Humans of Tech – Chris Hamoen

Meet Chris Hamoen – CEO of AccountHQ in Toronto. Caringly Direct. People Focused. Advocate and Coach for New Canadians. Read this interview and get inspired.

I’d love to hear more about the work you do with helping new Canadians find work? What alerted you to this need?

There is a real gap going on right now where you have a bunch of talented new Canadians coming into the country and bringing tech skills with them – from a capitalist perspective, this is ideal! – but there are a lot of reasons why these talented people aren’t getting hired. I really think that employers need to learn and adapt in order to tap into this underserved ecosystem of immigrants.

New Canadians are applying and behaving in a way that Canadian companies don’t expect and don’t know how to interpret or interpret negatively. For example, many times new Canadians focus a lot more on their education and overall experience. However during an interview Canadian companies focus on asking more specific questions – such as asking whether or not they can code in React and what are some code examples. To the new Canadian, this question can feel insulting because of their educational background. If they haven’t learned it yet, they’re more than capable of learning it because of their education and that’s what they’re trying to highlight. So I’m working on bridging that gap of understanding.

** You can read more about Chris’s work here

What is your greatest internal motivator?

This is kind of a funny one… I function a little bit differently and everything is about the journey. I’m powered by building things – teams, products, customer success – building things that people internally and externally love and are proud of. But I don’t stop to celebrate the milestones – which is why I have a great co-founder who does remind me to stop and enjoy every once in a while. I live in a constant state of progression and chasing. By the time we’ve accomplished one thing, I’m already mentally moving on to the next. I love it.

What are you most proud of professionally?

This is a tough question for me because of my future focus. I don’t think about it!

I had to ask my wife about this and she said that really smart people want to work with me and she’s right – I am proud of that. I’ve become really good at creating A-teams just by putting together people who are really smart, really passionate, have some kind of chip on their shoulder and get amazing things done.

Now with my company, AccountHQ, really smart people want to join us. I often get asked “when is there going to be a role for me?” Everyone that is part of the AccountHQ team is also a gravitational pull and are bringing in more smart people that want to work with them.

What’s been the most surprising part of your journey?

When I was younger, I went to the University of Waterloo for Computer Science and the entire focus was on building, on the product. When I first became a young CEO, I really deeply felt the highs and lows of running a company, but those were all tied to the product – will it get out on time, etc. Those things are still important but I came to realize that it really is all about people.

Leading up to that realization, a couple big things changed for me. One is that I started coaching, another is that I started dating my now wife and got to know her Cape Breton/East Coast family, and the third being that my dad had a life-changing accident. When my dad’s accident happened, that flipped a switch. I took 6 months off, I sailed for two weeks at sea… I took time away and re-evaluated. It led me to the conclusion that people are the only thing that matters. I’ve made that realization a part of who I am.

From an investment standpoint the only thing you should look at is the team – market, product, it doesn’t matter because a great team can figure that out. It always comes back to people.

Working in the tech industry can be very demanding, what do you do outside work to maintain energy?

The New Canadian Bridging Program is how I disconnect. I am completely present when I’m working with a person who’s hopes and dreams are right there in front of me and I can in some small way help with. There’s a real viral effect to this stuff too. One of my former mentees, Rohum Azarmgin, is now paying it forward and helping out new Canadians in Halifax. I love to see that and I feel energized by it.

I also like to revert to being an introvert. Usually this is by sitting down at my home custom built desktop (by me – I’m a nerd!) and playing some competitive video games.

What’s the most exciting aspect of the Toronto tech ecosystem, in your opinion?

How its evolved in the last 5 years. We have the opportunity to be one of the top tech hubs in the world but we need to focus on scale ups. I’m worried that we’re doing too much cheerleading and not focusing enough on scaling. We need to focus on creating some unicorns.

We’re seeing a trend of companies getting to 50-150 employees and then stalling out. We as a community need to figure out how to scale them to 1,000 employees. 10,000 employees. If we just keep staying at a startup level means we become a farming community for bigger ecosystems.

As my lens is growth I think we struggle with finding experienced marketing and sales talent in Toronto. We’re stuck in legacy, traditional marketing techniques and we need to expand. Growth is not a function of traditional marketing or sales. Growth has to operate independently. I organize and run private meetup groups of 6 diverse people each coming together to talk about Growth for this exact reason.


Read more stories like Chris’ on our Humans of Tech page.