Innovation Saskatchewan is responsible for implementing the province’s innovation priorities and helping grow Saskatchewan’s tech sector. Effective April 2022, this includes operation of the Innovation Place technology parks in Saskatoon and Regina.

Technology Roundtable

How has Technology's Role Evolved Since COVID-19?

The impacts of the coronavirus pandemic continue to affect our personal and professional lives, especially as we think about the months of social distancing behind and ahead of us. It can all feel like a lot. So we decided to check in with the smartest people we know (our tenants) and see how they’re doing during this unprecedented time and what we got in return was a treasure trove of advice, support, and even a cocktail recipe!

Please enjoy our roundtable series on life during COVID-19, starting with our first question: How has technology's role evolved in your life professionally and personally? What does this mean for tech going forward?

Part 2 What strategy has helped you the most professionally during the pandemic? and part 3 What's your number one social distancing lifesaver right now? are ready for you as well!

Tyson Liske, Vice President Marketing and Communications at Lumeca (Innovation Place, Regina)

“As a virtual healthcare platform, Lumeca was rather well-adjusted to be able to have our workforce function well with technology. Professionally, our team had adopted different working from home routines geared towards the individual needs of our company. We rely heavily on weekly virtual stand-ups to report and prioritize what is happening in our given areas. Personally, it has been a little bit more of an adjustment for me. Thankfully, I have a dedicated home office to work from, but sincerely miss more face-to-face meetings. Going forward, I anticipate that we will continue to flex with personal preference when it comes to working from home and balancing that with dedicated office times where we can continue to meet and work. As we continue to work on our own technology solutions, we continually look to adopt new and best practices.”

Katrina German, Director of Digital Awesomeness at (Innovation Place, Saskatoon)

“If you would have told my young self that I would become a tech advocate, I would have been very surprised. I regularly train people, write blogs and appear in the media talking about cool tech to make people's lives easier. I think that there is going to be even more technology used and developed that will reflect the ‘social distancing economy.’”

Jackie Robin, Director of Communications, Ag-West Bio (Innovation Place, Saskatoon)

“With everyone in the office working from home, we are using online technology to keep in touch and to keep projects moving. Although we miss the spontaneous meetings that happen naturally in an office environment, we have discovered some really good meeting platforms. Technology has enabled us to keep information moving. Our minds have been opened to the idea of hosting more web-based events on a permanent basis, after the pandemic is over. Nothing beats getting people together face-to-face, but it is very cost and time effective to meet virtually, and with some creativity, the online events can be kind of fun, too.”

Brett Park, Co-founder, Shiverware (Innovation Place, Regina)

“I have noticed little to no change in technology during this period. I think it means tech has been ahead of the curve for some time and was just waiting for a chance to prove itself.”

Alex Shimla, Program Director, Co.Labs (Innovation Place, Saskatoon)

“Technology is part of everything we do. From using Notion and Slack religiously at work, to using Zoom and Blinkist at home, it definitely hasn’t become less impactful in our lives, especially while being physically distant. I think great products are going to rise to the top. As people have more time to experiment with and research the tech they use both professionally and personally, whoever makes the product that actually solves the problems people face is going to win. Look at what happened with Zoom. There were other video chat solutions out there, but they were the one with a robust feature set, the smoothest streaming, and a great name (half-kidding).”

Monique Simair, CEO and Founder, Maven Water & Environment (Innovation Place, Saskatoon)

“For me, it hasn’t really evolved. I’m used to working remotely and with diverse team environments, even globally, so this was more of the same. The team I work with at Maven is also used to working this way, so there wasn’t too much of a technology shift there. But it was surprising to me to find how many people this is new to, so recognizing that I was out of touch with the ‘norm’ was interesting. I hope this translates to faster tech adoption moving forward, as preparedness is critical for ability to quickly adapt.”

Dr. Lidia Matei, Corporate Business Officer, Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation (Innovation Place, Saskatoon)

“Virtual meetings, teleconferences and online communication became our new normal. Before the pandemic, we were more oriented to in-person meetings; now, we have discovered that we can be connected and be productive even remotely. For example, my colleagues from the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences (SCCS) (operated by the Fedoruk Centre) have adjusted the production shifts to ensure that we can continue delivering the nuclear imaging agent ‘FDG’ to the Royal University Hospital, which is essential for PET-CT scanning of patients to diagnose and treat cancer. Our top priorities are the safety of our staff, users, and the public, as well as maintaining a state of readiness to produce FDG for delivery to regional hospitals. Through regular virtual meetings and calls, we keep our team motivated, and we take care of each other.”

Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (Innovation Place, Saskatoon)

“At SHRF we were fortunate to already be set up with the technology to work remotely. We have also been using virtual meeting technology for the past several years to run peer review meetings. What was new for SHRF was having the entire team working remotely and not having the ability to walk down the hall or stop in an office doorway to check in with each other. We have learned to rely heavily on Microsoft Teams to replace the interactions we once had in the office and have all discovered the power of a good GIF!

Though we miss being able to meet with our researchers and partners in person to learn about their work or find new ways to work together, we are adapting to making these connections virtually and are embracing that this may be the way things are done for the foreseeable future. Going forward we will continue to welcome the ability to jump into virtual meetings, we will rely more on webinars and videos to share information with our stakeholders and will be looking at this time as an opportunity to explore more new technology to continue to be accessible and support Saskatchewan’s health research efforts.”

Jeff Dyck, Director of Engineering at Mentor, a Siemens Business (Innovation Place, Saskatoon)

“I have spent the better part of the last 15 years on remote customer meetings, and have worked evenings from home for years, so some of the new normals actually feel pretty normal. The thing that is new is that there is a whole new cast of characters who I am used to working with in person who I am also now having remote meetings with. You know what the biggest challenge adapting was? These brilliant technologists actually kind of suck at using phones.
‘Can you hear me?’
‘Barely - you sound awful.’
‘Meeeeeeoooooowwwww. Oh - my cat was sitting on my microphone. Is that better?’
Every call starts with a few of those. Still. After 4 weeks.

I do miss the day-to-day in person-ness with my team. I have a lot of great friends at the office, and I miss them. I miss my whiteboards. I miss rapid-fire collaboration with my teams on the whiteboard. Collaboration software kind of helps, but despite many claims, there is no good technical solution for this stuff with current tech.

What does this mean for tech going forward? The pandemic has forced a massive beta test of working from home. Employers are seeing that their teams can deliver remotely, and that individuals can be trusted more than they thought when working outside of the office. Furthermore, almost all companies have had to very quickly create new infrastructure and processes for supporting remote work. So, we will emerge from the pandemic with many businesses having a whole new level of acceptance of remote teams and the ability to support them. This will lead to new flexibility and will improve quality of life for a lot of employees. It will also open up new options for building global teams rather than being constrained by local labour markets. And many companies are learning to work effectively remotely with customers and suppliers. A big win for employees. A big win for employers. A big win for customers. I like it.

The pandemic has triggered an unexpected golden age of technological innovation. Many companies who are deeply affected by the pandemic are very quickly finding new and creative ways to adapt and survive. They are producing new technology and are bringing new classes of tech products to market very quickly. A lot of this rapidly developed technology will have relevance beyond the pandemic. We have never seen a period of such concentrated and rapid technological innovation, and I look forward to seeing how it evolves and what sticks."

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- May 19, 2020