6prog interviews | Brett Delle Grazie

An experienced DevOps consultant with over 20 years in the IT industry. A background in software engineering,dealing with everything from embedded systems through to fully distributed systems. 

Hi Brett, what have you been up to recently?

Hi Andy, I’ve recently finished a three year engagement as DevOps Practice Lead with a large Government organisation, having been responsible for significant portions of their CI/CD pipeline processes adopted by all the various teams.

Can you take me through that journey?

As part of a business change programme, my team and I, were responsible for radically transforming their existing CI processes for multiple bespoke applications into a true CI/CD pipeline giving the organisation far greater agility than they had previously. They went from quarterly releases to two weekly incremental releases with greatly improved idea-to-production cycle times.

In addition to being responsible for the CI/CD processes we were also part of the live support team for the applications delivered upon our platform. Here the use of an everything-as-code, immutable infrastructure and cloud native approach drove improvements as well. We ensured that applications could deploy their own monitoring, alerting and custom dashboards with the application deployment. We also ensured that the tools we used were equally accessible to development teams from the outset, the result was development teams delivering dashboards that had operational as well as business value up-front as part of the application deliverable.

In order to achieve all this we had to engage early and constantly collaborate with our colleagues in Architecture, Security, Operations and Management. Without that collaboration and support none of the above
would have been possible.

How much of the organisation does this type of project affect?

Quite a lot! We delivered software developed for internal, public and business to business use and during my tenure shifted from hosted infrastructure to public cloud as well. All while addressing GDPR regulation
and the usual associated security concerns when moving to public cloud.

What was a key take-away in this project?

I know it’s a cliche but early, frequent collaboration is key. The early collaboration led to a guiding/mentoring behaviour between the teams instead of a traditional policing approach. Experienced individuals felt free to raise concerns or challenge a design or strategy, but were accepting if their challenge was not ultimately accepted.

Over such a long period, scope change is inevitable and strategic decisions once thought immutable may need revisiting as understanding improves and the unknown unknowns become more known. Collaborative behaviours allowed this to happen naturally at appropriate times without people trying to maintain their illusory fiefdoms of control.

How do you deal with challenges?

In short, have a plan and a roadmap, engage early and deliver incremental business value.

Brett

I’m an engineer and I love challenges. I love learning, so researching, decomposing a problem into a workable plan or developing solutions is something I thoroughly enjoy. I’m also not afraid to seek help when needed so I’m always learning.

On the people side of things I strive to listen to all parties, be polite, honest, upfront and operate in the best interests of the client. In my 20+ years in the IT industry, 10 of which have been consulting, I’ve always found this to be the best operating policy.

In my first job as a software engineer straight out of University I had the fortune to be mentored by a senior engineer of extraordinary talent, patience and skill. For that reason alone I try to act as a mentor to Developers or DevOps people that need help. Watching them grow into competent engineers with my help is my way of thanking my friend for his assistance when I was young and green.

What is your biggest achievement?

A few years back I was brought on as DevOps Team Lead for a bank that had a huge engineering team. On my first day observing, I had one team member rage-quit a meeting in what I learned later to be frustration with
the team’s lack of progress and poor behaviour. That team member turned out to be one of my greatest allies in instigating change.

AWARD > the DevOps Industry Awards 2018 "Manager of the Year"

I went about breaking the silos and getting people to communicate. As we helped individual teams with their specific issues, they helped us fix bits we couldn’t do on our own. The results were an astronomical improvement in team interactions and rapid improvement in cycle time for development tasks. That was in addition to some very serious technical improvements to their infrastructure and pipeline processes on their internal and hybrid cloud operations.

On the day of my leaving, many months after, the CEO pulled me aside and said:

“I cannot thank you enough for the work you have done here.

You have made a significant impact that we are all
the better for, thank you”

Client
6prog is a facilitator of freelance contracts and commentator on recruitment in general. For more information reach out hello@6prog.com

6prog Partners | Crunch

Today we are talking with Megan at Crunch.

So, who are Crunch?

Glad you asked! We’re an online accounting service that supports freelancers, contractors, and practically anyone who’s self-employed. We understand that the self-employed life isn’t your standard nine-to-five, and we tailor our services to make your life as easy as possible. 

We combine bespoke, online accounting software with actual human beings, so that you’re always able to access your accounts and seek the expert support and guidance you need.

We offer everything you need for peace of mind in your business’s bookkeeping, from as little as £71.50 +VAT a month.

