Recognized as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2017)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Apr 24, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why Intelligent Mechatronic Systems Inc. / IMS was selected as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2017):
- Intelligent Mechatronic Systems encourages employees to become owners through a share purchase plan, available to all, and offers generous referral bonuses for employees who help recruit candidates from their personal networks (up to $2,000)
- As part of the company's health benefits plan, Intelligent Mechatronic Systems provides a generous health spending account of up to $2,400, allowing employees to top up levels of coverage as needed
- Along with 3 weeks of paid vacation allowance, Intelligent Mechatronic Systems offers paid time off during the winter holidays as well as up to 3 personal paid days, which can be scheduled throughout the year
Driving a path to safer roads at IMS
Technology people like to be on the cutting edge. At Intelligent Mechatronic Systems Inc. (IMS), employees are indeed proud of leading their field technically, but they also cite how their cutting-edge work benefits society at large -- improving people's lives when it comes to driving.
"What we're doing is important not only for our business, but it also helps people," says Dale Scott, Lead Engineer. "It reduces accidents and helps people become better drivers. Staff here are not just excited about technology -- they're also excited about making a difference."
Waterloo, Ont.-based IMS makes technology designed to advance the connected car, particularly for the car insurance and transportation industries. Its products can monitor a car's usage so that insurers, for instance, can get information on where and how a car is being driven.
Known as insurance telematics or usage-based insurance, this new field allows insurers to offer discounts to drivers based on their own personal car usage patterns. It can also help claims adjusters reconstruct what happened in an accident. Several major global insurers, including Allianz in Germany, The Co-operators in Canada and Nationwide in the United States, now use the IMS connected car platform. There are versions, too, that can give drivers, especially young drivers, feedback on their driving habits
IMS also provides road usage charging solutions that differ from traditional transponder systems in not needing the elaborate reception gantries erected on toll roads such as Greater Toronto's Highway 407. Now used in Oregon and California, the IMS platform can transmit more data about mileage driven and driving patterns and is much cheaper, says Chief Corporate Officer Jeoff Shiekh.
"As cars become more fuel efficient, and hybids and electric cars increase, governments are getting less revenue at the pump from gasoline taxes," says Shiekh. "To ensure safe road conditions, they need to maintain the roads and make improvements, and this is a very cost-effective way to use technology to help fund that."
Shiekh says that as the leader in this space, IMS has grown quickly, adding more than 30 new jobs and making 22 internal promotions in the past year alone. In recent years, it has focused on creating an attractive, open-plan workspace in a refitted building formerly owned by Conestoga College, complete with a games lounge, daily snacks and free breakfast every Wednesday. Employees also get extended health benefits, gym discounts and yoga sessions with an instructor.
"We have a very forward-looking, innovative, collaborative culture," says Shiekh. "There's an open-door policy. You can walk over to the CEO's office and have a conversation about the challenges or the excitement of what you're working on."
Scott, who joined in 2004 and now oversees a lot of the engineering work process at IMS, agrees that it is a very collaborative environment where even different teams consult each other. "We have a Buddy Program, for new people when they come in, but what I really like is we have what I sometimes call 'the anybody program' where I can just ask anyone a question and get an answer, or the other way round. It's very open."
Scott also likes the diversity at IMS, both cultural -- "I never knew what Diwali was before" -- and in gender. Some 40 per cent of the workforce is female, unusual in a tech company. "People with different backgrounds solve problems differently, and that's a strength," Scott says. The company actively celebrates a variety of cultural festivals, from Chinese New Year to Cinco de Mayo.
There are also employee-run "communities of practice", both professional -- discussing the latest trends in technology -- and personal, such as board-game nights and hockey skills. Scott says this is a hallmark of the IMS approach. "That culture of letting it be flexible, of saying to the employees, 'You guys know what to do -- go do it. Let us help you and support you.' In my mind, that's really important."