In 2017, several members of the tech and innovation community observed that, even though Canada was punching above its weight for the growth in its tech and digital sectors, the success was often lost on the global community.
Determined to put Canadian accomplishments in the spotlight, a group of leading tech entrepreneurs, including Razor Suleman, Alex Norman, Jodi Kovitz, Chris Rickett and Salim Teja, pitched Toronto mayor John Tory on an event to bring together top talent to exchange ideas, connect and collaborate. Mayor Tory greenlit the idea on the spot.
The first Elevate Festival was organized in just 90 days, recalls Lisa Zarzeczny, co-founder and CEO. “We brought together more than 95 partners and had just under 5,000 people in the first year,” she says. “It received a ton of support. That’s when we understood that there was a need for such an event in the community.”
Presented by the not-for-profit organization Elevate, it has continued to experience huge growth year over year with 30,000 attendees expected for the festival in 2022, which marks its return to the city post-COVID restrictions. Previous festivals hosted heavyweight speakers like Martha Stewart, Al Gore, Michelle Obama, Chris Hadfield and Tobi Lutke along with a diverse mix of startups, big-name corporations, entrepreneurs, students, job seekers and those just curious about what it may be like to work for places in the digital-meets-creativity ecosystem.
Opportunities abound for networking and celebrating innovation. For the new Elevate Block Party, part of Toronto’s Front Street will close for live musical performances and entertainment, allowing attendees to meet and mingle with people in the tech and innovation sector. It’s a free event where all are welcome. Elevate Festival ticketholders will also have access to the inspiring talks from thought leaders on the Main Stage, curated chats, Marketplace and NFT Art Gallery. There will also be exclusive opportunities to get connected to decision-makers through meet-and-greets, one-on-one investor meetings and hanging out at the Trailblazer lounge.
The Elevate Open House Zone promises to be a highlight. An expected 30,000 guests will have the chance to mingle with some of Canada’s most exciting tech and innovation companies. If prior years are any indication, such meetings could mark the beginning of collaborations leading to fruitful, future ventures.
It’s an environment rife for magic to happen where Canadian ingenuity gets to shine. “There are so many incredible startups, inventions and discoveries happening in Canada,” says Zarzeczny. “We do ourselves a disservice by not shouting it from the rooftops. This is our chance to do just that.”
Elevate Open House will be running on-site at Elevate Festival at Meridian Hall from 9am - 5pm Wednesday, Sept. 21 and Thursday, Sept 22. To visit participating companies, tickets can be purchased at elevatefestival.ca/tickets.
ELEVATE OPEN HOUSE GOLD SPONSORS
EllisDon strives to be a company that isn’t afraid to disrupt every aspect of how business is done. Established in 1951 in London, Ont., it has become a leading player in construction with building projects across Canada and worldwide and more than 3,500 employees. Recently, it ramped up its focus on technology with the introduction of its new Building Digital division five years ago, which includes a shift to in-house software development.
It’s evidence of EllisDon’s culture, where there is acceptance and support for innovation, says Rosemarie Lipman, the company’s chief information officer and senior vice-president, digital and data engineering. “The goal is that the new division will help not only support the company but help it evolve and move beyond that operational role to more disruptive things,” she says. “You really need to be able to control your own destiny, create your own plans and have internal capabilities in order to do all the external tasks.”
EllisDon’s roots as a small, family-run company are still evident today with its enthusiasm for entrepreneurship. There is also a spirit of respect and openness company-wide, points out Brandon Milner, vice-president, product, UX design & professional services at EllisDon. “Our CEO and president, Geoff Smith, is always very transparent about the company and its direction at team meetings, annual general meetings and town halls,” he says. “Every effort is made to ensure everyone is aligned in terms of what our goals and purpose are from a technology perspective.” It’s achieved by facilitating the sharing of information and ideas between senior directors, vice-presidents, managers and staff.
New hires can expect a culture with diverse opportunities that encourage trying new things, an environment that empowers career achievement and recognition of the importance of work-life balance. EllisDon, which is more than 50-per-cent employee-owned, also offers flexible hours, shortened summer hours, a full suite of benefits and profit-sharing program.
“The heart and soul of EllisDon is that family-owned company,” notes Lipman. “It makes for a really unique culture.”
