Thoughts on hiring – ownership and creative work


Previous “Thoughts on hiring” articles


One great way to attract talent for lower dollars is to enable people to have ownership of creative work taken under their own control, and their own initiative. This is contrast to just increasing the reward (pay).

Noam Chomsky has a great breakdown of this idea:

Well, there are fundamentally two different ways of looking at work.


One is capitalist ideology. That basically takes for granted that the natural state of a person is to vegetate. You have to be driven to work. If you aren’t driven to work you’ll lie around watching television or take your money from the welfare office and you won’t do anything. So therefore there have to be punishments for not working and rewards for working.


There’s a different conception, which goes right back to the Enlightenment. And that’s one that regards work as one of the highest goals in life. But they’re referring to a special kind of work: creative work taken under your own control and under your own initiative.


That’s a very different conception of work, one that’s pretty familiar to all of us. If you just walk down the halls around here [at MIT], you’ll see people working, maybe 80 hours a week, working hard. Because they like what they’re doing! They’re fundamentally controlling their own work––challenging issues, etc.

We’ve seen this in the tech industry with Google’s 20% time and similar initiatives.

And we see it locally too.

I can promise you there are some amazingly talented grad students over at McMaster that are working for peanuts in terms of pay. But they own the work, they’re doing it largely under their own control and initiative, and they are doing creative and interesting/challenging work.

We’ve also had some amazingly talented startup founders build products in town while making little or no money, for the same reasons. Indie video game studios can get away with below industry pay for similar reasons. Same with academia / teaching positions.

So it can and does happen locally.

One way to attract and retain talented employees is to enable them to do these sorts of creative, challenging things that they control and do of their own initiative. How to go about that could mean a lot of different things.

  • 20% time – a day a week to work on personal/entrepreneurial projects
  • Time off for volunteer activities (like Hamilton Code Club!)
  • Open source internal frameworks/libraries for the broader community
  • Increase R&D type work internally
  • Give employees time to write white papers, technical reports, etc.

It’s possible there’s some idealism going on here of course… Chomsky references MIT grad students when he makes this point. Looking at something that works in that population may not be generalizable… we’re talking about people that are pretty motivated go-getters already.

It’s also hard to factor this into a work schedule when deadlines need to be met to keep the lights on. Google’s 20% time came to be known as 120% time internally.

But still, I think if you want to attract great talent, then looking at making the work, or at least aspects of the work, creative and interesting and under the control and initiative of the employees is something to consider.

I think one of the impediments to implementing these ideas is a lack of structure, leadership and mentorship. Mentorship is key to identifying potential initial directions for creative efforts, and nudging creative work in productive directions by asking the right questions and warning of potential pitfalls.

So just a word of caution – if you’re trying to implement this sort of idea, it’ll likely take more structure than setting aside hours.


Thoughts on hiring – prologue



I get to talk to a lot of companies in town and a lot of developers. And one of the things I hear most frequently about is the job market.

Developers want higher pay without having to commute to Toronto. Companies in town have trouble finding developers, particularly more advanced and senior developer talent. Mohawk graduates tend to stay in Hamilton for a few years after graduating before heading towards Toronto/K-W… Hamilton’s market has even been jokingly referred to as a “farm team”. And McMaster graduates generally don’t stay at all.

It’s a pretty complicated ball of yarn to untangle, so I hesitate to try to explain anything or offer any advice to any of the parties involved. Every business is a little different and so is every career path. There’s many interacting and constantly changing variables. There’s a lot of subjectivity.

It’s easy to say “well companies just need to pay more”, but maybe that just isn’t an option. Usually when I meet with a founder / CEO of a company in town, they’re not rolling up in a Mercedes-Benz. When we’re talking about wages it’s a personal thing too, in that we’re talking about people’s lives and career paths that they’re very passionate about.

It’s a hard problem. A really hard problem. And it’s a big thing lately.

All that said… I may write the odd article on this topic going forward. It’s something I’m pretty involved with. I hire people, I help people hire, I train people that are hired by companies, I have a little job board to help people hiring people to hire people, etc. Might as well try to offer advice where I can!

If others have advice, feel free to submit an article too. The more perspectives the better.


