Al Del Degan Hosts Robert Herritt
Listen to the episode here: rainforestalberta.podbean.com/e/e0142/
[00:00:00] Al Del Degan: Hey everybody. Welcome to the episode. today my special guest is Robert Herritt. Robert is the president of a company called Styro Go, and you may find this as fascinating and conversation as I know I am going to. Apparently styrofoam is recyclable and easily recyclable, but we're just not doing it. So, Robert, thanks for joining me today.
[00:00:21] Robert Herritt: Absolutely Al, thanks for inviting me.
[00:00:23] Al Del Degan: Well, let's start out. Like I always do Robert and let's talk a little bit about who you are, like, how did you, how did your career path sort of end up in you starting this business? Like what, what, what did you do, when you came out of that came out of school and started your career?
[00:00:37] Robert Herritt: I certainly have a bit of a colorful past, I, I graduated university with a degree in geography and political science.
I was going to go into law that went to New Zealand for a six week holiday. I ended up living there for two and a half years and came back as a pilot because, that normally happens, I got stuck. So I came back to Canada, finished up my commercial qualifications, at an aviation college in Eastern Canada and found myself getting my foot in the door with, Calgary and Alberta's original airline, from there, after 9-11, though, it totally took the fun out of the industry. And, and I still have friends there that, you know, it's unimaginable that their kids have never been up to the flight deck and seeing where they are cause it's the best seat in the sky. And yet the world has changed and apparently it's gotten a little better, but of course you still can't have people up there. So, I saw my opportunity to exit and go into private business so I took that chance and of course everyone's like, you're crazy.
Now they look at me and they're like, you know, you're so lucky. And I'm like, that is a little hard work in the middle there. Right. But, I started a small business doing consulting, had to go get a job on the side. And I first got my business up and running because, you know, consulting is something where you do the working, you get paid later.
So I, did some consulting for a few different clients. And then a friend of mine had, won the contract with a major developer for a major multi-family project in Southeast Calgary. And he approached me and said, listen, can you manage it for me 'cause you could literally crawl your crawl across the street to where it is, and I'm on the exact opposite side of the city.
So I did that and it ended up being this huge project over 400 units and seven years of work. Yeah. It was a huge condo project, but it was during that time that I was there, and I can specifically remember watching just these dumpsters piled high with styrofoam going to the dump and that's where the seed was planted.
I can still remember sitting in the construction shack just looking out the window, and it was about this time of year actually, it was cold and the snow was on the ground and I'm going, it's got a recycle symbol on it, why doesn't somebody do anything? So I started doing a bit of homework and went, oh! there's no money in it. That's why nobody does it. So I took it on as a bit of a, just a, you know, project management challenge to say, okay, I can land a hundred tonne aircraft. I can manage a huge 400 unit project. I can figure out how to make recycling styrofoam work. So it began a just, it took me about 18 months to figure it out, figure out the technology.
Line up the vendors and everything else, it took about 18 months to figure out the specifics. It was unique enough. I knew I certainly didn't go down this path to invent an industry, but it was unique enough that I got three patents issued on it. Yeah. And then from there. You know, we started out, auspiciously trying to change everybody's belief that, as you said, styrofoam actually is recyclable contrary to what, you know, the messaging that we've been fed for a long time.
[00:03:45] Al Del Degan: You said something really interesting. You said that the, the styrofoam packaging itself has a recyclable symbol on it. so it was anybody in the world recycling styrofoam before you came up with the idea?
absolutely. There is. I guess previous to my involvement, really, there's only two types of styrofoam recycling.
[00:04:03] Robert Herritt: There are the companies that a) had really deep pockets and b) produced such an enormous amount that it made sense for them to invest in the machinery to do. a great example of this would be Canada's own The Brick, you know, because they deal in such large volumes of appliances and furniture, their DC's in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Ontario all have a machine.
And, you know, they produce trailers of the stuff per week. So when you're into that level, you know, it, it made sense that, and they didn't go into this. And the other thing is that they there's, nobody that's gone in just out from recycling as a business model, they got into. To reduce their garbage costs.
It wasn't an economic opportunity in terms of generating revenue. It was merely a method to reduce cost. Aside from them, the only other ones were municipalities. They were government funded and just like the government funds, the C-Train or the buses, they do that as a public service.
And most of the time those services actually lose money, but we do it for the betterment of the, of the community. And likewise, there's two small communities in Alberta that have been doing styrofoam recycling for more than a decade. And they do it for their small community. It costs the community significant money per year to run per capita it's their most expensive service that they provide to their citizens, but it's something that they had to vote on many years ago. And the citizens said, yes, they'd rather see a $3 hike in their taxes, you know, for a small community, to pay for the service.
[00:05:35] Al Del Degan: Okay. So now I think one of the important points to mention is that Styrofoam, big white chunks of styrofoam that are wrapped around your television set or your couch or whatever, when you buy something, that's actually plastic, right? It's a form of plastic. And so tell us a little bit about, I mean, obviously not in great detail, but just in general, the process that you came up with and what happens after the process? Like what's the result of that process?
[00:06:03] Robert Herritt: The thumbnail sketch of styrofoam itself, you know, obviously there's been attempts to set other materials, be used for packaging. There's waxed cardboard, there's peanuts. There's more recently, you know, airbags. Certainly there has been a few studies. one of the most conclusive was done by somebody at the university of Victoria, where they studied all the different packaging materials and found that styrofoam is by far. a) the most cost-effective and b) the least impactful to the environment. When you consider upstream and downstream water, energy, raw material input, you know, the whole life cycle of these various products, they found that polystyrene was by far the best and a further study has been done very recently, out of California showing that of all the plastics, polystyrene is one of the easiest to recycle. So it's, it fits very nicely with the way that the world is moving towards circular economy. And the resin producers and manufacturers are moving this direction where they really discovered they were part of the problem why recycling various plastics didn't happen because you could have the most dedicated eco- warrior who goes and buys a rotisserie chicken and the bottom was made of plastic number four and the top was plastic. Number five. Then they would scrub it out to where it's completely sanitary and brand new again, but they're not going to have six different plastic bins for the recycling company to pick up. They put it in the blue bin. And because you got two different plastic codes that can't be recycled. So they realize we're part of the problem here. So and of course they haven't done this in a public announcement or fanfare, but certainly if you start looking at those little, the three little arrows with the number in the middle, if you start looking at those in the grocery store, you'll see the vast majority are now shifting to plastics four five and six. They're really shifting the vast majority of them into those plastic because those three resins can be with advanced recycling, that's another topic, can be co-mingled and successfully recycled, upcycled. And so the, the people who are making the plastics are certainly investing a lot of money into making sure that they can be recycled with our current recycling infrastructure. Probably the best example of not just the resin producers, but also companies would be Keurig Dr. Pepper. And so the people that made Keurig and those K-cups that you put in for a single dose coffee, and then you pull it out and you know, how do you recycle it?
And they spent millions of dollars, figuring out how to make the outside hard plastic, the same plastic resin as if you peel off the top and inside your coffee grounds, or if you'd dumped the coffee grounds out, you've got a little mesh net in there it's flexible. And they spent millions of dollars figuring out how to make that soft, flexible mesh, the same plastic as the hard exterior, but they were able to do it. And that's why now K-cups, you'll see, they all have this little green triangle on them saying recyclable because you just peel off the lid, empty the coffee grounds, give it a quick rinse, throw it in your blue bin because it's all plastic number five and it can be easily recycled.
So, you know, companies are really moving, and putting significant effort and finances into making sure that their products can be recycled with ease.
[00:09:26] Al Del Degan: That's brilliant. That's fantastic. and then the, the second part of my question with styrofoam recycling, how does that process work and what can you do with what comes out of the other end?
[00:09:35] Robert Herritt: It's funny enough of styrofoam or polystyrene as it's a styrofoam is a brand name. And of course, most people don't ask for a facial tissue. They'll say, do you have a Kleenex? And styrofoam has become ubiquitous where it's referred to in the generic sense and people refer to meat, trays and everything else that resembles that, or seems like they use the brand name styrofoam to describe it.
So with styrofoam it's really been a bit under the radar of most people's consciousness, as you mentioned that it seems that it wasn't recyclable and you know, that was your understanding. And that's been something that's been propagated a lot by municipalities because the answer is, yes, it can be recycled with current technology that hasn't evolved over 20 years. So using existing technology is prohibitively expensive. So it was much easier to, for municipalities and cities to say, yes, it can't be recycled because then they're not going to get flack from citizens about why don't you do it? Where if they just say, no, it's not recyclable, okay, no problem. Then people don't object to it.
So, with styrofoam, the irony is that, it was kind of the forgotten cousin of the plastics world and nothing really had evolved. so when I started looking at this, the technology was decades old and really nothing had been done. Whereas most other recycling technologies have advanced considerably. most people, hopefully some of your listeners anyway, will remember, you know, 20 odd years ago with cardboard, if it had a staple in it. And those of us old enough to remember, when your bills came in the mail. So you got your Telus bill or whatever, come in the mail.
If you wanted to recycle the envelope, you had to take your bill out. And then you had to peel off that little clear plastic window. For it to be recyclable. And, you know, that's, that's where that started. And you know, some of your listeners are going, Bill's come in the mail?, you know, but it's, but that's where it started.
And with cardboard, if it had a staple in it, it was rejected, you know, or a sticker. So, you know, that's where it was such limitations that, you know, companies that were trying to do their best, McDonald's like the fry boxes and things that they go through mountains of. And I mean, having to peel off these stickers that were on like concrete and staples or whatever, But nowadays they're bundled into these bales and sit outside Walmart for two months covered in snow and, and stuff and their recycled no problem. That's because the technology has evolved where there's value in it. And these contamination issues really are easily dealt with. Polystyrene or styrofoam really was still stuck in the, you know, the, the era of the eighties and the nineties it's decades, old technology that said it could be recycled with what I refer to as legacy recyclers, where.
we put it in a machine. It greatly reduces its volume. That's the key. That's what makes styrofoam so great at what it does. It takes a lot of space and it's strong, but it weighs nothing. That's the same problem as to why it can't be recycled conventionally because you'll spend $500 to collect $50 worth of material.
[00:12:30] Robert Herritt: So, we put it in a machine. That'll greatly reduce the volume. It takes up. It simply is. you know, if you put it in a cardboard baler, it'll reduce it by about two thirds, but a, you know, half to two thirds, depending on the Baylor, when we put it in our machine, we will reduce it from like a 53 foot trailer load, which we do for some clients.
We'll do that in a couple of hours. The 53 foot trailer load of styrofoam is about 3000 cubic feet. And we will reduce that from that size to almost about half the size of a conventional fridge in a few hours and that, you know, so we'll go from 3000 cubic feet to, you know, roughly, maybe 30 cubic feet and it weighs 1200 pounds.
So we reduce it and it becomes more dense and therefore economical the transport when it goes to our machine, like I said, it gets to about 60 or 65 pounds per cubic foot is the density. We sell this to offshore manufacturers. They run it through a grinder. It comes out locally like rice, basically. It's then graded according to color and clarity, and then it's used as their basic raw material for injection molding and these kind of things blow molding. They can make. An unbelievable amount of, things from it. And I guarantee the average Canadian has multiple items in their home, made from this, it's very common. About 80% of the time when you see something that's a finished or manufactured product, and it says on, it contains recycled material, 80% of the time it's polystyrene. Cause it's so compatible with almost anything else. They can make it look like anything. They can make it look like stainless steel, marble, granite, brushed nickel, birds-eye maple, you know, slate. They can make it look like anything. I've been to the factories and have watched the process. And it's truly amazing what they do.
And as a secondary benefit, I came to realize that whenever they have a shortfall of styrofoam, as feedstock, what they do then is they use wood, for presses. So, you know, the secondary benefit of recycling styrofoam is you're displacing, you know, the use of wood as a manufacturing. So it was kind of a secondary green effect there where they're not cutting down trees for manufacturing, they're using a plastic.
