by Quinn Heiner
Being a software consultant involves a diverse skill set beyond that of a typical programmer.  I recently had a discussion with one of the top technical managers at our company and in that discussion came up with four points to consider when it comes to setting yourself apart as an exceptional consultant.

  1. You have a user interface, too. (cue shameless plug) as mentioned briefly in the 7 habits brownbag (both blog post and presentation), being a great consultant is just as much about marketing as it is about technical skills.  If people don’t know what you do or how well you do it, how marketable are you at that point?  Your brand needs to resonate with others.
  2. Programmer vs. consultant – a programmer shows up to work, codes in isolation for eight hours straight, and goes home never giving a second thought to anything or anyone else.  A consultant is a superset of this, in that they have all the technical skills a programmer has plus more.  They’re in the business of solving business problems through technology.  They’re constantly engaged with customers and other developers.  They’re constantly improving themselves outside of work and sharing what they’ve learned.  They check their egos at the door.  They have the perfect blend of hard and soft skills.
  3. Getting involved.  So you want a good user interface and you want to be a consultant instead of just a programmer, but how?  That’s where getting involved comes in.  The best software engineers are the ones who build things often.  You need to be taking advantage of every training opportunity your company has to offer (and most consulting companies should offer the best career development opportunities, because….).  This not only improves your skills, your brand, and your overall career satisfaction, but it also gives you leverage to negotiate higher billing rates (other shameless plug about salary negotiation here).  My top five extracurricular activities include, but are not limited to:
    – Brown Bags (both presenting and attending)- Blog posts (both reading and contributing)
    – Certifications
    – Code challenges (CodeFights and Codewars just to name a few)
  4. Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals.  So how do you prove to your account manager, project managers, and others that you’re getting involved?  By making and setting goals that you can quantify.  Every six months in my one-on-one meetings with managers, I always lay out 2-3 solid goals that I take very seriously for the next six months, whether that’s passing a cert, 100% participation in the code challenges, completing x hours of Pluralsight training, etc. and because of that, I’ve never needed to question how to invest more in my career or how to become a better consultant, because I’ve always felt I’m progressing in a way that’s a win-win-win for the client, the consulting company, and myself.
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Michael Bode 
Presenting on “Lean Agile Coffee Meetup.”


An Agile User Group Meetup


February 15, 2017 @ 11:30 am


The STG Office

Pizza and drinks will be provided.

The group collaboration should last around 90 minutes.

Feel free to invite your customers.


Please click here to fill out the form if you would like to attend the meetup.  We would appreciate all submissions to be sent by 2/14/2017.

Author: Bryan Hansen
Some companies like to incentivize their employees by having a BBQ day. At STG, we fully support this, but doing the status quo has never been our motto.
At STG we have a Bench. I personally like to call it our Dev Center because it really is more than a “bench”. We truly believe in investing in our employee’s career development and our commitment to our Dev Center is a true testament to that. Our Dev Center is focused on projects that help people continue to grow, but with challenging projects that will engage you and also teach you new concepts. Case in point with our BBQ Day.
Sure, we could fire up the old BBQ and cook some hotdogs and hamburgers like anybody else, but where is the fun in that?!? One of our Directors actually builds Ugly Drum Smokers (UDS) for fun. This ties in directly with our Work/Life balance that we firmly believe in at STG. One of the drawbacks with the UDS is that there is no way to control the temperature or monitor the cooking temps of your smoker. Looking at some of the new fancy modern smokers, they really don’t have this figured out very well either.
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We challenged some of our developers, while in the Dev Center, to build a wireless device to monitor one of our UDSs and create a truly controllable interface for the smoker. The results couldn’t have been more awesome!
The solution that came out of this was a Raspberry Pi / Arduino build in a box that had four temperature probes and a remote controlled fan salvaged from a PC.
The end result (besides 6 awesome racks of ribs) was a custom built application on the Pi using Java, Spring, Spring REST, Swagger, and an H2 database. All the jokes years ago when James Gosling would talk about Java running your toaster now seem a little more surreal. Java is now running our smoker.
P.S. We will follow up with a more technical write up of what we did with the build out for those wanting the nitty-gritty details.

