More Tech Companies Making Big Bets in Toronto

More Tech Companies Making Big Bets in Toronto

Microsoft is planning a new, $570 million Canadian headquarters in Toronto, GeekWire reported last week, becoming the latest in a series of major US tech companies to announce large-scale investments in Canada:

The Redmond, Wash., software giant announced plans to build a massive new Canadian headquarters in Toronto, promising to invest $570 million in the facility. Microsoft expects to move into the new facility, located at 81 Bay Street, in Sept. 2020. The company will relocate its current Canadian headquarters and several other offices, dispersed through the country, to the new headquarters.

Toronto is having a bit of a moment on the global tech stage. Google sister company Sidewalk Labs is developing a plan to create an innovation district on the Toronto waterfront as a proof-of-concept for technologists who believe they can improve urban planning. Google plans to relocate its Canadian headquarters to Toronto as part of that initiative.

The very next day, Uber also revealed plans for a new Toronto office, announcing that it would spend around $154 million to build a new engineering hub there, doubling its Toronto-based tech workforce to around 500 employees. The ride-sharing startup will also be expanding its self-driving car operations there. These latest moves will further boost Toronto’s profile as one of Canada’s leading tech hubs, particularly for emerging technologies like artificial intelligence. Major tech companies have been investing in Canada at a steady clip over the past year, also including Salesforce, Alphabet’s DeepMind unit, and Facebook. Toronto is also the only non-US finalist for Amazon’s second North American headquarters.

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Trump Administration Finalizing Plan to Revoke H-4 Visa Holders’ Work Authorization

Trump Administration Finalizing Plan to Revoke H-4 Visa Holders’ Work Authorization

The US Department of Homeland Security is close to approving a policy that will remove the right of at least some H-1B visa holders’ spouses to work in the US, the Mercury News reported last week, based on a new court filing:

Those affected hold the H-4 visa, a work permit for spouses and under-21 children of H-1B workers. It remains unclear if all spouses of H-1B holders will be banned from working, as Homeland Security has only said “certain H-4 spouses” will be targeted by the new rule. Because not all H-4 holders are allowed to work, it appears that “certain H-4 spouses” may refer to all who are work-eligible.

Controversy over the H-4 has spun off from the furor over the H-1B, which is relied upon heavily by Silicon Valley technology companies but attacked by critics over reported abuses. Homeland Security, which had earlier said it would make the change in February, filed an update in a federal court case on Monday to inform the court that the new rule was in the final “clearance review” and that the department’s intention to impose the ban was unchanged.

H-4 visa holders were granted the right to work under a policy change made by the Obama administration in 2014. The Trump administration began considering a reversal of this policy in April 2017 and it became part of the regulatory changes the government developed in response to President Donald Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” executive order issued that month, which called for a crackdown on guest worker programs like the H-1B visa and stricter enforcement against allegedly widespread fraud and abuse in these programs. The Department of Homeland Security formally proposed ending work authorization for H-4 visa holders last December.

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Canadian Cities Among North America’s Hottest Tech Talent Markets

Canadian Cities Among North America’s Hottest Tech Talent Markets

The latest annual survey of the tech talent market from the commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE finds that Toronto was the fastest-growing market for tech jobs in North America last year, Natalie Wong and Stefanie Marotta reported at Bloomberg last week:

The city saw 28,900 tech jobs created, 14 percent more than in 2016, for a total of more than 241,000 workers, up 52 percent over the past five years, CBRE said. Downtown, tech accounted for more than a third of demand for office space.

Canada’s biggest city took fourth place in “tech talent,” a broad measure of competitiveness, pushing New York down a notch and coming in just after the Bay Area, Seattle and the U.S. capital. CBRE ranked 50 markets across North America, using measures such as talent supply, concentration, education and cost as well as outlooks for job and rent growth for both offices and apartments.

Ottawa is also on the rise, CBRE found, ranking that city highest in terms of growth potential based on its concentration of tech talent as a percentage of the total workforce. The Canadian capital city, situated in the urban corridor between Toronto and Montreal, is currently home to over 1,700 technology companies and more than 70,000 technology workers. Ottawa is home to some of Canada’s most prestigious universities and boasts among the highest living standards in the country, so it’s no surprise to see a tech scene take root there.

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San Francisco Mulls Ban on Employee Cafeterias in New Office Buildings

San Francisco Mulls Ban on Employee Cafeterias in New Office Buildings

The cafeteria is a staple of contemporary corporate office buildings, and providing free or low-cost meals to employees is a common perk, particularly in the tech sector. Of course, if employees are eating breakfast, lunch, and even dinner in the same building where they work, that means they’re not patronizing local shops and restaurants. With that in mind, local lawmakers in San Francisco are proposing an amendment to the city’s zoning code to curb the proliferation of office cafeterias and drive more traffic to downtown eateries, the San Francisco Chronicle reports:

In an attempt to attract employees to local restaurants and businesses, Supervisors Ahsha Safaí and Aaron Peskin are co-sponsoring an ordinance that would ban “employee cafeterias” from new office buildings in the city. This comes as local retailers, particularly those downtown, complain of a drop in business as more companies offer their workers meals in private corporate cafeterias, Safaí said. …

An “employee cafeteria” is defined in the San Francisco health code as a space inside an office where employees are provided or sold tax-free food on a regular basis. These facilities are either operated by company employees or contractors. There are currently 51 such cafeterias around the city, Safaí said. The supervisors’ proposal would put the city at odds with the tech industry, which largely views free food as an essential perk to lure talent. …

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Tech Companies Need More Than Just Tech Talent

