Technology is powering the Canadian economy. We know that, but it’s the details that stand out.
Consider these statistics from a recent CBRE report, which states that the tech sector accounts for eight percent of all jobs in Waterloo Region, even though those positions make up just 2.4 percent of the entire Canadian tech population.
As we step into a new year, I wanted to share a few of the trends we are seeing at VanHack as we work with hundreds of fast-growing companies across Canada. Because it’s not just about growing fast, it’s about helping these innovators grow right.
A growing tech scene means lots of hiring (and rising wages) in 2020
From coast to coast, Canada’s tech scene is growing. On the west coast, there are more than 114,200 people employed in BC’s high-tech sector, translating into $31 billion in revenue in 2017, up 6.9 percent from the year before, according to a report in the Times Colonist. In the heart of the country’s historic oilpatch, Edmonton has joined Canada’s top 10 list of cities appealing to tech companies and workers. The city’s tech sector is booming, in part thanks to investment in tech education programs. Calgary is also building a pipeline to an innovation-driven economy, noting 2,000 tech jobs there for the taking by talented people.
Meanwhile, the Waterloo Region’s tech sector grew by nearly 40 percent between 2013 and 2018, driving up the average wage to an impressive $85,675. And of course, in all the tech hubs in-between that you might not have heard of, companies are hiring about as fast as they can to keep pace with demand. They’re even taking a bite out of Toronto’s massive tech sector, which itself has grown by an impressive 54 percent between 2013 and 2018.
With all this growth, we’re also seeing wages rise: as one data point, VanHack just helped a senior developer land a job with a $230,000 salary. Recently, we’ve also seen far more offers in the $120,000 range — something that wasn’t so common in 2018, or even in early 2019. More broadly, we recently saw that Toronto’s tech worker pay growth is among the best in the world (still not at the level of Silicon Valley, but few things are). Clearly, for those with the skills, the rewards are there.
US companies will continue to set up shop in Canada
I was recently talking to a New York-based company about their plans to open a Toronto office. Interestingly, it wasn’t the CEO’s idea: their investors want this. They want access to the same Global Talent Stream that benefits Canadian tech companies, and they know that with the exchange rate, their money will go further up north.
More and more, investors are pushing tech companies to set up shop in Toronto, Vancouver, and plenty of places in-between.
This is not an isolated case. More and more, investors are pushing tech companies to set up shop in Toronto, Vancouver, and plenty of places in-between.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. As BetaKit has reported, Canada’s Global Talent Stream is a hot topic in Silicon Valley. Irfhan Rawji, the CEO for MobSquad, which matches Silicon Valley startups with talent in Canada, told BetaKit that “the knowledge of the program is growing, and the desire to use Canada, now that [the GTS is] permanent, is also growing.”
In my hometown of Vancouver, many Silicon Valley companies are moving to the city: Asana, Postmates, Lyft, Streak, Tile, Zenefits, Segment, Parallel Domain, Swrve. And that’s before you start counting the giants like Amazon and Microsoft that are taking up more and more of the downtown real estate.
The Toronto-based SnapTravel story is a great case-in-point of the way that companies can grow in Canada, using Silicon Valley know-how and international talent. “With so much good things happening, venture capital, friendly immigration policy where you can bring talent from abroad, the strong education system, something big is happening here,” co-founder Henry Shi told BetaKit.
Digital transformation will be bigger than ever in 2020, creating a new challenge for tech hires
In 2020, tech jobs won’t just be found building leading-edge technology. There’s still a lot of low-hanging fruit for senior developers looking to lead the way with digital transformation.
I can’t say exactly what proportion of the senior developer hires that come through VanHack are devoted to digital transformation as opposed to building a cool AI-powered app. But if I had to guess, at least a quarter of all developers are involved in this kind of work: there’s a lot of crossover, where coders hired for one project will wind up working on any number of other projects.
A great example of this trend: Loblaws. I know that supermarkets may not be the sexiest business. But it’s big business: everybody eats.
When supermarkets try to create a seamless user experience in-store, it requires a ton of tech talent. Loblaws has recently partnered with Microsoft to make use of AI, machine learning data and the cloud.
Naturally, there will be growing pains with this process. Loblaws again is a good example, with the company actually blaming data-driven pricing for lower-than-expected sales results. Deloitte, however, has made the case in its Omnia AI series that Canadian companies are just getting started with implementing these leading-edge technologies.
Companies that are trying to get an edge on the competition will demand more and more from their tech teams. IT is no longer seen as a cost center. With digital transformation, these departments need to add value, or even take the lead in creating value for the customer.
The result? We’re seeing more focus on “soft skills” when companies are hiring tech professionals. Having good coding skills is almost table stakes these days. Companies want senior developers who can also talk in-depth with the CEO and the rest of the team about business goals and challenges. They need people who can think in terms of strategy and communicate well with others outside of the tech team.
Diversity and inclusion are big priorities for tech companies
Hiring more from underrepresented groups is a big part of the conversations we’re having with tech companies across Canada. In fact, it’s in almost every conversation with new clients, especially for hiring women in tech.
“A gender-diversity strategy isn’t just about hiring more women. It’s about creating the kind of organization that women will want to join.”
I’m pleased to say that we’ve been part of the solution. In fact, for our recent Leap Toronto – Women in Tech edition was a big success: of the 15 female tech professional candidates from around the world who were selected to meet with employers, 11 were hired. That was the single highest success rate of any Leap event we’ve hosted.
Clearly, employers are working to improve diversity, and there is good news if you look for it. Unbounce’s diverse Smart Traffic team and its gender balance across 200 employees is one example. Borrowell is another example.
Here’s one great piece of advice on this topic from Jodi Kovitz, the founder of #movethedial: “a gender-diversity strategy isn’t just about hiring more women. It’s about creating the kind of organization that women will want to join and where they’ll want to remain because they know it will afford them the opportunity to grow and contribute and eventually lead and govern.”
Whatever kind of diversity you’re looking to add, there are literally thousands of full Stack, Java or .Net Developers, QA Engineers, UX/UI Designers, Data Scientists, with 3 to 10 years experience, from all over the world, actively looking for a job in tech right now. So, if Canadian companies are looking to boost their diversity, there’s a channel available where they can get it.
Those are my predictions for 2020. If anyone thinks I got them right or wrong, I look forward to hearing what everyone else thinks will happen in the coming year!
Feature image courtesy Unsplash.