Hack to the future: building a culture of innovation
In November 2021, the Government of Alberta and Platform Calgary co-hosted HackIT.AB, a new digital innovation hackathon.
Technology and innovation play a crucial role not just in diversifying Alberta’s economy, but in preparing students for the future. We are attracting the best and brightest job-creating entrepreneurs and skilled graduates, and this event helps build a culture of innovation by bringing post-secondary students, recent graduates, entrepreneurs, startups and others in the tech sector together in the spirit of collaboration. In asking participants to come together to develop solutions for a pre-identified problem, Alberta’s government is provides opportunities to build resumes, expand networks, and grow connections.
Over the 3-day online event, our participating hackers worked in teams to develop a solution that spoke to the problem:
Assist the provincial government to leverage publicly available data to identify skill sets attained from post-secondary course level offerings and uncover unique education pathways that lead to employment in alignment with Alberta’s current and future labour market needs.
Protecting the lives and livelihoods of Albertans relies on ensuring they are equipped for and investing in skills for jobs in the future.
At the end of the final day, hackers presented their solution to a panel of judges. The top-ranked project took home a $5,000 prize. Second and third place projects were awarded $3,000 and $1,000, respectively.
Couldn’t attend the event? Watch the presentations online.
Congratulations to our 3 winning teams:
1st place - Achieve
- Jesse Francis
- Jesse Chaulk
- Liam Simpson
- Nikita George
- Sangmean Hong
- Stephen Wensley
2nd place - Alberta Aggregator
- Aaron Binoy
- Adithya Sreekanth
- Jacob Mellick
- Janukan Sivajeyan
3rd place - Rocket Science
- Andrew Marklund
- Artem Golovin
- Daniel Artuso
- Ethan Lim
- Jimmy Zhang
- Mariya Popova
Registration is now closed. Stay tuned for future events.
We lined up some great guest speakers to help hackers get the most out of HackIT.AB.
Meet our November 2021 speakers:
Assistant Deputy Minister
Post-Secondary Policy and Strategy
Alberta Advanced Education
Carmen Baldwin-Déry is Assistant Deputy Minister, Post-Secondary Policy and Strategy in the Ministry of Advanced Education, Government of Alberta. She leads teams responsible for policy and strategy coordination, policy development, research and innovation, governance, legislative services, business planning and reporting, system data and performance, and corporate services. Prior to joining the Government of Alberta, she held various roles at the University of Alberta in the Faculties of Arts, Law, and Campus Saint-Jean.
Carmen has helped design and implement systemic transformation at provincial and organizational levels. She works to build strong relationships and forward-looking, effective policies and programs that will serve Albertans well.
Executive Lead, Innovation, Modernization and Cybersecurity
Office of the Chief Information Office and Telecommunications
Martin is a trusted information technology and cybersecurity professional with over 33 years of leadership experience in the industry. As Chief Information Security Officer for the Government of Alberta since August 2015, Martin is defining the Government of Alberta’s vision and strategy to counter the cyber threat and ensure that the information of Albertans is protected. In 2020, Martin’s role expanded to include Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics Process Automation, Modernization and Rationalization, Alberta Digital Service (including the province’s Identity Management program), and Provincial Broadband Telecommunication.
Martin has also been a member of various cybersecurity-related committees, including the National CIO Subcommittee on Information Protection (NCSIP), a committee that includes peers from the federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments across the country, acting as Chair for 3 of the past 6 years.
Craig Elias is LinkedIn user 3,956 of over 750 million users, an award-winning entrepreneur, educator, sales expert, author, a passionate startup advisor, the creator of Trigger Event Selling™ and a pitch coach that recently helped a startup win two different $100,000 pitch competitions in less than 24 hours.
His first startup went from initial launch to winning $1,000,000 in a global billion-dollar pitch idea competition to being funded by a Tier 1 US-based Venture Capitalist and twice being named by Dow Jones as one of the 50 most promising companies in North America in less than 24 months after launching.
He is a Startup Mentor for the Alchemist Accelerator in San Francisco on an advisory board for South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas and has been a National Growth Advisor for Goldman Sachs’ and Babson College’s 10,000 Small Business Program in Boston.
He is the most recent recipient of the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics bi-annual Gold Award of Excellence in Entrepreneurship. For the last six years, he has been the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Bow Valley College in downtown Calgary, where he runs Calgary’s Innovation Rodeo, three different student-focused pitch competitions - VentureQuest, 150Startups and INVENTURE$ Student Track – coach startups to generate early revenue and gives away over $100,000 each year to help post-secondary students across the province of Alberta become first-time entrepreneurs.
