Faces of #OKGNtech
Accelerate Okanagan - Aug 08, 2022 - People in Business

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.

This is “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 Amy Gopal. She is an innovation advisor at Innovation Canada. When not she’s building connections that help businesses grow, you’ll find Gopal training to be a sommelier, practicing Muay Thai, or out and about with her friends.

Where are you working now? 

I moved to Vancouver recently to work with Innovation Canada as an innovation advisor helping businesses that are looking to scale. We form a team around them that can connect the company with the resources it needs to grow faster. I’m the liaison between the company and our government partners.

What do you enjoy most about your role? 

In previous work, I was very focused on the traditional tech sector. Being able to broaden my scope and learn about innovation in other industries has been exciting. There are businesses that are doing some pretty amazing things in Canada. It’s fun being able to pick their brains. It can be overwhelming but in a positive way. I really like seeing the solutions people are coming up with in their industries, especially from a sustainability perspective.

What advice would you give to someone interested in a job like yours? 

Get the experience you need first—go out there, try things and fail because that’s part of learning. Ultimately, what makes the biggest difference is mentorship. Surround yourself with the right people who have been there before and aren’t shy about giving honest feedback. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just have an open mind and be willing to learn through experience.

How were you first introduced to the OKGNtech community?

My dad, Raghwa, had one of the first tech companies in Kelowna, and he would share a lot of stories. He also used to keep jelly beans on his desk, so I think that contributed to visiting the office so much. Since hearing about all the problem-solving and innovative solutions, I’ve been really interested in tech and entrepreneurship. My dad showed me that you could have fun working through problems, which encouraged me want to get into that industry.

What did you enjoy about the OKGNtech community?

I loved the volunteer opportunities. It’s easy to get stuck in one community and not see what else was happening outside of that. While I was first building my business, volunteering was a great way to find people who were in the same space as me. When you’re in high school or college, you’re constantly moving around and making connections, but once you’re out in the world and trying to build a business, it can be really difficult to meet like-minded people.

What do you want to see more of in the community as it grows?

While I was living in Kelowna, the tech community was very supportive. It is so easy to network in the Okanagan because everyone was very open to connecting and willing to introduce newcomers to the right people. Over COVID, there was an influx of new talent, entrepreneurs and businesses moving to the region, choosing to operate remotely. It would be amazing to see the community hold on to that supportive and inclusive mindset as it grows.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Failure is not the be-all-end-all. Switch your perspective and look for progression over perfection. When you’re a perfectionist, you won’t start a project if you think there’s a high risk of failure. But the people that get ahead are the ones that take the risk, fail, and make improvements. Don’t be afraid of taking the chance. If it ends in failure, take your learnings and push forward.

Is there something you want to be remembered for? 

I’d like to be remembered for having a positive impact on the people I meet. Growing up in Kelowna, I looked and thought differently than everyone else in my community. When you’re the outsider, you really see how people can leave a mark. So when you’re going through the world, it’s important to make sure you make a positive mark. There’s no excuse for not being a decent human being.

Pandemic drives imagination
Jon Manchester - Aug 04, 2022 - People in Business

Photo: Facebook

Having to entertain her young son during the pandemic led a Vernon mother to write her first children’s book.

And now, Christine Dubois has just completed her fourth.

The picture book novel is titled Gardenia: A Fairy Tale.

Dubois got into writing when “everything closed” in April 2020 as COVID-19 pandemic measures led to shutdowns across many industries.

“I had two weeks off work, and I had to entertain my son. Everything was closed, and we were extremely bored,” she said. “So we spent the two weeks in my basement, painting pictures together and made the first book: The Dragon Meets a Mermaid.

“Then, for the last nine months, I have been working on Gardenia.”

Her other books are Charlie Chip, which she produced over the winter and spring, and Marcus Moose.

Charlie Chip is about a cookie that rescues other food in the kitchen.

“I got the idea for Charlie Chip because my son loves chocolate chip cookies and we were eating them, and he asked if cookies feel pain,” she said. “Then I realized we were the antagonist in a cookie story.

“Marcus Moose I wrote because I wanted something funny.”

It’s about a moose that has random facts about Canadians, from hockey to poutine.

Gardenia, Dubois said, was inspired by B.C.’s landscape. She describes it as a “farm, princess, off-grid, adventure.” It includes water colour and digitally drawn art done by the author.

“I was originally inspired in autumn, and started writing it in October, with a very pumpkin theme after visiting St. Anne’s pumpkin patch,” she said.

Dubois says she has more books on the go and the experience “has allowed me to stay home with my son and earn a little extra money and have more time to be involved in the community.”

Her books are available on Amazon.

Kamloops native new BCLC boss
Sydney Chisholm - Aug 04, 2022 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed

A born and raised Kamloopsian will be taking over as BCLC’s president and CEO.

On Wednesday, BCLC’s board of directors announced Pat Davis had been named to the top job and will start his duties today (Thursday).

BCLC board chair Greg Moore said Davis will bring a wealth of knowledge in technology and gambling industries in his new position.

“We are confident his experience combined with his dedication to integrity, player health and serving the best interests of our players and our province will further propel the advancement of BCLC as a social purpose company that operates with the highest standards,” Moore said in a news release.

According to BCLC, Davis has been in the gaming industry for almost 20 years, most recently as BCLC’s chief information officer and vice-president of business technology.

Davis is currently on the Thompson Rivers University advisory committee for its software engineering program and sits on the board for Kamloops Innovation.

As a Kamloops native, BCLC said Davis will continue to work at the Crown corporation’s Tournament Capital headquarters.

Davis will be taking over from Lynda Cavanaugh, who has been BCLC’s Interim president since January 2021.

The board also announced Dan Beebe’s appointment as chief operating officer and Sandra Austin as chief people officer.

BCLC said both Beebe and Austin have been serving in the roles on an interim basis for a number of months.

Helping live life to fullest
Tom Kernaghan - Aug 03, 2022 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed

If every long journey begins with the first step, imagine how far you could go if you turned your steps into strides. For Julie Morgan, a registered social worker and the owner of Making Strides Counselling, it begins by pushing aside the stigmas of mental health, reaching out for support and confronting your fears. Morgan is here to guide you along that path that most of us find confusing and overwhelming—the walk toward our healthiest, happiest self. 

With 15 years of counselling experience and a bachelor’s degree in social work from UBCO, Morgan helps you to navigate tumultuous emotions and overcome the insecurity, depression, anxiety and anger keeping you up at night, impeding your progress, and affecting your ability to create a better, more fulfilling life—the one you deserve. It’s about discovering what is in your way, what is immobilizing you, what is keeping you from moving forward. The foundation of this mutual exploration is a solid therapeutic relationship. 

You are not alone. Morgan passionately believes in the importance of building her clients’ trust, so that they can feel safe in being open and honest about whatever it is they are going through. And her services cover the vast and varied nature of life’s challenges. Whether you’re seeking counselling for family and relationship issues, grief and loss, chronic illness and disease, career conundrums, youth struggles, caregiver strain and more, Morgan is ready to take that first step with you, no matter how small.

Julie, your reviews are amazing! Empathy and passion certainly come across. Some have this by nature, but often experience shapes, strengthens and guides these qualities. What inspired you, or compelled you, to enter social work and become a counsellor?

Ever since I was young I have wanted to be a counsellor. It began after meeting one and seeing the huge difference they could make in my life. As a person who cares deeply about people’s well-being, I knew that many struggle, and I wanted to make a difference. I realized that through counselling I could guide others to a better understanding of themselves and their emotions, so that they could create strong connections and relationships in their world and live their lives to the fullest.

I love that unattributed quotation on your Facebook page: “Learn to differentiate between the sound of your intuition guiding you and your traumas misleading you.” I think many of us can relate to this. When someone comes to you, how does that clarifying process begin? What do you ask your new clients?

Since every client is on their own journey and has a different past, there is no cookie-cutter answer for this. I always start where the client is at and go from there. It is the client who directs the counselling process. Individuals often need to start by learning how to listen to their bodies, and by linking the mind and body experiences. Identifying experiences of trauma can begin clarifying the difference between their intuition and the traumas misleading them. There are a series of questions that guide my practice, and these vary depending on the client and where they are in their healing journey.

Your online posts are refreshingly brief and visually stunning. And I love the bridge metaphor you use in one of them. What is in that metaphorical canyon that keeps us from crossing over our bridges? How do you allay doubts and address hesitation in your clients?

