Below is a bird’s-eye view of where I began my love of communications and marketing, the psychology of the sale, the target audience (internal and external) mindset and how I started from the bottom with little experience, and grew into a confident marketing professional with an expansive array of skills and tools at my disposal. The path here has had twists and turns, but each step was carefully selected in order to further my development, gather new experience and knowledge so that I could test, apply and assess new technologies and advance my process and management capabilities.
This is my professional development story…
Born and raised on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River, my dad, a European-born Canadian, instilled in me a work ethic that puts ravenous beavers to shame. Getting up at 5 every morning in the summer from the age of 8 on, while my friends all slept in, was building a foundation for the future. One filled with calouses that still exist today.
My dad owned a successful general contracting business and I was his ‘slave labour’. It got me up early, had me work incredibly hard, and showed me the inside of a business, the good and bad, from a young age. And I loved it.
I referred to my dad’s business as a 40-year-old ‘startup’ and I was there to get it up in the air. Diving deep into the consumer mindset, I applied my learnings and common sense in order to develop an entire marketing strategy, plan of execution and complete re-engineering of the business to meet new market opportunities. The result, a company that started with modest annual revenues of $400K in Year 1 grew to $4.4M by Year 5.
By that time I had done what I could at his company and felt that I needed to strike out on my own. The company was on solid ground and had a defined and manageable path, so I decided it was time to tackle new challenges.
Nortel was the tech darling in the late 90s and I wanted in. I made a couple of calls and finally managed to snag a conversation with the VP Marketing of their Optical Networks and Semiconductor Group. He was shocked when I volunteered to give a month of free labour to prove what I could do. Within 15 days of starting he presented me with an offer that hired me full time. I stayed with him and the company for over four years, progressing to increasingly more responsible positions.
The tides were changing and by 2000 there were dark clouds overhead and Nortel was sinking fast. I accepted a less senior role at a local startup named Atreus Systems, seeking an opportunity to participate in the growth phase of a company, starting from the ground up. It was an exceptional experience as it allowed me to travel extensively while honing my Marketing and Communications skills even further. It was one heck of a ride! Way up really fast… and, like so many high flying tech companies in those ‘dot-com’ days, it ended sooner than we had hoped.
“David is a marketing ‘rock star’. He can build or rebuild your entire Communications strategy and successfully implement it.”
Tony Busa – VP Marketing – ZuZapp Inc.
By late 2002 the technology industry in Ottawa was humbled, as was I. I decided I would try something new, different, and get my feet wet with the federal government. The first of a few stops was the Royal Canadian Mint. Which, oddly enough, played a bigger role that I originally envisioned. More on that later though. It was a one-year (turned into 15-month) contract to be the Communications Manager.
Piece of cake, right? Not so much. When you’re used to a more collaborative and progressive workplace, you’re in for a bit of a shock when you land in some public sector institutions. Not all bad though, it ended up being a transformative workplace, for myself and the 100-year old institution. At one point, with our VP role vacated, I was asked to step up and fill the void for the duration of my contract. It was an incredible experience. By the end of my term, the returning employee who once filled my role no longer wanted her position as it had completely reconstructed and required much more work than what she had left behind. I was offered a permanent position but had already accepted a role with Export Development Canada (Nav Canada). My next phase of development…
EDC proved to be an incredibly rewarding and character-building opportunity. As with any job I’ve had, I threw myself straight in. Sinking my teeth deep allows me to really gain a sense of ownership and responsibility. As a Senior Communications Advisor to the President and Chief Economist, it was my role to be aware of any news and events that could affect EDC, Canadian and/or global exports, our corporate reputation or that of the executive management team. This research was done daily and presented in a concise, digestible format by 8:30am. Then the rest of my responsibilities could get my full attention.
I spent the last six months traveling across Canada with the Chief Economist (now the Governor of the Bank of Canada, Stephen Poloz), speaking to the media and local business about what EDC does and our position on the global stage. Mr. Poloz had done this tour five previous years, but never once did he experience having to do a media scrum. Since I was responsible to prime and attract media attention for the tour, I did everything I could to pitch the right story to each respective outlet. It proved to be so successful that we had six scrums in eight provinces. Mr. Poloz still calls them ‘Martineks’.
