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Jean-Michel Lemieux is senior vice-president of engineering, Shopify. Bruce Dorland is managing director, gdR. Inmar Givoni is Autonomy Engineering Manager, Uber ATG

When it comes to tech talent in Canada, there’s a phenomenon on the rise that’s impossible to ignore: brain gain.

No, that’s not a typo.

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While much talk has been devoted to tech talent moving south of the border, little spotlight has been shone on those who choose to stay and the reasons why they should. It’s time to be louder about the world-leading career opportunities in Canada.

We need to show graduates the infrastructure being built by industry, government and universities to foster talent here at home. We need to share statistics such as more international engineers relocated to work here in recent months than we’ve seen in the previous decade because of R&D opportunities.

Let’s break down some of the most common misconceptions and reasons why Canadians in tech have historically chosen to leave.

The first and most regularly cited reason is the perceived potential for higher salaries in tech hubs such as Silicon Valley and Seattle. Perhaps you’ve heard of a recent study by Hired, finding that even with cost-of-living adjustments, average salaries in those markets were 13 per cent to 44 per cent higher than comparable Canadian cities. But we don’t hear about the Canadian companies stepping up to change this.

Take Shopify, whose cost-of-living adjusted salaries outperform the Toronto and San Francisco benchmarks in Hired’s survey. Add Waterloo, Ont., Montreal and Ottawa to the list, and these Canadian cities rank near the top. Hired’s cost-of-living adjusted salaries don’t include total compensation, such as equity and benefits – when those are calculated, Canada ranks even more favourably.

Second on the list of reasons why tech talent leaves is the perception that Canada will stunt long-term career opportunities, whereas leaving would provide better mentoring and a wider scope of projects. Top Canadian tech employers have been listening to these concerns, and are making investments that matter most to the next generation work force.

One homegrown example is Shopify’s Dev Degree. This work-integrated learning program combines an accredited university degree with double the experience of a traditional co-op. Students work with industry mentors to gain critical skills and solve real-life problems using technology.

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Local tech players aren’t the only ones solidifying a robust Canadian tech ecosystem. These investments are being mirrored by established international tech companies such as Uber and its Advanced Technologies Group’s (ATG) research lab in Toronto. This R&D centre develops artificial-intelligence technology for self-driving vehicles, with a mandate to invest in local talent. Canadian labs like this help retain local workers and attract international talent, both of which reinforce our tech ecosystem.

The lab is just one of the investments Uber is making in Canada. Under University of Toronto professor Raquel Urtasun’s leadership, Uber is building a team attractive for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Two-thirds of Uber ATG’s team are completing masters or PhD degrees while working at the lab. Uber offers an AI Residency Program, a one-year fellowship enabling up-and-coming researchers to work alongside Uber’s team. The Toronto lab also offers internships for university students at all levels.

The third misconception is that if you’re not an engineer, there’s no in-demand career for you. To bolster the Canadian tech ecosystem, we must create a diverse talent pool in all fields, at all levels. That includes strong leaders who can scale companies locally. Toronto-based recruiting and leadership training firm gdR is taking on this challenge with training programs and women-in-tech coaching sessions. They’re partnering with university career educators and students to show the next generation of leaders the vast opportunities within Canada. The aim is to nurture made-in-Canada leadership that stays in Canada.

We need these leaders because opportunities are increasing exponentially. To give one example, a 2017 report from Indeed.com found that since 2015, AI job opportunities in Canada have grown by nearly 500 per cent. Those who stay and work in Canada have access to long-term career paths, impactful mentorship, diverse learning opportunities and the chance to solve meaningful problems with global impact.

These examples barely scratch the surface of the efforts going on across the country to prove these opportunities exist to Canadian graduates, international talent and naysayers.

This week, tech leaders from across the country met in Toronto for the Canadian Tech @ Scale conference to tackle these issues. This event brings together some of the brain-gain architects; the ones helping ensure Canadian talent stays here and international talent moves here. More than 55 companies came together for this conference, the attendees of which will collectively hire thousands of tech workers in Canada over the coming years.

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It’s time to focus on keeping our best and brightest at home. The brain gain is here to stay – and Canada is ready to play.

Cost-of-living adjusted tech salaries

in selected cities (Shopify v. Hired)

Thousands of dollars U.S.

Hired survey

Shopify average

Note: The Hired analysis of 2017 salaries defined

technology workers as software engineers,

designers, product managers and data analytic

roles. This is equivalent to R&D roles at Shopify.

Shopify data as of May 28, 2018.

The cost-of-living adjustments are

provided by Numbeo.

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: HIRED

Cost-of-living adjusted tech salaries

in selected cities (Shopify v. Hired)

Thousands of dollars U.S.

Hired survey

Shopify average

Note: The Hired analysis of 2017 salaries defined

technology workers as software engineers, designers,

product managers and data analytic roles. This is

equivalent to R&D roles at Shopify. Shopify data as of

May 28, 2018. The cost-of-living adjustments are provided

by Numbeo.

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: HIRED

Cost-of-living adjusted tech salaries in selected cities (Shopify v. Hired)

Thousands of dollars U.S.

Hired survey

Shopify average

Note: The Hired analysis of 2017 salaries defined technology workers as software

engineers, designers, product managers and data analytic roles. This is equivalent to

R&D roles at Shopify. Shopify data as of May 28, 2018. The cost-of-living adjustments

are provided by Numbeo.

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: HIRED

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