Canada's largest city is one of the world's hottest spots for technology. Here, the vice president of Thomson Reuters Toronto Technology Centre shares his personal view on how it got there.
There was a time when I thought my next job was going to have to be in Silicon Valley.
I’m glad I was wrong.
As a longtime resident of the greater Toronto region, I’ve been pleased to see my city grow into one of the hottest tech spots in the world. The breadth and depth of talent here in Canada’s most populous city is a major reason why Thomson Reuters chose it as the site of our Toronto Technology Centre, where I serve as Vice President.
From my perspective, there are three major factors that have helped Toronto’s technology community thrive:
There are not many cities in the world with as much intellectual and educational horsepower as Toronto. Top-notch schools like the University of Waterloo, the University of Toronto and Ryerson University produce a wealth of highly educated professionals-to-be. Sixty-four percent of Toronto residents between the ages of 25 and 64 have a post-secondary education. Critically, many of those educated people have studied science, technology, engineering or math (STEM). That picture is only going to get brighter; recently, the province of Ontario announced it wants to add 10,000 more STEM graduates each year for the next five years. Toronto provides a rich mix of emerging and mature technology employers, a growing high-tech community and a robust pipeline of talent.
Recently, the BBC named Toronto “the world’s most diverse city.” That’s not hyperbole. Almost half of Toronto’s 2.8 million residents were born outside of Canada, and Toronto is sometimes called “The City of 140 languages.” Around 30 percent of Toronto residents speak more than one language. For global companies, Toronto is ideal; it offers the same incredible diversity as our customers and employees. From a technology standpoint, diversity enables multiple inputs, and that helps to eliminate biases while fostering the kind of creativity and problem-solving that can only arise from a multitude of perspectives.
The Snowball Effect
That Toronto has a well-educated and diverse population is not really new. What is new, however, is that our graduates don’t feel like they have to leave to pursue careers. There was a time when that wasn’t the case. It took Toronto a decade or so to build up a critical mass of employment opportunities for technology professionals, but it’s the kind of situation where everything builds on everything else. Today, established technology companies like Alphabet and up-and-comers like Shopify have strong presences in Toronto. Perhaps even more exciting is the fact that an estimated 5,200 startups call Toronto home, too. That means we’re growing our own talent, not just hoping we can benefit from favorable politics or exchange rates.
There’s a final aspect of Toronto that didn’t quite fit into the three categories above, probably because it’s hard to describe. Maybe it’s the strong sense of possibility, or maybe it’s the collective idea that we’re forging a new kind of technology community and not following anybody else’s path. I’m not quite sure how to put it, but there’s a quality to the way people work that is unique to Toronto. It’s not something I’ve found anywhere else, and it’s something I’m very proud of.