Most people look at certain things like that and go, well, if they didn't have it, they don't make it. No, the demand is there for the products they're making. If they don't have plastics to recycle and put into it as a feed stock, then they'll just use wood, you know? So, yeah. But, The short answer to your question is they take the material it's made into these various moldings frames. It can be picture frames, tiles, backsplashes, baseboards, crown moldings, any kind of a decorative piece, small spaces like in airlines and stuff.
I think I'm a real favorite of this where they can make it look like a marble countertop in the bathroom in the first class section of the aircraft. But of course marble is very heavy weight is bad on an aircraft. So these kinds of decorative touches that look amazing and high quality, but yet have low weight. So it's various things like this that they can do that, even in cars, most automobiles now are hugely mostly plastic. And so even some of the finished wood touches and so forth on some of your automobiles are actually recycled styrofoam because they can make it look that way, and it works well.
[00:15:44] Al Del Degan: That's incredible. And just maybe as a followup question, are, are those products that are made from the recycled styrofoam? are they, is it possible to further recycle those if they need to?
[00:15:56] Robert Herritt: The best of my understanding is no. certainly it's more of, a diversion from waste as opposed to a true circular economy or closed loop systems, so to speak.
And part of the problem is. You know, these are legacy recyclers, whereas, you know, the technologies from decades old, the technology did not exist 30 years ago to turn a can of Coke back into a can of Coke. But now that's aluminum is a closed loop recycle program where, you know, 95% of it goes back and makes the exact same thing again.
But again, the that's that's legacy recycling. and the good news is, is that finally, innovation is catching up and polystyrene is getting an awful lot of attention these days in terms of. For recyclability and, and other valuable components that it has in it. so just before COVID yet we are actually were approached by two companies.
Now a third has come on the scene, interested in partnering up with us to be able to take the polystyrene or styrofoam that we collect and recycle it with. What's been kind of termed in the industry. As advanced recycling, that's not necessarily one specific method, but it's just that term is being applied to technologies that are able to basically recycle styrofoam into other things, which obviously can be recycled further amounts or, you know, endlessly in a closed loop system.
So the technology has finally come about where they can take styrofoam regardless of the contamination and recycle it into brand new virgin styrofoam. They also are able to take it and break it down chemically. And the reason why styrofoam is so popular for this application is because really it's just a pure Petrol product.
And so they're able to reverse engineer. Most of these technologies revolve around something called pyrolysis, which is a certain. well-established technology, which is basically heating up a plastic in the absence of oxygen. And then they're able to start capturing the off gases that come from it and using it for various applications.
But we're the advanced part of the recycling comes in is where everybody seems to have a different spin on it. Some of them use powerful electric magnets, some use microwave's, there's various applications that they can bring to bear that further enhance the pyrolysis system. And from this, they can turn it into diesel, gasoline, jet fuel.
There's a company in Ontario called Green Mantra. so you know, there's Pyro Wave in Montreal, they just signed a deal with, they used microwaves to, further enhanced their advanced recycling of styrofoam. They just signed a major deal with Michelin, Michelin is convinced that they can reverse engineer the styrofoam using power waves technology and make up to 12% of the tire from styrofoam and Green Mantra, they've had various, they've had huge success dealing with polypropylene, which is plastic resin number five, the little three arrows on the bottom of something. so, but they've done some trials with polystyrene, which is number six.
[00:18:58] Robert Herritt: They can recycle the polystyrene into various things like decking or the ink that's used in dry erase markers and various other applications. And when you're using these kinds of things, certainly that's still linear, but you're greatly displaceing virgin resin from being turned into that. So you're displacing basically the original petrochemical source that would be normally be captured for this.
And in the case of another company in the U S called Agile X, they actually have really perfected and closed the loop on polystyrene, where they can take any form of polystyrene, even foodware, which has kind of been that achilles heel of the whole industry, which has contaminated with greases or oils and that sort of thing.
They've developed the technology and perfected it where they can take food grade material contaminated with food, and they can recycle that into brand new styrofoam.
[00:19:55] Al Del Degan: With this recycling ability, I know that Cochrane has had a, a recycle program for quite some time, and so have some other smaller towns, but Calgary and Edmonton specifically do not recycle styrofoam at the moment. Can you maybe give us an idea of why that is and how that's hopefully going to change?
[00:20:14] Robert Herritt: So those familiar with. I guess, you know, had their ear to the, to the eco chatter. so to speak. Alberta is finally bringing in, what's called an Extended Producer Responsibility program. Those wheels are finally and fully in motion.
There were stakeholder engagements back in January of 2021. And so those wheels are in motion. Incidentally, Alberta is the last province in Canada to have an EPR of course, but. The benefit being that obviously you can stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before you, you can learn from their mistakes.
BC is the pioneer in North America in regards to this, they've had an EPR for 14 years. and they made lots of mistakes because they were the first and, you know, so they, they really trailblazed the way. And then there's Ontario and other regions. So Alberta has been, very pointedly, you know, cherry picking the best of the BC and Ontario programs and, wanting to add their own unique Alberta enhancements and so forth to make sure it works here, which is fantastic.
So that is coming in and for those of your listeners who are not familiar with it, the short version of EPR is simply that there's something called the AUMA, the Alberta urban municipal association. It's kind of a group of the larger municipalities in the province that, you know, it's an association for them to deal collectively with the provincial government.
They did a study and realized that because everybody else has an EPR program and we don't the citizens of Alberta are already paying for one. The problem is because there's no legislation we're actually they're getting the benefit and then they cited a few examples. One being manufacturers, of course, across Canada are already a part of this program. It's just not here. So Samsung has an $800 dishwasher, for instance. They sell that dishwasher in BC for $800. Buried in the price, it's not transparent or visible to the consumer, is $12 for an EPR, but they don't sell that same dishwasher here for $788. It's still $800, the $12 we're already paying, but because there's no legislation it's not submitted, then it's not evil corporations that don't want to give up the money, it's, you know, if the government doesn't have a specific line code for you to submit something, they won't, they're all about bureaucracy and process. And if there's not a process for it, you can't do anything about it. That actually is part of the problem why we're not involved, here in, in, in Calgary and Edmonton, the, the EPR coming in, that, that money is already being paid out.
[00:22:41] Robert Herritt: And so they did a very comprehensive study and they found that there's in well over a hundred million dollars a year, that is being paid by Alberta citizens. And because there's no legislation, we're not getting any benefit from it. And. Everything from your bottle of Pert shampoo has 12 cents or, you know, whatever, there's money already baked into the price of virtually all the paper and plastic packaging that is part of the recycling programs.
And so, yeah, so that's, that's where that is. It's a little bit different than say the beverage recycling program where there's a deposit and as well, and you'll have noticed that when you go by. Case of water or whatever that they'll charge an extra 2 cents a bottle or something, but it was called the CRF fee or something, but that's visible on the machine.
This is something that's completely baked in the price. It's invisible to the consumer, but it's, it's very much there. So they realize that, well, we're really losing out on this and these are serious numbers. They said that obviously, if they distributed the money across Alberta on a per capita basis, Calgary would get something like $22 million dollars a year.
And so this isn't some one-time half a million dollar grant from the feds or something. This is significant revenue that would displace what we, as taxpayers are funding. So the, the impetus is on them to, to bring an EPR into place. Part of how an EPR is going to be run is, there has to be eco centers now for your listeners outside of Calgary this will be very obvious. People in Calgary will be what really, if they haven't gone elsewhere. And that is. The Calgary is the only major city without an eco centre without a recycling center. We have a assemblance of it, the three landfills with the throw and go where you can take fluorescent bulbs and batteries and paints and these kinds of things.
But there's no actual EcoCenter where you can bring things. Whereas. In Edmonton, they have four, they've got one in each quadrant to the city. And when you roll in there, they can take almost everything like mattresses, small electronics and all these things, paints, everything else.
And, so, you know, so they have that all set up. And so part of an EPR program will entail that the city category will have to get some eco centers done up and accessible for people to obviously make it convenient enough to be a part of. And these are typically separate from landfill. So that's where the city of Calgary is kind of behind on this for even the surrounding communities that we go to Okotokes, Airdrie, Cochrane, they have an EcoCenter that's where you bring everything that can be recycled and they take care of it.
So that shift has to happen in Calgary. It's the only major city that does not have that. Virtually every town in BC, Saskatchewan, all these other places, they have that. so that be part of what is required for new EPR program. And then that will be the main du jour, I would say, you'll see these green bins that are in the Home Depot parking lot, that people drop everything at and then it blows all over the parking lot.
Those likely will diminish in number. They may not go away entirely, but certainly with the availability and convenience of an eco center where you can just pull in and open the trunk, and people take everything out for you, it's just a vastly more efficient method, so that that's the transition that's going to happen here in Calgary.
So when that does happen, certainly you'll see that part of the main problem with we actually service all those surrounding communities of Calgary, Edmonton Red Deer and Lethbridge, all the major cities we do, the smaller communities around it. Just know the big ones. And the main issue is bureaucracy, with smaller communities, their budget matters and, Playing with so many zeros.
And if they can save typically a lot of these places don't have the infrastructure costs to run their own landfill. you know, Airdrie, Cochrane, these places, Chestermere, they'll send their stuff to the Calgary landfill. so of course, any garbage they have to transport and they readily recognize the transporting styrofoam, which is an essentially air is very costly.
That's why all the, the smaller communities, they see an immediate safety. And so that's why they've all gotten on board. Whereas for the larger cities, especially the ones that run the infrastructure. you know, I actually had a city counselor in Calgary told me, well, you know, you can throw the dump for free.
So no, it isn't free actually. you know, there is an economic cost to that, it's just it disappears in your budget. Whereas obviously with a recycle program is an extra line item, but, you know, certainly there is a cost that when things go in the landfill, incidentally, Toronto is, is realizing this with a very harsh reality that their landfills were filling up faster than expected.
It takes 10 to 12 years to develop a new landfill and. about seven months ago, CBC reported on this in the, in the GTA where their new landfill will open up in about five years. And their current landfill is about to close the two years. So they are, they're trying and scrambling to figure out how to fill that three year gap where they otherwise there'll be like, you know, trucking a hundred trucks a day to Chicago or somewhere, and you'll see, you know, the tipping fee in Toronto, like, you know, they'll have to add a zero to it or something to pay for this.
So they are now, EPR, Ontario is actually revamping their EPR to a full, funded EPR what it's called and their, their goal is they want to divert as much as possible from what's going to landfill because they don't have the space. And the alternative is ridiculously expensive, so there is, there is a cost to filling up the landfill faster and there's a significant savings to, you know, filling it up with, things sooner.
So, anyway, that's the answer to the question is, certainly, the bureaucracy is one of the main issues. Smaller communities have smaller budgets that they recognize the savings because it's more apparent to them. but with EPR coming in that will Trump the bureaucracy of the bigger establishments and force everybody to get on board. And this isn't a styrofoam, of course, this will be everything under the sun, you know, that can be recycled with the various plastics and, you know, shopping bags, tires. Absolutely. You know, Alberta's one of the better ones that's taking the initiative with, with electronics, you know, but there's various other products out there that need recycling outlets, and there's no easy alternative. So with an EPR, it'll definitely have there's various chemicals that are sometimes difficult, like antifreeze and oils and these sort of things that you just can't dump it down the drain. You can't throw it in the black bin.
[00:28:59] Al Del Degan: Yeah. Yeah. That's a good point. On a side note, I get it, like I get business, but it's disturbing that people look at. Throwing things in the landfill or not as something is either cost-effective or not rather than going, is it right? Like, is it right to just bury things and let them decompose for millions of years, rather than actually turning them into something usable or somehow recycling it into a new product .
I don't know what could possibly, make that change happen. But, I guess it gets, if it becomes financially beneficial to recycle rather than not recycling, but that's about the only thing that's going to make the change. But, you know, we, as consumers and we, as, as citizens of these municipalities, I mean, we have a voice too.
And if enough of us scream out loud, someone's going to have to do something about it. you know, and, and you know, this, this is really an interesting, we don't really get overly political on this podcast or anything like that, but I mean, I would love to see all the listeners of this podcast, start putting your styrofoam in your garage and, and waiting till you can recycle it rather than just throwing it into the landfill.
