R, Python, Splunk, Tableau. As for scripting, I am continuously improving on our investigation tools as well as scripting languages such as Python, bash or Powershell.

What do you enjoy the most about working for GovTech?  

As we are the “firefighters” for the Whole-of-Government, the investigation we perform is for the government. By solving incidents, I get a sense of satisfaction as I am ensuring a safer environment for us to work in.

What is the one advice you would give to those considering applying for the TAP programme?

If you’re looking for a quick and challenging environment, GovTech will be the place for you. A personal advice on what I tell my juniors is that as a fresh graduate entering into the IT industry, there are just too many different roles. You will not know if the role suits you unless you try it out. Look for an organization which offers you the opportunity for rotation so you can grow as an individual.

Share one key takeaway from the TAP programme

As part of TAP, we are each paired with a mentor who is more senior in the organisation. My mentor, Liyana has guided me through my times here in GovTech. She ensured that I understood the organisation structure, check in if there were any challenges faced and asking if I needed any help that she can help with. It is really heartwarming to have an awesome mentor.

Liyana, share with us your mentorship experience with Keith.

I was matched with Keith and another mentee through a fun matchmaking/interview session. As Keith and I are from different teams in GovTech, I saw my role as a  mentor in general work matters, and not so much the technicalities of his domain area. This mentorship experience enabled me to reflect upon how it was for me when I first joined the then-IDA as a relatively fresh grad too, and to try to pick out some of the lessons I’ve learnt along the way since then; things that I could share with Keith. I have tried to keep the mentorship experience pretty light and to provide an open space for candid discussions. We would typically meet over coffee to talk about how he’s doing at work, what’s happening with the organisation (given that there have been many changes), and to also share my experience in navigating the workplace such as how to manage stakeholders or how my mentees could meet their meet career aspirations.

How has your GovTech journey helped your mentorship with Keith? 

What helped me in my mentorship was mainly (a) things I picked up from other seniors, (b) having gone through certain GovTech programmes and (c) forging friendships with other mentors. For example, one piece of workplace advice that I hold closely is not to be afraid to ask and actively pursue opportunities that one was interested in. This piece of advice was lent to me by another senior and it is something I share with my mentees too, and I think it could be useful for the TAPs who are just starting out at work. Programmes that I had completed in my GovTech journey such as the EDGE Programme and the Sectoral Inter-agency Projects have also provided me with some insight into what the other agencies are doing, how agencies view GovTech’s work and how to manage cross-agency issues. To me, it is important for my mentees to know how their work has impact on other agencies’. In addition, as all mentors had to go through a two-day course, the friendships I developed with other mentors has also been very helpful in this journey as we could exchange ideas about topics to discuss with our own individual mentees.

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Are you an advocate of the innovative use of technology and how it can enhance the lives of fellow Singaporeans? GovTech Technology Associate Programme (TAP) could be a place for you to start. TAP is an exclusive leadership trainee programme carefully crafted to develop and hone your technical knowledge and professional skills.  Upon selection, you’ll participate in 24 months of specialist training and grooming to take on technical roles within GovTech that will accelerate your career development.

Make an impact on the future of technology; join now by applying to the GovTech Technology Associate Programme. You can find out more about GovTech Technology Associate Programme here.

 

Recruiting top talent? ‘Spray and pray’ is NOT the way to go!

Whether you are a multinational, a rapidly growing mid-sized business or a teething startup, recruitment is bound to be one of your perennial business challenges. Digital presence and social media outreach have made it easier for your HR or recruitment agency to garner mass interest in your job requirement. However, that does not necessarily guarantee that you will find your ideal candidate. “Spraying and Praying” may have its benefits, but it doesn’t work in recruitment anymore. Here is why you need a definite recruitment strategy.

Beyond the Number Game
For most recruiters, recruitment is a number game – reach out and interview as many candidates as you can, and you will eventually find the right fit. While these basics still hold some place in recruitment strategy, the nature of candidates has evolved. The sheer number of specializations offered by schools today indicates the amount of graduates available for hiring every year. In Singapore alone, the number of degree holders increased from 26% in 2000 to 51% in 2013. Such growth makes it impossible to manually assess each candidate.

 

 

ON40S20 Designed by Dooder / Freepik

Resume v/s Talent
As the talent pool gets bigger and better and individual assessment is ruled out, recruiters have the option of screening candidates based on their CV’s. However, with a wide variety of CV templates available on the Internet and a number of seemingly qualified candidates, it may not be fair to screen them on the basis of the skills they mention without actually testing them. Additionally, there is bound to be several candidates with similar qualifications and experience. Even with good internal CV screening software and seasoned recruitment instincts, there is always the risk of filtering out good talent.

