News & Articles

Welcome New Employees Joining Us This Month!
  • James Clark, Image Test, WPI (Welcome back!)
  • Eric Dixon, CAD, Xbox Access. (Welcome back!)
  • Carl Hulit, ME, Xbox Access.
  • Nancy Jiao, Test Engr., Console Dev
  • Slava Karulin, HW Test, Xbox Access.(Welcome back!)
  • Abram Lopez, STE., Xbox Access.
  • Jesse Vaught, STE, Xbox Access.
  • David Vielma, HW Technician, Xbox Access.
  • Willie West, CAD Engr., Console Dev
Be Thankful, Be Healthful

A Dose of Gratitude: How Being Thankful Can Keep You Healthy

Robin Madell,

Studies have shown that people who regularly practice feeling thankful have a leg up when it comes to their health. Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California at Davis, has been a leading researcher in this growing field, termed “positive psychology.” His research has found that those who adopt an “attitude of gratitude” as a permanent state of mind experience many health benefits.

Emmons’ findings, along with those from other researchers such as Lisa Aspinwall, a psychology professor at the University of Utah, suggest that grateful people may be more likely to:

  •      Take better care of themselves physically and mentally
  •      Engage in more protective health behaviors and maintenance
  •      Get more regular exercise
  •      Eat a healthier diet
  •      Have improved mental alertness
  •      Schedule regular physical examinations with their doctor
  •      Cope better with stress and daily challenges
  •      Feel happier and more optimistic
  •      Avoid problematic physical symptoms
  •      Have stronger immune systems
  •      Maintain a brighter view of the future


Focus Attention Outward

Your attitude plays a large role in determining whether you can feel grateful in spite of life’s challenges. According to Emmons, gratitude is defined by your attitude towards both the outside world and yourself. He suggests that those who are more aware of the positives in their lives tend to focus their attention outside of themselves.

Be Mindful of What You Have

You may assume that those with more material possessions have more to be grateful for. However, research suggests otherwise. Edward Diener, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois, found that a high percentage of affluent people in Japan report low levels of life satisfaction, just as those living in poverty in India do. These findings suggest that it’s not how much you have, but how you feel about what you have that makes the difference.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

Recording what you feel grateful for in a journal is a great way to give thanks on a regular basis. Emmons found that those who listed five things they felt grateful for in a weekly gratitude journal reported fewer health problems and greater optimism than those who didn’t. A second study suggests that daily writing led to a greater increase in gratitude than weekly writing.

Reframe Situations as Positive

It’s not actually a challenging situation that is upsetting. It’s how you perceive the situation. The next time you find yourself complaining about life’s hassles, see if you can mentally “flip the switch” to frame things differently. For example, rather than getting down about missing an opportunity, try to see the positive side. You might now have more time to direct towards other priorities.

Respect in the Workplace

How to Demonstrate Respect at Work

S.M. Heathfield,

 Ask anyone in your workplace what treatment they most want at work. They will likely top their list with the desire to be treated with dignity and respect.

You can demonstrate respect with simple, yet powerful actions. These ideas will help you avoid needless, insensitive, unmeant disrespect, too.

1. Treat people with courtesy, politeness, and kindness.

2. Encourage your peers or subordinates to express their opinions and ideas.

3. Listen to what others have to say before expressing your viewpoint. Never speak over, butt in, or cut off another person.

4. Use people’s ideas to change or improve work. Let employees know you used their idea, or, better yet, encourage the person with the idea to implement the idea.

5. Never insult people, name call, disparage or put down people or their ideas.

6. Do not nit-pick, constantly criticize over little things, belittle, judge, demean or patronize. A series of seemingly trivial actions, added up over time, constitutes bullying.

7. Treat people the same no matter their race, religion, gender, size, age, or country of origin. Implement policies and procedures consistently so people feel that they are treated fairly and equally. Treating people differently can constitute harassment or a hostile work environment.

8. Include all coworkers in meetings, discussions, training, and events. While not every person can participate in every activity, do not marginalize, exclude or leave any one person out. Provide an equal opportunity for employees to participate in committees, task forces, or continuous improvement teams. Solicit volunteers and try to involve every volunteer.

9. Praise much more frequently than you criticize. Encourage praise and recognition from employee to employee as well as from the supervisor.

10. The golden rule does apply at work:  treat others as you wish to be treated.

There are many other ways to demonstrate respect at work. These ten constitute a solid foundation. Implemented consistently at work, these respectful actions help ensure a respectful, considerate, professional work place.

How to Do Work That Gets You Noticed

Rebecca Thorman,

Use the following strategies to do work that gets you noticed. You’ll find effective and efficient ways to get the job done, and discover how to prepare for a successful climb up the career ladder.

