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Tales from Around the World: Canada


Listen: Humanize IT Podcast Episode 109


Let’s visit our neighbors to the north in Ontario, Canada, eh?


This week Adam and Skip spoke with Penny Belluz, Director of Operations

at Teleco in Thunder Bay, Ontario. In this episode, we learn how this relatively small, dispersed Canadian city has adapted to life with the pandemic as we discuss an important, relevant and often-overlooked topic: cybersecurity.

Lockdown Life in Thunder Bay

Penny said the northern Ontario city of 110,000 didn’t take quite as big of a hit as others in her province, like Toronto and Ottawa. Currently, Thunder Bay has around 80 confirmed cases. Ontario, with a population of 14.5 million, has confirmed 32,554 cases and around 2,500 deaths.


Within the Thunder Bay community, the strict health and safety guidelines implemented in March have begun to relax. Retail stores with doors to that open to the outside may reopen with 6-foot social distancing. Restaurants have opened for takeout and delivery. Penny can return to her clients’ job sites with a special COVID sanitation checklist that must be repeated every two hours, from cleaning doorknobs to truck interiors. Because the city covers so much surface area, people are generally laid-back, yet cautious.


Penny believes Thunder Bay will come out of this pandemic strong. She feels fortunate that she could continue working as a tech professional and not lay off any of her 21 employees. Although many outside of the IT industry may have had a different experience, she said the government made a strong effort to help Canadian businesses and everyday workers. Plus, she’s noticed an overall kinder, more helpful demeanor among strangers and families alike.


Pivoted Plans for the Tech-Savvy and Otherwise


Once Penny saw how COVID was affecting surrounding cities, she knew they needed to quickly “pivot” their plans in order to help people maintain stable, long-term working solutions at home. In a matter of days, her team created individualized remote work solutions for each of her clients that matched their level of technology competence.


Some — say, 20 percent — were already equipped with the cloud, VPN, security, etc., and the transition was seamless. Others, however, thought this new situation was a matter of leaving a temporary “out of office” voicemail. They took two main approaches to meet every level of need.


  1. First, they provided a “Remote Worker Kit” complete with a headset, monitor, printer, laptop and more. Some needed the whole package; some only needed one or two items. With this package concept, they made sure everyone was well-prepared for a home work environment that could easily be transitioned into a permanent situation, if need be.

  2. They also doubled down on training, education and communication.


Are You Cybersecure?


Aside from technology how-tos, one of the main focuses of this training process was cybersecurity. Did you know phishing attempts have increased nearly 700 percent since the pandemic began? During times of stress, like blizzards, blackouts and social disruption, security is threatened when hackers take advantage of people using their home networks, which likely aren’t as secure as those at the office. Plus, when people are worried about maintaining daily operations and staying afloat, security gets bumped down on the priority list.


Many of her employees and clients didn’t know their kid’s gaming PC wasn’t as well-equipped for safety as their work computer. Others thought only large businesses were a target to hacking, when in reality, the opposite is true. To educate the vulnerable, they held online webinars with the Chamber of Commerce, directed their marketing efforts to cybersecurity awareness, and worked with people one on one to ensure they were safe and efficient at home.


The key here is communication and education to avoid human error. You need to have conversations about Zoom. About TikTok. About the dark web. She noted that 95 percent of cyberattacks are caused by human mistakes, so you must train your people well and help them spot sketchy links, emails and sites before it’s too late.


We’ll leave you with this great analogy from Penny: You can invest in a high-tech, state-of-the-art alarm system for your office, but if your employee —the human — doesn’t turn it on at the end of the day, it’s not going to keep the bad guys out.


In short, clients need a real person to talk to about important issues like this.

They need to Humanize IT!


Stay tuned for next week’s episode of Tales from Around the World. We’re going to SWEDEN!


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