What do I get for my money?

On our Basic or Plus Limited accountancy packages, you’ll get unlimited access to the expertise of our chartered certified accountants whenever you need it. They’ll deal with HMRC on your behalf, remind you of upcoming tax responsibilities and even help you file your Self Assessment. You’ll also gain access to our bespoke online accounting software and a range of informative, expert business guides.

Then there’s our Small Business package, which is ideal if your business has grown to take on employees and needs extra support, and expert insights to free up your time and help your business grow. You’ll get your own dedicated accountant and bookkeeper, our fastest response times, two Accountancy Healthchecks, in-app chat, and payroll for up to 10 employees, to name just a few. 

Wait, so I get access to your experts as well as your software?

Yup! We believe in the personal touch at Crunch – you’ll always have access to our team of expert chartered certified accountants to make sure you have the knowledge and guidance you need to make the right decisions for your business.

Is there anything else I should know about?

Well, there’s also Crunch Chorus – our very own self-employed community! Membership is absolutely free, and as a member, you’ll be able to get your hands on a range of jargon-free free business guides, templates, and tools. 

We also have a dedicated Facebook page, a friendly hub for freelancers and contractors in the UK. You can join our Crunch Chorus Facebook group and share advice, experience, and make new connections with hundreds of people just like you!

Tell me more about Crunch!

Our CEO Darren Fell started Crunch in 2009. The goal was to combine online accounting software and all the benefits of a traditional high-street accountant to create a game-changing online accounting service – and for less than half the price of traditional firms.

These days our service is much more than just accountancy. We can support you with business insurance, financial planning advice, mortgages and much more. We’ve poured millions into our technology, and continue to find new ways to support our clients and make their businesses a success.

That sounds great! Where can I go to find more information?

Come along to our website at Crunch.co.uk and browse through our services and products.

We’d also like to offer you the opportunity to take up a free demo of our Crunch software and take us for a test drive!

You can also book a consultation and talk to one of our friendly experts if you have questions about our service and how we can best help your business.

Consultations are completely free, and there are no hidden costs – just honest advice that’s best for your business. We look forward to hearing from you!

6prog Partners | GroupMap

6prog helps freelancers to find clients and clients to onboard freelancers. If you need a recruiter to help, just ask.

Today we are talking with Paul Skrgatic about GroupMap

Hi Paul – what is GroupMap?

Hi Andy, GroupMap is an effective way to plan, brainstorm, discuss and decide.

Ok great -who uses it?

You’ve probably encountered the usual issues of group decision-making in your meetingsworkshops or classrooms… People who dominate the conversation, quiet folks whose ideas never get heard, and of course all those post-it notes you have to write up.

GroupMap solves this by capturing individual thinking first, then revealing the group perspective, all in real-time. Now that’s true collaborative decision making.

Is there a discount for 6prog members?

Yes a free 14 day trial.

How much does it cost for participants to join?

Nothing, zippo, nada, zilch. It’s always free for participants to join a map.

 

What is going on at the moment for you Paul?

I’m currently helping Figura clients to deliver change for Projects in the Transport and Tourism sectors within Edinburgh. With the move to the gig economy we are finding that a lot of entrepreneurs need help to get new projects started and also keep the momentum up. We use GroupMap to help collaborate on project requirements engaging all parts of our client’s organisation. Also available via 6prog.
Get in touch if we can help you with your change or project challenges. paul@figura.associates

links

https://www.6prog.com/account/partners

https://www.6prog.com/home/about

https://www.6prog.com/account/demorequest

ABOUT

6prog was started by friends from Brighton, UK and Los Angeles, USA. We had all experienced recruiting, being recruited and working as a recruitment partner and felt that these tasks would benefit from a single solution. We discussed various propositions with a large number of people in our own networks and summarised the following characteristics with this multi billion dollar industry.

• Recruiters spend too much time doing paperwork when they should be networking.
• Freelancers spend time chasing updates which can just be messaged directly.
• Clients want multiple levels of recruitment expertise but would rather not have multiple suppliers.
• Project Managers don’t have the time to read through multiple online profiles (the reverse job board service? “no thanks”).
• Everyone wants clearer communication.
• Everyone wants fair payment and fair charges.

So we designed a workflow that allows members to deliver their function most effectively. Recruiters can be anyone with a book of contacts (it’s more valuable to a PM if you can recruit from people via experience or word of mouth). Project Managers and Freelancers can talk to one another. It’s fine – it really is! Recruiters are paid a fixed fee agreed per opportunity. Also margins should not exist (too many reasons to list!) and therefore the software is funded by the low transaction fee. 

