"Waterloo attracts a very diverse student population," says Lisa Zangari, Chief Human Resources Officer at OpenText, "and diverse ideas bring about greater levels of innovation." OpenText, Canada's largest software company, has been taking advantage of the Waterloo Region's world-renowned talent pool to drive innovation since 1991, when a four-person consulting project at the University of Waterloo led to the formation of the company. Since then, OpenText has been a part of an innovation ecosystem that has attracted companies interested in taking advantage of the unique mix of technical expertise and entrepreneurial spirit that has put Ontario on the map as a hotbed for technology in North America.

Ontario's Waterloo Region a magnet for global IT firms

"We're a magnet for companies that look to this area for great acquisitions," states Iain Klugman, CEO and President of Communitech. "You look at so many companies that are here, whether it's Electronic Arts or Google or Raytheon or Sybase or SAP…They all came here to acquire a start-up, and they all decided that they wanted to stay and be part of what this community has to offer." It's a trend that has helped Ontario become home to North America's second-largest IT cluster (after California), and the Waterloo Region has played a role in establishing the province's reputation as a global leader. With more than 1,000 tech companies, the Waterloo Region IT cluster generates $30 billion in annual revenue.

University of Waterloo mathematics and computer science talent

One of the reasons firms like OpenText have grown successfully in Ontario is the world-class postsecondary institutions in the area, including the University of Waterloo's faculty of mathematics, which has the largest concentration of mathematical and computer science talent in the world. Zangari also draws attention to the company's successful co-op program, which invites 170 students globally to work for the firm each year. Many of the placements evolve into full-time positions, she tells us, and they have had particular success with students from the University of Waterloo and Conestoga College. "It's a highly competitive industry and we are looking for very specialized skills and expertise," she explains.

The presence of firms like OpenText is also helping to attract bright young minds to study in Waterloo, which creates a cycle of talent that continues to support the success of businesses in the area. Google Canada's Site Lead and Engineering Director, Steve Woods, also commented recently on the level of talent found in the Waterloo Region: "This has been a very successful location for us in many ways. The engineering teams here are among the very highest performing, even in a company like Google where the bar is very high."

 

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