Feb. 12, 2020

48 local tech companies and over 1,100 students attend first-of-its-kind tech networking event

Inaugural UCalgary Tech Fest builds community in Calgary
Students with Tech Fest display
Students show their excitement at the entrance to Tech Fest. Adrian Shellard, for the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking

Feb. 6 saw the first edition of UCalgary Tech Fest, a unique spin on the typical career fair. The event brought together community partners, local tech companies, and post-secondary students interested in careers in tech fields. Companies of all sizes and fields participated, from Benevity and Synopsys through to ZayZoon and Vog App Developers.

“There was an identified set of needs — local tech companies looking for developers and hiring from outside the city, and students looking for work experience but unaware of the opportunities available on a local level,” says Alex Todorovic, student in the Department of Computer Science and project strategist for the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking. “We had to find a way to create the connections so that new, lasting synergies could be developed across the entire ecosystem.”

How did UCalgary Tech Fest come to exist?

UCalgary Tech Fest is the product of a collaboration between the University of Calgary’s Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking, Schulich School of Engineering, and Faculty of Science, in partnership with Calgary Economic Development. In mid-2019, Todorovic met Lucas Maliniak, industry co-ordinator for the Engineering Career Centre. After conversations concerning student needs, they brought their respective areas together.

Two people shake hands

Event builds connections between local tech companies and students.

Adrian Shellard, for the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking

Collaborative approach to career fair concept

The resulting event aimed to take a typical career fair to another level, leveraging the impact of cross-collaboration between academia, industry, and community. Christian Jacob, head of the Department of Computer Science, supported the event from the beginning.

This initiative is an excellent example of teamwork across multiple different areas of UCalgary,” says Jacob. “Particularly, the backing of Calgary Economic Development is an important key to building a strong tech sector in the city of Calgary.

Students see this collaboration, and recognize the potential for growth in their hometown.

Calgary Economic Development (CED) contributed integral funding to ensure the event was the success that it was. By supporting the development of local tech talent, CED is building the next generation in Calgary’s new economy, helping to prepare students for the future.

“Our economy is undergoing an exciting and — at the same time — daunting digital transformation. In 2019, we saw a 28-per-cent increase in the employment of software developers and programmers in our city,” says Mary Moran, president and CEO, Calgary Economic Development.

“We were thrilled to be a key sponsor for Tech Fest, which will ensure incredible young talent in Calgary can be paired with local cutting-edge employers who need their skills.”

Students speak to Benevity reps at UCalgary Tech Fest.

Students speak with Benevity representatives about hiring needs.

Adrian Shellard, for the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking

What makes UCalgary Tech Fest stand apart?

UCalgary Tech Fest was more than just a career fair. The event provided access to community resources such as Innovate Calgary, Startup YYC, and Fuse 33 Makerspace, to name a few. Exposure to these resources creates a fuller picture of how Calgary’s tech community functions. Additionally, the event hosted facilitated networking using coding challenges and video game ice-breakers. Students could personalize their experience by sitting down with the representatives from companies they were interested in, to get to know each other in a casual, low-stress environment.

“The gaming competitions really engaged students, and I personally spoke with several employers interested in hiring for the new engineering practicum work terms for summer 2020,” says Jenny Cruickshank, associate director of Student Services at Schulich School of Engineering. “The UCalgary Tech Fest was a huge success, with over 1,100 students in attendance. Employers were connected through the Schulich School of Engineering, Faculty of Science, and Hunter Hub, and were engaged with students to find potential hires.”

UCalgary Tech Fest is intended to become an annual event, linking students, staff, faculty, alumni, community, and industry in building a strong tech future for the city of Calgary.

Packed aisles at Tech Fest event.

The aisles were packed as over 1,100 students attend Tech Fest throughout the day.

Adrian Shellard, for the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking