Faces of #OKGNtech
Accelerate Okanagan - Nov 19, 2018 - Columnists

Photo: Contributed

A strong community can promote new ideas and ensure accountability. It can also act as motivation, support and even provide a little friendly competition. The power of community is undeniable, and the Okanagan tech community is no exception.

Our community is strong and growing with record speed, and maintaining connections through a period of growth like this can be a challenge. Nobody panic. We’ve got a plan.

Introducing “The Faces of #OKGNtech,” a showcase of Okanagan tech entrepreneurs, partners, supporters and cheerleaders designed to fuel more connection, more growth and more excitement. Follow along on the blog and on Instagram at @OKGNtech to learn more about our growing community and what makes them awesome.

Meet Nicole. Nicole Rustad is the founder of Vortovia, which is a social impact consulting firm, and she is also the founding chair of Mamawapowin Technology Society, a member of the Accelerate Okanagan Board and co-founder of a new tech startup. When Nicole is not busy making moves and inspiring change, you’ll find her boarding a plane or on the porch with her pup.

We recently caught up with Nicole to learn more about what she has been working on and what drives her passion for social impact.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

“I would definitely say that I am cause agnostic. If there is a cause, I probably love it. Everything that I touch has some form of social impact piece to it. I’m pretty excited about the projects that I am working on right now!”

Were you always passionate about social impact?

“I was that kid who would stand up for anyone being bullied in school. I grew up in a family that was very compassionate. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but my mom always found time to fight for the underdog and my father is also a very kind man. I think that really influenced me and helped me find my true north.”

Do you have any advice for someone interested in a job like yours?

“If you’re interested in social impact, I suggest that you start with a cause you care about and start by doing simple volunteering. When I started out I was stuffing envelopes, which gave me the opportunity to do some other really great things. When getting involved in social impact, you can’t expect to start at the top, but you can expect that if you have perseverance, you’re going to be given opportunities to do more.” #justshowup

When were you first introduced to OKGNtech?

“I was introduced to the tech community in the Okanagan through Disney and the founders of Club Penguin: Lance Priebe, Dave Krysko and Lane Merrifield. These three men are visionary leaders, and they really forged a path forward for the tech community here. They have made a mark on this community in a way that has helped so many people succeed.”

What’s one thing most people wouldn’t know about you?

 “I am a risk taker. I love trying new things. I started my glider pilot license a couple of years ago, and it’s something I definitely want to finish when I have time. I love that kind of thing.” #notafraid #fearless

[Editor’s note: Being a glider pilot means that you can fly without the supervision of a flight instructor. So yeah, if you already thought Nicole was a bad ass for all of her social impact work, look at her now!]

Who inspires you?

“I’m really inspired by the people who will never be famous, people that quietly do things for their community. Those unsung heroes keep me motivated to give back and do more. I feel like it’s a responsibility of mine to make sure that their stories are told, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to do that.”

What are your five-year goals?

“Over the next five years I would like to see Mamawapowin Technology Society be self-sustaining, I would like to work my butt off with my friends to get our startup off the ground, and I would like to continue to work on causes that are important to me. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I want to move the needle on all of it.”

[Editor’s note: Mamawapowin Technology Society, is a non-profit, Indigenous-owned organization that provides Internet access to the community of Maskwacis in Alberta. Nicole connected with founder Bruce Buffalo after watching a documentary about him on English Al Jazeera. After hearing his story Nicole knew she wanted to get involved, so she messaged him on Facebook and the rest is history.]

Why have you chosen to call the Okanagan home?

“I used to be the corporate citizen program director at Disney, and during my last six years I was based in Los Angeles. I spent a lot of time commuting to L.A. and traveling all over North America. I’ve been to pretty much every province and territory in Canada and many of the states down south. In total, I have travelled to over 40 countries, and I can honestly say that we live in the best place on the planet.”

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