1295 words – 6 mins
By: Randy Gaudreau
If you’ve been lucky enough to put your feet up with a cool beverage recently, it’s a safe bet you didn’t consider the technology that moved it through the supply chain —from the production line to the shelf. But for Vermont Information Processing (VIP), that process is everything, and the combination of beverages and technology turned out to be a perfect mix for the company’s growth and success over the past 50 years.
Today, VIP is on a mission to help streamline the $146 billion U.S. beverage industry with its specific suite of software – and it’s this ambitious growth that has led the company to look north of the border to grow its tech team here in Ottawa.
If you’re looking for an exciting tech role with a growing tech company – read on for information about the company, what it’s like to work with them, and information on opportunities and how you can join the team.
A plan to build a VIP team in Ottawa
Over the past 50 years, the Colchester, Vermont-based technology company has made its name in providing solutions for the three-tier beverage industry in the United States – helping suppliers and distributors to bring beverage products to the retail market as efficiently as possible.
Director of Software Development Chris McGinty joined VIP in 2007 when it was a small team of not even 100. Today, VIP has over 550 employees, and he’s excited to talk about plans to assemble an Ottawa-based team to help grow the company.
“Our initial objective is to get around 10 folks right off the bat, with the goal of 20,” he said. “I’m super excited with our plan here in Ottawa to get off the ground and continue to attract talent and grow our company.”
Chris says that while there’s a focus on seeking out senior engineers who can help drive development, there are also key opportunities for tech talent in their early careers.
“We’re definitely interested in tapping into Ottawa’s deep tech pool for senior engineers, but we’re also very interested in graduates just coming out of school and junior developers with only a few years of experience,” he said.
A bit about VIP
VIP creates software and processes data to help beverage distributors and suppliers manage inventory, distribution, and sales in the three-tier U.S. beverage industry through web and mobile applications. It started off with six staff in 1972, by taking invoices by mail from distributors via Vermont Transit buses, and then keying them manually into computers to create polished sales analysis reports and sending them back (again by bus) to distributors to analyze.
Over the years, as technology advanced, VIP developed software and expanded its range of solutions to serve each tier of the industry, including suppliers or manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Over time, VIP’s solutions have become what Chris describes as the “backbone of the US beverage industry”, and the “one-stop-shop” for its clients.
“Solving and building solutions that bridge those tiers is invaluable to our customers,” Chris explained. “There’s endless opportunity there for us to build solutions because it is such a large and unique industry. And that’s the position we want to be in.”
50 years of beverage industry expertise – and growing
Today, VIP’s team has grown to be over 500 strong, and the list of clients it serves in the ever-expanding alcoholic and non-alcoholic American beverage industry continues to grow.
On the supplier side, VIP works with over 1,200 different supplier clients – everyone from Anheuser-Busch, Molson, and Coors, down to microbreweries. On the distributor side, Chris says VIP’s software provides solutions for hundreds of distributors, ranging from large-scale companies including Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits and Reyes Holdings to medium and small distributors as well.
According to Chris, VIP’s deep and unmatched expertise in the beverage industry has been a key to its success and longevity.
“We go very deep in this one vertical: the beverage industry,” he said. “We don’t branch off into other areas because we try to be experts in this one area as best we can.”
“And this is our 50th year of business in the beverage industry,’ he added. “So, no small feat for a software company to not only be heavily focused in one area but also be in our 50th year of business.”
The VIP culture
Since graduating from the University of Vermont with a Computer Science degree and starting as a junior developer in 2007, Chris has spent his whole career with VIP.
When asked why he’s been there his whole career, Chris didn’t point to the scenery of Lake Champlain or the surrounding Adirondack Mountains. He pointed to the constant adventures in the day-to-day with VIP, and its commitment to providing true expertise in one industry.
“We consider ourselves the true subject matter experts in the field that we’re in,” Chris said. “That’s why we have so much success with folks staying at VIP and building their careers here. We definitely see a lot of folks who started here in the early stages and have grown to have a complete career at VIP.”
If the scenery and the opportunity to build a promising career weren’t enough – the Vermont office includes perks like an on-site cafeteria, basketball court and a street hockey rink for bonus amenities (and a big perk for the Canadians on the team). Also, since its early beginnings, the company has taken a forward-looking approach by offering daycare to its staff in its Vermont location.
VIP operates on an employee ownership model in the United States, which according to Chris, helps contribute to a culture that keeps staff sticking around.
“It makes people take ownership in what they do and recognize that the hard work they put in is going to benefit them in the long run. So, it’s a great strategy for how to really have people heavily invested in a company.”
As for the Ottawa office, Chris says the team will join remotely, but as plans come together for the physical location, the focus will be on providing a hybrid option to accommodate what works best for each employee.
Finding the right talent to grow with
For a company to grow, you need to have the right team in place to support it. Chris says the challenge now, is finding the right people to be able to support the applications on the horizon for the company.
“We’re definitely a growing company and we’re trying to make sure that we’re properly building our applications and building our teams around those applications,” he said. “So, we are very much focused on finding talent across the different areas of our applications, and we’re absolutely looking for frontend developers who have an eye towards design and understand some of the more modern UI frameworks used to build applications.”
“We also have a lot of business logic and transactional systems based on the nature of our industry,” he added. “So, we’re also very much interested in growing our backend engineering pool as well, from database engineers to folks who can really understand complex business logic and build solid backend APIs.”
Exciting projects on the horizon
Chris highlighted that one of the many growth areas for VIP is developing integrated price planning applications for determining pricing strategies and providing visibility on upcoming prices to distributors and retailers across the world, so they can respond, and update their point-of-sale systems.
“That’s been a huge area of growth for us over the last couple of years and we’re really trying to be the backbone of pricing in the industry where the supplier, the distributor, and the retail, are all speaking the common language, looking at the same data, and being able to report on the outcome.”
Looking to join the VIP team? Visit their careers page to discover current opportunities with VIP and how you can apply.