There’s a misconception in Southwestern Ontario, that if you have technology career aspirations, Waterloo is your eventual destination. If you live in London, there is no need to go anywhere. This city has some of the most creative, innovative, and successful technology companies right here in town. Just visit Voices.com on the seventh floor of the former Bell building, and you’ll quickly see why. They occupy the entire floor – all 45,000 square feet of it – and it is the exact type of space that has become synonymous with the symbiotic life/work balance relationship, that giant technology companies have pioneered for the last decade.
Voices.com is the world’s largest voice-over marketplace, and serve clients in over 130 countries. With a five year growth rate of just shy of 800%, they are considered the fastest growing company in London. Having recently grown to over 100 employees, they had far exceeded their previous space at 150 Dufferin Avenue, where they’d been since 2011. Now that the company connects creative professionals and brands with a global network of more than 200,000 voice actors, the company was looking for something unique to fulfill their considerable needs.
In January of 2017, their new headquarters at the iconic 100 Dundas Street building, was unveiled to the public. With an acre of space, and two and a half times their previous footprint, the new studio location was created by demolishing the entire floor. They not only wanted an open environment, but all of their employees on one floor. The resulting space, and sizeable floorplate, is unique to downtown London; but it was something that Voices.com felt was critical to the company’s goals of maintaining a unique, and award-winning corporate culture.
Co-founders David and Stephanie Ciccarelli first conceived their idea for the space, while in San Francisco with the Canadian Technology Accelerator Program. While making connections and finding ways to grow the company, they found themselves immersed in the “west coast way” of doing business. That influence is quite obvious in the resulting Voices.com office aesthetic, and the culture they seek to create.
In just five months, the previous space was reduced to rubble, and the renovations completed – with furnishings, technology, and design concepts from that West Coast Tech influence throughout.
Leading commercial interior design firm, IN Design Associates was hired to carry out the Ciccarelli’s vision and tasked with, “Creating a plan to accommodate rapid growth, a “living office” that supports different modes of work and do it quickly on a modest budget,” said Monica Sharman from In Design. She said the timeline was the biggest challenge.
From the moment you step off the elevator and are greeted by the cool blue glow of the company logo, you get a sense that you’re walking into something a little bit different.
By the time you get to the reception desk, you know you’ve entered something different.
Herman Miller’s entire Living Space philosophy can be seen throughout. The innovative designer who invented cubicles in 1969, now creates workspaces that seek to align a company’s strategic direction, with their design needs.
Certain pieces of furniture not only accentuate the aesthetic, but highlight some of the goals of the company – like the collaborative area at Voices.com affectionately dubbed “The Gravitron” by staff.
There are groups of people working everywhere – all in beautiful cubicles. All laid out in different areas for the department that they belong to – IT, marketing, talent, and then a host of sales departments – Team Global, Team Canada, and three Team USAs – East, West and Central. There is a bank of clocks on the wall for the various different cities in the world, which despite being practical, somehow fortify that you are in the presence of a true global entity.
Despite the mass of working humanity, the vast, open space somehow provides a very tranquil backdrop to the work going on. There is little sense of being in a high-rise building other than the view, because it is so spacious.
There is a meeting going on in a glassed in area called The Forum, which is for large presentations. It looks like a busy sales meeting, but despite being able to see everything, it offers little more than a murmur outside, where all of the other staff are working at their cubicles. (Picture in gallery below)
There is a giant kitchen-cafe that is part of The Plaza, which can accommodate almost 300 people. It is also open and inviting, and designed to have every working employee on the floor in there at once. No shifts, everyone eats together.
The Plaza, is for company-wide meetings, such as the Daily Huddle and monthly Rally. The space is also be made available as a local event space option for other local businesses, like the Techcellence Awards last week from TechAlliance.
There are industry term-themed meeting spaces throughout the middle of the floor’s layout. All glassed in like The Forum, and with cool, state-of-the-art Evoko displays that are linked to the company’s network, and let people outside know what’s going on inside, and at what time.
