The High Tech Job Sector in Waterloo Region

As dire as news coming from Research in Motion is these days, Waterloo Region has a large number of technology companies actively hiring. We're really fortunate to have such a variety of local companies here in the Region, and the support of Communitech.

Tech Leadership Conference 2012

Communitech also has a tech jobs website, This past month, I attended the Waterloo TechVibe Recruitment Event, where a number of local companies were recruiting. How did that work out? After the event, I was in different stages of the interview process with six companies, before accepting a position at Desire2Learn.

I was really impressed by the variety and quality of companies we have in Waterloo Region. We are far more than just the headquarters of RIM. From radiology workflow solutions at Medicalis, to financial account management at Arius Software, to cross-platform mobile voice solutions such as Fongo, the market is definitely hopping.

While it's true that when people think of Waterloo Region technology companies, RIM is often the first company that comes to mind, there are also local Google offices, as well as OpenText.

While many companies in the region are in the mobile space, such as Kik and enflick, we also have good representation in the medical and financial services fields.

So while the wind may be out of the sails at RIM, the economic outlook for Waterloo Region is still very good, as noted in a recent article in the Waterloo Region Record on a report by the Conference Board of Canada. Will job cuts at RIM hurt? Without a doubt. But the benefit is a more diverse region, where smaller companies are not struggling to find the talent that in the past several years has been going to RIM.

Waterloo Region also has great support for technology startups. Communitech has their Hyperdrive program, Waterloo has the Accelerator Centre, and the University of Waterloo has a Velocity incubator. All of these programs offer entrepreneurs with space and access to established mentors, to help build their businesses. While these don't provide large employment numbers now, they do provide opportunities for those in the region.


Making Payment Convenient

Back in 2007, Tim Hortons announced a deal with MasterCard, to finally provide a credit-card payment system across their stores in Canada. One of the key benefits of this payment was the use of the new PayPass system, a contactless method of transferring credit card information without having to sign receipts. They claimed this would avoid the PIN entry of debit, and ensure fast service through the drive through lineups. Tim hortons takeout cup

At the same time, for those who did not have a MasterCard with PayPass, they would also swipe credit cards, and signed receipts would not be required for small amounts. Again, this was intended to ensure speedy service.

In 2010, Tim Hortons announced that debit cards would also be accepted for payment across Canada. In their press release, they ensured customers that the speed of service would be maintained, after a trail period in some of the Western provinces since 2003.

How convenient are these methods of payment? From my experience, the PayPass option had the most potential, but was also the most flawed. The position of the PayPass receivers at drive throughs are located beneath the drive through window, recessed to avoid collisions with vehicles. This is probably the worst place they could have placed it.

From my car, a low vehicle, I'm having to reach down to access the terminal. From larger vehicles, I'm reaching down to access the payment window, and the PayPass terminal is completely out of reach. Furthermore, when I can reach the terminal, staff at the store actively discourage its use, with some variation of "Oh, that's not working." When I point out the poor location, I'm told that the location is mandated by Chase, the bank which provides the service.

Tim hortons standard store

There are a few places which would be more convenient for these PayPass terminals, such as to the side of the payment window, or even inside the payment window. This is presumably the level at which most customers are expected to reach.

Since Tim Hortons started accepting Interac Debit, changes have also occurred in their handling of credit cards. Any MasterCard with a chip now requires a PIN entry, once again reducing the convenience, especially when considered with their discouragement of PayPass payments.

While I'm using Tim Hortons as an example here, other retailers are also making credit payments more difficult. While sometimes, this is likely due to merchant rules changes at the major credit companies, but I wonder if part of these changes are to subtly discourage payments which incur a transaction fee.

(Images provided by Tim Hortons' press kit page)