Vendasta is a Saskatoon-based software company with more than 575 employees. About a third of Vendastians work in Research and Development (R&D), producing and improving its platform and accompanying in-house digital products. Vendasta’s second-largest team is Marketing Services, making up about 20 per cent of Vendasta’s staff. This group acts as a digital marketing fulfilment team for Vendasta customers, utilizing Vendasta’s products and platform for small and medium businesses on the channel partner’s behalf. Other teams include operations, sales, and marketing.
Immigrant Muse spoke with Jean Parchewsky, VP of People Operations, to understand Vendasta’s diversity, equity and inclusion practices, and work culture. According to Jean, the strength of Vendasta’s workforce lies in its “ability to remain agile, continue to evolve and innovate.”
Although Vendasta is headquartered in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, two recent acquisitions have added employees in Ontario, the United States of America and Mexico to their workforce; and Vendasta continues to hire top talents from around the world. “We’ve had a great success hiring from Brazil and India and helping them to come to Canada”, says Jean.
In February 2020, Luis Camara joined a virtual job fair organized by VanHack. Although Luis had a well-paying job in Brazil, he was seeking relocation options because of his desire to experience a different culture. Vendasta was one of the potential employers at the fair. Luis interviewed with Vendasta for a software developer position, and he was hired in March; the same month COVID hit Canada, leading to the closure of the Canadian borders. Luis began working remotely from Brazil until November 2020, when he moved with his wife to Saskatoon.
Due to the pandemic, settlement was a little challenging, especially on Luis’ wife. Unlike Luis, she didn’t come to Canada with a job in hand. In addition, her profession is regulated, so getting through the licensure process with her limited English language skill was a struggle. Still, Luis said, “the settlement agencies helped her brush up her language skills and put her through the process of obtaining her license to practice in her profession”. Although she has yet to get her license, she now has a transition job within the same industry and is working on getting her license.
Six months after moving to Canada, Luis was surprised by the opportunity to apply for a managerial role at Vendasta. “That was quite surprising”, Luis admitted, “because it was quite early and I was an immigrant, so I had those doubts about whether my language skills would be good enough to fill up that position” he added. To clear his doubts about his competency to handle the role, Luis spoke with the Chief Technology Officer at Vendasta, who assured him that his accent and language skill were not a barrier to success in the role. “I don’t need to speak in perfect English or have the right accent. The important thing was to be able to communicate, and having the right skills was enough for me to be in that position”, Luis concluded. In December 2021, Luis officially became the Engineering Manager at Vendasta.
From his job search to his settlement in Canada and career growth, Luis says proper planning has been critical to his success and advises other immigrants and potential immigrants to plan. “I had a plan for myself and knew that I needed to get better at some of my skills, and I worked on that right away” he revealed. “I always asked myself how I can improve to help my team achieve their objectives”, added Luis. He also believed in himself, despite his immigration status. “I can do as better as anyone here. Doing my best and knowing that being an immigrant is not a limitation helped me a lot. What should matter is the work I am doing and how I’m bringing value to the company”, Luis concluded.
In agreement with Luis, Jean maintained that lack of Canadian experience is not a deal-breaker to finding a job at Vendasta. This explains why Vendasta’s talent acquisition efforts are not limited to hiring local talents. However, their job vacancies are primarily published on Saskjobs.ca. Jean confirmed, “Saskjobs does a really good job of connecting immigrants that are looking for jobs to our company. Although they can’t give us the applicants directly, they can share our job posts with them, and we sponsor qualified candidates through the Global Talent Stream. We also partner with VanHack, a product company in Vancouver with a platform for hiring in different countries, so they do all the vetting of hundreds of hundreds of really experienced people. They find people and merge them to us, so we use that as an avenue as well.”
As part of their inclusion effort, Vendasta builds a support system to help newcomer employees navigate the system and culture in Canada and within the company. From a community research slack channel where employees publish new things they discover in the city; to an in-house help manual, Vendasta offers practical help to newcomer employees in their first few weeks to help with their settlement.
Luis confirmed, “when I arrived, I was expecting some negative comments about my communication skills and cultural difference, but there was nothing like that. Instead, everyone was willing to help.” Luis believes that the multicultural workforce made him feel at home. “When people talked about my Brazilian culture and origin, it was not on a negative note but usually curiosity to learn about my culture”, Luis added.
As one of Canada’s top growing technology companies, Vendasta is building a long-term partnership with the University of Saskatchewan and other local post-secondary institutions to provide thought-leadership that will help these schools to provide training to fill industry skill-gaps. In the meantime, Vendasta is looking at skilled foreign workers to fill the skill gaps. Jean opined, “I feel that the software companies that are in Brazil or India or other big (tech) centres have given these people so much more knowledge than we have right now, so it just allows us to be diverse and have the right talents to share their expertise with us…we can leverage on everybody’s experience.”
With the increasing number of job vacancies in relation to available applicants, Jean argued that many applicants are unable to land a job because they lack the required skills, especially soft skills for the job. “It is the soft skills that matter. How do you relate to people, and how do you communicate your ideas through storytelling? Because coding languages change all the time, improving soft skills and presentation skills are more important than learning the newest coding languages. Our engineering managers feel that they can teach that if the person has the brainpower and the right attitude to learn”, Jean offered.
Jean further highlighted the following best practices for job applicants:
- Research the job and make sure that both you, the job and the company are a good fit for each other. This requires understanding the needed day-to-day task of the role and deciding if it’s something you enjoy doing.
- Reach out to people on LinkedIn that have done or are doing the same job and at the same company to ask about the company, the culture, and the role. “Don’t be afraid to reach out to the people operations team”, Jean advised.
- Your resume should highlight how your experience fits into the role you are applying for.
- Don’t be afraid to admit things that have gone wrong in your career and how it has led to your growth. This shows that you’re self-aware.
- Learn how to articulate everything you bring to the team.
“We want people who aren’t afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. It’s not about being perfect; it’s about learning as you are growing”, concluded Jean.
Why should you consider working at Vendasta? In addition to offering great benefits and compensation packages, everyone is encouraged to bring their whole self to work within a culture that embraces diversity. In Jean’s words, “Just be yourself and don’t worry about always being correct”. Vendasta organizes many social events to make working fun for employees. “We try to do one big event every quarter and then do smaller ones on Fridays where employees get together with ping pong games or karaoke. Just things that they can do with friends,” Jean revealed. Most of these social events have been on hold due to the pandemic. Also, Vendasta University provides relevant learning and development opportunities for employees.
Luis says the best thing he likes about Vendasta is how welcoming everyone is. “One thing that always attracted me to the company was how welcoming people were; how they treated me very well in the interviews and after I joined the company. The Chief Technology Officer took his time to have lunch with me, listened to things I struggled with, and offered advice. Vendasta is welcoming to not only immigrants but to every employee, making sure that they are happy while they are working”.