There is a fantastic art gallery showcasing a journey through recorded sound in the 20th century. It is near opulent in that it initially feels like a lot of space dedicated to an aesthetic, but it only adds to a sense that you are in the presence of success. (Picture in gallery below)
And the sound room, oh, the sound room. Sound-proofed of course, to make sure as to not disturb what’s going on everywhere else on the floor, it is also plastered with sound absorption panels inside to create a near perfect audio chamber inside. No reverberation, and a natural tone to every voice and sound within the room. Read more about building the sound room.
They have fostered an environment and culture, that people want to work in. One where even if an employee decides to “move on to greener pastures” one day, they often come back to Voices.com. Take Matt Webb for example – Matt’s career led him away from Voices.com, only for him to return because of a “great company culture.” The surprising part about Matt’s story came, when he answered where he had gone and then come back from. “Apple!” Webb told The London Beat. That’s a bold statement. Even the mighty global giants Apple, couldn’t provide Matt with what he felt was a comparable work environment.
Wether it’s the sound room, the Herman Miller influence, the slick meeting spaces, the recorded sound gallery or the massive Plaza, the west coast influenced design concepts and the Ciccarelli’s vision have created an incredible workspace right here in London. Voices.com have won a variety of awards that demonstrate its leadership in business and its commitment to its employees and culture. Just yesterday, they were named to the Best Workplaces in Canada list, and were also recently named Employee Recommended Workplace for 2018 for the second time.
It is a culture that is important to Ciccarelli, “The success of a company rests on the great people you hire and their ability to execute on your strategy. That’s why employee engagement and happiness is paramount.”
Add it all up, and you have an incredible workplace. Right here in London, Ontario. Not in Waterloo. Not in San Francisco or somewhere else in Silicone Valley. Not in Hong Kong. Not in London, England. A truly global headquarters right here in your backyard. Their success is remarkable, and it is something that the city of London should celebrate.
“To have such a dynamic, Canadian-based – yet internationally successful – company in this local architectural landmark bodes well for everyone involved. Keeping 100 workers in the area also benefits the downtown landscape and its core businesses,” said Shmuel Farhi of Farhi Holdings Corporation.
Voices.com continue to grow in leaps and bounds. Their incredible studio offices are a reminder to all who visit, and who work there, that this company is one that is on the rise; but they also serve as a reward for a job already well done.
“Such a project has been a dream of ours for years. To see it come together, and so quickly, with the help of Farhi Holdings, IN Design Associates Inc., Enright Construction Limited, Facility Resources, Herman Miller, and our various other partners, means that we can maintain the momentum of growth within our company, the city, and the industry,” said Ciccarelli when the office was first revealed.
That growth is important not only for Voices.com, but for any technology company here in town.
“For companies that are upgrading their facilities, there are obvious benefits to productivity and innovation, as well as attraction and retention of staff,” said Greg Picken, Director of Communications for TechAlliance. “There’s also a net positive effect for the sector as a whole. As our companies renovate, expand, and set up in new office spaces, it contributes to a growing ‘vibe’ for the whole community. Whether its retrofit projects like The Cube or The London Roundhouse, or expanded spaces like we’ve seen with Voices.com or Big Blue Bubble, it raises the bar for what working in the London tech sector looks like.”
Raising the bar. That’s exactly what Voices.com have done for their employees, and for any local technology company looking on and having aspirations of doing big things. Global things. They have become a local benchmark for a symbiotic life/work balanced relationship.
They have become a London institution.
Thanks to Trisha Beausaert and Tom Fraser at Voices.com for their co-operation and help putting this feature together. Thanks also to Monica Sharman from IN Design Associates, and Greg Picken from TechAlliance.
Also, I geeked out into an audio puddle on the floor in the sound room, and in the History of Recorded Voice Gallery. #justSaying
To learn more about Voices.com, visit www.voices.com, or follow along on Twitter at @voices or on Instagram at @voicesdotcom. Follow The London Beat on Twitter @TheLondonBeat and let us know what you thought of the profile.