Importantly, our ethos is membership driven. All members are charged in the same way at the same fee. Finally we decided to get a team together in order to build a modern solution for project managers, freelancers and recruiters. We launched in April 2017. 6prog is pushing it’s platform to do even more than it already does today. Become a member and help us on our shared journey to revolutionise how projects, recruiting and on boarding get better.

Seven golden rules for the perfect business pitch

For a lot of people, the idea of public speaking sends a cold chill down their spine.

For a lot of people, the idea of public speaking sends a cold chill down their spine. Standing in front of an audience, all alone with nothing but your ideas and whatever materials you have to hand… well, let’s just say it’s not for everyone. But when you’re self-employed, pitching to clients is something you’ll want to master.

Making the perfect pitch isn’t as hard as you might think, either, and as long as you’re prepared, anyone can pull it off. So whether you’re pitching to Alan Sugar or Dave the greengrocer, let’s run down the seven golden rules for making the perfect business pitch.

1. Go for the right business

Don’t just pitch for any work. Remember to focus your efforts on the people who might actually be interested in taking you up on the offer. This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people seem to believe the scatter-gun approach is the smart move. Spoiler: it’s not.

2. Do your homework

This one should be a no-brainer, really. The better you understand your business, your prospective client, and how you can work together, the more likely you’ll get a yes.

3. Think in headlines

Get your best and most important information into simple headlines – they’ll grab your client’s attention, and then you can add the detail. Headlines are more likely to stick in their minds when the pitch is over than the heavier detail, too.

4. Be concise and credible

“Less is more” isn’t just a slogan. When it comes to pitches, keep it concise, punchy, and memorable.

5. Practise makes perfect

The more you rehearse your pitch, the less likely you are to stumble, forget, or feel self-conscious when you’re talking to a prospective client. Think about your presentation, your clothes, your demeanour. Be well-prepared, speak with certainty and conviction, and the message will land all the firmer.

6. Focus on them 

Remember to use “you” and “your” rather than “me” and “we”. It’s about them, and it’s collaborative – your first duty in a business pitch is to show your client that they are the ones who are going to benefit, so keep it focused.

7. Demonstrate teamwork

You might be making the pitch, but you’re not the only one doing the heavy lifting. Give your talented team the recognition they deserve and highlight the importance of teamwork, collaboration, and a common goal. Even if this is a virtual team, make sure they know the score and that everyone’s on the same page.

If you’d like more information on how to win, woo, and develop relationships with new clients, check out our ultimate business tips for the self-employed article.

 

6prog interviews | Richard Kettle

Richard has been a contractor for the past 15 years. His clients have included UBS, Credit Suisse and Barclays. 6prog wanted to learn more about his experiences and to share them.

“Hi Richard,  what have you been up to recently?”

I most recently have been working on TBTF projects, where systematically important financial institutions were deemed to pose a serious risk to the economy in the event of collapse. Because of this, regulators insisted these banks “ring fenced” certain aspects of their operations and I was tasked with helping to create and build these new entities to meet this regulatory request. We also created a business solutions entity to ensure the non-regulated business was funded and managed in the event of a collapse of a trading entity. 

This then led on to Brexit planning as this would also require the creation of a new entity within the EU. These projects were typically 18 months each in duration. 

“How much of the bank does this type of project affect?”

I covered group risk control in London and Zurich, which included, Credit/Market/Operational risk and compliance. My role was to build and implement the standardised set of project tools to be used. This included the runbook, budget planning, on boarding of external staff, RAID log, SharePoint site, governance decks, Steerco meeting material and scrum sessions amongst other tasks. I also had to help with the creation of TOM documentation, BRD, BRSIT, ARS as well as policy documentation and service level agreement documentation.

“What was a key take-away in this project?”

I learned during my time on the trading desk working in the middle office on a previous role the importance of having a plan and process and how important documenting and being able to prove something or to be audited is to a project or team. The basic concept I keep in mind when working on a project is that to deliver on time and on budget we need to have a clear step by step guide from where we are to where we need to be. We know things are likely to move and change and we are agile enough to factor that into our planning, but we need a tangible set of activities or milestones to deliver and a plan of how we do that. These milestones have to be clear, understandable (by non-business people such as audit) simple enough to be measured/tracked and then when closed have the closing document to prove it. But the most important thing to remember is that it’s people that will deliver these projects and if you can’t find a way to get from each member of the team their contribution then we all suffer, so strong people skills/relationship building is my first starting point. 

