Monday, September 1, 2014

Engaged? Make it so!

Sir Patrick Stewart helped me ask Mary Carnahan to spend our lives exploring the universe together and pronounced us ENGAGED at Dragon Con!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Growing IT Talent in Nashville

This week's Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce newsletter asked for input to help Nashville grow. Being in IT, the first thing I thought of as a barrier to growth is the lack of top IT talent. Middle Tennessee colleges and universities churn out a staggering number of IT students, however the skills taught in class only go so far towards preparing those students for growth in the workplace. For many, this growth is spring-boarded by attending conferences where they receive exposure to new technologies, training in vital skills, and connect with other professionals outside their organization. Conferences draw the best and brightest from surrounding states as both presenters and attendees, which provides a unique opportunity to market Nashville as a city of potential employers as well as establishing a reputation of excellence.

Below is the comment I submitted to the Chamber of Commerce. Please post any comments or suggestions you might have at the bottom of this article or tag me on twitter (@gainesk).
The technology sector seems to be driving much of Nashville's growth, however our current workforce is having trouble keeping up and may hinder continued growth. While various special interests have formed strong communities around specific technologies and products, Nashville is sorely lacking in regionally recognized technology focused events focused on educating and connecting both local and national talent. Local government needs to get more involved in helping to facilitate these events by making venues available and connecting organizers with sponsorship. The result will be a stronger reputation for Nashville as a technology hub on the National stage, higher standards for education and training of talent, and attracting top talent from other cities by showcasing what Nashville has to offer.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Build a Customized MVC eCommerce Site in 1 Hour (workshop)

For those of us who have spent most of our careers building business applications, the prospect of creating an e-commerce storefront can be quite daunting. Not only do you have to deal with calculating tax, estimating shipping and accepting payments, but employees need a way to manage products, discounts and marketing content. Thankfully, there's an open source e-commerce solution written in Microsoft ASP.NET MVC5 named nopCommerce that provides all this functionality and much more.

This workshop was designed to ramp everyone up on the Model-View-Controller (MVC) architecture, introduce advanced concepts used throughout the site such as Dependency Injection, and walk through the process of working with nopCommerce. By the end of the evening everyone should have first-hand experience building plugins that can be packaged and sold online.

Feedback and constructive criticism is welcome.
A list of past and scheduled speaking engagements can be found here.

To check availability or discuss presenting a specific topic, I can be reached by email or phone.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Three Reasons to Hire Consultants

Three Reasons to Hire ConsultantsConsultants are more than just developers with an hourly rate. In addition to honing their technical skills and staying abreast of the latest technology, successful consultants must develop valuable soft skills which are often sorely lacking in developers.

Time Management

When your client receives a bill for hours worked, the understanding is that each of those hours were spent doing something constructive for the client. Consultants are held to a much higher standard of productivity and must be self-motivated. Successful consultants learn to control their time by setting goals, defining and prioritizing actionable items, delegating duties, limiting distractions, and organizing information while managing these aspects within multiple projects or clients.

Problem Solving

In consulting, problem solving is where the rubber meets the road. Before a solution can be discussed, the consultant must first understand the problem and the conditions required for a successful solution. Consultants must have the ability to understand the client's industry and their role in it, the company's culture and expectations, business objectives, and processes. Only then can they consider the cost, risk and benefits to recommend a solution.


The ability to effectively communicate is by far the most important skill for an effective consultant.

Written Communication

The role of consultant inevitably involves the creation of estimates, statements of work, user stories, specifications, findings and recommendations, plans, trip reports, and hand-off documents. It's expected that these documents, as well as other written communication, be clear, succinct, orderly and unambiguous. They also have to write for a wide variety of audiences ranging from IT professionals to the CEO. This means the consultant must understand the interests of that audience and emphasize the relevant information. Some audiences will need additional context to understand complex topics while others simply need an executive summary. Often written communication involves skills beyond words, such as the creation of charts and diagrams. A good consultant determines the best method to convey their message to the desired audience.

Verbal Communication

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, three out of every four people suffer from speech anxiety. Consultants are required not only to overcome their anxiety, but to also hone their verbal communication skills by articulating and controlling their volume, pace, pitch, posture, facial expressions and eye contact. They must convey confidence without being arrogant and exhibit authority while remaining open to suggestions. Verbal communication involves not only speaking, but listening as well. Knowing when and how to ask questions is key. In order to craft the most effective solution to a problem, the consultant must understand the difficulties of their clients from multiple perspectives and present a solution that satisfies all parties.

While these skills are not unique to consultants, they are often more developed in those who make a living providing consulting services. What soft skills do you think are most important? Share your thoughts in a comment below.