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An optical networking firm that set up shop in Kanata just under a decade ago is entering a new phase of growth in Canada’s largest technology park with plans to hire dozens of additional engineers in the coming years.

Silicon Valley-based Infinera creates products that facilitate the high-speed transfer of information over optical networks. Specifically, its fiber-optic network technology pioneered the use of photonic integrated circuits (PICs) in its intelligent transport networks.

Infinera’s pitch, in plain language? “Imagine a world with unlimited bandwidth.”

The firm set up a design centre in Ottawa in 2009 with three local employees. It’s since grown to more than 50 staff, predominantly engineers. In December, Infinera executives flew to Canada’s capital to announce plans for the Kanata expansion – which include an expansion of 6,000 square feet at 555 Legget Dr. – and called their Ottawa location the “fastest growing R&D department for the company.”

Calibre of Kanata workforce

Infinera director Kuang-Tsan Wu was a member of the company’s initial Kanata team and has witnessed the company’s steady growth in the region first-hand.

A 22-year veteran of Nortel’s optical division, Wu says many other engineers were looking for new opportunities following the tech giant’s collapse. The sudden exodus of Nortel talent into the local labour market ended up providing a strong base for Infinera’s initial recruiting.

The calibre of Kanata’s skilled workforce was a motivating factor for Infinera to continue investing in its Ottawa operations, says Sonja Wilkerson, the firm’s senior vice-president of human resources.

“We have seen a talent pool – a skillset, a quality of talent – that we attract to Infinera that keeps us interested in Kanata,” she says. “With the amount of talent that exists in that hub, it’s absolutely critical for us to tap into it.”

To find new recruits, Infinera hosts open houses and collaborated with Invest Ottawa to house a recruitment fair in late 2017.

However, it also taps into resources within its own walls, believing that paying attention to properly onboarding new hires and fostering an environment where employees can be successful can turn existing staff into ambassadors for the company.

“We certainly rely on personal referrals,” says Wilkerson. “That’s beginning to happen, now that we have critical mass.”

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