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November 7, 2019 Peggy Liu

Ilya Brotzky: Diversity makes tech companies stronger

A diverse team results in a more balanced perspective on different issues, says Ilya Brotzky, the founder and CEO of VanHack.

Hiring tech talent is a challenge for many businesses. When it comes to hiring in the tech industry, there is increasing attention being directed at the lack of diversity among those who are recruited. Reports have shown that racial and gender inequality remain unresolved issues in the industry, specifically among the giants in Silicon Valley. Fortunately, innovators like Ilya Brotzky, the founder and CEO of VanHack, are mixing up the status quo.

Based in Vancouver, B.C., VanHack is one of the world’s largest tech recruiting companies. It has a network of over 100,000 software engineering, design, and digital marketing professionals from around the globe. Its mission is to help international job seekers connect with employers abroad. To date, over 500 companies in Canada, Europe, and The U.S. have used their recruiting services, and over 800 IT professionals have been hired through VanHack.

Brotzky is no stranger to the start-up scene. He graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Applied Economics and Management and went on to found several social enterprises in Brazil. It was during the four years he was working there that he found inspiration to help talented tech professionals who possess little to no English find work opportunities abroad. The rest is VanHack history.

By hiring from abroad, companies can expand their talent pool exponentially. It would be a huge benefit to their business. “Code has no accent,” Brotzky pointed out. “It’s important that people understand that. You can work from anywhere since coding skills are very transferable. Canada is in a really good position to take advantage of the budding tech talent now and use it for the economy.”

However, some Canadian companies may hesitate to pursue this avenue due to the misguided impression of complicated government and immigration paperwork. They choose the easier option of hiring local talent. In Brotzky’s opinion, this decision actually limits their potential, because having a team of more or less the same cultural upbringing encourages status quo thinking. 

“When you have a diverse team, you have a more balanced perspective on different issues, such as building a product. This especially helps if you want to sell your product in other countries,” explained Brotzky. “Having diversity among employees encourages them to be more open-minded, to speak up and find new solutions. With more and more businesses becoming global, it’s important to have a global mindset. Each country has a different cultural awareness of tech, e-commerce, and social media, so if you hire internationally it’s easier to grasp that understanding and widen your perspective.”

As more companies become open to hiring abroad, they are realizing the process is much easier than they once assumed. VanHack simplifies the process even more; they have immigration papers prepared for companies to fill out and an in-house immigration consultant team ready to get in touch with the IRCC if any issues come up. And on the job seekers’ end, they are guided and supported the whole way through. VanHack overlooks no detail — they also provide English classes on top of interview and resume coaching in their premium membership.

“We don’t look at ourselves as a recruiting company,” said Brotzky. “We see ourselves as people helping other people change their lives. And to do that, we need to be close to the candidates and make sure they’re supported all the way through the hiring process. Most of us at the company are immigrants ourselves, so there’s a lot of firsthand experience with this sort of thing.”

Brotzky created VanHack to help others change their lives for the better, but it made an impact on his own life as well. Starting and managing a company of almost 50 employees is no small feat. Ensuring everyone is happy and working together, carrying out difficult decisions, and having tough conversations were huge learning experiences that helped him mature and grow as a leader. It may have been a journey of hard work, but the reward was watching people grow alongside him.

It’s an exciting time for VanHack. The company just hit an important milestone of 100,000 members and have grown their technology to be able to find candidates in six hours or less.

Peggy Liu

Peggy Liu is a freelance writer and content creator and editor. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in English Literature, where she was also a mental health columnist for the student newspaper. When she isn't digging her way to the bottom of a peanut butter jar or petting friendly dogs around Vancouver, she can be found sitting in cafes with a notebook and a cup of coffee.