You are “telling” your role, not setting an experience
The run-of-the-mill recruitment processes – like advertising, shortlisting & interviewing – lack transparency and engagement. You list out your requirements and assess your candidate based on an interview or a case study – a case study that the candidate has probably already prepared for, off the Internet. In many cases, this is an inaccurate and non-objective assessment of your candidate’s skills. Additionally, the blanket assessment practices do not give your candidate a feel of the role they are interviewing for or the brand they will be working with. Whether a candidate is a fit for the role cannot just be theoretical; it needs to be explored and agreed upon.
Roping in Gen Y
According to a report by Manpower Group, up to 1/3 of the global workforce will be made up of millenials by 2020. Naturally, most companies have taken that fact as an indication to evolve, doing what they can to lure in Gen Y candidates. As such, blanket recruitment strategies may no longer work. If you want a sizeable number of Gen Y to join you and stay loyal, make sure to speak their language. Weave more dynamic social and interactive experiences into your hiring strategies.
Nowadays, technology is developing different sectors and making them more competent and resourceful; HR is not far behind. Here are three ways you can use technology to improve your hiring strategy:

#1. Data Analytics
Analytics can be used by companies in several ways. For recruitment in particular, it can help you efficiently filter through the noise and shorten your pool of candidates. This can be done by analyzing existing employee data, their productivity and engagement, and accordingly build an ideal employee persona. The company can then hire employees that replicate or compliment these personas as required. Alternatively, analytics can be used to directly assess your CV pool and shortlist candidates. Models for these analytics can be built in- house by your data analysts or you could use online tools and platforms available in the market.

 

#2. Social Media Integration

85117-OHASHQ-516 Designed by Freepik.

Whether its building the employee brand or outreaching for talent, there is no escaping social media. According to LinkedIn’s 2016 Global Recruiting Trends, emphasis on employer branding stays top priority with 47% of the respondents working on outbound recruitment strategies through social media. Companies should ensure that 1. their recruitment strategy has space for social media integrations and 2. their recruitment partners also use social media efficiently to prospect and engage with potential candidates.

#3. Gamification
Gamification adds an element of fun and engagement to your hiring processes. Given an increasing talent pool with seemingly similar backgrounds, testing candidates’ actual skills should take center stage. Recruitment platforms like HackerTrail tailor company job requirements into creative online challenges for candidates. Gamification, through challenges, help companies duly assess the candidates – all the while making the process exciting for them.
As people and technology evolve over time, so must the inner workings of businesses. Today, technology has made HR functions and recruitment processes more efficient and resourceful. It’s time that you move away from the one-size-fits all recruitment strategy and tailor your assessment processes to reflect your brand and your hiring needs.
Need someplace to ignite your inspiration? Check out our new product at HackerTrail – the Marketplace.

Hiring Trends: 2016 wrap-up with HackerTrail

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As we wind up 2016 and chalk-out our strategy for the new year, let’s take a look back at how this year molded the recruitment circuit. Irrespective of the growing candidate pool, the recruitment market continued to stay aggressive with companies competing with each other to attract top talent. The hiring strategies this year were also heavily influenced by employers in their efforts to woo and retain millennials.

Here is a look at the hiring practices that dominated 2016:

Social Media Recruitment 

The initiation of social media in recruitment practices has opened new avenues for companies over the years and 2016 was no different. According to a survey by LinkedIn’s global recruiting trends, 47% of the respondents stated that their outbound recruitment strategies involved social media. Social media outreach is empowering employers to go beyond traditional job posts and establish a continued relationship with prospective candidates. Employers are grasping the concept of being “switched on” on relevant social media platforms to build a strong presence to showcase their company brand and culture to their respective target audience.

Employer Branding

Employer branding continues to play a significant role in recruitment strategy. According to a survey by Jobvite, 59% of the respondents used social media to understand the company culture of organizations they wanted to work with as well as the perks and benefits that came with the role. Companies are putting immense emphasis on their value proposition as employers and working towards the culture they want to foster. This is not just to attract new candidates but ensure that they retain their top talent as well. Here’s how one company found success with video content on employer branding:

Recruitment Technology

The recruitment tech scene this year leaped beyond aggregators and market places. From the introduction of AI in automating recruitment workflows to writing unique machine learning algorithms for efficient candidate screening, technology is redefining the recruitment sphere. Companies are not just using technology to revamp their workflows but also using it to build focused and reliable assessment methods. For employers who engage HackerTrail to recruit, the hiring processes go beyond mere interviews as HackerTrail’s proprietary technology allows to automagically curate candidates, minimize the human bias and maintain the focus on quality. Coding challenges via gamification are put in place to test candidate skills, eliminating the element of chance from the process. This also gives candidates an opportunity to experience the job scope first hand and have fun while they are at it.