One of the things that we did here in Crestmont is we have a, Crestmont cleanup day that we used to do twice a year. and the city of Calgary would bring their garbage trucks and we'd have Women In Need, collect things that could still be used. And we had tire recycling and paint recycling and whatever.
[00:30:27] Al Del Degan: And Robert, you came to, one of our most recent ones where you actually had your truck there and people brought tons and tons of styrofoam and you collected it all and, and took it away. And I actually, it was, it was even though to me, it was a ton of styrofoam to you. It probably wasn't a whole lot, but are you open to, community associations, doing recycling days and having you join them to collect, the styrofoam?
[00:30:56] Robert Herritt: Absolutely. That is definitely something we very much wanting to be a part of in public engagement. And, and again, as you said, it's, you know, the, to, to paraphrase, you know, if the citizens demanded, then the bureaucrats will come and certainly public awareness is the single most important thing it is available. It is cost effective.
obviously I'm talking about styrofoam here, but it's available. It's cost effective. It can be done smaller municipalities that don't have the, you know, 18 levels of bureaucracy recognize the benefit and have gotten on board. like I said, we're at about four dozen municipalities we service right now.
[00:31:32] Robert Herritt: We've got about 40, more that, have recently been inquiring about service. And so that we're in negotiations to, to get arrangements made and to be able to offer up the service to them. Probably close to a hundred municipalities by the end of the year that we'll be receiving the service here in Alberta.
So it's, if enough people demand. in Calgary and Edmonton, then the authorities will, will bend to their will. So that's, it's just needs to be a change in, will have character from, from the citizens to force that. And, and the gatekeepers of the systems will, will listen because, you know, after all, at the end of the day, we're in charge as the citizens.
[00:32:13] Al Del Degan: Right on. Yeah, that's a great point. So Rainforest let's, let's put our heads together and figure out how we can make this happen. There needs to be styrofoam recycling along with our other recycling programs, there's just no way these large, gigantic chunks of air should be put into a landfill, taking up space and decomposing over millions of years.
It's just not intelligent. It's not, something that we should be doing and we're better than that. So let's, let's put our heads together and figure this out. And Robert, I'm guessing you're here for us and we have any questions or we'll have your link to your LinkedIn profile in the show notes on your company website.
if, if anybody has any questions, I'm assuming they can reach out to you and help get things figured out.
[00:32:59] Robert Herritt: Absolutely, feel free to give us a call or send an email firstname.lastname@example.org. We can certainly get back to you. And, we, we certainly do field a lot of requests for service and we're able to point people in the right direction.
And you know, if it's a community or nearby community where you were, where we are providing a service, we're, we're able to directly help.
[00:33:19] Al Del Degan: Fantastic. Well, thanks, Robert. I appreciate very much you coming and sharing your story with us today.
[00:33:25] Robert Herritt: Thanks for your time, appreciate it Al.
[00:33:27] Al Del Degan: Cheers. Okay. Everybody, tune in next week for another exciting episode of the Leaders, Innovators, and Big Ideas podcast for Rainforest, Alberta, and, have a wonderful rest of your day.
Al Del Degan Hosts Navin Jetha
If you would like to listen to this episode, visit: https://rainforestalberta.podbean.com/e/e0140/
[00:00:00] Al Del Degan: Hey everybody. Welcome to the episode. on this episode, I have another InceptionU graduate. Her name is Navan Jetha, hi Navan thanks for joining me.
[00:00:08] Navin Jetha: Hi, Al, how are you?
[00:00:10] Al Del Degan: Good, thanks. Good. Thanks. It's so cool to have you here. I want to start out the show as I usually do, and you're a really, really fascinating person.
You've got a really, really cool background. And, I'd love to hear a little bit about your mini version of your life story. If you don't mind.
[00:00:28] Navin Jetha: A mini version. Okay. I was born in east Africa, Tanzania, and immigrated to Canada on 1978 or something like that. And, when I first came, it was a really foreign country, right.
Like, I mean, here, I've never seen snow before. Right. So snow, when I first know what it was like, wow, this what's no looks like. And I was just, you know, so fascinated by it. well, when we, when we came to Canada, my parents immigrated for education. So education has been, very near and dear to my heart.
When, if there's an opportunity for education, I just, most of the time I've just gone for it, you know,
[00:01:09] Al Del Degan: They came here for your education or for, or because they're educators or maybe you could just clarify that?
[00:01:16] Navin Jetha: Yeah, my parents came here for our education because they didn't have any educational opportunities. Right. They were entrepreneurs, they were business people, they had businesses running.
And so that's why I also have this, a heart over that I want to business, you know, and, but at the same time, education is very, very important in our culture and it was very highly stressed upon us.
[00:01:46] Al Del Degan: That's pretty cool. That's actually really cool. So now you're here. What sort of a trail led you to, I guess being a health instructor and I think it's yoga.
Correct. And, and then from that you decided to all of a sudden pivot to, becoming a software developer. I'd love to hear how that all happened.
[00:02:06] Navin Jetha: Yeah, actually I started when I first, when I, when we came to Canada and then when it was time to go to university, I did take computer science. So I do have a bachelor of science in computer science, and I was hired by a major oil company right after graduation.
And for six years, I was, I was a systems analyst, a database administrator, technical writer. I had several roles. I played in that one position. So I did learn quite a bit, coming out of. that position, then what ended up happening is that, the company I was with merged with another company and some of us got laid off.
So during that time, this is, this is what happened. I took this, computer science. So I do have computer science background fast forward a few years. What ended up happening in the middle of all that is life happened in the middle of that. I had children, I went through a divorce and things happen.
And when I had little children and I got laid off, I, at that point, I decided, you know, what? It makes like the jobs that I was, they were available to me after that position were all twenty four seven on call and I had two little children and it just didn't make any sense as a. to work at a position where, I may not be able to commit completely a hundred percent.
Right. So what I ended up doing is open a day home and that worked out really well, you know, and I realized that I enjoyed running my own business. I enjoyed being home with my family. I enjoyed, I had the flexibility, you know, So that's, that's what I did. And then after that one day I was sitting around, sitting around.
I was, I was looking at a magazine, it was a guide, it was a recreation guide with the city of Calgary. And I was flipping over the pages to look for a swim classes for my kids to, to put them in the swim classes. And I saw an ad in there saying, looking for fitness leaders. And so I called it was fun. It was interesting because I called right away.
Right. In that moment I phoned one of the fitness centers and she said, yeah, we need fitness leaders and we need a water instructors. She said, can you start with that? I said, sure. So I started off as a water instructor and ended up teaching other things like group fitness. And I started teaching yoga then.
And I became very passionate about yoga.
[00:04:50] Al Del Degan: Yeah. Yoga is so amazing. Like, w I mean, people's lives have been transformed by just getting into yoga. That's amazing.
[00:04:58] Navin Jetha: Yeah. So I found that I, I learned so much from that. Just the, just the fact that I had to be in front of so many people in the at first when I started, I had so much anxiety.
Like I'm like, how am I going to teach? I had no problem remembering the routine or remembering what I had to teach. But as soon as I gone in front of people, it was like, oh my God, it's like, I kind of became paralyzed a couple of times, but then I broke through that. And that's when I really felt confident and I realized I can actually do this.
And I, I fell in love with it. I said, I'm making an impact and changing people's lives. I'm bringing energy to the T to the group. I'm like, I felt so good. And I knew all the people that came from my, to my class felt amazing as well. So that's what kept me going there. Yeah. But then of course, pandemic hit.
Right? And then we all got laid off fitness center is shut down and I was like, well, what am I going to do? And, one of the students in my yoga class called me one day, she missed the class. Cause I was teaching a VR, virtual yoga class at the time she missed a class and she said, I missed your class. I'm so sorry, but I got a new job women in technology.
And she said, why, why don't you apply for one of these programs? I said, that's how I found out about EvolveU. Yeah. So I said, well, yeah, I'll apply for it. You know?
[00:06:34] Al Del Degan: That's great. So when you were in the, the InceptionU evolve program, what, what sort of, I mean, with, I actually either didn't know or forgot that you had a computer science background, but you must have, you know, the, the, the knowledge from the past must have came back fairly quickly.
even though the technology itself was probably fairly new compared to what you did in the past. How did you, how did you feel when you were first in, at the beginning of the program?
[00:07:01] Navin Jetha: Actually now that is completely opposite. And I, you know, what I, what I discovered. That I had a lot of fear coming back to computer science or, you know, a developer, especially developer.
I'll be honest with you, especially developer because, I struggled going through school. I struggle getting that degree and I remember we sat there for hours and hours programming and I wasn't alone. We were in a team together. We work together. Yet I remember those days. And, it was challenging. It was, I found it very, very challenging.
And when I look back, I realize it's just the way my brain works. I'm not very detailed oriented, but then when I came back to EvolveU and I gave it another shot, I said, well, you know, I'm sitting here anyways. The summer's going to pass. Whether I take the program or not. And I, I found the courage to start again and I said, I'm going to give it a shot.
This has, this has entered my life. Am I going to walk through this? Am I going to walk through the door or not? And I can do too much thinking about it, even though I'm an over-thinker, I didn't think too much about it. And I walked through the door and all my fears came back. Right. Because I had all this fears.
programming and developing. And I have these fears that I can't do it and my confidence, it was my confidence. And, well, you know, by project two, I actually felt like I can do this by project two. I could, I, I can actually say I can build a MERN stack. I was able to say that and,by project three, I really enjoyed the process, the agile methodology, you know in project three, we came every morning, spend like 15 minutes a day and we had this task to complete from the night before and it was done. It was actually done. And I'm like, when I first took the task, I would take off in the morning at 9:15, I would say, okay, I'm going to take this task on. In my mind is going off saying, well, how are you going to do this task?
[00:09:22] Navin Jetha: You have no clue how to do it? But there was a part of me that said, I'm just going to take it and do it anyways. You know? And then I would go away and ask for help, find somebody to help me. there were a lot of help out there in the cohort six and there were some cohort five, help. So I would look for help.
I didn't give up and I'd found by next morning I had the solution. I had some things done and I felt so good. I love the process because I felt like it was getting things done. my confidence was going up and I was starting to believe that I can actually be a developer again. So I kind of feel like I got a second chance at it.
and at the end, as we were completing the program, as we're coming to the end of it, I was again, in a bit of a dilemma, wondering, do I want to continue with development? Do I not want to continue with development? And, the reason that was happening in my mind was because I have such a strong passion for yoga and for fitness and for helping people and making an impact in the world.
[00:10:30] Navin Jetha: And I couldn't in that moment, in my mind, figuring out how I was going to do that with development. You know, I didn't know how to bring all the skills that I have learned and integrate it with tech in some way. Right. So I, I have decided I am starting a business and I am want to help. People with fitness, you know, help people with, their back pain, their posture, alignment, you know, maybe mini exercises that you need to do while you're a developer, you know, developing for 20 hours.
Because when I was sitting in EvolveU we would sit for so long developing. And I, and I realized I'm not used to that. I was constantly moving as a fitness leader, and now sitting here behind a computer in classes, developing too much sitting, you know, and my body was like, you're sitting for too long and I would have to take these little mini breaks.
And maybe there was some heel raises or something by the microwave while my T's warming up or something, you know? And I'm like, okay, I should put this somewhere in a, in a, in a course, you know, and put it out there because I really believe that, whenever career we choose. Whatever path we choose in our lives. Our health will always have to be taken care of. Our bodies are always going to have to be taken care of. so I, I want to continue building my business as a side hustle. And at the same time, I would like to find a position in tech somewhere because I have more confidence now that I can do. after having gone through the EvolveU program and after having you wonderful facilitators, you know, rooting for us and saying, yeah, you can do this.
You know, and I think it's finally, I'm thinking in my brain that I can actually do this.
[00:12:31] Al Del Degan: That's cool. And you can probably take that one step further. And the, as, as you have the side hustle going anyways, the job you look for, you might be able to find something in a company that actually builds technology for fitness related, applications.
