Igor Faletski, SFU alum, CEO and co-founder of Mobify.

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Homegrown experience: How tech companies keep students in BC

March 07, 2016
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By Ian Bryce

Mobify co-founder and CEO, Igor Faletski, knows what to expect when he hires Simon Fraser University co-op students. That is because Faletski, an SFU alumnus, worked three co-op terms while completing his bachelor of computing science before starting his company.

Faletski is among a growing number of SFU alumni who have started their own successful businesses in Vancouver that employ co-op students. Technology startups, in particular, look for young, capable workers that they know co-op programs can provide.

It’s a cycle that benefits employers and students alike. Students gain valuable real-world experience and potential job leads while employers acquire talent with the latest skills. Graduates who then start their own businesses know the value and quality of hires based on personal experience.

“I’m grateful for my co-op experience at SFU,” Faletski says. “It’s a reality check—it lets you know if you’re in the right field and if you’re taking the right courses.”

Faletski says a company needs to have the ability to coach and mentor candidates in order for co-ops to be successful. Students at Mobify get a lot of training, support and learning about the fast-paced culture as they begin projects.

The model works—students want to work for local tech companies like Mobify. Faletski says that there are often more applicants than positions available.  

Vahid Shababi, vice president of business development and marketing at PerfectMind.

Vahid Shababi also knows the value of hiring co-op students. Shababi is the vice president of business development and marketing at PerfectMind. He’s also an SFU and co-op alumnus.

“The main reason I hire people from the program is because of my own experience,” says Shababi. “I learned how to deal with stress and how to make the right decisions under pressure.”

Shababi says he remembers hiring a promising co-op student seven years ago. That student has since become a product manager who still works at PerfectMind today.

Both Shababi and Faletski acknowledge that ‘brain drain’—graduates moving to other cities for work—is a topic of concern in Vancouver.

 “Graduates think they need to go to New York or San Francisco in order to succeed,” says Faletski. “But many don’t know about the opportunities in Vancouver.”

More and more startups are based in Vancouver, he says, or there are satellite offices of larger tech companies like Amazon, Salesforce and Microsoft.

“I think what young people are looking for is the right environment to grow,” says Shababi. “Young people are prepared to go through a lot to make things happening for your future. We’re seeing companies in Vancouver looking to invest in young talent.”

“For competitive driven people, creating a company culture that supports them is the most important part,” says Shababi. “When people join a strong company culture, they feel ownership. They want to stay and be a part of it.”

“Through my co-op, I encountered environments where workers weren’t motivated to go beyond the call and contribute to the company,” says Faletski. “When we founded Mobify, we knew we wanted to inspire our employees to actively contribute to our development and provide enough growth opportunities to keep them in BC. We feel we’ve been successful in attracting and retaining top talent by creating a great working environment where co-ops thrive.”