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The tech labour shortage is a huge issue, says Ribbon Communications’ Sacha Gera

Communications software giant Ribbon Communications may have its cloud centre happily ensconced in Kanata, Ontario, but there’s trouble brewing for tech companies both in the US and Canada if the industry-wide labour shortage doesn’t get addressed, says Senior Vice President of Cloud Products for Ribbon, Sacha Gera.

Formed last year out of a merger between Sonus Networks and Genband, Ribbon has been dealing with some troubling legal issues of late, on the one hand related to a class action suit concerning lowered guidance by Sonus management in 2015 and on the other hand a furthering of the legal spat between Ribbon and Metaswitch, this time in the form of an antitrust lawsuit filed by the latter claiming “exclusionary and deceptive tactics” on the part of Ribbon to control the VoIP modernization market in the US and Canada.

Recently, Ribbon CEO Franklin Hobbs spoke out on the antitrust allegations, saying they are merely Metaswitch’s attempt to retaliate after losing previous patent infringement cases.

Cantech Letter talked to Gera at the SaaS North conference in Ottawa this week, where the VP said that a year into its merger, Ribbon is now starting to get its feet under it.

“We’ve become a very profitable company. We’ve exceeded the street’s expectations as of last quarter and the investment market is responding to that and we’re well-positioned financially to orchestrate towards growth,” he says. “I think when you hear about momentum, we’ve more than exceeded our financial commitments to the market in terms of profitability and now that the dust has settled with integration we’re getting into growth mode.”

First and foremost for that growth is the company’s cloud-based Kandy Platform, which Gera sees as a way for traditional telecommunications carriers in the US to take back some of the ground that has recently been lost to the more agile Software-as-a-Service products out there.

“The carriers today are losing a lot of business to SaaS and the over-the-tops and so they now have to transform and become SaaS companies,” says Gera. “Kandy is one of the very few white label platforms out there on which a carrier can launch a SaaS service, with Kandy as the plumbing underneath but with the carrier putting their own branding and using their own ordering and billing systems. They can get to market more quickly with SaaS offerings that are more synonymous with the Googles, Microsofts and Twilios.”

“Carriers are traditionally known for being slow to offer new innovative services and we help them bifurcate all that,” he says.

With about 250 employees in the Ottawa area compared to 2,300 globally, Gera says that Ribbon made the right choice in locating its ‘Cloud Centre of Excellence’ in the nation’s capital.

“Ottawa is at the nerve centre for everything we do here for Kandy, which is the growth engine for the company. What we figured out early is that Ottawa has great quality for cost, the low Canadian dollar and the quality talent on the street,” Gera says. “[But] there is absolutely a shortage of skill sets that’s going to be a huge problem for fuelling growth not just in Canada but in the US, too.”

“In general, North America is in a state of full employment in technology. Most tech jobs are not your traditional tech jobs now since tech is in every vertical from finance to IT. In fact, I’d argue that some industry verticals have more ‘tech jobs’ than are present in traditional R&D-types like we used to think of Nortel or Newbridge, for example,” Gera says.

On the purported loss of tech talent in Canada to higher paying jobs in places like Silicon Valley, Gera says there’s less evidence of it than in the past.

“What’s going on up here is that a lot of companies are increasingly investing because of the low Canadian dollar, because of government programs like [the Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax], and they’re seeing companies like Shopify and Klipfolio and others prosper here and I think there’s a buzz,” he says.

“If you want to be a part of something exciting, I don’t think Canada has a problem today. In fact, I think we’re attracting a lot of people up here,” Gera says.

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About The Author /

Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.
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