So that could be a kind of a really neat, merger of your background and your, and your new ideas. But that's, that's really, really fascinating. And, and I, and I like that. Out of the course, not only did you, did you get some education, but you also were able to sort of build some confidence. That's really telling that that's a lot of people don't realize that it's not just a tech course, that there's other, other aspects to it in ways of unlearning and ways of, of, you know, understanding information in a different way.
creative thinking, systems, thinking all those sorts of things. And then you take, the LifePath series to look into. Yourself. And I I've heard so many of the learners from the past cohorts say how some of those non-tech pieces were where some of the most important pieces in the, in the program. Do you want to speak to that a little bit?
[00:13:36] Navin Jetha: Yeah, absolutely. Like, I mean, oh, there's so much to say there, like it's not just tech, tech is just one part of it. I think a bigger portion of it is the,essential skills portion. Where we learned a lot about mindset and unlearning and like you say, creative thinking, systems learning and, yeah.
[00:14:01] Al Del Degan: Well do you think. You know, going forward, you had kind of mentioned that. Well, actually I think it may be was before we actually started recording, but you had mentioned something about you like working with people a lot. And so your, your career aspiration might include something along the lines of some sort of support position in tech.
And that that's one of the other things that, that that's really cool is as a human being, you build all these skills over the years. Those skills can be applied in so many different ways. And a lot of people get stuck on positions in companies and it's like, okay, well, there's a product manager and project manager.
I always get the two mixed up. And then you have, you know, business analysts, then you have software developer and then you have a QA engineer or whatever. there's also. Titles out there, but yet, if you look at what skillsets people have, they actually could easily transfer to a totally different, you know, area that they perhaps have never had the job title of, but they ended up excelling in that position because they have the skills and experience to make that position really successful.
And I suspect you're in that kind of a situation where, you know, you may not want to be at a keyboard writing code each day, but you do love being there. And you've already said you liked the teaching side of things and you, and you like to work, you do like technology, but you also like health and stuff.
And I could tell you, you know, in our industry, in the, in the technology kind of industry there's so many people sitting at desks all the time and, being able to have, you know, small little sort of activities that they can do to make sure that they keep the blood flowing and the joints lubricated while they're in, in that all the sitting at a desk situation that could be really valuable for people.
[00:15:51] Navin Jetha: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. there are so many opportunities out there, you know, with my job searching. I'm realizing there is then the opportunities are actually endless and our mindset, what ends up happening? What I'm realizing about me is I it's like I get stuck in this mindset thinking, oh, that's all that's available.
But really when I opened my mind up a little bit more, even just a little bit more, it doesn't have to be that much. I realized there are endless opportunities and. So, yeah. Sometimes I'm looking at these jobs and I go, yeah, I can do all these jobs, you know? And do I apply for all these jobs and yeah, I do want to talk to a customer or don't want to talk to somebody while I'm doing my job.
I really honestly don't want to sit behind a computer, having to code all day. I don't think that. Be good for my soul because I need to see people and I need to be around people, but there are so many endless opportunities where I can take a little bit of technical portion of technical that I have learned and bring it into another position.
So, yeah, you're right. A title of a job. It doesn't say too much about what I will be doing if I apply for a job. And so we must keep our minds open to what we're applying for. And, and, you might be doing a little bit of tech and maybe doing some business work or talking to people more, but tech is here in every area of life, you know?
So I think just getting any kind of technical education. is, is valuable right now at this point, because right now the, way Calgary's changing, forget the world, but Calgary's changing right now. I'm hearing that it is the Silicon valley of Canada. So, you know, you might as well get some tech education because every job that I've applied for so far, even if I'm not looking for a tech job, they require some technical skills.
So I'm just keeping an open mind as to, what kind of position, that I will land I'm being open-minded it will be my first junior tech position after so many years of being away. I consider myself going back to junior level and I'm okay with that. I know we're okay with that. And I'm okay to start, at that point.
yeah. And. yeah, just keeping an open mind, I think is very, very important when you're job searching.
[00:18:28] Al Del Degan: Cool. So if a potential employer just happened to be listening to this podcast and listening to you talk what's what sort of thing would you like them to know about, well, you specifically, but also about the people that have taken these, you know, we call them bootcamp programs, kind of, what sort of message would you like to pass along to them?
I would like to let them know that the people who finished the EvolveU program are very, very capable of learning and getting the work done because we have been trained to get the work done. I mean, we've been trained to get the work done the next day. We use the Trello system. We use the agile methodology.
We have the EvolveU program has taught us so much more than just technology. We have learned the business process. We have learned the technology. I can't imagine the person who is not graduated from EvolveU. I can't imagine that person not being able to. Do well in any company that they get hired in, right?
[00:19:45] Navin Jetha: Because they have the background, they have the knowledge, they have the skills, they have the support.
[00:19:52] Al Del Degan: That's a that's actually, that's actually a really good. Yeah. Yeah. That's a really good point. one of the things that you had said there about the support every time, a new cohort of learners graduates from the program, they don't just disappear off the face of the earth.
They usually hang around and help the next cohort and they end up, we have an alumni process where people can stay together and get to know other people from the other cohorts. And so there's that sort of, you have sort of an instant network and an instant support framework for,your future career.
What would you like to tell someone who's kind of on the fence? Not really sure if going down the bootcamp road is, a good idea or not. What would you say to them?
[00:20:38] Navin Jetha: I would say go for it. I would totally say go for it because even if you feel like you've never done any tech before, or you're sitting on the fence and your mind is telling you.
Things, you know, listen to your gut feeling because listen to your guts because you've got will not lie to you. And most likely it's going to say, go for it because the world is changing. Technology is everywhere. It's in every part of life now. So taking a course like this, a bootcamp course is invaluable at this point, at this stage in, the development of the world anywhere you would be totally an asset to any resume.
[00:21:27] Al Del Degan: Excellent. I like it. ha ha ha ha
[00:21:29] Navin Jetha: Don't you believe that Al?
[00:21:33] Al Del Degan: Totally do absolutely. 100%. you know, there's a sort of two camps. There's, there's people who say no to everything and then they feel like they're, they're getting their life back because they're not, not always, you know, in the middle of something all the time. And then there's the other side of the people where they feel like their life has changed so much by saying yes to everything. I mean, that's a little extreme. I mean, obviously there's a happy middle, but I think people should take on challenges and things that scare them. I think they should say yes more often than, they say no .
You have more regrets for things that you didn't do than the things that you did do. so, you know, always sitting around wishing you would have done something is a horrible way to live your life. So sometimes you should just give it a shot and go for it. Like you said, go for it.
[00:22:18] Navin Jetha: I would totally say go forward because otherwise you will live in your comfort zone and. To know that you are not in your comfort zone is to actually go out there, take a risk, put yourself out there. And that's one of the things I learned from the EvolveU program is to take a risk, is to put myself out there.
And one of the things I really, really got was that not to be afraid to put myself out there, it doesn't matter whether I'm going to do a tech field or not a tech field. But just to get one thing just to even have gotten one thing. And if that was, if I only got one thing out of EvolveU and if it was, don't be afraid to put yourself out there, that would be enough to have taken that program if I got nothing else out of it, but I got so much more than that.
So I am so glad I said yes.
[00:23:18] Al Del Degan: That's great. I love that. Well, I, on that, I think that's an absolutely perfect note to, to end the show. And, I would really, really like to say, thank you so much for taking the time to be here. I wish you all the best and anybody. Who's, who's looking to hire somebody in the, you know, to, in a technical person that can be involved with customers and has the kind of background and energy that you have. I think they, they should totally be contacting you. And on that note, we will have your LinkedIn profile in the show notes and in case anyone does want to talk to you and, yeah. Thanks for being here.
[00:23:56] Navin Jetha: It was fun. It was fun.
[00:23:59] Al Del Degan: Of course it was always is.
[00:24:00] Navin Jetha: Thank you.
[00:24:01] Al Del Degan: Have a wonderful day.
Peter Beaudoin Hosts Tamara Loiselle
If you would like to listen to this episode, visit: https://www.rainforestab.ca/podcast.html
[00:00:00] Peter Beaudoin: Thanks Al. Hi, my name is Peter Beaudoin and I'll be your host of today's rainforest podcast. Today's guest is Tamara Loiselle she's the CEO and founder of Synergraze, a Calgary based company operating in the ag space. So welcome to Tamara.
[00:00:12] Tamara Loiselle: Thank you, Peter, for having me.
[00:00:14] Peter Beaudoin: So it's really great to have you here. I know that we've. Sorta we met actually prior to, to COVID and I think we've been trying to connect and get online for a while. So it's really good to have you here. So we'll just start off, I mean, tell us a little bit about Synergraze and, and what problem are you trying to solve?
We are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cattle, as a by-product of their digestion cattle belch methane, which is about 25 times more potent as a greenhouse trapping gas than is carbon dioxide.
[00:00:42] Tamara Loiselle: And cattle produce the equivalent carbon emission. As the entire global transportation sector, the same as every car, truck, train, plane, and ship on the planet combined each year. So we are focusing on creating a cattle feed additive that is capable of reducing methane emissions from cattle by approximately 90%.
[00:01:04] Peter Beaudoin: That's great. So what is it? So what, is the actual product.
[00:01:07] Tamara Loiselle: Ya, so its a natural product, which is very exciting. So it's a natural algae based product and, of the 4.9 million head of cattle here in Alberta having just 20% of them on this additive would reduce carbon emissions equivalent to taking a million cars off the road each year.
[00:01:25] Peter Beaudoin: Okay. So, so when we talk about it's an algae base, so where where's it actually coming from? Cause that's, I think is a really intriguing thing about the technology. Where do you source the algae from?
[00:01:34] Tamara Loiselle: So we are actually building a production facility here in Canada and we are. Tank cultivating the algae ourselves.
So it originally obviously comes from the ocean and as a Marine species, but we are tank cultivating and processing then getting to cattle producers here in Canada.
[00:01:56] Peter Beaudoin: So just want to explore that a bit. So in terms of cattle feed, You know, a dairy cow. I mean, I don't know the exact number, but can eat 20, 25 kilograms of, of sort of a feed a day.
What's the feed. How does it actually work? What are you actually doing to, to add this to their food? What does it look like?
[00:02:12] Tamara Loiselle: The best analogy is a supplement pill or a little powder that we're just sprinkling into their food. It's less than 1% of their daily diet. Is this algae based. So it just gets mixed in.
So if you're at a feedlot, it's just getting mixed into they're daily ration by weight and they just eat their food the way they normally would. So there's no change in their feeding protocol.
[00:02:40] Peter Beaudoin: So let me, let me ask you about a little bit of the business drivers. Cause I know that like in markets like California, they've mandated sort of a 40% reduction in emissions from livestock.
Right? So by I think by whatever 24. You know, in California has some of the largest dairy herds in, in north America, but w w what's happening in Canada and the rest of the world with regards to sort of methane reduction. What's the, you know, where, where are we going?
[00:03:04] Tamara Loiselle: Well, you mentioned California, which is interesting because it is the very first jurisdiction on the planet to mandate methane emission reductions in cattle, those new legislative requirements kick in beginning in 2024.
And there's a lot of cattle producers in California that are really scrambling and desperately searching for solutions because a 40% reduction it is big and there's not a lot of solutions out there that can offer that. So a lot of them are spending millions. Anaerobic digesters to, reduce the methane from the manure piles, where our solution is going to be a fraction of the cost and far more effective if you're getting up to a 90%.
So in Canada, we don't have any legislation driving reductions, but we do have incentives, around, particularly in Alberta, around a carbon credit protocol for the reduction of methane in cattle. So it's a voluntary protocol so that exists and other jurisdictions within Canada, other provinces, as well as the federal governments are also closely examining having such similar protocols in their arsenal, which I think will definitely drive and insent methane reductions in cattle production facilities.
[00:04:19] Peter Beaudoin: Great. So obviously it's a, it's a great solution. So I wanted to talk a little bit about your sort of entrepreneur journey and it's interesting. Cause like I said, we had met at. You were pitching, I think it was the foresight event. You reminded me.
