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At Thales Canada, young employees have opportunities to collaborate on innovative digital technologies.Supplied

After Prashanth Balaji earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science in India, he decided to pursue postgraduate work in Canada. He chose the University of Calgary, which has a good reputation for networks and security research. His first job after completing his MSc in 2022 was as a software developer in the Ottawa office of Thales Canada Inc.

Thales Canada offers leading capabilities in defence, civil aviation and digital identity and security. With offices in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Québec, Ontario and British Columbia, Thales innovates for customers with high-stakes goals and critical missions, while also helping make the world safer, greener and more inclusive.

Balaji’s thesis was on threat-detection systems for connected and autonomous vehicles such as Teslas. “I had heard about Thales in India because it has a presence there,” he says. “I want to develop products that will have a positive impact on daily life, and I’m doing that here.”

Thales is also a major global player in hardware security models (HSMs), which appealed to Balaji, who is interested in enhancing cybersecurity systems. That technology was pioneered at Thales’s Ottawa office in the 1990s. “I knew I’d be working on HSMs to help build a future that we can all trust, which is rewarding,” he says.

When Balaji joined Thales Canada, he was part of an inaugural 12-month program for new graduates. He and a team worked on an environmental, social and governance (ESG) diversity and inclusion project, where they had to produce an innovative solution to a problem. “It was also great for networking and learning about different business lines,” he says.

The Early Career Program is intended to provide a more structured onboarding process. “We’ve always hired interns and new graduates, but we have formalized the program to help bring in and retain young people, and help them grow their careers here,” says Michelle Forbrigger, Thales’ vice president of human resources for North America. The program itself is growing: the first year there were 30 graduates; the second year 67; and the goal for 2024 is 100.

Forbrigger knows first-hand that growth opportunities are plentiful. In 2000, when she was in her mid-twenties, she joined a business Thales acquired as a human resources assistant, moving up not only in roles with more responsibility in different business lines but also to offices in England and the United States (she’s currently based in Arlington, Va.).

“Thales has given me lots of support from mentors and coaches, and continues to support me,” she says. “I’m a pure example of someone who has developed a career path internally, and I have no desire to leave. We sell a career, not just a job, in various divisions and countries.”

Balaji is grateful for his own mentors, including Alice Kadlec in Ottawa and Jan Siba in Austin, Texas. “Even if I have a trivial question, I feel like I have a safe and free environment to ask it,” he says. “It feels like I’m heard, and that makes me more committed.”

Global mobility is also important to Balaji. In 2022, he attended the Early Career Program’s kickoff event in Florida, and the following year he pitched his team’s ESG project to North American Thales executives in Austin. After he completed the program, he coached the next cohort on their project.

“I appreciate that you’re given the space to own and take responsibility for your work,” says Balaji. “For me, a great workday is seeing how much I’ve learned from the previous day and being involved in some kind of collaboration, which is pretty much every day at Thales.”

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Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.

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