It’s often quite scary to take those first steps in the healing journey. Those steps include considering changes in our ways of being, our responses and our typical ways of coping that at one time served a great purpose but now no longer seem to be working for us. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Not only are those earlier ways and old patterns no longer serving us, but they can be quite damaging to ourselves and our relationships. And yet we are accustomed to them. It is this fear of change and of the unknown that keeps us from crossing the bridge.

It is my belief that the most important role I have as a counsellor is to help to create a safe and trusting therapeutic relationship with my client. In this context, feeling guided and supported, the client is better able to begin taking steps, facing their fears, moving toward change, and ultimately crossing the bridge. 

What does the outcome look like when someone has crossed their bridge? 

The individual will feel different physically, mentally and emotionally, and they are able to identify what feels different. They will be able to describe their newly acquired strategies and how they plan to continue to implement them in their daily life. The individual will be able to express finding more fulfillment in their relationship with themselves, in their relationships with others, and in everyday life.  

I’ve explored a few counselling avenues over the years, but it was a registered social worker, back in Toronto, who quickly got to the heart of the matter and helped me. What distinguishes your work from other available options and makes it so effective for some?

Social work differs from other options in that its focus is to start where the client is at and allow them to guide their own journey, as they are the experts in their lives. Social work sees the client as imbedded in their environment and therefore influenced by what is in their environment—both positive and negative. It utilizes the understanding that the conditions into which people are born, the conditions in which they live, grow, and work, and their age are all social determinants of health that shape the way in which people live, and these need to be considered. This requires different ways of understanding and approaching problems and in turn looking at solutions and change rather than seeing the person in a vacuum. The social work practice also uses a strengths perspective that identifies all client’s strengths and helps them to utilize these for growth within themselves and throughout their lives. 

Social workers are also required to complete a certain amount of supervised field work before they are considered a professional social worker, and they are guided by a college which sets a certain level of standards. Social workers are also required to complete a minimum of 40 hours of professional development every year to maintain their registration status.

Tell us something fun about yourself many wouldn’t know—a fun fact, quirky perspective, or an engaging story. 

I am an avid concert and festival enthusiast, with some of my all-time favourite shows being Garth Brooks, Ed Sheeran, Pink, Metallica, The Tragically Hip, Billy Talent and Shinedown. 

I have also fallen in love with playing pickleball as much as possible!

Julie Morgan operates Kelowna’s Making Strides Counselling and Wellness

This column was submitted as part of BWB Wednesdays

Faces of #OKGNtech
Accelerate Okanagan - Aug 03, 2022 - People in Business

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.

This is “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 David. David Brennan is the CEO of Safety Evolution. When he’s not building software that protects oil and gas workers, you’ll find Brennan out for a run, collecting wine or enjoying great food around the Okanagan.

Where do you work in the Okanagan? 

I’m the CEO of Safety Evolution, so I’m responsible for ensuring we have a great vision and purpose. My co-founder and I started the company in Alberta in 2016 and officially opened the head offices here in Kelowna three years later. It’s a great location at Pandosy and Leon so it’s easy to explore downtown or spend some time at the beach during the day.

What do you enjoy most about your role? 

Finding great people and empowering them to do what they’re good at. Growing the team has been going well for us and has provided some great learnings. I’m at the point now where if I meet a person that can add value to our team, I’ll create a position for them. It’s been fun finding ways to bring more expertise and skills into Saftey Evolution that can help us grow.

How did you get into this kind of work?

I worked in Alberta with the oil and gas industry as a consultant up until 2019 when I went full-time with Saftey Evolution. Before that I had started three businesses, so I had also gained experience in the startup space. As a consultant, I was working in occupational health and safety with most of the big oil companies and saw a real disconnect in how they should be protecting their workforce. My co-founder and I decided to leverage our software and industry knowledge to create a solution for that disconnect.

What advice would you give to someone interested in a job like yours?

If you have a great idea for a software company that solves a problem, find a good designer, build a cheap clickable prototype, take it to your ideal customer and ask them what they think. If they don’t like it, don’t build it. You’ll save yourself thousands of dollars in development fees. If they do like it, sign them up as a customer so they can help you pay to build the platform. That’s not what we did, and it’s a lesson I’m taking away.

How were you first introduced to the OKGNtech community? 

When Saftey Evolution was two years old, we were looking for help—because we didn’t really know what we were doing at that point— and found the Venture Acceleration Program at Accelerate Okanagan. A little while later, applications for the annual OKGN Angel Summit opened while we were looking to raise our first round of capital, so we participated in that, too. Through those programs, we were able to work with some really good mentors, connect with the community and access valuable resources.

