Archive for the ‘In Brief’ Category

Closing Canada’s Tech Skills Gap: Teach Youth to Code

Monday, May 1st, 2017

220,000 workers needed: That’s how vast Canada’s tech skills gap could be by 2020, according to Canadian government and industry experts.

If that gap isn’t closed, many tech companies will be forced to look for opportunities outside the country, Waveform CEO Kirk Simpson recently told CBC News.

“If we can find the talent somewhere else, we might open a second location in the U.S. market or in a European market,” he said. “And those jobs will not go to Canadians.”

Teaching young people to code and harness the power of cognitive computing could be the solution. Cognitive is, “beyond doubt,” our future, says Tanmay Bakshi, a 13-year-old developer, coding advocate and IBM Cloud champion.

“If we can get the youth involved in this technology, we’ll be creating more job opportunities for them. They’ll have (a better) chance of getting a better job in the AI field.”

Bakshi is certainly doing his part.

He hopes to personally assist 100,000 aspiring coders through keynotes speeches, his YouTube channel and his new book Hello Swift: iOS Programming for Kids and Other Beginners.

3 Practical Steps to Increase Gender Diversity at Your Company

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

In 2016 women held only 21.6% of board seats in Canada’s largest corporations by revenue, according to the Canadian Board Diversity Council.

While this is an improvement from 2015’s 19.5%, many companies still appear to be lagging behind adding women to their boards. A 2016 survey by the Ontario Securities Commission found that 45% of issuers did not have any women on their boards. Something needs to change.

Enter theBoardlist, a talent platform that engages the tech community to increase gender diversity on boards. Launched in the U.S. in 2015, theBoardlist currently has over 1600 board-ready women. For the past six months, I have relentlessly worked closely with founder Sukhinder Singh Cassidy and the team to support the expansion of theBoardlist to Canada.

If you know a board that needs more women check out theBoardlist to see how it can help. If you know a highly qualified woman who would be an asset to a board, why not nominate her right now.

If your company needs more gender diversity at all levels, you’re not alone. While working with companies of all sizes, I’ve learned these three steps can make a significant difference:

  1. Visit community colleges to find potential employees instead of Ivy League schools.
  2. When looking to fill a position at your company, demand that your HR department or staffing firm show you at least 50% female candidates for the role.
  3. Be a voice for change by calling attention to the number of women at every meeting. When numbers are low, relentlessly ask what can be done to improve it.

Singapore’s Startup Scene Surpasses $1 Billion in VC Investment

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Foreign innovation drives startup economies, and in the US alone, 51% of billion-dollar startups were founded by immigrants.

Cities across the world have taken notice: encouraging the free movement of information and talent is crucial to tech sector success. That’s why Singapore, a longtime advocate of attracting foreign talent, has seen major growth as a startup hub. As Industry Leaders Magazine reports, this city-island-nation has the potential to become the next Silicon Valley.

Any doubts? Look at the numbers: VC investment in the tech sector in Singapore increased from less than $30 million in 2011 to more than $1 billion in 2013, with 10 local exits in 2014.

The epicentre of this boom is an area known as Block 71, a vibrant community housing a cluster of startups near the National University of Singapore that The Economist called “the world’s most tightly packed entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

One of the driving forces behind this growth is Singapore’s attractive immigration policies. The government has actively encouraged startups to set up shop, with programs like the Global Investor Program. The EntrePassa specific employment pass targeting would-be entrepreneurs—facilitates the relocation process for foreign startups who want to set up shop in Singapore.

International Tech Reacts to the US Immigration Ban

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

On Facebook, we’ve gathered reactions from three urban tech centres to the recent border barriers the American government has established.

From NYC to Berlin, the reaction has been unified: free movement across borders is crucial to the values of this industry.

Click through to the gallery for reactions and commentary from across tech social media, and join this essential discussion.

Toronto Tech Sector Growth Outpaces Canada 2X

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

A new report from TechToronto, an organization supporting the city’s technology community, says over 400,000 jobs in Toronto in 2016 are related to the tech sector.

The report, How Technology is Changing Toronto Employment, found that:

  • Over the last 5 years, Toronto has grown tech-related jobs by 14.6%, which is two times faster than the rest of the country
  • The Toronto tech ecosystem has a total of 401,000 jobs, making up 15% of all Toronto employment
  • Tech-related jobs earned $24 billion in salaries in 2015, making it one of the highest hourly wage sectors in the city
  • Toronto’s tech ecosystem is projected to add an additional 20,000 jobs by 2020.

Ben Zifkin, CEO of Hubba, a B2B product information network for retailers, said: “This report corroborates what we already know and what the rest of the world is learning – that Toronto excels in technology and that we can develop globally disruptive companies.”

“What we can work on is developing an even more supportive innovation community, so that technology companies and jobs can flourish.”

The report made public policy recommendations including the following:

  • Make the Toronto-Waterloo corridor world-renowned for fintech and machine learning
  • Introduce fast track immigration visa for tech talents
  • Increase enrollment and diversity in post secondary STEM programs
  • Re-distribute government funds from incumbents to scaleups and startups
  • Solve civic problems and strengthen local tech companies via procurement.

Download the full report, How Technology is Changing Toronto Employment, produced in collaboration with PwC, the Innovation Policy Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, and CareerBuilder.

Credit: StartupHere Toronto and Tech Toronto

Control is the Key to Employees Thriving in Startups

Monday, October 17th, 2016

Control and what we do with it is essential to maintaining good startup culture — whether it’s  trust, respect and autonomy to perform daily work well, or letting go of the company’s reins in order to let staff explore and flourish.