It was 2019. I thought it was 2020, but you know, it's that long ago, it's a year and a half ago, longer than that. And when we, you know, when we met, you had pitched and you went out and all of a sudden COVID hits. So what's happened in the year and a half since, since you came out of the Cleantech accelerator.
[00:04:45] Tamara Loiselle: And that was a wonderful experience, actually, that. Foresight platform. Calgary clean tech accelerator was great to really get me focused and thinking about things we could be doing as a, as a company. And then you're right. COVID hit. And I really focused our efforts on raising funds, developing our, get to market plan.
And, during that period of time, we did apply for the era emission reduction, Alberta. They had a challenge in food, farming and forest, and we were a successful applicants in that. So yeah, we really focused on raising money and getting our plans together. And now we're off to the races and building a facility.
[00:05:27] Peter Beaudoin: That's great. And I wanted to talk a little bit about that. You know, you say you one and I know how much blood, sweat, and tears you goes into this size of application. But just to be clear, I mean, from what was posted on the ERA website, you, you were awarded $5 million on a 20 potential $20 million project.
[00:05:44] Tamara Loiselle: Right? So firstly, congratulations. Okay. Sorry. $15 million project. So. and that's, that's huge. Right? So, so, and congratulations on that. Cause I know how hard it is to apply for those and, and, and to be successful. So can you tell me a little bit about, so, so what, what is this, the, the Cadillac natives project and what impact will this have on your business?
Well, our, our, I mean, our entire company is focused on this cattle additive. So as I mentioned before, is algae based feed additive. You know, the impact of the era grant greatly accelerates our. Timeline to market and really got things going for us in terms of, you know, provide, you know, other potential investors, making the decision to, to get in.
And, like I said, it really enabled our pathway to. commercialization and we have a three-year project outline that we'll have a first, first level commercial scale production facility that we'll be producing about 460 tons per year. Dry weight of our food additive getting to market.
[00:06:44] Peter Beaudoin: So, so th th that's great. So if I understand correctly, I mean, the funding will be used to build the first of its kinds facility to actually grow and produce the algae.
And so for, and you said 460 tons a year, dry weight. So I mean, how much, how many, you know, is this enough for the Alberta market, the Canadian market? How big is that? you know, at the end of three years, when you get to commercialization, what does that mean?
[00:07:04] Tamara Loiselle: So that 460 tons a year will feed enough cattle to result in a 78,000 tons per year reduction in carbon dioxide equivalent, from cattle and feed lots.
[00:07:18] Peter Beaudoin: That's great. That's great. So, I mean, is the plan then, I mean, if this is successful, then you actually grow more facilities or you, you then sort of scale, correct. This is really the you're proving the ability to scale this technology.
[00:07:30] Tamara Loiselle: Exactly. So then we would scale up from there and also increase the number of size of the facilities.
And work on our formulations. There is active ingredients, so we can also be looking at increasing the concentrations of active ingredients. So there's a number of fronts we're looking at to yeah. For expansion.
[00:07:46] Peter Beaudoin: Great. That's great. So, and, and it's a three-year project then on your, where are you building the facility?
[00:07:51] Tamara Loiselle: So we, we have activities in both BC and Alberta. And, our focus for our market or commercial rollout market is here in Alberta. And like I said, we are a, we are an Alberta based company, but we do need,actual free oceans. So we do have, some facilities out in BC as well.
[00:08:09] Peter Beaudoin: Tell me a little bit about that cause I am interested. I mean, you know, you say you, you, you harvest it from, is it you're harvesting it from the ocean and then you're growing it at the facility, is that correct?
[00:08:19] Tamara Loiselle: So we have seed stock. That's been sourced and everything pretty much happens on, on tanks in the facility.
[00:08:27] Peter Beaudoin: Oh, so you don't have to go back. It's not a continuous thing. You, you can sort of get it and grow from it. Wow. Okay. Okay. Well, let, let's talk a little bit about your, your sort of personal journey. I'm interested to know a little bit, I mean, you're now, because again, when we met you as a year and a half ago, I know the CEO is sometimes a lonely job, right?
So what what's, what's the biggest challenge, I guess, about being a CEO, you know, especially during COVID, I mean, what has been your biggest challenges,
[00:08:52] Tamara Loiselle: Biggest challenges. Well honestly its been pretty exciting. I've been pretty invested in this project for, for a number of years. So as things started to get moving, it's just been, it's been pretty exhilarating.
So, you know, it's been a wonderful journey actually. And then putting together a team and, you know, having a team that everybody works well together. And is, is running on all cylinders is it's all been really quite exciting, you know, because there was a couple of years to get things funded. And that was really the biggest challenge.
Once that fell into place. Everything else has just been running on, on, on full tilt.
[00:09:32] Peter Beaudoin: So how many staff do you have now tomorrow?
[00:09:34] Tamara Loiselle: There's about, there's six of us right now and there's kind of a core group. We will be expanding that as well, actually, probably within the next month or two, we will be looking for more folks, but yeah, it really went from one to six.
[00:09:50] Peter Beaudoin: It's interesting. I mean, I am, you know, cause you said you've been working on this for a few years, so. Where like, can you tell me a little bit about sort of, how did this start? Cause, I mean, I met you already in your journey when you were at the foresight accelerator, where did it start? I mean, you've been at this a few years. Can you tell us a little bit more about where to originated?
[00:10:09] Tamara Loiselle: So my background's environmental science within the faculty of agriculture at university of Alberta. So I always had this interest. I come from a ranching family, so I always had this interest in environmental science, but also connected to agriculture and other things.
I spent a number of years working with indigenous communities on, on environmental training and community capacity building had come across some research by actually a Canadian researcher who did it, who had his initial discovery. So Dr. Rob Kinley here in Canada, while he was at Dalhousie university and had, published some work around the connection between algae and seaweeds and methane reduction. And there's lots of algaes that will have a small impact on methane reduction in cattle, approximately, you know, say around 15% or so, but then he discovered, one particular species that had a, he was testing in vitro at that time that had a 99% reduction.
And that's what really kicked off this whole area. And. Really a lot of excitement because, because there's so much carbon dioxide, equivalent, greenhouse gases that come from the cattle production sector, there is, there's really a lot of people around the planet, investing resources and time and energy into this.
So once he made that discovery, it definitely fueled, development. It is a species that nobody has ever commercially grown before. So there are technical and scientific challenges to be. Developing and growing this. And so I had just reached out, after reading the research and the saying, Hey, I'll be really interested in commercializing this over here in Canada and kept that relationship going.
And, now here it is five years later and we're finally building a production facility
[00:12:00] Peter Beaudoin: So five years. Yeah. So we always hear of overnight successes, but usually it is five years. So, you know, it does take a while, like, so I can appreciate that. So I guess is, you know, again, five years you've gone through, I know the, like we said, the foresight accelerator, and now you've won the ERA funding.
If you were going to look back and go, Hey, if I did it again, you know, what would you do differently?
[00:12:20] Tamara Loiselle: Well, honestly, I don't think, I, I think everything like the timing just really fell into place for everything. So I'm not sure there's anything I could've done differently. I mean, getting also involved with the clean tech accelerator was, was a huge benefit.
Maybe that'd be one thing if I, you know, give suggestions to other people that are in startups, I like getting involved with that type of a accelerator and support was something that was very beneficial.
[00:12:45] Peter Beaudoin: But let's explore that. I mean, because did you find that or were you recommended to go into that? How did you, you know, firstly, how did you find the foresight accelerator?
[00:12:53] Tamara Loiselle: You know what I was at the, the technology awards event at SAIT just meeting people and actually I, and I, and this is horrible. I can't even remember the name of the woman, but I was just, just somebody I had met there that evening. a lady was telling me what I do and she's like, oh, do you know about the foresight accelerator?
And. Made some introductions and I, applied immediately and, ya it was accepted and it was the first time the foresight and platform had done a clean tech program. And, yeah, it was, it was a really good,experience and connecting with others CEOs of startups in a similar space
[00:13:29] Peter Beaudoin: challenges. Yeah. Yeah. So are you still in contact with some of them? Are you still working, I guess, with the foresight accelerator or how does that, how has that evolved after you've sort of completed the program?
[00:13:40] Tamara Loiselle: Yeah, so I'm still connected, with, folks from that program and the, and the foresight itself and, yes. Actually I had a couple of communications yesterday with one of the other fellow CEOs from that program.
[00:13:53] Peter Beaudoin: So it's been great. Well, that's good. That's good. So I guess is I did want to ask you, are you looking for investors? Right? Cause I know that after coming out, when I met you a year ago, you were, but now you've got this great project with ERA. So where are you on that front?
[00:14:06] Tamara Loiselle: So we, we have, successfully raised dollars and we're fully funded for the next 18 months or so, and then we'll be looking for investors after that, for that time period going forward. And so, yeah, always happy to chat with interested potential investors and, we'll be definitely making, an effort, to be bringing in more investment to in that 18 month window.
[00:14:29] Peter Beaudoin: So can I ask, I mean, looking forward, I mean, you know where, you know, if you want to say.
Cause obviously in three years, you're looking to have the facility built and starting to scale. So if we look forward in five years, I mean, where do you want to be with this?
[00:14:42] Tamara Loiselle: oh, in five years, I would really like to see good chunk of north America's cattle. On an additive, such as Synergraze .
Yeah. So, like I said, I mean just 20% in just our province alone is the equivalent of reducing, you know, taking a million cars off the road. So if we could have 40% or even more, or if it became industry standard practice to have a, an additive such as this, that can reduce. 90% of our methane emissions, that really goes a long way to making a significant dent in the greenhouse gas emissions from the cattle production sector, and mitigating the environmental footprint overall of the sector.
[00:15:25] Peter Beaudoin: That's great. That's great. So, if listeners want to know more, what should they do?
[00:15:29] Tamara Loiselle: Well, they can check out our website at synergraze.com and you can also reach out to me on LinkedIn.
[00:15:36] Peter Beaudoin: Great. Well, thanks for your time today Tamara. I know it's been a while since we've been trying to talk, so it was great to chat today, so thank you.
[00:15:42] Tamara Loiselle: Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure.
[00:15:44] Peter Beaudoin: And for the listeners, I want to say, thanks for listening. Have a great day.
If you would like to listen to this episode, visit: https://www.podbean.com/ew/pb-8ktqf-10f7f60
[00:00:00] Patrick Wu: Thanks Al. Hi everyone. Welcome back to the rainforest leaders, innovators, and big ideas podcast. My name is Patrick and with me today is Louis Berman. he is one of the founders. Is that correct? Of the Calgary UX meetup?
[00:00:15] Luis Berumen: No, no, no. I took over some of the direction in 2019 but yeah, they, they meet obviously been around for almost 10 years, actually November 3rd we are celebrating our first decades of existence. And, yeah, let's say I just took over from a large lineage of design leaders and thought people that wanted to make Calgary UX an ongoing thing. So yeah, it's an ongoing thing for ten years.
[00:00:45] Patrick Wu: So it's only, it's only been two years for you and you already made like a very big name for yourself. I think you, you are like the face of the Calgary UX meetup group, and there's a lot of people in the community we think. No, no, you, at this point.
[00:00:58] Luis Berumen: Yeah. So tell me, I don't, I don't think I should be the face, you know, I think, if we have to have a face, I think it should be collective or at least somebody with a much better face, but if they say it needs to attach the name to for community I am find with it,
but really the idea is to make it something that allows people to step in, to make a project, to build creative spaces and to move on. Right. They don't need to stay to long but just good enough to make it up.
[00:01:29] Patrick Wu: Yeah. Great. Well, I mean, we've, we've already kind of gotten into that a little bit. So how did you get involved with the Calgary UX thing?
Or maybe let's go back a little bit. Like, how did you get into design? Where, where, like, you know, what were you like as a kid? How did, how did you get to where you are today?.
[00:01:45] Luis Berumen: That's that's almost 40 years back. So it's it's yeah, let's say flashback eh, well, the honest truth is that I always felt like a designer, you know, and, in Mexico, yeah.
