What is Onshore Outsourcing?

Onshore outsourcing, also known as domestic outsourcing, is an increasingly popular business model that uses US-based companies for internal business support as opposed to sending them overseas. IT offshore outsourcing to India, South America, Central America, and Eastern Europe used to be the first choice when businesses were looking to save money. However, many businesses are now choosing to bring their IT, software development, and business intelligence back to the United States to improve speed, quality and convenience while still saving money over in-house or local contractor teams using the domestic sourcing model. Rural Sourcing is a proud leader of onshore outsourcing within the United States and provides solutions for application development, business intelligence and analytics, cloud solutions, enterprise applications, QA and testing. As a cost-effective and convenient alternative to offshore outsourcing, your company will benefit from increased efficiency and productivity. Discover the onshore outsourcing definition, learn about its benefits, and see why Rural Sourcing is the country’s leader in onshore outsourcing. Benefits of Onshore Outsourcing Eliminating Offshore Outsourcing Headaches Many businesses look to external companies for business support but find that offshore outsourcing has a number of unique challenges such as time zone differences, language barriers, context and cultural misunderstandings – all which can cause delays, quality issues, and headaches. Fortunately, onshore outsourcing erases these roadblocks. You’ll benefit from real-time collaboration (as time zones are much closer) and access to a network of US-based professionals available to help ensure your project runs smoothly and you receive the product that meets all of the specifications. Increasing Affordability of IT Projects One of the biggest advantages of onshore outsourcing is that it is the perfect balance between affordability and quality. This is especially true for software development and IT projects as those industries tend to cluster around major US metropolitan areas where prices for services are generally higher due to higher living costs and stiff competition for resources in those areas. This high cost is then passed onto your business in the form of higher project charges that can be a burden and above your available budget. But, that does not mean that your only option is sending the project overseas – not anymore. Instead of outsourcing projects to another country, you can get higher quality and more affordable services within the United States using one of Rural Sourcing’s development centers located in mid-sized cities across the country. For example, if your company is located in a big city, like San Francisco or New York, and needs help with Java application development or DevOps project, it can be very costly to hire a new internal team or outside partner locally. However, if you could have access to a team of the same expertise and quality in a smaller city in New Mexico or Georgia where living costs are more reasonable, the cost of the project would be lower and more affordable for the exact same end result – a great delivered product that is on time and works as expected. Onshore outsourcing is a cost-effective and convenient solution for businesses in need of extra assistance in highly targeted areas such as application and web development, instead of attempting to manage a team thousands of miles and many time zones away. If you need IT support, and want to keep it close to home, onshore outsourcing may be the right solution for your needs. Rural Sourcing: What We Do As the leader in onshore outsourcing in the USA, Rural Sourcing is an expert in Agile Development, Cloud, DevOps, Digital Engagement, and Salesforce Integration to businesses large and small nationwide. When you work with Rural Sourcing for onshore outsourced IT solutions, you’ll support American jobs and accomplish your business goals with enhanced quality, speed and ease when compared to offshore outsourced projects. We have a network of scalable IT solutions across our US development centers, who are focused on your unique business objectives, so you can eliminate bottlenecks and headaches and accomplish your IT goals with confidence. Contact Rural Sourcing to Learn More About our Onshore Outsourcing Capabilities We’re passionate about connecting companies with talented, qualified IT professionals in the United States. With an average of 10 years of development experience, each team member brings something unique to the job. If you’re interested in learning more about our onshore outsourcing capabilities, get in touch with us and tell us more about your project needs.

