What companies are University of Waterloo technology graduates working for? A look at talent migration and the Canadian tech scene.
Every year, since 2017, I spend a few weekends analyzing the state of University of Waterloo talent migration via LinkedIn profiles. This year I did a deeper dive on UW tech graduates (Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Software Engineering, Systems Design Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Mechatronics).
This is my second article looking at talent migration for UW tech graduates (Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Software Engineering, Systems Design Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Mechatronics).
For greater context on the numbers below you can read my first article Where in the world are University of Waterloo technology graduates? here.
- Out of the 3,392 tech degrees that UW granted¹ for 2017, 2018 and 2019, there were 2,674 graduates on LinkedIn with these degrees, for these years, which represents almost 80% of the UW tech graduates.
- According to the UW tech degrees granted¹, 74.2% of these graduates were Canadian Citizens, 19.2% were International and 6.5% were permanent residents.
- Across the 2,674 University of Waterloo (UW) tech graduates evaluated, the percentage currently working in Canada hovers just under 60% and those working in the USA hovers under 40%.
- There are over 845 companies that employ these 2,674 UW tech graduates.
- For these UW tech graduates — 41% of them who live in the USA work for a FAAMA (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet (Google)) company, while only 9% of them who live in Canada work for a FAAMA company.
- Amazon and Google are the top FAAMA companies hiring graduates to work in their Canadian offices.
- While one program does have the opposite trend to all other programs for the percentage of graduates in the USA vs Canada there is no correlation between the graduate mix (local and international) and the rising trend. This program also only has ~100 graduates a year so a ~4% rise per year is only ~4 more people each year.
- In this market, Canadian Companies need to remember that they are competing in a global market on brand, pay and growth. Canadian Companies should also consider recruiting from other schools and countries as part of their diversity strategy.
In this article we will look at the companies that the 2017–2019 UW tech graduates work for. We will also see if this provides any clues as to why UW Software Engineering graduates show an opposite trend to all other UW tech graduates.
Note: If a graduate did not update their profile after their last co-op/intern position then they get put in the “unknown” employer bucket. While it is possible that they have moved to a permanent role at the same company, I don’t make that assumption.
There are over 845 companies that employ these 2,674 UW tech graduates.
While the top 25 employers of these 2017–2019 UW tech graduates includes the group of companies that JP Morgan calls FAAMA (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet (Google)), which interestingly also means “king” in the Mandinka language, there are another 840+ companies that employ these 2,674 graduates. While each of the FAAMA companies have offices in Canada, Google (Alphabet), Amazon and Microsoft are the only 3 that currently have these 2017–2019 UW tech graduates working in their Canadian offices.
FAAMA companies have hired 21% of the 2,674 UW tech graduates from graduating years 2017–2019
If we take all the 2017–2019 UW tech graduates who live in the USA, 41% of them work for a FAAMA company.
If we take all the 2017–2019 UW tech graduates who live in Canada, 9% of them work for a FAAMA company.
There are 456+ companies that employ UW 2017–2019 Computer Science graduates. The top 25 employers employ 33% of all 2017–2019 Computer Science graduates.
There are 178+ companies that employ UW 2017–2019 Computer Engineering graduates. The top 25 employers employ 44% of all 2017–2019 Computer Engineering graduates.
There are 105+ companies that employ UW 2017–2019 Software Engineering graduates. The top 25 employers employ 52% of all 2017–2019 Software Engineering graduates.
As my last article showed, the percentage of UW Software Engineering graduates working in the USA has increased by ~4% for each graduating class over the past 3 years as per this chart.
Let’s dig deeper on what may be going on here.
- One hypothesis that we had for other programs, in the previous article, was that maybe an uptick in International Student graduates would be correlated with an uptick in graduates working in the USA. While this turned out to be false — maybe it is true here? Or maybe the inverse of this could be true? Let’s see.
In looking for correlation one would expect a three year consistent upward trend of 4% for either Canadian Citizens or International Student graduates — this is not the case, so it is safe to say that there is no correlation between the graduate mix and the rising trend of UW Software Engineering graduates going to the USA.
2. If we look at the Software Engineering graduates being hired by FAAMA companies, there was a decrease overall in 2019 with the biggest drop being in FAAMA offices in Canada. Overall, Facebook is the lead employer of UW Software Engineering graduates in this time period, hiring 15% of them. Since Facebook is only hiring these graduates for their USA offices, this one company has the highest impact on the percentage split between USA and Canada.
Let’s take a step back for a second.
3. Across the three years for UW Software Engineering graduates on LinkedIn there were 72 in 2017, 117 in 2018 and 81 in 2019. For simplicity let’s say that each year has around 100 graduates. This means that a 4% increase year over year is only 4 people per year. Given the small size of this cohort I don’t think we need to declare that the sky is falling.
Systems Design Engineering
There are 117+ companies that employ UW 2017–2019 Systems Design Engineering graduates. The top 25 employers employ 38% of all 2017–2019 Systems Design Engineering graduates.
