A few weeks ago I saw this recruiting poster previewed on Twitter by @Shopify and it stuck with me. Kanata, for those not local to Ottawa, is Yet Another Beige Suburb™, a bedroom community about 20 minutes West of Ottawa. I should know: I lived there for almost five years. And then I escaped.
Kanata also serves as Ottawa’s vaunted Silicon Valley North, housing a large number of technology firms, both big and small. Most of these firms are situated in the doldrums of North Kanata, arrayed around March Road, somewhere adjacent to The Middle of Nowhere. It’s a terrible place to work unless commuting to lunch or chain pubs are your idea of a good time. I should know: I worked there. And then I escaped.
There are many reasons why people move their families and business to Kanata, but the primary one is that it’s cheap and there is lots of parking. As it should be: it’s relatively cost effective to level cornfields or raze forests for new construction than it is to redevelop urban space. And you can put in lots of roads, huge rivers of asphalt, which you need because you have to drive everywhere. However, cheaper is not always better.
Other than the obvious jab at the joylessness of working in an expanse of concrete boxes that all look the same, this poster told me that Shopify understands the people they are trying to recruit. Note that I say people and not employees. People have lives, dreams, like sunlight, drink coffee, eat Thai food on Wednesdays, and might bike to work; employees are crammed into cubicles under buzzing fluorescent tubes and wonder if it’s okay to do online banking while they eat their lunch at their desk.
So I took a look at the linked careers page and they list some interesting stuff above and beyond the standard HR rah-rah jargon. They make a huge amount of hay about the equipment you’ll be using (shiny Apple goodies), the office space (heritage post-and-beam construction), generous parental leave and childcare benefits (babies are expensive and inconvenient) and the location (in the restaurant/bar/coffeeshop/shopping district). I think it’s a compelling pitch because people actually care about such things: nobody dreams of working in a poorly ventilated 5×5 cubicle on a wheezing PC with a 17” CRT and driving 10 minutes to get lunch or coffee.
The term ‘Corporate Culture’ gets casually tossed around so much it has become almost meaningless. The reason: the people who use/abuse it the most are usually the very people who chart how many kilo-keystrokes are being extracted from the cubicle farms. They draft policy manuals full of “open door policies” and “work:life balance” without irony, failing to realize that corporate culture is not something companies do, it is something that companies are.
You can’t create a corporate culture, but give your people light, air, water, a few Mac Book Pros, and a place to grow and it will happen.
A word about AffinityClick :
there is no policy manual, just wide open spaces, a Macbook Pro under your arm, and the goal of being something. It’s nice to have a beacon like Shopify to guide the way—they’re one of the most successful local startups in the area, and I think a big part of that is that they hire people and not employees. And as AffinityClick grows, we’re trying to do the same.