What is a typical day like for you?
As COO I am responsible for the smooth operation of our company. This means that I need to make sure that everyone is doing their job and doing it properly. COO stands for Chief Operating Officer and it's common for not-for-profit companies to have COOs instead of a president. I spend a lot of my time building business relationships with other organizations so that we can do cool things to help our community.
What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
We have many clients who come to us for help. Our clients are small businesses that want to grow their companies but need some advice on how to do it best. The most enjoyable part of my job is when we help a cool company grow their sales, hire more people, or make a difference in the local economy. Oh ya, I love learning about awesome new technology too.
What is the least enjoyable part of your job?
The least enjoyable part of my job is having to let staff go if they aren't right for the job.
Explain the path you took to get to this job (education, internships, etc.).
I began as a science student, doing an undergrad in biochemistry at Trent University. My honours thesis project was focused on extracting compounds from plants and purifying them. That got me really excited about plants. After graduation though, I taught high school for a few years, teaching science and technical design. Then I went to grad school to do more plant science and finished a PhD in Plant Physiology at the University of Guelph. I was encouraged to go into business and see if I could commercialize some technology I created during my research. This was certainly a hard road - having to go from a scientist to a business person. But it was definitely rewarding and mind-expanding. My first company ran for three years and then we failed to get financing to take it to the next level. To support myself, I took a job at the Ontario Centres of Excellence who fund industry-academic applied research. I helped researchers and companies get funding to do cutting-edge science and commercialize the innovations. In that role, I helped many companies turn science into products. Over a few years I became an expert on innovation and was hired by Innovation Guelph to help build the company. Now I run Innovation Guelph where our team works hard to help companies from many different industry sectors become successful.
Who or what was the greatest influence that set you on this path?
I have to admit that some business people at the Ontario Centres of Excellence are the ones that encouraged me make the leap from scientist to business. But when I really look back, the old TV show called 'What Will They Think of Next' with Joseph Campanella was ultimately responsible for getting me hooked on innovation. The future is COOL!
What advice would you give others seeking a similar job?
COOs need to know how to manage people, money, relationships, and embody a vision for the companies they run. If you want to be a COO, you should dive right into entrepreneurship, learn about business, talk to some retired business people from the type of business you might want to run.
How does your job make a difference?
I run a company that effects many people and businesses in Guelph and the surrounding region. Our goal is to help companies start, grow and thrive. We help companies build their business to their full potential while at the same time help them understand that great companies are committed to the communities they inhabit and always aim for a positive effect on the environment and local economy.
How do you use science, math and technology in your job?
Often, the companies and researchers we help are on the cutting-edge of science and technology. It really helps to have a science background to understand how their technologies work and where their solutions might need to be applied.
Is there one course you wish you had taken in high school but didn’t? Why?
I wish I took more music courses so I could play in the school band - I would have rocked!
What makes this job right for you?
I'm good at my job because I care about the people and companies I help. I'm also pretty confident so that helps when I have sit down with a CEO of a big company or meet with government Ministers. We're all people and sincerity and compassion go a long way.
What's the most bizarre or silliest thing you’ve ever done in this job?
We just did a photo shoot for a new magazine in Guelph called Col.lab.or.ate where I dressed up as a farmer and went out into a huge muddy garden to plant little wooden buildings in the ground. The photo shows my colleague watering the little builds as I plant them. We're growing businesses! Get it?
What activities do you like to do outside of work?
I play a lot of music in my spare time. I record at least one album every year and I'm going to teach a course on music composition this year.
You just won $10 million! What’s the first thing you’d do?
I'd pay off my house - but then I would probably start another company; something that would make a lot of people happy.