Tehran to Toronto: A Tech-Forward Story

By Kamyar Ezzati

Moving to Canada

I moved to Canada nine years ago and after about six months of getting here, realized that Toronto is not the best city to grow my prospects in the oil and gas industry. If I wanted to explore more advanced roles and truly rise in my career then I would have to move to another province such as Alberta. However, I really liked Toronto and wanted to be successful in this city. So I started to do my own research, talked with people I knew and asked for advice, and that was how I first heard about “Digital Marketing” and “Tech” careers in Toronto. 

Honestly, I had close to zero connections or visibility in the technology fields and how it was evolving in the world! I was a graduate of one of the best universities in Tehran on a scholarship available to only one percent of the domestic population, and at the same time I had also taught physics to high school students to make money, while keeping another part-time consultant position at one of the biggest oil and gas factories just outside Tehran. 

So, if you look at my journey before I moved to Canada, one thing that helped me adjust here best, was my attitude to change and being open to it. When I was in high school, I had no plan and idea that one day I would be teaching physics and working in a factory. But, I was always open to opportunity and rarely said no.

Easier than Physics

I think most people are scared of digital innovation simply because it forces change and challenges the status quo! The first reaction to change by most people is getting their guard up and not being open to even thinking about it. One of the biggest struggles in today’s workforce is workers’ inability to cope with change, the only constant. Technology is the driver of change I know best, but there are other drivers of change as well that others are better suited to discuss.

In the digital world, there have been scenarios where some organizations have failed to innovate digitally and as a result we never hear about their brands. When I started my journey in digital marketing and tech, I noticed that there are not that many people in Toronto who fully understand these terms and how digital marketing can have a positive impact on their business. So, I had to educate both my clients and colleagues at the same time as I was learning more about the digital world. In fact, this teaching part of my job was very interesting to me. given my history as a physics teacher in Tehran.

It is so much easier to teach digital marketing than physics! In physics, I did my best to bring all the concepts to life and find real examples to make it easier for my students to understand.  But it is really challenging to do so for all the topics. For example, static and dynamics were easier than electromagnetics. However, teaching digital marketing is so much easier. When I talk about a concept like remarketing in digital marketing, I can find a lot of real examples that everyone has experienced already, which is not always the case in physics, especially not with quantum physics which can be experienced only at subatomic scales, or relativity, which can only be experienced close to the speed of light.

Digital Innovation in Brands

In my observations of the digital innovation journeys of numerous brands I want to highlight memorable ones, starting with the big brands:

Lululemon’s launch of Lululemon Studio

Lego and Adidas collaboration

BMO’s Twitch channel

Porsche’s subscription model

If I think about smaller brands with innovative vision, the following come to mind:

Hey.com with the new way of managing your inbox.

venue.live making conference calls more fun and engaging.

Jebbit.com making lead generation easier by offering engaging mini games, quizzes, and more.

Change, the Only Constant

Among brands that remain most resistant to digital innovation are the bigger ones in the financial and healthcare sectors in Canada that cannot afford an innovative approach to growing their business online mostly due to the regulations in place. This at the same time has opened many opportunities for smaller brands to fill in the gaps and build digital products. 

Based on my experience, startups and mid-market businesses are more open to innovation and transformation. For most startups, innovation is the main reason they ever exist. Mid-market businesses have been challenged by their competitors and forced to transform digitally and use automation to either bring down their cost of operations or increase their quality of service. The challenge with big organizations is their decision making processes. Big organizations are not open to innovation because their decision-makers think change is hard to achieve, needs a lot of investment, preparation, is a long process, and incurs a high chance of failure.  

It is on us to change this! People like me who are working in the digital innovation and transformation space can help by having a conversation with businesses/organizations and hearing their pain points. What is it that stops them from innovating, and even educating them on what we mean by innovation in the digital world. Then we need to work with them to define a proof of concept; POCs are the best! This is where we can work on something that has a quick turnaround, is not expensive, and show businesses how innovation helps them.

For me and other folks who work in digital innovation, Web3 has opened doors to doing things differently. Now service-based companies can offer a 1-to-1 session with their advisors in the metaverse. Several brands have opened new stores in the metaverse. Even influencers have gone a step forward in creating their avatar influencers in the metaverse. But Web3 is more than just games and avatars. The fact that people are now more open to the augmented reality, have access to a virtual world, and have tried decentralized interactions with other peers across the internet is a reason why Web3 has spurred on so much new innovation.

Advice to Canada’s Newcomers

My advice to newcomers is to join as many communities as fast as possible! There are so many groups on Facebook or Meetup, and other places to explore and be a part of. Joining doesn’t mean that you have to be active or sign your life away to those communities; just don’t be scared of getting social. Give yourself a few months, attend events both online and in-person, research new connections and new topics to be prepared for each meeting. Preparation will help push your fears away and eventually get you conversations within various communities and expand your networks. 

This is something I wish I had done more of in my earlier journey as a newcomer in the digital marketing and tech circuits in Toronto. There are lots of events in Toronto and great communities like TechTO to belong to. What I like about TechTo is that it is all about how we can help you grow in tech. From jobseekers, to hiring managers, to startups, to tech startup investors seeking innovative ideas to fund, to lots of great speakers who share their personal experiences in this technology-forward industry and city. Find and grow your communities.


Kamyar Ezzati is an innovator and digital consultant with strong experience in digital marketing, mar-tech/ad-tech, leading data science teams, and projects for a number of enterprises like Bank of Montreal, Mitsubishi Motors, LaVieEnRose, etc.


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