HamOnt.js JavaScript Conference speakers announced


When: Saturday October 22nd from 9:00am – 5:00pm

Where: CoMotion on King at 115 King Street East, Hamilton, Ontairo

Cost: $20 regular, $10 student



HamOnt.js is a new JavaScript conference… low cost and kick ass, featuring experts from within and abroad for a full day of talks… we would love for you to join us on Saturday October 22nd!


Check out the schedule of talks below!  HamOnt.js attendees can also expect morning coffee & snacks, lunch, afternoon drinks & snacks, and an after party!




9:00am – 10:00am 


Arrival and registration!  We’ll have coffee and snacks availalbe!



10:00am – 10:45am



Robyn Larsen (@robyn_larsen)

Front-end developer and entrepreneur

Bio: Former nuclear engineer now blurring the lines between work and play as a front-end web developer, mentor and entrepreneur. Over the past few years she has snowboarded some of the world’s most majestic mountains, traveled to over 24 countries, cultivated movements and mentored students. Her tools of choice are HTML5, CSS3, Sass, responsive design, and JavaScript. She lives by challenging assumptions, improving process, and never settles. Now you can find her flying between San Francisco, Toronto and Alberta working alongside clients.



10:45am – 12:00pm


Rami Sayar (@RamiSayar)

Senior Technical Evangelist at Microsoft

Talk: ReactJS basics

Bio:  Rami Sayar is a technologist passionate about the intersection of art, design and the web. For the past 5 years, he has been experimenting with the bleeding edge of emerging technologies, determined to find use for them in everyday life. In his current role as a Senior Technical Evangelist for Microsoft Canada in Montreal, Rami covers technical areas such as open source technologies, open data, and cloud computing, as well as growth hacking and marketing. He is a frequent international speaker and has spoken at prestigious conferences such as Build, FITC, ConFoo, DroidCon, CUSEC, KWS and TEDx at HEC Montreal. Rami is prevented from sleeping by his curiosity for experimentation, his insistence on shipping high quality code and helping startups survive the grind.


Jamie Strachan (@jamiestrachan)

Lead Architect for Digital Operations at CBC

Talk: Mental health for developers

Bio: Jamie Strachan is the Lead Architect for Digital Operations at the CBC, Canada’s public broadcaster, and has been building for the web for over 14 years. Having mostly traded in coding for coaching, he works to help the developers around him be as effective as possible by being a facilitator, an advocate, and an advisor. He also leads a public speaking workshop for his colleagues, plays a lot of board games, and has even managed to do public speaking about board games.


James King (@agentultra)

Developer, game designer, and math nerd

Talk: Functional programming

Bio: James currently works at Weever Apps and has in the past worked as a cloud consultant at Dreamhost, senior developer at Polar Mobile, Digisphere and Panometrics. He is involved in the Python and Openstack communities, and has also made contributions to WebGL, Firefox and Python.  He is interested in functional languages, static analysis, and modelling software systems.



12:00pm – 1:00pm


Lunch including subs from Bonanza Bakery!



1:00pm – 1:45pm


Andrew Carreiro (@ArcadeErrorWin)

Platform Architect at Klick

Talk: Building a Slackbot with Node.js

Bio: Andrew Carreiro is a Platform Architect at Klick Health, building new experiences through technology. He has pioneered new systems for Veeva iRep development, built e-learning applications for multinational banks, and designed networked systems for offices and trade shows.  Andrew completed his B.A. in multimedia at McMaster University.



1:45pm – 2:30pm


Kate Hudson (@k88hudson)

Firefox Engineering at Mozilla

Bio: Kat Hudson is a Firefox engineer at Mozilla.  She’s passionate about making the web better with open source, and lately she’s been working on finding ways to use React and Redux to build new Firefox features.



2:30pm – 3:00pm


Break time with drinks and snacks!



