After finishing my library science degree I worked at MaRS Discovery District (http://www.marsdd.com) as an information specialist, providing secondary research to technology entrepreneurs to help grow their businesses.
After working with startups for a while, I got completely hooked and I’m now Co-founder and CEO of My Elephant Brain (http://www.myelephantbrain.com), an online memory game to help people remember names and faces. My business partner and I recently moved from Toronto to Santiago, Chile for six months to participate in the Startup Chile (http://www.startupchile.org) program. We’ve been given $40,000 to start our business; it’s an amazing opportunity.
Description of unique interest/hobby
I am addicted to rock climbing. Being in Toronto, most of the climbing I do is in indoor gyms but whenever I have the opportunity I travel to climb outside. I’ve climbed in Australia, Thailand, Turkey, and Red Rocks in Las Vegas. And now that I live in Santiago, Chile, outdoor climbing is just an hour away.
I loved climbing from the very first time I tried it. I’m even afraid of heights (it takes me a while to step on the glass floor of the CN tower and a high balcony gives me vertigo) but a big part of the reason I like it is for the thrill.
When most people think of rock climbing, they think of needing upper body strength. While climbing does require some strength (which you develop through climbing), it also requires balance and creativity. There are always multiple ways to go up a route and you need to find the best way for your current skill set and level of physical fitness.
Climbing is a great stress reliever for me. It helps me to clear my head as I focus on the movement and the challenge. It’s also a fun and very social activity. I’ve made some great friends from climbing that I might not have met otherwise.
What is the most rewarding thing about your hobby?
I love the challenge of doing something that is both physically and mentally hard. Sometimes your body is capable, but you’re too afraid to make the next move for fear of falling. Other times your mind is clear but you lack the strength or endurance or technique. When you’re able to overcome a physical or mental limitation to finish a route, it’s a great feeling. Climbing really pushes my personal limits and the journey is a ton of fun.
What is the most rewarding thing about your job?
I’m pretty new in my role of entrepreneur. Although I no longer have the title of librarian, being a librarian is what led me to this position. The misconception of librarians is that we all love reading, which may be mostly true, but more than that, I think we share a common love for learning.
As an entrepreneur, I’m learning every single day. It’s rare that I already know what I’m doing or have any experience in what I’m about to do. While it can be scary, this constant feeling of discomfort is also exhilarating in its own way. I also love the creativity that’s required in the day-to-day work of building a business. Each day is what I make it.
How does your professional life inform your recreational life?
It is said that being an entrepreneur requires a certain comfort level with risk-taking. In order to start you often need to sacrifice some income or even quit a job to work on your business full-time. I left a job I love (and even a man I love!) to come participate in the Startup Chile program. Although the sacrifices made in the short-term are hard, it is definitely worth it in the long-term. And the job (and the man) will still be there when I return. J It is these calculated risks that move your career forward, or allow you to climb harder while staying safe.
As an entrepreneur you are constantly making decisions that directly impact your business. You’re always weighing the pros and cons, trying to move fast without wasting resources. Certain climbs are like that too, where if you move too fast without thinking ahead, you can get into trouble. There is a balance that is required between forward momentum and how much energy (or in business, money) you have left.
How does your recreational life inform your professional life?
Rock climbing is a sport of continual progression and improvement. In order to climb higher grades, you need to work on your weaknesses to make yourself into a more well-rounded climber. I think the same is true for a professional working life. As an entrepreneur you have the option to hire people to do the things you are not strong at, but as a general knowledge worker you need a minimum necessary skill set. No one comes into a job with a perfect skill set so you often have to work at improving certain skills. For me, I actually don’t like writing, which is terrible because it’s an absolutely crucial skill; it’s something I’m always working on.
Rock climbing has taught me to not give up. Sometimes you’ll try a route many times, and begin thinking that you can’t do it because you’re not strong enough, your technique’s not good enough, etc. And then one day after many tries you finally get it. The key is to learn from what it is you’re doing and never stop trying.
Do you love reading?
I love learning. And reading is an excellent (and often free!) way to learn. I read non-fiction to learn about the world and fiction to learn about people.
Do you need peace and quiet to work?
Only if I’m writing. Otherwise, I work in a co-working office which is about as loud as a school cafeteria