Waterloo: The Other World Wide Web
After formative experiences at Waterloo, John Free and Rob McGeachy (BASc ’94) build a community of passionate problem solvers to shape the boutique consulting firm of their dreams.
My partner, Rob McGeachy, and I founded big river technologies inc. with two mandates: bring world-class consulting to the financial services industry and provide jobs and economic opportunities to Eastern Ontario.
big river technologies attracts first-class talent to solve complex enterprise challenges. From the small Ontario village of Gananoque, our team of developers and business analysts are enabling clients all over the world to overcome the complex challenges facing them in Capital Markets and other industries.
At the University of Waterloo, Rob (pictured on the right, next to me) earned his BASc in Engineering and I studied 20th-Century Music Composition through the Department of Integrated Studies. I later earned my BSc in Computer Science at the University of Toronto, graduating with distinction. While we are both proud to have studied at Waterloo, Rob and I did not meet there. We met decades later working at Sapient Global Markets, a technology consulting firm. Certainly, we bonded over our shared formative experience at Waterloo. We spent years solidifying our connection, cutting our teeth on Wall Street and becoming experts in the emerging field of FinTech. We grew tired of the “road-warrior” lifestyle and dreamed of establishing a world-class firm closer to home and, most importantly, creating the boutique consulting firm we had always wanted to work for. In 2015, we formed big river technologies inc. in Gananoque, the most unlikely of places.
It is not Toronto or New York City, and that is a good thing when it comes to lifestyle. Because of this, we are attracting people with the overall cultural fit and technical agility that our client projects require, although in Gananoque our talent acquisition process requires a good deal of creativity. It is rare to find the exact skills we need with recent graduates, so we have to train them. We select smart, team-playing critical thinkers and certify them in the tech stack we need. Waterloo is a key component in our talent pipeline. We have great access to a community of passionate, creative problem solvers. We have the capability to train our young developers in the specific skills our projects require, thanks to training subsidies from KEYS Job Centre.
The co-op model has been a good experience for us in terms of giving back to the community, which has shaped us and big river while also allowing us to scale. In two years, we grew from using the temporary office space KEYS provided for us to a state-of-the-art facility of over 70 people. Each time we work with students, we are reminded that the University of Waterloo is top-tier. The students are wonderful to work with and come with advanced skills from the Engineering program.
One of our main goals is to give young developers the opportunity to work with a variety of projects and impart our commitment to our own brand of Agile methodology we call Business-Driven Development. Waterloo students are given a chance to learn from seasoned computer scientists and other industry professionals while also taking advantage of our flexible working environment in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Gananoque boasts a lucrative tourism sector, but we believe that big river is at the tipping point of the town’s burgeoning tech sector. In collaboration with the Town of Gananoque, we want to support entrepreneurs in establishing or advancing their tech-based company here. If their roots derive from the University of Waterloo, even better.
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