KPMG in Canada’s philosophy for its workforce is simple. “People are our greatest assets,” says Stephanie Terrill, business unit leader, management consulting at KPMG in Canada. “We focus on people as human beings with a holistic approach to wellness. If you don’t have wellness – physically, financially and mentally – you can’t be the best in your role.”
With that in mind, KPMG offers several benefits for employees, including flexible work arrangements, as well as Summer Splash, which turned this summer’s weekends in July and August into long weekends, and KPMG Roam, which creates an opportunity to work outside of Canada (in select countries) for up to four weeks a year and another four weeks from anywhere in Canada. The firm also employs a chief mental health officer, a Total Rewards program and a lifestyle spending account, which can be used on anything from heath care needs, to fitness, to charitable giving.
The flexibility-driven offerings share top billing with inclusion, diversity and equity and continuous learning initiatives as key focus areas for the firm.
Learning is also a top priority. The firm joined forces with Simon Fraser University to offer advanced data and analytics certification to its audit and assurance professionals through its KPMG Digital Academy – a first in Canada – and recently launched a microcredentials program as another way to invest in its digital capabilities across its workforce. Technology is woven into everything that KPMG in Canada does – from traditional technology to newer, more innovative technologies that encompass virtual reality, data mining and cybersecurity.
“I think technology on its own is not as powerful as technology in a diverse environment with diverse capabilities to solve business problems. Broadening our ecosystem is part of our corporate environment and culture,” says Terrill. “You might work with KPMG, but you may also be working with a startup, a digital agency or a niche player software provider in a priority industry. All of this helps to provide a broad perspective of the technology environment at KPMG.”
KPMG LLP is a professional services firm providing audit, tax and advisory services employing more than 10,000 people in over 40 locations across Canada serving private and public sector clients.
Since its arrival in Canada 28 years ago, Walmart Canada has earned a reputation for being an inclusive employer with associates spanning a wide range of ages, genders and ethnicities. It’s reflective of the company’s efforts to advocate for a more inclusive society and to better represent local communities.
“Our associates are our greatest strength and our promise to them is that Walmart Canada is a place where they can live better,” says John Bayliss, executive vice-president, chief transformation officer. “Our culture has been built on the values our founder, Sam Walton, carried with him every day – service to the customer, respect for the individual, striving for excellence and acting with integrity.”
Making a difference and giving back are priorities for the company. Its Women in Retail program was introduced in 2010 to support the advancement of female associates. As a result, Walmart Canada has doubled the number of female store managers. It has also donated 10.5 million pounds of safe, surplus food, and given to numerous charities, including $7-million to Food Banks Canada and $15.6-million for Children’s Miracle Network Canada.
Members of the transformation and innovation teams at Walmart Canada should expect to be a part of a dynamic and innovative group that is investing, implementing and scaling innovative technologies to help transform the customer experience and solve the world’s largest retailer’s complex issues. “Empowered by the freedom to think big, to innovate and to improve, they will be able to use Walmart Canada’s scale to make a difference across various systems,” Bayliss says. “Potential candidates have the opportunity to not only learn and grow in tech but to experience how the largest retailer in the world operates and prioritizes its associates and customers.”
With employment comes the potential for both personal and professional growth. As one of Canada’s largest employers, Walmart Canada has the scale to offer many opportunities internally and a chance to work on complex, large-scale business problems. “We are defining the future of retail through innovation with projects applying to advanced fields such as data science, computer vision, natural processing language and more,” explains Bayliss. “I’ve been a Walmart Canada associate for over six years and am very proud to be part of this team.”
Located on the northern boundary of Toronto, York Region is home to Canada’s second-largest tech hub with more than 4,500 tech companies, most of which are located in its southern municipalities of Markham, Vaughan and Richmond Hill.
It has the highest density of tech companies among Canadian tech hubs, relative to population size, with four tech companies per 1,000 residents. Companies like GM Canada Technical Centre, Astera Labs, AMD, Qualcomm, Opus One, Wisdom.AI, OpenText, Mircom Group of Companies, Proto3000 and SpaceRyde have chosen York Region to set up their businesses. Companies large and small are attracted to the region for its business environment and proximity to postsecondary institutions, such as York University and Seneca College.
