Category Archives: Recruiting

Hiring a Growth Hacker on StartupNorth.ca

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Did you know that we run a job board for startups? It does allow companies to reach an audience that is interested in startups.

“Amar joined us 3 weeks ago after a long trial of hunting down and applying for the “Growth Hacker” position we posted on StartupNorth. We couldn’t be happier with his progress, hunger and efficiency. Over to you Amar!” – Michael Litt, Vidyard

There are great stories of people find companies and roles like Amar Chahal (LinkedIn) and the Growth Hacker role at Vidyard. If your a looking for a new gig, go read about how Amar was hired at Vidyard. It will blow your mind how much he committed to the process. I’m actually shocked that no one has socially hacked our job board as a candidate, i.e., it’s not that expensive but you could pay to highlight your resume or portfolio, because it will only work once.

Post Your Job

Postings are only $25 for 60 days. Postings are embedded on StartupNorth.ca and all postings are shared on our Twitter account. For example:

It’s a quick, relatively inexpensive way to post jobs to a targeted audience. Get a little bit of distribution and hopefully find candidates like Amar.

We are open to discussion about how we can improve the Jobs Board for both candidates and companies. Got a suggestion for how we improve things? We are all ears.

Looking to get hired by a startup? 10 ways to stand out

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Bruce Dorland (LinkedIn, @brucedorland). Bruce is the Managing Director & Recruiter at Grossman Dorland Recruiting. gdR recruits for permanent and contract positions at all levels, from roles for talented young professionals to accomplished executives. Prior to founding gdR, Bruce spent time at Brightspark, Tucows shipping products that have been used by over 3MM users.

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Occasionally I interview a developer that really impresses me with their ability to make their profile come to life beyond their resume.

Want to know what makes these developers stand out? Here are my top ten tips for making a big impression. Many of these tips work for both a resume and, once that stellar resume gets you in the door, a job interview.

I think developers looking for a new job can have it tough. Many, if not most, job descriptions aren’t great at describing the actual nature of the role. Traditional resume formats can be flat. Interviewers don’t always ask effective questions, and HR departments that rely heavily on keyword matching can’t differentiate you qualitatively from other candidates.

The result: unless you do something different, the odds of standing out are stacked against you. But if you’re trying to get into a startup or midsize tech company that is truly looking to build a top-notch team, it’s essential that you learn to make your mark. Here’s how:

Tip #1: Show me your side projects

Small and midsize companies increasingly value a well-rounded candidate with a passion for technology and a dedication to growing their technical skillset. For confidentially reasons it can be hard to show people the code you’ve been working on at your job, but side projects are a great way to show how you design and implement code. In my opinion, side projects are also a surefire sign of your passion for the craft.

A great tool for this is a code sharing and publishing platform like GitHub. The site gives you a place to contribute to open source projects and build a public reputation for your work since the community is quite transparent. For instance, if a patch you submit is accepted, you get credit for it and it shows up in your profile. The site acts like a resume that helps the maintainer of a project determine your reputation.

Tip #2: Have a relevant and up-to-date portfolio site

While it’s common for certain types of developers to have a portfolio site, UI developers in particular, I’ve found that many create a site early on in their career but don’t keep it up to date.

Most employers who refer to your portfolio site won’t necessarily have the time or patience to fill in any blanks or realize is something is out of date. It’s up to you to make sure that your site accurately reflects where your skill level is today, that sites that aren’t live anymore are removed, that screenshots are illustrative and relevant, and that you give the context of why your work was original or important at that time.

Tip #3: Form your own opinions on technology

What are the topics of the day within your company? What technologies have they chosen to use and why? Form an opinion about your current company’s choices of tools and have an opinion about where things might be going in the future (of course, you’ll want to make sure you’re observing confidentiality requirements if you intend to share this information in an interview).

In addition, know the big discussions happening in tech today. What are the latest thoughts on Continuous Integration and Deployment options? Javascript MVC frameworks? Big data? Be knowledgeable and you’ll always be ready if asked for your thoughts on the trends shaping your field.

Tip #4: Understand the users and business behind your product

Many developers are used to only describing their products from a tech perspective out, rather than a user perspective in.

