Tom Sweeney

It's a coming of age tale….

Archive for December, 2009

Happy Holidays

Posted by sweens on December 24, 2009

I wanted to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy holiday.  I hope it is a safe and happy one for you and your loved ones.  All the best and I look forward to our blogging adventures in 2010.

– Tom

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Nortel wraps up $10M sale of assets to Hitachi, names U.S. bankruptcy monitor

Posted by sweens on December 22, 2009

Published on December 8th, 2009
Krystle Chow
Ottawa Business Journal

Nortel Networks Corp. has completed the US$10-million sale of its next-generation packet core network components business to Hitachi Ltd.

Toronto-based Nortel, which is in the process of selling off most of its assets as part of its insolvency proceedings, said it’s received all approvals and satisfied closing conditions for the sale of the assets to the Japanese firm.

The next-generation packet core assets are part of its carrier networks business, and include technology such as its next-generation serving GPRS support node and other solutions related to the advance telecomputing architecture, or ATCA.

The product line supports the transfer of data over existing wireless networks and the next generation of wireless communications technology.

Nortel said the sale, which was first announced in October, includes relevant non-patent intellectual property, equipment and other related tangible assets, as well as a non-exclusive licence of certain relevant patents and other intellectual property.

The assets do not include legacy packet core components for Nortel’s GSM and UMTS businesses.

Nortel also announced it has identified John Ray as its principal officer of the U.S. debtors, who will work with Nortel management, Canadian bankruptcy monitor Ernst & Young, the joint administrators in the U.K. administration proceedings and various retained advisors to provide oversight for the U.S. side of the bankruptcy proceedings.

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2009: A year of flux in Ottawa tech

Posted by sweens on December 18, 2009

Published on December 15th, 2009

Jim Donnelly
Ottawa Business Journal

Heady startup activity counteracted by liquidation of various headquarters

It’s been a year of soul-searching, self-help and growing foreign influence for Ottawa technology industry, say observers, but they add that doesn’t mean it’s been a bad 2009 – quite the opposite, in fact, depending on with whom you speak.

But what were the main trends we saw this year, according to those in the trenches? Most obvious, says Pat DiPietro of VG Partners, was the conspicuous absence of venture-backed, early-stage companies hatched in the nation’s capital this year. “The lack of capital has created a gap in the sequence of planting crops and then husbanding them along,” he says.

That’s led to a diversification amongst the Ottawa tech scene from traditional telecom and other technology infrastructure markets, into more lithe, media-style software and social media companies not requiring heavy injections of initial capital.

“(OCRI) likes to continue the mantra that we’ve got a lot of companies starting these days, but they’re all two- or three-person operations,” he adds. “And they’re being bootstrapped.”

OCRI chief executive Claude Haw agrees that 2009 was a year of diversification for local firms. He says this past year was a “coming-out” period for digital media in the city, adding that his organization is now tracking around 200 local companies in the space.

“And the other trend was the retooling that’s gone on in the region,” he says, adding that programs such as Lead to Win are indicative of a series of initiatives recently launched to assist budding entrepreneurs.

But 2009 also saw its fair share of formerly Ottawa-headquartered companies bought and sold by foreign interests. The Nortel saga – which by December had seen the company sell off chunks of its former businesses to companies such as Nokia-Siemens, Ericsson and most likely Ciena, as well – needs little explanation. In June, local success story Tundra Semiconductor was bought by Silicon Valley-based IDT, trumping a bid by rival Gennum Corp. In September, it was revealed that Philadelphia-based Versa Capital would take local defence products maker Allen-Vanguard private. And in late November, Corel Holdings announced that Vector Capital’s all-cash offer for all outstanding Corel Corp. shares had been successfully completed.

Mr. DiPietro says the influx of foreign ownership isn’t a good sign for Ottawa, since it means the dissolution of executive office training grounds for nascent management teams.

“One of the problems with foreign owneship is that the decisions aren’t made here, and so we’ve allowed ourselves to fall into a bad situation,” he says. “We’re in the situation where we’re becoming a branch plant again. We were somewhat out of that for a while (in the late 1990s and 2000s).

“It’s really disturbing, because the problem we’ve always had in Ottawa will be reinforced – we’ve never had lots of management teams here who could create world-class companies. And as those functions get centralized, our people won’t be trained to be great managers.”

Mr. Haw takes a somewhat different angle to the foreign ownership question. He says most consolidation has happened in mature sectors, where there’s always been a constant push to become bigger and more market-dominant. “It’s all about the big, broad market opportunities with these sectors,” he says. “And unfortunately Nortel didn’t make it as a consolidator – they became consolidated.