“Hackertrail was both an amazing experience and an unconventional interview process that allowed me to connect with my future employers through interesting challenges. It gave me a good preview of what to expect in my future role as a web developer and I thoroughly enjoyed the stretch of my technical capabilities while going through the tasks!”

– Yang LJ

(Top Talent on HackerTrail recruited by a government agency)

Predictive Analytics

Like every business function, human resources are heavily relying on predictive analytics to understand future scenarios and bet on their strategy and other executive decisions. Companies are using predictive analytics to understand their candidates better based on their interviews, submissions, work experiences and other data points. Many companies build models to assess their candidates and determine their potential fit in the company. Companies are also using predictive analytics on existing employee data to scrape for patterns to model their ideal candidate and shortlist accordingly. HackerTrail focuses on two key hiring metrics: speed and quality to empower employers to focus on the right candidates and shorten their time to hire (see infographic below).

hacker-trail-infographics-v5-capgemini-page-001

 

This year has been a “candidate’s market” more than ever before with 2016 witnessing the industry restructuring their recruitment approach from “push” to “pull” – a focus on attracting and nurturing a healthy talent pool rather than blanket outreach and active scouting. Recruitment strategies anchoring firmly on technology and analytics are bound to up the notch in the coming year. With emphasis on efficiency and metrics, automation will be the focus in 2017 and the key for companies to fit into the rapidly evolving innovation landscape of recruitment.

We look forward to sharing some exciting news in the early part of the new year so do keep in touch by following us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Till then, here’s us wishing you best wishes for the new year ahead!

New year, new recruitment strategy? Here is one place to start: www.hackertrail.com

Performance Tips for a Rails Stack

Watch Althaf Hameez, Lead Engineer at Grab, do a quick presentation on the performance tips they use at Grab for a rails stack.

In case, you are wondering he stressed on the fact that his presentation is not about the following:

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 11.56.35 AM

He goes on to say that it’s not about using rails; it’s how you design your app.

Watch on as he shares more about the tips they use at Grab:

If you want to be part of this exciting startup and experiment with innovative technologies, then check out the roles that Grab is currently hiring for!

 

Grab pic 9

Grab is currently expanding their team and HackerTrail has partnered up with them to source for key developer roles here in Singapore. Crack the challenge at HackerTrail (yes, we have our own as well and you get win cool prizes like the Apple Watch and iPad Mini 4) and get shortlisted by Grab today.

Are you connected with us? Follow HackerTrail on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to find out about the up and coming tech jobs in Southeast Asia.

Programmers Beware – UX is not just for designers

Perhaps one of the biggest missed opportunities in Tech in recent history is UX.

Somehow, UX became the domain of Product Designers and User Interface Designers.

While they definitely are the right people to be thinking about web pages, mobile app screens and so on, we’ve missed a huge part of what we engineers work on everyday: SDKs and APIs.

We live in a time where “the API economy” exists and has tangible monetary and strategic value and yet these UXs are seldom considered. Additionally, consider how many functions a programmer interacts with every day and yet how little (read: almost none) time is spent on the UX of these functions.

What is UX?

First let me give you my perspective on UX. UX stands for “User Experience” or to put it another way, “usability”.

UX is not black art; you don’t even need to study it. I believe it can be uncovered through logic, persistence and experience.

I believe a good UX can be discovered using the following “UX Discovery Survey”.

Ask yourself (or your team) these quick 5 questions and you will be well on your way to create better UXs.

  • Who/What is the user? – Yes, users can be other systems and not just people.
  • What do they want to achieve? – Often the answer to this is a list of things, this is fine. However it’s generally possible to apply the 80/20 rule; meaning users will want to do 1 thing 80% of the time and the rest about 20%. We should always over-optimize for the 80%; even if it means making the 20% a lot more complicated or inconvenient.
  • What are they capable of? – What skills do they have? What domain knowledge do they have? What kind of experience? When designing systems for others there is often a huge difference between these factors for the user and the creator. This factor shows up a lot more when the answer to “Who/What is the user” is a human and not a system.
  • What can I do to make their life easier? – This is really the driving force behind UX, focus on the user and how to please them. Is there anything similar out there that the user already knows how to use? – The best interfaces are often ubiquitous or intuitive. The focus here is on modelling the interface to do what the user expects it to do, without prior training or experience with it. If you ever have access to the end user, try asking them these questions:

    “What do you think it should do?”

    “What did you expect to happen when you did X?”

Let me show you what I mean with some examples of Engineering UX:

A REST API called from a Mobile Application

When the app in question starts, it must make a call to the server to login and then use the returned credentials to make another to download the latest news.

What’s wrong with this?

This makes 2 round trips to the server, which results in:

  • 2 potential points of failure.
  • Double the network latency.
  • Additional code complexity of handling the additional points of failure.
  • Additional code complexity of handling the “session” between calls.