“How do you deal with challenges?”

I have found that in every project you will face issues and that’s why we have a RAID log! But the biggest obstacle is when people do not set realistic targets/milestones or re-evaluate them during the project. Hiding behind an amber rag status and hoping for something that isn’t likely to happen causes problems that just do not need to be there. If you plan well using clear statements that are measurable and where you need to, you update your approach, keep on top of your dependencies and where others depend on you, and are led correctly by a strong PM or PMO function things should go to plan…. Also, at the start, think of the known unknowns, the unknown unknowns and document them. They might come up again later and you need to demonstrate they were part of your thinking!!!!

“What is your biggest achievement?”

I am proud to say that all of my projects have come in on time and on or under budget. This is down to correctly tracking the spend, spending where it’s needed, having the right people in the right roles and having clear leadership and targets/milestones. If you have a plan, are agile enough and honest enough to change as you require and the people are the right people then you stand a great chance of delivering, on time, on budget every time!

www.6prog.com

6prog members

I have a fundamental vision about supporting people and organisations through change. I am dedicated to encouraging businesses – from start ups to bluechip – to develop and flourish, and ensure the best possible end results.

My substantial expertise in financial services, transport, retail, supply chain, manufacturing, and outsourcing makes a highly influential leader, with an ability to work in matrix environments globally, across multi-cultural and multi-functional teams, engaging stakeholders at all levels.

I am an experienced programme director, running large cross functional teams, coordinating phased moves of people, systems and machinery. By employing synergised processes, I am able to quickly deliver – often exceeding targets – reduced footprints and centralisation, whilst increasing functional capacity and enhancing customer service; resulting in significant savings and benefits. Strong emotional intelligence to be able to rally and deploy extensive operational improvement teams where necessary and to garner the support and focus of the key people around the change – be they client teams or colleagues and associates.

For more profiles like this see 6prog.com and contact hello@6prog.com if you are interested in talking to the above consultant. Click the logo below to register.

6prog members

My experience is across strategic initiatives and transformation, technological, regulatory, organisational and cultural change.

Having most recently supported a major global bank to prepare its teams and clients for some of the biggest regulatory shake ups in recent times, I have the proven knowledge and expertise to work with businesses and stakeholders of all levels, to plan and execute projects and programmes effectively; from taking ideas and building business cases, through to realising the expected benefits and vision, along with advising on suitable governance structures and efficient ways of operating.

For more profiles like this see 6prog.com and contact hello@6prog.com if you are interested in talking to the above consultant. Click the logo below to register.

This company just fixed the most annoying thing about contract recruitment… (hidden margins)

This is not a freelancer ‘sob story’ and neither is this blog about the challenges of procurement leads pushing contract agencies for lower margins.

It’s a story about the human interaction between a project manager and a freelancer.

make your valuable network valuable

Hidden agency margins hurt the freelancer and the manager because neither is able to ascertain what level of work is required or should be expected based on the set fee.

An example:
A project manager hires a developer for 12 months at a cost of £700 per day who is in fact paid £560 by the agency.
For the PM this is a stretch. It is slightly above the ideal budget and now it is a necessity the developer works fast to bring in the work early and come under project budget.
For the developer this is a job taken because of timing and ‘if a better paid job comes along’ it will be hard for the freelancer to reject it.
4 weeks into the project the PM has a one-to-one with the developer to discuss the pace of the work. In theory neither are contractually permitted to disclose the rate. (This only helps the agency and is a policy that is often disregarded).
The PM mentions the stresses they are under on budget control. Casually the freelancer mentions they are also concerned as the agent said budget was a pressure so a low daily rate was applied.
Both sides feel uneasy. Neither side is at fault.

Another example:
A project manager asks an agency to find a developer for a 12 month contract. They do. High fives all round.
The agency supplies an excellent selection of profiles and following some interviews one developer is selected who joins the project a few weeks later.
Unfortunately the management is changed, and the business direction is under question so the project is halted immediately. Two weeks payment is made to the agency and most of this is passed to the freelancer.
All that work for 2 weeks of margin. Is this good trade?