In his spare time he spearheads initiatives like MVP Mondays, Tech Sales Tuesdays, WannaB Wednesdays, Techathon Thursdays, Founder Fridays and runs a Global Entrepreneurship Educators group.
It’s a big job and the title says it all — Chief Catalyst. For us, it means leading a school of impact while accelerating existing and yet-to-be-realized businesses. If you’re inspired by digital disruption, you know at the core of Calgary’s growing tech ecosystem is Jim Gibson — a connector and catalyst. If his name doesn’t ring a bell, our new school and leading trailblazer will change that.
Passionate, infinitely curious and a six-time entrepreneur, Gibson believes he’s been preparing for this role his entire career. Maybe it’s because he’s spent three decades anticipating, adopting and advancing technology trends and challenges.
Cutting to the chase and credentials, Jim is the co-founder of Thin Air Labs, which funds early-stage, entrepreneur-led technology ventures and networks. Including remaining a partner with Thin Air, Gibson is active in the innovation ecosystem. He is a member of The A100, board member of local health care start-up Mikata Health and the not-for-profit Beakerhead, an advisor to Alberta Innovates, and a mentor with Venture Mentoring Services of Alberta.
With a Management Consultant designation (CMC) along with a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting and Computer Science from University of Toronto and an MBA in Entrepreneurial Studies and Finance from Schulich University (York), Gibson also understands the business drivers of innovation and technological change.
Outlined in his recently published and thought-provoking book, Tip of the Spear: Our Species and Technology at a Crossroads, Gibson examines the challenges and the opportunities ahead. “With my recent work, I have come to appreciate that some of the best technologies, innovations and breakthroughs will come from places in our global economy where we least expect.”
If he sounds cool, it’s because he is. Together, we’re building what’s next. Jim, let’s do this.
Director of People
Hilary has dedicated her career to helping companies develop their talent and hiring best practices across multiple sectors. She previously worked at a start-up consulting firm and has held multiple in-house human resources positions. She recently joined Neo Financial as the Director of People, and could not pass up the opportunity to join a rapidly growing, Canadian FinTech that's disrupting the financial industry.
Hilary holds a Bachelor's Degree in New Media, a Certified Human Resources Professional designation and has served on the Board of Directors for Immigrant Services Calgary.
Designing a solution can be tough, especially when you’re not familiar with the environment. That’s why we had Government of Alberta and industry mentors available to our HackIT.AB teams to help guide their process.
Meet our November 2021 mentors:
Mike Berg is a Fullstack Software engineer with 20+ years of experience technologies. Those include front-end developer, devops, machine learning, security, and back-end.
Kim is currently Executive Director, Innovation at Alberta Advanced Education, and has been with the public service for 15 years in a variety of leadership roles in both Education and Advanced Education focused on supporting program areas to unlock opportunities to leverage IT to support delivery of strategic objectives. With a professional background in user experience, service design and agile software delivery, Kim provides strategic leadership to the Program Design and System Innovation team and the AE Digital initiative that is working to modernize and transform the services Advanced Education provides to its primary clients – learners, post-secondary providers, industry and the public. She is passionate about citizen service and works diligently to infuse a sense of passion and purpose into the work of innovation in the post-secondary domain.
Holly is Executive Director, Telecommunications and Workforce Reimagined at Service Alberta, and is passionate about citizen-centric service delivery, innovation, transformation and helping Albertans. During her more than three decades in the public and private sectors, Holly has held a variety of leadership roles in digital technologies, software, and telecoms, including overseeing the construction and day-to-day operations of the Alberta SuperNet, the introduction of online delivery for motor vehicle and registry services, and the launch of automotive software for companies including Ford, Toyota and Chrysler. Holly currently leads the Government of Alberta’s efforts to bring high-speed broadband to the province’s rural, remote and Indigenous communities, enabling them to participate in Alberta’s economic recovery. Her wider responsibilities include helping build government talent and promoting engagement between government and Alberta's innovation ecosystem. As Service Alberta's lead for the HackIT.AB event, Holly is delighted to be able to watch our participants in action and see new ideas and approaches come alive.
I am a BRM (Business Relationship Management) Program Manager for the Workforce Development Sector within Service Alberta’s Office of the Corporate CIO and Telecommunications division. Currently I provide IT support to our business partners in Advanced Education.
