Photo courtesy of Max Doucet-BenoitAu revoir, Montréal; bonjour, Kitchener: A moving story Kayleigh Platz October 14, 2015 Columns, Tech About Town Growing up in Kitchener, I watched many of my friends move out of the city to Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver. Some left for school. Others for jobs. Many never came back. Over the last few years, I’ve noticed a change in the trend. Kitchener-Waterloo is becoming a place to move to, where young professionals move for jobs, stay and build families. Max Doucet-Benoit, Editor-in-Chief at Igloo Software, knows that better than most. The Montreal born-and-raised writer had been working steadily since he was 17. He started working in ad agencies in Montreal. After studying political science at the Université de Montreal, Doucet-Benoit worked for some advertising agencies. He didn’t love ad-agency work, though. He would work hard on a project, then hand it back to the company without ever knowing what happened to it. He began to freelance, and worked for some Montreal tech companies. He loved it. “That was really what I liked,” Doucet-Benoit said. “That was the industry I wanted to work for.” The Montreal tech scene wasn’t as active as he wanted; so he began to ask around to find out what city he should move to if he wanted to stay in tech. “I wanted to know what city does it really well.” he said. “Everyone I talked to in Montreal told me to go to Kitchener-Waterloo.” Doucet-Benoit wasn’t totally sure about the smaller town. He applied to tech jobs in Vancouver and Toronto, and also one lone job in Kitchener — at Igloo Software. He received offers for all of them. And yet, Doucet-Benoit chose Kitchener, and moved in December 2014. What sold him? “The culture at Igloo really got it for me,” he said. “It’s going to challenge me, and they are really looking forward.” “This city has a commitment to become something more (than the closed-up manufacturing town),” he said. “It’s really powerful to see technology embrace that.” Doucet-Benoit has found Waterloo Region’s business focus refreshing. “Montreal tech companies build things that are cool, but what’s the business sense in the end?” he said, citing the large number of gaming companies in Montreal. He compares that to Waterloo Region companies that focus on the business plan to begin with, rather than a sexy logo, and want to make money at the end of the day. “What brought me here is the freedom. Companies are at a certain size, but still haven’t thought of their brand yet. They’ve built their platform, sold it because they have amazing sales people. And then they go, ‘Oh wow, we need a voice-and-tone guide, and a guideline around our logo. ’ ” Doucet-Benoit is hungry for the opportunity to help shape the future of tech companies through such brand-building and strategy work. He has embraced Kitchener. He lives downtown, works downtown and explores the community. How has he found the move from downtown Montreal? So far, fairly easy. “I had the desire to slow down my pace of life a little bit,” he said. “I was jumping around a lot for jobs (in Montreal) and it felt uncomfortable. I was doing something every night.” He wanted to work in-house at a company, and find a city that would let him relax a bit. “Kitchener isn’t like Montreal, and I knew that when I left,” he said. Making friends, he notes, is challenging in a smaller town where many people have known each other since childhood. “There wasn’t a lot of opportunities for me to go to an event alone as an outsider and just chat with people,” he said. “There are a lot of places in Montreal where I can do that. Here, I didn’t know where to start.” He is beginning to meet more people through tech events and political events. There have been a lot of pluses for Doucet-Benoit in Kitchener, though. He loves having the Kitchener Market in his backyard. And the foodie was pleasantly surprised at the quality of restaurants in town that can rival Montreal’s food scene. “Gilt and TWH Social would go over very well in the Mile End,” he said, referring to the up-and-coming hipster and technology neighbourhood in Montreal. While the food scene is improving, there are still some areas that need work. Housing, for example. There is a lot of choice in student housing and executive-level homes and condos, he notes; but there are few affordable options for young professionals. “There are a lot of places being built, so it’s coming,” he said. “But there are existing buildings that just need cleaning up and some investment.” Doucet-Benoit is excited to be a part of Waterloo Region’s growing economy. Now he just wants his friends back home to realize how great it is here. “People know about KW as a tech town and a place to go, but it’s not that well known outside of tech,” he said. “There are a lot of available jobs here, and a lot of my friends in Montreal are looking for jobs in accounting or insurance. They can’t find it at home, and I’m trying to tell them there are jobs here. “There’s a big job boom here, but people have no idea.” *** This week, the one event I hope everyone participates in is voting in the federal election. If you haven’t already voted in the advance polls, I hope you make time on Monday, Oct. 19. You can find information about your riding’s candidates and where to vote on the federal election website. Polls are open 9:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m., and your employer must give you time to vote if you can’t make it to the polls before or after work. What do you need to vote? If you received voter information card than you just need a one piece of federally approved ID. Do you need to vote outside of your federal riding? If you are a student, or are still in Canada but temporarily away from your riding, Elections Canada is opening poll stations at select campuses and youth centres. You will vote by special ballot for your own riding in these places across the country.