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GitLab, Zapier, and Emsisoft on how to pay remote workers

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gitlab foundersGitLab cofounders Dmitriy Zaporozhets and Sid SijbrandijGitLab

  • An increasing number of tech startups are opting to hire only remote employees, rather than work out of an office — a move that lets these companies hire top workers from anywhere in the world, without having to compete in the Silicon Valley talent wars. 
  • But this raises a hard question: Should you pay someone in the pricey San Francisco metropolitan region the same as a worker in places with a lower cost of living, like Indonesia or the Philippines? 
  • We spoke to three all-remote startups about how they try to keep things fair: Zapier pays the same to everyone, wherever they are in the world, while GitLab and Emsisoft try to benchmark against Silicon Valley salaries.
  • Meanwhile, Microsoft, Amazon and Google tell us that they pay out different rates based on where a remote worker is based.

An increasing number of tech startups are making a dramatic choice — rather than open an office in a major metropolitan area, they’ll employ only remote workers, so they can hire the best talent from anywhere. It means sidestepping both the Silicon Valley war for top talent, and the San Francisco housing crisis. 

But the choice to go all-remote raises a big, sometimes uncomfortable question: When you’re hiring workers from all over the world, how do you decide on a fair wage?

From country to country, and city to city, both the cost of living and the average household income can vary greatly. Just look at the United States: In San Francisco, the center of the most expensive metro area in the United States, the average household income is $140,720. Compare that to the national mean household income of $84,525 a year — and consider how widely those figures could vary internationally. 

Read more: Startups are betting that letting people work from home, an RV, or a New Zealand mountaintop will lure top talent away from Silicon Valley

“Someone living in the U.S. has much higher living costs than someone in Indonesia and the Philippines,” Christian Mairoll, CEO of all-remote startup Emsisoft, told Business Insider. “We still have to consider the living costs that they have, but we try to keep the wages as close as possible.”

Emsisoft threads this needle by benchmarking salaries against each other, and making sure that people living in countries with lower costs of living make no less than 40-50% of the salaries of people in more expensive countries.

Zapier, an all-remote work automation startup, takes a different tactic.

“The way we think about compensation is we pay the same rates nationally no matter where we’re at,” Zapier CEO Wade Foster told Business Insider. He says that the company only makes slight adjustments to salary based on the employee’s location, but generally pays about the same everywhere.

Meanwhile, hot code-sharing startup GitLab, also an all-remote company, attacks the problem by setting a salary floor — no employee will make less than 41% of what they would pay them for the same job, if they lived in San Francisco. 

“Paying someone in San Francisco the same you’d pay in Nigeria might be nice on paper, but in reality, one of you will be very well-off while the other is average,” GitLab Chief Culture Officer Barbie Brewer told Business Insider.

“Or one will be very poor and not able to afford a place to live while the other is doing great. We try to have parity as much as possible, but that doesn’t mean everything based on where you live will be the same.”

This is all in comparison to the tech giants, who will sometimes hire remote workers if the candidate and the opportunity are both right. 

A spokesperson for Microsoft says that the company sets a salary rate for each region of the world, and pays remote workers based on where they live. Importantly, Microsoft says, no remote worker will draw a different salary than someone doing the same job working out of an office in the same region.

Similarly, spokespeople for Google and Amazon both tell Business Insider shared that it will consider location when compensating its employees.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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