• Carolyn Van

    Shift disturber. Mobilizer. Consultant. Advisor. Speaker. Educator. Advocate.

  • "Carolyn is thoughtful, empathetic, focused and always knows how to plan and execute the next move.

     

    I would love an opportunity to work with Carolyn again … and so should you"

    Declan W. - Peer

    "Carolyn is an absolute BOSS! Radiating strength, beauty, positivity and perseverance.

     

    This is probably the most impactful presentation I have ever seen and will ever see"

    - Emily W. - Keynote talk audience member

    "I would describe Carolyn as having just a perfect blend of strategic and implementation skills.

     

    Known for her energy, passion and direct and "to the point" communication style.

    Tony S. - Former employer

    "She is not afraid to be honest and tell you if and when you are not on the right track, which is quite refreshing to hear.

     

    We really love the way she tackles problems as they present themselves with an out-of-the-box approach"

    Aram M. - Former Advisee

    "Carolyn is an outstanding leader with a natural drive to problem solve and make decisions fearlessly"

    Nitika W. - Former employee

    "Anyone would be lucky to have Carolyn on their team.
     

    She’s definitely one of the best leaders I’ve had the chance to work with, and I admire her strength, leadership skills and positivity"

    Ariane D. - Former employee

    "She doesn't bury the lead or sugar-coat anything; As learned from our discussions about my own startup which helped broaden my understanding on building a superior product.

     

    What you see is what you get and it's something I really respect and admire her for"

    Will D. - Former student

    "During projects Carolyn struck balance between setting a high bar and being the support I needed to reach it.

     

    I always felt challenged but never overwhelmed;
    I experienced tension but never stress;
    I was pushed but never pushed away;
    and was held accountable but never left hanging"

    Sean P. - Former employee

    "Working with Carolyn provided me with an opportunity to observe someone who is not only dedicated to their business, but who is also dedicated to teaching those she works with and helping them to grow"

    Rachel M. - Former employee

    "Truly an inspiration to me and the rest of the team by challenging the status quo, adding value along the way with her unique vision, style and focus on the business objective at hand"

    Tony S. - Former employer

  • Hello. Chào.

    I am known for being a natural community builder, a creative problem solver, a big thinker and a mobilizer of initiatives.

     

    You'll always find me chipping away at complex problems, fostering growth in individuals and organizations, challenging convention, shifting perspective and smashing assumptions.

     

    As a woman, child of war refugees, person of colour and someone who has been the youngest on teams (including those I've led), I have learned a thing or two (and still am) about recognizing and navigating systems of colonialism, power, patriarchy and privilege. It is a combination of my own lived experiences, those of my community and the projects I work on - that shape my lens and advocacy for those who are systemically not as well heard, underrepresented and marginalized. I bring this to everything that I do from building teams, designing programs, products and services, educating others, facilitating conversations and how and who I advise and mentor.

     

    In 2013, after working in marketing, digital media and technology in both the corporate and tech startup world, I wanted to shift gears to re-position my impact. This led me towards a graduate studies program...

     

    And then something happened. Something that any university program, travel adventure, professional experience does not stand a chance in equipping someone with. I got sick. Real sick. The-big-C sick. And this changed everything. A sharp clean slice between 2 distinct states of being, this plays a significant role in my narrative including how I approach problem solving, innovation, leadership - life.

  • What I'm up to

    DIG Community Lab + Innovation Hub and Eschaton Solutions because...there are some critical and complex global issues (and opportunities) to chip away at.
     

    Advisor* to early stage startups and sometimes, consulting* to get right in there to fuel growth goals (or help set them) because...I get it and I might know some things that can help.

     

    A business x technology Post-Secondary Educator and Mentor to many because...of who will shape our future, how they will do it, and all the whys.

     

    Always and forever learning because...otherwise, what is the point in all of this?

     

    *Inquire, if you'd like to learn more.

  • Prior to this...

    I helped accelerate national scale and deepen impact through design, team growth and leadership 

    Canada Learning Code

    Director of Program Design

    Carolyn led the national design team as the Director of Program Design at Canada Learning Code (CLC) to create computer science (CS) educational experiences for Ladies Learning Code, Kids Learning Code, Girls Learning Code, Teens Learning Code and Teachers Learning Code.

     

    She and her team were responsible for developing curriculum, designing learning experiences and creating the necessary resources to have Canada Learning Code programs delivered across Canada - with a focus on underrepresented, marginalized, underserved populations. Programs were designed to be accessible, engaging, hands-on, collaborative, relevant, creative and project-based.

