Jamie Petten | President & Executive Director | Kanata North Business Association | Connecting the community in Canada’s largest technology park

Transcript

DA: Welcome to TEN, the Tenant Experience Network. I’m your host, David Abrams. In this episode, we are connecting with Jamie Petten, President and Executive Director, of the Kanata North Business Association. In this episode, we learn about Jamie’s career journey, having spent the last decade working in Kanata North Technology Park, Canada’s largest technology park. She initially worked for the L-SPARK Accelerator Program, transitioning more recently into leading the Kanata North Business Association and Hub350. Her story began on the west end cliffs of Jamaica, supporting two Canadian entrepreneurs, building a boutique destination hotel, restaurant and spa. Jamie draws on her experience in the hospitality industry as she continues to guide KNBA into the future. She discusses the need for human connection in order to feel our best mentally, but also highlights the need to think more globally and embrace the changes in thinking around how we live, work, play, learn, and innovate. Since launching Hub350 in October, 2021, Jamie shared that it has seen over 6,000 visitors connecting in person for hot-desking, larger events, community town halls, company gatherings, and more. She facilitates a dialogue around how the technology park will continue to evolve in response to emerging needs. In order to attract and retain talent, a big part of the conversation amongst all of the stakeholders is adding new opportunities to live and play in the park, and making new investments to enhance physical workplaces. Jamie is very enthusiastic about the opportunity for HILO to play a role in helping to connect all the partners in the park and promote all of the park’s activities. She loves innovation and the role that Kanata North Technology Park plays in supporting its community members. We’re excited to share this podcast with you, so be sure to subscribe to TEN so you never miss an episode of the Tenant Experience Network.

And now I’d like to welcome Jamie to the show. For our listeners, this is actually a take two. Jamie and I tried to record the show earlier this week on a VIA train from Toronto to Ottawa. Sadly, due to intermittent wifi capability we had to reschedule for today. So I’m glad we can reconnect and start the conversation again, Jamie.

JP: Well, I’m always happy to spend time with you and it just, it goes to show that there’s still work for us to do, certainly in the technology park, and I’m looking forward to our discussion today.

DA: Absolutely. So let’s just kick things off first with a little bit about your journey to your current position role. How did you get started?

JP:  Sure. So I am, my name is Jamie Petten, I’m president and CEO of the Kanata North Business Association and now Hub350, and I have the honor of representing Canada’s largest technology park. Today, the technology park represents over 540 technology companies, from early stage startup all the way through to large multinational, very diverse coexistence of tech ecosystem in the park, and 33,000 people directly employed. I’ve spent the last decade in the park myself, so I, prior to this role, worked as a founding member of the team with Leo Lax and Patrick White at L-SPARK, an accelerator program that you are very familiar with now. And, you know, I really, I think earned my chops in the technology industry, working with Leo, learning from him, and also supporting early stage entrepreneurs as they’re going from startup through to scale up. It was an incredible experience. We, in my time with L-SPARK, five years, we supported over 45 to 50 entrepreneurs in the emerging portfolio, raising millions in venture capital, so I, you know, I really enjoyed that time, I think it was a natural progression for me to move from L-SPARK into this role representing the park on the whole, and an incredible honor, honestly, something that I’ve, you know, really embraced. So that’s me in a nutshell. It’s not where I started my career though. I actually, I started my career on the west end cliffs of Jamaica, again, supporting two Canadian entrepreneurs as they were ambitiously building a boutique hotel, restaurant and spa, and so that destination marketing element of, I think what I do here within Canada’s largest technology park has kind of come full circle, and so many other lessons learned from that journey, but we’re not here to chat about that today .

DA: And of course, I love the hospitality industry and there’s so much to learn from it.

JP: Yeah.

DA: And I think that the commercial real estate industry is now looking at pulling a page from the playbook of the hospitality industry, recognizing that we really need to be more hospitable every single day. And so I think

JP: Yeah.

DA: That experience obviously has lent you well and I think is very apropos to this conversation that we’re about to have. So, I mean, certainly the experience that you’ve had really makes it clear where and how you ended up in this position, but anything else that you feel made you uniquely suited for this opportunity? Skills, mentors, colleagues, books, what has helped you to be so successful?

