For tech companies with their sights set on scaling, one of the toughest barriers to overcome is finding skilled talent to fill positions to support their growth.
According to a recent report by BDC which offered an outlook on the future of the Canadian tech sector, just over half (55%) of all Canadian tech entrepreneurs struggle to hire needed employees.
Reports like these signal that the tech crunch presents a threat to tech companies looking to grow and expand in the Canadian tech sector. And to fill highly skilled roles and remain competitive, companies must be creative in their solutions and be willing to go beyond traditional borders to find the right talent for the job.
Embracing new ways to source talent
Enter Massachusetts-based tech company Signiant, whose file transfer software and services enable the fast and secure delivery of large files over private and public networks.
According to Shawn McCormick, Senior Vice Principal of Software Development, international hiring has quickly become a viable option in finding key talent for tough-to-fill roles on the development team here in Ottawa at a time when finding local candidates can be tough.
“If the tight local market continues, international hiring is an excellent means to bring outside talent to the region,” he said. “Holistically, I’m much more interested in increasing the overall talent pool in Ottawa than raiding employees from other local companies, who need their staff as much as we want them.”
McCormick added that although the small company had historically been quite good at locating junior candidates through its co-op programs, it struggled to find experienced staff locally to fill its roles.
But with the help of Invest Ottawa’s talent team, who provided resources and solutions aimed at making international hiring a possibility, the company started to explore the idea of international hiring and started to see results.
“We first had some success with partnering with Invest Ottawa a couple of years ago, where we sourced our first international hire through one of the recruiting events,” he said.
“For a small company, there is a fair bit of paperwork involved in bringing international candidates to Canada. Invest Ottawa has offered many informative sessions on the different government programs and tips for navigating the process.”
“Since that time,” he added, “We have continued to work with Invest Ottawa and another firm, recruiting five out of our last eight hires internationally.”
Though the COVID-19 pandemic has been the source of countless disruptions to the processes of companies worldwide, McCormick said the shift to a remote workplace had provided the company with a bit of an opportunity to pre-emptively set international hires up for success.
“With everyone remote during the pandemic, we were able to strengthen and improve our onboarding program to the point that we can start the candidates remotely until the paperwork is finalized and they can move to the region.
This has the added benefit of the hires already being ramped technically and bonded with the team, so the physical move is less stressful.”
Making the move to a new career in Ottawa
From a talent perspective, Full Stack Cloud Developer Andrés Herrera, who immigrated from Columbia in 2021 for a position with Signiant, said that this bonding with the team made the move to Ottawa just a little bit easier to deal with.
“It is not easy to leave everything behind to chase a dream,” Herrera said. “As an immigrant, everything is new to you, from how to get a driver’s license to how to get a medical appointment, and I had some challenges while learning all sorts of new things,” he said.
“I’m really thankful I’ve received a lot of help from co-workers,” he added. “They helped me to understand and guided me through this transition.”
Although his new team at Signiant was super helpful in making the transition, Herrera says the process wasn’t as complicated as he thought it would be thanks to the similarities to tech work from country to country.
Finding the perfect mix here in Ottawa
When asked if he has his sights sets on Ottawa as the next step in his career, Herrera said Ottawa wasn’t even on the radar – yet.
“I’d be lying if I would say yes,” he said. “A few years ago, I wasn’t even thinking to leave my home country, but I was looking for a change in my career, and this was a huge opportunity for my family.”
“And when I began to investigate more of Ottawa,” he continued, “I realized that the city aligned with my lifestyle and with my career as a Systems and Computer Engineer.”
According to Herrera, it didn’t take long until he discovered that he found a city that offered the perfect mix.
“We quickly realized that we made the right decision,” he said. “It is a city that has it all, outdoor activities, friendly people, good transportation, a lot of interesting places to visit each season, and is not as big and hectic as other major cities, and I really appreciate that.”
“Also,” he added, “for an immigrant finding new friends and communities can be a little hard, but Ottawa has Latin American communities and activities which had helped me to settle and find new friends.”
But along with just the right mix, Herrera soon noticed that there were ample opportunities for tech talent to spread their wings and stretch out into potential new areas in the city.
“There are different tech industries located in Ottawa, so there is room for professionals in different areas, and I think that is a huge opportunity for tech talent in this city,” he explained.
“The market for professionals in tech is competitive, and hiring a new person can take some time, so I think if you are willing to move from a different city or country, you will find Ottawa as a city where you can find the job you are looking for.”
Finding the right role with Signiant
Now happy in his role with Signiant, Herrera is thankful that he found a company that provided him with a chance to take on new challenges.
“I was looking for new challenges in my professional life and Signiant offered that to me,” he said. “I studied and prepared myself for a long time to take this opportunity and get the best out of it, and now I see the results of all that time and effort.”
McCormick is also pretty thankful to have found strong talent such as Herrera through international hiring activities and highlighted that the quality of applicants they get is generally higher.
“We have a higher percentage that make it through the resume screening into the first interview,” he said. “And again, a higher percentage that make it through the first interview to the second interview.”
As for other companies that might be hesitant to explore international hiring solutions to fill their positions due to lengthy immigration processes, McCormick had another key piece of advice to offer.
“One just needs patience,” he said.” “These things always take longer than one would wish.”
If you’re a tech company looking to fill open positions, let us know how we can support your company’s hiring efforts: Reach out to the Invest Ottawa talent team here.
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