I have been with the Government of Alberta for over 18 years, in various capacities, including providing IT support, managing IT projects, and most recently, working closely with Advanced Education to support their technology needs.
Hi my name is Deb Mills and I work at Advanced Education as a Data Governance Team lead. I am returning to my roots as a data person after working in the Project Management Office and being a project manager.
I have worked at GOA for 16 years officially but was hired as FTE after being a contractor for 5 years. I have worked on many projects and enjoy working for the GOA. Over the years, I have seen a transformation of the GOA.
Keeping up with technology is the biggest challenge but with time, I tend to get proficient.
I am a Workforce Innovation Specialist with the Office of the Corporate CIO and Telecommunications division. Currently I work on delivering innovative initiatives that focus on upskilling our workforce to utilize the latest technology and provide the best service to our business partners.
With over 20 years in the Government of Alberta, whether I have been providing technical support, managing complex IT projects, or advising how to best prioritize our IT budgets, I have realized that delivering value to the everyday lives of Albertans is my passion.
Hi, I am a Workforce Innovation Business Analyst with the Office of the Corporate CIO and Telecommunications division. My work focuses on utilizing technology to deliver innovative initiatives while also engaging and upskilling our workforce.
I started as a summer student with the Government of Alberta. Seven years later, I have been given many opportunities to deliver services to Albertans through various projects. Some of these include providing contact centre support, assisting with MyAlberta eServices, and supporting the operations of an application.
I'm the VP of Data Science and (Software) Engineering at a boutique quantitative investment company. I built our cloud-native software and AI architecture from scratch and currently lead our team of full-stack devs and data scientists, where I still actively contribute code to each team. I am able to provide technical guidance on both the dev side and the data side, as well as aiding in business communication.
I'm the founder of Embold, an innovative platform that helps brands collaborate with influencers. I can support founders with how to build an initial products, get traction and build a team.
As a sales coach and mentor I facilitate conversations on getting to a winning goal. I have a lot of experience with working with a variety of teams, with varying skill sets and different perspectives. I bring teams back to looking at the bigger picture when they are deep in the weeds. Living in Alberta the past 15 years, I have extensive knowledge of what's happening in the market and can bring those insights in for consideration. I also know how data can be used and bring that element in to coaching and mentoring.
Providing participants with issue spotting potential legal and business issues associated with their proposed solutions.
Margo is the CEO and Co-Founder of InceptionU. With over 20 years professional experience in learning and development, facilitation, customer service, public engagement, advocacy, consulting and coaching, Margo continues to pioneer innovative approaches to help individuals and organizations realize their potential.
I recently participated in the labour market study sponsored by the Government of Alberta on resources requirements for the Clean Tech sector on behalf of Clean Resource Innovation Network. I sit on the advisory council for U of C Schulich School of Engineering Chemical Engineering Department and recently finished my tenure on the Engineering Career Centre Advisory Council. I'm also a sponsor and advisor to the U of C Schulich School of Engineering NSERC Wise Planet program with Dr. Laleh Behjat. I've also been recently recruited to work with the upcoming 24th World Petroleum Congress being hosted 2023 and volunteer for the Haskayne School of Business Distinguished Business Leaders Award Selection Committee. Recently I have been involved with SAIT's SADT How to Change the World program. I am also the Sport Production Vice Chair for Organizing Committee Calgary which organized speed skating world cups and championships. And during the day, I work as the Sustainability Leader for Spartan Controls.
With over a decade of experience focused on early talent development, Anica is a passionate advocate for increasing career-focused opportunities for students. She believes that with the future of work rapidly evolving, entrepreneurial thinking is more relevant than ever in preparing all Canadian students for lifelong success. As the Director of Talent at the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking, Anica works with ventures, organizations, and government to craft and deliver impactful talent programs which bridge the gap between students and ventures. The work she leads equips ventures with diverse talent and students with career-ready skills. Prior to joining the team, Anica was at Ryerson University and Magnet, where she worked on a national level to establish partnerships and initiatives to support students on their path toward meaningful careers. Anica holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Ryerson University and Master of Industrial Relations and Human Resources from the University of Toronto.
Neelam is the Director of Strategy & Transformation at RBC in the Technology & Operations group. With prior experience in Investor Relations, RBC's Innovation Labs and in Payments & Cards; Neelam brings a passion for enabling an innovation ecosystem that empowers clients, advances businesses and supports communities. Most recently, Neelam led efforts for the launch of RBC's Calgary Innovation Hub.
