Saturday 30 December 2017

How much does an IT contractor cost compare to an employee?

About the same!!!

I hear from my large clients claiming how much money a contractor makes compared to a full-time employee (FT). I have always wondered the real cost of a contractor to a client. So, I did the maths, and surprisingly the results show that the dollar cost is about the SAME!

How? Assume contractor cost of $100 per hour, and pay of the similar FT is at $130,000 with a modest annual combined contribution of CPP, EI, TFSA, RRSP and severance insurance of $15,000. I subtracted 1_month_risk_premiums from contractor invoice since a contractor is always on the hook! 

Both worker types cost about the same. Am I missing something? 

Whether contractor can get more take home income is another story. Possibly, at the cost of risk of express redundancy, no severance, no EI, filing additional taxes, self-training etc. For a FT, an employer has to provide most of them.

Then, why does the employer prefer FT?

Likely, the government incents for keeping FTs. An FT has to be loyal for, at least, three years and grows with the employer. The truth is my fellow contractors and I are delivery-ready, love our work, want to deliver, avoid bureaucratic meetings and be responsible for our own learning.

With automation on AI steroids, we are going to see the job market becoming exponentially fluid and temporary e.g. Experfy, Upwork etc. My plea to the clients is embrace us, not hate us -- we don’t cost you extra!

Tuesday 5 September 2017

When is it a good time to educate youth about money?

The short answer is as early as possible. Moneysense puts ages for financial learning in bins, and the youngest bin is 0-6 years old. Ontario is rolling out pilot projects to teach high school kids financial skills. It is very much needed. The consumer debt is rising year-over-year states Equifax, and full-term jobs are eroding away with AI. 
Teaching money does not have to be boring!!! It can be fun. I have put up posters to teach my kids count and summation. Game of monopoly, though invented by an anti-capitalist woman (controversial), is fun over holidays. I am thinking of turning my budgeting system,, into a game. How would you make teaching money fun for your children?

Saturday 3 June 2017

Emergence of non-linear and unconventional careers?

With automation on AI steroids, we are going to see the job market becoming exponentially fluid and temporary e.g. Fiverr, Upwork etc. Non-linear career paths are on the rise and alternate ways of making money is becoming a common place. Companies are turning to social media, and the "influencers" promoting products with their honest views to their fans (CBC 27m) -- win-win. This is sometimes even true for simple things such as You tube videos for "Unboxing videos: How 5-year-old kids earn $1 million a month" (CBC 4m). 

Monday 15 May 2017

Is social media damaging your career and life?

Prof. Newport at Georgetown University says, "the harms of social media to your career are being underemphasized." [1]. Social media can be hugely distracting, killing creativity -- but *worse* is addictive along with other technology [2]. Some of the smartest brains in the world design these app to keep us engaged. While my Egyptian friends credit Facebook for their Arabian Spring, it harms children's language and communication development. For Adults, it is a time sink of around 4 hours a day on average. The irony is that the more time you spend, the worse you might feel [3].

Alter's advice -- author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping us Hooked -- to technology addiction by picking up a screen-free time for some part of the day [2].  I only do Facebook for promoting my pet project budgetnow [4], but suffering the ills of a mechanical life, and actively looking for ways out. Radio is one escape, audio books while commuting is another.

[1] Social media is damaging your career, CBC 10m
[2] Why technology is addictive and what to do about it, CBC 27m
[3] The More You Use Facebook, the Worse You Feel, Harvard Business Review 
[4] A fast, free and anonymous budgeting system.

Sunday 16 April 2017

No taxes in the Middle east -- myth or reality?

Let's talk about Dubai for foreigners -- probably the most hip city in the middle east, and compare it to GTA. Yes, there is no income tax. But...there are taxes that you may not see...sales tax, property tax, highway tolls...

And there is no public health, no public education, no child benefits, no employment insurance, no pension.

Housing for an average family is more expensive, clothing is more expensive. Can't lease/finance a vehicle for 0% finance. I crunched the numbers and no income tax does NOT offset other expenses and benefits that I get at home in Canada.

Budgeting was hard problem for me as a married PhD student at Queen's University. Empathizing with students and other salaried workers, I developed a *free*, anonymous and fast budgeting system [1]. My interactive application allows users to try "what-if" scenarios to save more, and provides "Jump Start" for investing the surplus cash.


Credits: Sanaa Wasi, Jawad Arshad

Saturday 18 March 2017

Time is Money!

Time is limited (only 24 hours in a day) but money is NOT?! Trading money for time is not a bad idea if invested in something more meaningful, such as automating the damn chore that eats your time in the first place.

One example of this is using Walmart Grocery Pickup. Select and pay for the items from home, and pick up at the scheduled time. Walmart remembers your past purchases, so future purchases can bank on past further relieving you from making a laundry list. Better than home delivery as you are NOT home bound at the time of delivery.

