Diversity & Inclusion: How and Why VanHack’s Leap Events Were Created

June 25, 2019


The Leap story is reflective of the changing world we live in and the increased focus and importance of gender diversity, equality and inclusion. It is also the story of Diego and Larissa, two developers from Brazil who had dreams of joining Canada’s thriving tech ecosystem. Larissa participated in VanHack’s Leap Calgary event – Women in Tech edition in 2018, and soon after Diego joined her in Calgary after getting hired by a top FinTech company (after receiving 2 offers) at another Leap event. As Diego explains in the video, VanHack’s Leap events and online courses played a very important role in boosting his self-confidence. They helped him improve his pitch about his experience and education, and provided support with verbal and non verbal interview communication before and during the hiring process. All of these components are critical elements of the VanHack community, and its strong focus on the growth mindset.

The evolution of VanHack’s Leap events highlights how a company began using its platform to drive social consciousness in and out of the workplace. VanHack’s Co-Founder and CEO, Ilya Brotzky, had started VanHack in 2015 as a way of helping developers seeking relocation to Canada or Europe, and helping companies connect with skilled, international tech talent. It did not take long before VanHack grew into a thriving community of over 190,000 developers across the world, who are focused on getting hired abroad. The online courses were offered to its’ members early on, and quickly became an important ingredient for job and relocation success.  “Our premiere Leap event took place in May 2018,” Brotzky explains. “Developers and engineers from around the world traveled to Canada to meet with a number of local tech companies, and seven applicants ended up being hired. The event was a tremendous success, save for one unexpected outcome: not a single female engineer attended.”

Ilya and his team quickly got to work to ensure the story of Leap, included more support and success stories for women developers. “Leap – Women in Tech Edition are events designed to help close the gender gap, and facilitate cultural diversity, within Canada and Europe’s IT sector. These events give talented female software developers across the globe, the opportunity to meet face-to-face with many of Canada and Europe’s top tech-based hiring executives. The first event of its kind was the event that Larissa participated in, and was held during the Calgary Economic Development week.” explains Ilya.

It was imperative to thoroughly research and analyze the challenges faced by women developers, in terms of hiring and relocation. VanHack reached out to their partner,  MaRS Discovery District, and set out to better understand the needs and expectations specific to the female segment of an international pool of tech talent. Surveys revealed that female tech professionals wanting to relocate to Canada, specifically, felt limited by familial responsibilities, financial constraints, and geographic constraints.

It was also valuable for VanHack and its partners to better understand the challenges faced by companies who are looking to scale quickly. “The uncertainties of global hiring often stop Canadian high-growth companies from even considering this valuable hiring resource. This led us to adding high-touch global talent advisory service and working with partners like VanHack. The Leap event takes the uncertainty out of hiring by offering the opportunity to meet directly with highly skilled technical talent.” Explains Daneal Charney, Director of Talent for MaRS-supported high-growth companies.

“The gender diversity gap within the Canadian tech industry has been at a stand still for more than 10 years. With only 25% of women working in tech, it continues to become harder to address the longer we wait.” says Alicia Close, Founder & CEO, Women in Tech World, a national nonprofit dedicated to creating actionable steps to support and advance women in tech. “It is essential that we create inclusive systems and processes to make a change, including hiring practices. To start, listen and identify the root cause. Leap – Women in Tech Edition events are the result of just this; addressing barriers to entry for women software developers. As we progress, ideally, these supports will be baked into standard processes asserting inclusion more broadly.”

Sympathetic to the barriers uncovered by VanHack’s research, The Canadian Digital Media Network had stepped in as a national sponsor of Leap, offering to subsidize travel costs. Regional support for individual events was also granted by Calgary Economic Development, Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District, and Kitchener’s Communitech.

More than 220,000 jobs in Canada’s IT sector are predicted to sit empty by 2020 due to shortages in skilled Canadian workers and a persistently male-skewed talent supply. For Europe, the tech labor shortage for 2020 is approximately 800,000. These startling statistics could undermine economic growth globally, if governments and businesses don’t act fast. VanHack is working hard to reverse this trend by facilitating inclusion, cultural and gender diversity within the IT ecosystem. In the last three years alone, VanHack was instrumental in securing over 500 hires, injecting more than $15 million in salaries into Canada’s economy as a result.

“We want to do what we can to provide the opportunity for women in tech, from around the world, secure their dream jobs in Canada and other countries. At the same time, we want to remedy a counterproductive lack of cultural diversity within the tech industry. Leap events accomplish both of these goals,” says Brotzky. “It’s great for the applicants, it’s great for participating companies, and it’s great for economic growth.”

Diego and Larissa are enjoying their lives, together, in Calgary, and have found work that is gratifying and meaningful. Not only are they part of a new community in a new city, but they will continue to be part of the VanHack community. VanHack’s Leap events have a mission to transform the personal lives of their members, and to play an active role in helping transform entire economies. They also help boost levels of innovation, productivity and diversity within companies. The idea of helping individuals relocate for exciting job opportunities within different tech ecosystems, and building stronger and richer countries is very gratifying, and personal, at the same time.

VanHack Technologies connects a diverse community of IT professionals with top tech-based companies in Canada, and around the world. If you are a developer and are looking to participate in our next Leap event, visit us here. If you are a Company looking to hire through our Leap events, click here for more information.

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