“But if you look at Alcatel compared to Newbridge Networks, that consolidation has worked in our favour. We’ve had more high-paying jobs locate here after that merger, than if Newbridge hadn’t consolidated.”

And as for the effect of the Nortel consolidation, Mr. Haw says locals shouldn’t think of it as a loss of one, large anchor tenant – indeed, he says it’s almost a misnomer to think of Nortel as an Ottawa company, since they haven’t been headquartered here for years. Instead, thanks to the increased presence of world-class firms such as Ericsson and Nokia, Mr. Haw says we should look at the situation as the gaining of three or four new anchor tenants.

“When a company like Nortel is acquired by Ericsson it brings stability,” he says. “Look at Cognos. They’re now bigger and better than they ever were (before being acquired by IBM).”

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DragonWave has its sights set on big U.S. carriers AT&T, Verizon

Posted by sweens on December 15, 2009

Published on December 10th, 2009
Published on December 12th, 2009
Canadian Press

Traffic jams on wireless networks due to iPhone and other smartphone users surfing the Internet and downloading video are an opportunity for DragonWave CEO Peter Allen.

“The pressure on the mobile network is increasing dramatically, and frankly people who have got iPhones consume more of the Internet,” Mr. Allen said from the tech company’s Ottawa headquarters.

“It’s creating more traffic and it’s moving into mobile settings. So that’s where we’re involved.”

DragonWave Inc. (TSX:DWI) makes equipment for telecom companies that are building advanced networks with the goal of making mobile speeds similar or faster than the broadband experience at home and to ease congestion.

The company has already won key U.S. customer Clearwire, which is building a next-generation WiMax network that has started to launch in large U.S. cities.

“They’ve been very aggressive in their buildout and, of course, we’ve benefited from that.”

Clearwire which had been having some funding problems has secured an additional $1.5 billion to further expand its network across the United States.

Mr. Allen said U.S. carrier Sprint is also a DragonWave customer and the company is also looking for wins with AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

But he said DragonWave isn’t alone on that front.

“Most of the world with us is competing for AT&T and Verizon right now. So that’s what we’re after in North America.”

National Bank Financial analyst Kris Thompson said he expects Clearwire to remain an important customer in the next few years for DragonWave, it could be joined by AT&T and Verizon as they build their new networks.

“Our understanding is that DragonWave has been short-listed as a qualifying vendor into the Verizon Wireless deployment,” Mr. Thompson wrote in a recent note.

“We expect AT&T to be at least several months behind Verizon Wireless in awarding contracts that DragonWave can bid on.”

Mr. Allen said 68 per cent of the companies revenues are from North America.

Pacific Crest Securities analyst James Faucette said the opportunities for DragonWave to bid on contracts with Verizon and AT&T aren’t likely to come until late next year.

“While there has been obvious and understandable concern regarding DragonWave’s customer concentration with Clearwire (77 per cent of revenue in the August 2009 quarter), we now believe that Clearwire will be able to maintain its buildout plans during all of 2010 and 2011 now that it has raised additional capital,” he wrote in a research note.

DragonWave was formed in 2000 and has about 250 employees and also has offices in U.K., France, Dubai and Singapore. Its competitors include Israel’s Ceragon Networks and U.S.-based Harris Stratex.

In October, the company listed on the Nasdaq to increase its profile and raised an additional US$74.5 million in an equity financing.

DragonWave earned $6.3 million or 21 cents per diluted share for the quarter ended Aug. 31 compared with a loss of $1.7 million or six cents per share a year ago. Revenue for what was the second quarter of the company’s 2010 financial year more than tripled to $35.5 million, compared with $10.6 million a year ago.

In its outlook, the company has said it expects revenue for its 2010 financial year will reach at $150 million.

National’s Mr. Thompson said the company has potential to reach $200 million in annual revenues in its 2011 financial year and a long-term $20 share valuation.

“Investors should expect this stock to be volatile over the near-term as DragonWave’s Nasdaq IPO is concluded and as ownership in the company migrates from a value investor base to a momentum-driven investor base along with a higher concentration of U.S. investors,” he said.

By LuAnn LaSalle

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Detailed voicemails

Posted by sweens on December 15, 2009

Dear Abby,

I would like to offer a suggestion to candidates who are leaving voicemails for recruiters.  Please make your voicemails more detailed rather then less detailed.  It should be noted the a recruiter is likely working on multiple roles at the same time and are likely working with more then one candidate.  Leaving a message similar to “please call me back in regards to the role we were speaking about…” might not click right away for the recruiter.