A final example:
A project manager and a freelancer catch up having worked together a few years ago.
As luck would have it, one is in need of a freelancer and the other has just finished a contract.
Procurement policy dictates an agency should be used to manage the papertrail, help on timesheets and invoicing and keep the relationship IR35 friendly.
A call is put in to a known agency … what margin can you charge if I give you a candidate?
(Frankly I’d prefer you offered us the work at our normal margins but) “how about 10%?”
Both sides have done the other a favour yet neither have received one!

As shown by the above it is good news that 6prog designed a platform with managers, freelancers and recruiters’ best interests in mind. An ultra low services charge for paperless paperwork that streamlines the process, a fixed fee for recruitment services (or networking introductions) AND no hidden margins.

Going freelance in 6 steps

6prog Freelancer : Benefits

1/ Decide what you are selling. List out your key skills and accomplishments. Clients will typically want to know about pieces of work that you have started, managed and completed.

2/ Invest in some good kit. If you are a designer you will need the correct hardware. Whatever type of freelancing you do, you will need to communicate; well and often. Make sure your phone, email and social media accounts work. Set your 6prog alerts to ‘on’.

3/ Decide where you are keen to work – internationally or in your home town? What are the laws that dictate how much tax you need to pay and what are the costs of living in that place?

4/ Who is in your network who will help you? Other freelancers, recruiters who know you, and networking sites can keep your business private and also give you recognition and new clients that you are in control of.

5/ Blogs: keep learning. If you have made it to point five you are already doing this!

6/ Select some business tools to help you stay organised. Blog coming soon on some of our favourites.

Continue reading “Going freelance in 6 steps”

The difference between a contractor and a freelancer.

You have probably seen the terms ‘contractor’ and ‘freelancer’. If you’re self employed you’ll likely fall into one of these two categories.

A contractor is a person who provides services to a person or organisation (a client) for a specified and finite period of time. A contractor usually meets the following characteristics:

  • Works on one contract at a time for one client
  • Does not operate under standard employment, but rather a contract that defines their arrangement with their client for a defined period of time
  • Are not on their client’s payroll
  • Is set up as a sole trader, a limited company contractor or an umbrella company contractor
  • Commonly found in the IT, engineering, public sector, health, education, social work, finance and consulting industries

A contractor’s contract will stipulate their working arrangements, which will determine whether they are genuinely self-employed or temporarily employed under the guise of self-employment. This is referred to as being outside or inside ‘IR35 legislation’.

A freelancer also provides services to a client for a finite period of time. However, this period of time is not always specified. Here are the characteristics of a typical freelancer:

  • Might be working on several freelance projects at once for different clients
  • May not necessarily operate under a contract the same way as a contractor
  • More often works from home or from their own office than the client’s office, because as they are less likely to have stipulated working hours. They are more likely to have to dedicate a certain amount of hours per day or week, but not at specific times
  • Similarly to contractors, freelancers aren’t on their client’s payroll
  • Will also be set up as either a sole trader, as a limited company director or will be getting paid via an umbrella company
  • Commonly found in creative industries such as digital marketing, graphic design, media, publishing, and architecture

Contractors and freelancers aren’t subject to the same employment rights as permanent employees. The term ‘freelancer’ is simply a way to describe the nature of your work; it is not a legal term – therefore a freelancer will still fall under the term of ‘self-employed person’. As such, freelancers will also have to consider their working circumstances to determine if they work inside or outside IR35.

How they get paid

Because freelancers are free to set their own rates per-project and based on how much experience they have, it is more financially beneficial to contract through a limited company as they can open themselves up to more opportunities with clients whilst maximising their take-home pay.

That’s not to say that contractors can’t chase the rates they desire, but more often than not the rates for a contract are already pre-set by the client or the agency. If the contractor is not satisfied with the rate, they can try to negotiate for higher pay.

If your assignment is deemed to be inside IR35, you have some options:

  • Continue working through your limited company – you could continue to contract in the public sector through your limited company, and accept the lower take home pay you will receive. You will also no longer be able to claim certain expenses.
  • Negotiate a higher rate – adjusting your rate to make up for the loss in take home pay is an option, although an adjustment that your client will agree to might not make up for the loss.
  • Switch to umbrella – switching to a compliant umbrella company means you won’t have to pay any Corporation Tax or dividend tax on top of paying income tax and employees NI, and you will receive employee benefits unavailable to you when contracting through a limited company. Find out more about switching to umbrella.
  • Leave the public sector – as many contractors have chosen, you also have the option to leave the public sector for the private sector, where these rules to do not apply to the same extent.

Source: https://www.churchill-knight.co.uk