When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I considered many different occupations during my teenage years including a lawyer, a meteorologist and a National Hockey League referee. As a young adult, nearing completion of my Bachelor of Arts, I settled on city planner, in part because an uncle who was an architect and I thought that it was cool that he was shaping the built environment. I wanted to be part of that.
Upon graduation, there was an opportunity for me to start my career in community economic development with communities in rural Manitoba that led to an opportunity in Summerland B.C. to do the same kind of work for both an economic development commission and a business improvement association. I moved to Vancouver in 1992, where I assumed the current position of President and CEO of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA) that I occupy today. Although I never worked for a municipality as city planner, my master’s degree provided me with a strong foundation that has helped me throughout my career.
How has your career path unfolded so far?
I have done all sorts of jobs to get me to where I am today. During my undergraduate and post-graduate years, I worked midnight shifts at a hospital and as a waiter at a golf and country club during the summer to help pay tuition and to have some spending money. The most interesting summer job I had for two consecutive summers whilst doing my Master of City Planning degree was a junior town planner for the Canadian Forces Base in Winnipeg. I had the opportunity to work on some very interesting projects and benefitted from great mentors who served in the military.
Throughout my post-graduate years I also volunteered for a not-for-profit community economic development organization. Through this volunteer work my passion for community economic development grew stronger and it was very much aligned with many of the courses in my Master’s program. My first job upon graduating was as a community economic development officer, and I credit my volunteer experience and the connections I made during that time as key factors that led to me getting the job. This first job and working hard was the springboard that led to my next job in Summerland. There I got a taste of what business improvement associations were all about and how effective they can be in transforming neighbourhoods. When the opportunity presented itself to be part of the DVBIA, I jumped at it and reached out to the network that I had established in Vancouver to help me get my resume in front of the search committee.
I credit my success along the way to working hard, listening to others, creating and being a part of strong teams, being accountable and having a strong support network, professionally and personally.
The way we work is constantly changing, from the types of jobs we have, to where we do them. What new opportunities or challenges do you think the future of working might bring?
I believe that as the next wave of baby boomers get set to transition to retirement or begin a new chapter in their career—i.e. not working full time, perhaps consulting—opportunities for younger professionals to advance in their chosen career will become more readily available. The challenge, in my opinion, will be that since Vancouver is a very expensive city, companies will need to pay more for the talent they want.
What challenges have you faced in securing your desired employment situation?
Early in my career, my youth and limited work experience held me back, excluded me from applying to certain jobs, especially in big markets where competition is fierce.
If you were offered a guaranteed basic income of $1,000/month with no strings attached, how might your life be different?
Less credit card debt at the beginning of my career.
Are there any projects you are working on that you would like to tell our readers about?
It’s exciting to be part of the DVBIA as we get set to engage our members later this year about the type of services and programs they would like us to provide in our next mandate, 2020 and beyond. We will not be starting from scratch. The work we undertook with SFU Public Square three years ago, Reimagine Downtown Vancouver, is our compass as we transform downtown into the place that people want it to be by the year 2040.