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Cultivating the Next Wave of Developers

Cultivating the Next Wave of Developers

Michael Carnevale

Michael Carnevale

July 18, 2018

Young Canadian talents are making an impact—and they’re just getting started.

"The Canadian tech landscape is booming. We are home to some of the brightest, most innovative minds in the world..."

Sep Seyedi, CEO of Plastic Mobile, shares how he got started in the tech industry, why he created Developer 30 Under 30, and what he hopes past and future participants can take away.

So, how did you get started in the tech world?

I began my career in technology 24 years ago, at a time when the tech landscape looked remarkably different. ‘Developer’ was a term understood in real estate, not technology, and we did not yet live in a world where the telephone and internet could coexist.

As the CEO and co-founder of Plastic Mobile, I’ve gotten to be at the forefront of the technological revolution, most specifically in the mobile space. The background of how I got to be where I am today is kind of a funny story.

It was 2007. One morning in my downtown apartment, I pulled out my clunky Nokia E62, and for the first time typed a few words to summon a taxi. Like magic, my cab soon appeared. In today’s age of Uber, using a cell phone to summon a car is no big deal, but in 2007 it was unheard of. Cell phones back then only made phone calls.

That text not only got me to the airport, but it also changed my career. It was the moment I decided to focus on the very new world of mobile apps full-time—and Plastic Mobile was underway.

At this point in your career, why did you want to create Developer 30 Under 30?

The Canadian tech landscape is booming. We are home to some of the brightest, most innovative minds in the world, and yet we weren’t taking the time to properly recognize their outstanding achievements.

This moment of realization came to us halfway through an all-staff meeting, amidst recognition for awards that our marketing team had won, when a developer from the back of the room asked, “Why don’t we get an award?” As CEO of a digital agency, a father of three, and a die-hard techie, my intention with this award was not only to celebrate the talent that we currently have but to encourage the technologists of tomorrow. I hope to motivate the students that are currently picking their field of study, allowing them to view a career in technology as an admirable choice.

How do the developer and tech communities in Toronto compare to those in other major markets?

It’s an interesting time to be a Canadian working in technology. We’ve really put ourselves on the map in recent years, being named one of the top ecosystems for startups globally, and being home to the only non-American city that was shortlisted for Amazon’s HQ2.

We’re also garnering the attention of some of the most renowned Silicon Valley-based tech giants. The type of attention that has them looking north for their newest hires. So now we find ourselves in a bit of a brain drain. Our technology community is becoming stronger and much more well-recognized, but there has never been such a strong incentive to leave and work for the big guys.

"Never stop learning. Always feed your curiosity."

How have people received this award program, and how does it compare to the response last year, its first year?

The response in our inaugural year completely blew us away. We had set out to spearhead a first-of-its-kind, tech-centric award, with the goal simply to make a slight ripple in our attempt of increasing recognition in the country. The ripple became a wave, a massive technology wave. Within weeks, we had a judging panel of more than 20 C-Suite technologists, more than 350 nominees, and 19 partners on board to support this initiative.

Year two? Doubly amazing, with more than 40 judges and more than 500 nominations across the country. Organizations have also begun to seek us out to help support the award. It’s already starting to take on a life of its own, which is a further indicator of how necessary an award like this was in the first place.

For those not in the industry, how can someone judge a developer on a technical level?

The judging panel selects the final 30 by scoring the nominees on certain criteria:

Expertise and skill set, the extent to which the nominee demonstrates exceptional expertise in their skillset. Impact, the extent to which the work and contributions of the nominee impact their industries or the developer community.

Also innovation, the extent to which the nominee has demonstrated innovation in their approach or work. And non-technical, which is bringing forward any non-developer-related activities that the nominee is involved in that demonstrate thought leadership. Plus honors, highlighting any notable achievements or accomplishments the nominee has received for their work.

What do you hope participants take away?

While kicking off year two, we decided to touch base with our 2017 winners and get a feel for what, if anything, changed for them after being named one of Canada’s first Developer 30 Under 30. Their answers perfectly summed up why I set out to do this.

Here’s one that particularly stood out to me from Amina Khalique, Founder & Technical Director, Pointless Buttons Studios:

As a woman in tech, I realized I had grown tired. Tired of trying to meet some unknown expectation because I didn’t fit the regular mold. I often got questions, such as: “Oh you don’t look like a programmer,” “Seems like a really tough career choice,” or “Wow, what’s it like to be earning more than your partner?” I was tired of these questions that would, to me, sound ridiculous. Hard work, determination, and motivation become second nature when you’re always trying to prove a point, but the heartbreaking part was that I had stopped expecting any kind of appreciation for my efforts. It had been replaced by: I will do the best I can do, always, no matter what. Which was great in many ways but undeniably lonely. Developer 30 Under 30 gave me something I never thought I’d receive: validation and recognition. A place to belong. I will never forget that powerful and empowering feeling.

If you could give a young person interested in software or tech development some advice, what would it be?