Product-Market fit, ideation- validation, business modelling
Amber Hall’s passion for community, training, and facilitation led her to Alberta Women Entrepreneurs, where she is a Financing Specialist. She is gifted with numbers, enjoys relationship building and coaching.
Being intrigued by the serial entrepreneurship of her parents, she wanted to help people accomplish their dreams. In 2009, she earned a Bachelor of Business degree, with a major in Entrepreneurship and a minor in Tourism. Her background includes Commercial lending, Business mentoring, Hospitality Operations and Management.
Dr. Kojo Otoo
Dr. Kojo B. Otoo is an Entrepreneurship Engagement Manager with the Council for the Advancement of African Canadians (Africa Centre) in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Dr. Otoo is a former banker with Standard Chartered Bank Ghana, and Stanbic Bank Ghana (part of Standard Bank, South Africa) from 1999 to 2014. As a new immigrant to Canada from Ghana, he worked with ATB Financial for 4 years from 2014 to 2018 as a customer service specialist. He started his banking career as a management trainee with Standard Chartered, through several managerial roles and ended up as a Head of Segments of Financial Institutions with Stanbic Bank in 2014. He has over 15 years experience in financial, leadership, mentorship, and management experience. He gained his PhD from the University of Calgary in Educational Research (specialization in Adult Learning) in 2021 with a focus and commitment to human, community, social development, and economic equity for underrepresented populations in Canada. Dr. Otoo brings a unique skill sets of client engagements, people management, and an understanding of uplifting and empowering Black people in the society.
I am a recent graduate of the 1 year Masters in Software Engineering Program from U of C, with a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering, where I worked in Oil and Gas consulting for 7 years before making the jump to the tech space this past May. I am currently a Junior Full Stack Developer with Helcim and part of their Defender team, which is responsible for maintaining the software used by our fraud analysts to catch and prevent credit card fraud. I am currently working with VueJS, PHP, MySQL, and Python. Experience in web development, API development, Machine Learning, testing, and Object Oriented Programming.
The HackIT.AB judging panel had representation from government and industry to help hackers get the most of their experience.
Meet our November 2021 judges:
The Honourable Nate Glubish, Minister of Service Alberta
Minister Glubish was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta on April 16, 2019, as the MLA for Strathcona-Sherwood Park and was sworn in as the Minister of Service Alberta on April 30, 2019. Having spent 15 years as a venture capital investor, Minister Glubish understands the importance of the tech and innovation sector and is looking forward to seeing what participants of HackIT.AB develop in this first event.
Managing Director & Regional Director North America West
Jil Macdonald is the North America West Regional Director of AI Services for AltaML, one of Canada’s largest applied data science teams, and oversees the large talent accelerator in the Applied AI Lab. Jil is dedicated to building and transforming teams to maximize operational impact and to embrace change. She leverages 15+ years of continuous process improvement experience to enhance efficiency and deliver sustainable capital reductions. Jil’s experience includes leading large digital, operational, and technical teams within her former Vice President roles within the Alberta Energy Regulator, and Management at Ernst & Young.
She has led several transformational efforts to establish internal advanced analytics teams leveraging AI as the catalyst to allow for science & evidence based information to drive, augment and automate decisions across several sectors. Jil holds a Bachelors of Science in Geophysics, a Masters of Business Administration, as well as Lean Six Sigma Green & Black Belts. Jil sits on several boards from Alberta Health Services & Cancer Care Alberta Patient Advisory Services, to Elderly Care and Calgary Based Communities. She has been the recipient of Top 40 Under 40, and Young Women in Energy Awards for her leadership and community based work.
Founder of Pixeltree, co-founder of LocalShops.com, and a lead organizer of YYC Dev
Serene is a veteran in today’s software industry. Well-versed in the world of innovation and entrepreneurship, Serene works with local start-up founders and developer talent across many business domains. She is passionate about building sustainable mentorship ecosystems, fostering community stewardship within the Calgary tech sector, and helping forward-thinking companies turn their ideas into realities.
About Platform Calgary
Platform Calgary brings together the resources of Calgary’s tech ecosystem to help startups launch and grow at every step of their journey. It is a hub for a community focused on inclusive, tech-led, economic diversification, job creation, and increased prosperity for all Calgarians.
Connect with the HackIT.AB team: