Toronto’s tech sector is growing at a furious pace: there’s 65,000 workers and counting with more new jobs added than New York, San Francisco, Washington and Seattle combined. This unprecedented growth has brought with it entirely new kinds of positions — gigs that may sound odd at first (what the heck is a cryptography engineer, anyway?) but will be essential to society going forward.
However, before we put these new jobs on a pedestal, we must first understand their purpose and, most importantly, the issues they hope to tackle. Recently, we chatted with two talent experts (Jobber’s Yiorgos Boudouris and Opencare’s Mike Bettley) to dissect some quirky positions that, seemingly, didn’t exist yesterday.
“It’s true that some of these roles have strange names,” Mike tells us, “but the people behind the titles are solving big problems, in Canada and around the world. And it’s our job to tell their story.”
Here are some special jobs to pay attention to the next time you’re combing a careers board.
What it is: To quote fintech startup Polymath, a cryptography engineer “straddles the divide between a mathematician and software engineer.” It’s her responsibility to build code in support of tech like blockchain to improve the safety, security and confidentiality of financial transactions.
Why it’s important: Not only does cryptography help protect people’s hard-earned money through tech like blockchain, it can disrupt and decentralize the financial sector entire, taking ultimate power away from corporations and placing it back into the hands of the consumer. “We’re living in a new ‘hack for good’ culture,” Yiorgos says. “It’s an exciting time and cryptography engineers are on the front lines.”
What it is: All right, now we’re going full science fiction. This person is in charge of ensuring collaboration, as well as transparent and efficient communication between humans and machines. A human-machine manager must develop systems through which their coworkers — real and artificial — express their strategies and goals with confidence and comfort.
Why it’s important: In the coming years, hundreds of thousands of Canadian jobs will be affected by automation. And while the rise of the robots will relieve the burden of many workers (in particular, heavy labourers and those plagued by endless administrative and repetitive tasks), learning to get along with them will take some, well, learning. “The ability to communicate with chatbots, for example, takes a lot of stress off the average employee, not to mention people looking for advice on stigmatized subjects,” says Mike. “I don’t think a future with robot coworkers will be anything close to the Terminator-style nightmares of many cynics, but building the right man-machine work culture will be a challenge.”
What it is: This job is more or less the tech world’s version of a chief human resources officer — someone who takes care of the wants and needs of staff, fosters engagement and productivity, and ensures all rules and regulations are fair and enforced.
Why it’s important: Yiorgos admits that the title of “chief happiness officer” errs on the whimsical side, though, it is nevertheless a key position in any corporation. “When a company hires someone with that title, it shows they have both a sense of humour and commitment to attracting talent, not simply acquiring it,” he says. Still, a role like this comes with great pressure, and Yiorgos believes startups that aren’t serious about employee happiness won’t be keeping their employees very long.
What it is: While the function of this job is self-evident, the job itself is anything but normal. Self-driving car testers are literally working on the frontier of a world-changing technology on par with the discovery of electricity and the invention of the internet.
Why it’s important: Should they fulfill their promise, self-driving cars will help fight climate change, dramatically reduce road deaths, make transportation affordable for all, and even predict if the stress of your morning commute will lead to a heart attack. “Self-driving car testers are taking the danger out of many jobs,” says Mike. “This position is very risky, though, and not for the faint of heart.”
What it is: Having an internal professional development coach isn’t unique to the tech community, but startups are big champions of the cause. In this role, it’s your job to make sure the personal and professional goals of coworkers align with the larger mission and business needs of the company.
Why it’s important: Both Yiorgos and Mike would love to see companies large and small hire more professional development coaches. Toronto-based fintech startup KOHO has one and it’s given the company tremendous competitive advantage. “There are a lot of great startups out there but we want to attract and retain people that fit our culture,” says KOHO CEO Daniel Eberhard. “We also want our teammates to grow and succeed — and our in-house coach really stands out to job seekers.”
Visit the MaRS tech job board to stay informed on the latest career opportunities in Canadian tech.