A 3 Step Process to Quality

In today’s digitally charged environment, executives leading software development companies consistently walk a tightrope as they balance two very different interpretations of the word, “quality.” Users’ perception of quality focuses on software that meets business requirements, while development teams concentrate on building programs and applications that satisfy product and system requirements. These diametrically opposed perspectives put software executives in the crosshairs of a heated debate as both sides attempt to evaluate quality. In reality, business requirements spring from the minds of customers and stakeholders who seek a software solution to a conceptual business challenge. Business requirements, which refer to the “what” of software development, do not translate smoothly into product requirements. In most, if not all, cases, several technology-based solutions can resolve the stated business problem. To select the most technically appropriate and efficient path to resolution, business requirements must be broken down into detailed capabilities, or “hows,” that align with business needs. The tightness of that alignment produces value for the end user customer. Loosely aligned technical capabilities are seen as less valuable by customers, often eroding the software’s price point and damaging the development company’s reputation. To protect the bottom line and reputation of a software development operations, company executives can take a three-pronged approach to extend quality assurance across the entire development process. This three-step methodology, which embraces a universal definition of quality as contrasted to value, incorporates best practices associated with a “right the first time” development approach, and calls for a cultural shift to reward the early identification and resolution of issues, is particularly relevant in today’s fast-paced marketplace. First: define quality, value For software company executives navigating this tightrope of conflicting expectations, it would be useful to distinguish between the concept of quality and its value in the marketplace. Conceptually, quality is a measurable outcome of development. The amount of quality associated with any software development project is constrained by available resources and the business priorities of a software development company. One approach to evaluating software quality uses three dimensions: Quality of design – the functions, capabilities and performance levels required by stakeholders. Quality of conformance – how a software product conforms to design, leverages appropriate standards and is completed on time and on budget. Quality of performance – how the software functions post-delivery, especially as it meets user needs, functions as intended, manages its workload, and is supported and maintained over time. While most customers will agree that some degree of quality is a baseline expectation, it is critical to understand that a high degree of quality may or may not be perceived as valuable in the marketplace. Customers perceive quality as driving value, and value is relative when compared to the software’s cost. For example, a customer’s limited budget can eliminate a high-value software solution from consideration when company finds a lower quality product acceptable because of its price. Second: Implement ‘fail fast’ In the digital world, customer expectations change on a dime, which can force development teams to pivot frequently. This rapidly changing environment, which has increased pressure on development companies to deliver software faster and at more competitive price points, calls for a new approach such as “fail fast” and “continuous integration.” However, misdirected emphasis has muddied the perception and value of the widely held fail fast principle. More than a few people place importance on the first word, “fail,” when it’s the second that matters. The success of a failing fast development initiative hinges on identifying issues, bugs and errors early in development, the sooner the better. To support failing fast, taking a “continuous integration” approach can help software development companies increase quality and keep costs in line. In this agile development practice, developers integrate their current work into a shared depository several times each day. Automated builds verify each integration, flagging problems and assuring immediate correction. As a result, the software stabilizes at a faster rate. Additionally, many software development companies share software in development with intended users at regular intervals in development. For example, presenting in-development software to users after major agile iterations can be another way to implement the fail fast approach. These frequent releases to end users brings defects to the surface faster than waiting until the development team is deep into the project to find issues. Three: Shift culture to reward early detection, correction Often, implementing a fail fast approach requires a culture shift in the software development organization. The importance of this cultural shift cannot be overemphasized. In the fail fast environment, quality assurance spans the entire development process rather than being an exercise that takes place at the end of development. When developers understand that identifying and resolving bugs early in the development cycle is rewarded, improves productivity, boosts quality and saves money, the organizational emphasis continuous improvement will begin to resonate. In the digital environment, customer expectations change frequently, and development teams must pivot quickly to maintain the tight alignment between technical capabilities and business requirements. Applying the fail fast and continuous improvement tenets to the software development process can increase the velocity of response to evolving customer requirements.

