Canada

What attracts talented workers to Toronto? Five people on why they chose this city over any other

What is attracting the world’s top talent to Toronto? As the city grows at a rapid speed, hitting a population of 8 million by 2030, will we have enough skilled workers to keep up?

We asked Toronto’s recent arrivals why they were drawn to the city to build their professional lives. Their reasons for coming shed light on how Toronto is attracting talent and what it needs to do to keep it here. Here’s what they had to say.

Anusha Venugopalan, 34

Coming to Toronto from: Boston in 2019 and prior to that Bangalore, India, in 2014

Works in: Health technology as a talent manager

"For the more than five years we were in the U.S., my husband and I were constantly stressed about our future. We consider ourselves extremely lucky to be (in Toronto) now," says Anusha Venugopalan.

Why did you come to Toronto?

In early 2016, with all the changes around immigration policies, we were apprehensive about our future and were constantly stressed renewing our visas or work permits and waiting endlessly, unsure if our case will get accepted or denied. My brother lives here and we loved how diverse Toronto is. The welcoming culture and incredible opportunities are what made us make the decision to move here.

Within a short time of moving here, I was able to get an incredible career opportunity at League and have already made some amazing friendships! For the more than five years we were in the U.S., my husband and I were constantly stressed about our future. We consider ourselves extremely lucky to be here.

Mike Pham, 33

Coming to Toronto from: New York City in 2019

Works in: Artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing as a senior product manager

"I still miss Brooklyn, but the New York hustle is real, and I have a better work-life balance here (in Toronto)," says Mike Pham.

Why did you come to Toronto?

One of the reasons I moved to Toronto from the U.S. is the Trump administration’s catastrophic erosion of social, environmental and economic justice, and the non-trivial chance that the U.S. will continue to deteriorate under a second term, with long-term consequences. Canada isn’t perfect either, but certainly seems less hell-bent on a dystopian future than the U.S. is right now. I still miss Brooklyn, but the New York hustle is real, and I have a better work-life balance here. Besides, New York City isn’t so far away, and I can always crack open a garbage bin for a quick whiff of nostalgia.

Leo Gubbins, 30

Coming to Toronto from: London, U.K., in 2019

Works in: Cannabis as a senior content manager

"Toronto showed diversity in people and supported the entrepreneurial mindset I looked for," says Leo Gubbins, from London, U.K.

Why did you come to Toronto?

For me, it was finding the balance of work and my own life. Canada, specifically Toronto, gave that. Toronto showed diversity in people and supported the entrepreneurial mindset I looked for.

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So I booked a return trip to Toronto, used a LinkedIn free trial and titled emails “Coffee marathon” to any and everyone I could find. I scored 30 meetings across four days and my last one an hour before my flight back to London was with the guys at Tokyo Smoke. It’s been a year since I moved here, I’m now senior content manager at Canopy and living an awesome life in the west end. I didn’t know anyone here so I joined spinning at Ride, met people through local stores and events, just let go of my ego and looked at every occasion as an opportunity.

London’s amazing when you’re early on in your career, looking to sink your teeth into any opportunity, but I wanted to build something more sustainable for the future — Canada showed me it’s possible.

What I love most here is that Canadians are like optimistic Brits — and Toronto has so much opportunity to rival other major cities, it’s already got the community to support it.

Mina Soltangheis, 32

Coming to Toronto from: Iran to Vancouver in 2011, then to the U.S. in 2015, and now to Toronto in 2018

Works in: Artificial intelligence as a chief innovation officer

"Canada's inclusive culture together with progressive investments made by Canada in technology, computing sciences and entrepreneurship seemed very appealing," Mina Soltangheis says on why she chose to move to Toronto.

Why did you come to Toronto?

I remember the day President Trump declared a travel ban on Iranian nationals. I was finishing my studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Due to the travel ban, as an Iranian national at the time, my parents could never come visit. I couldn’t even invite them to my graduations. I was authorized to work based on my student visa; however, there is a lottery involved for the work visa that seemed too risky.

At that time, as they were banning travels based on place of birth, I was receiving a narrative from Canada that was the complete opposite. For example, “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian” resonated with me as an invitation to nullify discrimination based on place of birth. Some Canadian universities opened up opportunities for students who couldn’t go back to resume their studies due to travel bans. This inclusive culture together with progressive investments made by Canada in technology, computing sciences and entrepreneurship seemed very appealing.

On top of that, my family could come visit and of course health care is (almost) free. So I decided to move. I was looking for a bigger city with a vibrant and diverse culture, active start-up spirit, and strong academic presence in computing sciences. Toronto seemed to check all those boxes. I came here and I couldn’t be more proud of this place.

Ozge Yoluk, 33

Coming to Toronto from: Maryland, U.S., in 2019

Works in: Biotechnology as a computational biologist

"I was able to join the team within a short time thanks to the incentives the Canadian government took, such as express processing of visas for temporary foreign workers," says Ozge Yoluk.

Why did you come to Toronto?

I had been looking for positions in the industry that would allow me to do research and provide a platform to broaden my knowledge. ProteinQure is a start-up biotechnology company. It created a unique platform where computational biologists like me are teamed up with software engineers, machine learning experts and experimental biologists to design peptides for a healthier future. The multinational and multidisciplinary culture of ProteinQure is a perfect fit for a researcher like me, who enjoys tackling biological problems by working with experts from various fields.

I came to Toronto to be a member of ProteinQure’s team, to design peptide therapeutics, and to live in a multicultural city that welcomes differences with open arms. I was able to join the team within a short time thanks to incentives the Canadian government took, such as express processing of visas for temporary foreign workers. The approval took less than two weeks. The entire process was straightforward. MaRS innovation hub provided the initial guidance, and from there on I completed the application myself; I didn’t have to spend thousands of dollars on lawyers. This natural process makes you feel you are valued. Time is precious, and I could focus on equally important tasks, such as the relocation of my household. If I had to wait for a year to join the team I would think twice, but with the ease of the process, there was no need.