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Amazon’s hot new Ottawa hire staying put to build Echo team

Amazon has opened an office in Ottawa and is on a hiring spree.

MIKE SEGAR/REUTERS

There has been much teeth-gnashing over the years about the great brain drain of smart, accomplished Canadians to the United States for marquee jobs with big tech firms. But with global tech sector talent in such hot demand, several Canadians have shown that, if you hold out in the face of a motivated bidder for your services, the brain drain can not only be plugged, but reversed. Tech giants such as Microsoft, Yahoo, TripAdvisor and Google are willing to not only keep coveted Canadians where they are, but let them build and manage teams in their local markets.

That appears to be happening in Ottawa, where Amazon has opened an office and is on a hiring spree.

Or to be more exact, it has hired experienced local programmer Francois Boisvert, a veteran tech entrepreneur and former executive with prominent local app developer Macadamian Technologies, as manager of software development for Echo, a voice-activated wireless speaker technology that answers user questions, controls lights and thermostats and plays music. Mr. Boisvert started in late June to work on Alexa, the accompanying mobile app for the high-profile consumer offering. In a subsequent LinkedIn posting "I am ready to hire to form my team. No kidding, the game's ON!"

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Mr. Boisvert declined comment when contacted by the Globe. But his enthusiastic LinkedIn posting does say Mr. Boisert is looking to hire "some of the smartest brains on this globe" who know "how to build great mobile products" for consumers. "I am forming a Mobile development engineering team in Ottawa which will work directly at building the solutions and applications behind Amazon Echo and other Amazon products and services.

"Here is your opportunity to make history by impacting the customer experience, design, architecture, and implementation of a cutting edge mobile product used every day, by people you know."

Mr. Boisvert says he is looking to hire "multiple" senior and intermediate engineers proficient in Apple's iOS mobile operating system to develop and design mobile applications to expand the platform's appeal to customers.

This isn't the first time Amazon has built a team around a skilled Canadian in his home market: The e-commerce giant hired veteran tech executive Dennis Pilarinos as an engineering manager in Vancouver in 2012, where he recruited a team of 50 engineers to build the full web browser for the company's Fire phone. He left last year to found a startup called Buddybuild.com, which he plans to keep in Vancouver.

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About the Author

Sean Silcoff joined The Globe and Mail in January, 2012, following an 18-year-career in journalism and communications. He previously worked as a columnist and Montreal correspondent for the National Post and as a staff writer at Canadian Business Magazine, where he was project co-ordinator of the magazine's inaugural Rich 100 list. More

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