To make yourself stand out from the crowd, be able to articulate who the users of your product are and the solution it provides for them, and more generally, the business side of the product.

Go into an interview from this angle in mind and a company will be confident that you always do your work with the user in mind.

Tip #5: Whiteboard your work

Many developers aren’t used to talking about themselves, their product architecture, what they’ve accomplished, or how to best articulate the technical challenges they faced. This is why whiteboarding your work is so important.

When I say whiteboarding, I mean mapping out the architecture of your product, the modules your were responsible for and the technological challenges you faced. It’s about taking all this information and putting it into words so that you can talk about it during an interview.

This might also literally mean drawing this all out on a whiteboard, as I often ask candidates to do during an interview. You can’t lie to yourself or anyone else in front of that whiteboard – either you can map out and explain your work, or you can’t.

If you can bring sample documents to reinforce your whiteboard map without breaking confidentiality agreements, that helps too.

Tip #6: Make it interactive – demo your work!

In an interview, I’m always much more engaged if a developer can demo their product for me. This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how seldom I’m asked if I want a live tour of the product they’ve been working on.

If you worked for a SaaS company, for example, and you still have an account, offer to log in and show me around. Tell me which modules you were responsible for. This is always much more visual and stimulating than a written summary of your work.

Tip #7: Be articulate, simple & concise.

Once you’ve prepared your whiteboard, be prepared to articulate all this information (your skills, your current responsibilities and your product) in a simple, concise manner. Start with less detail and drill down where appropriate. If you don’t know how deep to go, just ask the interviewer if they want to know more.

Be prepared to guide some of the questioning so you know the interviewer is getting all the information that makes you an appealing candidate. An interview is an interactive process, after all.

Tip #8: Tell me what you find exciting in tech today.

Even if you haven’t been working for the sexiest company, products or applications, always be prepared to talk about what you DO admire and why.

Please do me a favour – don’t say Apple or Google (and definitely don’t say Microsoft!). Come up with unique ideas that reflect your professional opinions on what makes a product or service shine.

Tip #9: Get to know the company you’re interviewing for.

Obvious, right? But it can speak volumes if a candidate isn’t informed, which happens a lot.

Find out what technology stack the company uses and review their FAQs, support forums, training guides and blog. If they have a free trial account of their product, sign up for an account and give it a test drive. The more you know, the more enthusiastic you’ll appear and the better and more useful your own questions will be.

Tip #10: Come to the interview with great questions.

Hopefully after having done all the research I’ve suggested, you’ll have some original questions to ask that not only show that you’ve come prepared, but that will also help you make a decision about how the company, product, technology and team fit your overall career goals.

Waterloo’s Next Five Years

Following on with Jevon’s original post of Canada’s Next Five Years, I want to discuss Waterloo.

Five years ago, I organized the first StartupCampWaterloo. It built on the great community and open space tools from BarCampWaterloo and focused participants around startups. Simon Woodside, Ali Asaria, Mic Berman, and myself felt like we needed to something a little different to get the grass roots high tech startup community moving in Waterloo. It was a year after the Accelerator Centre opened and the community was just finding its feet. Waterloo felt bold and creative with a strong core of startups but it was small.

With the aggressive growth of RIM and Open Text, the Waterloo community has spent the last five years building a strong and diverse tech community. In addition to the homegrown companies, the community was fuelled by a few California based companies making some big purchases in Waterloo Region. These three purchases resulted in the parent companies building a larger presence in the Waterloo Region:

In the last couple of years Communitech grew beyond simply being a promoter and connector for local tech companies. Communitech has established a home base for startups in downtown Kitchener. They took the bold move to put a vibrant space for startups in an old Tannery complex, which has also attracted the likes of Google and Desire2Learn, each with hundreds of employees based in the building. The Communtech Hub is a strong message to entrepreneurs that the community is there to support you.

However, the next five years are where all the attention the Waterloo region has drawn to itself is going to have to transition to results and further momentum growth. This will depend a lot on the companies that have been founded in the last five years and includes some that are now YC-backed.

Looking at what Canada needs to do, what role does Waterloo play in that?