 For example, I, at the moment, am working on 3 roles that are what I would call active (I am actively seeking candidates).  One of those roles requires 9 resources.  Because of this, I am speaking to roughly 25 people on a semi-regular basis in regards to filling all the open positions I have.  It is easy from time to time when dealing with so many people all at once to mix the candidates to one of the jobs I have been working on and thus the theme for this post. 

 Please keep your voicemails detailed – helps those of us out who are a little over worked right before the holidays!!!

               Sincerely – Swamped Recruiter

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Working around mandatory requirements….

Posted by sweens on December 10, 2009

I often come across candidates who suggest working around items in my job descriptions that are listed as Mandatory Requirements. I wish to offer some clarification to any individual who is interested in proceeding with a Government of Canada contract opportunity.

When you see a job description for a Government contract and there are mandatory requirements listed, they are exactly as they suggest. Mandatory! Unfortunately there is no way to get around them. Only candidates that meet those mandatory requirements will be deemed compliant. Most Government contracts are NOT like a private sector job description where employers will consider candidates who have most of the qualifications.

We often joke in the recruiting industry that job descriptions are like wish lists and give an idea of what an employer wants to see. Unfortunately with Government opportunities, job descriptions are most like a recipe. If you get away from the instructions, you will not end up with what you wanted.

Where there is some play with Government contracts is in the Rated Requirements. Candidates have to pass a minimum threshold (usually 60% or 70%) to be deemed compliant but they do not need to have exactly what is listed. This is usually used to weigh the skill set of one candidate against the skill set of another candidate who has similar work experiences.

So next time you see the term – mandatory requirements – take them as such! Do not get offended when a recruiter chooses not to work with you on an opportunity where you do not meet the mandatory requirements. We do not mean to challenge your experience, you simply would not be deemed compliant on that particular bid. That is just how Government contracting works.

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The difference in Government procurement vehicles

Posted by sweens on December 2, 2009

Maybe it is a good thing, but apparently I am at the point in my blogging life where I am able to take requests.  So here is one, where we can look at the different Government procurement vehicles and how they work.  I would like to focus on the following:

  1. Task-Based Informatics Professional Services (TBIPS)
    1. Standing Offer
    2. Supply Arrangement
  2. Temporary Help Services (THS)
  3. Standing Offer(s)
  4. PS Online

I would like to focus on these because they are the ones that I more commonly see in my day-to-day grind. 

1.  Task-Based Informatics Professional Services (TBIPS)

TBIPS is the newest form of procurement vehicle the Government is using and it was brought in to replace the existing procurement vehicles (THS, GOL, PS Online, etc).  While the transition to TBIPS has been rocky for many departments, more and more departments are becoming familiar with how it can be used.  TBIPS certainly appears to be the procurement vehicle of choice.  It is better then THS as its dollar maximum is much higher then THS is and it allows for a contract to have options years.  This allows an organization to bring in a resource for a length of time and takes away the need for continuing to renew the same resource over and over again.  The important thing to note about TBIPS is that each firm who is qualified under TBIPS has submitted a ceiling rate for each category and they are unable to exceed this rate.

1.a) TBIPS has two categories, the first being the Standing Offer (SO) which means that the department looking to hire a resource picks the category and then goes to the lowest priced firm and works its way up until it finds a firm who can supply the resource at their ceiling rate or lower. 

1.b) The second category is the Supply Arrangement (SA) which is where multiple firms (no less then three) are invited to compete against each other  for the same position.  Firms will bid separate resources and usually the lowest cost-per-point candidate is chosen to fill the contract.

2. Temporary Help Services (THS)

Was probably the most common procurement vehicle until TBIPS came around!  The challenge with THS is that the value of the contract can not exceed $89000 so if you have a high priced resource, $89000 does not gone a long way in keeping that resource on-site for a while.  The good thing about THS is that your rates are not set in stone and you can adjust them accordingly.  If you know of an up-coming THS requirement, you can increase or decrease your rate in order to accommodate your client or your candidate.

3. Standing Offers

They are slowly no longer being issued as TBIPS was supposed to replace them and give everyone a fair chance at filling any contract position.  How they work is that a department would issue an RFP for a supply arrangement and would pick as many firms as they felt necessary and used only those firms who qualified to select their contract resources.  It is like using the same 10 companies every time and having them compete against each other.  This allows for good relationships to be formed between the client and the firm however it could also back fire.