We kind of history of creative endeavors, trying to be very artistic in many ways. At the same time, we don't have a design culture to really grasp on. So for me, it was a mostly trying to understand the symbols of the building something I tried to do to put together some toys or some ideas or some drawings, and then finding that a yeah, that's called design.
And, yeah, it takes a couple of decades to really it out what actually a designer does, but really the incentive and the ideas were always there.
[00:02:43] Patrick Wu: Did you, did you go to school for design?
[00:02:45] Luis Berumen: Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Yes. in that sense. yeah, I want to, well, the university's called Jalisco, which is in Guadalajara my home town.
And yeah, I spent five years in university just trying to learn how to be a designer. It's a, it's a very interesting curriculum because you can be, you have to learn graphic design, industrial design. And at that time when we were a, just discovering what exactly the web is, you know, beginning of the 2000's and was smart about multimedia, right?
So we were thinking about, either design the pages in flash or trying to understand basic HTML and trying to see how the upgrade the website and just see. So it's been a long time and we have be there. Let's say that is phase for also a longer time, but what can I say? You know, if you have a.
They the impression of how you want to be a designer at the end that technology comes and you adapt to it. Right. So it doesn't matter if you've had to do graphic design and industrial design, or UX in this case.
[00:03:51] Patrick Wu: It's crazy to think kind of what, what the internet was like on a back in the early two thousands, late nineties, like the wild west of the internet back then, like definitely, flash for example, even just that name alone was like, man, we haven't heard about Flash in like ages my goodness. But how, how, how much, in your opinion do you think the Internet's kind of evolved since those days?
[00:04:13] Luis Berumen: Wow. Hmm. That's a good question. Because in many ways it has the both, and also has the bolt. So when are you? I, at the beginning thought that the internet was a way to connect people by that's a way to
to to talk to a stranger and trying to figure out where, what this person needs you and who they are and trying to get me to conversations that we never figured out before. You know, so it busted at the time of having a Yahoo chat, I don't know if you ever heard or seen about it?
[00:04:43] Patrick Wu: I remember like MSN and AOL, but I guess Yahoo had their own thing back then, you know?
[00:04:50] Luis Berumen: Yeah. So, so in that sense, there were not many opportunities to do beyond your own sphere or having your own community and just stuck to some particular set of people. It was more like a access to everybody at the same time and just fantasy. What was going. And now things are much more regulated and certainly things have evolved up to a point where extremely hard to remind you that life without internet existed before that, at the same time, it's also very easy to just talk to a particular set of people or go to it does take a really niche set of interfaces and experiences there. So that's where I feel like we have been through a very interesting journey but at the same time we have missed, something's not developed.
[00:05:38] Patrick Wu: Yeah. Well, since after graduating then where did you, where did you end up going?
[00:05:42] Luis Berumen: Well, I, I spent some time in Mexico saving some money to go to Barcelona.
I always wanted to live and work there. That was my dream since I was 12 years old. And, yeah, they, they, original idea is, or was to get the master's degree in product development and that time I was dreaming about making physical products, you know, it just like a Stoller sort or a crutches or anything that had a industrial design component.
I was super excited about it. Then once I finished my master degree. I worked for a little while over there, and that's when I had the opportunity to start working at an agency and discover there was that there was something much more a relevant happening at the time the because my introduction to user experience.
And I had the chance to start working for the e-commerce side of Panasonic. And yeah, it was, it was a very formative experience because it was really crazy how you can make a change and suddenly 8,000 people will be able to, to see that right now, 8,000 doesn't sound like much. But for me, it does the idea of a, if you design a product, eh, you have to wait six months until all the moulds and all the material gets done.
And if you're lucky maybe 20 people are going to buy it and they are going to like it. And maybe it's going to get a potential commercial. success and yeah, if you made a mistake well, too bad you cannot fix it. I'm very prone to mistakes. I really appreciate it.
[00:07:22] Patrick Wu: I mean, it's a human thing, right? Everyone's prone to mistakes.
[00:07:26] Luis Berumen: Oh, well, in that case I'm more human than others, you know, but really what I wanted was to be able to. To connect with as many people as possible and having, having a platform like an e-commerce site, you can just kind of see right away how an improvement happens. And also a how that actually helps the bottom line for the business, that's just incredible.
[00:07:56] Patrick Wu: So you went from like an interest in physical product design and you kind of went into e-commerce.
Do you miss in product design? Would you'd like to try and like do a project back then, or
[00:08:06] Luis Berumen: it's funny because nowadays everything is circling back right now you have internet of things. So basically it's kinda like your, your products are just gaining his soul, you know, made out of a code. And you have artificial intelligence and censors., yeah, it's, I think of it. The next step, for UX is being much more involved into the physical side of the experience or getting into the beautiful side that emulates a ton of activity it's full immersion into, into other physical environments that we cannot really access. So you can see that.
[00:08:47] Patrick Wu: The tools and capabilities that you can learn from one experience either industrial design and graphic design. Are never really left behind. Right. It's just, they're just waiting for that. it just kind of becomes like this all encompassing thing of design at that point. Right.
[00:09:03] Luis Berumen: Or or maybe they have multiple branches that just suddenly invites them through other branches and it's just computer code right, but it's beautiful
[00:09:13] Patrick Wu: it's very true. Like even, even with what I'm working on right now, it turns out, even though I. Like my primary projects was working on a software product. It's integrated with a whole bunch of hardware. It's integrated with a whole bunch of physical devices that people are using. And you had to have to think about what does that whole experience look like outside and beyond the app?
What do people do with these products physically? And it all becomes like this full vertical thing, which I guess makes sense why our UX department has actually rolled into sales and product development because in the end, it's all very much tied to. The product development life cycle as well. So what are you up to these days?
So like, if it's not managing, not just managing the Calgary UX meetup, but then like what, what would you be doing otherwise?
[00:09:59] Luis Berumen: Wow. yeah, so I keeping myself quite busy, but then let's say my full-time job right now is that the Enbridge innovation lab and, yeah, there's quite a lot of, of work that is related to internal things sensor artificial intelligence
I'm not working on the side of, of virtual reality, but there, there is a group of people and teammates that I worked in on that side, let's say they are, they're proposing quite a lot of interesting things
[00:10:27] Patrick Wu: Enbridge is an oil and gas company, right?
[00:10:30] Luis Berumen: Yeah, exactly.
[00:10:30] Patrick Wu: So what are, what are they doing on, on virtual reality and, and that kind of side of innovation then?
[00:10:37] Luis Berumen: I can't really say too much on that side. Yeah, because obviously that is a bigger thing. and also some of the, the solutions that are, but these aren't meant on it for the company. So the company certainly is that big, that allows a part of the company to produce their own solutions that other part of the company will adopt
and that's, I think one of the most interesting things that caught my attention, because most of the time you don't get to have a captive audience, right. Then you don't get to see who is going to be your or decide who's going to be your user, but in this case, have much more control on that. So that made it really interesting.
[00:11:20] Patrick Wu: Maybe, maybe then the better question to ask is not specifically within Enbridge, but like, do you find that our oil and gas sector is actually taking advantage? like design aspect of things and integrating them into their products and services.
[00:11:32] Luis Berumen: Hmm. That's a good question. Eh, I think actually I've seen quite a lot of, really great companies and solutions that have come out.
It seems maybe, well, when was that it was 2012. Yeah. So whenever you see a, sort of a crisis happening on the oil and gas industry there's also a conflict, a counterbalance of either a group of people that are trying to use technology to improve efficiencies or a kind of like the market adjusts itself to match the particular circumstance.
So let's say from the first crisis that I remember the site, these have been here for 12 years, so we had a couple of them going on
[00:12:16] Patrick Wu: Oh man ya, that was like 10 years ago now almost.
[00:12:20] Luis Berumen: So let's say for, they saw this opportunity for processes to need to apply and sometimes you involve a kind of like, assisting on a crisis or performing some particular actions or a time to be on, on places and, a consensus that are normally quite dangerous. And I guess also you can see that there are many places, especially in Canada, where if you just stay more than half an hour, you are going to die, because the second it's either very cold or they, the environment is potentially hazardous.
So if they send me anything that allows people to avoid those spaces, there is a chance for technology to assist in that sense.
[00:13:08] Patrick Wu: Let's, let's talk a little bit about the Calgary UX meetup group then. So what you already kind of alluded to it, but like what drew your attention to this? What, so you, you know, a little bit about what happened before, do you know kind of how it was started? It's like 10 years ago you said.
[00:13:26] Luis Berumen: I don't know.
and this is maybe something I need to do. You know, I need to make a, an event where I gathered all the original, foundational elements and try to see, try to piece together. This history you have for such a long time. And certainly I've been a member since I think it was two thousand and 14 or 16, but at the same time, one of the biggest challenges they had was.
[00:13:54] Luis Berumen: quite a lot of, the, the events and the setup where physical and we're downtown. So for me a to actually get there on time, that meant either leaving work earlier because I was working in the Northeast or trying to plan my day around it. And that was very hard for me. So it just was one of the classic ones that you just sign up.
And I was just looking at the events that I, I just missed, I'm going to make it my personal homework. You're not just trying to get this out, that, that, that history and trying to find a way to record it and pass it on. So it really feels like it belongs and it's part of a much more complete compass
[00:14:36] Patrick Wu: So, how did you eventually get roped into becomming like the main organizer of, of the Calgary UX meetup events then?
Well, I think, yeah, listen, that's a good question. I think it was just a set of coincidences. I think it was around 2018 when they got a email. I think it was from Jason [???] At the time. And he was,just as asking for, for us to complete a form, if you want it to be a collaborators, you know?
And, I just filled it out and forgot about it. It's the classic thing. Yeah. I would love to collaborate. I would love, I would love to volunteer and I, I just really put it on the back of my head and nothing happened until it was 2019. And then it was, yeah, I, I was contacted again. It's like, Hey, yeah, we're thinking about passing the, passing the Baton to another, another team.
We want to make it complete to the new leadership team. And I was invited there and, at the beginning we were, we were happy more members and,yeah. Then COVID happen and. what can they say? You know, if things got complicated for all their other team members and it's completely understandable, right?
Like it was a completely out of the circumstance. We were going to switch things, quite delicately, and also it's been a challenging time for everybody on the mental, physical and professional side. So it's some of us couldn't continue and, I just stick around until maybe another people come and that's got the baton
2019. It must've been an interesting time because you didn't really have a lot of time before suddenly 2020 hit. And then everything that came along with 2020 right. And do you, do you find that, like, I guess the, maybe the size of the group has now, like when you, when you started to going from physical events to virtual events, cause everyone had to go to virtual.
you know, I've been noticing that there's a lot more people kind of coming from outside of Calgary and outside of Canada, like just joining in on a lot of our meetup groups. Have you, have you kind of seen that, we've been getting a lot of growth in this meetup group then?
[00:16:46] Luis Berumen: Yeah. Yeah. What would seem crazy?
when, when I used to started, we were 1900 members. Now we are around 2,200. I, I keep tabs of where everybody's coming, you know, based on, on meet up information. So, so let's say it's publicly available. I'm not, not gripping on anybody's information, but for me it's really irrelevant because it really tells me what.
[00:17:12] Luis Berumen: And what kind of audiences are we attracting? Also a what kind of connection? So pernicious from the start of the working week, you know, so these days, for example, working with, the, a similar group from Edmonton makes a lot of sense, right? Like we need to work together as a province. And what has happened also in the very recent years is that there have been very recent in recent months.
Oh, feels like years, you know, but, yeah, we have been attracting quite a lot of people from a Toronto, from Vancouver. and from San Francisco and I don't know exactly what are the key reasons why they are looking at us, you know, but at the same time, It's really interesting that this places that normally is half a much more mature set of companies and practices and a better market for UX, they want to look at us and they want to connect.