    For Carolyn, this was a way to change the narrative in technology, creating space and shifting perspectives by addressing both visible and less visible inclusion and fostering our pipeline of future contributors, consumers and leaders. Her goals included bringing critical skills to more people and helping to ensure that the historically missing perspectives, insights and needs that shape how we design technology, our understanding of our reality and the design of our futures - are included. And of course, helping to build this capacity in the organization and team.

     

    Curricula is being delivered by community leaders and in-school K-12 teachers in all provinces - including rural and remote areas - across Canada to learners 6 years old to 60 years old+.

  • Some achievements

    ...from international and national corporations, tech startups to not-for-profits, I've mobilized, transformed and made some pretty cool things happen with a systems-(re)design, capacity building and eco-systemic lens within technology, business and innovation spaces.

    • Received nominations (2Xs) for the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award 
    • Identified, sourced and secured strategic partners, sponsors and media that would gain and feed in to the Lean Startup methodology movement and ecosystem in Canada
    • Being part of a leadership team in high growth stage meant building and implementing company-wide objectives and strategies, policies, KPIs, core operations, revenue generating services and organizational team structure to support a national team
    • Recruited, hired, on-boarded, trained team members and built team ops to manage and lead national managers, coordinators and interns 
    • Led the design, planning, development and implementation of a 2Xs federally funded (by the Government of Canada) national program in partnership with Boys & Girls Club of Canada and YTV (Corus Entertainment) to bring digital literacy, future skills and capacity building to underserved, underrepresented and marginalized communities across Canada. The success of this program resulted in a funding renewal to fund both extending geographic roll-out and the development of additional curriculum
    • Built design frameworks to i) guide service design and development ii) inform evaluation and assessment 
    • Developed a national Learning Objectives Framework for computer science to ensure that learners 6 years old to 60 years old+ were developing cognitive abilities, perspectives and attitudes were being shifted, skills were being applied and knowledge was being attained throughout all educational experiences 
    • Built a program to build awareness and encourage action to address global issues based on United Nations Global Sustainable Development Goals to learners 6 years old to 60+ across Canada through computer science curricula  
    • Brought lean methodology, design thinking, problem finding and framing to teen (13 to 17 y/o) and adult (post-secondary +) learners by designing and facilitating workshops, activities and lessons
    • Designed, tested, facilitated computer science educational programs for teen (13 to 17 y/o) learners and Kindergarten to Grade 12 educator learners for national scale-out 
    • Played a significant role in building Equity, Diversity & Inclusion capacity in to an organization through - strategic capacity building, coaching, resource management, educational workshops and active advocacy 
    • Introduced product design principles and methodologies in to organizations and teams
    • Worked directly with organizations of all sizes and stages including Google, Amazon, Rogers Wireless, Microsoft and Scotiabank
    • Worked with a diverse client base including startup founders, professionals in the technology industry, post-secondary students and artists on areas of navigating ecosystems, ideation, strategic partnerships, business operations infrastructure, product development, fundraising, program design, leadership and team management 
    • Advised the design of the Advertising and Marketing program for Sheridan College's Business School to ensure that curricula offered to students speak to current and future movements in business, media and technology
    • Planned, designed and executed events in various geographic markets in Canada and communities specifically designed to attract leads and prospects 

  • Keynote talks.
    Panel discussions.
    Interviews.
    Op-Eds.

    Facilitation.

    Book me ✍🎙to share insights, experiences, research, stories and ideas.
     

    The Globe & Mail · Financial Post · CTV News Technology Tuesday - consecutive segments · Lean Startup Machine · Historica Canada · Global Entrepreneurship Week · The University of Toronto Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy · Bridging The Gap · Women In Leadership · Mobile User Experience Group · ING Direct · The Toronto Star · University of Toronto · Canada Business Review · The National Post · Pod Camp · York University · SocialHRCamp · Ryerson University · Start Something Big · Toronto Product Management Association · George Brown College · Discover Your Personal Brand · Social Media Week · Pearson Education · Media Planet · Talent Egg · Sage Canada · The Canadian Institute Conference · Junior Achievement National · Ontario Library Association Superconference · Digital Odyssey · Oxfam Canada · ....and more.

     

    "Very motivating and inspiring to listen to her share. An authentic leader with a powerful message" 

    - Jim P. - Keynote talk audience member

     

    "Carolyn is an absolute BOSS! Radiating strength, beauty, positivity and perseverance. This is probably the most impactful presentation I have ever seen and will ever see." 

    - Emily W. - Keynote talk audience member

     

    "Everyone is riveted while Carolyn Van speaks"

    - Katia M. Keynote talk audience member

     

    Topics I have covered include:

    Diversity, inclusion & equity, Lean startup methodology, The power (and blindspots) of tech, Narrative shifting, Women in Tech, Women in leadership, Innovation, Mobilizing systemic change, Tackling complex problems, Vulnerability, Disruption, Future-proofing, Education re-design, Digital media, Marketing and branding, Leadership, Human-centric design, Community engagement, Addressing and tackling gender and racial inequality by design, Life (and business) lessons from fighting cancer.

  • BUSTING MYTHS, BLAZING TRAILS, AND HARNESSING THE POWER OF EDUCATION TO CHANGE THE WORLD

    MY FEATURE ON MOVE THE DIAL

    CROSS-CANADA CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT & CAPACITY BUILDING

    In partnership with The Boys & Girls Club of Canada (BGCCAN) and Corus Entertainment, I led the design, development and implementation of a federally funded national technology education program, Kid Tech Nation.

     

    We equipped BGCCAN staff members with little to no-technical skills with support, tools, resources, confidence and abilities to bring learning to code to the youth in their communities. Curriculum we produced for the end user (youth) as well as the educators (BGCCAN staff members) was designed to be relevant, meaningful, accessible, engaging, beginner-friendly way and positioned technology as tools of creation, empowerment and access to personal and economic fulfillment.

     

    The widely successful program was renewed by the Government of Canada for a second time to fund further geographic expansion and the development of additional curriculum.

    UNCOVERING & TACKLING PROBLEMS BY DESIGN

    WHO ISN'T HERE?

     

    Bringing Systems Design to the forefront of innovation and technology led to the development of XConnect.

     

    XConnect was a pubic and open multimedia content platform that explored the role and impact of emerging technology on various sectors.

     

    My role involved developing the series, experience-design of online and offline participation, stakeholder outreach and management, sponsorship outreach and management, sales strategies and growing captive audiences.

     

    Industries covered included Education (see video recap), Finance, Healthcare, Film, Gaming, Fashion and Sports.

     

    Leading this series gave the tech industry the opportunity to learn about what is missing from ecosystems that shape our understanding of the challenges at hand.

    A DIFFERENT KIND
    OF HACKATHON

    I found the hackathon experiences to be problematic, so I designed one that I could get behind.

     

    The result was an introductory experience for teenagers that didn't suck, called on many skills, smashed myths in tech, set standards and teaches critical thinking and problem solving skills as they pursue a future in tech.

     

    Centred around lean methodology and design thinking these young girls chose to explore challenges such as how to address our declining bee population, fast fashion, personal safety, money management - and more.

    FOSTERING A COMMUNITY OF ENTREPRENEURS

    As technology has become increasingly accessible, the tools, information and support systems that are available to us enable us to build. However, far too often we solution without understanding the problem we are solving intimately and those who are most affected.

     

    Lean Startup Machine is an internationally renowned multi-day, hands-on workshop that is designed to introduce participants lean methodology by taking participants through the ideation process while investing in customer development and reducing waste.

     

    Upon the start of the Canadian debut, I joined the team and identified key challenges and implemented community building, strategic partnerships and communication strategies. This resulted in a program that went from a nearly cancelled debut due to insufficient participation and financial support - to the biggest and most successful lean startup machine conference globally.

     

    Since this debut, I have mentored and have been invited to do fireside chats.

  • References

    From advisees, mentees, employees, employers, clients and peers...

    Nitika Wahi

    Director of Strategic Partnerships at Sampler

    Former employee

    Carolyn is an outstanding leader with a natural drive to problem solve and make decisions fearlessly Carolyn is truly one of the leading thinkers in digital media, strategy, communications and innovation.

     

    Her curiosity, determination and constant need to be challenged makes her a force to be reckoned with. Her contagious laughter, positivity and deep insight makes her an integral part of any team she leads. She leads her business and teams with vision, passion and engagement like no other.

     

    Carolyn knows how to move projects forward, drive results and empower and push her team. She is a great mentor and one of the best leaders I’ve worked with. She really challenged me to grow. I would recommend Carolyn in a heartbeat!

    Tony Scala 

    Vice President of Marketing & Client Services, Drake International
    Former employer

    Carolyn worked with me for just over two years and when she left we have had difficulty hiring a replacement because she had definitely raised the bar high.