1. Set and exceed expectations. First and foremost, complete your existing tasks and responsibilities. Once you’ve mastered your basic task list, start exceeding expectations. If you know you can get a project done by Monday afternoon, tell your manager you’ll hand it in on Wednesday. Give yourself enough room in case something goes wrong or comes up, but make every effort to hand in the project on your internal deadline. This makes you look good, and lets you get ahead of schedule to boot.

2. Ask, “What would make me an invaluable employee?” Stop guessing and instead ask your manager what you need to do to become a top performer. Outline specific goals with your team, and decide how to quantify those goals. When you reach a goal, make sure to tell your boss and record the accomplishment in an ongoing document so you have all your good deeds in one spot when it’s time for your performance review.

3. Automate your work. You can’t take on more responsibility if you’re drowning in your existing responsibilities. Batch and automate your to-do list for effective time management. For example, let’s say you’re in charge of the company blog. Create an editorial calendar of content three months in advance, write all of the blog posts in one day, and then schedule the posts, along with the social media updates on Twitter and Facebook to finish the project in a short time period.

4. Focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking will get you nowhere but a frenzied state. Instead, prioritize your tasks. Structuring your to-do list with one big, three medium and five small tasks. Once you’ve separated your tasks into each category, focus on your one big item for each day. As long as you complete the main priority, you can sustain your productivity over long periods of time.

6. Ask, “Can I take on additional work?” There’s no better way to get on a team member’s or manager’s good side than asking for more work. Keep an eye open for new opportunities and places for growth. And take on projects and things that you aren’t asked to do. While it may be more comfortable to stick to your job description, you become invaluable when you make others look good.

7. Send regular updatesTry sending or scheduling a weekly update with your boss and a monthly update with your company, so others know what you’re working on. It helps to increase communication and collaboration, and makes it clear the value you provide to the organization. Keep it fun and informal by explaining how you really enjoyed working on the last project, and store the updates as reminders for when you’re ready to move up in the company.

Doing great work is satisfying by itself, but it’s also rewarding for your career. By the time you’re ready to ask for your next raise or new title, you can be sure that you’ll get it.

From the November 5, 2013 NWCS Newsletter

Your Reputation 


The most valuable tool that you have that assures your continued employment and career growth is your reputation. Your reputation is a creation of your efforts. It is a thing that you can either enhance or destroy without anyone else’s assistance. Each day, each week, each month, each year, what you do to build a reputation that both makes you proud and desirable as an employee, is totally within your control.


The unfortunate truth, however, is that a single poor decision can wipe out all that you have built and put you back in a position of having to rebuild your reputation. Some time ago we had an experience with a former NWCS employee that had become a blue-badge. This person was caught up in a reduction in force and made the mistake of vocalizing negative feelings toward Microsoft during the exit interview.


Apparently, there was no ambiguity about the feelings this person was having.  A few weeks later, after all had calmed down, the person was offered a v- role in another group. Everything seemed to be going well until the group with which he had the too frank discussion heard of the v- offer.  Dust flew and so did a little fur, in the end someone else had to be found to accomplish the work.


Build your reputation as a good worker, an intelligent resource, a person that persists even in the face of difficulty and your reputation will ensure your continued opportunities in the future. But remember, that reputation is a fragile thing that is torn down much more quickly than it is built.  Each day you need to both add to it and guard it. Not thinking about it and just letting things slide could have you using BING to get to the unemployment insurance web site.



New Website



To better serve our customers, Northwest Contract Services announces the launching of our new Website. This new Website will help our existing customers navigate our services, help potential customers learn about what we can do for them, and provide information useful to both current and future employees.

The new website refreshes the older static website that the company had been using. It introduces the new company logo which will be extended to letterhead, envelopes and checks. It is an active, engaging website that utilizes modern website elements to communicate with our employees and clients.

The company has grown dramatically in the last five years and it had become important that our website be reflective of the company that we have become.

NWCS Employees Are Not Contractors



Independent contractors and employees are not the same, and it’s important to understand the difference. The distinction is about more than taxes. It is a distinction that also involves relationships, responsibilities and respect. The IRS discusses contractors and employees in terms of very specific differences. To the IRS,

An Independent Contractor:

•    Operates under a business name
•    Has his/her own employees
•    Maintains a separate business checking account
•    Advertises his/her business’ services
•    Invoices for work completed
•    Has more than one client
•    Has own tools and sets own hours
•    Keeps business records

These are all attributes that apply to the 1099 subcontractors that NWCS uses on some projects. These people make up a very small portion of our company’s resources, but their exceptional knowledge and experience make them an essential part.

To the IRS,

An Employee:

•    Performs duties dictated or controlled by others
•    Is given training for work to be done
•    Works for only one employer

Whether a person is an independent contractor or an employee generally depends on the amount of control exercised by the employer over the work being done, according to the IRS.

