Like most tech-savvy Canadians, I've been following the ongoing saga of RIM. The difference is that Martyn Bassett Associates has a bit of history with the company - we placed several candidates there back in the early days - and have a vested interest in the Waterloo tech talent-pool. With that in mind, the news that RIM is going to trim at least 2000 positions got me thinking: Is it ever in your best interest to lose your job?
I'm not suggesting that job loss isn't an incredibly traumatic event. There are a lot of situations where it's the worst-case scenario, but for skilled employees in a competitive landscape - like the Ontario technology market - there's an inherent opportunity. In the interest of staying positive, let's try to find a silver lining on a partiularly ominous dark cloud.
If you've been working for one company for any length of time, you've probably found your groove. You might still love what you're doing, but you've got a good handle on what it takes to get the job done and keep people happy. It's a lot less stressful than the first week at a new job, but everybody is more creative when they're still eager to impress the new boss.
Ex-RIM employees will find themselves looking to make their next move in one of Canada's most vibrant technology ecosystems. According to Communitech there are 800+ tech firms and 300+ startups in the Waterloo area. These companies might not be global contenders like RIM, but they have a voracious need for talent and a completely different set of challenges.
When you applied for your first job you probably found yourself wondering how to get the 3 - 5 years experience you needed if nobody would hire you without it. Eventually you found something, but now you're back in the market with experience under your belt and someone that was a small cog in an organization of 16,000 can be a big wheel on a 10-person team.
There's also an advantage to having a big brand represented on a resume, since people can't resist paying more attention to something we already recognize. RIM is definitely a recognizable brand and even though there will be a lot of resumes with RIM on them, it still counts for something. (It might not be good news for grads over the next few years, but that's another story.)
Going It Alone
Depending on your situation, the idea of starting your own company is either incredibly inspiring or terribly impractical, but it's something that occurs to everyone at one time or another. The reality is that a dramatic break from previous employment can provide the push you need to see if you've got what it takes to be your own boss.
If you're an entrepreneur in Ontario, you've got a dizzying array of resources to take advantage of. There are startup accelerators like Jolt, Hyperdrive and Extreme Startups that nurture great ideas and interesting companies. There's also conferences, meet-ups and seminars focused on becoming the next great startup, so don't be surprised if a few ex-RIM employees end up making headlines.
Regardless of how the situation at RIM plays out, I genuinely hope that everyone involved lands on their feet and that the company course corrects quickly enough to stay competitive. We took a lot of pride in our work with RIM and I know the same is true for everyone there today.