Canadian tech workers looking for right job to lure them home

Ottawa's economic development agency is launching a campaign to lure high-tech talent back from Silicon Valley in an effort to help fill 10,000 jobs in the next three years — an effort that coincides with the election of Donald Trump, and an increasing jitteriness among many Canadians living in California.

Donald Trump's presidency alone won't drive talent back over the border — quality jobs, salaries will

Canadians David and Jody Smiling are waiting for the right job opportunity to come along before moving back from California's Silicon Valley. (Submitted)

Ottawa's economic development agency is launching a campaign to lure high-tech talent back from Silicon Valley in an effort to help fill 10,000 jobs in the next three years — an effort that coincides with the election of Donald Trump, and an increasing jitteriness among many Canadians living in California. 

Several Canadian expats who currently call America home told CBC News they're looking for the right opportunity to coax them back over the border.

"We're going back, it's just a question of when and under what circumstances," said David Smiling, a Canadian who lives in Redwood City, Calif., where he heads up a technology group at a publishing firm.

"There are always opportunities out there. It's a matter of when the right one shows up. The reality is that the U.S. opportunities are much larger."

Growing talent gap

Luring back Canadians like Smiling could help plug a growing talent gap here.
Sebastien Lauzon, a recruiter with Ottawa firm RealDecoy, said resum​és did start flowing after U.S. election night. (CBC)

"They're looking for people with a little bit more experience, people who have managed companies and led teams," said Laina Pilon, Invest Ottawa's public relations strategist.

With an aging workforce and fewer young people now opting for technology careers, there are concerns about Canada's competitiveness over the next three years.

"Canadian employers will need to hire 232,000 information and communication technology (ICT) professionals," according to the 2015 edition of the Labour Market Outlook for Canada's Information and Communications Technology Council.

The province of Ontario will need more than 75,000 by 2019. The most sought-after roles are information system analysts, computer and network operators, software engineers, computer engineers and web designers.

Resumés flowing

One of those companies hungry for talent is Ottawa tech firm RealDecoy.
Canadian Ross Mistry, a senior director at Microsoft in California, says it will take more than the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. to make Canada enticing to young professionals. (Submitted)

"I've talked to a few people that are in Silicon Valley. If they already are Canadian citizens or already have a visa to work and we can move fast on an offer to them, then yes, [we will hire them]," said Sebastien Lauzon, RealDecoy's talent acquisition manager.

He said the resum​és did start flowing after U.S. election night.

But Ross Mistry, a Canadian and a senior director for Microsoft in San Francisco, said the election of Donald Trump alone won't bring many talented Canadians back.

He said there are several things the Canadian government and companies could do to take advantage of those who are worried about the U.S. political situation.

"Reduce taxes," he said. "Embrace young millennials and diverse candidates in the workforce … and offer flexible, intelligent workspaces with modern technology," Mistry urged.

Potential recruits have demands

Oracle employee Barb Lundhild, who also lives in California, said a Trump administration scares her. But she said she's not coming home to Canada unless her demands are met.
Barb Lundhild works for Oracle in California. She says a Trump administration scares her, but she still needs incentives to move back to Canada. (Submitted)

"You want it to be something you'll enjoy, be exciting, and the money has to be there too," said Lundhild, who's worked in Silicon Valley for 13 years. "I'm still Canadian. I've always held the door open to come home."

According to Invest Ottawa the city is currently home to 68,000 employees at 1,800 tech companies.

One Ottawa firm that's already benefiting from a northward brain gain is FarmLead, a company that gives farmers the ability to buy and sell grain online.

"We are always looking for talent here," said Andrea Wood, vice-president of marketing at Farmlead, who returned to Ottawa from Silicon Valley to work for the company.

Andrea Wood came back to Ottawa from Silicon Valley for a job as vice-president of marketing with FarmLead. (CBC)
Wood said FarmLead is looking for developers and is hoping the Canadian lifestyle and relatively low cost of living will appeal to potential recruits.

"For instance, you can get a really great two-bedroom apartment here for the same price that you would pay for a bachelor in San Francisco."

Wait and see

While many Canadian expats living in Silicon Valley have heard the cost of living argument, they said it'll be the quality and availability of the jobs that really get their attention.

"I've been keeping my eye on the Toronto-Ottawa corridor and I know there's a huge boom in the technology and I've read that [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau is investing a bit in that area. It remains to be seen what actually starts to happen," said David Smiling.

Smiling's wife Jody said she hopes the right opportunity comes soon. 

"I want to come back to Canada ... I'm booking my plane now just to visit."