Startups fast-track professional growth — after all, given how quickly small teams ramp up business, employees often take on many roles. Having grown up helping her family’s business, Caroline Jiang was always attracted to this entrepreneurial style, and after years of consulting startups in Toronto’s tech scene, she was thrilled to land an executive position at eLeapPower. The company refers to itself as “the beating heart” of electric vehicles: its powertrain technology allows cars, trucks and buses to charge faster and drive farther while saving money. It’s the kind of innovation municipalities will rely on to achieve zero-carbon transportation by 2050; and it’s why companies like eLeapPower are growing fast.
“Like most ventures, we needed guidance getting off the ground — interviewing, compliance, compensation and so on.” Jiang says. “MaRS equipped eLeapPower with the foundation, which gave us the freedom to make great decisions.”
In February 2020, weeks before Canada’s workforce descended into coronavirus-fuelled lockdown, Jiang attended the MaRS Mastering Talent series, run by Erin Ashton who was a MaRS talent advisor. With years of experience shaping the strategies of organizations large and small, she’s seen how flawed HR policies eventually lead to bad decisions and employee turnover. “I was thrilled to see an early-stage startup like eLeapPower that understood the danger of putting HR on the backburner,” Ashton says. “For me, getting the employee lifecycle right — from beginning to end — is essential.”
With so many Canadian small businesses fearing the worst in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jiang and the MaRS Talent team got to work. They set up weekly calls to work on everything from employee handbooks to compensation benchmarking. Jiang partnered with recruitment-agency vendors via the MaRS HR Marketplace; she also participated in online peer-to-peer events (which was particularly useful when determining how to support co-workers remotely); and she hired new developers through the MaRS Community Job Board. All of this helped Jiang craft a robust talent plan. (eLeapPower quickly grew from its staff from four to more than 20 employees, with hopes to bring on at least 10 more.)
Jiang is most grateful to MaRS for demystifying the process of hiring foreign workers. “Many Canadians move to Silicon Valley for more money, so we have to rely on others to grow,” she explains. As an immigrant herself, Jiang knew there were countless tech workers out there trying to enter Canada, they just needed companies like eLeapPower to guide them through the system. To that end, Ashton was able to coach Jiang on Canada-U.S. immigration laws, and serve as eLeapPower’s reference to the Global Talent Stream, a federal-government program that expedites entry into the country. The startup is actively working on bringing over desired candidates.
Retainment remains the biggest talent goal for Jiang as eLeapPower scales. She also has plans to continue hiring for diversity as well as shoring up employee benefits. And Jiang is continually meeting with peers and building off best practices learned through MaRS programming. She’s making moves — and that’s what Ashton is most proud of. “Seeing Caroline’s confidence grow has been the best part,” Ashton says.