Understanding the risks of offshoring in today’s digital marketplace

Offshoring, the approach many U.S-based companies take to secure IT talent, has lost much of its original appeal. In the past, U.S. companies sent IT jobs overseas for one key reason: to capitalize on inexpensive labor. In many cases, offshore vendors claimed hourly rates that were 80% less expensive.  IT leaders, originally seduced by offshoring’s attractive bottom-line savings, quickly found out that offshoring’s challenges and risks often increased project costs, eroding the much anticipated savings. A few of these risks include: Time zone differences Language compatibility Cultural barriers Domain expertise Employee turnover Geopolitical risk IT leaders, now familiar with the risks associated with offshoring and its eroding potential savings, are replacing offshoring with a proven alternative to talent acquisition: domestic sourcing or onshoring. Domestic sourcing taps into talent inside the United States to deliver the speed to market and responsiveness IT organizations require in today’s digital marketplace. In addition, it leverages a deep familiarity of complex business problems, a depth and breadth of capabilities, access to a scalable brain trust, efficient collaboration, and attention to quality. However, determining the value of domestic sourcing has been difficult to illustrate. Today, companies can utilize the Rural Sourcing TCO Calculator, a robust tool that enables the customization of six distinct and commonly accepted productivity factors to a company’s current situation. This allows for a more accurate assessment of their total cost of ownership of outsourcing needs. A key advantage to domestic sourcing however, is its ability to deliver the agility needed to pivot IT priorities in response to changing customer expectations. It allows companies operating in this hyper-responsive digital environment to add and recast IT talent as needed. For example, this agility was recently demonstrated when one of our FinTech software clients asked Rural Sourcing to refocus our existing team and add a second scrum team to meet the regulatory demands of one of their largest clients. Taking a flexible approach allows IT teams to adjust project priorities and delivery timelines on the fly – based on the actionable recommendations that come from real-time analysis of customer expectations.

3 Key Ways to Manage Speed to Market

Today’s age of digital adaptation mandates innovation and quality – at great speed. Way back in 2000, Jack Welch, in GE’s Annual Report, warned us, “If the rate of change inside an institution is less than the rate of change outside, the end is in sight.” For some companies, delivering innovation and quality simultaneously is exhilarating, while, for others, it’s a fast path to disaster. Consider these pivotal questions: Why is it that some companies can marry methods, such as Agile and DevOps, to continuously deliver successfully, while others struggle? What puts some software companies at the forefront of market demand, while others strain to keep pace with the pack? Success, it seems, often comes down to the ability to unleash technology’s inherent productivity. "Leading technology companies have been early adopters of these capabilities and have reaped the benefits. Amazon for instance can release code every ten seconds or so, update 10,000 servers at a time, and rollback website changes with a single system command," as Satty Bhens, Ling Lau and Shar Markovitch of McKinsey point out. While most software companies' leaders would love to bask in the reflected glory of these technology icons, the reality is most of us are not Amazon or Google. But, we can all learn from these market innovators that speed is an important factor in their success. They are constantly adapting and striving to be first to market. To meet the speed-to-market demands digital adaptation presents, software executives should consider: Building collaborative development organizations to expand market capabilities. Empowering a cross-functional mindset that bridges internal and external resources. Creating partnerships that flex and reflect the need for speed. Collaboration is one of the keys to delivering software at speed and getting it right the first time. For example, traditional brick and mortar financial institutions, under siege from digital-only startups, tapped internal development resources to create their own digital products and services – often carving out a competitive advantage for themselves in the process. Marcus, an online lending platform from Goldman Sachs is an example of how digital disruption re-energized collaborative internal development to expand the firm’s footprint in an underserved market segment. Originally begun as a way for retail clients to refinance credit card debt, Marcus leverages Goldman Sachs’ technology expertise to appeal to its smaller segment of retail clients. Smaller banks have little incentive to help retail clients refinance debt, which was the driving factor behind Goldman Sachs effort to build the Marcus platform specifically for that purpose in 2016. Having a cross-functional mindset helped Goldman Sachs identify an untapped market opportunity and quickly develop a solution to meet that need. Today, Marcus has expanded from a one-product platform to a multi-product business, which has created a competitive advantage for Goldman Sachs. Finally, consider combining internal skills with partner capabilities. With the precipitous growth of niche skills, the expense of hiring and retaining these resources on staff may not be feasible for the long term. Looking to partners for these skills allows you to flex your staffing as you grow and keep pace with market demands. In addition, supplementing internal resources with assistance from a partner can enable you to deliver to the marketplace a high-quality product quickly -- likely ahead of your competition. Today’s rate of marketplace change requires innovation and speed to market – a tough order for most companies to fulfill. However, taking a collaborative approach that unites internal and external resources behind shared goals can build the sustainable competitive advantage needed to prevail.

