10 years and counting…

Before I started working at Vancity, the longest I worked anywhere was only two or three years. I job-hopped a lot. I didn’t jump around because I was disloyal. I did it because I either got bored and wanted new challenges, which that company couldn’t provide me with, or I had no particular affinity for the company and didn’t feel invested in its growth or success.

Ten years ago today I left a good job at our local telco and started at Vancity on a three-month contract. I was already a member and had a feeling this work experience would be very different from previous employers. I had no idea how different…

After ten years at Vancity, where I have grown from managing web projects on contract, to overseeing the digital team, to taking on community events and granting, to working in community investment, I am honoured to step up and become the new VP of Community Investment.

Vancity has allowed me to grow in ways I never could have imagined, and experience things that helped shape who I am. I recently looked back at all the experiences I’ve blogged about since starting at Vancity, from going to Bologna to study the co-operative sector, to being an early adopter of social media, to being the voice of Vancity in some pivotal ads, to visiting Copenhagen to brainstorm values-based banking with peers across the globe.

And then there’s the extraordinary people I’ve had the privilege of meeting over this time. Vancity staff, credit union people, co-operators from across the globe, people doing remarkable and inspiring things here in my community. That has been the greatest gift of all.

So here’s to ten great years. I embark on the next ten years with enthusiasm and commitment, and am completely excited about the road ahead…

On the spectrum.

I’ve never spoken publicly about autism.

I speak at conferences about my work and communities and co-ops and such, but my personal life has never been a source of material. Until now.

In October at the CU Water Cooler Symposium, I’ll be speaking about my experience raising a creative, talented, self-aware, anxious, sensitive and sometimes volatile boy who has gained great gifts and terrible burdens from his autism. I’ll be exploring the power that comes from focusing on a “special interest”, and how harnessing that interest can help people overcome great challenges in their lives.

For my son, his special interest is music. By the time he turned ten, he had finished three albums of original rock songs and would jump at any opportunity to play live for people. He can write and record a song in the time it takes me to write a blog post. Sometimes less. His music has an honesty and innocence that I find awe-inspiring and humbling.

He says that he owes his musical gifts to his autism – in fact his musical pseudonym is a nod to his disorder: he goes by Spectra.

I’ll be speaking about my experience with my son and his autism, and then Spectra will join me on stage to perform a few of his original songs, showing off his tremendous talent, confidence and creativity. Afterwards he and I will jointly do a Q&A with the audience to explore what it means to be autistic, and have a special interest to unlock our potential.

It will be a unique experience, and I hope a special time for all of us. Join us at the CU Water Cooler Symposium in Kansas City, Missouri this October to take part.

Originally published on the CU Water Cooler.

Disconnected interconnectedness.

One of the things I love about getting to speak at conferences is visiting different places by myself. I spend a lot of time around other people, and need some solo time to regroup and reconnect with my own thoughts.

waves at Cancun

Today, I was lucky to spend a glorious day in Cancun at a lovely resort, but quickly left it and walked down the busy beach to a rocky outcrop into the ocean where very few people were walking. It was igneous rock, pummeled by centuries of turf and waves crashing down on it, carving little canyons into the surface closest to the water.

The rock had formed little grooves and nooks and pools, many of which had small fish swimming around, crabs crawling, some sea flora growing. There were pelicans and iguanas sunning themselves nearby.

And some of these grooves and little pools had grown together, and had become interconnected into a single little ecosystem in which little whitish fish with zebra stripes running across their bodies swam together. And this little pool received seawater from the waves that crashed and sprayed against the rocks. Some of them were quite big, expanding down crevices worn into the rock, into an elaborate network of water and life.

And inevitably these little interconnected pools did end. Sometimes they ended against a rise of rock taller than the waves could get past. On the other side of these rocks lay another similar ecosystem of grooves and canyons and crevices and pools of fish and seaweed and beautiful little cupped plants that grew in tight groups.

Maybe it’s because I recently rewatched the amazing remake of Cosmos, or because I saw Interstellar over the holidays, or because I have a curious 10 year old, but I thought about how interconnected we all are, and yet how disconnected we are as well.

You could spend your entire life in one of those pools, thinking you understood how the world works, never knowing that just beyond your world is a similar world that you’ll never learn about. Whether we’re talking about a tidal pool, a remote community, a likeminded group of people insulated from diversity of thought, or zooming way out and thinking about our polluted environment on our little planet, our solar system or the network of galaxies in the observable universe.

You can scale way up at a universal level or way, way down to the scale of a tidal pool and this truth remains: We only know what we know, and if we give up on endless curiousity and the humility that we don’t really know much of how the universe works, we are turning our back on our potential.