Finding a better UX

Let’s run through the “UX Discovery Survey”:

  • Who/What is the user? – The user here is not the programmer using the API but the mobile application.
  • What do they want to achieve? – They want to load the data from the server in the fastest possible manner using the least amount of battery and data as possible.
  • What are they capable of? – It’s app. It’s capable of whatever the app programmer is capable of.
  • What can I do to make their life easier? – One call is always going to be easier to code than two. One point of failure is always easier to handle than two.
  • Is there anything similar out there that the user already knows how to use? – Not applicable here.

Merge the requests together and have the app send either the login credentials or the session as part of the request for news.

While the call to the server is slightly more complicated, this is completely overshadowed by the complexity of coordinating 2 calls and failure points that it removes.

Solution

Yes, this adds some complexity to the server side but the server is significantly easier to test, maintain and update than the mobile app.

A REST API called from a Mobile Application (Redux)

Some time passes from the above example and the app is updated and now it needs to download the weather and the news when it starts. In common REST ideology we consider the news and weather to be separate entities and therefore the request is to add a separate endpoint in order to be RESTful.

What’s wrong with this?

We are back to making 2 round trips to the server. But this time they are concurrent, which results in:

  • 2 potential points of failure (again).
  • Additional code complexity of handling the additional points of failure and partial failures (again).
  • Paying battery and data charges for 2 calls (again).

Finding a better UX

Let’s run through the “UX Discovery Survey”:

Unsurprisingly, the answers will be similar to the previous section.

However, let’s now also consider the user of the app (in addition to the app as the user of the API)

  • Who/What is the user? – This time let’s consider the problem from the app user’s perspective.
  • What do they want to achieve? – The answer to this question becomes the key to understanding how the app should behave. Does the user need both pieces of info in an “all or nothing” way? Would partial info be better than none? Does the user need all of that info when the app starts or could they wait for retries? Bigger more complicated calls are bound to take a little longer. Users these days are fairly used to content that “fills itself in” eventually but they doesn’t mean they like it. Beyond that, not all information is of equal value to the user. If we are making a news app, the weather may be a “nice to have” for most users.
  • What are they capable of? – As before.
  • What can I do to make their life easier? – As before, this is the key. Whatever the user most wants/needs wins.
  • Is there anything similar out there that the user already knows how to use? – Not applicable here.

Solution

Sadly, my answer here is “it depends”. I would look to make as few round trips as possible and sacrifice RESTful correctness for performance or a better UX. The focus should always be on the end user and their needs. Both explicit (seeing the data/using the app) and implicit (costing less battery and data).

There is often a temptation to follow whatever is easiest or quickiest to implement. This is a valid optimization when you need to get to market as fast as possible but it is also a debt, akin to technical debt, that will need to be paid sooner or later.

An RPC API

This time an internal (behind the firewall) service publishes an RPC API that allows a user to download an eBook. However this book should only be accessible to certain users.

As this service is not publically accessible we could ignore the validation and assume that calls to the API are only made in cases where the permission have already been verified.

What’s wrong with this?

  • If the calling system is not aware of whether the user is permitted to perform this action, they will need to load this permission (perhaps from another system) before making the request.
  • If a second system also needs to make this API call, then the logic to validate the user can perform the action would need to be duplicated into this new system.
  • Any attempt to cache this permission in the calling systems would likely be inefficient and prone to duplication.

Finding a better UX

Let’s run through the “UX Discovery Survey”:

  • Who/What is the user? – The other systems / API consumers.
  • What do they want to achieve? – They want to download the book on behalf of their user, if the user is permitted to do so.
  • What are they capable of? – Anything.
  • What can I do to make their life easier? – We could take complete ownership of the problem and allow our users to make blind / dumb calls to our API and we take care of everything else.
  • Is there anything similar out there that the user already knows how to use? – This question needs to asked within the problem space / company you are in. If all of your APIs are trusted then it might be better to follow that style rather than force your users to learn / handle your different way of doing things. Word of caution though: APIs should very often be stateless and require no more knowledge than how to call it; if all of your APIs are trusted then I suggest you raise that issue with your team.

Solution

You could introduce a gateway service between the callers and the destination; however this is likely adding complexity, latency and another service to build, manage and maintain. A generally more effective option is to push the validation logic into the RPC server.

This will:

  • Eliminate any duplication between multiple clients.
  • Likely improve the overall performance as the storage / caching of the permissions can be optimized for this use-case.
  • Improve the UX to the users by allowing them to blindly make the request.

Code APIs

The general problem here is the fact that code inherently makes more sense to the person writing it, when they are writing it, than it does the others and even to the writer in the future. Seldom do we think about other users when we are writing our functions.

