Tech firms market work-life balance, startup culture at Discover TechNata job fair

Discover TechNata
(Photo by Rebecca Atkinson)

As the man in charge of hiring at a fast-growing tech firm, Ian Durant knows your talent pool can never be too deep.

Which is what made last week’s Discover TechNata event at Kanata’s Brookstreet Hotel all the more important to Durant, the people operations leader at You.i TV. The Kanata firm, which produces software that makes it easier for users to interact with devices from TVs to tablets, used the event to scout out potential new recruits and network with other companies facing similar HR issues.

More than 70 exhibitors, big and small, gathered to display their latest technology and showcase themselves to potential employees last Wednesday at the annual event sponsored by the Kanata North Business Association. Among the nearly 2,000 attendees were a couple from Brazil seeking work in Canada, a high school entrepreneur and many others of diverse backgrounds and demographics.

Now, more than ever, Durant says, the tech industry is seeing “different generations clashing together that want completely different things.”

Employees’ expectations vary depending on their stage in life, he explains, with younger recruits often tending to value vacation time and work-life balance over salary. As a result, Durant holds quarterly meetings with department company leaders who’ve met with their employees to determine what’s important to them.

You.i TV now employs about 170 people. Durant says the company is constantly eyeing ways to make its workers feel like they’re part of something bigger while striving to ensure employees have access to the latest technology as well as perks such as exercise sessions and haircuts during lunch hour.

Meanwhile, Kanata-based telecom giant Mitel was aiming to boost awareness among a generation of younger workers who might never have heard of the company despite its rich history. James Renaud, an engineer at Mitel, says the company has been around for so long – 45 years, to be precise – that it often flies under the radar for new grads, a challenge it’s working hard to overcome.

“We’re not one of the new startups,” he says, “but we’re doing new startup things within our ecosystem.”

Renaud says the firm is aiming to sell recent grads on the chance to do challenging, groundbreaking work at a company that doesn’t have to worry about where it will find its next round of funding or how it will make its voice heard in a highly competitive tech ecosystem. This is appealing to many new recruits, he says.

Discover TechNata was also a networking platform for one-man startup Voxxlr.

Founder Jochen Stier has been working on his product, which scans and captures 3D structures for processing and visualizing, for two years. It is now being used around the world by clients such as construction companies doing renovations or remodelling.

Stier explains that workers can go onsite, take photos of their projects, then leave and not have to continuously revisit the site, instead working off of the scans. Voxxlr, says Stier, “has the advantage that once you upload it, you can share it over different geographic locations.”

Stier, who’s still developing his product and figuring out his market niche, says he isn’t quite ready yet to seek investment capital to scale up. Still, he went to TechNata to network with people who are potentially interested in joining his company one day.

Deborah Lovegrove, marketing and events lead for the Kanata North Business Association, says the event is another way for local technology companies to enhance their profile among students and recent grads. She says more and more firms are realizing they need to work more closely with local universities to show the next generation of tech workers what kinds of opportunities are available to them.

Overall, Lovegrove says, “business is booming” in Kanata North, which is home to more than 500 firms.

“Companies are not only starting here, they’re staying here,” she says. “There’s a reason for it. They must love it.”