JP: Well, I’m still on that journey, but certainly, mentors, first and foremost. And I was very lucky, like you were David, to be surrounded by a number of highly experienced entrepreneurs who were giving back their time to the portfolio of companies within L-SPARK and by osmosis, I think I was fortunate to be able to absorb some of that. But in addition to that, you know, we go back to the experience in Jamaica and really thinking about that hospitality industry while we’re at this transformative time now, and you know, how we deliver an experience to our teams within a corporate company culture, how we deliver an experience, you know, to our park for the employees, the employment base on the whole, and you know, I think some of that, those elements certainly have carried with me and destination marketing certainly, of how do we really bring the full picture of a community, of a place together and make it compelling and differentiated and, you know, and stand above of the noise. But in addition to that, you know, what are the elements of community that really matter to someone as they’re making choices to live, work, play, learn, and innovate. So I, you know, I’ve gathered some of those tidbits along the way and have brought them to the business association.

DA: Yeah. And it’s been an amazing journey and I can’t think of anyone better suited, given, you know, all that you’ve done to be leading the charge here. To help set the stage for our listeners and provide some context, HILO recently launched its workplace engagement platform at the Kanata North Business Park, the technology park in collaboration with KMBA and Hub350. And we’re using our newly released HILO starter program to help, you know, create a unique digital gateway, connecting, as you’ve already said, you know, 10 million square feet of office buildings and other community stakeholders, including local businesses, as well as educational partners to the over 30,000 people that make Canada’s largest technology park their home. And so it’s a very exciting and ambitious project. We’ll talk more about that, but let’s dive right in with sort of a question to kick us off, that’s very, you know, not only apropos to the technology part, but to the industry at large. Commentary still coming out on a daily basis about the return to the workplace, and still, today, very extreme opinions being expressed, often confrontational,

JP:  Yeah.

DA:  Sometimes polarizing. You know, we really believe that now is the right time to dig in, live, work in the world as it is right now. We cannot project to a date in the future when we think we’ll return to normal, and maybe that’s the old normal, you know, perhaps live the world now

JP:  Yeah.

DA: With Covid is our normal, not our new normal, but our normal. So I’m just wondering what you think that means for the KNBA community and your members, both buildings, local retailers, businesses, educational partners, and all of the other stakeholders, .

JP: Yeah, I think I mentioned this last time we were chatting that, I don’t know where it popped up on one of my feeds, but someone had been mentioning that anyone that’s thinks that we’re returning to a state of normal or what we experienced back in 2019 is just totally out to lunch. Like we’re so far now beyond that. And I think through the experience of the last two to three years certainly, of being isolated in our homes, of really not being physically connected in person with one another, we’ve learned that there’s an element of human connection that we need, that we need to have, in order to feel, you know, mentally at our best, at our most connected. But innovation also happens in person. It happens by the water cooler, it happens at a lunch table, it happens, you know, as we’re whiteboarding and strategizing and getting together as teams. So there’s, I think, pieces of that in-person experience from, you know, pre Covid that we are going to continue to carry with us, but as we look to the future of our communities, the future of our work environments, we’ve also determined that there are better ways to integrate work and life. You know, I can hop on a Zoom with you from a train and you know, we’re going to work on making that a little bit better, but I can also do that from home and I can do it from the office. What it enables me to do, David, is we’re in two completely different regions. Our companies now have a much easier means of going global, of connecting with potential customers, connecting with investors, connecting with the world, and raising the profile of themselves all with the click of a button. And so we, as I think a technology industry certainly are embracing that, and you’re seeing lots of news of companies moving to hybrid or moving to remote, that’s, you know, an element that we need to take under consideration, you know, and I think for KNBA especially, we’re not naive or shied away from ambitious projects and ambitious ways of thinking, and I think it’s just we’re at this poignant time of where do we go next? What is the future of that live, work, play, learn, and innovate? And it’s been an exciting time to be able to pause and reflect and now plan for that future.

DA: Now you’ve launched Hub350 in the height of the pandemic, it’s now a year old and, you know, at a time when, you know, building occupancy was still quite low, just share with me a little bit about the Hub350 experience over the last year?

JP:  Yeah, so we launched Hub350 just as the restrictions and limitations to gathering in person were starting to come down, end of October of last year. We’ve had over 6,000 visitors to Hub350 in this last year, connecting in person for whether it’s, you know, just a soft landing or a hot-desk to open up their laptop and have a hot coffee, or perhaps reconnect with a colleague, all the way through to, you know, large events of hundreds collaborating within our RBCX finance quarter for, you know, community town halls, for company gatherings to reconnect and get together, quarterly strat meetings, we’re seeing all of those pieces come back to life. And, you know, we like to think of Hub350 as the physical gateway to Canada’s largest technology park, a place really to connect and collaborate, both with the 540 technology companies that are within the park, but also as a space for strategic partners to soft land in the park for academia, finance, and corporate partners to find a means of really connecting and nurturing relationships with our industry.