4. PS Online

PS Online is interesting in that candidates need to be pre-approved to be on PS Online.  Categories are defined with specific skill sets and your candidate(s) must have those particular skills in order to be deemed compliant in that category.  Only candidates who were pre-approved at the time of the requirement can be submitting and closed against any open PS Online Requirement.

I hope this helps you get a better understanding of how consulting firms procure contract resources into the Government.  It can be tricky to wrap your head around it.  I am still learning on a daily basis.

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Brainhunter Embarks on Restructuring Plan

Posted by sweens on December 2, 2009

Dec 02, 2009 08:45 ET

Brainhunter Embarks on Restructuring Plan

Interim financing and bid process provide continuity

 TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwire Dec. 2, 2009) –


 The Board of Directors of Brainhunter Inc. (TSX:BH) (“Brainhunter or the Company”) announced today that it has authorized the voluntary filing under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (“CCAA”) for the Company and certain of its principal subsidiaries seeking, among other things, a stay of proceedings against the Company. This means that, with the supervision and protection of the Court, Brainhunter will continue to operate normally while it engages in a process to either sell its business or restructure its liabilities and operations. As one of Canada’s leading technical staffing companies, Brainhunter is continuing all of its current operations during this restructuring process. 

 Over the past months, Brainhunter, its Board of Directors (the “Board”) and financial advisors have conducted an extensive review of strategic alternatives for addressing the Company’s debt obligations. After thorough consideration of all alternatives, the Board initiated this action in the best interests of the Company’s clients, contractors, employees, creditors and other stakeholders. 

 Chairman of the Board Don McCreesh said today, “Brainhunter’s success is rooted in the strong relationships with our clients and contractors, and we have asked the court to grant this order so that we may continue to deliver the high level of service our clients have come to expect from us.”

 An important element of the filing is a Debtor in Possession (“DIP”) interim financing facility, provided by TD Bank. This financing commitment will ensure sufficient liquidity for the continued engagement and compensation of contractors and employees, and therefore uninterrupted service to Brainhunter’s valued clients. Further, the Company will be asking the Court to approve payment of all pre-filing obligations to its contractors and for a charge on its assets to further protect the contractors.

 Brainhunter’s Board of Directors has also received and accepted a ‘Stalking Horse Bid’ from CEO Raj Singh, which has the support of the senior management team. The Company will subsequently be asking the court to approve this bid as part of a court-supervised bid process. The Stalking Horse Bid is effectively an offer to acquire the business as a going concern. It will act as a reserve bid against which other potential parties can also bid for the Company’s assets or offer to sponsor a restructuring plan. This ensures at least one viable and expedited outcome from the restructuring process and the continuation of the Company’s business without disruption of service to its clients.

 Brainhunter, like many Canadian companies, has been financially challenged by the general economic downturn. The decision to file under the CCAA was taken after considerable efforts to recapitalize the Company and reduce corporate overhead. McCreesh added, “We regret that this could not be resolved outside the scope of a Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act process. However, we believe that a court-supervised process is the best course of action and will clear the way to implement a long-term, viable solution.” 

 As part of the formal legal requirements of this restructuring, the Company has proposed that Deloitte & Touche Inc. be appointed by the Court as Monitor to provide oversight and supervise the CCAA process.

 Brainhunter specializes in the provision of staffing solutions (contingent staffing, managed staffing, permanent staffing and staffing software solutions) to major companies and governments in Canada and the United States. Currently, the largest part of the business is providing IT and engineering staffing consultants, on a contract basis, to major companies and government entities in Canada. The Company also sells recruiting related software including applicant tracking systems (“ATS”) and vendor management software (“VMS”). Brainhunter deploys over 1,500 contractors with an internal staff of over 160 personnel. Operations are ISO 9001:2000 Certified.

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Reaching 10000 LinkedIn Connections

Posted by sweens on December 1, 2009

Today I reached 10000 LinkedIn connections and I must say that I am rather proud of this accomplishment.  While you may think that social networking is not really a task, I would argue otherwise.  It took a fair amount of time and work to grow my network to that size.  It is the time associated with having a network of that size which makes it time consuming.  I am believer that you get out of life what you put in to it and social networking is the same.

I have relied on my network on more than one occasion, especially when it comes to growing this blog and it has always amazed me and the feedback I have received from people who I do not have a face-to-face relationship with per say.  It has been important for me, and obviously others to give back to my network and support them.

I would encourage anyone to grow their network and use it to its fullest extent because it really can be such a beneficial tool.

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