Four Trends Redefining the Workforce Model

As digital adaptation takes hold, four over-arching shifts are converging to change the way organizations build and evolve their workforces. 1. Access to Evolving Skills In this era of digital adaptation, organizations’ staffing needs change on a dime as they respond to evolving customer requirements. To react quickly, today’s workforce models need to combine in-house candidate identification, recruitment, and more thoughtful retention with precision-driven third-party staffing utilization. External staffing resources will need to meet the needs for specific technology domain expertise, industry experience, creative workforce models, innovative engagement structures, technical innovation and creativity, and much more. Hiring organizations will prefer third-party partners that can deliver on these increasingly complex staffing requirements while adding value in new and unexpected ways. 2. Need for Skill over Scale In the past, IT demands preferred scale above all else. That’s because the type of project being staffed required rote repetition of key tasks – an assignment perfectly suited to offshoring. Today’s technology projects demand a wider range of skills in smaller quantities, as well as a heightened need for collaboration and communication. The once-dominant waterfall approach to software development has been replaced with a more relevant Agile Methodology popularized by digital adaptation’s ebbing and flowing needs. Today, the skilled project team – one that has been created and staffed for a particular assignment able to cover everything from User Experience to backend database demands – dominates the workforce landscape. Agile teams are smaller, command a wider variety of technology skills, and require broader “soft” skills such as communication, real-time creative problem solving and collaboration. 3. Demand for Innovation, Collaboration Collaboration leads to better outcomes, and that’s true across all industries and markets. In acknowledgement of this widely held belief, market-leaders such as IBM and Yahoo are moving remote workers back into corporate offices. Why? It’s certainly not the opportunity to pay sky-high rent on urban offices. It’s an effort to reclaim the creativity and innovation that comes from sharing close quarters. While not every company can make such a significant investment in expensive office space, many companies are taking time to reevaluate and rebalance their approach to workforce building. Partners with innovative staffing delivery capabilities and those that adopt the latest communications tools and platforms to encourage collaboration are winning favor as hiring organizations seek expert help in balancing cost against the need for quality output, a chief motivator behind the “rehoming” trend. 4. Push to Expand Talent Pools Although the US technology-based talent pool dwindled as offshoring started to grow after 2001, efforts to promote STEM-based education have picked up in recent years. Despite that push, the slight uptick in STEM-based hiring that happened in 2016 came about because of foreign-born STEM-educated candidates. While STEM-based hiring is on the upswing, demand for technology skills continues to far outstrip supply. Today, public and private sector hiring organizations are competing with contracting firms, staff augmentation firms, and offshore companies for a limited number of STEM specialists. To rectify that imbalance, hiring organizations are partnering with high schools and universities to foster interest in and pursuit of STEM-based careers for US students.   To learn more about how organizations in the midst of digital reinvention utilize workforce partners to build out their staffs, download our white paper, "An Introduction to Digital Adaptation.”

Why Rural Sourcing is the Next Starbucks

True confession, I’m a Starbucks coffee fan. Each day starts with a triple grande nonfat cappuccino. I’m also a big Howard Schultz fan; I even have an autographed copy of his book: Onward. More importantly, I respect his social and civic activism as well as admire his vision of creating a 3rd place to have a coffee experience. Whether you like the Starbucks brand or one of the tens of thousands of other coffee options in America it was Schultz’s vision of creating a third place that began this lovefest with the consumption of coffee somewhere other than your home (#1) or your office (#2). This vision created a new alternative at a scale that didn’t previously exist. The Rural Sourcing business model follows the same concept and vision. Up until recently, businesses had two options for their IT workforce strategy. Businesses could bring in the talent to their office in their city, often at expensive hourly rates, or they could offshore the work to an outsourcing firm for less expensive hourly rates and figure out how to manage the cultural, language, and time zone challenges. At Rural Sourcing we saw the need to create that third option at scale. Onshore domestic technology talent is abundant in smaller cities such as Albuquerque, NM; Pensacola, FL; Augusta, GA; or Mobile Alabama. These cities, complete with large universities, low cost of living and high quality of life, represent millions of available technology talent waiting to be deployed to solve IT problems for the world’s greatest companies located in much higher cost locations. Rural Sourcing selects cities like these based on our proprietary data analysis of the qualified talent pool, the quality of life and the affordability of living in these locations. We then establish software development centers complete with the look and feel of a Google-environment where software developers and quality engineers can focus on creating applications to support our client’s on their digital journeys. The beauty of this third option, unlike Starbucks, is that it actually costs less than the other available options. With a substantially reduced cost of living in these smaller cities, the dollar goes a lot further than in San Francisco, New York or even an Atlanta. Also, when measured against offshore, domestic sourcing is more cost-effective when evaluated by the total cost of ownership or TCO of completing a successful project in today’s agile software development world. I’m not saying that businesses shouldn’t consume the available talent within their own cities or even offshore, as both have their respective roles to play in the sourcing strategy. For certain types of projects, these sourcing models may be well suited for the task. What I am saying is that there is a new coffee shop available that serves an amazing third alternative that may just taste better than your traditional sources. Find out more about our blend of services here.

