Shopify workforce going 'digital,' future of Vancouver office uncertain

Ottawa tech giant announced plans in January to hire 1,000 workers in the city

Shopify announced plans in January to hire 1,000 workers in Vancouver following the opening of a 70,000-square-foot office | Submitted

Plans for Canadian tech giant Shopify Inc. (TSX:SHOP) to hire 1,000 workers for a new Vancouver office now look uncertain amidst the pandemic.

CEO Tobi Lutke took to Twitter Thursday (May 21) to announce the e-commerce company was keeping its offices closed until 2021.

“And after that, most will permanently work remotely. Office centricity is over,” the tech executive tweeted.

“The future of the office is to act as an on-ramp to the same digital workplace that you can access from your #WFH setup.”

WFH refers to work from home.

The Ottawa-based company revealed plans in January to open its first office in Vancouver by late 2020.

The new research and development centre was poised to hire 1,000 workers in the coming years, led by vice-president of user experience Lynsey Thornton.

Thornton was the city’s first Shopify employee and had initially been working remotely when the company announced its massive expansion plans.

A Shopify spokeswoman did not immediately respond to inquiries from Business in Vancouver about the future of the new R&D centre and hiring plans prior to publication.

Shopify chief talent officer Brittany Forsyth followed up on Twitter to say the company planned on retaining “recruitment hubs” in Toronto, Ottawa, Waterloo, Montreal and “shortly Vancouver.”

When it was announced in January, the plan was for the new office to occupy four floors and more than 70,000 square feet at Four Bentall Centre on Dunsmuir Street.

Shopify said at the time it was in the market for Vancouver-based backend developers, data engineers, mobile developers, web developers, product designers and product managers.

Silicon Valley’s Tipalti Inc. announced plans the same month to hire 50 workers in Vancouver by the end of the year for a new office that opened in February.

Mastercard Inc. said in January it was investing $510 million — with $49 million in help from the federal government — to launch a new cyber security centre in the city and hire about 300 workers.

UPDATE: May 22, 10 a.m.

In a statement sent to BIV Thornton said Shopify's "digital by default philosophy" will allow the company to hire more widely.

"We will have a hub in Vancouver and we will be hiring full steam here. But now, our teams will also be hiring across B.C., Alberta, and beyond that we had previously not been able to because of a lack of office space," she said.

torton@biv.com

@reporton