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Interview: Leader’s view on Canadian tech centers (Includes interview)

Shawn Malhothra is Vice-President of the Thomson Reuters’ Toronto Technology Centre. The Centre is temporarily located in Bremner Tower and focuses on using cloud computing, big data analytics and machine learning to create better, faster, more intuitive and more secure solutions for customers.

Malhothra is deeply entrenched in the sector and he has a unique insight into the growth of Canadian technology and innovative start-ups. As part of current projects, Malhothra is hiring 1,500 developers, engineers and architects who specialize in blockchain, AI, Cloud and deep data analysis.

Digital Journal spoke with Shawn Malhothra about the state of the Canadian technology scene and technology-driven innovations for business in general.

Digital Journal: What is the technology scene like in Canada today?

Shawn Malhothra: As a home-grown member of the Canadian technology sector, I’ve been really proud to see it evolve. Canada has truly embraced and integrated the power of technology across sectors, from cybersecurity through to digital health. Toronto alone boasts a world-class ecosystem of start-ups, academic institutions, leading enterprise technology companies – and is becoming renowned as an international center for excellence in AI.

DJ: How has this changed in the past few years?

Malhothra: We have always produced excellent talent – especially in Toronto/Waterloo and Montreal – but for years many of those people moved elsewhere to find opportunities. It’s only over the last ten years or so that the ecosystem matured into one where start-ups, major enterprise corporations, post-secondary institutions and governments coalesced together into the robust web of connections we have today. It all started when local talent decided not to relocate – eventually, the networks needed for long-term success were built to support that.

Most recently, though, Canada’s cutting-edge expertise in AI has become more recognized globally and further helped to cement us as a major centre for global technological innovation. It’s an exciting time to be here.

DJ: What has driven these changes?

Malhothra: The overarching changes flow from a rapid increase in demand. There is an economic imperative for technology solutions, fueled by consumer demand for intelligent products and supported with political capital with a goal of spurring economic growth of prosperity. We’re seeing businesses, governments and academic institutions investing in innovation, forging partnerships and finding efficiencies together in order to feed these growing customer expectations. The result has been a bigger, stronger ecosystem with better talent, better research and better products. Canada, and especially the Toronto region, has done an excellent job of leveraging its assets to become a major hub for those ideas.

DJ: How about the start-up scene? What’s most interesting here?

Malhothra: The start-up scene has also witnessed astounding growth over the past few years, both in the number of new companies breaking through and in the capital they’ve been able to raise. As companies begin to acquire a larger share of the artificial intelligence market, the start-up scene has been forced to adapt. What is interesting is the growth in specialty start-ups targeting niche markets within certain industries. By carving out a niche in, say, legal chatbots, start-ups have less competition to establish a share of the sector.

DJ: How important is Blockchain becoming for businesses?

Malhothra: Blockchain is much more than just bitcoin. Today, Blockchain is to value as the internet was to information in the late 1990s. It is going to revolutionize through simplicity. For businesses, it mostly centres around buying and trading.

The key benefits of Blockchain are efficiency and transparency of the distributed ledger technology. The oft-used example is supply chain management, which will see incredible benefits through better tracking of goods – from travel to inventory.

DJ: How about artificial intelligence, what promise does this hold for businesses?

Malhothra: AI is quickly becoming a business basic instead of a tool for innovation. At Thomson Reuters, our key business advantage used to be our proprietary data. Today, our core strength is domain expertise, curation and selective application of AI and emerging technology. Those strengths have empowered us to tackle things like intuitive natural language searches and analytics that customers – who come to expect those tools due to Siri and Alexa – now demand.

DJ: What is the role of the Toronto Technology Centre?

Malhothra: At the Toronto Technology Centre, we apply our teams’ expertise in cloud computing, big data analytics and machine learning (AI) to create better, faster, more intuitive and more secure and innovative solutions for our enterprise-level customers. Our team operates as a catalyst with the company’s global network of technologists.

DJ: What is your role within the Centre?

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Malhothra: I lead a team of approximately 250 employees, work to build and grow the centre and help to drive our focus on emerging skills. One of my key roles is to help expand our talent pool to a full complement of 1,500 people – and to ensure that workforce represents Toronto’s diverse community and includes the brightest minds this city has to offer.

DJ: Which projects are your working on?

Malhothra: I lead our efforts to steward our signature financial product, Eikon. Eikon enables financial professionals to monitor and analyze financial information. It provides access to real time market data, news, fundamental data, analytics, trading and messaging tools. And, I am hiring!

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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