Consider the following code:

<span style="color: #000000;"><code>AddBalance(5, false)</code></span>

What does the false indicate?

Finding a better UX

Let’s run through the “UX Discovery Survey”:

  • Who/What is the user? – Your future self. Your current and future team members.
  • What do they want to achieve? – They want to use your code so they don’t have to write their own.
  • What are they capable of? – There are many answers to this question, some nice and some not so nice. Generally, it’s better to assume the skill level is low and so is the domain knowledge.
  • What can I do to make their life easier? – Personally, I am lazy. This laziness forces me to come from a place of “what interface would allow my future self to use this without thinking or learning?”
  • Is there anything similar out there that the user already knows how to use? – Consistency in programming style, naming and many other things is programming will go a long way to a better UX. Often people will make the argument that a certain piece of code is “X style” where X is the current programming language or framework. I used to see this as a weak argument but as the teams I worked in got larger, consistency of style (preferably the team’s agreed and published style) has proven extremely valuable in terms of allowing folks to change teams, share code and tips and most importantly learn from each other.

Solution

What happens to the usability if we replace the boolean parameter with 2 functions?

AddBalanceCreateIfMissing(5) 

AddBalanceFailOnMissing(5)

In actual fact the result will often be 3 functions. These 2 above public / exported functions and the original function / common code as private.

Boolean arguments are an easy target but there are many other easy and quick wins, consider this function:

<span style="color: #000000;"><code>var day = toDay("Monday")</code></span>

What happens if we call it like this?

var day = toDay("MONDAY")
var day = toDay("monday")
var day = toDay("mon")

These are great examples of “What can I do to make their life easier?”.

A good UX would consider all reasonable ways a user might use or misuse the interface and in many cases support them instead of forcing the user to learn and then remember the exact format required.

TL;DR

  • UX is not just about Visual User Interfaces.
  • APIs and SDKs are also user interfaces.
  • Programmers are also users.
  • Other systems are also users.
  • UX is about designing the interface or interaction from the user’s perspective.
  • It’s about considering the user’s desires, tendencies and capabilities.
  • It’s about making the system feel like “it just works”.

Finally, I would mention that the best UXs are the result of iterative and interactive efforts.

The best way to answer the questions of “What do they want to achieve?”, “What are they capable of?” and “What can I do to make their life easier?” is to give the interface to a real user, watch what they do it with it and how. Then respond by making the interface work they way they thought it would instead of teaching them otherwise.

It is always better (and easier) to change the UX to match the user than the other way around.

 

Article adapted from “Programmers Beware – UX is not just for designers” by Corey Scott

 

Grab pic 9

Grab is currently expanding their team and HackerTrail has partnered up with them to source for key developer roles here in Singapore. Crack the challenge at HackerTrail (yes, we have our own as well and you get win cool prizes like the Apple Watch and iPad Mini 4) and get shortlisted by Grab today.

Are you connected with us? Follow HackerTrail on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to find out about the up and coming tech jobs in Southeast Asia.

It’s A Visual World: 3 Design Tips For Creating Infographics

Infographics can engage both visual and casual learners who want summaries of facts in minutes. Their appeal and ability to compress information without compromising clarity are what make them so effective.

Design influences the way prospects and investors perceive your brand. All too often, some presenters suffer from the impression that content and delivery are enough to leverage their proposals.

They end up falling into the trap of relying on either a bare deck or text-heavy slides. This has led to ineffective slide decks that have tuned audiences out and vilified PowerPoint.

It’s interesting to note that PowerPoint presentations rely on the same graphic design principles applied to infographics, such as color, typography, and white space. A PowerPoint deck can equally benefit from incorporating the balance between information and graphics in its own design.

1. Organise Your Research

pc2

Segregate key points from supporting details. Key points should be included in the deck, while supporting details can be left for verbal explanation, or further reading.

Here’s how to distinguish what data to keep, and what to edit out:

Identify your goals. Having a clear objective in mind can help you sift through the bulk of your research quickly. Summarize your presentation to specific one-word parts to determine the core message you want to show. This gives you a better idea of what facts you need to back it up.

Draft an outline. Once you’ve narrowed down your main goal and selected the needed information, arrange them in order of importance. This lets you sort the most important supporting parts from the less relevant ones.

Consider the audience. As with any output intended for other people’s viewing, infographics and presentation decks should take note of what’s relevant to their audience. Prioritize what they deem more important, be it stock reports or step-by-step explanations, to keep them interested and engaged.

Whether it’s infographics or slide decks we’re talking about, your audience won’t pick up anything useful from fillers. The end goal is still to inform your prospective viewers about things that will benefit them most.