As my term concluded I was swayed to take on what proved to be one of the most grueling and rewarding challenges of my entire career. Approached by Environment Canada’s ADM (at the time, Phil Kinsmen) to help create an overarching communications and online marketing strategy for the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference and COP 11 in Montreal… I could not pass it up.
The next nine months of my life was a complete and utter blur. The role continually expanded from being a conduit of information from a dozen or more provincial and federal agencies, to the lead strategist that coordinated the COP11’s entire web presence, including bringing all news, communications and developments for over 40 private and public sector organizations to the masses, in near real time. In the eleventh hour, I was asked if I knew anything about putting on webcasts, by the end of the conference I had successfully managed and produced an entire series of live and recorded online events broadcast to hundreds of thousands of viewers over the 10-day conference. In fact, we had four complete camera crews zipping across town every day, broadcasting or recording an average of nine sessions, for a total of 96 (almost 300 hours) during the conference. This was done while still coordinating all the online activities and navigating the political minefields that popped up every other hour. I still don’t know how I did it, but it goes down as one of my most significant professional achievements. Thankfully, once the conference was over, I was on a plane (the same day, missing the closing ceremonies!) to Maui for a friend’s destination wedding. I don’t remember the flight at all.
Back on the ground after a nice, needed vacation, I was recruited to return to the private (tech) sector, this time in Toronto. While the previous experience really pushed me professionally – making this move really tested me emotionally as well. If you’ve ever moved 400 kms away from most of your friends and family to take on a new job, you know what hurdles your mind has to overcome. And while the first six to nine months proved to be incredibly stressful and exhausting, they also showed me that I could do it and make a new life for myself in the Big Smoke.
For the next few years I served as Marketing and Communications Director at BlueCat Networks, a relatively small tech startup, that grew quickly to become one of Canada’s shining stars. During that time, we went from a comfortable $10M in annual revenue and 45 people to a whopping $35M and over 110 employees. The team I managed grew proportionately, going from four to 15 in that same period. It was a terribly exciting and nerve-wracking time, and one that will always be referred to as ‘BlueCat University’, as it proved to be one of the most challenging and professionally enriching experiences of my career.
“Hands down – David is the best marketing and communications professional I have ever worked with.”
Ian McCauley – Marketing Manager – Recycle Frog
While every Marketing and Communications position carried forward a similar set of responsibilities, my role as a manager of people continued to grow along with other senior managerial requirements. I loved every one of them. They tested me on many levels, pushed me to learn and grow both personally and in my professional ability. All this led me to my first true entrepreneurial experience.
After having gained a significant amount of experience and confidence in my abilities as a marketer, I thought it was time to build something of my own. Little did I know what I was getting into or what lay in store for me. This is where the Royal Canadian Mint comes back into play. That 15-month experience and the relationships I developed and nurtured over the next six years all came back to roost.
With the help of my new business partner, we not only built a new company (Recycle Frog), but we completely transformed an entire industry (precious metals recycling). From day one we wanted to create something different. Something better. People were used to being ripped off by slimy individuals and shady companies, so we gave them something they didn’t expect. Respect. Fairness. Transparency. We educated people and developed strong relationships with the media, charitable organizations, banks and other reputable businesses. Within two years we were the largest precious metals recycling company in eastern Canada. Our annual revenues went from nothing to almost $10M with strong margins. Not only was I responsible for all marketing and communications, I became the General Manager and oversaw all operations. I hired, trained, mentored and coached all the employees, was the primary point of contact for our customers, the media and dozens of suppliers and partners. It was all encompassing and I loved it. I was ‘King Frog’.
After over six years and irrefutably the most incredible professional growth I could have imagined, my business partner and majority owner wanted to take things in a new direction. We agreed it was time to part ways.
Over the past year and a half I honed my skills through the development of two new brands. The first, shApp, an advanced shopping application and analytics platform built from the ground up. It is the next generation of online shopping. The second is The Coin Co. This is a spinoff of a previous company I founded. TCC is a new kind of company that connects collectors with buyers interested in purchasing their coins. It preserves the important history contained in so many coins, rather than simply melting them down for their precious metal content.
This interesting path is what brings me to your organization today. A seasoned professional with a piggy bank full of experience and expertise to share with a progressive organization in need of my skills.
The bottom line is… I’m passionate, energetic, positive and ready to take on any Communications challenge Nav Canada has to throw at me. Contact me today!