BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY)’s CEO John Chen acknowledged that attracting and retaining good talent is a challenge when the firm is trying to regain some of its lost glory. In an onstage interview on Thursday with Cary Burch of Thomson Reuters at the third annual Waterloo Innovation Summit, Chen said it becomes hard to find good people in a turnaround situation because they need to be assured that their time won’t be wasted.

Retaining employee tough for BlackBerry now

In 2011, BlackBerry had 11,000 employees in Waterloo Region, but now it has only 2,700 employees. “We lost a lot of good people as a company,” Chen said, adding “Not everybody is cut out to be a turnaround person or be in a turnaround environment. But if you can do it — I love it — it is fascinating, it is fabulous. The reward that comes at the end, the feeling of it, is hard to describe.”

Chen is very close to complete his second-year with BlackBerry as its CEO. The Canadian used to be a pioneer in the smartphone technology, but in the past few years, its market share has dropped to less than one percent. He added that the Canadian firm will first have to achieve successes then only it will be able to attract and retain good people.

Working on turnaround

BlackBerry has crossed the midway point in its turnaround effort. Chen said he is making sincere efforts for rebuilding a team spirit at the company as well as changing the workplace culture. According to Chen, the biggest challenge is to execute the turnaround plan that asks for transformation of once-dominant smartphone maker into a company that is focused on software, services, secure communications and Internet of Things, and that too without losing patience.

Chen said one should not allow the market or the competition dictate the space because every good thing takes some time. “But in a public company format, time may not be something you can afford. So we are going to run into bumps. As long as we have our direction straight we are going to get there,” BlackBerry CEO said. Saving the company from going away completely is the only success of Chen and his team for now, the CEO said.


  1. BB will soon become a ‘Hardened Android’ vendor and dump BBOS (QNX) leaving it as a brand earning from licensing of the BB name and many patents. BB will have some interesting research and development but remain a niche vendor with little career appeal. Even Microsoft is having trouble attracting developers to WIN10 and it’s got potential.

  2. If they are really good they’ll only stay long-term if they are well overpaid, or they are incredibly (stupidly?) loyal.

    If they are really good, headhunters will be all over them — easy pickins’ for headhunters.

  3. Now, the article could also have been titled “Titanic Struggling to Keep Passengers and Crew From Jumping Ship”.

  4. I used to use Android. Currently I have a Passport and used to own shares. I also went to school for ECE in Waterloo so I know RIM better than most.

    Bottom line is I don’t really care any more about BB. They have almost zero affect on my life. As soon as tablets get cheaper I’m destroying this phone.

  5. I was laid off from BB some time ago. They were a great company, but John Chen stated in a town hall that the lay offs were behind us, meanwhile still laying off 100`s of jobs after that statement. There is a cloud of uncertainty there, some employees I knew want their package to be able to move on. No one there I knew is referring qualified friends for available jobs even after a cash incentive was offered. I hope BB can turn things around and can still be a player in the Telecom field. They have many innovative ideas that sometimes those ideas make it to the device hardware or SW designs.
    I know from my point of view many friends that were forced to use BB at their job disliked it because they used older BB models and had those models for years because they would never break, when they had newer Android or Apple personal devices and compared the two they always said how limited their older BB devices where. It was never a fair comparison. Newer BB devices are pretty good and still have good reliability. Best of Luck BB.

  6. If you were offered a job at BB tomorrow (and you already have a job), what would be your first question/concern. “Will I still have a job within the next two years?” No one wants to have to work in that kind of environment. No job is ever secure in this day and age but the odds of still having a job with Google in two years, assuming you’re competent and qualified is much higher than with BB. Who wants to jump from a stable ship onto a rickety, might not stay afloat one. I know I wouldn’t.

  7. Unless you are a BB hater/basher, you seem to ignore the fact that BB is well known for it’s mobile security…undisputed!

    Granted that the bigger market share is for the non-professionals and
    that’s why BB came up with Android based Venice trying to capture some
    non-professional market share.

    However, Android is very good for most people who want to play and get apps, but it’s no way near BB’s security. Neither Android nor iOS has all G7 countries and 16 of the G20 governments using their platform not to mention major financial institutions around the world.

  8. Good people actually get laid off when the company has no choice downsizing, you might have good talented people in a certain unit that you want to close down and save the money hence letting them go, might keep some of their best for other tasks but that’s about it.

    As for targeting business market, i think it’s BB’s only choice given that it’s strong in that sector. BOYD is one of their strengths actually.

  9. The best people don’t get laid off. They ditch a sinking ship. Even so, I don’t think the remaining 25% are all crap. There is a large Venn intersection of dopey loyal and talented, but after so long they might be down to loyal and desperate. But, I’m not sure BB on your resume really opens that many doors anyway due to tech incongruencies between them and other companies and, well, reputation. Therefore the situation cannot be that bad.

    Their problem is they are making a lot of shit basic decisions regarding their phones’ functionality and usability. They are also targeting an ever smaller to non-existant “business as a whole” market that no longer exists due to BYOD.

    Finally, in a space like phones, which as a whole is getting boring for everybody anyway, no one can afford to be the guy who plays catchup.

  10. I don’t think it’s a “bad vs good” engineer situation, the key here is “turnaround”.

    Apparently even those who were let go, were good talented people:

    “We lost a lot of good people as a company,” Chen said, adding “Not
    everybody is cut out to be a turnaround person or be in a turnaround

  11. I’m fairly confident they laid off their worst employees where possible. There is no way 3/4 of their employees were bad and the last remaining 1/4 are also bad. Even a bad engineer is still an engineer.


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