What do you enjoy about it?

Everybody is really helpful and willing to make time for members of the community. Grant Lawrence with Valhalla was an awesome mentor and Brodie Desimone has been a great connection in our network. What I really like is the depth of skill that’s here. If you want to know something or learn a new skill, there are people here that will teach and mentor you through it. It’s cool to see that everyone wants to give back and be a part of the community.

What changes have you seen in the community?

The Okanagan tech community is growing, and I don’t know if people realize just how fast. I was on a founder’s hike up Knox early in the pandemic and, over about five months, nearly 30 new tech founders had moved to the area and joined our group. It’s been phenomenal to see the number of skilled people and the added expertise that have come into the community. It’s clear to me that the tech industry and the Okanagan as a whole have the traction to grow significantly.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? 

Talk less and listen more; ask questions and stay curious. When you’re in a leadership role, if you’re coming into a room with the answer or next step, you’re stopping people from being creative, taking ownership, and doing all the things that you want them to do. As a leader, your job isn’t to provide answers; it’s to give your team the freedom to explore innovative solutions.

CFNO honours top volunteer
Okanagan Edge Staff - Aug 02, 2022 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed
Penny McDonald, left, receives her volunteer of the year award from CFNO board chairperson Michele Hill.

A strong supporter of business development has been named Community Futures North Okanagan’s volunteer of the year.

Penny McDonald has been helping businesses grow through her volunteer work with CFNO for the last 10 years. She has more than 20 years of accounting and tax service experience, and she currently sits on CFNO’s board of directors and serves as its treasurer.

McDonald, who is a senior manager with KPMG, has watched as the business community has grown by leaps and bounds in the North Okanagan.

“The local business community has become more diversified,” McDonald said in a press release. “With the growing population, there’s more opportunity for entrepreneurs than ever before. Overall, that has kept me engaged for all these years. I have a personal interest in businesses of all types, and it’s exciting to see what businesses are succeeding today.”

Given her passion for business development, McDonald is a driving force behind CFNO’s Enterprize Challenge. It’s an annual Dragons Den-style event that rewards up-and-coming businesses in the North Okanagan.

Valens adding experience to board
Okanagan Edge Staff - Jul 22, 2022 - People in Business

Photo: LinkedIn

A major player in the cosmetics industry intends to join the board of directors at The Valens Company.

Aïda Moudachirou-Rébois, who is senior vice-president and chief marketing officer at MAC Cosmetics, will stand for election to Valens’ board of directors during the Kelowna cannabis company’s annual general meeting in early August.

Valens, which bills itself as a leading manufacturer of branded cannabis products, hopes to use Moudachirou-Rébois’ experience leading and developing global brands to its advantage.

“We couldn’t be more delighted to put forward Ms. Moudachirou-Rébois as a director nominee for our board of directors,” Valens CEO Tyler Robson said in a press release. “Her deep brand-building expertise, along with her product development and innovation experience align with the company’s most critical priorities today.

“Ms. Moudachirou-Rébois’ perspective and contributions will help us to strengthen and diversify the skillset of our incumbent board and deliver value for all stakeholders.”

Commission premieres new boss
Kristen Holliday - Jul 22, 2022 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed

A former board member for the Thompson-Nicola Film Commission has been named the commission’s new head.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District announced Thursday that Terri Hadwin has been appointed film commissioner for the region.

Hadwin was previously the grant and research assistant for the TNRD and has held key leadership roles for local and regional non-profits, including the former film commission board.

The TNRD said Hadwin has been an advocate for destination development and community growth.

In a statement, Hadwin said she “could not be more thrilled” to be working within the creative industry for the region.

“Having now been awarded the Thompson-Nicola film commissioner position satisfies my devotion to the arts and economic development in tandem,” Hadwin said.

Hadwin said her goal is to maintain the region’s “film friendliness” while being eco-conscious, seeking out ways to protect neighbourhoods and natural resources through sustainable film production.

Hadwin is taking over from long-time film commissioner Vicci Weller, who retired in June. Weller was hired as the first-ever TNFC film commissioner in April 2000.

“It will take time to fully encompass Vicci’s vast knowledge and experience, but the TNFC will move ahead with existing goals,” Hadwin said. “Vicci has left the TNFC with tremendous resources, including a stellar team that will continue building the TNRD as a film destination of choice.”

