Jill Tipping is a passionate advocate for the tech industry—having spent most of her career working with, and for tech companies, she is no stranger to the challenges and needs of the sector. As BC Tech’s President and CEO, she is determined to make BC a top ten startup ecosystem worldwide by strengthening connections through collaboration, building a strong home team of anchor companies, and pursuing a global strategy.
A powerhouse with tactical experience and industry know-how, Tipping is poised to play a vital role in the future of tech in BC. We recently sat down with her to find out more about her journey to BC Tech, her thoughts on the organization, and the current landscape of the tech industry.
Q: For those who don’t know you, tell us a bit about your career and your passion for tech…
Jill: I’ve always worked in Technology, and I love it. I really enjoy the pace, the can-do attitude, the willingness to embrace change, and the tackling of difficult problems to make a difference. Most recently, I worked at Schneider Electric Solar as their VP Operations and CFO. I absolutely loved my time with Schneider Electric’s Solar business. It’s amazing that human ingenuity can build equipment that transforms sunlight into electricity. That’s modern day magic!
I truly believe technology is the great equalizer—it’s transforming lives every single day. It’s also incredibly personal to me, without it my life may have been very different as my daughter is the product of IVF.
Q: What inspired you to take on this challenge?
Jill: When the opportunity arose to lean in as the next CEO of BC Tech I didn’t hesitate. I knew it was a unique opportunity to follow in the footsteps of a great leader, to take over a strong and healthy organization–but still a place where I believe I can make a difference. I’ve been involved in a lot of turnarounds— this might be the first time I’ve taken over something so healthy!
Q: What is your style of leadership?
Jill: I’m a relentlessly positive, results driven person. I’ve got a clear vision of what could be, and I know it isn’t always an easy path, there are lots of ways things can go wrong, but I know that if we focus on what could go wrong we’ll never do anything. So I pursue the vision, ignore the naysayers, and deliver results.
Q: What excites you about BC tech industry?
Jill: We are the fastest growing tech sector in Canada. Three Canadian unicorns have roots in BC and we have so many other strong homegrown tech anchors such as ACL, Avigilon, Broadband TV, BuildDirect, Global Relay, Hootsuite, Slack, and Stemcell.
Tech employs more than 100,000 people in the tech industry and another 50,000 in tech roles in non-Tech companies. 150,000 people! More than mining, oil, gas, and forestry combined. BC was one of the nine shortlisted applicants to be recognized for potential funding as a Canadian ‘Supercluster’–the winning bids will be chosen next year. We have a roster of the world’s leading tech companies located here: Amazon, Boeing, Disney, EA, GE, Microsoft, SAP, and Sony.
I also want to specifically call out the convergence of creative tech talent in video game, digital animation, and special effects which means that BC has become one of the global leaders in 3D visualization technology. The augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality industry is expected to hit $150B by 2020. We’re currently in a great position to take a large piece of that pie.
Q: What worries you about the industry?
Jill: We have two big problems at the moment.
The biggest problem is Talent. The Tech Talent report BC Tech commissioned in 2016 by the Province of British Columbia’s Ministry of Jobs, Tourism & Skills Training and in partnership with the Information and Communications Technology Council, and the Vancouver Economic Commission shows that there were 149,000 people employed in tech in 2015. By 2021, the report projected that the number of jobs in the sector could grow to 196,000. So far so good, right? Well, the problem is that we aren’t on a trajectory to have enough people to fill these roles—the report predicts there will only be 165,500 relevantly skilled workers available. That is a 30,000 person job gap! So what are we going to do about it? Give up on the 30,000 jobs that could be created? Say no to big change? Or do we put in place plans to make sure that we close that talent gap? We need to ensure that we have the right number of spaces in our post-secondary institutions for tech relevant qualifications, that we have a flexible scaled up vision for co-op education, and that we create pathways into tech careers that work for everyone, right across the province. And with a gap this big, we also need to be sure we continue to develop immigration policies that help BC be at the front of the queue for the best and brightest in the world.
The second problem is that we aren’t growing enough homegrown anchors. They are critical to the success of a thriving long-term Tech ecosystem and we need at least double the number we have today—more than that if we want to outcompete on a Global stage. We’re talking about companies with revenues in excess of $25M with 100+ employees. We have an amazingly healthy startup scene in BC, we need to focus on helping those startups to scale up and grow into sustainable homegrown anchors and unicorns for the future. This will be a key priority.
Q: What are your priorities for the BC Tech Association?
Jill: Our number one priority is fulfilling the vision Bill Tam brought: To make BC the best place to grow a tech company. Period.
We’ve assembled an amazing team of purpose-driven activists: effecting positive change is in our DNA.
BC Tech takes an ecosystem view. We nurture and encourage our ecosystem strengths, but if something is well covered already by companies themselves or other organizations we leave them to it. We see our role as identifying critical gaps and problems in the ecosystem and focusing resources and attention on those. So our priorities are to strengthen the ecosystem, increase the number of homegrown anchors, tackle the talent gap and pay attention to the global context.
We believe that if we build the strongest possible Tech ecosystem, BC won’t just have a Tech industry success story, our entire economy will become a Tech enabled global success story—and a clean, sustainable one at that. Tech economies are smart economies and clean is a side effect of smart! So we are going to work with the entire community, our members, sponsors, partners, post-secondary institutions, and governments to ensure that BC becomes a global hotspot for innovation and growth.