3:00pm – 3:45pm


Wes Bos (@WesBos)

Developer, author, instructor

Talk: What’s new in ES6

Bio: Wes Bos is an independent web developer, UI designer and all around hacker from Toronto, Canada. He is super passionate about design, development, and business spending most of his time working with JavaScript, CSS3, HTML5 and PHP. Wes is one to push the limits of new technology and has been known to publish HTMl5 and Node.js experiments and tutorials to his blog. If you’re a woman looking to break into the developer industry, Wes teaches for the non-profit Ladies Learning Code and #hackeryou#



3:45pm – 4:30pm


Dan Zen (@DanZen)

Inventor and Professor at Sheridan

Talk: ZimJS JavaScript framework

Bio: Dan Zen is an inventor and social environmentalist from Dundas Ontario. He won the 2002 Canadian New Media Awards Programmer of the Year for his site of over 70 innovative games, gadgets and communities at He coordinates the one-year postgrad Sheridan Interactive Multimedia program for which he won Canadian New Media Educator of the Year in 2008 He continues to build for social media and mobile platforms and also deeply explores the relationship between technology and philosophy some of which can be found at


Scott Elcomb (@psema4)

Product Development at Human_Code

Talk: Design Patterns with JavaScript

Bio: Scott Elcomb focuses on API development and works with MEAN technologies as a product developer at Human_Code.  Scott was previously a backend developer at Imagination Plus.  Scott is also a member of the Pirate Party of Canada.


Simon Woodside (@Simon_Woodside)

Co-founder of MedStack

Talk: Why JavaScript Sucks!

Bio:  Simon Woodside serves as the Co-founder and Chief Product Officer at Medstack, Inc. He has been creating mobile apps for more than a decade. A serial entrepreneur, an alumnus of Apple in Cupertino, Simon is now the founder of Monolith, a mobile product development company in Waterloo and Toronto. He’s created an in-car virtual dashboard and replay app for GM, a chat app for kik, and worked with companies from seed through Series A&B, up to the Fortune 50.



4:30pm – 5:00pm


Startup Q&A panel for developers looking at creating a tech startup product!

  • Andrew Holden from Weever Apps
  • Christabel Aryeetey from ToolLinked
  • Blake Laufer from Angel One



5:00pm – 7:00pm


After party – details to be posted shortly.






Interested in sponsoring?  E-mail for details!









Code of conduct

Our conference will follow this standard code of conduct.



Code of awesomeness

We encourage everyone to be excellent to one another!


GameDevDrinks with Ken Seto


When: Wednesday September 28th 2016 from 7:00pm to 10:00pm

Where: The Pheasant Plucker @ 20 Augusta Street, Hamilton, Ontario

Organizer: @GameDevDrinks



Hey GDDers,

We invite all of you within or curious about our game development community to come and join us at the Pheasant Plucker on Wednesday, September 28 for a night of good times and good cheer. This month our guest speaker is Ken Seto from Massive Damage Inc. the studio behind Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander.

From 7:00-10:30 p.m., GameDevDrinks is the place for you to hang out and to hear Ken Sato speak about the trials and tribulations of Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander, and theirKickstarter strategy. Afterwards you can chat with Ken Seto, share your game concepts and ideas, tell and trade stories, show off game demos or just network and hang out because at GDD our goal is to create a casual and creative social environment for anyone – student, hobbyist, enthusiast and professional alike – who shares the common interest of game development of any kind.

We look forward to seeing you on the 28th!



National learn to code day workshop this Saturday



When: Saturday September 24th 2016 from 10:00am to 4:00pm

Where: CoMotion On King, 3rd Floor, 115 King Street East, Hamilton, Ontario

Organizer: Ladies Learning Code Hamilton (@llchamont)



From video games to interactive stories, digital media is a powerful way to make your message, cause, or idea stand out in a crowded online world.

Canada has become a major leader in the video game industry, yet, like most technology, only a small percentage of games are built by women.

In this hands-on, beginner-friendly workshop, you will create a game, quiz, or interactive story that’s centred on a case, community, or message that you care about while learning critical coding skills.


September WordPress meetup – analytics!



When: Thursday September 22nd 2016 at 7:00pm

Where: CoMotion on King at 115 King St East, Hamilton, Ontario

Organizer: WordPress Meetup



Join us for our next meetup! Come and meet other WordPress users, developers, bloggers and more in and around Hamilton.


We’ll chat about analytics – how to add analytics to your site, what information you can get from it, and comparing Google Analytics to the stats you can get from Jetpack (both free).


6:30pm – doors open, networking
7pm-7:30pm – news, presentation
7:30pm-8pm – networking, discussing WordPress, Q&A
8:pm-? – Post-hangout beverage(s) – TBA

Grab a coffee, tea or soft drink before heading up at one of the nearby cafés.