[00:18:13] Patrick Wu: That's really interesting. Yeah. So, well, what's your hypothesis then? Of why, why do you think there's so much interest from these like, you know, cities that we would otherwise assume to have a much more mature tech org like innovation ecosystems, then
[00:18:27] Luis Berumen: That's a very good question it's really hard to point out yet because part of that could be maybe because of the accessibility of the events we try to actually welcome everybody. Right? They can hear me saying that the beginning of every event, but this is Calgary UX but if you are not coming, from Canada, you're welcome anyways and we really mean it we need everybody from everywhere. But at the same time, I think, some of the, the external circumstances that are happening allows us to start thinking outside the whole city.
So are there people from Toronto that are considering to move to Calgary, because obviously the housing market is way cheaper, or they have the maybe a different set of opportunities that they cannot really find in Toronto. Or they just were actually originally from Calgary, but they moved to Toronto and now they're seeing some activity and they want to come back because obviously the main families still here or their roots are stronger than maybe some other inclinations or some other connections that they have yielded over the years. So I still not completely 100% sure because it's still, it's hard to kind of like piece together the information, But I have a really good guess.
[00:19:53] Patrick Wu: Well? I mean, I imagine it's a lot of harder for you to just go straight up to these.
People's like, so why are you here? Even though we told you you're allowed to be here. Right. And it's a harder request in to just kind of throw at people I imagined,
[00:20:06] Luis Berumen: but at the same time, what can I say? You know, I, while some of that happens, I get to see some people from the select channel. Just mentioning that.
I'm from Calgary or I'm from Toronto and they want to see what's going on here
[00:20:23] Patrick Wu: not just like north America, like I'm from Brazil. I am from Spain. I am from like all these other places just around the world that like, you know, I, I distinctly remember there's a couple of events where people are like tuning in from Israel at 2:30 AM their time.
It's, it's crazy to see how many people are willing to come to these events. And, you know, the Calgary UX meetup does run a whole bunch of different events. So I remember seeing events for like, how do you use the software more appropriately? How do you do design systems? How do you find a job? What do you think?
Like have you kind of taken a look to see kind of like which types of events are people more interested in or are they all just generally very well attended.
[00:21:03] Luis Berumen: That's a yeah. I can see a pattern when it comes to about a double sponsored workshops has had a, huge response. And, yeah, there'll be as a brand and also the, the speakers are very well positioned, so they're really, really great.
So, yeah, let's say this once. I know that there are going to be a heat. Also, anything that is related to career development works very well. And, yeah, I think that even though those numbers are normally pretty fantastical, because sometimes it's really important to place him in a way that allows for other conversations and also a yeah.
Having a particular sense of when some conversations need to happen. One, one thing that was happening at the beginning of the years that I've got, when we had these a yeah. W we had this combination of things, the winter term was ending, which normally is the season for winter blues, and also COVID was rampant and the economy was unbelievably fantastic. So, yeah, I was noticing quite a lot of desperation. Sad faces on around the community. Right? So in that sense, there, wasn't a start talking about the community, to start talking about why we need to be involved or one why we need to up, because we need to make a, to focus more on hope on creativity and time to get us out of those well, let's say thoughts that somehow we're circulating,
[00:22:47] Patrick Wu: Building community to support each other. Right. During, during really tough times, which I think you've been doing a really, really good job, with, with that. Recently, the Calgary UX meetup has also joined platform Calgary, is that correct? And, now that the platform innovation center is done mostly, mostly done at this point, what's in, what's in store for the future, for the meetup.
[00:23:09] Luis Berumen: Wow. Yeah, let's say you asked that question two months ago. I was going to tell you. Yeah, well, we're going to meet in person and platform is going to be our next big place where you are going to be able to. And we'll all gather and create these sorts of,spaces where we're never going to meet with the different at a community center and potentially get a stronger sort of relationships.
But eh, obviously COVID is still around and, yeah, we need to reassess the plan. The plan is still is the same. But the one that's going to happen. I think maybe, both whenever I think of a date, it sounds more like I'm guessing. Right. But yeah, the idea is the same, you know, you're part of a community and Platform amazing partner, and I'm just trying to assist and support on whatever they are. doing and ya, we'll work together, I think,
[00:24:17] Patrick Wu: I think if people are still finding the meetups and the events and the topics that you discuss really valuable each time, then why not keep doing it. Right. And then when we do have the ability to come meet up in person, that will be a different dynamic. because obviously when you're meeting in person, now you have to figure out kind of, what about all these other people who are outside of Calgary, who might not be able to make it, and then. How do you ensure that that's all accessible still
[00:24:41] Luis Berumen: Yeah, that was there were a couple of ideas that I bounced some, some, community members and, yeah, certainly the possibility of having maybe mixed media event, part physical part to be virtual is very attractive. Exactly. Yeah. Or in my, in, for example, let's say you make it in the in-person workshop.
And at the end, you make a beautiful presentation of what happened with the other option. So that what allows us to start thinking about very creatively about how to involve people from different places. How do we manage your sources and technology to really achieve all of the circumstances that were not used to.
But at the same time, it implies some more planning implies some more training because as soon as we changed the skew, people potentially could get lost. So we will need to find more, more community ambassadors. So more, a catalyst that will allows us to connect and keep people in the loop. But, yeah, it's sort of, for us, we're just waiting for it for the rest of the province and the work to be on the same page and to be healthy
[00:25:58] Patrick Wu: I mean, I think for a lot of people who are looking to get into user experience, design or design in general, The meetup is a great resource to do it. What kind of advice do you, do you have for people who are saying I'm interested in learning more about UX or I'm interested in pivoting my job into UX?
any, any kind of advice from either like the events that you like hosted or just from your own personal experience?
[00:26:19] Luis Berumen: Wow.
Yeah. Okay. Well, not many. that's an answer that, that's a question that I answer pretty much every even day, you know, there is quite a lot of people that we reach either from Calgary UX, or I'm also a mentor at the U.P. And also I do some mentorship at design life.
And I think that the most important part, ah is to understand what kind of experience do you want, you know, because quite a lot of people have the intuition that they can be great designers and they are creative and they're very talented and they're very smart and they can come from different backgrounds doesn't matter.
But I think it is very important. To do a bit of research on what do you think they're going to get out of being a UX designer? Because it's a tough job, you know, like not all the time you're going to be able to create meaningful experiences. UI interfaces can be challenging. You'd have to convince a lot of people all the time and yeah, you have to either find alignment or sometimes
Deal with the circumstances that maybe investing on UX is not going to be possible at the time and is sometimes frustrating and the things that most people do not really get to feel that once they until they're getting into, into the profession and I want to let them know that yes, it's a wonderful profession.
You will love it. I'm sure that a, if you have a inclination to make the world a better place. This is going to be the profession for you while at the same time. Yeah. It's going to be challenging and it's going to rely much more on your capabilities to influence people, even if you don't have a leadership role or a, well, structured is sort of for authority than let's say how good you are working on [???].
[00:28:22] Patrick Wu: Yeah. I mean, I didn't realize it until I kind of started doing this work. How much UX actually is not even working with the software team that much, but you're working. The sales product team a lot more. And, it's, it's all stakeholder engagement first and foremost. And then you get, you go into your like Figma or your XD, our boards, and try to like figure things out.
But before then it's actually a remarkable amount of planning and it's a lot of thinking. then sometimes there are just days where my brain is just completely fried. I don't know about you.
[00:28:54] Luis Berumen: Well, actually, yeah, not many Fridays Fridays. That's when my, my brain is toasted. I guess we should have this conversation, on a Monday instead of Friday, today is Friday yeah
yeah. So normally a Saturday I used to spend it, you know, lay down and completely deflated. And then on Sundays I start taking that more physical shape again. But, yeah, at the same time we need more designers, right. So I'm not going to scare away too many people. And just to let them know that.
They, the challenge us out there. It is such a wonderful profession and has so many opportunities to be explored that we still haven't really imagined. So if they are coming from any other background or they have any inclination this is still valid they just need to find a market place for that or a company that's looking for these kind of people.
[00:29:56] Patrick Wu: Yeah and I think, I think having more design maturity is definitely a lot of like something that I think a lot of companies can really benefit from. just having, and even though I think a lot of people still think of design as like, you know, logos and graphics and websites and stuff like that. I think design is that bigger thinking, thinking, brainstorming strategic almost,organization organizational strategy type thing that you need to put together sometimes.
And I think that is where a lot of our companies, even within Calgary would benefit a lot from people who are passionate and interested in design and are able to kind of come in with that, with that skill.
[00:30:34] Luis Berumen: Yeah. I couldn't agree more. I couldn't agree more. I think one of the biggest challenges that the city has is to take full advantage of the opportunities we have.
Now, there are many companies that have great technology, but they still haven't figured out for it to commercialize how to make it more user friendly or more available for a bigger audience, because they, they are very well at building things, but not very well, but not, they are not great at explaining it or making it accessible for, for a largest set of, So I think this is the pain that we can start working.
And also another challenge is that sometimes the designers need to start thinking as entrepreneurs, as investors, as the stake holders, and either become or taking a role like that, or a being able to empathize and have to understand what did they need from what their react in the way they react. Because sometimes, yeah.
W we are really focused on trying to push out ideas, but yeah, if there are not any, eh, there is not that common ground to actually allow these ideas to do grow. Then we are not going to have a really good time with time trying to get traction on those projects. Right. So, yeah, it needs to be challenging because those are the kinds of things that they don't teach you at school.
And it's not until you start seeing that your products are failing time over time. Once you start asking yourself, well, why I'm not getting buy in? Why not? Why this idea is not really holding any sort of water.
[00:32:16] Patrick Wu: Yeah, no, it's, it's a, it's almost like a little bit more business school stuff could be snuck into design school every so often right? Well, last couple of questions I want to ask you first off, what's been like the most challenging thing about what you're doing. What do you. Not like it could be something trivial. They, you know, do not like getting the amount of emails. It's just like, something trivial like that, or what's been really challenging for you.
[00:32:37] Luis Berumen: Wow. That's a good question. and this is something that you need to consider if you want to stay inside for a really long time. I think, I think , we design for communities so I, there's something that point where I will need to make a decision of what's going to be my, my next. What kind of experience I'm looking for the next 20 years.
And at some point, those are going to come as a revelation or more as a, as a set of options that I would take for my own life or for the life of my family. But I think right now, the biggest complexity that a designer to face once they are reaching out some maturity, how to see current problems that we have been working on for years and how to see them in a very fresh way, how to adopt a beginner's mind. And especially once you are facing some frustration, how not becoming [???]. And it's very easy to make a parody of somebody else's needs or somebody else's issues. But it's really hard to be able to withstand the kind of things the negative things that you can be feeling at that particular moment and not piling them up with all the experiences that are missing that are accumulating from, from the past. Right. So all the time that the client said "Make the logo bigger" and you're like if I make it bigger it's going to be the whole size of the mobile phone. But what can you say you know? This side of the business is that ya you have to breath in, breath out and just trying to see how you're we accommodated the logic.
So you get the possible outcome. Yeah. After you do that for awhile, it starts digging in something. It starts a road in some, some processes in mind. Right? So it's not about how do you remain in this space? without really losing your sense of humanity at some point.
[00:34:46] Patrick Wu: Great. And I'm sure there's going to be a lot of people who will be interested in chatting with you and then coming to check out some stuff. So hopefully for the rest of our listeners, they, we will see some of them at our, next to Calgary UX meetup. I'm, I'm so grateful that we got a chance to, talk today.
So thank you so much for your time.
If you would like to listen to this episode, visit: https://rainforestalberta.podbean.com/e/e0137/
Al Del Degan Hosts Diego Gomez[00:00:00] Al: Hey everybody. Welcome to the show. today my guest is, Diego Gomez. Diego is, one of the learners who's graduated from the InceptionU evolve program to pivot his career into becoming a full stack developer. Diego thanks for joining me
[00:00:17] DIego: Oh,thanks Al, I appreciate your time and having me on the show that takes a lot of your time as well.
[00:00:24] Al: Thanks.
Thanks very much So Diego, maybe you could give us a little bit of a background because you're a career pivoter right. So maybe you could talk about maybe a bit of your education and what life was like growing up, and then what you did for a living before you decided to pivot your career and how
[00:00:41] DIego: sure.
