Feature story: Microsoft

Innovation thrives with Canadian tech talent

When U.S.-based Microsoft chooses to reinvest in Canada by growing its presence here, the strength of Canada’s highly skilled workforce is always a draw.

In 2016, the company announced a $90 million investment to expand Microsoft Vancouver and open a centre of excellence. Located in the heart of the city, a short distance from the company’s global headquarters in Washington State, the cutting-edge development facility creates innovative products for the global market and nurtures highly skilled technology workers in British Columbia.

The investment added 450 new positions, for total of 800 employees in Vancouver. The centre houses local and global tech developers who innovate to create mixed reality applications, video games, accessibility products and other creative tech solutions. The investment drives over $180 million back into British Columbia’s economy each year.

Microsoft employee working at a stand-up desk with multiple monitors.
Microsoft employee at work
“Vancouver has a very multicultural and diverse population. We make software for the entire world, not just for North Americans. And when we go to a labour market, we want to hire people who reflect our global consumers. Vancouver is a great fit.”
Edoardo De Martin General Manager, Microsoft Vancouver

Microsoft chose Vancouver because of its strong technology ecosystem, diverse culture, highly skilled workers and world-class Canadian universities. According to the company, the talent pipeline that comes out of BC’s universities alone is a strong source of innovation.

The development centre itself has two 150-person community rooms, and both open and closed collaboration spaces. It also features a maker space called The Garage, which is used to host events, offer internship opportunities, and provide a workspace for experimental hardware and software projects that aim to enhance productivity.

Initially, The Garage was intended as a place for employees to bring together the physical and digital worlds through technology, take a break from their regular day and be creative. It got so popular that Microsoft opened it up to the community. Over the last few years, teachers, students and a wide range of groups have used the space to hack and experiment.

Microsoft employee training a Garage intern on a large, industrial aircraft pylon.
HoloLens training session at the Microsoft Garage

De Martin explains that this initiative falls in line with Microsoft’s growth mindset, which encourages employees to keep learning, questioning, understanding and accepting that mistakes are part of the process.

“The Garage brings a lot of satisfaction to our employees because it provides a place for them to be curious and mentor others to do the same,” explains De Martin. “Everyone leaves with a better understanding of how they can make things with technology and innovate quickly. It’s giving back in a way that inspires both our employees and the community.”

The Garage Internship Program, which recruits 50 students annually from Canadian universities to participate in a 16-week program to solve real-world problems with mentorship from Microsoft engineers and designers, allows interns to work in a start-up style environment.

The investment Microsoft made in Vancouver has been a positive one for all involved. Four years later, they continue to grow.

“My goal is to hire top Canadian talent and recruit some of the best from around the world. It helps us build better products and contribute to a strong economy. That’s key for any investment.”
Edoardo De Martin General Manager, Microsoft Vancouver