Feature – Millennials.
Ruling the world, changing the world.
By Alje Kamminga | Photos by Kevin Belanger
The world agrees – millennials are different than the rest of us. For one thing, they are the largest and most educated generation in history, and as at ease with new technology as today’s average 14-year-old. They also have a strong sense of community; rather than address their individual needs, millennials prefer to focus on what we used to refer to as the ‘big picture.’ They are ambitious, they are involved and they are ethnically and culturally diverse.
Still, others offer different, less flattering, opinions of the millennial generation. They’re lazy, selfish and feel entitled, these people maintain. And what’s up with all those selfies?
David Coletto is 36, considered by many to be an older millennial. And while most millennials rarely acknowledge that they are members of a very special generation, David has made it his business to inform the world – millennials included – about the impact and potential of Generation Y. A founding partner and the CEO of Abacus Data, an Ottawa-based public opinion and marketing research company, David heads Abacus Data’s Canadian Millennial Research Practice, an organization dedicated to helping clients connect with millennials.
“ It shouldn’t surprise anyone that millennials share so many things.”
“It shouldn’t surprise anyone that millennials share so many things,” he says. “Most of us were raised by baby boomers that were far more protective of us, coddled us, and instilled a sense of optimism and can-do-anything attitude. We are also the first generation to grow up in a world of rapid technological change. It only makes sense that we adopt and adapt more easily and comfortably to new technology.”
Bianca Oran, Kate Harrison, Alannah Bird and Jacob Lazore are also millennials. They, too, share many – probably most – of the qualities ascribed to other millennials. And they share one other thing – a deep and unwavering appreciation for Ottawa, the city in which most of them live and work.
Bianca, 37, is the Development Officer of Strategic Partnerships at the Ottawa Mission Foundation, the fundraising arm of the Mission. The Foundation’s goal is to engage young philanthropists who hope to raise the profile of homelessness in the Ottawa area. Outside of work, Bianca recently launched the Young Professionals Network (YPN), a group that meets regularly to discuss common issues and challenges.
Bianca describes herself as a city person with an appreciation of the outdoors. Little wonder then, that she loves the large selection of bike paths and running trails in Ottawa and the National Capital Region.
“ I made the decision to move to Ottawa three years ago while still living in Paris”
“I made the decision to move to Ottawa three years ago while still living in Paris,” she says. “I felt it was affordable compared to other big cities, small enough to get around easily and had a great mix of culture, music and nightlife. You just have to seek it out.”
Alannah Bird, 28, left Ottawa for Toronto but, like her fellow millennials, decided that her future would be brighter in Ottawa. Today, she works for GBA, a development advisory and project management firm. As the firm’s Development Manager, she focuses on financial aspects and financing structures. In typical millennial fashion, she’s taking a Masters in Real Estate and Infrastructure from Schulich (York University).
“ I knew I wanted a city that had both good access to employment opportunities and access to things to do outdoors”
“When thinking about coming back to Ottawa, I knew I wanted a city that had both good access to employment opportunities and access to things to do outdoors. Too often, it’s one or the other. But in Ottawa, you get both. And that’s pretty unique.
Clearly, the City of Ottawa and the surrounding area is an exceptionally attractive destination for millennials. Ottawa, particularly, features most of those qualities that matter most to Canada’s millennials. It’s relatively affordable – especially when compared to larger cities like Toronto and Montreal. It offers a wide selection of outdoor activities, the nightlife is varied and vibrant, and the high tech-industry – particularly appealing to those raised in technology’s golden age – is booming.
A 2017 article in the Huffington Post described Ottawa this way:
Some don’t consider Ottawa a very hip and trendy place to live, but the Byward Market neighbourhood will challenge any notion that Ottawa isn’t cool. Home to extensive campuses for University of Ottawa students and government workers, Ottawa offers an eclectic mix of old-world charm and new urban development. More than 20 per cent of the housing options were built after 1990, including numerous condo buildings that are perfect for students. The nightlife has no shortage of options in Canada’s capital city.
But when selecting a city in which to live and work, millennials generally agree that their bottom line is – well, the bottom line. Because they are often selective about how to make a living, millennials want affordability. And in that area, Ottawa rises to the top.
“ Millennials want and expect to be challenged in their work and in their lives.”
Just ask Kate Harrison, 29. She sees Ottawa as a great place to raise a family. A senior consultant at Summa Strategies, she helps clients – many of them millennials – with government relations, communications strategies and public opinion research. Summa is a partner of Abacus Data so Kate is familiar with the unique qualities and the lofty expectations of the millennial generation.
“Millennials want and expect to be challenged in their work and in their lives,” she says. “Ottawa, with its high-tech presence, its outdoor attractions, and its burgeoning arts scene, gives them what they’re looking for.”
Certainly, it gives Kate and her family what they’re looking for. “I’ve been here for 10 years and seen so many changes, all for the better. But just as important is what hasn’t changed – affordability, access to outdoors (Kate snowshoes and runs, among other things) and the history.”
Like so many other millennials, Jacob Lazore, 26, is chasing a dream. But his chase is a lot longer than most. It begins every day with a two-hour drive to work from his home on the Akwesasne Mohawk Reserve. An ironworker with two small children, Jacob is currently working on the restoration of the Parliament Hill buildings.
When asked what it means to be a millennial, he just laughs. “It just never comes up,” he says. “Really, with two small children and a job that requires so much travel, it’s not something I ever think about.” What he does think about is how Ottawa might fit into his future.
“ I think it would be great to raise my daughters here.”
“I’ve really grown to like Ottawa,” he says, “and not just because the Senators – my favourite hockey team – are here. If it turns out that the Parliament Hill project provides an opportunity for long-term employment, I think it would be great to raise my daughters here.”
If, as so many people maintain, that millennials occupy their own universe, it appears that for many of them, Ottawa is the centre of that universe.