Vancouver-based data analysis organization iTOTEM Analytics collects, analyzes, and processes data into a simplified form to help businesses and organizations tell compelling stories. Despite dealing with huge amounts of data, the iTOTEM team is only made up of nine employees.
That’s why last April, with business taking off over the past two years and several big data-collection campaigns on the horizon, founder Colleen Sweet knew she needed some additional support —but hiring a full-time permanent employee wasn’t an ideal solution. When she came across TECHNATION’s Career Ready Program, she knew she had to learn more.
Sweet was initially drawn to TECHNATION’s commitment to helping young Indigenous talent build experience—an objective her company shares.
iTOTEM was founded on the principles of embracing diversity, including bringing together people from diverse disciplines and ethnicities, maintaining a balance of male and female employees, and creating opportunities for Indigenous workers. “One of my founding team members is Indigenous, from Wei Wai Kum First Nation, and our orientation is to hire Indigenous staff whenever we can,” says Sweet.
By offering an increased wage subsidy of 70% (to a maximum of $7,000) for Indigenous students, the Career Ready program made it possible for iTOTEM to hire Montana Forgie, a Ryerson University communications student, who is a part of the Squamish Nation. Montana was brought on to support the business by writing success stories for a longtime client, developing a new website for iTOTEM, and maintaining a contact database. She also provided support during a client pitch and worked with the Squamish Nation, the Wei Wai Kum First Nation, and a designer to create an ‘Every Child Matters’ T-shirt.
As Sweet began the process of securing a wage subsidy through the Career Ready Program, she discovered TECHNATION offered resources and laid out responsibilities for both the employer and the student.
“Some of the questions in the Student Learning Plan were very interesting, so it caused me to think,” says Sweet. “There was accountability,” she added, noting that the structure provided by the program was especially helpful because Montana had just completed her first year of university and this was her first work experience in her field of study.
Sweet also appreciated the access to Heather McGilvary, TECHNATION’s project manager for Western Canada: “I emailed her and she got right back to me. I thought, ‘Wow, this is a good experience, for sure.’”
iTOTEM focuses on helping companies and organizations tell engaging stories based on validated data. “We want to see the people behind the numbers,” Sweet says. Their team specializes in making “complex data simple, verified and shareworthy,” and they work with communications partners to craft stories.
Hiring a student gave iTOTEM an opportunity to bring some of the writing in-house. “Fortis is a gas utility, and Montana came in to help us write success stories about the suppliers that are part of their large capital projects,” Sweet explains.
In addition to providing writing support for clients, Montana worked with the team as they began the process of redeveloping iTOTEM’s own website with North Star Strategic Group. “Montana worked with the whole team on developing a wireframe, with a designer on rebranding our site, and with staff to get their bios,” says Sweet. “She’s just really done a great job.”
Montana’s contributions helped iTOTEM at a busy time, and her work on the website will help them with continued growth. Without TECHNATION and the Career Ready wage subsidy, it might not have been possible. “TECHNATION allows entrepreneurs like me to have courage to take a chance on someone, and to hire,” says Sweet. “When I found TECHNATION, the barrier was removed.”