Written by Andrew Seale
Melissa Jewison left Toronto at a good time. Sure, the tech scene was on the upswing, but there was a disconnect – terms like CRM and SaaS and the Cloud drew blank stares, and working in recruitment at Salesforce, she found herself constantly having to educate the market. So she went to the San Francisco Bay Area, working for both Zenefits and Cisco there.
“In the Bay Area everyone was in tune with SaaS and CRM and the Cloud,” recalls Jewison, now head of global recruitment for BlueCat, the Toronto-based enterprise-level network security solutions provider. They spoke her language. Opportunity was everywhere. And it fast-tracked her career, with Jewison spending four years in the valley.
“Due to the rapid, competitive nature of the tech industry; you’re given the chance to take on a massive scope and figure out the best way to deliver on expectations,” she says. “The allure of attractive employer brands, investments in employees, the ability to play with cool technology and scale a business was more than just hype.”
But then she started noticing a similar thing happening back home in Toronto like it had switched into a higher gear while she was away. So in Spring 2018, she made the decision to move back to Toronto. “It's like Toronto's catching up… I feel like our market here is just as lucrative, just as innovative, just as creative and moving at just as fast a pace,” she says.
“But we're bigger, Toronto is bigger than San Francisco proper and I feel like we're competitive with them right now.”
It was the same allure that drew Abhinav Gupta, senior director of product management at BlueCat, back to Toronto. The rapid growth of Toronto’s hi-tech sector made it unrecognizable from the region he left behind in 2009 after quitting BlackBerry to pursue an MBA at UCLA.
One opportunity led to another and he found himself in the Bay Area for nearly a decade bouncing from startups like Ravello Systems and Jasomi Networks to Fortune 500 companies like Oracle Cloud, Cisco, and IBM.
But family reasons spurred him to look north of the border. “I wanted my son to go to a Canadian school,” says Gupta. He thought he’d take a hit on his career but after talking to friends who had moved north and seeing the sector in full swing here, he changed his mind.
“I like to work at nimble companies,” he says. “I worked in the Bay area for nine years and when I came to interview with BlueCat I saw the same environment – very collaborative, things move very fast… that drove me back to Canada.”
Gupta says it took going to a Go North event to really see that a lot of the same people who left Canada to chase high-tech dreams south of the border are coming back. It’s something Jewison has also noticed in her role as a recruiter.
“I think a lot of it is we have such a dynamic culture, we have every type of culture possible – all these different mindsets,” she says. “Now is the best time to be drinking the kool-aid because we're the most competitive in this space in my entire recruiting career.”
Note: Since this interview, Melissa Jewison has left BlueCat to join another company in Toronto.
Photo Credit: Cameron Bartlett (www.snappedbycam.com)