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Hi, I'm Andrew. I'm a co-founder at Plaid Consulting, which helps universities, colleges and governments bridge the gap between data and insights. I completed my Master of Business Administration and Visual Analytics Graduate Certificate at SFU, and serve on the advisory board for the Business Analytics and Decision Making Certificate at the Beedie School of Business. I enjoy exploring all that BC has to offer, and can be found hiking mountains, cycling near and far, and skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.
Q: How have you had to adapt your work life? What has been easy/hard?
A: Plaid has worked remotely since 2016, so we didn't have to change too much when the pandemic hit. This said, our frequent travel through the spring and summer to conferences was curtailed, as was any semblance of in-person activity. It's been nice to be home everyday, and be able to have lunch with my wife who also works remotely. For me, the hardest part has actually been deciding which learning opportunities to pursue - so many companies made their e-learning options free or cheap that it was tempting to pursue them all, but I had to be selective about what would be the best use of my time while also helping to navigate my own company through the pandemic and turn more of our offerings virtual.
Q: How have you had to adapt your home life? What has been easy/hard?
A: This part has been pretty easy for me, actually. Because we both worked remotely, we already had home offices set up. The hardest part about remote work in general for me is being able to put down work and focus on the other parts of my life - I've learned good skills for this, but am always on the lookout for good ways to have my work and life exist in harmony.
Q: What are you doing for fun?
A: I've been pretty fortunate to still be able to get out cycling or hiking. Save for the earliest part of the shut down, the great outdoors has given ample opportunity to get away from crowds and get some exercise. I'm also reading a lot more books.
Q: How have you been keeping yourself entertained? What are you watching/reading?
A: I've been reading a lot for the last while, alternating between books on productivity, psychology, marketing and sales, and the occasional thriller.
Q: How are you staying connected with family/friends?
A: A lot of Zoom calls. It's been an interesting opportunity to get family from around the world on the same video conference, and nice to catch up with cousins that I might otherwise only see a couple times a year.
Q: How are you staying active?
A: The pandemic has given me and opportunity to go for multiple walks per day with my wife. When I can, I hop on the bike and go for a long ride, or go for a hike.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you've received?
1. I'd applied for a permanent role working for my former boss. In this role, I'd oversee advising and recruitment for a faculty at SFU. I had done the role on a temporary basis before, was pretty good at it, and figured I was a shoo-in. She asked me to meet for coffee, and inquired as to why I applied. I said because I thought I'd be good at the job and would enjoy it. She said that I would indeed be good, but my enjoyment would be short-lived. She told me how my eyes lit up when I talked to people about using data to make decisions (well before that was a thing for universities...) and how she could help me turn maybe 40% of my job into that, but the rest of the job would be the standard duties. She said I should go after a job where I could do 100% of what I loved, and that she'd introduce me to people in the field, and do anything she could to support me in my journey. While initially this was a bit of a difficult conversation, it gave me a new perspective, and all of two weeks later I found my first full-time data analytics job. The rest is history.
2. When my co-founder Pat Lougheed and I were planning to start a business, we had some pretty grandiose ideas on what we should do. We set out to build some major products that would compete with very established players in the space. Everyone we knew encouraged us to pursue our brilliant ideas... until one chance meeting with an old colleague led to speaking to a VP at a tech company. We explained our idea, and he said "well, sounds like lots of people have told you good things. Let me play devil's advocate and tell you all the reasons why your idea is going to fail". He proceeded to explain how funding and capital worked, and how our reputations as successful business people wasn't (yet) in existence. But, he also helped us discover we had a set of skills around data and higher education no one else had. Plaid Consulting was born in that meeting, right down to the name. We've kept in touch ever since with our business mentors.
Q: Advice for fellow alumni during this time of physical distancing?
A: Be kind to those you care about, and to random strangers. We're all going through a lot more than we bargained for in 2020, and having someone be a little bit nicer goes a really long way. Try also to take some time for yourself to reflect and recharge.
Q: Advice for current SFU students during this time of physical distancing?
A: We'll get through this. One of the unique things about my undergraduate experience was feeling like a bit of a guinea pig. Long story short - the Technical University of British Columbia was highly innovate, and got closed down and absorbed into what is now SFU Surrey. Our courses were all new, and many were very experimental - kind of like how SFU was in the early days, but more high tech. Through this kind of odd experience, with a shut down and a takeover as a cornerstone of my early education, I learned a great deal about how the world works, and what my place in it was. I think through the pandemic you will learn a lot of new things, much quicker than you had expected, and this will serve you well in the long run.