By Serene Chen
On May 10th, GradusOne organized GradusTalks Pathway to Tech, a panel on BC tech careers, at Dynamic Leap’s beautiful, newly-renovated office. Kraig Docherty from BC Tech was the panel moderator and the panelists were Haidee Kongpreecha from RED Academy, Tarrnie Williams from Blueprint Reality, Laura Crawford from Mobify and Sarah Veness from Omnifilms Entertainment. The evening was filled with thoughtful conversation on a wide array of topics from women in tech to what the Vancouver tech industry needs to regain recognition as a tech powerhouse in the world. The panelists also shared aspects of their own professional journeys.
Takeaway #1: There is opportunity in the tech industry but not enough talent.
To kick off the panel, Kraig discussed some of the statistics surrounding the BC tech industry. Did you know that Vancouver used to be among the top 10 cities for technology activity? Now, we’re sitting above 18 but that number is beginning to reflect improvement. There are around 47,000 new jobs in tech projected for 2016 but with 30-50% of new technology education graduates choosing not to work in Canada, many of those jobs may go unfilled. For students interested in pursuing a career in technology, this is definitely added incentive to work here in Vancouver.
Takeaway #2: Persistence pays off, especially when it comes to learning!
One audience member wanted to know what to do if they were given a technical problem they couldn’t solve during an interview. The answer: figure out how to solve it after the interview, keep in touch with your interviewer, then come back and demonstrate both your ability to solve the problem and your ability to learn. Panelists also added that there are plenty of practice technical questions you can find online to feel prepared for a technical interview.
Takeaway #3: Culture and your attitude is just as important as your technical ability, if not more important.
All the panelists agreed that it was your attitude to learn and how well you identify with the company that mattered more to them, than your technical ability. Many of them emphasized that technical skills can always be taught. That’s why it’s important to get to know the company you’re interested in, as Kraig put it, “Work and life as separate things is an old idea. Find a company that aligns with the life you want to live.”
Takeaway #4: The Vancouver tech scene feels like a community and people are often very willing to help out.
Throughout the discussion, there was some comparing and contrasting with the tech scene of our neighbours to the South. Although Vancouver is not as well-funded as say, Silicon Valley and the brain drain (talent leaving Canada to work elsewhere) is real, the overall sentiment about the tech community here in Vancouver can be summarized by Haidee, when she said “Vancouver is called the Silicon Valley of the North but I don’t feel the competitiveness because we’re a tight-knit community.” A few panelists mentioned they had access to mentorship and all of them were mentors, themselves. Laura also noted how she often saw colleagues at Mobify giving other people tours of the office, agreeing to coffee chats and answering questions from the curious. Likewise, you shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to members of the tech community for advice, mentorship or insight!
Takeaway #5: Technology impacts every industry and whether you are working directly with it or not, there are plenty of resources you can turn to.
One of the final questions asked to the panel at Pathway to Tech was from an audience member who worked in the hospitality industry. She recognized that technology was beginning to disrupt the way things are being done in the hospitality industry and she was wondering what she could do to keep up. The panelists advised her to look into some of the technologies she was interested in and ask companies working with these new developments to provide training. Easing tech adoption is at the forefront of priorities for many companies working on the cutting edge of development; hence the focus on user experience and change management. Other places to find out more about tech companies include the BC Tech Base (www.bctechbase.com), attending industry events and technology education schools such as Red Academy and Lighthouse Labs.
Ever since the BC government unveiled their BCTech plan, the BC technology industry has been in the spotlight. Everybody from companies to students have been paying attention. Some of these exciting new plans include:
- Investing $100 million in post-secondary capacity: The government will increase the number of tech grads by 1000 per year by 2022 by expanding the number of full-time student spaces at post-secondary institutions
- Doubling Co-op and Work-Integrated Learning: The province will double the number of placements in the BC Tech Co-op grant program and the Innovator Skills Initiatives as well as further invest in MITACs to expand work integrated experiential learning opportunities.
- Supporting AR and VR development: As a follow on to the recent 2017 BC Budget, the province announced plans to expand eligibility of the Interactive and Digital Media Tax Credit (IDMTC) for Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality to include applications in business and other industries.
Personally, the Pathway to Tech conversation was very eye-opening through the big picture perspective offered by the panelists, coupled with their personal experience. The overall outlook for tech here in BC is positive, hopeful and full of opportunities for those considering a career pivot and for students entering university or graduating. If you’ve been on the fence, there’s no better time than now to explore where you fit into the tech landscape. Just remember, persistence pays off!
Find more photos from the event here!