Wendy Turnbull on Entrepreneurship and Her Career
Tell me about your role with BCTIA? How did you get there?
I am the Director of Marketing & Events with the BC Technology Industry Association (BCTIA), a not-for-profit that is dedicated to helping tech companies grow and ensuring that BC’s dynamic tech ecosystem continues to thrive. I have been with the BCTIA for 5 years, and my role has changed greatly since I started as the Marketing Specialist in 2011. In five years, I’ve gone from a solo marketing person, building a social media program, to leading a team of four and celebrating the first anniversary of the BCTIA Innovation Hub – a 26,000 sq ft accelerator and community space, opened in December 2014.
Prior to BCTIA, I worked as the Web and Retail Marketing Manager in the head office of a children’s clothing company. That was my first experience with e-commerce, and during my time there I wrote a children’s book and learned about the power of the “mom-preneurs” – it was fascinating. I have also worked in experiential marketing (yes, I have worn costumes and capes!), tourism, playing video games professionally, and at one point I was a bingo caller on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. My career path is not what you call, “linear”, but it has been a lot of fun and there are things I will NEVER forget (even if I want to!)
Is there anyone or anything that has helped you get to where you are today?
I come from a family of entrepreneurs, so they have always been really supportive of me needing to find my own way, no matter what it looked like. They never told me which direction to take, and while they don’t understand what I do, they love that I’m happy doing it.
In the end, it has helped that I am naturally curious, nerdy, adaptable, and eager. I have always had waaaaay too many interests, so I like to explore new things all the time. That freedom, both in my upbringing and in my outlook, have allowed me to venture down different paths feeling supported and I bring those experiences with me into every new adventure.
What are some challenges that you have faced in your career? How did you overcome those challenges?
Some of my challenges were easier to overcome than others… For example, I LOVE living in Vancouver, but so do a lot of people. I found myself competing for Specialist roles against Directors with 10+ years’ experience, all because they wanted to break into the Vancouver market. That, coupled with trying to pay rent in Vancouver, has made for some interesting “environmental” challenges.
I couldn’t afford to take an unpaid internship out of University, I will likely never be “comfortable” enough to work purely for love – I need money too. But, I could also move, I just don’t want to. (So, “stubbornness” is a challenge I have yet to overcome, apparently.)
In the workplace, I have also faced the challenge of confidence – a challenge that I think all women face. (Or at least are more likely to face than men.) As a young woman in business, it can be hard to be taken seriously, so I have had to learn to overcome that and feel confident that I DO know what I’m talking about. I’m still struggling with that, but acknowledging it helps me get past it.
I’m sure I will face BOTH challenges all over again as I look for my next adventure after BCTIA. There will still be intense competition, I will still feel insecure about my accomplishments, and there will still be moments when I’m questioning my knowledges, so I will continue to work to overcome that – wish me luck!
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would love to tell my younger self to be braver. I wish I had stood up for my ideas, asked more questions, and not been afraid to be unpopular – right from day one. I would also tell my younger self that it will all work out, but that that’s no excuse to stop pushing. Oh, and I would DEFINITELY tell my younger self to start my RRSP earlier. Is that lame?
What is a quote that you live by?
“Move fast and break things.” – Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook.
I like this quote because it’s the modern “beg forgiveness vs ask permission” scenario (which is another great quote, from Admiral Grace Murray Hopper.)
There are some people who hide behind that as an excuse to do bad things, but the truth is, it’s not about being sneaky, or cheating, it’s about blazing a trail and understanding that people are naturally afraid of things that are new and different.
As a manager, I encourage my team to break stuff all the time. Breaking something is the best way to learn how to fix it, and it means that you’re trying new things while understanding the tools you have. If you never push something (including yourself) to the limits, how will you know what it (and you) can do.