DA:  Amazing. You know, the pandemic certainly has recalibrated the market and we now recognize that buildings are really places for people, to your point earlier, we saw what it was like to be dislocated and to be isolated,

JP:  Yeah.

DA: And as people come back to create that sense of community, we really believe that the experience that we offer far more than the physical real estate, but the experience, whether that be tenant experience, workplace engagement, you know, these are becoming the new determinants to how people are making decisions about their real estate needs. And so we’re really focused, obviously at HILO, on how we can enable building operators and communities to deliver unparalleled customer experience, and really think about that now and in the future. And I’m just curious, any thoughts that you can share about, you know, how you think the technology part will deliver great customer experience, and obviously with specific reference to Hub350, as a key point of connection for the entire community?

JP: Yeah, you know, I think we’re very encouraged with the level of activity that we’re seeing within Hub350, with the amount of collaboration happening between industry, academia, our finance partners, et cetera, we’ve hosted hackathons with students that are, you know, innovating on new ways to support sustainability models within the park, we’ve had career fairs with thousands of job seekers connecting in person with our hiring companies, these are all good, clear indicators that we want to be back in person for certain pieces. But with that said, there’s still challenges ahead of us. Our commercial property owners and their tenants are really grappling with beyond a community town hall, what do their corporate offices need, and what kind of community needs to surround them? And so in the background, KNBA have also been really thinking about that overall community design plan and working very closely in coordination and partnership with our municipality, the City of Ottawa, to designate the park as a special economic district and really start to shift the way we think about the park as an industrial space where offices are co-located, to a mixed use environment where we embrace, you know, commercial and residential development, walkability within our streets and densification of people living in the park and eating in the park after 5:00 PM, and perhaps having some fun in the park after 5:00 PM as well, and there are some indicators of our commercial industry really getting behind this and picking this up, we’ve most recently had a very significant announcement from Nokia, our largest tenant within the park, they have 26 acres of space in the park making an over 700 million investment in redeveloping their property over the next five years. So, yeah, you know, and I think that speaks to the work we are doing as a community on the whole to really think of what are our HR leaders hearing? What are our C levels and their employees, you know, really wanting to see out of their built environment? But also it’s a response from, as an example, Nokia to what they’re hearing from their teams. In order to innovate, we need a really collaborative space for our researchers to come together, but at the crux of it, we also need a space to attract and retain further talent. The demand for solutions in our park today couldn’t be higher. We have over a thousand roles open in Kanata North today. Those are roles that need to be hired for yesterday, and we’re working very closely with academia, University of Ottawa, and Carleton University to get as many co-ops and new grads into those doors as possible, but really in thinking about talent attraction, we need to start thinking outside of Ottawa, outside of Canada, going globally, and campuses like these, a built environment like this will enable us to soft land talent to the park that may be coming from a new country and not knowing, you know, what’s around them. And, you know, new grads who just don’t have a car to commute in every day and want to be walking to work and walking to home all in the same day.

DA:  Yep. Listen, I love the, even though you are very physical in nature, it’s a technology park, you’re still thinking about its position in the world from a global perspective, not that everything needs to stop and start at the technology park, and I love that. That’s a great perspective to have. As you know, HILO’s been working behind the scenes to onboard now 75 buildings from the technology park onto the platform, we’re beginning the outreach to all of the various building owners and operators, starting to have some great conversations about how we can enable them to create that community, to create connection, to provide a higher level of tenant experience. You coined the phrase, you know, wanting to see HILO become the digital gateway, connect everyone together, can you just share any thoughts you have on sort of, you know, where you envision HILO within the technology park and sort of the role that it can play?

JP:  Well, I think that the sky’s the limit for what HILO can achieve in collaborating with our building partners, with their tenants, the employers in our park, and the employees that are concentrated in Canada’s largest tech park. We have, you know, the Ericsson’s, Nokia’s, Sienna’s of the world, employing thousands. We also have early stage startups all concentrated and wanting to connect within the ecosystem. So, you know, I think first and foremost, there’s a capacity with this digital gateway or virtual gateway, to connect those who are already actively employed within the park, whether it’s for future employment opportunities and seeing career progressions happening by having a better awareness of the community around them, or business development, customer relationships forming, the potential for collaboration and mentorship, there’s so much there. And then in addition to that, you know, what I’m excited about with HILO is that we have this platform to really promote all of these great things that are happening for the community within the community. Whether that’s community events or, you know, spaces that are coming online and new companies announcing that they’re coming to the park that we want to celebrate, there’s an untapped potential there that we’re very excited about.

DA: Well, as are we, and we’re looking forward to being a part of that solution going forward. Let’s take a short commercial break and we’ll be right back.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

DA:  We’re back with Jamie Petten, President and Executive Director of the Kanata North Business Association. Again, Jamie, I’m really glad we can have this conversation today, and thanks for joining me.

JP:  Thanks for having me.

DA: I want to recognize something that I don’t think should be overlooked, living through a pandemic has been very challenging for so many, and as we look to the future, yes, we have to move beyond, but I don’t think we can forget where we’ve been either. We truly believe now is an opportunity to build something better, do something better, create something better, and so we’re very focused, not letting Covid or the pandemic be an excuse for why we can’t achieve great things. Can you share any details about any part of your business that you are now re-imagining to reflect the reality of where we are today?

JP: Well, my business is the park on the whole, and, you know, I think I’m excited, as we were mentioning in the last session, just about the future transformation of the technology park as that mixed use, complete and connected innovation community, and, you know, I think I’ll take those comments one step further. So we know that we have a talent attraction and retention need, a dire need for people to remain working for our companies in Kanata North, but also to seek out new job opportunities in the park. And having this beautiful place where people, you know, really can enjoy the full spectrum of their life is amazing. But we also have some world class solutions being developed in Kanata North, we are a subject matter expert, a thought leader, an R and D leader in 5G, in telecommunications, in connectivity, and a ton of sub-sectors within that, from cyber security to software, software as a service, we have some exciting life sciences companies in the park. And, you know, with all that’s being developed in the park and at this poignant time where we’re thinking about, well, how do we integrate technology into our day to day lives in order to support, you know, a more efficient lifestyle? We have this really exciting opportunity to digitally transform the park, and really take the solutions that are developed in Kanata North and deploy them into Kanata North. It’s not uncommon these days to see, you know, drones as an example, flying over our world class golf course and delivering food and beverage to golfers in real time, these are the kinds of solutions that we, well, we celebrate certainly, it’s just cool,

DA: Yep.

JP:  It’s fun, and I think it really showcases our leadership in Canada’s largest tech park.

DA: It’s a giant Petri dish.

JP: Exactly.

DA: The fact that you are thinking about innovation, not only in terms of servicing your existing members, but in all that you do, right? Every aspect of the delivery of, you know, from the built environment to all of the additional services and programs that you’re creating, connecting, you know, academia, I mean, and again, looking at that thread of innovation as a way to sort of bring it all together, I think it’s super exciting, we’re obviously thrilled to be a part of it, and I know great things are still to come. You know, our closing speed round, Jamie, is an opportunity to get to know you a little bit better on a personal level.

JP: Okay.

DA: I would love for you to share one way in which the pandemic has changed your outlook on life.

JP: Oh my goodness. Well, I mean, first and foremost, I think just that relationship piece, like being able to be with my family was something that I will cherish forever. I have two young kids, I had one just before the pandemic and one through the pandemic, so Covid certainly brought us closer and I will cherish that time because it’s a time in my life that I won’t get back and it goes by really quickly. But with that said, my parents, my friends, my family, my colleagues, we missed time with them in person and, you know, I’m happy to be back and in the world and celebrating life’s milestones together, for sure.

DA: A lot of life lessons to take forward. You know, again, unfortunate it had to be at such a detriment to so many people in so many ways, but definitely a lot to learn, and I think a lot of people have taken, you know, taken note and are doing things differently, which I think is a-

JP:  Yeah.

DA: Right? What travel destination do you miss most?

JP:  Hmm. Good question. I’m going to say the Caribbean,

DA: Okay.

JP: Because of just how much it’s meant to me in my life. I, of course, you know, early stages of my career, but also a lot of really special times for me with my husband now. So yeah, I just miss lying on a beach and having a Pina Colada and relaxing. And that’s I think another piece of the pandemic that we’re definitely going to completely strip away, in embracing travel again and embracing that time for ourselves that is just so important to be able to recharge and come back feeling energized. So I hope to be on a beach at some point next winter .

DA: Got a trip booked for February, it’ll be the first time in three years. I take a week to two weeks just to get sand and sun,

JP:  Yep.

DA: And all around me as a way to rejuvenate and really to reboot. And I can’t wait, I certainly hope it happens this year.