Thank you. well, I guess my career has been very,transitional and rocky always, I've never had sort of like,one thing that I wanted to. Until I finally found the coding. yeah, just growing up. I was always very, into maybe traveling entrepreneurship. I did a little bit of a program with the government of Ontario.
I'm originally, landed immigrant in Toronto. And, so, there, I had a program in which, the government helped me, have my own company for a little bit. from there a little bit of, labor, logistics, I was never into having a loan. I didn't have the opportunity to pay for my own studies and I just, me and the government, I didn't really, want to have that pressure on me.
So I pivoted towards logistics and forklifting and things like that. And in my off time, I would, do a little bit of YouTube coding and stuff like that. And just the. the time the, and wanting to travel, I decided to do a little bit of tree planting, experimenting with those sort of jobs where it's more independent and where it can develop skills on my own and gathering knowledge from different people as well.
as I traveled my own country, same time I came back into Calgary at some point. And now I do the coding, which I appreciate the government and your program and the InceptionU program, for, for a hosting, such an opportunity.
[00:02:01] Al: Excellent. Cool. when you were going through the program, what did you, what sort of, experience was it for you where you feeling like.
Super confident and everything was really going well. Or did you jump in and go, oh my God, what am I getting myself into? How was that experience?
The experience is sort of mixed on both of the things that you just mentioned. Because it was very exciting. It was very, I was very confident, sort of applying to it.
it's something that I always was interested in and wanted to do, but there was also that side of, nervousness fear going into it, because obviously there are people who have had a lot more time to look at this stuff. Looking back and never even heard of the, Imposter syndrome that everybody talks about.
[00:02:46] Al: And, but I certainly felt it just doing know there was a name for it. and now the experience through it made me realize that, there's a lot of things that not only I can achieve as somebody that you know, has just my basic high school, but was somebody who's got a lot already going on. Completely pivot into something that seems unreachable at some point, but yeah, just both, feelings, I think made my experience very, like a roller coaster sort of thing.
Let's dig into that a little bit because you know, sometimes there's this debate and I was just on LinkedIn live, yesterday, or, sorry, the day before yesterday with regards to this concept. of university degree in computer science versus, you know, a bootcamp like InceptionU. And one of the things that, that I had mentioned kind of was that.
Difference in not only in timeframe, six months versus four years, but also the difference in cost in your case, there was a government funded program. So there was no cost to you other than your time versus university. You're looking at, you know, $50,000 plus. And so someone in your position, the situation you were in, in life , you wouldn't have been able to do university, even if you really, really wanted to write like.
You know, you might've been able to do something through student loans or something, but you would have been having a huge burden of debt in that timeframe, plus four years of your life where you can't really earn an income. And you're, you're stuck just getting through the degree. So I guess in, you know, further to my discussion on LinkedIn live, there's also these situations like yourself, you must be pretty grateful that the, this program was available for you and the government was able to fund it because now you have.
Basically the same opportunity as somebody who came out of university, you know, within reason I'm not, I'm not going to split hairs there, but you both would be applying for junior level jobs in the same place. what are your thoughts on that?
[00:04:46] DIego: Yeah, I think looking back on all these things and now being involved in these discussions, right.
Because I never. I thought of a career where you could have such discussion, right? Like if you are going to be a doctor, which obviously we can't really compare, but at the same time, most of these careers, you really need to have these, preset, trajectory. I I'd say, or I would call it. And for these, I, I find them really interesting where you can be starting from zero, have no knowledge, have nothing.
Be able to compare yourself to somebody that, as you just said, like you could go through four years of university and at least to be able to compare yourself to it. Maybe, maybe, sure. This person has a little bit more intriguing and detailed knowledge of certain things, but practically we're at a same similar level.
So I can, I really appreciate that. And as I mentioned, I think I've been somebody who has always looked for this sort of support from the government and agencies, because not only they're there for you to, to, to use and. and the advantage of, but at the same time, you're there for a reason. And I feel like they're there for the opportunity.
Right. and we were not using them. Were we them? And since high school, I've always been more of a practical person. I appreciate in Canada, we have a co-op programs and that's how I got out of high school in grade ten. I just went and did my co-op, through my last semester of high school and created great relationships with my employers.
then I did my program with the government of Ontario, where they also funded, my summer company, which was a skateboard company. And I was very grateful for that. I was 18 at the time and I did it all on my own. And then later on my forklift licenses and things like that, I also did it through the government.
[00:06:33] DIego: So, throughout this COVID-19 thing where I have been laid off, even prior to COVID-19, I was already looking into, what am I going to do? I'm already. 26 now, what am I asking you? Going into like, you know, you always compare yourself and your life in in the, InceptionU program was a very big not to compare yourself to others, but it's a very difficult thing to do, right?
Mostly in social media. You just, that we're in right now. So I really thought that the opportunity given here was amazing. This is for people like me. Rednecks in a way towards, and loans and things like that. But at the same time, for people who are really pivoted, people who have been doing something for 30 years and, and really need a new opportunity.
And I really appreciate the government people, it's additions like InceptionU are really take it upon themselves to, to carry on the next generation.
[00:07:26] Al: Cool well-put and, and I think that the funding and that really helps make level the playing field for people who want to get into, you know, a new career field, like this.
I mean, certainly you weren't sitting around on the couch, drinking beer and playing video games, your whole life. Like you actually been out doing stuff. It's just like, you are limited to the stuff that you could do because of the, the financial situation and your immigration and all those sorts of things.
But it's cool because now you're in, you know, like you said, you're, you're somewhere close to equal playing field with other people who are just starting the career as a software developers. And, you know, five years from now, you could be, you know, a senior developer for some company making a whole lot of money.
And, and that's, that's a really great opportunity, I think.
[00:08:14] DIego: Yeah.
It not only humbles me, but it makes me very excited. So, yeah. You made it feel very,
[00:08:21] Al: right on what, what would you say Diego to companies that are looking to hire new developers? Traditionally, they looked for kind of intermediate to senior level developers with the, with the thought that they could, you know, hit the ground running and they wouldn't have to spend too much time babysitting them or whatever with, with yourself, but not only yourself, but with other people that you went to through the program with what do you have to offer to a company who might, who might consider maybe looking at somebody with a little bit newer, greener experience.
[00:08:55] DIego: I feel like,
the biggest thing would be, perspective, a different plan perspective sometimes, comes into a big play in no matter if it's a bigger large or a small company. cause I feel like. the the sort of things that I've been through and the sort of things that I've learned or haven't learned, or didn't pick up also bringing into a lot of things that I can develop or bringing to the table sort of in maybe not just developing but ideas.
because as we've talked throughout the time to. Have different experiences. We all have general and different understandings of things. And when we come together, as soon as these, experiences and talks and discussions is when we actually develop these, innovation and ideas that really bring data problems that we want to solve in society or the problems that we want to, bring upon us.
That really, really developed. So I really appreciate those things. I really appreciate those make series of knowledge and, and perspectives. I'm a chess player and, by since an early age, and the thought is, you know, six hour games, get up, look around. Go up on the opposite side and look at your opponent's view and how can you play as the opposite and kind of play yourself.
[00:10:10] DIego: So, it's always great to have different perspectives. That's how I
[00:10:14] Al: nicely put that's really, really cool. So what is, what's the future for Diego look like in your mind? What, what are you thinking about now doing now?
[00:10:23] DIego: Well, right now, I just feel like I'm getting. we're a hands-on experience on a company.
who would love to have to pportunity to share my experience, gain experience, grow. And at the same time, for me, it's always been, a big thing, the entrepreneurship. So hopefully in the future, I can actually create a business and, opportunities for other people as well.
[00:10:44] Al: That's that's
a good attitude.
Fantastic. Okay. Well, is there anything else you'd like to, Talk about before we wrap this up. It's you know, obviously the, the concepts that we talked about here, where we're talking about, you know, an opportunity for anybody to get into the field of computers and become programmers. We talked about your journey.
We talked about companies taking a look at people who are fresh out of these programs is, is a good idea. Is there anything else you think we should
[00:11:13] DIego: mention? I feel we should mention that. distress and pressure that people now carry on everyday. We kept career pivoting or staying, or, you know, all these pressures that we have today are, I think software development are brings along the entrepreneurship and the freedom feeling to it.
in a sense, obviously we have different perspectives of all these things, but I would like to say. We need to slow down a little bit on my own, our stress under pressure and just loop back and see and see what really is important to us. What's really important to come forward in. Really make them worth, what's going to happen, whether it is, you know, working where he's having a business, where he is traveling, just make the best of it.
[00:12:00] DIego: And, and yeah, that's, that's all I got to say.
[00:12:03] Al: Right. That's that's actually a really good point. I think a lot of people they're focused so much on getting through work so that they can have freedom when they retire. And I know people in my own life who their focus for their entire life was make money, put it away, pay everything off and then be free when I retire and now they're retired and they're having problems with their health and they're not able to do all the things that they wish they could do.
There's probably a really good. Middle ground where you're focusing on today and enjoying today, but also keeping an eye out and putting something aside and focusing a bit on what the future is going to look like without being all, all one or all of the other. That's a really, really valid point. And I think you have a real euphemistic approach to, to life.
I think I can, I can see you traveling and really enjoying yourself and being out there in the world and just absorbing it all in and then bearing down and getting the, getting the job done because it needs to get done. You got, you got a nice little mix in the middle there.
[00:13:14] DIego: Yeah. Well, on a side note, since we're there, I did a biking trip, across Ontario, on the Trans-Canada trail from Toronto to Calgary.
And that was just a trek and it was just amazing to get to know my backyard and get to know other people that are out there and these communities. And it was just amazing how, what you're saying is amazing because a lot of these people. older people, right? Didn't really have the opportunity to do these things.
Or they did do this back in the day. And we were just pulling people behind this, like how I want to come with you. I want to do this thing. I just don't have the time or, you know, whatever it is that tie us to whatever it is. And, and just having that opportunity to, to have that time where a lot of people don't have these opportunities, you really makes a difference in how you can look at things once you were back in society, I guess.
[00:14:04] Al: Right, right, right. How long did that trip take you?
[00:14:07] DIego: It was a whole summer three months.
[00:14:08] Al: Oh, wow. Three months.
[00:14:11] DIego: Yeah. It's just, it's actual backpacking and it was pretty, pretty cool.
[00:14:15] Al: Nice. That's exciting. And would you do it again?
[00:14:19] DIego: I would, I would just plan it a little bit better.
That was a week's worth of planning and me and my friends just kind of. took ourselves to MEC, bought a couple of things and it just hit the road,
[00:14:33] Al: living life on the edge.
[00:14:35] DIego: It's young. And it's like, actually at that time I had enter, I kind of betrayed myself when I went into a program there for game development, did it for a month.
And I just, I had to go back on my own, but I can't take this money. I can't take this pressure and ended up traveling the world. And now I'm here. So. It's kind of funny how to, how the world ends up bringing you to those things that interests you. And at the end of the day, you can't force it.
[00:15:02] Al: Yeah. A hundred percent.
And I'm sure you'll remember at the beginning of the InceptionU program, there was a lot of focus on who you are and what you actually want to be when you grow up. And, that. Probably a pretty eyeopening for, for yourself and the rest of the people who took the program. I think there's a lot of programs out there that, that, that you can learn new skills, but sometimes taking a bit of a step back and figuring out you know who you are and where you want to go is, is really a valuable, valuable for sure.
[00:15:34] DIego: I agree. 100%.
[00:15:37] Al: Well, Diego, thank you so much for being on the, on the show. I really appreciate it. And, you know, best of luck to you and we're going to have Diego's LinkedIn link in the show notes. So if you're looking for a new developer, who's got some mad skills and a lot of passion for software.
you definitely want to talk to Diego. He's a smart kid. I can only say kid cause I'm an old fart, but
[00:16:05] Al: thanks so much. anyway, have a, have a wonderful rest of your day Diego and listeners tune in next week for another episode of the leaders, innovators, and big ideas podcast. Thanks so much, ciao for now.