Technology Advice You Can Trust

Hi, I'm Dave Hyndman. I am a senior IT consultant providing CIO-level advice to small & medium businesses, non-profits and government departments and agencies.​

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Damn Rob's fast

How does he do it? I met my cousin Rob last Thursday for one of our attempting-to-be-regular breakfast get-togethers and recommend to him a book I'm reading: Tim Ferriss' The 4-Hour Workweek. Only four days later, there is an article in the Globe and Mail titled, The $2,000 executive assistant. It's an article about outsourcing admin work, as espoused in the Ferriss book. And Rob is cited as an example, including a big picture of Rob sitting at his desk (in the act of outsourcing some work?).

"It's a great way to delegate to other people parts of your job that you really don't enjoy doing," says Rob Hyndman, a one-man Toronto law firm. "I can simply parcel out individual tasks to individual providers. It makes me faster. It makes me more nimble."

Last year, Mr. Hyndman paid nearly $2,000 for a "virtual administrative assistant" to schedule his meetings, organize his contacts and do all the other office work that once kept him behind his desk until late. As the personal offshoring business evolves, he's finding more and more tasks he can farm out to India.

A little coverage in the Telegraph Journal

I was interviewed, along with a few others, for an article about T4G in the Telegraph Journal. The bit about me is along the same lines as the Globe & Mail article from a while back: T4G allowing and benefiting from a progressive approach to work arrangements and work-life balance. They even mention Nicky doing her Ph.D.

NB Telegraph-Journal | Money - As published on page c1 on September 25, 2006

T4G Limited helping to keep Saint John online. Growing Service company one of the fastest growing in Canada

Kate Shingler Special to the Telegraph-Journal

GRAND MANAN - The technology services company T4G Limited is an Information Technology consulting firm making waves across North America and beyond.

With several hundred employees in Canada, the project-based company works with more than 100 leading firms in a wide range of industries, namely retail, communications, travel, healthcare and financial services, including leading Fortune 500 companies.

T4G does everything from developing online catalogues for companies like L.L. Bean to analyzing sales data for other retail giants like J.

Crew, Orvis and Best Buy, to managing content for government tourism websites, including the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

The private firm was established in Toronto in 1996 with a team of 23 employees, but founder Geoff Flood, a Saint John native, soon opened up an office in his hometown. T4G expanded to Saint John in 2001, and opened for business with eight employees on board. Now there are more than 50 people on staff. Flood lives in Saint John, and works in the Toronto office part-time.

"New Brunswick is a great place to do business," says Flood, who applauds the mayor of Saint John, Norman McFarlane, for promoting technology and turning the city into an IT-friendly place. "It is a destination of choice for a lot of people. We've got a lot to offer in Saint John."

Business is so good that the company, also an authorized training centre for Microsoft, is constantly recruiting.

"There is full employment in the technology market in New Brunswick and in Saint John," notes Flood. "Really good people are in high demand."

T4G is one of the fastest-growing professional services companies in Canada. The company's revenue has more than doubled over the past three years from $12 million in 2002 to $25.5 million in 2005. The target for 2006 is $30 million.

In addition to the Toronto and Saint John operations, T4G now has offices in Vancouver and Halifax. It has distinguished itself as an award-winning solutions provider and is the first company in Canada to earn five Microsoft Gold Certified Partner awards.

The company attributes some of its success to its practice of combining teams from across Canada.

An employee with the technology services company T4G sits at a work station in the above photo.

One of the company's key players, Director of Travel and Hospitality Solutions, Dave Hyndman, works from his home office on Prince Edward Island.

Hyndman, a sought-after IT consultant who has worked all over the world, is currently in Toronto for a 10-month stint while his wife completes her doctorate.

Whether he is based in Charlottetown or Toronto, Hyndman heads up a team that is working with several provincial governments on developing comprehensive tourism websites.

T4G's MyTravelHost is an innovative tool that uses technology to help boost the province's tourism industry in many ways. It enables consumers, tourism operators and government to exchange information, ultimately generating interest and attracting more visitors.

While Hyndman acknowledges he travels several times a month for his job, he believes T4G's unique organizational structure works because it allows employees to work where they want to live.

