Jesse Wilson has moved up in the world. Literally.

His ninth-floor panoramic view from the new Square Canada office at 305 King St. W. is in sharp contrast to his first Square office: his home.

Wilson, a prairie boy who moved east to attend the University of Waterloo in 1999, returned to the region three years ago from California, where he worked in the tech industry.

“This place is magnetic,” Wilson said.

After finishing a computer science degree at UW, Wilson struggled to find challenging work at a company he would like.

“I had a hunger to write code,” he said.

Wilson began writing and sharing his open-source code online, when a fellow UW grad at Nike eventually noticed his work. The grad and his team were using Wilson’s code and were impressed with his talent. He quickly found himself moving across the border to Oregon to work for them.

Wilson loved his time at Nike, but it still wasn’t a pure tech job in his mind. His dream was to work for Google, one of the tech world’s hottest up-and-coming companies at that time.

Once again, Wilson’s skill led him to a new opportunity. After finding a bug in a Google developer’s code, he sent the company an email pointing out the error, and landed a job interview.

After repeatedly sending his resume through Google’s HR department and being passed over, Wilson and his wife headed to Mountain View, Calif. for his dream job.

“I had good grades at school, but I wasn’t stellar,” Wilson said on his struggles to stand out during his job hunt. The opportunity to interview with Google as a programmer who’d carved out an interesting niche in open source helped him stand out from his previous attempts as a recent grad, with good marks and a decent co-op history.

Still, while Wilson loved his work, he didn’t fall in love with California as he thought he would. He didn’t love the high cost of living, or the tech-centric thinking he found in his neighbourhood. He also couldn’t vote and didn’t feel fully in control of his destiny regarding where he lived.

Google was supportive in helping move him back to Waterloo Region to work in its engineering office, and Wilson admits he probably would have been happy there for a very long time if a friend hadn’t begun working at a startup called Square.

One of Wilson’s dreams had been to experience working for a startup, and the Square team wanted him, but he did not want to move back to California to work at the company’s headquarters. When he said so to the hiring team, he figured he’d just killed his chances of working there.

Instead, and much to his surprise, Wilson was given the go-ahead to stay in Waterloo, and to hire a team of developers to support him and the newly formed Square Canada.

After working with a team of five developers in a co-working space, the team graduated to more grown-up offices, first in downtown Kitchener’s Breithaupt Block, and now at 305 King St. W., just a couple of blocks away.

Today, Wilson is very much at home in the region. He loves the large backyards and community spirit he remembers from his school days. The lifestyle suits him and his family. Wilson’s wife is an avid gardener, and the Wilsons look forward to raising a family here.

“It’s a tight community here,” Wilson said. “The cost of living is fantastic compared to big cities, and the mix of people you live and work with makes it dynamic. My neighbours aren’t just in the tech industry. The mix of people you live and work with makes it dynamic. The city has so much momentum right now. Now all we need is better transportation to TO.”

“I feel like I’m here forever.”


If you’re participating in #LiveLocalKW like I am, you certainly won’t be bored this weekend… I see and hear that this Thursday, Sept. 18 it’s the inaugural Kitchener Node.js meetup at McCabe’s Irish Pub in downtown Kitchener. The fun starts at 7 p.m. … This Saturday, Sept. 20 is Doors Open Waterloo Region. This is your chance to get inside buildings that you normally just walk past. The Communitech Hub and D2L will be open. Stop by between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. for guided tours…. This Saturday you can also head down to King Street between Gaukel and Queen streets for The Word On The Street book and magazine festival. The streets will be packed with artists, authors and live readings between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. There are also great partnerships with local restaurants (called The Word On The Street… Bites) and a partnership with the KOI Music Festival… Speaking of KOI, the annual festival runs this Friday to Sunday and kicks off with a free outdoor show from Danko Jones on the main stage in the Crabby Joe’s parking lot in downtown Kitchener. The show starts at 7 p.m. KOI Con, the business of music conference, will take place at the KPL Central Library, 85 Queen St. N., during the festival, and features a keynote address from Steven Page, formerly of Barenaked Ladies, on Saturday at 1 p.m…. finally, if you want to meet Jesse Wilson, you should head to the Square Kitchener office  next Tuesday, Sept. 23 for an Android Tech Talk. Wilson will be joined by Jake Wharton. The evening kicks off at 8 p.m., and registration is required.

Have suggestions about events I should be checking out? Drop me a line or tweet me @write_girl.