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 Kathleen. Kathleen MacKinnon is the founder of Nine Rising, a partner for businesses looking to make a shift towards practices of diversity and equity. When Kathleen is not raising the bar and educating on how we treat humans in this evolving social landscape, you’ll find her in front of the camera, making moves on Instagram, or working out (she is no stranger to that #sweatlife).
What is your company Nine Rising all about?
“Both Nine Rising and our app, ekanary, are really about evolved education. Nine Rising is a partner for companies looking to make shifts toward practices of diversity and equity in their business, which means the companies that hire us are committing to raising the bar in how they conduct business. So, not just slapping a pride flag on their doors, but actually making sure that their hiring practices, corporate responsibility, marketing and communications are all actually up to speed, and showing up for people because that’s what’s necessary in 2019.
Through my work with youth and mental health, I’ve had the opportunities to connect with a lot with parents, and that’s what motivated our team to create ekanary. Ekanary is an app used to empower parents and give them the tools to have the hard conversations and their youth. Currently, it’s back in development for round two (woot-woot). We are really excited about what’s to come. It’s all based on behavioural psychology, which is my favourite thing ever.”
Why did you choose to call the Okanagan home and what do you love most about OKGNtech?
“I started working in OKGNtech before I even lived in the Okanagan. I spent a lot of time here growing up and loved it, so once I was able to work in this ecosystem I did just that and began working remotely for a Okanagan startup from Edmonton. While I was working there, I was travelling back and forth quite a bit, and I fell even more madly and deeply for this community. What I liked was people here realize the potential that I think all entrepreneurs here have. Everyone shows up for each other in a really special way that I haven’t seen in a lot of communities. Launching my own company here was a no-brainer.”
You talk a lot about the power of showing up for people. What does that mean?
“So often we can get caught up in what’s going on with our own companies and our own lives that it becomes really easy to miss out on what’s happening in our community. I’ve made a real effort to show up for the brilliant things that others are doing here in the community. Why? Because the people putting on these events are showing their authentic selves. Not to be really cheesy, but it’s my favourite thing when people feel comfortable enough in the community to be brave and to show who they are, and what they’ve created. I think it’s something we should always celebrate. Showing up makes a difference. Showing up for somebody is everything.”
How do you stay educated and informed about what is happening in our community?
“Quite honestly, the information that I am most curious about is what is affecting human beings in our community and larger communities, and that means being active in the community, going to conferences or working with marginalized populations, whatever it may be. I am making sure that I am volunteering, whether that is with the pride community or with our exploited women at Hope Okanagan. It’s so important for me to stay up to date because it is my job to give accessible education to people, so how I stay relevant in my industry is making sure that I am not assuming what people need, but I am actually on the ground doing the damn work. Staying relevant for me is actually walking the walk and working a lot with our exploited populations of people and listening to what they’re telling me.”
What do you want to be remembered for?
“Something I want to be remembered for is never believing that anything is hopeless. Cornel West, this brilliant, brilliant professor and Black Lives Matter activist, wrote this book called Race Matters, and I went to hear him speak. He talked about hopelessness and how ultimately in life we play off this entire thing like ‘Oh, this is hopeless!’ or ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘This isn’t happening,’ and he said, ‘You have to earn your hopelessness.’ So at the end of the day, when you’re on your deathbed, and everything that you’ve done to make the world a better place hasn’t worked, then (and only then) you can say it’s hopeless. It’s important to me to never believe anything is hopeless and to be gracious with unconditional love in walking my fellow people home … and everyone is my people.”
Do you have any advice for someone interested in a job like yours?
“F—k yeah! So I guess I fall into a few different industries, whether it’s the consulting path of equality and equity or whether it’s in tech specifically, my advice would be genuinely don’t f—king do it if you don’t give a s—t about it. Don’t do it if all you see is dollar signs. I mean, sure, do it! I just don’t think it’s going to last long. Another thing I would say to people who want to be in my sector is not everyone is going to get it, and that’s totally cool. You have to find the people that do get it and champion them. For myself and this industry, I think it’s a lot of convincing people that have the blinders on, but that’s ultimately why I do it!”
What is it like being an entrepreneur?
“You might be fooled by my Instagram stories, but entrepreneurship is not all fun and games. Yeah, I’m hilarious on my Instagram—that’s fantastic—but like entrepreneurship, it’s not a roller coaster. It’s f—king Hurricane Katrina, kay? As an entrepreneur, you’re just in this hurricane. Sometimes you catch a really sick wave, and you become Soul Surfer Bethany Hamilton, and you’re killing it, and then there are other times where it’s like Maverick smackdown, and you’re like ‘How the hell am I going to get up from this?’ And if you don’t have the tenacity and the passion to get up, you might as well get going.”#soulsurfer.
[Editor’s note: Soul Surfer is a movie about a badass young surfer girl who gets her arm bitten off by a shark but continues her surfing career even after her accident.]
Have you always been this confident and outgoing?
“NO. F—k no. My mom would tell you I am incredible, but I am ferociously mediocre at many things. I just care about people very deeply, about so many people unconditionally. But yeah, I was shy AF as a child. Like, ridiculously shy. Like, hated going to summer camps, didn’t want to talk to a lot of people shy. I was like, follow the leader to the max. If there is queen B I was like queen C. If you needed somebody to follow you, I was that motherf–king follower. I spent a lot of my young life being very quiet.
So now, when I am working with youth, I make it very clear that I am the most mediocre person ever, and when I say that I mean I never had the highest grades. I have always had a very large moral compass, and maybe that’s where these things come into play, but, like, grades were never my thing. Was I ever athletic? GOD NO. I played ringette, and I was a Zamboni on ice!
I am very transparent with my youth; I think it’s important for them to know that I am mediocre. I do a lot of public speaking and a lot of work with a lot of people, and I am very passionate about it, and I think that we tend to glorify people that are really excited or passionate. But the truth is I’ve had to be brave to get to where I am today and a lot of pumping my f—king self up and learning that I don’t give a s—t, but at the same time knowing that it is very OK to feel very mediocre at a lot of things.”
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