Education

Waterloo is home to arguably the top Engineering School in the country, the University of Waterloo. With programs like REAP, CBET, and living environments like VeloCity it is committed to educating and supporting students with regards to entrepreneurship. It is also focused on having them experience it through the Co-op program that allows students to work anywhere in the world with many choosing to work at Facebook, Google, Twitter, Apple, and a ton of different startups in the valley. This results in students that have a big head start in terms of building a network as well as learning about problems that could turn into great product ideas. That experience and opportunity is a big win for Canada’s startup community. We can see the rise of Waterloo alum lead startups like Vidyard, Kik, Upverter, Well.ca, TribeHR, LearnHub, Thinking Ape, Pair, and others.

And it’s not just UWaterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga college are also doing their part. The MBA program at WLU has a focus on entrepreneurship and they are leveraging the Communitech Hub environment. Conestoga College is educating the work force in the region making it a very important partner in ensuring there is a workforce for growing companies.

Community as the Framework

The Waterloo Region has a ton of tech oriented events. A lot of folks assume the trick is to find time to attend all the events you want to attend. The real trick is figuring out which events you should attend, and how to make the most of your attendance. Are you attending for education? recruiting? to find funding? to be part of the startup scene?  More entrepreneurs need to clearly identify their desired outcomes from each event, and they participate accordingly.

What there needs to be, is a greater focus on founders and information sharing.  Peer mentorship, breakfasts with friends at Angie’s, or just chatting at the end of the day. We should avoid gossip, we don’t want or need a ValleyWag for Waterloo Region. Building a company is difficult enough that we don’t need to be hindering each other. Entrepreneurs need to be able to establish trusting relationships with each other, to build I see it happening more and more but there isn’t enough peer mentorship going on.There are a large number of entrepreneurs that have been through the ups and downs of a startup. It includes fundraising, business development, channel partner discussions, contract gotchas, etc. We need to help entrepreneurs build connections with each other.  There is a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs to build trustworthy relationships and share their experiences.

Tighter connections to elsewhere

Jevon calls for tighter ties to Silicon Valley. But it’s more broad than that. Canadians need to get out of Canada. We need to build stronger connections in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Buenos Ares, London, Mumbai, Shanghai, Eastern Europe.

We are doing a pretty good job at getting exposure in Silicon Valley. We have companies going to YCombinator (Vidyard, Allerta, Upverter, Pair and others). The C100 has done an amazing job identifying Canadian expatriates and connecting them across the country. The C100 has expanded to NYC and to the UK. Entrepreneurs need to expand to.  We have startups raising money from NYC (Kik raised from USV), Boston (TribeHR raised from Matrix Partners). We need to get out of the local ecosystem and build products for global customers.

I would be remiss to ignore the need for tighter connections to Toronto as well. Whenever anyone says “Toronto is better than Waterloo for…” or “Waterloo is better than Toronto for…” a kitten dies. Stop it. No one really cares and outside of Ontario people think it is just one big region. Lets build stronger ties and use both cities for everything they have to offer.

Policy

Beyond establishing the Hub, Communitech has done a lot of work on building connections with all levels of government. They have a big role to play with influencing policy as does Canada’s Technology Triangle Association.

Grow Like Hell and Don’t Stop

Hootsuite is mentioned but Waterloo is home to tech companies that have taken the long path to growth. RIM, Open Text, and Desire2Learn are examples of rapid growth (over a 10 year period) tech companies. What Waterloo needs is more of that. The challenge is going to be getting the talent that knows how to work sales funnels, marketing, etc to live in the Region in sufficient numbers.

What I would guess is going to happen initially is that US VC-backed companies that started in Waterloo will have to find a way to balance having their product teams in Waterloo and marketing/sales teams in major US startup hub cities. That means an office in Waterloo and one of Palo Alto, Mountain View, San Francisco, New York, or Boston. This allows them to hire developer talent outside of the higher salaries zones that is on par (or better) but feed on the energy in those cities. The US market and understanding it quickly is key to many of the current fast moving startups in Waterloo.

For the Region of Waterloo to live up to the expectations, in the next five years these companies will need to attract that marketing/sales talent to move here for work or be able to use Toronto for that.