There are 138+ companies that employ UW 2017–2019 Electrical Engineering graduates. The top 25 employers employ 37% of all 2017–2019 Electrical Engineering graduates.
There are 160+ companies that employ UW 2017–2019 Mechatronics graduates. The top 25 employers employ 40% of all 2017–2019 Mechatronics graduates.
A. If you are a tech company in Canada, what can you do to increase your success in hiring UW tech graduates?
In the article The Talent War by Craig Daniels, the former Senior Journalist for Communitech sat down with some UW tech students to hear from them on their graduation opportunities. I recommend reading the article but a summary of the findings are:
- Provide a job offer well before graduation. Try to hire the student in their last co-op. If you like them after their co-op term, make a permanent job offer for when they graduate. Some USA based companies are providing a permanent job offer a year before graduation.
- Have a great story (brand and culture).
- Remember you are competing in a global market, not just a local market so offer pay that is competitive. While some have stated the difference in cost of living between California and Canada as a factor to consider in pay, new grads are willing to live with roommates to lower their costs. Also with tech communities growing in places like Texas the high cost of living argument is becoming less of a factor.
- Have scale and interesting work where they feel they can have a direct impact
- As Devon Galloway, Co-Founder of Vidyard points out — If you are a scale-up then look to differentiate yourself on the opportunity the graduate has to gain experiences in a wide range of skills and responsibilities in a growing company.
B. What about the big picture?
In Alex Danco’s recent article on Why the Canadian Tech Scene Doesn’t Work he uses the book Finite and Infinite games, by James P Carse which gives us another lens to look through. Alex shares the following in his article:
This book introduces a simple but profound idea about there being two fundamental kinds of “games”, or multiplayer activities, that we engage in as people:
First, finite games are played for the purpose of winning. Whenever you’re engaging in an activity that’s definite, bounded, and where the game can be completed by mutual agreement of all the players, then that’s a finite game. Much of human activity is described in finite game metaphors: wars, politics, sports, whatever. When you’re playing finite games, each action you take is directed towards a pre-established goal, which is to win.
In contrast, infinite games are played for the purpose of continuing to play. You do not “win” infinite games; these are activities like learning, culture, community, or any exploration with no defined set of rules nor any pre-agreed-upon conditions for completion. The point of playing is to bring new players into the game, so they can play too. You never “win”, the play just gets more and more rewarding.
While there has been a lot of discussion on tech talent migration over the years and even recently, I feel as Canadians we need to know that we are in an infinite game. We should use this data to keep a pulse on how we are doing at attracting talent, not to complain that someone else “stole” our shovel from our sandbox. We need to put our energy into the Canadian tech scene to invest in and create high growth, global companies that will attract local and global talent. Lastly, we need to remember that we are in a global game and while the UW tech graduates are amazing and diverse, there is also a global world with talented people out there.
- According to this Mckinsey Report, Leadership teams with cultural and gender diversity outperform non-diverse teams.
- According to this HBR article that cites multiple studies — diverse teams simply outperform non-diverse teams.
So knowing that diversity is important, your talent strategy should include hiring locally and globally. Two Canadian contacts for global talent are:
- Dana Wagner at TalentLift and formerly Talent Beyond Boundaries, both non-profit organizations focused on building a world where refugees can move for work, leveraging their own professional skills to secure their futures.
- Ilya Brotzky’s VanHack which is a network of the world’s top software engineering, design, and digital marketing talent — available on demand to relocate to help companies grow. With over 180,000 members from 100+ countries, VanHack is the largest workforce that is ready to relocate in the world.
C. Does this percentage apply to all Canadian Universities and all UW programs?
Just a reminder that the percentage of graduates going to the USA from other Canadian Universities may be really different or may be the same as the above. We don’t know at this point — so we can’t really assume either way.
This is for the UW tech programs listed above and is likely different for other UW programs.
Have questions or thoughts on this? Feel free to reach out to me directly on LinkedIn.
A big thanks to all those who helped review this article!
I am the former Founder & CEO of LaunchSpot (acquired in 2017), a SaaS platform that was used to collect, analyze and report on private market data. Currently, I help Founders and leadership teams in startups and scale-ups.
¹ University of Waterloo, Degrees Granted, https://uwaterloo.ca/institutional-analysis-planning/university-data-and-statistics/student-data/degrees-granted-0
² Where in the world are University of Waterloo tech graduates? Rob Darling, September 8, 2020
If a graduate did not update their profile after their last co-op/intern position then they get put in the “unknown” employer bucket. While it is possible that they have moved to a permanent role at the same company, I don’t make that assumption in this article.
Profiles used from LinkedIn are identified using the program name and graduating end date.
In a small percentage of cases where there was a missing date then the date of internship/co-op placements and the start date of the first full-time role was used as the indicator of the graduation date. If there was not enough information, or it did not look like there was the right number of co-op positions then the profile was discarded.
The primary location used for this data is based on the work location. If there was no location for a current role then the company name was used to identify the location along with the location of the previous role. If there was not sufficient information in any of the roles and the company had multiple locations (Canada and the USA) then the top profile location was used as a last resort. This was a small percentage of profiles.