Investment

"Canada needs more external capital": Jennifer Jackson, Capital One Canada

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Jennifer R. Jackson, President of Capital One Canada, leads their Canadian business with a transformational leadership style and a passion for building diverse and inclusive teams

1.     When you reflect upon your career path, is there a defining moment that influenced where you are today? 

… all the major turning points that influenced where I am today occurred when I pushed myself out of my comfort zone.

While a single defining moment doesn’t stand out, all the major turning points that influenced where I am today occurred when I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. Although an engineer by training, I transitioned to management consulting early in my career. During that time, I worked in different industries and across various international markets. I pivoted sharply again when I joined Capital One’s credit card business with no experience in lending products or financial services. I was impressed with the company’s data driven approach to business, and believed that my quantitative skills and strategy background would serve me well as entered an entirely new field. Fortunately, pushing myself and my openness to learn from everyone around me helped me thrive in that new environment. 

 

Learning and gaining fresh perspectives continues to be crucial to my success. My current role leading our Canadian business allows me to see financial services in a different country and cultural context. This has pushed me in yet another new direction which I’m sure will influence where I’ll be tomorrow. 

 Canada has an incredible wealth of talented students and scientists at its universities

2.     Canada’s tech ecosystem is vibrant and rapidly expanding. Looking back, which factors in your view have driven this expansion? What do you think can be done to accelerate this further? 

Canada has been an innovator and leader in the AI space for many years. MaRS Discovery District is an example of Canada-backed focus on innovation and entrepreneurship. Leaders across Canada have embraced the important role of technology in the economic growth of the country. They have played an active role in the growth and expansion of talent within the tech ecosystem. Canada has an incredible wealth of talented students and scientists at its universities and most are sought after by leading technology companies across the globe. 

#DreamGlobal… leaders and companies can’t achieve great things if they box themselves in instead of expanding their horizons.

3.     Canadian Dream Summit aspires to a Canada where everyone is able to pursue and achieve their greatest ambitions. Three principles guide us: #VisionToReality, #CollaborateLocal, #DreamGlobal. Which one of these resonates the most with your work? 

#DreamGlobal is one that resonates the most because I believe that leaders and companies can’t achieve great things if they box themselves in instead of expanding their horizons. I’ve worked in several different countries, and the learning, insight, and cultural differences help bring valuable perspectives and solutions.

 Canada needs more external capital coming in to fund and, more importantly, drive the scaling-up of firms.

4.     If you had three wishes for Canada’s tech ecosystem in 2019, what would they be and who would they impact? 

1. Continued aggressive investment in start-ups:Canada needs more external capital coming in to fund and, more importantly, drive the scaling-up of firms. Canada needs to grow more "unicorns" (e.g., >$1B market cap), too. While start-ups are becoming more common in Canada, very few (e.g., Blackberry, Shopify) ever achieved that status before being acquired or leveling off in growth, which is critical to compete with markets like China and the U.S.

2. Prepare the next generation of leaders in technology: With Canada's growth of technology talent, we also need to concentrate on the development of a next generation of senior level technology leaders who can help the tech ecosystem expand even further in the global marketplace.

3. Expand our presence in the global tech marketplace as a leader and source of incredible engineering talent: We need to be a premier destination location for major technology innovators that will also spawn additional investments in education, research and major international technology conferences held in Canada

5.   What do you see as a significant area of untapped opportunity for Canadian tech? 

Canada needs more diverse representation in technology talent. While Canada has a diverse culture, we continue to experience low representation of that diversity in tech. Teams with diverse representation are better in so many ways when building customer products and services. We need to help develop a better representation set of technologists, engineers, scientists and mathematicians, in order for us to stay ahead of the pace of change in today’s world.

Canada needs more diverse representation in technology talent…. in order for us to stay ahead of the pace of change in today’s world.

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Jennifer R. Jackson will be speaking at Canadian Dream Summit on February 19th in Toronto. To reserve a ticket, click here.

“To the doers.” Siri Agrell, Managing Director at 111


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Siri Agrell is Managing Director at OneEleven, a vibrant community of high-performing technology scaleups.

 I wanted to be challenged, to contribute, to push myself and always be a little out of my depth.


