By Lisa Thibodeau
In the heart of Kanata North’s ever- growing tech community, there’s a unique space for staff, managers and executives alike to press pause on their busy days.
Kanata’s community hub is a plot of green space near Legget Drive and Farrar Road that’s become synonymous with lunchtime recreation, networking and fun.
On any given week, weather permitting, Kanata North’s tech community enjoys a variety of attractions and events on different days including live music, food trucks, lawn games and yoga, free of charge.
The Kanata North Business Association spearheaded the initiative slightly less than five years ago to help bring the community closer together and offer individuals working in the tech park an alternative to simply eating inside their own staff lunchrooms.
Since launching, the events – which typically attract several dozen attendees – have grown in popularity.
“We’ve surveyed our members and the feedback was that the hub needs to happen, and happen often,” says Alycia Douglass, digital media and community coordinator at the KNBA. “People love it.”
HITTING A CHORD
Live music is a staple of the community hub’s programming that frequently reveals the hidden talents of Kanata North’s tech workers.
By day, Fred Gillette is a software designer and applications engineer at Nokia. Outside the office, he’s an avid musician and longtime participant at open mic nights in Ottawa who jumped at the opportunity roughly four years ago to perform at the community hub.
Gillette has become the man behind the music, helping to organize, recruit and run the talent portion of the hub’s programs.
“It’s nice to get outside on a sunny day, listen to some live music and eat your lunch at the picnic tables with some friends,” he says. “It’s a great thing.”
With some 30 years of experience working in Kanata North’s tech park, Gillette says he’s seen the hub’s impact on the Kanata North community. It’s created an opportunity for tech workers to share their talents with peers, as well as given employees the ability to
step away from the office, clear their heads and return ready to work, he says.
“When you’re in tech, it’s very easy to get stuck, where you’ve got a problem and you can’t quickly figure out how to work around it,” Gillette says. “All you really need to do is remove yourself from the restrictive environment, get out and do something different.”
Gillette is not alone in using the hub as a platform to express his love of music. Dave Leroux started his career at Bell Canada prior to stints at Halogen Software and Shopify as an instructional designer before becoming a freelancer so he could put more focus on his music career.
“The joke is most people in tech are reject musicians,” he says with a laugh. “People really do need music as an outlet.”
Leroux was introduced to the hub by a fellow tech park worker around four years ago and has been performing during lunch hours ever since. It’s helped Leroux foster a deeper relationship with the KNBA and build connections with his peers across the park. Seeing employees from different offices come out and meet one another in a relaxed environment, cracking jokes and networking, illustrates the importance of the initiative, he says.
“That makes a huge difference in people’s lives, especially in the tech world,” says Leroux. “It’s not my company versus your company, it’s about hanging out and being on common ground.”
STRIKING A POSE
Inner Revolution Yoga launched in Kanata North around the same time as the hub, which created an opportunity for the organization to collaborate with the KNBA. The hub hosts yoga sessions every Tuesday, which always draw a large crowd.
“It’s a beautiful synergy of connecting tech workers and us, a small local business,” says Brenna Bellhouse, head of Inner Revolution Yoga.
Yoga at the community hub gives participants an opportunity to meet other tech workers while improving their mental and physical health. The outdoor lunchtime sessions have proven so popular that Bellhouse says several attendees have launched indoor corporate yoga classes at their offices.
“Yoga is really needed in this environment where (workers) are always sitting at a screen,” she says. “It literally means a connection between the body, mind and spirit. It’s bringing the three parts of what make us whole together in a community where we can connect.”
Bellhouse says she loves seeing tech workers walking out of their office buildings over the summer with their yoga mats tucked under their arms.
“I know exactly where they’re going (at lunch),” she says, adding that she enjoys seeing how it helps strengthen community bonds.
As the hub opens for another season of fun and food, organizers are looking to the future for more ways to expand and grow the initiative.
“It’s amazing to see how much the community gets involved when you tell them you have something going on,” says the KNBA’s Douglass. “It’s very different from any other place I have worked. The spirit of collaboration is definitely alive and well in Kanata North.”