With the release of the new RIM/Blackberry tell-all Losing the Signal, the Canadian tech community is abuzz with chatter about the spectacular downfall of the local tech giant. It seems that the former Research in Motion, now Blackberry, has been a local company that everyone loves to hate. Even when stocks were soaring and Blackberry devices were flying off shelves, the sentiment in the community was often negatively focused on how the giant was unfairly inflating salaries and poaching development talent from underdog start-ups. While the co-CEOs poured hundreds of millions of dollars into establishments like the Perimeter Institute, CiGi and University of Waterloo, we were more likely to read press reports of leadership mistakes or un-Canadian egos. As a nation of under-dogs, we were quick to criticize and view our homegrown success story as ‘the Man'. And so this continues today, with an “I-told-you-so” attitude, as so many within our tech community reflect on the Blackberry situation and what they would have done differently if only someone had asked. Enough already. It would be really refreshing for someone to start talking about the success of Blackberry. Yes, we can certainly learn a lifetime’s worth of lessons through reflection on what caused the decline. But we really need to take a good look at what went right, and how the success of Blackberry has left the Waterloo Region and the Canadian economy much better off. A group of Canadian innovators built a technology and created a market that changed the world and generated $Billions in economic impact. Wow. More than 20,000 Canadians were employed at Research in Motion throughout it’s evolution, and are now armed with the experience of having been part of an incredibly successful global tech company. The value of these individuals to our economy is not dampened by the eventual decline of the business. The seeds of innovation and the appetite for big time success that these individuals now carry, is being sprinkled generously across every sector of the economy, and the impact will be profound. So we should definitely congratulate all of the talented leaders who have been liberated by Blackberry and are now driving innovation and growth within local and global tech companies. But perhaps we should also send a note of thanks to the Research in Motion founders who were just brave and imperfect enough to build a billion dollar tech company in our own backyard.Read More...
- Category blog Leadership Tech Events
- Writen by Kristina McDougall
The Iron Horse Angels Tech Highlights are delivered monthly and a reproduced here with permission. The goal is to provide you with a monthly primer on significant news events from private Waterloo-based technology companies in 5 minutes or less.
TechnologyeSentire announced they have expanded to Ireland, opening a Security Operations Center (SOC) there to support their European expansion. Auvik Networks was named a Cool Vendor by Gartner
HardwareAeryon Labs and Dejero announced a strategic technology partnership to enable distribution of video captured by Aeryon UAVs. They demonstrated their solution at the AUVSI conference Aeryon Labs received FAA clearance for power line inspection. Deep Trekker conducted open water demonstrations of their new flagship product at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa. Thalmic Labs announced Myo for Presentations, allowing presenters to use the armband to control a number of effects in popular presentation software. Palette provided an entertaining and revealing blog chronicle of their efforts to manufacture in China.
ServicesOpen Data Exchange (ODX) received a $3M grant from the Federal Government along with funds from Open Text, D2L and the University of Waterloo. ODX acts as a clearinghouse for data as well as supplying data from Canadian government databases.
HealthcareOculys Health was named to the Top 25 Canadian Up and Coming ICT Companies by Branham Group. These Waterloo Tech Highlights were put together by Chris Wormald, founder at VeraMito and leader at Iron Horse Angels.
Chris’ ThoughtsLots of opinions about the latest BlackBerry book, “Losing the Signal” around Waterloo Region. Personally, I really appreciated getting a fresh perspective of why tech industry catalysts rarely end up succeeding. RIM spent so much time disrupting the existing value chain for cell phones and breaking up the status quo, it became the lightning rod for critics, incumbents (and patent trolls). It feels like you’re taking on The World. Like a cyclist leading out the pack in a sprint, RIM got early attention for creating the smartphone yet created an amazing draft opportunity for others as they ploughed wind and built lactic acid. The leader lacks a clear view of all the dynamics going on behind, as they fight the elements, while creating draft for their real opponents – who they can’t see. The drafters get the benefit of lessons learned without paying the price. I thought the book did a good job explaining the strain and fatigue that front-running created for RIM. I maintain the feeling of supreme privilege for getting to play a role in the race. More than once as I was reading, I found myself thinking of Uber and the draft they’re creating as they take on The World. They’re hoping their cash buys them a big enough lead that they can power their way to the top of the podium. They're also hoping that tech trends don’t apply to regulated transportation markets. Waterloo Tech Highlights is a communication initiative run by a group of experienced investors and strategists who would like to receive and share real news about the vibrant Waterloo, Ontario tech community. If you would like to share news with Chris, or our readers, email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit the Iron Horse Angels site here. Read More...
- Category blog Leadership Tech Events
- Writen by Leigh Farlow
This year’s Tech Leadership Conference topped the charts. With a focus on visioneering, the main themes were: harnessing the power of introverts; disruptive innovation; design thinking; internet of things; emerging intrapreneurship; and managing innovation in a time of immense change. For those of you who weren’t able to make it, here’s my recap: Iain Klugman started the day off highlighting the tech shifts that have happened in Waterloo Region over the past few decades. We’re in an entrepreneurial driven economy, where Canada and KW are now on the map. The focus remains on fighting the war for talent, connecting with Toronto, supporting startups, and scaling up. Susan Cain, author and co-founder of the Quiet Revolution, was the first keynote and opened our eyes to a topic we don’t often discuss- the power of introverts. This is a game changing trend that we need to pay attention to, as one-third to one-half of our population are introverts. There is no such thing as a one size fits all work environment, so we need to collectively rethink leadership and how we work to appeal to all personality types- introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts. Group brainstorming meetings and open concept workplaces can stifle creativity for introverts, who prefer quiet and solitude to work through problems and generate ideas. Susan encouraged us to open up this conversation- who are the prominent introverts in your organization and how can you support them? If you want to learn more, watch Susan’s TedTalk here. Selecting a break-out session wasn’t easy, with some terrific options, but my imagination was captured by the Design Thinking talk with David Schonthal (Professor at Kellogg and leader at IDEO). He walked us through the cyclical journey of learning about the world, having ideas and turning them into a reality. At the root of this is a deep understanding of human behaviour. We looked at analogies (ie. how is a F1 racecar team similar to an ER trauma team?), talked about going to the extremes and not just looking at the core customer, and designing with empathy in mind. When generating ideas, don’t prejudge or dismiss wild ideas, and view prototyping as a non-linear process. The scrappier the better because you’re launching to learn. In the first of 3 riveting T-5 presentations James Slifierz talked about how his start-up, SkyWatch will revolutionize the space industry, offering modern data solutions for a heritage industry. Loren Padelford of Shopify shared the secrets to his success in hiring sales people (look for traits like creativity, curiosity, a history of success and coachability) while avoiding the shining stars and megalomaniacs. Matt Scobel, leader of the Canon Innovation Lab, shared reasons why innovation and creativity get stifled - but the solution is simple, if managers can let go of control to let great things happen. On the hot topic of the Internet of Things, Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino (Designswarm) spoke about how grassroots movements in IoT are changing business. Hardware is becoming increasingly simple and inexpensive to access. Learning and design opportunities are everywhere we look. We were challenged to design for what we know, to consider invasiveness of innovations, and to translate IoT data into value for users as well as business. In keeping with the ying-yang conversation of introverts and extroverts, the final keynote Eddie Obeng (educator and author) is likely as extroverted as they come! He asked what our hopes and fears were for his presentation. The lesson? By vocalizing our fears (ie. boredom, buzzwords, etc) and eliminating these concerns we become more engaged. His thrill ride of a presentation had us roaring with laughter, and challenged our assumptions about organization structure and work in a world that is changing faster than we can learn about it. Now, what’s with The Goat? We’ve all been wondering what Communitech’s new goat mascot is all about. The mystery has been solved, as we were encouraged aspire to be more like goats - climb rocky terrain, be naturally curious, ask questions, and have a taste of everything to get experience. So, go out there and roam!Read More...
- Category blog Leadership Tech Events
- Writen by Leigh Farlow
1. Tune into your talents
2. Observe strong moments
3. Analyze and optimizeThe underlying patterns in your 'strong moments' are unique to every individual. Once you start to analyze these trends, you can aim to focus on those activities as much as possible. For instance, can you devote a half day agenda to focus on those things that you love doing, and that deliver incredible results? Once you see what puts you into flow you can make sure it happens more often.
4. Start the dialogueNow that you know your strengths, can communicate them, and can plan your own work in ways that enable you to utilize your talents, bring this insight to your team. Ensure that your leaders know what situations bring out your best performance. Next work with your team to help them identify their strengths. Look for their strong moments and aim to design their work in such a way that they can leverage their talents for at least 50% of their working day.
5. Watch the resultsWith both you and your team working in Flow, both strategy and execution will improve as your levels of engagement and job satisfaction across the team soar. We've become advocates for this approach, having witnessed how the top tech leaders are both highly self-aware and also keenly focused on working in ways that enable them to exercise their strengths.
- Category Advice for Employers blog Leadership
- Writen by Kristina McDougall
As your company moves from start-up to scale-up, from a handful of people to a few dozen, lots of things will start to shift. There will come a time (which will be sooner than you think) where you need to decide on the best leadership structure to successfully grow. You're not alone. This is one of the biggest challenges startups face. We recently talked to a group of early stage companies about how they can plan ahead for bringing on an executive - not how to recruit, but how to know when and why. The reality is that many startups hire a CEO once its time to scale the business (think Cisco, eBay, and Google), but there are also countless examples of founding CEOs (Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Michael Dell). How do you know whether it’s right for you to step aside and hand over the reins? Here are some highlights from our conversation.
To be Rich or To be King?If you haven’t read the Founder Dilemma, start here. Noam Wasserman’s insight into this fundamental question is priceless. As the founder of a company you have to, from the very start, decide whether you’d rather maximize the success of your business or build a personal empire. There will come a day when you’ll need to make a choice, and the success of your business may come at the expense of your ego and your ability to control the destination.
Who decides?While it is sometimes a founder that willingly, and sometimes eagerly, hands over the reins to a new leader, often it is the investors decision. The reality that many founders resist, is that the strengths and the passion that enabled them to generate a new business idea and bring it to market are different from the skills they’ll need to scale and operate the business. Some rare individuals successfully make this transition, but few can or should.
Know thyselfSelf-awareness is one of the most valuable leadership traits. A founder who is most likely to build a successful enterprise will know what they do best and will focus their efforts in their sweet spot. In the early days, you’ll need to wear lots of hats and you’ll find yourself often outside your comfort zone, but when it comes time to scale you need to find the spot in your org chart where you are the best person for the job. There are some great company founders, who happily work as CTO or lead architect, and others who are great customer-facing leaders who remain very close to the problems their business is solving. Inviting experienced executives onto your team will inevitably mean releasing some control, but it'll also free you up to focus on the aspects of your business that you love.
Why resist?Even with all of the data and the logic, highly intelligent start-up founders remain skeptical of the need to round out their leadership team with ‘outsiders’. Why? As a founder you may think that you are the exception to the general rule. But more likely you are afraid of the risk. Ironically, when faced with making their first leadership hires, entrepreneurs are the most indecisive hiring managers I've ever worked with. While fear and risk aversion are not the dominant traits of founders who've sacrificed everything to get a start-up off the ground, the risk of putting their baby in the care of a stranger is just too great. This is why most early new execs to start-ups are not the most qualified, but they are the people who you know. They are far from perfect, but at least you know what you’re getting.
Reduce the riskBefore you have a single interview or conversation, you have to really know what culture fit means to you. (hint: go beyond having a good gut feel). I could write a whole series of blog posts on hiring for cultural fit, but for now will just say that you need to really know your values and be able to identify them in the behaviours of your prospective teammates. Don’t compromise on the value fit, but get comfortable with the fact that you’ll have to accept less than perfect knowledge and skills in order to get an ideal match with your culture and vision. The person who has passion for your business and who can complement the team, may have to learn about your industry or product, but in the long run will have the drive and alignment to go the distance.
No easy answerUnfortunately, there isn’t a simple recipe to a successful and risk-free executive hire. As a founder, you’ll need to invest time and effort in understanding who you have on your team, and what role you should be taking on in your growing business. Put a plan in place to gather as much information and insight into your prospective hires as you can. Beyond formal and artificial interviews, have thoughtful and authentic conversations, talk to references and arrange practical assignments, presentations or working sessions that will make you comfortable with the human behind the resume. Then be prepared to make a decision and take a risk. Read More...
- Category blog Leadership Tech Events
- Writen by Leigh Farlow
Kathleen Wynne set the tone of the OCE DISCOVERY event in Toronto yesterday with the announcement of the $25M Scale Up Ventures Fund, with matching private investment, to support startups with market success and the ability to grow. The focus of discussion today was around moving beyond startup, and supporting our most promising ventures as they scale to become world leading companies. Eric Ries, pioneer of the lean startup movement, spoke about the need to flip the traditional 20th century blueprint for companies. Instead, he advocated for a focus on accountability, process, culture and people. He talked about how investors care about results, and when they see a great team, great results usually follow. Building a great team is not innate. You'll seem to have super powers if you have the right components - process, the lean approach, rigour and relentless drive. As for his outlook on tech and the investment bubble, Eric's most poignant insight "Winter is coming" caused a collective shiver throughout the crowd. There's been a wave of explosive growth in tech, and Eric cautions entrepreneurs to use their money wisely- on customers. If you continue to add value, the rest will follow. David Roberts, Singularity University Faculty Member, spoke of disruptive innovation and how it's advancing at an exponential rate. Evidence of this are an impressive cluster of health-related startups in attendance. Here are a few that impressed with their potential to both scale up and be disruptive: Cloud DX: The Vitaliti product is a finalist in the highly esteemed Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition. It's a device that captures a variety of vital signs and can diagnose 15 diseases. The future has arrived! InteraXon: The Muse is a brain-sensing headband and app that challenges and trains your brain to reach a point of mindfulness and calm. Already available in retail, this could make for a valuable Mother's Day present. You can buy them here. myHealthSphere: Increasing productivity and engagement in your office could be as easy as saying "Dooo". Their wellness software suggests activities and meditation for you to do while at work. Synaptive: They have developed some game changing neurosurgery products (BrightMatter) to help surgeons better map out the brain with 3D imaging that goes beyond conventional brain scans. We continue to be impressed with the innovation in Ontario, and look forward to see what Day 2 holds at OCE Discovery today!Read More...
- Category Advice for Employers blog Career Planning Leadership
- Writen by Leigh Farlow
As most enterprise and consumer software companies have moved their offering to the cloud, a new profile of IT leader has emerged. Where leaders of IT once needed only to think about internal customers and systems that would reside on employee PCs and in carefully monitored server rooms, this new generation of IT executive must come with a new level of skill and business acumen.
ScopeIT leadership in a sophisticated enterprise Saas business is customer facing, often acting as a liaison with technical peers in customer organizations. He/She is responsible for security, data integrity, system performance, high value transactions and maintaining service levels often for the mission-critical systems of hundreds of clients. The candidates we spoke to are working in various areas of IT, and have experience in Security, Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery, Risk Management, Governance, SaaS Operations, Infrastructure and Corporate IT.
VerticalCandidates were in a variety of different industries including: Tech, Finance, Insurance, and Manufacturing.
Getting to the TopThe most effective Saas IT Leaders are able to wear a lot of hats and confidently shoulder significant responsibility for customer systems, data and assets. They need to be masters of client relationships and great advocates for the company’s interests. They have a collaborative leadership style, and can be both strategic and tactical as required. The best thrive in broad roles where they are able to have the autonomy to find solutions and implement them. Want to know more about our Salary Snapshots? Here is a little summary and some disclaimers. Show me the Money – 2014 Salary Snapshots Read More...
- Category blog Career Planning Leadership Tech Events
- Writen by Omer Aziz
When work makes you feel skillful and challenged, you’ll be happy, strong, creative, and satisfied. This is Flow.Just like an athlete who achieves great things when they are 'in the zone’, you can significantly boost your own performance by triggering the state of ‘Flow’. Flow is that state you’re in when you’re completely concentrated and absorbed in the use of your strengths and find yourself performing at your peak for a fixed period of time (anywhere from minutes to hours). In his book “Flow”, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi outlines 7 properties of flow. Fortunately, each of these properties can be influenced to some degree, and that is what I do with my clients. I help people trigger flow, in themselves and others.
Your Flow Checklist
- Goal is clear- Flow happens more often in sports because a sport represents ‘a goal directed, rule based, action system’. Set yourself a short term dichotomous (you either achieve it or you don’t) goal that you can picture. This will draw together and focus your talents towards achieving the goal. The sense of challenge is motivating because aspiration releases energy.
- Feedback is inherent in the task– When it comes to performance, it is very important to know how you’re doing in real time. This allows you to course correct without having to ‘think’ about it. Try to design your work in such a way that it is instantly apparent if you are ‘on track’ or not.
- Challenge is stretch– Push yourself. Don’t try to do something you’re easily able to do. Some researchers argue that you should think you have a ‘50/50’ chance of meeting the challenge, as that will bring out the best in you. Don’t make it too easy, and don’t make it too hard.
- No fear or worry – or extraneous input of any kind! All that enters your awareness is pertinent to the challenge, no distractions of any sort. That doesn’t mean you have no negative feelings, it means you ‘rise above’ them when you are completely focused and concentrated on only those things that are relevant to the performance.
- You are absorbed in the exclusive use of your talents– You are only doing those things that are your strengths. The task is energizing, not draining. You actually feel your talent grow as you use it.
- Time has no meaning – This is by far the most commonly reported experience of flow. You look up at the clock and are shocked that hours have flown by. For some, time flies, for others it stands still, either way, you lose your sense of time.
- The task is autotelic - You love doing it just of the sake of doing it, the purpose is inherent in the activity.
- Category Advice for Employers blog Leadership Tech Events
- Writen by Leigh Farlow
Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best everyday? Last week, we held a workshop that brought together leaders and tech professionals to introduce the concepts behind a strengths-based approach to personal development and managing teams. We discussed the benefit of knowing your natural talents, and using them to get the best from ourselves and our teams. We were fortunate to have Omer Aziz, an expert in the field, lead us through this approach. Here are some of the key takeaways: Find your strengths First off, do you know what your top strengths are? We’re big fans of the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment as a useful tool to discover your top 5 strengths. These are core to who you are and likely won’t change much over time. Focus on strengths vs. improving weaknesses Should you fix your faults, or tune-up your talents? The data is undisputable. Instead of dwelling on the things we’re not great at, we can grow more by emphasizing the things we love to do. The light bulbs started going off and several participants said they felt liberated knowing they should be doing more in their areas of strength and passion, and not stress about their weaknesses. Getting to ‘Flow” When was the last time you felt completely ‘in the zone’ at work, where you lost track of time, forgot to eat lunch, and accomplished unbelievable things? This state of being completely absorbed and at your peak performance is referred to as “flow” (coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi). What’s the key to working in a state of flow? Use your talents and work towards a goal. The trick is figuring out how we can trigger this more often. Using Strengths = Positive Emotions = Better Performance When we are able to use our strengths we are happier and we get better results. When we enable our teams to unleash their strengths, their engagement increases and productivity soars. It’s a simple correlation, but the impact is huge! Is there a dark side to strengths? This was a fascinating revelation for everyone. Every strength has what’s called a “shadow side”, a way it can manifest and be perceived negatively by others. For example, if you have the strength Command you naturally take control and make decisions. This is an incredible talent for a leader but you’re likely seen as intimidating. In creative discussions, your team might shut down and let you take over unless you make efforts to promote a safe collaborative environment. Food for thought Omer left us all with a challenge, and we’ll extend that to you. Try to keep track of your ‘best moments’ every week. Write them down. You’ll notice patterns, and before long you’ll be more in tune with what you love doing. Now, go do more of that and watch what happens.Read More...