A York Region location gives companies the ability to reach global markets, access a range of services and work with partners, like ventureLAB, YSpace and the Centre for Local Innovation and Collaboration (CLIC), which are devoted to entrepreneurship, raising capital and fostering growth. “Our tech community is rich with specialized expertise, skills and knowledge that allow for the creation of new enterprises that can tackle emerging business needs and technological issues,” says Jonathan Wheatle, director of economic strategy at York Region.
For those seeking employment in the tech sector, York Region offers a wide range of prospects, working for companies leading the charge in areas such as software development, artificial intelligence, IT services, automotive tech and microelectronics. “With thousands of tech-focused businesses, there are plenty of choices for job-seeking talent to find opportunities based on the stage they are at in their careers,” he says. “Furthermore, our broader business community consists of diverse industries, which allow job seekers to choose the path where their passions lie.”
The region draws new residents for many reasons, including high-paying jobs, safe neighbourhoods, leading health amenities, a culturally diverse and growing population, top-ranked educational institutions and a mix of housing options located in a suburban-urban environment. Job seekers will also discover an excellent quality of life, which blends arts and cultural offerings with green spaces – parks, nature trails and lakes – perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. From diverse cuisine to museums and golf courses, there is much to appreciate about York Region, making it well worth considering for potential employment in the tech sector.
CIBC aims to be more than a bank. As a leading North American financial institution, its focus is on helping clients reach their goals with a full range of financial products and services. To employees, it offers a culture of innovation and shared values of trust, teamwork and accountability in a place where they can thrive and excel.
Offering ongoing development and growth opportunities is a core principle to support individual career journeys. To date, it has spent more than $61-million globally on corporate-wide learning initiatives. CIBC also prioritizes sharing its success with team members through competitive, performance-driven awards. It believes that being a genuinely caring bank means taking care of people and is fully focused on the success of its team. A career at CIBC is more than a job. It’s an opportunity to grow and work alongside some of the brightest in the country.
Since 2007, Dropbox has been helping its users stay organized and productive with intelligent tools for organizing and managing files. It has evolved over the years, offering an expanded suite of services that help people work smarter, from the secure transfer of files between users to virtual document signing. It believes in valuing people over places, which is why it has adopted a virtual-first model for its team members. They work from home offices, co-working spaces, coffee shops and Dropbox studios around the world.
The aim is to give employees more control over how they work by empowering them to design their own schedules. It prioritizes impact and results, not the number of hours worked – a core value that gives autonomy to its workforce. Innovation has been fundamental to the company’s success as it continues with its mission to unleash the world’s creative energy by designing a more enlightened approach to work. Today, Dropbox platforms have more than 700 million users in 180 countries.
This Montreal-based startup company was founded by PhD researchers from the Quebec AI Institute (Mila) and Cambridge University. It is focused on building the future of online education through a learning platform that personalizes your education using artificial intelligence.
Students learn through online exercises and real-time interactive conversations with an AI teacher, which adapts itself to an individual user’s learning profile for personalized support. Korbit, the AI teacher, now has more than 20,000 global users.
Since it launched its first course on machine-learning in 2019, Korbit’s mission has been to democratize education and disrupt the sector by providing high-quality, low-cost interactive education in software and data skills for students around the world. The company believes that AI teachers have the potential to address fundamental issues in the education system that leaves teachers with inadequate time for mentoring and coaching. AI teachers can personalize education, allowing them to continually assess students and understand their level of knowledge and where the gaps are. The end goal is to give students the tools they need to advance their careers, further their studies and improve their communities.
As a leading investment management firm, Mackenzie Investments prioritizes making a difference in the lives of Canadians, helping them become successful in meaningful ways. Founded in 1967, the company currently has $192.5-billion in assets and offices across Canada, as well as Boston, Dublin, London, Beijing and Hong Kong.
For its team members, the company aims to provide inspiration and support so they can do their best work, develop valuable skills and indulge their curiosity to learn with feedback focused on refining their abilities. Mackenzie Investments has a vision and a strategy to challenge the way business in this industry is done. It offers a diverse workplace committed to doing business inclusively. This includes racialized persons, women, Indigenous persons, persons with disabilities, 2SLGBTQIA+ community, gender-diverse and neurodiverse individuals, as well as all those who may contribute to the further diversification of ideas. The company’s purpose is to create a more invested world together so that all Canadians can be better off.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Elevate Toronto Inc. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.