Author: Shanaz Lavasanie

I’ve heard a lot of personality-related labels: introverted, optimistic, strong but silent, drama queen, etc.

But left-brain or right-brain? These labels may not be well-known.

Defining Behavior

Whether it is our left hemisphere that is more dominant or our right one, the distinction can impact our personality and the decisions we make.

Each hemisphere of the brain is dominant for different behaviors.

If you would split the brain right down the middle into two symmetrical or equal parts, you would have a right and left hemisphere. Although equal in size, these two sides are not the same, and do not carry out the same functions. 

The left side of the brain is responsible for controlling the right side of the body. It also performs tasks that have to do with logic, such as in science and mathematics.

On the other hand, the right hemisphere coordinates the left side of the body, and performs tasks that have do with creativity and the arts.

Both hemispheres are connected by the corpus callosum and serve the body in different ways.

There are a lot of quizzes and you can test yourself to see which one you are.

Here is a link to just one of them:

About Shanaz

Now a bit about me. I love math. My major in high school was Physics and Mathematics Science. In college I studied computer science. I am able to speak three languages, Persian, Japanese and English. I am right handed. So I should be a left-brained. Right?

We human are such amazing creatures. We still don’t know so much about our brain. I’ve heard it said that we use less than 10% of our brain’s capacity.

Have you ever felt that you have an urge to do something for yourself but you don’t know what it is. Have you ever felt that urge drive you crazy sometimes? I am not talking about the urge to have a big cheese hamburger (which, truth be told, does drive me crazy sometimes.) When we feel these urges, some of us may know what it is and we go for it, some of us may need a trigger to take us there. I was the latter one. I tried to find my hidden urge by doing writing, painting on canvas or paper, or learning music. I still felt there must be something else inside me that must be hiding.

It was May 21 2015, I came back home from work with a lot of anger, and frustrated feelings. I tried to watch TV, to distract myself, it didn’t work. I tried to eat junk food to distract myself, and it didn’t work either. I couldn’t stop to switch off my brain not to think what had happened at work.

Like a zombie I sat behind my computer and opened the MS Paint app. I grabbed the mouse and moved it fiercely around and around. I saw the cursor on my screen moving in every direction, creating lines without any clear shapes. I grabbed that black mouse like I was sitting on the back of a black dragon that was going to take me anywhere, everywhere. That dragon took me to the top of rainbow arch, to the bottom of ocean, among the flowers or on the silver moon. I felt I could touch everything that I wanted to. I could kiss the moon and kick the rainbow arch to see how those beautiful colors like soft powders were pouring on my screen. I could even feel the breeze of air through my hair. Inside of me I was screaming and laughing loudly like a child; I was happy and felt free. My black dragon came and rescued me from darkness.

I painted and painted and painted, I didn’t know for how many hours. My eyelids were heavier and the pain in my wrist from moving the mouse around and around pushed me to look at the clock on the corner of my screen. It said 2:00 in the morning! Every part of my body was tired, but my brain didn’t want to stop; my brain still wanted to dance and sing with that dragon. The cursor was moving faster than ever, lines showing clear shapes more than ever. This morphine of painting was in my blood and giving me so much pleasure that I didn’t even care about time or my pain and my exhausted body. My brain now was telling me about my hidden urge. Yes that’s it, I had found it. In two months I painted almost 80 pictures and showed them to everyone that I knew, from families to friends. I’ve come to realize that painting gives me a lot of pleasure and joy that I wish I could explain it to you.


Given all of what I’ve shared, you may have wondered what the result of the brain test was for me.: It said that I am both; left and right brained. As developers or designers we may be stereotyped into one class or another. In my opinion, I don’t believe people are Left OR Right brained. I believe all of us are both left AND right brained and we should explore both sides to find what makes us happy. What do you think?

If you’d like to see some of my MS Paint projects, you can find them at:

I hope they bring you as much pleasure as they have brought me.

Author: Shanaz Lavasanie