1.     When you reflect upon your career path, is there a defining moment that influenced where you are today? 

I remember sitting on a dock at a friend’s cottage in 2012. At the time, I was the urban affairs reporter at the Globe and Mail. A few days earlier I had been walking to get lunch and answered a call from a number I didn’t know. It was a woman asking if I’d like to come and work for a provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs, Kathleen Wynne. I had met with her the next day and on the way up north on Friday night, she had called and offered me a job, starting a week later. They needed to know by Sunday. I got to the cottage and found there was no wifi or cell service – the decision would be made without outside input. I remember looking out at the water and thinking about what I wanted and what I was afraid of. I wanted to be challenged, to contribute, to push myself and always be a little out of my depth. I wanted career progression, to learn. And all I was really scared of was the unknown. Would I be good at it? Would it be rewarding? Would it be too hard? Deciding to change careers, to me, is like standing on the edge of a dock. You need to believe in your abilities, understand the conditions – what’s behind you and what’s in front - and then, if it’s right, dive in. No dipping your toes. I remember knowing that I was going to jump, and that it was going to be okay. Since then I’ve had the most incredible moments of my career. I’ve learned so much, had incredible opportunities and the chance to really contribute. It’s led me to things I never would have contemplated. All because I stood on that dock and decided to dive in head first. 

… making sure our home-grown tech was prioritized, celebrated and supported too. 

2.     Canada’s tech ecosystem is vibrant and rapidly expanding. Looking back, which factors in your view have driven this expansion? What do you think can be done to accelerate this further? 

The weekend that Donald Trump announced the travel ban in the US, I was working for Toronto Mayor John Tory, where I had responsibilities for the tech sector, innovation and modernization. I started getting messages from US based tech companies saying they had hundreds of employees on H1-B visas, asking if they could potentially bring them to Toronto. That same weekend, more than 2000 leaders from the Canadian tech sector wrote an open letter stating that they “stand together in opposition to the marginalization of people based on their birthplace, race, or religion.” That was definitely a TSN turning point for the growth of the Canadian tech ecosystem, but it wouldn’t have mattered if the fundamentals weren’t already strong: deep and broad technical knowledge and expertise driven by our education system and diverse population; investment and collaborative support from all levels of government and private sector players; and a community of founders focused on building scaling companies in Canada, and keeping everyone honest about not over-indexing on multi-national entities but making sure our home-grown tech was prioritized, celebrated and supported too.

 I once got a card from a friend who worked at Andreessen Horowitz that was signed “To the doers.”

3.     Canadian Dream Summit aspires to a Canada where everyone is able to pursue and achieve their greatest ambitions. Three principles guide us: #VisionToReality, #CollaborateLocal, #DreamGlobal. Which one of these resonates the most with your work? 

They’re all important but I’d say #VisionToReality. My main take away from my career so far is that some people talk and some people do. Implementation is hard. Building things is hard. Turning an idea into a product, a company, an industry – that’s insanely hard. At OneEleven I’d say we’re dedicated to helping tech companies bring their vision to reality, to help them scale into something lasting, sustainable and impactful. I once got a card from a friend who worked at Andreessen Horowitz that was signed “To the doers.” I kept it up on my office wall when I had walls, but I carry that message with me every day.

 Implementation is hard. Building things is hard. Turning an idea into a product, a company, an industry – that’s insanely hard.

4.     If you had three wishes for Canada’s tech ecosystem in 2019, what would they be and who would they impact? 

  1. That corporations and governments would get their shit together on procurement. Tech companies are just new solution providers, new vendors with potentially better ways of doing things. Buy from them. If we procured from the tech sector as much as we namechecked innovation, our ecosystem would be unstoppable.

  2. That investors continue to seriously engage with the inherent bias that might prevent female founders from accessing capital, clients and opportunity.  

  3. More vowels in company names.

 We have the chance to continue building a tech sector that thinks a bit differently.

5.     What do you see as a significant area of untapped opportunity for Canadian tech? 

A group of California VCs once told the Mayor that “Toronto has the opportunity to avoid the mistakes of the Valley”. They were referring to issues of housing affordability and mobility that came with the intense scale of San Francisco’s tech sector. But I think that statement stands for our tech sector writ large. We have the chance to continue building a tech sector that thinks a bit differently. That prioritizes teams as well as founders, that thinks about impact as well as IPOs, that leverages diversity strategically and meaningfully. 

Siri Agrell is a featured guest in the Expert Zone at Canadian Dream Summit on February 19th in Toronto. To reserve a ticket, click here.