2. Minimise Visual Clutter

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You should layout your deck like an infographic to avoid visually overwhelming viewers. Here’s how to do that:

Use white space. If you want to highlight the right information, don’t shy away from white space. This helps relax people’s eyes and focus their attention on the more important visuals in your presentation.

Visualize as much as possible. While graphs and charts are good visual representations in your presentation deck, it’s highly encouraged to get more creative with your visuals.

Make it readable. Although you’ll want to make appealing visuals, make sure your data is readable at a glance. Avoid over-embellishments by keeping your visuals simple enough to read. Use the appropriate font size and style for your typography.

It’s the calculated use of visuals that makes infographics so appealing. Apply the same tactical reduction of clutter to your deck as you start designing and formatting its overall layout.

3. Specify Your Data

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Presenting hard facts is necessary to supplement your claims. On the other hand, engaging images certainly help to pique people’s interest.

In order to make both work together, infographics and slide decks both need to be clear in their data visualisation.

Make your contents as specific and concise as possible with these tips:

Label the info. One of the easiest ways to distinguish the objects on your deck is to label them. This works if you’re presenting statistics, which can be very technical.

For example, when labelling your diagram, specify if the item is the percent of market share increase, the amount of new lead conversions, or something else.

Explain connections. Dropping information at random can be confusing. Your presentation needs a narrative hierarchy that connects each of your points.

Show how Point A gets to Point B in your visualised data. Is it through a comparison of these points, or a progressive timeline? This gives your deck a smoother flow that complements your pitch.

Differentiate images. Establishing a pattern makes your design look more consistent. Just leave enough room to differentiate between similar objects to avoid any confusion.

Aside from labels, give your images some variety in order to make each point distinct. Data on this year’s sales might be visualized differently from, say, the age range of your customers.

Be careful not to oversimplify your visuals. The mind may be designed to avoid processing exaggerated images, but making your visual presentation clear to the viewer is just as important to get your message across clearly.

Summing It Up

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Visuals and content are designed to cooperate with each other so that you can produce substantial output regardless of topic. That’s why you should never compromise on one for the other. After all, beautifully presented data might not work without the appropriate specifications.

Likewise, a bulk of content won’t be given a second thought if it isn’t broken down into engaging images.

Infographic design does indeed help in attracting viewers and sharing information. People creating business decks can learn a thing or two from infographic design to also become visually engaging, and yet substantial as well.

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Do you enjoy designing sleek interface that will serve its users well? Why not apply for the role of UI Developer at Piktochart? Find out more about this job opening in Penang, Malaysia here.

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Article adapted from: https://piktochart.com/blog/infographic-design-tips-presentations/

Do First Impressions Really Count?

Here’s the hard truth: 80% of hiring managers will decide within the first 10 minutes of an interview whether to hire you or not. While every second in that interview room might feel like forever, anxiety might affect your responses to your potential employers. Here’s how you can work on the first impression that you’re putting forward.

Do Your Research

Before the big day, find out as much as you can about the company. A few simple clicks on the organisation’s website will usually reveal the company’s history andother useful facts, like their employee headcount, or who’s in charge of the department you’re hoping to work in.

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…And Know Your Interviewer And The Company

With this knowledge, you’ll sound more prepared and stand out as a candidate who is interested in the particular company. Showing interest in the company can also be translated as a “fit” for the company’s culture, boosting your chances of interview success.

Get There On Time

This cannot be stressed enough! Always plan ahead and arrive earlier than the scheduled time. If the interview venue is particularly out of the way, or located in in an area that you’re unfamiliar with, do your research online or go down in person!

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Dress to Impress

The saying “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have” still holds true here. We’ve shared tips on what to wear before; find them in our “5 Things To Remember At Your Job Interview” post here.

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The First Handshake

It may not seem like much, but 60% of employers say that they will judge a candidate based on their handshake.

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Never, ever offer a limp fish/dead fish handshake. Practice until you achieve a firm grip that means business.

Your 30-Second Pitch

Also known as your “elevator pitch”, you should be able to sum up your career history, achievements, and personal qualities within 30 seconds. Who are you? What do you do? Where do you want to go, or what are you looking for? These are the 3 questions that should be answered by the end of your half-minute.

Tips for your pitch include telling stories or anecdotes, eliminating jargon, practicing your pitch on friends and colleagues, and recording yourself on video to spot your own verbal cues and body language. Is your mini-speech interesting enough to captivate your audience? Is it even interesting to yourself? Practice your pitch regularly.

Body Posture

Speaking of body language, this graphic taken from one of our previous blog posts captures the essential body language to-dos during an interview.

Ask The Right Questions

From our post about “Interviewing Your Interviewer”, we mentioned that asking your potential employer questions lays down two things:

“Firstly, when done correctly, the questions you ask confirm your qualifications as a candidate for the position.