Another example is buying lottery online instead of buying it at a store possibly waiting in line...and then later checking if won anything. Why not buy online using PlayOLG, and it emails you if you win anything.

Credits: Imran Bashir

Sunday 12 March 2017

9 + 1m HIIT is similar to 50m of moderate exercise!!!

Scientifically, 1m of high intensity interval training (HIIT) + 9m padding produces similar results of 50m moderate exercise. This includes treatment of free radicals, cleaning up of rusty protein and increased energy generation at microcondia of a cell. Hear the entire program at CBC (15m). 
The exercise routine:

  • warm up
  • 20s extensive climbing, running or biking
  • break
  • another 20s
  • break
  • another 20s
  • cool down
10m, you are done! Saved you 40m + gym fees :-)

Saturday 11 March 2017

Near-clouds: Bringing Public Clouds to Users’ Doorsteps

The rate of data growth in many domains is straining our ability to manage and analyze it. Cloud computing appears as a promising platform for data-intensive computing because it offers “infinite” resources on demand, and on a pay-as-you-go basis. Surprisingly, we observe that public clouds are not being used for “serious” data-processing on a continuous basis except by the cloud vendors. We primarily attribute this observation to the long data transfer times over wide-area networks between the clients and the centralized public clouds. We introduce the idea of a near-cloud that brings a public cloud in the close proximity of a user to overcome the data transfer bottlenecks. The near-clouds also provide a unique opportunity to localize the privacy and security policies to boost confidence of a user in using shared resources for data processing. To the cloud providers, near-cloud ensures a minimum constant stream of revenue from dedicated clients.
[1]        R. Mian, et al., "Near-Clouds: Bringing Public Clouds to Users' Doorsteps", in The 9th IEEE Symposium on Computers and Communications (ISCC), Madeira, Portugal, 2014, p. (accepted).

Estimating Resource Costs of Executing Data-Intensive Workloads in Public Clouds

The promise of “infinite” resources given by the cloud computing paradigm has led to recent interest in exploiting clouds for large-scale data-intensive computing. In this paper, we present an analytical model to estimate the resource costs for executing data-intensive workloads in a public cloud. The cost model quantifies the cost-effectiveness of a resource configuration for a given workload with consumer performance requirements expressed as Service Level Agreements (SLAs), and is a key component of a larger framework for resource provisioning in clouds. We instantiate the cost model for the Amazon cloud, and experimentally evaluate the impact of key factors on the accuracy of the model.
We formulate the constructs for modeling the cost of workload execution in a public cloud. We present a cost model for workload execution, and evaluate it in the Amazon cloud. Our cost model is workload aware and provides cost at the granularity of an hour. More importantly, we explore methods for building and instantiating a cost model for workload execution in IaaS-based clouds. These methods are relevant for other IaaS GoGrid or RackSpace. We believe that our cost model provides a basis for modeling dollar-cost for executing any workload type in the Amazon cloud. We anticipate that the users considering clouds for executing their application would find the cost model useful.
Our cost model provides an hourly cost of workload execution, and assumes that the data already exists in the cloud. The experimental evaluation shows that our cost model is a suitable tool for estimating the cost of workload execution for the pay-as-go-scheme in the Amazon clouds.
We vary the use-cases in the user-controllable variables: (a) workloads, (b) VM types and the (c) SLOs’ specifications. Our evaluation workloads consist of analytical, transactional and mixed types. We consider different workload combinations on different VM types. We also specify SLOs on the transactions and the queries belonging to different tenants. The SLOs vary in their threshold and penalty values. The absoluteaverage error in estimating configuration costs across all experiments is 6.28%, which is about $0.02 of the total measured cost of the configurations on average. With the scarcity of training samples, we are unable to verify the distribution of results and resort to using average as the aggregation method. Therefore, these results must be taken with caution.
The current cost model, while adequate for workload execution in a single zone, needs to be expanded in order to deal with any inter-zone and inter-region communication costs. Also we do not address the cost of maintaining consistency between replicas, leaving it as future work.
R. Mian, et al., "Estimating Resource Costs of Executing Data-Intensive Workloads in Public Clouds," School of Computing, Queen's University Technical Report#: 2013-613, 2013.

Standing up to a bully boss -- are you kidding me?

Well, if you don't it gets worse -- research shows!!!
Handle a fired up boss calmly and assertively, CBC states -- easier said than done..right??? I had better luck keeping the conversation focused on work, and seeking his/her advice because s/he ain't listening. I would try to avoid the situation in the first place by keeping things transparent and informed. Also, surprise your boss with "above and beyond" bits here and there. But why not work for a smaller company where you are really needed!!!

Selling Yourself: The Art of Personal Branding

Gone are the days when being uni-dimensional tech guru gave you the highest growth. We now need a multi-facet profile or a "personal brand" to sell our offerings to top employers or angel investors -- the latter I am increasingly interested in. Towards this, I share a very relevant and fun radio program [1]:
"This week, we take marketing lessons from big brands and apply them…to you. This episode explores how to manage your social media, pick the best profile pic and avoid cliches in your resume."