Amazon in “Your Town”: Awesome or Apprehensive?

How Will You Compete for Tech Talent? Most people’s first response to the prospect of Amazon coming to "Your Town" is awesome. Amazon is considering twenty top-tier cities as the site of its HQ2, which will inject 50,000 high paying tech jobs into the local market. The construction of offices, facilities, and infrastructure can be expected to provide more jobs. Finally, the projected growth in support businesses results in, guess what? Yes, even more, jobs. The question for established companies already operating in the community is this: How are you going to recruit new hires and retain tech employees when they're all flocking to Amazon? For employers in all industries, the war for talent, especially technology talent, is difficult – considering as US employment continues to grow with payroll employment up by 261,000 in October alone. According to UPP Technology, the high-tech employment rate in the US is approximately 97%. This information is not new news for most. There's a shortage of high tech talent and has been for some time. The prospect of Amazon showing up in your town seems intuitively attractive. Everyone wants to get behind it – at least publicly. So much so that 238 cities submitted proposals to become the next Amazon HQ2. Now that 20 cities have made Amazon’s short list, fear and trepidation about hiring in a new competitive landscape have begun to set in. Corporate headquarters already located in the 20 cities under consideration are reevaluating their hiring plans, knowing that they will be competing head-to-head with a new corporate citizen with as many as 50,000 six-figure jobs to fill. Employers are asking, “What are the unintended consequences of the inevitable imbalance of that much demand on a local technology labor market?” As Amazon contemplates its potential HQ2 sites, the local availability of talent is a critical factor driving site selection. Amazon may be a pioneering retailer, but it is not alone in this strategy to chase the talent pool. Companies, such as McDonald's, Aetna, GE, and Marriot, are abandoning their suburban offices in favor of millennial-friendly locations in large urban centers as market leaders embrace this relocation trend. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel pointed to technology’s growing influence on nearly every industry as the driving force behind urban offices. Highly sought-after technology-skilled employees often prefer the convenience of a live/work/play environment in or near an urban center to a time-consuming and expensive commute. The appeal of urban offices signals a reversal of company executives’ previous preference for offices located near their homes. Today, the ease of recruiting and retaining technology workers is driving top-level corporate decisions. "It used to be the IT division was in a back office somewhere," Emanuel said. "The IT division and software, computer and data mining, et cetera, is now (located) next to the CEO. Otherwise, that company is gone." While Emanuel’s words are strong, we get the point. Long ago, many organizations paused their on-campus recruiting of Computer Science majors in favor of outsourcing their technology work overseas. These companies now realize that re-engaging that corporate recruiting muscle is easier said than done particularly when targeting highly discerning millennials who are as interested in what you stand for as what you pay. The pervasive digital adaptation of business means that not all companies will compete and win in the war for technology talent. Once you add to this uber-competitive race for tech talent the allure of Amazon’s 50,000 positions, then the competitive landscape becomes downright daunting. To increase your company’s chances of prevailing in this complex hiring environment, consider enacting some or all of the following recommendations: Implement effective strategies to reactivate your on-campus recruitment program. Consider bringing recruitment back in-house or taking a more “hands-on” approach rather than delegating this important function to an outside recruiting firm. Closely examine your retention rate. It'll take more than increasing a few salaries and throwing in a ping-pong table to win the talent retention war. Take a long, hard look at what your competitors are doing and consider doing more than matching them step-for-step. Survey your current employees to understand why they stay and interview millennials to understand how they make their employment decisions. Look at the models you can use to manage the risks of an overheating local labor market better. Understand which skills you absolutely, positively, must keep close to the center and which you can distribute. Take a critical look at those remote or dispersed models such as remote onshore development. Can you manage remote software development yourself or do you need an expert partner who might not be in the building but is situated in-country? To learn more on how you can create mitigating strategies for tech talent in a highly competitive market, contact us today.