We believe the difference between contractor and employee is defined by the relationship between the company and the worker. At Northwest Contract Services, we see our relationship with our workers as a symbiotic one, a relationship where each party benefits from the relationship and where each performs to the benefit of the other at different times in the relationship. When a NWCS employee completes a project and is ready for a new assignment, the administrative team in the company advises on resume updates, scours the marketplace for new opportunities for the worker and arranges informational meetings and interviews so that the employee may be properly evaluated and appreciated for his/her potential contribution to the new assignment. Once the employee has his/her new assignment, the employee contributes to the well being of the company through the fees charged to clients for the work accomplished by the employee .We work for the good of one another.

Additionally, the tools our employees need to do their work are provided by Northwest Contract Services and by our clients. We pay all appropriate taxes for our employees. We compensate our employees for the work they accomplish. We meet with our employees on a regular basis and provide guidance and training on effective workplace behavior and we hold periodic employee appreciation events. Our workers are our employees.

Our employees are more than just our workers. Many of our employees are our friends, are people whose knowledge and experience we respect and admire, and are the people we lose sleep over. Northwest Contract Services genuinely believes that  our company supports not just the families of the owners, but also the families of the more than 100 employees who have chosen to work as part of our company, and that is a responsibility… a responsibility that we take upon ourselves most seriously.

Project Planning With Northwest Contract Services



At Northwest Contract Services, we know a project is successful when the needs of the stakeholders have been met. We define a stakeholder as anybody directly, or indirectly impacted by the project.

Once we determine who the stakeholders are, the next step is to find out their needs. The best way to do this is by conducting stakeholder interviews. We are always sure during the interviews to draw out the true needs that create real benefits.

Once all the interviews have been conducted, and we have a comprehensive list of needs, we work with you to prioritize them. From the prioritized list, your team and ours create a set of goals that can be easily measured.  These goals need to be time-based and trackable, relevant and realistic, attainable and agreed upon, measurable and meaningful, and specific. This way it will be easy to know when a goal has been achieved and to measure how well we are doing in meeting your need..

Next, deliverables need to be determined. Using the goals you have defined, we create a list of things the project needs to deliver in order to meet those goals. We agree upon when and how each item must be delivered.

The deliverables are added to the project plan with an estimated delivery date. More accurate delivery dates will be established during the scheduling phase, which is next.

Together we create a list of tasks that need to be carried out for each deliverable identified in step 2. For each task we identify the following:

•    The amount of effort (hours or days) required to complete the task.
•    The NWCS or client resource who will carry out the task.

Once we have established the amount of effort for each task, we can work out the effort required for each deliverable, and an accurate delivery date. Then we can update your deliverables with the more accurate delivery dates.

A common problem discovered at this point, is when a project has an imposed delivery deadline from the sponsor that is not realistic based on the estimates. If we discover this is the case, we contact the sponsor immediately. The options you have in this situation are:

•    Renegotiate the deadline (project delay).
•    Employ additional resources (increased cost).
•    Reduce the scope of the project (less delivered).

If you are going to need additional resources, you will need to define the essential skills and knowledge that each resource will need to bring to the project. If you do not have the essential skills and knowledge in house, you will need to identify the resources that Northwest Contract Services will be need to find and deliver to your team.

Next, we describe the number and type of people needed to carry out the project. For each resource we detail start dates, estimated duration and the targeted price point for the project either in terms of hourly rates or a price for the duration of the project effort.

Once we have agreed on these targets, you will just need to give it to your NWCS contact and prepare to begin selecting your ideal resources.

Although often overlooked, it is important to identify as many risks to your project as possible, and be prepared if something bad happens.

Here are some examples of common project risks:

•    Time and cost estimates too optimistic.
•    Customer review and feedback cycle too slow.
•    Unexpected budget cuts.
•    Unclear roles and responsibilities.
•    Stakeholder input is not sought, or their needs are not properly understood.
•    Stakeholders changing requirements after the project has started.
•    Stakeholders adding new requirements after the project has started.
•    Poor communication resulting in misunderstandings, quality problems and rework.
•    Lack of resource commitment.

Risks can be tracked using a simple risk log. Add each risk you have identified to your risk log; write down what you will do in the event it occurs, and what you will do to prevent it from occurring. Review your risk log on a regular basis, adding new risks as they occur during the life of the project. Remember, when risks are ignored they don’t go away.

New Employees Joining NWCS This Month

Dan Grantham (Again 🙂 ),  DVE, WDS

Diane Chen, EE, WDS

Gary Cheung (Again 🙂 ), PM, Xbox Accessories

Debripriya Nath, Interop Tester, Kinect Sensor

Abram Lopez, Test Engineer, Personal Devices

Rolf Mogster, DVE, Kinect Sensor

Brian Gill, DVE, Kinect Sensor