'No glass ceiling, no hierarchy': Panel outlines tech, entrepreneurial sectors as an area of growth in a post-pandemic world

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Alberta’s young, growing population and an open entrepreneurial field are ready to drive growth in the province, says a panel of industry experts.

Alberta is ready to attract people from around the world to start and create their businesses in the province, said a trio of industry experts during the second session of Postmedia’s Advantage Alberta series.

Advantage Alberta is a series of panels with industry, innovation and investors discussing why they are optimistic about the province’s post-pandemic future. While the first panel held on April 7 discussed the issues around the overall economic bounce back beyond COVID-19, Wednesday’s panel focused on the future of the tech and entrepreneur sectors.

Bob Singh Dhillon, founder and CEO of Mainstreet Equity, said the province has an open entrepreneurial field that can be accessed by anyone looking for work, regardless of their background. With 20 per cent of Albertans being born outside of Canada, Dhillon said there is no so-called “glass ceiling” preventing people from entering the start-up space.


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“The engine of Alberta is not oil, it is risk-taking entrepreneurs,” said Dhillon. “There’s no glass ceiling, no hierarchy.”

Dhillon, who works in the real estate sector, said there’s no “who’s your daddy” mentality in Alberta that other industry or other places may have in terms of needing to be born into an industry.

Alberta currently has one of the youngest populations in Canada with a median age of 37.5 years. The province’s population is continuing to grow and, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Alberta’s community has the highest rate of entrepreneurship in the country.

While Alberta has experienced a downturn in the economy in recent years, numbers from Statistics Canada shows the province’s population has grown more than anywhere else in North America, growing by 18.5 per cent since 2010.

Jennifer Aubin, chief people and culture officer with Attabotics, grew up in rural Alberta living next door to ranchers and farmers. She said that when she eventually entered into a human resources role in the tech sector, she was welcomed with welcome arms.

She said that while Alberta was made wealthy through resource and energy sectors, the province has shown it has an entrepreneurial spirit that can help build the economy while oil and gas faces a potential downturn.

“If you can’t find a job or you’re out of a job, let’s create one, let’s find a need and let’s fill it, and we see that attitude, you know, everywhere,” said Aubin.


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Aubin said that Alberta can become a Silicon Valley of the north, but it will take work. Noting a STEM school recently opened in Calgary, she said more needs to be done to get people involved in the field earlier in their life.

In the shorter term, the speakers noted Alberta has lots to offer in terms of incentivizing workers to make Western Canada their home base. Lower costs of homes, short commutes, access to mountains and low taxes were all noted as reasons why people will want to work in Alberta when there is a return to the workplace.

Bryan de Lottinville, chief executive chairperson of Calgary-based Benevity, got his start on Bay Street in Toronto before moving out west. He noted how welcoming Alberta is to new people and new ideas.

“I don’t think that Benevity would have happened anywhere but in Alberta,” said de Lottinville. “If you’ve got a compelling place to live, where the cost of living is great, the personal taxes are lower, we should be able to attract people to work here.”

De Lottinville urged Alberta to continue to diversify the economy while building on traditional industries in the province, such as oil and gas.

Each speaker noted the importance of promoting Alberta to the rest of the world as a place that is open to more than energy workers.

“We do need to toot our own horn, we have a lot to be proud of in this province,” said Aubin.




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