     

    I would describe Carolyn as having just a perfect blend of strategic and implementation skills. Known for her energy, passion and direct and "to the point" communication style I found her to be someone that I could always rely on to get things done on time and on budget. Truly an inspiration to me and the rest of the team by challenging the status quo, adding value along the way with her unique vision, style and focus on the business objective at hand.

     

    A great person to brainstorm with, I always found Carolyn to be very creative, full of energy, conscientious and loyal.

     

    It was a bittersweet day when she announced she was leaving to start up her own agency. Sorry to see her go but very happy and excited for her and her new venture. It’s no surprise that her business is doing so well and so fast as I’d guess that her clients are having the same great experience that I enjoyed with her.

    Aram Melkoumov

    CEO & Co-Founder, Crowdlinker
    Former advisee

    Carolyn is a very knowledgeable, inventive, and reliable individual. We are really fortunate to have her as a trusted advisor on our startup. She has opened up many doors for us in our customer and business development stages thanks to her large network.

     

    She is not afraid to be honest and tell you if and when you are not on the right track, which is quite refreshing to hear. We really love the way she tackles problems as they present themselves with an out-of-the-box approach.

    Yohannes Tadesse

    Product Strategy Lead, Google

    Former advisee

    Simply put, Carolyn is great. While taking part in an accelerator program during the Fall of 2012, Carolyn delivered very thorough and thought provoking workshops focused on mastering value propositions and communication. The combination of her carefully crafted presentations, extensive experience, and relevant personal advice for each business was compelling enough that it resulted in our start-up company shifting our product direction.

     

    We went from developing a product that people “could see” themselves using to developing a product people “will” use and that all stemmed from us making a conscience effort to hone in on the value that we were aiming to deliver to our consumers. This is what Carolyn is able to bring to the table.

    Declan Whelan 

    Chief Technology Officer; Agile Coach, LeanIntuit
    Former Peer

    When we were planning the first Lean Startup Machine Conference in Canada, we were a week or so away from our go/no-go decision. And we had less than one-half of the registrants we needed. We were not optimistic that we would be able to move ahead with the event.

     

    And then Carolyn joined the team. And wow, what a difference!

     

    Through her energy, bold-nature, persistence, awesome ideas and wide connections we just rocketed forward. By the cut-off date, we had more attendees than we needed and she had expanded our sponsors to boot. The event was a roaring success and had the largest attendance of any Lean Startup Machine in the world. And I credit a lot of that success to Carolyn.

     

    Carolyn is thoughtful, empathetic, focused and always knows how to plan and execute the next move. I would love an opportunity to work with Carolyn again … and so should you.

    Will Du

    Content Creator at Unbox Therapy

    Former student & mentee

    I was a student of Carolyn's business course during my year at Humber College. She continues to be a mentor and advisor for my startup business and a great friend. Carolyn is driven, assertive and constantly challenging herself with difficult problems in the tech industry.

     

    She doesn't buried the lead or sugar-coat anything; As learned from our discussions about my own startup which helped broaden my understanding on building a superior product.

     

    What you see is what you get and it's something I really respect and admire her for. Her wealth of knowledge in tech and small businesses is the direct result of passion to help others and commitment in solving the very unique and difficult problems in our society.

     

    I value my time with Carolyn as she graciously continues to provide insight, general guidance and support whenever I felt out of touch with the industry.

    Ariane Deschenes Foucher

    Customer Success Manager at Nulogy
    Former employee

    Carolyn recently was my director at Canada Learning Code, where her support, expertise and trust had a huge impact on the success of our team. Working with her felt natural - it was easy, fun and stimulating.

     

    Anyone would be lucky to have Carolyn on their team. She’s definitely one of the best leaders I’ve had the chance to work with, and I admire her strength, leadership skills and positivity. I would not hesitate to recommend her, and would love to work together again in the future.

    Dustin Starchuk

    Client Services and Strategy Manager

    Parade! Multimedia Brand Experiences

    Former client

    Carolyn is one of the most dynamic people I have ever met. Her energy is highly addictive and her creativity is aspiring on any given day you meet with her.

    Lorraine Chuen

    Communications Lead, Powered By Data and Lead, IntersectTO
    Former employee

    I had the pleasure of reporting to Carolyn when I first began my role as the Teens Learning Code Coordinator at Canada Learning Code. Teens Learning Code was a program Carolyn played a huge role in conceiving and bringing to life.

     

    As she brought me onboard, it was clear to me how much energy and love she had put into designing this program and building relationships with teen learners. She was extremely collaborative and receptive about suggestions I had for building a more inclusive program, and was also a great mentor who sought out opportunities within the organization for me to grow and contribute to.

