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How do IBM Layoffs Signal a Technology Boom in Ottawa?

13 June 2013

More and more companies seem to be taking part in massive, across-the-board layoffs lately. We first saw it when RIM laid off thousands, and then when HP laid off tens of thousands of people from their company. Now there’s another company within the technology sector that’s also planning massive layoffs – IBM Corp., who are currently laying off “hundreds” of employees. But while that may seem like bad news, it’s actually shed light on the resurgence of a technology boom in the nation’s capital.

Yesterday was the third day in a row that IBM continued to lay off employees in their Ottawa office. No one knows exactly how many workers the computer mega giant is getting rid of altogether, but an employee who wished to remain anonymous told the Ottawa Citizen that the numbers would be in the “hundreds” by the time it was all said and done. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that those people will be out of work.

That’s because on Wednesday, the e-commerce firm Shopify Inc. heard about the layoffs happening at IBM and they saw an opportunity. The chance to get some of the best technology workers the city had to offer. In order to grab them while they could, Shopify set up a booth just doors away from the IBM office, and flagged down workers that had just been laid off as they walked past, asking them if they’d be interested in coming to work at Shopify, a startup company.

“We are looking to hire 50 people, but we aren’t going to turn away talent,” said Shopify’s chief platform officer, Harley Finkelstein. “As long as we can get amazing people we will hire them.”

Their strategy proved to be effective, as former IBM employees and members of the general public continued to approach Shopify’s booth all day, asking them what they were doing and how they could apply for a position.

But one small startup with creative hiring strategies isn’t enough to signal a technology boom in Ottawa, is it? No. But when you take into consideration that other firms including QNX Software Systems, a division of BlackBerry; SavvyDox. Fuel Industries; Magmic Inc.; and Playbrains are also hiring, it certainly does seem to point to a trend.

Bruce Lazenby, chief executive officer of Invest Ottawa, says that he also sees the trend, and it’s one he thinks is going to continue.

“When we are talking to most of the large companies in town they all tell us they have plans to grow this year,” he says. “This talent won’t leave Ottawa. Good companies will make room for good talent.”

Ottawa has long been one of the hottest places for technological growth, both in the province and the country. And if these startups, as well as major established companies, aren’t proof enough for you, maybe the numbers are.

According to Statistics Canada, Ottawa has created 9,500 new jobs in the technology sector alone since December of last year. Currently the city has a total of 49,700 positions of employment in the industry. And that, as Lazenby says, is only poised to grow.

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