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.
We are #OKGNtech is 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 Jeff. Jeff Keen is the Chief Operations Officer of Pela. When he’s not building, refining, and breaking operational processes for one of Canada’s fastest-growing companies, you’ll find Jeff conquering Whistler on his mountain bike, or outdoors in his happy place with friends and family.
As the COO of Pela, what are some of your responsibilities?
We’re always looking at ways of gaining efficiencies throughout the organization. We manage everything from raw materials through our supply chain manufacturers, to finished products and channels to market, so there are lots of opportunities for optimizing people and processes. Leadership team development is a big focus, too. Like any fast-growing company, your capacity for growth is only limited by your ability to build your team. We want to remove blockers for our leaders, help them progress, and take more responsibility on their journey.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
One of the most challenging and rewarding things is taking our CEO’s vision and operationalizing it. We have a very fast thinking and smart CEO in Matt Bertulli. He’s got some big plans and vision for the company. It’s a challenge trying to translate that big vision and make sure that our people are geared up to execute on it, but it’s pretty fun at the same time.
What has been the proudest moment in your career?
Having the dream for an Innovation Center in Kelowna and seeing that materialize into reality was an amazing experience. Being a part of that project and now being able to see it full of people and companies and benefiting the community is incredible. I’ve got a lot of friends with kids that work at the Innovation Center and, for me, that was always part of the dream. We wanted to create a good reason for our kids to stay local, build a great career, and continue living here. To see that come true is surreal. I’m also proud of helping to get Accelerate Okanagan off the ground and what our amazing team at Pela has been able to accomplish in just a few short years.
How do you approach fostering talent within Pela?
Nothing makes me happier than seeing someone who’s working hard move up in the organization. Those moments happen when you build a leadership team that represents your values and grows the culture. But you need to be able to foster talent and I believe that there’s a difference between people with potential and those that are already behaving as leaders. You don’t have to be in a leadership position to be a leader. If you’re behaving like a leader, embodying the core values of the company, and executing on your role, we want to recognize that and clear the way for you to grow.
Do you find you need to adjust a lot of operations when joining a new company?
It really depends on what is implemented when you join a team, but there are always ways to improve upon them. You need to be a bit flexible that way. What works today might not work tomorrow. From a people perspective, that can be a challenge. Everyone needs to be comfortable being uncomfortable. You’re always breaking processes, things are constantly changing, and approaches that worked last quarter might not work this quarter. It’s like going to the gym: you’re constantly breaking down your muscles but, in the end, you get stronger.
What advice has served you well leading in a larger organization?
Surround yourself with smart people. That’s a great way to help a company grow and be successful. You need to bring in people that are smarter and better at what they do than you are. You see it in startups that have a fantastic idea but an average team that only has an average chance of success. But a mediocre idea with a world-class team will have a greater chance to succeed. The right people make success happen.
How do you see the community growing over the next 5 years?
Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be crazy. We’ve seen so much growth over the past 5 years—entrepreneurial density, job creation, relocations to the area, capital attraction, and student graduations. But I believe we’re only at the bottom of a very exponential growth curve. Because of the increase in high-profile entrepreneurs moving to the region, starting companies and giving back to the community, we’re going to see the economic impact double in the next 3 years. I think we’re just starting to see the up curve.
What do you feel could support the community’s growth?
If I thought about what might grow the community faster, it’s people. If we’re creating really good bridges between post-secondary institutions and startup companies, or just other businesses, that’s going to go a long way. We’ve done some good early work in those areas, but there’s more that we can do. Because COVID postponed a lot of plans and events, our OKGNtech community is going to be the benefactor of a lot of pent-up energy once it’s unleashed. We need to take advantage of that to continue strengthening relationships in our community.
Your capacity for growth is only limited by your ability to build your team.