I only planned to go for two weeks, but I ended up staying for almost three years. For me, Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest is a magical place. When I first experienced a sunset at Kits Beach, I remember thinking that someone would have to drag me back to Ontario. I vowed then to stay in Vancouver.
I moved to Vancouver after graduating my master's program in 2009. It was two years into the "great recession," and like most new grads, I didn't have a job offer. So, in need of feeling in control, I followed my own, made-up advice: "When in doubt, take action." In this case that meant booking a one-way flight to Vancouver.
It helped that my girlfriend at the time was living there and I wanted to be with her. Six months later we moved in together and six months after that we broke up. I was in my early 20s. We were heading down different life paths and we simply grew apart. At the time, it was devastating and confusing and unfair. But looking back it was obviously the right move.
I spent my first six months in Vancouver trying to land my dream job. It took me a while, but I eventually got it. Two incredibly valuable skills I gained in my master's program were networking and pitching — two things I did aggressively during my first month or two in Vancouver. I went to every meet up and networking event I could find. I set up coffee with interesting people I wanted to learn from and/or work for. I sowed the seeds and waited.
In the meantime, I did some consulting, I got a part-time job at lululemon, and I started blogging. My experience at lululemon combined with my commitment to blogging turned out to make all the difference. Blogging helped me hone my thinking and deepen my knowledge in the field I wanted to enter. I learned a lot about branding, experience design, and retail in my time working at lululemon. And, of course, I blogged about it. One of my blog posts went on to be the number one search result if you Googled "working at lululemon." This got me a good amount of attention and I think it built up my credibility.
Then, after months of waiting, I got hired at Blast Radius. I started about a week after the 2010 Winter Olympics ended. Working at Blast was the best thing that could have happened to me. From the moment I got there, it was like a fast-forward boot camp for digital marketing and experience design. In a small market like Vancouver, I was working with top talent from all over the world and for some of the biggest, most famous consumer brands on the planet. My main account was Starbucks, but I also worked with lululemon, Disney, Nike, Bacardi, and many more.
The breakup was one of the hardest things I'd ever gone through, but it allowed me, perhaps partly as a coping mechanism, to commit myself 110% to work. And that paid off. I was promoted, I was placed on the best projects, and, most importantly, I earned the respect and friendship of my colleagues, who are to this day some of the smartest and most talented people I know. Looking back, I am so grateful to have worked with such awesome people — I know how rare and special it is.