Three Ways to Overhaul the H-1B Visa Program

The Trump administration’s focus on immigration has brought the H-1B visa program to the forefront of the news. This visa program was originally intended to import talent to meet the void between the growing demand for high tech skills and the lack of available U.S.-based talent. Unfortunately, over the years, the program has been abused to the point that some American workers have been forced to train their replacements who lacked the skills and experience to take over their jobs. It goes without saying that this program needs a complete overhaul and a redirection of its intended purpose. Following are three ideas that could help the U.S. build a sustainable workforce strategy. First and foremost, the Trump administration should create an import tariff similar to the proposed 2008 legislation on oil companies that would’ve encouraged development of alternative energy sources. Levying a tax on H-1Bs of $10,000 per approved application would generate $650,000,000 in funds that could be used to train individuals with base-level competencies for a career in technology. Putting a program such as this in place would enable displaced workers from, for example, the coal industry to reskill themselves; it would enable military veterans to gain valuable training to jumpstart their tech careers; and it would enable the underemployed to increase their earnings potential. This workforce enablement strategy could produce enough U.S.-based talent to cut in half what Code.org said will be a 1,000,000 shortfall of tech talent by 2020. Second, Trump’s senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller, proposes that we should scrap the H-1B lottery system that is inundated with applications from large outsourcing firms. I couldn't agree more. Would Nick Saban (University of Alabama’s highly successful college football coach) recruit the best football players in the country by picking their name out of a hat? No way. I believe we should import truly talented individuals to the U.S. as needed to fill the shortfall in our workforce and to put the very best team possible on the field. In order to do this, we need to validate that the individuals granted H-1B work visas possess the skills needed and are qualified for the job. Third, Congress should incorporate the portion of the “Protect and Grow American Jobs Act” which raises the minimum salary of the H-1B worker from $60,000 - $100,000 into a broader, long term solution. This salary raise (which hasn’t changed since 1998) would help ease some of the abuses of the H-1B program by reducing the economic incentive of companies to replace U.S. workers with cheaper foreign labor. While this simple act addresses the “Protect” portion of its title, it does not address the “Grow” portion. In order to do this, Congress should incorporate the tariff mentioned in point one to fully address the intended desire to make the U.S. more reliant on our own willing and able workforce. By implementing these points, the Trump Administration would effectively enable U.S. workers to gain the skills needed to launch a career in the tech industry. It would also identify the best talent to enter the U.S. while eliminating the abuse of the H-1B program that undercuts U.S. talent and leads to offshoring the work.

Why Throwing More Bodies at Your IT Project is Not the Answer

A lot of companies find that competitive advantage comes with cutting costs and increasing speed to market. And that often works except if they’re launching a new IT project. This brings a new set of challenges, especially since the first reaction is to see who’s on staff who could do it. Throwing additional internal resources toward an IT project might not give you the competitive advantage you’re looking for. In fact, it could very well slow you down. The first potential impact is overextending staff by pulling them onto yet another project and moving their focus away from important, business critical tasks they were hired to do in the first place. Next, lack of expertise can become a roadblock. This can be costly when a project slows down due to errors or delays needed by staff to ramp up and learn something new. Another solution to consider is outsourcing because it can provide the flexibility and scalability that you need to innovate and get to market faster. Companies such as Basecamp, Squawker and Github, were created with outsourced development. Why? It’s smarter. The benefits of outsourcing are numerous. Let’s take application development as an example: 1. Experience – you’ll get the expertise you need, when you need it. Outsourcing means your development will be done by professionals who live and breathe development and are constantly learning and applying the latest IT trends to projects 2. Scalability – outsourcing allows you to rapidly scale up or down your development needs without the expense and long-term commitment of hiring additional full-time staff or overextending existing IT staff. 3. Efficiency – a team that is 100% focused on your IT project will increase your speed to market, getting the job done without spending unnecessary time and money on the development phase. 4. Reduced costs – increased efficiencies alone will reduce development costs but you’ll also reduce overhead costs and pay for the services you use, allowing you to save money during periods of low activity. The next time you’re faced with a new IT project with limited resources, you could save time and money by rethinking the reaction to simply throw more bodies at it and consider outsourcing instead.