Secondly, you are interviewing the employer just as much as the employer is interviewing you. This is your opportunity to find out if this is an organisation where you want to work.”

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More on what questions to ask your interviewer here.

Overall, practice, practice, and practice. You’ve got one shot at what could potentially be the best experience in your career, and now that you know how important the first 10 minutes are, you better start preparing for it!

Interviewing Your Interviewer

When candidates walk into an interview, they forget that they’re there to ask questions as well. Asking the right questions at an interview is important for two reasons:

Firstly, when done correctly, the questions you ask confirm your qualifications as a candidate for the position.

Secondly, you are interviewing the employer just as much as the employer is interviewing you. This is your opportunity to find out if this is an organisation where you want to work.

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3 Things You Want To Achieve

When you ask the right questions, you want to achieve three things:

• Make sure the interviewer has no reservations about you
• Demonstrate your interest in the employer
• Find out if you feel the employer is the right fit for you

There are an infinite number of questions you could ask during a job interview, but if you stay focused on those three goals, the questions should come easily to you.

I recommend preparing three to five questions for each interview, and actually ask three of them.

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The 10 Questions You Might Ask In A Job Interview

1) “What skills and experiences would make an ideal candidate?”
This is a great open-ended question that will have the interviewer put his or her cards on the table and state exactly what the employer is looking for. If the interviewer mentions something you didn’t cover yet, now is your chance.

2) “What is the single largest problem facing your staff and would I be in a position to help you solve this problem?”
This question not only shows that you are immediately thinking about how you can help the team, it also encourages the interviewer to envision you working at the position.

3) “What have you enjoyed most about working here?”
This question allows the interviewer to connect with you on a more personal level, sharing his or her feelings. The answer will also give you unique insight into how satisfied people are with their jobs there. If the interviewer is pained to come up with an answer to your question, it’s a big red flag.

4) “What constitutes success at this position and this firm?”
This question shows your interest in being successful there, and the answer will show you both how to get ahead and whether it is a good fit for you.

5) “Do you have any hesitations about my qualifications?”
This question is gutsy. Also, you’ll show that you’re confident in your skills and abilities.

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6) “Do you offer continuing education and professional training?”
This is a great positioning question, showing that you are interested in expanding your knowledge and ultimately growing with the employer.

7) “Can you tell me about the team I’ll be working with?”
Notice how the question is phrased; it assumes you will get the job. This question also tells you about the people you will interact with on a daily basis, so listen to the answer closely.

8) “What can you tell me about your new products or plans for growth?”
This question should be customised for your particular needs. Do your homework on the employer’s site beforehand and mention a new product or service it’s launching to demonstrate your research and interest. The answer to the question will give you a good idea of where the employer is headed.

9) “Who previously held this position?”
This seemingly straightforward question will tell you whether that person was promoted or fired or if he/she quit or retired. That, in turn, will provide a clue to whether: there’s a chance for advancement, employees are unhappy, the place is in turmoil or the employer has workers around your age.

10) “What is the next step in the process?”
This is the essential last question and one you should definitely ask. It shows that you’re interested in moving along in the process and invites the interviewer to tell you how many people are in the running for the position.

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With luck, the answer you’ll hear will be: “There is no next step, you’re hired!”

Adapted from: “10 Job Interview Questions You Should Ask” by Joe Konop for Forbes.com

What Is MedTech and Why Does Asia Need It?

In a bid to classify the hordes of tech-reliant startups that have popped up in the past decade, exotic blended words such as “Edtech” and “Fintech” have come into existence in order to label education- and finance-related startups. Naturally, “MedTech” refers to the business of medical technologies.

Biotechin.Asia reports that by 2020, the Asia-Pacific region “is expected to pass the European Union as the world’s second-largest MedTech market”. The market demands in the Asia-Pacific region is highly diverse even within a single country in the region. Leading MedTech companies have lagged behind other industries in serving the region, creating gaps in patient services and bypassing significant opportunities.

The difficulties faced by the MedTech industry in the Asia-Pacific region include frugal spending habits, multi-segment markets, inadequate infrastructure, regulatory and reimbursement complexity, and intense competition. Conquering the MedTech market in any Asian country presents its own unique set of challenges.

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Attempting to crack this challenge is CXA, a HR/MedTech startup that handles benefits and wellness for employers and employees through an online platform. 2-year-old ConneXionsAsia hit an impressive revenue of $6 million within its first year and raised $8 million in Series A funding in January.

ConneXionsAsia provides personalized benefits to employees so that health benefits given through employer-sponsored insurance don’t go to waste. Their portal lets employees choose benefits based on their needs, instead of a traditional one-size-fits-all scheme.

Speaking to Tech In Asia, founder Rosaline Koo describes CXA’s imperative. “There’s a lot of waste in how employers are spending on staff benefits,” she says. “If you’re single, you typically don’t need that much insurance coverage, but working couples often get duplicated coverage, so why not use that for something that the employee values?”