The TNRD had initially hired Gareth Smart to fill the film commissioner role in April. According to reporting from Radio NL, Smart was let go in June.

College hires new regional dean
Okanagan Edge Staff - Jul 21, 2022 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed

Okanagan College looked to Alberta to find its newest regional dean.

Alison Gibson will oversee the South Okanagan-Similkameen region and also serve as the student, graduate and co-op employment director on the Penticton campus.

Gibson comes to the college from Alberta Health Services, where she had a variety of roles.

“I’m thrilled to be joining Okanagan College at this time of renewal,” Gibson said in a press release. “I am inspired by OC’s strategic plan with a focus on reconciliation, and equity, diversity, inclusion and social justice.

“Putting students first and being in community are important to me. I look forward to working together to continue to transform lives and communities.”

Gibson has a master’s in nursing, and has taught and conducted research at the University of Calgary and University of Lethbridge.

Faces of #OKGNtech
Kirk Penton - Jul 21, 2022 - People in Business

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.

This is “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 Lindsay. Lindsay Allen is the manager of social strategy and content at Hyper Hippo. When he’s not bringing the voice of Hyper Hippo’s players into the boardroom, you’ll find Allen playing in punk bands, organizing punk shows or playing a round of golf.

Where do you work in the Okanagan? 

I’ve been working with Hyper Hippo, a mobile gaming company, for over the last six years. You could say I’m one of the ‘dustiest’ members of the Hippo team. I know staying at one company for six years is a bit abnormal, especially in the tech industry, but it’s been such a positive place to work that’s allowed me to constantly grow and hone new skills. In the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing but Hyper Hippo gave me the space to learn and access to a strong mentor which helped build the foundation of my career.

What do you do there?

I’m the manager of social strategy and content, which means that I take care of all the high-level social strategies for our games and manage a team of two—our social manager and our community manager. I started out in player support, but my manager asked where I wanted to go in my career. I’ve had a strong interest in social media since the early days of blogs and MySpace, and I thought the social landscape would give us an opportunity to connect with players on a new level.

What do you enjoy most about your role? 

It’s fast-moving and always changing; the hot platform today isn’t going to be the hot platform tomorrow. I’m constantly needing to learn and find out the best way to connect with our players where they are. I also like that we’re in a player-first space and that the community can really dictate what they want to see. One of my favourite things is being able to jump into a meeting and explain what our games need based on data and conversations we’re having with players.

What advice would you give to someone interested in a job like yours?

Say yes to a lot of things. Even if you don’t think you can do a certain task or take on a new responsibility, if someone is asking you to do it, they see the potential for you to succeed. Besides, there’s no shortage of people in your company, Okanagan or online that can help guide you in learning a new skill. It’s all about getting into a company or product that you’re really passionate about and letting people know where you want to go.

What do you enjoy about the OKGNtech community?

The great thing about this community is that everyone feels close enough that you could easily connect with someone that’s able to help you grow. Being able to meet those people in person is something that’s been missed lately. Hyper Hippo doesn’t have an office anymore; our team is fully distributed. On occasion, I’ll work from the Kelowna Innovation Centre. I remember stepping into that building and immediately running into someone I knew. The Innovation Centre is a great place for that.

Do you think there is anything missing from the community here?

We need to think about accessibility in tech a lot more. It’s going to be a key component in making products or services usable by more people. As an example, when it comes to our social content, we’re spending more time thinking about the hearing impaired and how we can tell stories and use animations that don’t require dialogue or sound. It’s great that we now have unlimited access to talent and perspectives around the world to help with that effort. It removes any previous excuse for not having representation in your work.

Is there a piece of advice you often share with others? 

If someone is having a difficult time deciding whether to stay at their current job or go elsewhere, I always encourage them to go elsewhere. That may sound weird coming from someone who has been in one place for six years, but I find that, even if the new job isn’t exactly what you wanted it to be, you’re going to learn so much by trying something new than you ever would by staying put.

Is there something you want to be remembered for? 

I hope that I’m remembered as someone that cared a lot. I feel like it’s cool to be dismissive and not care about things in punk rock, and I really bought into that when I was younger, but it was completely against my nature. I’ve noticed a big shift in what’s important to me as I’ve moved into a management role. I care more about the people in my team and helping them get to where they want to go in their careers than I do about my own goals. If they succeed, that’s a success to me.

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