Be eager and start now. Take pride in your natural interest in technology and acknowledge what a remarkable asset it is. Embrace your technical strength. Never stop learning. Always feed your curiosity. Allow yourself to really become one with software.

"The Canadian tech landscape is booming. We are home to some of the brightest, most innovative minds in the world..."

Sep Seyedi, CEO of Plastic Mobile, shares how he got started in the tech industry, why he created Developer 30 Under 30, and what he hopes past and future participants can take away.

So, how did you get started in the tech world?

I began my career in technology 24 years ago, at a time when the tech landscape looked remarkably different. ‘Developer’ was a term understood in real estate, not technology, and we did not yet live in a world where the telephone and internet could coexist.

As the CEO and co-founder of Plastic Mobile, I’ve gotten to be at the forefront of the technological revolution, most specifically in the mobile space. The background of how I got to be where I am today is kind of a funny story.

It was 2007. One morning in my downtown apartment, I pulled out my clunky Nokia E62, and for the first time typed a few words to summon a taxi. Like magic, my cab soon appeared. In today’s age of Uber, using a cell phone to summon a car is no big deal, but in 2007 it was unheard of. Cell phones back then only made phone calls.

That text not only got me to the airport, but it also changed my career. It was the moment I decided to focus on the very new world of mobile apps full-time—and Plastic Mobile was underway.

At this point in your career, why did you want to create Developer 30 Under 30?

The Canadian tech landscape is booming. We are home to some of the brightest, most innovative minds in the world, and yet we weren’t taking the time to properly recognize their outstanding achievements.

This moment of realization came to us halfway through an all-staff meeting, amidst recognition for awards that our marketing team had won, when a developer from the back of the room asked, “Why don’t we get an award?” As CEO of a digital agency, a father of three, and a die-hard techie, my intention with this award was not only to celebrate the talent that we currently have but to encourage the technologists of tomorrow. I hope to motivate the students that are currently picking their field of study, allowing them to view a career in technology as an admirable choice.

How do the developer and tech communities in Toronto compare to those in other major markets?

It’s an interesting time to be a Canadian working in technology. We’ve really put ourselves on the map in recent years, being named one of the top ecosystems for startups globally, and being home to the only non-American city that was shortlisted for Amazon’s HQ2.

We’re also garnering the attention of some of the most renowned Silicon Valley-based tech giants. The type of attention that has them looking north for their newest hires. So now we find ourselves in a bit of a brain drain. Our technology community is becoming stronger and much more well-recognized, but there has never been such a strong incentive to leave and work for the big guys.

"Never stop learning. Always feed your curiosity."

How have people received this award program, and how does it compare to the response last year, its first year?

The response in our inaugural year completely blew us away. We had set out to spearhead a first-of-its-kind, tech-centric award, with the goal simply to make a slight ripple in our attempt of increasing recognition in the country. The ripple became a wave, a massive technology wave. Within weeks, we had a judging panel of more than 20 C-Suite technologists, more than 350 nominees, and 19 partners on board to support this initiative.

Year two? Doubly amazing, with more than 40 judges and more than 500 nominations across the country. Organizations have also begun to seek us out to help support the award. It’s already starting to take on a life of its own, which is a further indicator of how necessary an award like this was in the first place.

For those not in the industry, how can someone judge a developer on a technical level?

The judging panel selects the final 30 by scoring the nominees on certain criteria:

Expertise and skill set, the extent to which the nominee demonstrates exceptional expertise in their skillset. Impact, the extent to which the work and contributions of the nominee impact their industries or the developer community.

Also innovation, the extent to which the nominee has demonstrated innovation in their approach or work. And non-technical, which is bringing forward any non-developer-related activities that the nominee is involved in that demonstrate thought leadership. Plus honors, highlighting any notable achievements or accomplishments the nominee has received for their work.

What do you hope participants take away?

While kicking off year two, we decided to touch base with our 2017 winners and get a feel for what, if anything, changed for them after being named one of Canada’s first Developer 30 Under 30. Their answers perfectly summed up why I set out to do this.

Here’s one that particularly stood out to me from Amina Khalique, Founder & Technical Director, Pointless Buttons Studios:

As a woman in tech, I realized I had grown tired. Tired of trying to meet some unknown expectation because I didn’t fit the regular mold. I often got questions, such as: “Oh you don’t look like a programmer,” “Seems like a really tough career choice,” or “Wow, what’s it like to be earning more than your partner?” I was tired of these questions that would, to me, sound ridiculous. Hard work, determination, and motivation become second nature when you’re always trying to prove a point, but the heartbreaking part was that I had stopped expecting any kind of appreciation for my efforts. It had been replaced by: I will do the best I can do, always, no matter what. Which was great in many ways but undeniably lonely. Developer 30 Under 30 gave me something I never thought I’d receive: validation and recognition. A place to belong. I will never forget that powerful and empowering feeling.

If you could give a young person interested in software or tech development some advice, what would it be?

Be eager and start now. Take pride in your natural interest in technology and acknowledge what a remarkable asset it is. Embrace your technical strength. Never stop learning. Always feed your curiosity. Allow yourself to really become one with software.

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