This post was originally written by David Billson of rTraction.
ZTR has been a cornerstone member of London’s technology community for over 30 years. For those that have always been curious, you can use Zee-TR or Zed-TR. “We answer to both,” smiled Brad Kriter, Sr. Manager, Solutions and Program Management for ZTR’s IoT division. “We tend to deal with a lot of U.S. customers so ‘Zee’ tends to be more predominant, but ‘Zed’ is also correct being a proud Canadian company.”
For those who haven’t heard of the IoT movement, Brad explains “IoT stands for the Internet of Things. In the past even intelligent equipment and machines had to have information downloaded or analyzed after completing a business cycle. Now any device can be hooked up to the Internet which allows us to communicate and gather information in real time. Another important difference that the IoT revolution has introduced is the ability for devices to connect directly to one another without having to go through a central server.”
In consumer products the IoT comes up in ways that we take for granted – “Find your iPhone” is a good example of a consumer device that is constantly talking to the Internet to update its status. The ability to self-track and self-report is built in. In the industrial equipment market that ZTR serves, although the equipment is often highly intelligent with advanced control systems, it’s often not connected to anything beyond the machine itself. That’s where ZTR comes in and offers a solution that consists of custom hardware and software that communicates with the machines control system and connects the machine to the internet.
The company continues to experience growth in both the Industrial IoT Division and Rail Division; which provides locomotive control systems and other rail modernization and IoT solutions. “We have 160 staff here in London, and we have about 15 open positions currently. Many in the software development area,” Brad commented. “We are looking for sales and marketing as well.”
Brad stated that since he joined the company 3 ½ years ago that it has seen significant growth. “It’s not uncommon to have 10-12 or more positions open at any given time. One of the challenges to grow our business is the availability of software developers in this region.”
However, ZTR is keen on helping to solve this challenge not just for ZTR, but for the broader community. Brad cites several initiatives that ZTR engages in – from participating in local career fairs at Fanshawe and Western, to actively promoting technology careers on campus, to attending the high schools as part of TechAlliance’s Secondary School Technology Awareness Campaign.
During Tech Week, high school teachers can invite volunteers from London’s technology community to come and speak to their students. “It’s important to let high school students know about the opportunity to work in tech. In particular, we focus on getting the word out to young women that there’s a need for women in engineering and software development. We actively encourage students to consider a career in technology, and promote that there is lots of opportunity if they want to stay in this region.”
Brad believes that it’s important for all technology companies to try to encourage recent grads from Western and Fanshawe to stay in our community. “Having an increased talent pool in the city would help several other tech companies, not just ZTR,” explains Brad. “A growing technology sector ultimately helps us all grow. The more we can promote good technology jobs in this region the easier it is for us all respectively to recruit and retain talent into the area.”
Brad’s career path is an example of how you don’t have to have a straight focus on technology to end up in a technology career. Trained as a Mechanical Engineer at the University of Waterloo, Brad spent several years in manufacturing with Siemens and Electro-Motive; the latter experience with locomotives and rail technology lead him to ZTR.
Brad was hired at ZTR to build the Project Management Office to help the growing company effectively manage the larger, more complex projects it was undertaking. The experience working in both new development projects and directly with strategic customers was a natural path that lead to his new role in the Commercial team for the IoT line of business.
“IoT connects industrial equipment to the internet. It allows companies to know how their equipment is running, where it’s located, when maintenance is due, and feeding data into our customer’s existing business systems like ERP, CRM and Rental Software.” Brad’s broad experience in all aspects of the ZTR customer profile lead him to be an ideal candidate to connect all the pieces together with IoT.
“My experience going from manufacturing to a career in technology is why it’s important to get out to talk to students,” Brad elaborated. “We can put the thought in their minds that there’s a career path to technology here in London regardless of where their initial studies take them. It’s not uncommon at ZTR to have people excelling in technical roles when their career did not start out in technology.”
Brad credits the cooperative experience during his University days for the experience and exposure to multiple different potential career paths. “At Waterloo we had 6 cooperative experiences, and I worked for 5 different companies. It was important to me to gain those experiences as it helped me figure out what type of job I may want – and just as importantly – career paths that I would not thrive in.”
It’s part of the reason that ZTR engages in cooperatives from Fanshawe and internships from Western, “It’s important we give students at the post-secondary level experience working in technology in London. It’s been a great recruitment tool as we have hired several of those students once they graduate from their program.”
All in all, Brad recommends that technology companies support the high school initiative and tell their stories about the vibrancy of the technology in London. You can find out more about the Secondary School Technology Awareness Campaign at XYZ come out to hear some regional success stories at the Techcellence Awards.