Tech Companies Need More Than Just Tech Talent

New research from Glassdoor examines the job openings at major employers in the US tech sector to find out what roles these companies are hiring for. While tech companies have demonstrated an insatiable demand for digital-specific talent like software engineers, data scientists, and experts in AI and machine learning, they also require the same diverse set of skills and functions as other large, complex organizations. Accordingly, Glassdoor finds, 43 percent of open positions at tech companies are non-tech roles, accounting for almost 53,000 jobs. The ratio of tech to non-tech hiring varies widely, however, from one company to another:

Overall, Intel, Microsoft and Walmart eCommerce were hiring the highest percent of tech roles compared to non-tech roles, with 78 percent of their open roles being tech roles. Another tech company hiring predominantly tech workers was Amazon, with 72 percent of the roles on Glassdoor being categorized as tech roles. Despite having a large network of warehouse and logistics operations, tech giant Amazon is still mostly a tech employer.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, only 28 percent of Workday’s open roles were tech-related, with 72 percent being for more traditional non-tech jobs. The majority of job postings at IBM, Salesforce and Verizon were also for non-tech roles. Among Salesforce’s open roles, 41 percent were tech roles while 59 percent were non-tech roles. Similarly, Verizon had about 45 percent tech roles and IBM had 46 percent tech roles open out of their total openings.

The most common non-tech jobs advertised at these companies are account executives and project managers, along with a variety of sales, marketing, and management positions, but the tech sector is also hiring for a wide variety of other roles. Overall, Glassdoor found, most salaries for non-tech jobs range from $50,000-$90,000 per year, compared to $80,000-$120,000 for most tech roles.

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VCs, Entrepreneurs See Midwestern Cities as Potential Startup Hubs

VCs, Entrepreneurs See Midwestern Cities as Potential Startup Hubs

Once the industrial base of the US, the Midwest has struggled in the high-tech era to capture the talent-driven growth enjoyed by coastal cities like Boston and San Francisco, but the region’s fortunes are changing fast. In the past year or so, a burgeoning Midwestern tech scene has begun attracting more attention from venture capitalists and Silicon Valley giants, with many local startups and big-company expansions focusing on the middle-skill roles for which the tech sector’s demand is insatiable, but that are still in short supply nationwide. These “mid-tech” or “new-collar” jobs are described as a 21st century analog to the factory jobs of the past—and as such, a promising path to revival for the industrial Midwest.

High-tech industries including major international firms have been making some big bets in the region: The Indian IT services and business process outsourcing giant Infosys is planning a sprawling campus near Indianapolis, which aims to create 3,000 new jobs within five years, while the Taiwanese multinational Foxconn Technology Group made a deal with the Wisconsin state government last year to build a display panel factory there, which will see the company invest as much as $10 billion and hire as many as 13,000 people. Several midwestern cities are on the list of finalists in the competition to host Amazon’s second headquarters, though Detroit, for example, didn’t make the cut, partly due to a lack of readily available talent.

Yet “mid-tech” companies and regional outposts of tech giants are just one side of the Midwest’s high-tech renaissance. Over the weekend, VentureBeat reporter Anna Hensel took a look at the growing community of AI and machine learning startups in the heartland:

“The real benefit of artificial intelligence is the application to traditional problems and products that the world needs, and the really successful companies have that domain knowledge that they can understand how to apply this technology,” [Chris Olsen, a partner at Columbus, Ohio VC firm Drive Capital,] told VentureBeat in a phone interview. “We see more of those domain experts in these industries [with] massive chunks of GDP that exist here in the Midwest.”

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Some Tech Companies See Value in Benefits Equality for Contractors

Some Tech Companies See Value in Benefits Equality for Contractors

The online polling company SurveyMonkey made headlines earlier this year when it revealed that it had begun offering “gold standard” medical, dental, and vision benefits, identical to those of its regular full-time employees, to its independent contractor workforce in January. The company was inspired to do so by its employees, many of whom pointed out in a benefits survey that while their benefits were excellent, they thought it unfair that they were unavailable to the company’s janitorial and catering staff.

Last week, Fast Company’s Eillie Anzilotti took a closer look at SurveyMonkey’s decision to equalize benefits, considering the change in the context of growing awareness of the impact this form of inequality has on the army of contractors who manage facilities for Silicon Valley tech companies and many other white-collar firms in the US. SurveyMonkey is committed to making benefits equality work, primarily as a statement of its values, Chief People Officer Becky Cantieri told Fast Company:

“We have expectations for ourselves that we use our platform to contribute positively to the industry,” Cantieri says. The prevailing independent contractor model in Silicon Valley leads to “two groups working literally side by side, who have a very similar impact on the day to day experience of working at the company, but are treated very differently,” she adds. It’s still an unusual arrangement in the tech world, so SurveyMonkey has been slow to scale it to its other offices outside of San Mateo, as they want to ensure they’ve ironed out the kinks, but they intend to do so going forward: This open enrollment season, they will bring expanded benefits to contract workers at the Portland office.

She also checks in with Managed by Q, a platform for part-time janitorial, maintenance, and clerical workers, whose founder Dan Teran decided in 2014 to classify workers on the platform as employees, not contractors, and offer them benefits including health insurance, paid leave, a 401(k) plan, and even equity. “Even though it may seem like a higher cost up front, we believed that the overall value of doing so would be higher than us just saying it’s not worth investing in our employees,” Maria Dunn, Managed by Q’s director of people, tells Anzilotti. The extra costs imposed by Teran’s decision isn’t hobbling the startup’s growth: Managed by Q has raised over $76 million so far and is turning a profit. It recently announced that it was acquiring the office space planning and project management service NVS, broadening its portfolio of services and potentially gaining new clients.

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