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Tech in T.O.: Why some of the world’s leading tech minds are coming to Canada

Click to play video: 'Two bright tech minds explain why they chose to move and work in Toronto' Two bright tech minds explain why they chose to move and work in Toronto
WATCH: Mina Soltangheis and Ian Logan are currently working in Toronto’s tech industry. They both made the move to the city for two different reasons and explain why – Oct 28, 2019

This is the ninth instalment of a 10-part series on Toronto’s technology community.

Toronto’s technology industry is growing, and it’s drawing some of the world’s biggest and brightest technological minds to the city — and many are choosing to stay.

A few tech leaders spoke to Global News anchor Farah Nasser about #TechInTO and why they are choosing to live in the city.

Ian Logan
Vice-president of engineering, Drop

Drop vice-president of engineering Ian Logan.
Drop vice-president of engineering Ian Logan. Erica Vella/Global News

Ian Logan has always had roots in Canada.

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Born in Thornhill, Ont., Logan studied mathematics at the University of Waterloo, but early in his career, he moved to the U.S. to work as a software engineer for different companies. He was eventually hired to be the director of engineering with the popular travel app Airbnb.

Logan had been living in Silicon Valley for 10 years when, in November 2017, he made the decision to leave the company to work as vice-president of Drop, a mobile app that allows users to earn points on everyday spending.

Click to play video: 'Watch: extended interview with Ian Logan' Watch: extended interview with Ian Logan
Watch: extended interview with Ian Logan – Oct 28, 2019

Prior to leaving Silicon Valley, Logan said he had offers to stay.

“We talked about different options in terms of possibilities, whether I stay there or start different offices elsewhere,” he said.

“I think at the end of the day, I accomplished a lot at Airbnb. I learned a ton but I felt like I wanted a fresh start.”

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Logan said it was his family values that brought him back to Toronto.

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“About a year and a half ago, my wife and I had our first son, and really thinking for the long term and wanting to live somewhere where we can really raise our kids, it was Toronto,” he said, adding that the growth in Toronto’s tech sector factored into why he chose to settle in the city.

“It’s pretty clear that Toronto is at the cusp of incredible growth in tech. Just this month alone, we heard and saw a lot of news of U.S. companies coming to Toronto … There definitely is a lot of momentum happening — I think part of the reason why colleagues back in the valley are contacting me, they’re seeing in the news that other companies are starting offices there.”

Mina Soltangheis
Chief innovation officer, Wondeur Ai

Mina Soltangheis, chief innovation officer of Wondeur Ai. Mina Soltangheis

Mina Soltangheis is currently working as the chief innovation officer at Wondeur Ai, which is a platform that analyzes the careers of all post-war and contemporary artists based on non-transactional metrics. It’s used by insurers, appraisers, museum professionals, risk-management teams and financial advisers as an alternative method of assessment for post-war and contemporary art.

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Originally from Iran, Soltangheis earned a bachelor’s degree from Isfahan University and moved to Canada to receive her master’s degree from Simon Fraser University.

In 2017, she completed a second master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and shortly after completing her schooling, she came to Canada.

“The first thing that was really appealing about Toronto was that it was in Canada,” Soltangheis said.

Click to play video: 'Watch: extended interview with Mina Soltangheis' Watch: extended interview with Mina Soltangheis
Watch: extended interview with Mina Soltangheis – Oct 28, 2019

Shortly after completing her master’s, Soltangheis said U.S. President Donald Trump announced details around the U.S. travel ban.

“I studied AD and IT, I finished my master’s and I started working. And then there were a lot of policies coming out which were not the friendliest for international people, people who weren’t necessarily U.S. citizens,” she said.

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Soltangheis said she had concerns about travelling to visit her family back in Iran.

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“There were quite a few great opportunities there. However, it felt limiting because I had to think about when is the next time I’m going to visit my parents. Or when is the next time they can get a chance to come visit me. Or I’m a researcher and I’m an innovative technologist and, as a part of that, I would want to go travel — travel often around the globe and show my work and hear other people’s work,” she said.

“The policies in place at the time made all of that very difficult … It was around the same time that I was actually applying for permanent residence here in Canada to come to Canada. And the tech scene here is actually very vibrant and a lot of exciting, leading-edge research is coming out of many of the great universities here, especially in the field of AI.”

Soltangheis said she saw how inclusive the city was and it seemed like an ideal choice.

“Hearing about how inclusive the city is, and how mindful and caring it is to work with different cultures and people from different backgrounds, putting all of that together, it felt like the right choice to move to Toronto,” she said.

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“I lived in Canada for a short while before. And I knew that Canada is very mindful in terms of people’s origins. And you know, nationalities is a group concept, a communal concept, but it’s very personal. So you want that to be respected and you want that to be celebrated,” she said.

“And I wanted to be a part of [that]. If I’m contributing to the community of a country, I wanted it to be for the right values … I wanted it to be celebrated that I’m from Iran and I was born and raised there. And it’s OK that I am a woman in tech and I’m contributing to the economy. And I wanted all of that to be a part of one story.”

Share your thoughts about technology in Toronto on Twitter using the hashtag #TechInTO.

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