"People work on things irrespective of their locations," says the father of three, who adds that while there are benefits to being in a big city, he prefers the quality of life on PEI.

T4G's Atlantic Operations General Manager John Ceccarelli is originally from Ontario. He admits he had reservations when he moved east to head-up the local office.

"I was working in downtown Toronto when I moved to Saint John... I was reluctant at first," he says.

Now, he is enjoying the city and working environment so much he is trying to persuade his former colleagues to join him.

"We have a good roster of employees in other offices - we would encourage them to move to Saint John."

While Ceccarelli acknowledges that Saint John doesn't have the customer base of larger urban centres, he says in terms of delivery of services the local operation is among the best in the country.

"Development teams can be anywhere; in the technology industry you can deliver anywhere," he says calling T4G an end-to-end technology services organization.

With the company's four offices spread out across the country, he believes T4G has the best of both worlds.

"With 200 employees and a federated business model, T4G is able to deliver sophisticated enterprise solutions while paying close attention to customer requirements," he says. "We deliver measurable value with each project."

One of the secrets to T4G's success is that its employees have a passion for learning new technologies and they are always eager to find opportunities that allow clients to achieve their goals, according to Ceccarelli.

"For a number of reasons, including good luck, we have been able to hire talented, creative and entrepreneurial employees," he says.

Check out Lost & Found

Our good friend, Matt Rainnie, CBC Radio's regular host of Mainstreet PEI, is doing a new national radio show for CBC Radio One called Lost & Found.

Life is made up of the lost and found. The search for things that have left you, or the discovery of something you've never had. Lost & Found explores personal stories on everything from confidence and identity, to love and luggage.

Tune in to Lost & Found, airing weekly beginning this Saturday, 1-2pm.

Summer is definitely over

Summer has come to a crashing halt. Almost everything that could happen to mark the end of summer and beginning of fall seemed to happen in the span of only a few days:

  • On Sunday, my Mom & Dad went back to East Hampton, after a great, month-long visit.
  • On Monday, my sister, Paige, and her family went back to East Hampton. Paige, Bill, William and Christopher are a big part of our wonderful summer routine. Their leaving signals a big change for us and leaves us (and many others) looking for something else to do Sunday afternoons and evenings.
  • Today, Alex started school.
  • Thursday, Abby starts pre-school.
  • and the temperature dropped ... significantly.

Too much. Too soon.

Hey, I'm featured in the Globe and Mail

Yesterday's Globe and Mail included a story on teleworking, featuring yours truly. Nice bit of press for me and for T4G, but also a nice angle for PEI.

Update: The original story's gone behind the paywall. As I'm the subject of the story, I'll take the pesonal liberty of presenting it in full here:

Teleworking helps attract far-flung staff

After nearly 20 years of working outside Canada, Dave Hyndman wanted to return to his native Prince Edward Island. Yet after holding overseas positions with Federal Express Corp. and most recently working for a San Francisco dot-com company, Mr. Hyndman was also keen to keep working for an innovative technology firm. When he and his wife decided a move to Charlottetown was their first priority, Mr. Hyndman knew he was closing the door on some opportunities in the Toronto area.

Some, but not all. Among the companies Mr. Hyndman had talked to was T4G Ltd. When Geoff Flood, president of T4G, offered him the option of working for the Toronto-based technology services company from his new home in Charlottetown, it was exactly what Mr. Hyndman wanted.

Mr. Hyndman likes his job as director of tourism solutions for T4G, and “I live in this wonderful small community with all the benefits that affords,” he says. “Probably for one of the few times in my career I'm just not at all interested in looking for other opportunities.”

Mr. Flood says telework helps T4G attract and keep people like Mr. Hyndman. “Dave is a very high-performing individual in a position that doesn't require him to be in any particular location,” he says. The same is true for other T4G employees, including one who recently moved from Toronto to Calgary to be with his girlfriend while continuing in the same job.

Had T4G not been open to telework, the company would never have recruited Mr. Hyndman, and probably would have lost employees like the man with the Calgary romance. “We have recruited people and kept people because we do recognize that everyone has different needs,” Mr. Flood says.

There are any number of arguments for telework, from saving money on office space to saving the environment. For a significant number of companies, though, one important reason for letting employees work from home is that it helps attract and retain the skilled people they want.

“It's very important for a lot of employees to have access” to telework, says Jean-Marc Ciot, a senior consultant in telework at Bell Canada in Montreal. About 3,000 of Bell's 45,000 employees work from home full time, Mr. Ciot says, and another 9,000 do so some of the time.

At IBM Canada Ltd. of Markham, Ont., four-fifths of employees have the option of teleworking some of the time, and about a quarter are official teleworkers who spend 80 per cent or more of their working hours outside the office, says Susan Turner, director of diversity and workplace programs. Ms. Turner says telework is just one of a range of options helping make IBM an attractive employer, but “if we didn't offer this package, it would be a disadvantage.”

“There's a huge supply of people who want this option,” says Bob Fortier, president of the Canadian Telework Association in Ottawa. Telework can help many kinds of companies attract skilled people and keep them happy, Mr. Fortier says, but it is a particularly useful tool for employers facing skills shortages and aging work forces.

Last August, TrueCareers, a unit of the U.S. education loan provider, SLM Corp., (better known as Sallie Mae), surveyed more than 200 workers and reported that 84 per cent said the ability to work from home either full or part time would be important to them in choosing a job.

Not all teleworkers live and work as far from their employers as Mr. Hyndman does, and the majority don't spend all their working hours at home. Mr. Fortier says the average teleworker works at home two days a week and spends the rest of his or her working hours at the office. And many teleworkers live just a few kilometres from their offices, but in many cases it's a long commute in heavy rush-hour traffic.

There are many reasons telework appeals to some employees. For Mr. Hyndman, it means not only being able to live in the Maritimes instead of Toronto, but also having more time with his wife — who works part time — and two preschool children. For others, Mr. Fortier says, it means avoiding a tiresome commute. And the freedom to work at home from time to time can make it easier to deal with sick children or elderly parents, home repairs, deliveries and bad weather.

Of course, for some people telework can mean a home office impinging on personal space, being interrupted by children or feeling isolated — working at home is not for everyone, so telework programs designed to attract and retain employees generally should be voluntary.

Mandatory telework may work, Mr. Fortier says, but it works best in startup companies that make a point of hiring employees and managers who like the idea.

An example is SuiteWorks, slated to open in Barrie, Ont., in September to serve Toronto employers whose staff want to avoid long commutes from north of the city. George Horhota, executive vice-president of SuiteWorks, says his company is marketing its services to employees, who then sell the idea to their employers.

Part of SuiteWorks' strategy, he says, is that employees agree to give some of the commuting time they save to their employers as extra working hours. SuiteWorks also asks employees if they would be willing to share some of their savings on travel expenses with their employers to help pay for space in the telework centre. Most employees are willing, he says, although so far no employer has chosen to take the money. “Without exception,” Mr. Horhota concludes, “employees are willing to actually pay to work closer to home.”

Mark Hemphill

I meant to mention this earlier. Mark Hemphill's running a weblog over at TypePad. Go check it out. I've only known Mark for a few months (we met back at Zap; he was the guy directing the filming and interviewing that was going on) but I'm convinced we're long lost brothers. We have very similar backgrounds, career paths and interests and are quickly becoming very close friends.

Mark, like me, has recently returned to PEI after years away: Toronto, San Francisco. And, like me, has brought back with him a beautiful Ontario bride. :-) Mark is another great thread in the increasingly interesting fabric of life here on PEI.

Mark is currently a professor at UPEI and pursuing a PhD through an innovative program from a school in Switzerland. Mark is actually using TypePad weblogs for each of his two courses (Networking, Knowledge & The Digital Age and MIS for the Digital Age) and has set up a weblog for each of his students. I follow them and it is a fantastic way to maintain an ongoing dialogue with students. More professors should be doing this.

The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power

A good story in this weekend's Globe and Mail about an upcoming documentary entitled The Corporation. A special note for Rob Paterson: the article says that Tima Bansal, a professor at Western's business school, plans to use the film as the basis for a curriculum unit on corporate social responsibility and make her study guide available to other business schools. Might be of interest to you or others you know.