City Snapshot: HackerNest

Beyond the common stock-image stereotype applied to the “tech scene,” each ecosystem has its own unique set of opportunities and challenges. City Snapshot offers a magnified look at a select community’s work and hustle.

What is your city’s best kept tech secret?
Torontonians have really embraced the ‘you can work from anywhere’ culture around startups and innovation. Coffee shops and coworking spaces are teeming with cool ideas and great people all working to create something incredible. Most people are more than willing to share what they’re projects and passions.

What are some of the regular challenges you face in supporting your tech community?
The challenge we often face is a disconnect between communities. Many of us are plugged in and active on social media, so there’s an illusion of a grander network. We struggle to actively meet people face to face, thereby failing to make genuine connections with people. 
There’s just so much going on in tech in Toronto! Each week plays host to several events around the city — and there really is something for everyone. Tech folks should embrace these opportunities and move out of their comfort zones. Commit to attending one new event every month. What do you have to lose?

What is one rule or tradition you employ to promote community culture in your organization?
The entirety of what we do at HackerNest is focused on building and promoting community. Our entire team understands the significance and importance of helping to foster these communities and conveying through our actions and events why we do what we do. We’re all active in the Toronto tech space and attend events, conferences, and meetups at various locations around the city. My favorite thing is finding someone you’ve seen before but haven’t had a chance to chat to yet!

Expanding the network only makes it easier to do what we do. The presence of a solid, consistent, collaborative community is the best affirmation. Community is something you can see and feel. It’s a measurable thing that we all have a hand in creating and cultivating.

What does successful collaboration look like in your experience?
Successful collaborations are ones in which each party brings something to the other they couldn’t have gotten on their own. In my experience, it takes both empathy and understanding. You should consider your own needs, of course, but also approach collaboration asking “What value do we bring to the table?”

HackerNest partners with a ton of conferences and workshops. It helps promote professional development, which is one thing we always highlight when talking about the importance of community.

Our large, multi-disciplinary audience allows us to cast a wide net for conferences and workshops to reach potential attendees. Opportunities to take advantage of discount codes for tickets is a great perk of belonging to HackerNest Toronto (which is free)!

What is the proudest you’ve ever been of your city?
Cities generally struggle to grow a sense of community — particularly in larger cities where many people live in apartments or condos. Many can relate to the feeling of going home to your cubby at the end of the day and staying in until you have to go back to work. One thing I have noticed is that the City of Toronto recognizes cultures and groups through festivals and celebrations. Between the Taste of the Danforth, Pride, cultural fairs, and food truck festivals, there’s always something to explore and discover. There’s an openness during these festivals that encourages learning and connects different communities.

What do you hope will be the biggest change in your tech community within the next 5 years?
One thing on everyone’s mind in Toronto is retention of talent. We have amazing tech talent in Toronto not only in our vibrant startup scene but in more traditional tech spaces as well. We think keeping talent — particularly young talent — in the city is going to be key to the city’s growth and innovation. We have to figure out a way to make it just as attractive an option to stay in Toronto as it would be to move elsewhere. This has to start with new grads. People need to know they can be successful in the long term in their own city so they don’t start out on their career path with the goal of moving away.

This article was contributed by Sheena Casselman, Communications Manager, at HackerNest.

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