Thursday 9 March 2017

"Don't take it personally: Growing a thicker skin at work" and life :-)

We all feel we have a thick skin but answer this -- do you "replay" somebody's comments in your mind?
If the answer is yes, well... CBC says grow a thicker skin, I say be more bubbly.

Workplace -- Not delivering enough?!

With so many "miscellaneous" things at work, is it fair to feel guilty for doing enough?
CBC(6 minutes) talks about "time wasters" that includes too many meetings, notifications, emails, chats, phones that distracts us from "thinking". It is hard to deny importance for some of these. But I actually feel guilty for not doing enough productive work.
"50/50" is something I came across in Manhattan where 50% time is allocated to "actual" work, and "50%" to everything else without feeling guilty.

How an algorithm can help you make decisions?

"Well you might already be turning to algorithms more often than you think, according Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths.They're the authors of a new book called Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions. It's all about how some of our everyday human problems can be untangled through algorithms." CBC radio (15m)

Saturday 4 March 2017

5-hour work day -- is it coming?!!

Imagine starting at 8 and finishing at 1. Working well at a Shart Tank company. And I have increasingly started hearing/reading about this on CBC and Harvard Business Review (HBR).
Productive hours in a day are around 5 anyways, the sources claim. Rest is filled with chatter, eating, face-book, youtube etc. I have even seen people playing video games in the afternoon, OPENLY! :-)
So, how this works is if the work done is measured by goals not time. If you slack, you go!!! Not for everyone. What are you going to do with rest of the time. Whatever you like. Spending time with kids in a park or doing creative work, which happen to be entrepreneurial interests in my case.

Bad news is also bad news for your mental health!!!

Cut down on your bad news intake, please...It has a toll on your mental health, experts say (CBC). Worse yet, it is addictive. We do want to stay connected. Instead, solution-oriented bad news is more helpful. Why not be selective on what you hear on radio. CBC has a mobile app that allow you to select the programs you want to hear from a featured list. This week I really enjoyed listening to another example of goal-oriented flex employer in Newfoundland. Check it out!!!
Interestingly, bad news is highly regulated in the state-controlled media in the middle-east. Yes, you guessed it right. The kings don't want to look bad. On a side note, I am working on a conjecture that "good news" would actually make us more productive and happy citizens.

Sunday 12 February 2017

Too many choices: blessing, paradox or a curse?

"Psychologist Barry Schwartz takes aim at a central tenet of western societies: freedom of choice. In Schwartz's estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied."

This Ted talk is such a "must" listen, both educational and comical...You'd be surprised how universal this observation is from buying an item to zeroing on retirement goals. By suffering from "analysis paralysis", progress, if any, is snail-paced. How about agility?...get started with something and adjust the direction as we go along (agile methodology), whether household budgeting, investing or a start up.

Got surplus cash at the end of each month, now what?

Do something about it or let the compounding inflation eat it! Investing comes to mind, but with so many choices where to start. Try googling or asking for investment options at your bank or googling. They'll tell you so many options that you'll either pick one confused, or suffer from "analysis paralysis". In contrast to traditional financial planners that tell you to start from your retirement goals, I say Jump Start investing and adjust the direction as you go along.

Sunday 5 February 2017

Ballpark budgeting for the busy!!!

We can go nuts accounting for the budgets and expenses. Frankly it is needed for the people who have no idea where their money is going, says Moneysense. Meanwhile, my partner (Sanaa) and I did it during my PhD years out of dire need. Now, we do it to stay on top of our expenses. However, it burns too many cycles. I think once the expenses are figured out then there is no need for "nit picking". Ball park budgeting is fine. Only need to pay attention when the expenses are "out of whack" compared to the budget. Similar sentiments are voiced by MoneySense Nov 2016 issue.

Other budgeting applications and calculators?

Existing work on budgeting applications is usually aimed at accounting for existing expenses or spending, and require elaborative input from the user. The extensive input is a hefty and time consuming task often requiring a sign up or a downloading a spreadsheet. In turn, the budgeting exercise transforms into a summing up of incomes and expenses -- shadowing standards for actual budgeting. Meanwhile, our work proposes a budget with only a few parameters, requires no detailed input or sign up. The key selling point of our work is that the budget is drawn based on standard guidelines and best practises that emerge from various governmental and financial institutions. Other work integrates with third party services e.g. bank accounts on user's behalf presenting a single portal to account for all their expenses. While admirable and perhaps leading, this requires a personally identifiable information or pii and poses risk of breach. Our work does not require any pii. We also propose concrete steps to reduce spending in an particular category, something that is in scarcity in the related work. Equally importantly, we propose how to utilize surplus cash.