VanHack CEO Ilya Brotzky shares tips to find the best tech talent in the world

April 13, 2021 | Tech Talent North



For many HR professionals in the Canadian tech sector, recruitment and retention of highly qualified personnel has quickly become a top priority as the industry continues to grow. Ilya Brotzky, founder and CEO of VanHack, Canada’s largest international tech recruitment company, shares his expertise building strong culture in a remote office, tips for hiring globally and how to take advantage of an incentive you might not even realize you have to offer. 

 

Having originally started VanHack as an online school to teach English, and interview and resume skills to developers, Ilya did a quick pivot after realizing a niche market at a job fair in 2015.  

 

“I was talking with this guy who ended our conversation once he found out I wasn’t a developer. He was looking to hire and the competition for skilled developers locally at the time was fierce,” recalls Ilya. “I started introducing our online students to people looking for their skill profile, they started getting hired and things grew organically from there. We’ve now helped over 1000 people relocate for work in Canada and Europe.” 

 

Another serendipitous advantage for VanHack is how it started from day one using as a remote office—they call it “distributed teams”.  

 

“I’d love to say not having a physical office was a grand strategy I had, but the truth is I couldn’t afford an office at the time and I really didn’t see the need for one either. The nature of our business means we have people recruiting and promoting across the world in markets like Africa and South America,” says Ilya. 


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Thanks to years of experience in working with and managing a remote team, Ilya shares how he meets the challenges of building a strong office culture among the distributed team. He says, “I think the biggest thing is to help people feel like they’re part of something bigger and having lots of touch points such as weekly check-ins using our software platform.”  

 

Using the platform, the team stays connected with group calls, happy hours and some built in automations that help promote the VanHack values—every morning a value is posted and the system allows people to send each other funny notes, stories and insights throughout the day. And true to his belief that people make the company, he gives a lot of credit for strong corporate culture to HR manager, Mayara Brandao 

 

VanHack is a testament to the goals of so many other tech company HR departments right now and can boast a very diverse workplace – including women holding 45% of the overall company positions and 50% of the leadership roles.  

 

Ilya adds, “One of the biggest benefits of hiring abroad is the diversity that it gives to their teams. It just makes sense to build diverse tech teams and sometimes companies struggle with that, but hiring globally is a really powerful way to create a more culturally diverse, gender diverse, and ethnically diverse workforce.” 

 

VanHack recently hosted one the largest women in tech career fairs ever with over 228 attendees and almost 50 companies having 19,048 speed interviews. It’s too early to report the number of resulting hires, but it certainly connected a lot of the right people. You can register at https://vanhack.com/events/virtual-hiring-fair for the next virtual hiring fair happening in May.  

 

“There is a tendency for US companies such as Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook to open Canadian offices and hire the local talent and it is leading to a real shortage of skilled tech workers,” Ilya says, “The solution is to hire immigrants.”  

 

The government is incentivized to help bring in foreign skilled workers to Canada to stimulate the economy and is proactively assisting with making the process a little simpler. The Global Talent Stream Visa really changed the playing field and allows employers to quickly bring tech talent into the country. You can go from interview to hire and finishing the visa application in a matter of weeks. More companies are realizing there is a lot of great talent out there and recruiting from abroad just makes sense.  

 

“Back when I started VanHack in 2015, there was a bias against people who didn’t have work permits or Canadian experience, but I see that changing a lot in the last few years…it’s almost commonplace to hire internationally.” 

 



 

So, if you’re one of the companies that’s decided it makes sense to search the world for your next skilled tech worker, here are some tips from Ilya: 

 

  1. Remove the bias—setting aside preconceived notions about people from other countries and cultures is so important. Going into it with a positive open mind will literally open a world of opportunity to you.  
  2. Read up on the global talent stream visa—immigration paperwork and visa processes can seem intimidating, but as mentioned above, the new government process is very straightforward.  
  3. State your intention—when you post job listings, clearly state that you’re open to people from anywhere, and you’ll get a lot more applicants. Posting in different markets and actively reaching out to people in your network (e.g. LinkedIn) can help you extend your reach into different markets.  
  4. Consider a strong relocation package—be generous with a signing bonus, or including a vacation back home. It’s a large expense for a family to visit back home. And, don’t forget to support your employee once they relocate, it’s a major life change to move to a new country and ensuring they are settling in well is going to benefit all involved.  

 



 

And as a final word of advice, Ilya says, “It’s important to understand the most powerful incentive you’ve got is your location. You’re not just selling a job, you’re selling the Canadian experience.”  

 

In 2020, BCG/The Network reported that Canada replaced the US as the number one relocation destination. Companies don’t always realize the appeal a Canadian company has for a candidate. And, while centres such as Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal may be familiar to the candidates, many may value living in smaller locations thanks to cost of living and quality of life considerations such as safety.  

 

With over 200,000 fully vetted tech professionals in their global network, VanHack has the expertise to match the right candidate with companies from around the world. If you’re a Canadian company ready to extol the benefits of a tech expert from abroad, and diversify your workforce at the same time, call for a short 15-minute consultation from one of the VanHack experts, you can get in touch by signing up for VanHack here. 


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