A strong community can promote new ideas and ensure accountability. It can also act as motivation, support, and even provide a little friendly competition. The power of community is undeniable and the Okanagan tech community is no exception.
Our community is strong and growing with record speed and maintaining a connection through a period of growth like this can be a challenge. Nobody panic, we’ve got a plan.
Introducing, The Faces of #OKGNtech. A showcase of Okanagan tech entrepreneurs, partners, supporters, and cheerleaders designed to fuel more connection, more growth, and more excitement. Follow along (on the blog and on Instagram @OKGNtech) to learn more about our growing community and what makes them awesome.
Meet Jamil. Jamil Karim is the Marketing and Communications Manager at Innovate BC. When he isn’t finding new ways to engage with accelerators around BC, you’ll find Jamil volunteering around his hometown of Richmond… or at a Nickelback concert.
Where do you work and what you do there?
“Innovate BC is an agency that helps innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers, and companies connect to government funding, resources, and support. In my position as a marketing and communications manager, I take care of all of our media and public relations work—writing op-eds, pitching media, preparing our people for interviews, email marketing, newsletters, social media, and planning events. In addition to that, I usually work on the BC Tech Summit, western Canada’s largest tech conference.”
What do you enjoy most about your role?
“Getting to meet so many interesting companies, so many external partners. Even finding awesome regional companies. There’s a lot of cool companies here in Vancouver, but everyone kind of knows about them. Places like Bananatag in Kelowna, Sparkgeo in Prince George, Thoughtexchange in Nelson, these are incredible stories that I always love to come across.
Vancouver is obviously such a big market. But it’s Kelowna, It’s Kamloops, it’s Nelson, Prince George, Victoria, Nanaimo that need more support. A lot of the companies in those regions are fighting an uphill battle. They don’t have access to capital or mentorship that we have in Vancouver. Which is why we fund all these accelerators around the province, why we always try to reach out to our partners to find out how we can help.”
How did you get into this kind of work?
“I like to think that I took 4 left turns to go straight. I got my degree in communications, then right away I started interning for free. I thought, if I couldn’t find a job right away, I might as well start gaining experience in the industry. From there, I started working for a PR firm, then left to start freelancing. After that, I started working in the private sector again. I started working as a copywriter for this organization and then I worked my way up to managing projects. I left because I realized that I wasn’t passionate about it. I really wanted to work in the public sector, I wanted to make a difference. When I saw this job at Innovate BC I said, “they have to hire me.” 2 weeks after I applied, I was in the office working.”
What advice would you give to someone interested in a job like yours?
“You’ve got to have a north star. What are your values? What do you want out of your life? Each position I took helped show me what I actually cared about. I didn’t have the skills needed to get this job right out of school, nor did I even have them 3 years ago. But, with every job I took, I got closer and closer to where I wanted to be. You just have to keep working until you get there.”
What do you love about the OKGNtech community?
“The Innovation Center. We don’t have somewhere that has tech companies, an accelerator, service providers all in one building. A colleague told me that the best part about the Innovation Center is the people you run into when you’re just in that space. While it’s lame to say a building, it’s what that building represents. People want to go there, they want to be in that building.”
What is the best piece of advice you ever received or can share?
“There are no facts inside the building,” my boss says it all the time. How do you know what your customers want, what the tech community wants if you’re just sitting in your office? And we’ve taken that to heart. We’re out at events, we’re meeting our partners, we’re always out.”
What is one word you would use to describe yourself?
“Passionate. I’m passionate about helping people, it’s why I volunteer. You could move to a lot of different places, but you only have one home. My life is in Richmond. That’s why I made a conscious decision to volunteer and give back to the community. Once you start doing that, you kind of commit to the city.
I’m also weirdly passionate about the Seattle Seahawks and Russel Wilson, and 90s R&B—Nelly or JaRule, and Nickelback. I’m a card-carrying member of the un-ironic Nickelback fan club. I’ve seen Nickleback like 4 or 5 times. I have all their albums, I’m a huge fan.
There are things that I don’t give a shit about but the things that I do, I go all in.”
Who inspires you?
“I can think of two. Greta Thunberg, the16-year-old Swedish climate crisis activist. I think what she is doing is incredible. She is a huge star in terms of climate and that kind of activism really resonates with me. She was on the cover of Time magazine recently and I truly believe she’s going to change the world.
The other guy I always talk about is Kaepernick. I think just the idea of him risking it all, losing his dream job as an NFL quarterback really says something about his priorities.
Real people fighting real issues are just so inspiring. I think these two are really important people for our generation, they’re trying to solve real issues and they’re taking a very public stance on it.”