    Rachel McConnell 

    Account Manager at Mosaic North America
    Former employee

     

    Working with Carolyn provided me with an opportunity to observe someone who is not only dedicated to their business, but who is also dedicated to teaching those she works with and helping them to grow.

     

    Her leadership style gave me the chance to take on many different tasks, and she allowed me the freedom to take my own directions and initiatives when making decisions regarding those tasks.

     

    Carolyn’s guidance created an environment that was structured around my growth, both personally and within the organization. When I was in need of assistance, she was more than happy to give me the tools I needed, but was also willing to step back and let me figure out the solution on my own – something I valued greatly, as it showed the faith that she had in my abilities.

     

    I attribute a large amount of the growth that I have experienced since working with thirdocean to working closely with Carolyn. Her leadership and guidance have taught me valuable lessons, and the overall experience working with her has continually been one that is positive and welcoming

    Andrei Arkhanguelski

    Co-founder, CrowdLinker
    Former advisee

    Carolyn is an incredibly personable individual who broke the ice right away. Her advisory approach focused on understanding our needs and providing appropriate business advice and mentorship. Carolyn's insights (in tech) she drew from her past client engagements were incredibly valuable in steering us in the right direction. Her workshops were always filled with relevant, useful and actionable information.

     

    We are immensely grateful to Carolyn for being able to tap her extensive network of contacts who we have already started forming relationships with. We would recommend Carolyn in a heartbeat. Her charisma, wealth of knowledge, focus on results, and unparalleled professionalism have made her one of our most favourite mentors

    Jeff Tchadjeu

    Director Of Operations at August Digital Inc.
    Former advisee

    In the short time I've known Carolyn, her passion for tech startups packaged with her experience and drive to help others have been made clear. Carolyn's interactive approach to teaching others makes her sessions effective at not only conveying core points but translating them into personally applicable information and tools in our respective disciplines.

     

    I personally attended two workshops that Carolyn led, which focused on Value Propositions and Business Communications. In both instances, she was able to not only convey the importance of both topics but explain how one couldn't be effectively understood or utilized without the other. Carolyn also reminded the group that simple is usually better when it comes to both topics.

     

    I can say nothing but praises about Carolyn both professionally and personally. I excited about what the future holds for our professional relationship and look forward to interacting more with Carolyn in the near future.

    Patrick O’Hara

    Teacher for Grade 6 and 7
    Sir William Osler Elementary in Vancouver, BC
     

    Former student, 2016 prototype design for Teachers Learning Code

    With the introduction of the new curriculum to BC, teachers across Canada were both excited and a little overwhelmed with one of the new teaching requirements; teaching basic coding skills.

     

    I can honestly stay that I felt a little anxious to learn and teach something that I had little previous experience with. And, I was not alone in feeling this way. My colleagues also expressed trepidation; but, we were all excited to learn a new skill and to share our learning with our students. But how?

     

    The workshop hosted by Teachers Learning Code was exactly what I needed. The message that I really appreciated was that we did not have to expertise in coding, but facilitators of learning.

     

    I would like to commend Carolyn Van, Director of Program Design of Canada Learning Code for reinforcing this throughout the workshop throughout the pilot test. It was expressed that we should not feel like we have all the answers, but rather create questions - and problem solving strategies within ourselves and our students that lead to critical thinking skills and learning.

    Adrian Johnson

    Head Product Designer at Ascended Matrix Inc​

    Former advisee

    Carolyn is an asset to any organization. Her in depth knowledge of her field (tech) as well as her passion for innovation and strategy has helped us get ready to take our business to the next level.

     

    You can count on Carolyn for honest answers and advice that will benefit you and your company in the long run. It has been a pleasure working with Carolyn and I look forward to her continued insight and involvement in the start up community.

    Lutfiyya Dhalla

    Marketing Manager, Prismatik​
    Former employee

    I’ve had the opportunity to work and learn from Carolyn through many different events and workshops.

     

    She is a strong leader and not only understands marketing strategy but can also execute seamlessly. With her driven personality and results-oriented attitude she makes a great mentor, who is dedicated to personal development and growth.

     

    I would also definitely recommend reaching out to her for any social media hurdle you encounter and am looking forward to working with her on some exciting new projects.

  • Say hello

    How can I help? Is there something we might work together on?

  • The stunning photo at the top of my page is by Fabian Oefner.
    Ask me about why it represents my approach in driving change, growth, innovation.

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