Internet of Things meetup this Wednesday



When: Wednesday September 21st 2016 from 7:00pm to 9:00pm

Where: CoMotion on King at 115 King St East, Hamilton, Ontario

Organizer: Hamilton Internet of Things Meetup



First I’d like to thank Greg Trasuk of Webage Solutions for generously sponsoring the snacks and drinks for our next meetup. Now, I just have to see about sneaking beer into CoMotion 😉

Also, I’d like to thank everyone who come out to the last meeting. I’m sure you were as disappointed as I was that the Onion folks did not make it. But Its understandable. BTW their Kickstarter reached ~$672K!!! Hopefully I will be able to get them to come to a future meetup.

This time around I’m going talk about the many different ways that microcontrollers can interact with other devices and services on the internet. Its not just about getting data off a sensor platform to a database or webpage. A large part of IoT cloud computing is connecting IoT devices, web APIs for services, databases, and other devices together to create applications. There are a lot of offerings out there from Temboo on the simple side to the full blown enterprise IoT cloud solutions offered by the big players such as Amazon. And the Omega has its own cloud solution as well.

If anyone else is interested in presenting a talk, let me know.


Freelancer meetup this Wednesday



When: Wednesday September 21st 2016 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm

Where: The Pheasant Plucker at 20 Augusta Street, Hamilton, Ontario

Organizer: Freelancer Association



There’s still time to meet our 2016 goals! In this casual meetup we’d love to get your feedback on what topics we could cover, and brainstorm ways we can all make the most out of the rest of the year.

Whether you’ve been with the group since the beginning or never been to a meetup, come and share your thoughts on what you’d like to know, and let’s help make 2016 a great year for you!


6:30pm-7:00pm – Registration and mingling
7:00pm-7:30pm – Quick introduction to everyone, brainstorming
7:30pm-8:30pm – More getting to know others!


There is plenty of parking in the IMPARK parking lot next to the venue. Entrance to the parking lot is accessible off James Street S. as well as off Augusta Street beside The Pheasant Plucker (20 Augusta). It is $4 for the evening.


Freelancer Meetups are monthly events run by the Hamilton Freelancers Association. They are free, and open to all professionals, entrepreneurs, and freelancers in the Hamilton area, whether you’re just starting a freelancing consulting business, or you’re running a consulting business full time.

We bring in some of the best and brightest to give talks on ways to help you build and grow your entrepreneurial venture, along with networking.

The Hamilton Freelancers Association is free to join to become a member and is open to freelancers of all skills and specialties, including designers, developers, marketers, videographers, photographers, writers, and everyone in between.


VR meetup featuring Commercializer Dev Lab launch



When: Tuesday September 20th 2016 from 7:00pm – 9:00pm

Where: Innovation Factory – McMaster Innovation Park at 101A-175 Longwood Road South, Hamilton, Ontario

Organizer: VR Society



Tim Dashwood just got back from the IBC show in Holland and will talk about his experience as a speaker as well as what he was able to check out on the show floor.  360VR Toolbox

We will be running demos on the Microsoft Hololens

Also running demos on the HTC Vive

We are opening up our VR/AR/MR Commercializer development lab.  It is a dynamic work in progress and we encourage all suggestions and input.    Our lab will not be open to the public however we will be working with McMaster University, local colleges as well as our industry partners and associates in creating innovative ideas into commercial solutions.


First Code Night this Monday



When: Monday September 19th 2016 from 7:0pm to 9:00pm

Where: CoMotion on King at 115 King Street East, Hamilton, Ontario (3rd floor)

Organizer: Secret Agency



Code Nights is a place for programmers to meet with other like minded people to share ideas and help each other reach their programming potential.

When you first start learning to code it can be difficult to find mentors to help solve problems and grow your ideas, Code Nights aims to solve this problem. No matter what language you like to program in come by to strengthen your understanding of programming and make some new friends in Hamilton’s tech sector.

Bring a laptop to work and showcase your project or just come by to meet other programmers. We have a few reputable programmers available to answer any questions you may have, and hopefully we can all learn a little from each other.

Each Code Night is not language specific or project specific, it is intended to help, mentor and grow Hamilton’s tech community in a creative and welcoming environment.

Hope to see you there!