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"I was entrepreneurial from an early age"
Ian's story, part 1/4
(1/4) “I was entrepreneurial from an early age, though I had no role models for it. In first grade, when laser printers were rare, our family had one, so I bought paper with perforated edges and made business cards that I sold to my friends and teachers. I also collected golf balls that fell on my grandparents’ farm, washed them, and sold them back to golfers.
My whole family were teachers: parents, aunts, and uncles. I grew up middle-class in a Vancouver suburb called Surrey. It once held the record for car break-ins, but I didn’t realize it was a bad part of town until late one night when I found a dead body at the end of the street.
I was a ‘reluctant attender’ in high school. It didn’t help that I was exhausted in the morning and wide awake at night. Years later, I learned that certain food sensitivities make it hard for me to manage my energy. Some teachers noticed that I had potential but demonstrated it outside of the standard test environment. They gave me other ways to learn: with hands-on work or on my own time.
My school was connected with a community theatre, and I was drawn to the technology aspect of stagecraft. I negotiated with my theatre teacher to swap from a ninth-grade drama class to an eleventh-grade stagecraft class. The teacher agreed because I showed initiative: I volunteered on my own time and learned things independently.
I started doing in-venue production. I was responsible for the light and sound as well as the health and safety of the venue. It was thrilling to be answerable for tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of gear and the enjoyment of a couple-hundred people. I also did computer work and managed another school district’s Linux servers. I don’t think anyone knew I was in ninth grade. No one asked, and I didn’t tell.
By the time I graduated, I was working a lot – not because I had to, but because it was fun. I toured with some rock’n roll bands. I was unsure about the future but not panicked. My time horizon wasn’t more than a year: enough to schedule a tour or plan a trip to Southeast Asia. I didn’t have a long-term strategy. There was no family pressure to attend college, no expectations. My future was my own to figure out.”
Ian struggled with the structure of high school but showed lots of initiative and deepened his skills in his areas of interest. What non-standard interests did you lean into in high school? Or what do you wish you had pursued?
How did Ian become CEO of a listed company? More in the next chapter.