Since the startup launched in March 2014, CXA has had significant market success, working with over 500 corporate clients, including over 40 Fortune 500 companies.

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CXA is hiring: Come work at this dynamic startup as a Web Developer! More details on our HackerTrail listing here: https://www.hackertrail.com/cxa?sc=blog

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Images taken from CXA’s official website

What Do Some Of The Best Companies To Work For Have In Common?

Mention “best employer” and most people would immediately cast their thoughts towards Google. The omnipresent tech/platform giant has built an unshakeable reputation for itself as the premier employer of the best talent in the world. Operating in 70 offices in more than 40 countries around the globe, Google’s legendary perks and unconventional office interiors have made its company culture a hot search topic on… Google.

With employee benefits such as an 18-week maternity leave, a $150,000 reimbursement cap as part of its “Global Education Leave” programme, and, get this, free gourmet meals every day of the week, it’s not hard to see why a large portion of their workforce are enamoured with the company.

But what lies behind Google and other employee-centric companies? Fortune’s Geoff Colvin draws the argument away from the freebies and the niceties by declaring, “It’s personal – not perkonal. It’s relationship-based, not transaction-based.” This is especially significant in the tech sector, where hiring a quality employee – a costly and time-consuming process – accounts for only half of the total effort. Equally as important is keeping your new hire satisfied – content enough that they wouldn’t be tempted to work for one of your many rivals instead.

Ryan Scott of Forbes pinpoints the main source of employee satisfaction as “the opportunity to be part of a company that places a premium on giving back”. Citing Detroit-based Quicken Loans as an example, the retail lender has offered tens of thousands of volunteer work hours and donated more than $10 million towards downtown revitalisation, beautification and safety improvements in areas where team members live, and supporting programs that provide technology-focused skills training and entrepreneurship opportunities for startups in Detroit. It’s no wonder, then, that the company ranked #12 in Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For 2015”.

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Echoing the need for corporate philanthropy and volunteerism, Stanley Bing of Fortune lists “A conviction of “rightness”” among other yellow brick road traits, such as:

• A strong leader
• A strong hierarchy with a clear reporting structure
• Clear goals that everybody in the organisation understands and buys into
• Accountability for assigned tasks
• Victory always defined and within reach
• Camaraderie
• An open-office plan to facilitate communication and democracy
• High stakes, with even a hint of danger

All these traits will come together to form a solid company culture, but only if executives and leaders walk the talk.

While most would dismiss “company culture” as either an overworked cliché or an unattainable unicorn, the C-word is usually more pervasive than imagined. It is the way people (in this case, employees) behave from moment to moment without being told. This is of paramount importance, especially in the service-leaning industries. Thankfully, more employers are seeing the connection from culture and relationships to workplace greatness to business success. Audit and consultancy firm Deloitte surveyed 3,300 executives in 106 countries and discovered that top management place culture as the most important issue they face, trumping other more conventional concerns such as leadership, workforce capability, performance management, and others.

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Analysing the “100 Best”, Geoff Colvin of Fortune describes the four key elements of company culture as:

Mission: These companies are pursuing a larger purpose, and company leaders make sure no one forgets it. When employees are all pursuing a mission they believe in, relationships get stronger.

Colleagues: Several of the “100 Best” also appear on lists of companies where it’s hardest to get hired. Organisations like Twitter, St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and The Container Store, attract more than 100 applicants for every job opening. Those companies can hire the cream of the crop, creating a self-reinforcing cycle; the best people want to go where the best people are.

Trust: Show people that you consider them trustworthy, and they’ll generally prove you right. Many of the “100 Best” let employees work whenever they want, and they work far more than if they were punching a clock. Riot Games, creator of the hit game “League of Legends”, even offers unlimited paid vacation. Strong relationships prevent employees from abusing the policy.

Caring: Every company says it value employees. The “100 Best” don’t say it; they show it. This is where some of those celebrated perks do count. A true culture of caring goes beyond perks and includes daily behaviour.

So, will your workplace be the next Google?

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References:

“Best to work for, yes! But why?” by Stanley Bing, 7 March 2015
(http://fortune.com/2015/03/07/best-companies-to-work-for-explanation/)

“How to build the perfect workplace” by Geoff Colvin, 5 March 2015
(http://fortune.com/2015/03/05/perfect-workplace/)

“Why Are These 100 Companies The Best to Work For?” by Ryan Scott, 6 April 2015
(http://www.forbes.com/sites/causeintegration/2015/04/06/why-are-these-100-companies-the-best-to-work-for/#7d183dcef756)

“100 Best Companies to Work For” by Forbes
(http://fortune.com/best-companies/)