JP:  Yeah.

DA: Anything new on your bucket list that you’d like to experience?

JP: No, I feel like I’ve had a lot of bucket list moments over the last little while having had two kids, we’re in a new home, so I’m in the stage of just kind of settling into my life. I’m sure we’ll start adding to that bucket list as the kids start to get a little bit older.

DA: That’s a good place to be. I’d imagine you sound also quite grateful in all that you have, so.

JP: Yeah.

DA:  That’s a fortunate place to be. You know, since we are talking a lot about technology, what’s your favorite technology that is new to your life?

JP:  Ooh. Mm. We have a step challenge that we’ve recently started at KNBA and Hub350, and it’s brought to my attention that I’m not moving myself as much as I should be. So this one’s, you know, novel and silly, but a step tracker is like, I just, again, I think having been at home in my sweatpants for the last couple of years, I’m really enjoying getting myself moving again.

DA: And motivated being, I guess, connected with other people and whatnot through that process, right?

JP: Yeah, exactly.

DA: Cool. What is your personal choice for days spent in person with your colleagues, your team members, versus working from anywhere?

JP:  So we have embraced, and it’s actually our chief of staff, Amanda Gordon, that says this, a work where you work best mentality. And while our operation at Hub350, of course requires an, you know, every day in-person presence by our team, we tend to embrace hybrid as well. So I spend a few days in the office with the team, and a few days remote, and that depends on what my personal life also demands of me, I have two young kids, I have drop offs and pickups that I now have to integrate into my day to day routine, and, you know, I’m really grateful for the fact that I can spend a part of my day in person, collaborating with my team at Hub350 and then be, you know, at home after pickup, Zooming in to a meeting that I can’t miss, and that’s something that I think we’re all really embracing.

DA:  I totally agree, and I think that truly is one of the greatest outcomes of all of this.

JP:  Yeah.

DA: But that insight that, you know, our schedules can be flexible, I love what you just mentioned, the notion of work where you work best. I think that’s, I don’t think we should be mandated on either extreme,

JP: Yeah.

DA:  And I think that, that being said, for me, you know, working a hundred percent remote, I’m kind of done with that. ‘Cause we had to, to me it is not sustainable.

JP:  Yep.

DA:  I’m starting to see the impact that it’s having on my team and my organization, and we are looking forward to coming back and being able to be more connected in person and enjoy that time spent together. So again, best of all worlds, why not take advantage of that?

JP: Yeah, yeah, completely.

DA:  Jamie, thank you so much for joining me on the program today. I really appreciate your taking the time, I’m looking forward to continue to collaborate with you and your entire team at KNBA and Hub350, and wishing great success for all of us.

JP:  Thank you. Yeah, it’s been, I mean, it’s so fun to chat about these topics with you, so I’m happy to be here and looking forward to seeing how things evolve.

DA: Excellent, thanks so much, have a great day.

JP:  You too.

DA:  Bye now. I want to thank Jamie Petten for joining me on this episode of TEN and for contributing to the global conversation around buildings, being a part of a robust ecosystem, helping to build great companies, and that they’re vital in the effort to cultivate and support great people and teams. The future of the workplace will likely take many forms, and we’ll continue to explore what that looks like together. Subscribe to TEN for more conversations with leading CRE industry professionals and experts who all have something to say about tenant experience and the future of the workplace. We love hearing from you, so if you enjoyed this episode of TEN, please share, add your rating and review us through your preferred podcast provider. 

If you or someone you know would like to be a guest on a future episode, please reach out to me directly at david@hiloapp.com. And until our next episode, I wish you all continued success in building community where you work and live, thank you.

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Rita Tené Ellison | Associate Director | T. Dallas Smith & Company | Putting customers first in CRE

Season 3 / Episode 20 / 22:20
In this episode, Rita explains that access to local amenities is becoming more of a driving factor in real estate decisions, causing smart landlords to become more attentive to tenant needs, and respond with appropriate programming. With a “client-first” mentality, her firm has maintained a consistent approach throughout the pandemic in responding to the evolving needs of its customers.

Rita Tené Ellison | Associate Director | T. Dallas Smith & Company | Putting customers first in CRE

Season 3 / Episode 20 / 22:20
In this episode, Rita explains that access to local amenities is becoming more of a driving factor in real estate decisions, causing smart landlords to become more attentive to tenant needs, and respond with appropriate programming. With a “client-first” mentality, her firm has maintained a consistent approach throughout the pandemic in responding to the evolving needs of its customers.