“Everyone wants control in their lives. I don’t think anyone grew up wanting to be an executive assistant,” explained Vancouver-based entrepreneur Jonathan Bixby of Stanley Park Ventures at Tech Vancouver.

Nobody likes to be micromanaged. Founders know this, and having the freedom to create something new and exciting is what drove most of them to create a startup in the first place. Unfortunately, it’s an easy lesson for founders to forget once they’ve laid it all on the line.

Giving staff members more freedom over the work they do, as well as where and how they do it, can pay off in spades in productivity, growth and innovation.

As Bixby says, taking the time to uncover what employees care about when they’re on and off the clock helps founders establish relationships of mutual understanding and respect: “Get a Google spreadsheet, write down all your employee’s names and find out something cool about them that they are passionate about.”

And to most employees, respect is more valuable than foosball tables, a stocked beer fridge and pizza on Fridays, says former Netflix chief talent officer Patty McCord. “All those perks might make people happy, but they don’t make people happy in the same way that being on a great team and doing great work does.”


Startups Challenge Big Tech’s Hold on AI Personal Assistants

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

Designing intelligent personal assistants isn’t just a game for tech-sector titans anymore.

As The Verge reports, API, open-source tools and the ability to rent computing power are making it possible for more and more startups to leverage academic and industry developments — like natural language processing — to make apps tightly focused on a particular task. is a startup based in New York City that’s raised almost US$35 million since starting in 2014. It makes a scheduling assistant, Amy Ingram. When ‘she’ is copied on an email, the software coordinates a meeting day and time.

EasilyDo, another AI-assistant startup, is specifically tailored to help with travel — an area already dominated by Apple’s Wallet and Gmail.

EasilyDo says its solution recognizes more travel companies than its biggest competitors, leading The Verge to ponder, “Does it matter if a startup is marginally better than Google or anyone else in a domain, when the bigger player is good enough?”

That question hasn’t stopped Viv, a startup founded by Dag Kittlaus, the maker of Siri. Viv’s AI can write its own programs, instead of relying on human coding. Kittlaus calls it a breakthrough in computer science: “It’s going to change the way programmers work with computers.”

Whether downloaded apps can replace baked-in personal assistants remains to be seen.

One thing’s for certain, though. As screen fatigue grows and more people seek out other ways of interacting with technology, intelligent personal assistants — whether it’s just a voice inside your smartphone or an actual robot — will be the future.

Tech Sector Sidesteps “Great Reckoning” for Startups

Monday, August 29th, 2016

Startups in the tech sector have defied expectations of a “great reckoning.”

Citing Evernote, Zirx, and Bannerman as examples, The New York Times explains how tech startups have largely responded to alarm bells set off by investors, with the following results:

  • Many companies have narrowed their focus to the most profitable customers.
  • More new enterprises are leveraging artificial intelligence, robotics and virtual reality, “creating potential areas of growth for Silicon Valley technologists to build on next.”
  • Elimination of some employee perks. For example, Evernote ditched free housekeeping services.

“The startup world did heed the warnings,” Max Levchin, chief executive of lending startup Affirm, told the NYT. Levchin was a co-founder of PayPal.

Related stories:

DevOps Salaries Surge

Friday, August 26th, 2016

DevOps programmers are making bank.

The number of U.S. “IT practitioners” reporting annual salaries above $100,000 jumped by 11 percentage points, according to software engineering firm Puppet.

Released earlier this week, the 2016 survey results confirm just how valuable software and network engineers are. The percentage of IT practitioners making more than $100,000 rose to 58 percent this year after staying the same from 2014 to 2015.

The results help to back up assertions that software is eating the world and that tech is one of the few industries creating net job growthWages in the broader economy aren’t keeping up with the stand-out growth in tech salaries.

For example, Economic Policy Institute pegged overall private sector nominal wage growth in the U.S. at 3.5 to 4.0 percent in its most recent update. That’s down from the average growth rate of 6.3 percent, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, from 1960 to 2016.

Job titles in the Puppet survey’s IT practitioner category include “DevOps engineer,” “software developer or engineer,” and “cloud or infrastructure architect.”

Other highlights from the 2016 survey:

  • Highest earners: IT practitioners in the Australia/New Zealand region, the United States, and Canada.
  • Best industries: If you’re in the United States, our data shows that you’re more likely to make a better salary if you are a tech practitioner in technology, finance, or healthcare.
  • Lowest paid regions: Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Latin America/Caribbean region.

Related stories:


WSJ: Facebook’s “Diversity Hire” Effort Fails

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

Facebook has failed in its attempt to increase diversity in technical roles, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.

The company created incentives for in-house recruiters to bring in “diversity hires,” meaning prospects who aren’t white males or Asian males, but, as is the case with many tech companies the effort hasn’t necessarily led to offers from hiring managers.

Former Facebook recruiters say they had mixed feelings about the extra-credit program,” according to the Journal. “Some were encouraged by the incentive, and identified a more diverse group of candidates. Still, they said it wasn’t enough to overcome a broader bias within Facebook and other tech companies for candidates who attended prestigious schools.”

Women and other “diversity hires” in tech have become a hot topic, and won’t go away soon because the industry has become such an important component of regional economies.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, high tech industries constitute 12 percent of all jobs, but produce 23 percent of all output.

Therefore, groups left out of tech industry opportunities face increasing economic marginalization.

Here’s Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in an interview with Y Combinator about the genesis of Facebook and the company’s “innovation culture.”