Slick Modular Web Components with Polymer

As a primarily back-end focused developer, I admit that sometimes I find user interface work pretty tedious, especially when I can’t get something to look or behave the way I feel it should. On large projects, stylesheets can get cluttered and I have a bad habit of throwing everything into a single “site.css” file that gets loaded into every page. I wind up with dozens of CSS classes and identifiers to make sure that each component of my website has its own specialized styling and doesn’t accidentally inherit the styles of something else. Usually, the look and feel of my site is at the mercy of whatever CSS library I’m using. Fortunately, I’ve discovered a relatively new framework that takes a lot of headache out of front-end design. The framework is called Polymer: a JavaScript framework from Google that takes Web Components to a new level. Here are three features of Polymer that make it great: 1. Hundreds of plug-and-play elements The Polymer Element Catalog has many useful open source elements that can be directly included in your source code once the Polymer framework has been installed, ranging from responsive and animated text fields and buttons, to elements which help you manage AJAX requests. The elements have declarative syntax, meaning that once you’ve included them in your project, they can be inserted directly into your HTML files just as easily as any of the native HTML elements. You can combine these elements with data bindings to pass values between components and validate forms without writing any JavaScript. 2. Custom elements If you can’t find the right element to suit your needs, Polymer gives you the tools to build your own elements. Elements have encapsulated style, form and function, meaning you can detail specifically how an element is to look and behave. Polymer elements contain methods and properties that can be called from other elements in the DOM. This makes your components feel more like extensible objects, rather than simple UI elements. 3. Class-like inheritance If you have a shared functionality or style among a number of elements, you definitely don’t want to repeat that code. Fortunately, Polymer allows you to inherit multiple styles and behaviors into elements. Instead of re-writing a particular function for each of your elements, you can instead write that function as a behavior, and have each element extend it. Similarly, if you wish for a family of custom elements to use the same CSS properties, you can import one or many custom style elements. These elements enable easy theming, allowing you to change the appearance of your application simply by swapping style elements. For more information on Polymer, check out their Polycasts on YouTube as well as their Polymer Starter Kit.

Interning at RSI – A Worthwhile Investment

When I started my internship last summer, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had heard about Rural Sourcing from career fairs and even knew a few grads from my university that were employed there, but I wasn’t sure just what I’d be doing. I was fearful that I would be stuffed in the role of the stereotypical office gopher, delegated all of the non-programming tasks. I was also taking summer classes, and I knew that my schedule was going to be tight. One of the biggest challenges I faced while interning with RSI was managing my time. When I began my internship, I was spending between 15 to 20 hours a week on school-related activities such as attending class, completing assignments and preparing for exams. Combined with an average of 25 hours of internship per week and travel between home, school and the office, I found myself frequently working in excess of 50 hours per week. I doubt I could have kept myself motivated if I wasn’t enjoying the work I was doing. Fortunately, my internship experience was well worth the extra workload. I wasn’t just some office gopher making sure the coffee was warm; I was a bona-fide software developer. Immediately upon arriving (after some compulsory H.R. orientation) I was expanding my skills and learning new technologies by creating actual software. I was surrounded by experienced software engineers who were both able and eager to help the other interns and I learn. I was able to leverage resources like Pluralsight and create training projects based upon what I had learned. Within the first six months of my internship, I had the opportunity to: • Work on a mock-client on a small team of developers • Demonstrate software I created to stakeholders • Participate in an office-wide software competition • Dress up for a Halloween costume contest • Go to an awesome Christmas party Interning at RSI is not easy, but it's a worthwhile investment for students who are looking to take developing their programming skills seriously. For those up to the challenge, apply for an intern position and be prepared to work hard, have fun and learn lots!

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