To design human,
    we must understand human

    To do, we must be.




  • Hello. Chào.

    I love life, thoughtful design, nature, translating complex ideas in to accessible experiences, the power of technology, the power of education, the power of us, the power of you.


    I am second generation South Vietnamese-Canadian. I was born and raised in Toronto, have been a part of many communities and have lived in many neighbourhoods - but have lived downtown for most of my life.


    Since I was little, I have gotten in trouble for asking too many questions - and occasionally, I still do. I am known by some for challenging convention, rocking the boat and asking tough questions.


    Shaped by my own experiences, as a woman, person of colour and someone who has always been the youngest (or at least, appeared to be) in my teams and communities, I have experienced both excellent and not so excellent examples leadership - which includes allyship - throughout my career. I have learned a thing or two about recognizing and navigating systems of power, patriarchy and privilege. Because of this, I tend to be an advocate and amplifier for those who are not as well heard, underrepresented and marginalized.


    In 2013, after working in marketing, digital media, technology and tech startups, I chose to shift gears to deepen and expand my impact. Being the outlier in most of my community and social circles and my constant curiosity shed light on things that I just could not un-know. I was on my way to chip away at these important issues with others through a graduate studies program.


    And then something happened. Something that any graduate program, travel adventure, professional experience doesn't stand a chance in equipping someone with. I got sick. Real sick. The big C sick.

    And this changed everything...

    A clean slice between 2 distinct states of being, my B.C is "Before Cancer". There is now very little I care about - much of which I used to care a great deal for. The things I do care for - I do so, deeply.


    DIG Community Lab + Innovation Hub


    Carolyn believes it is our responsibility to utilize the tools, resources and intelligence we have created and evolved - including modern technology - to address global issues. To her (and to many others) the most complex problem we must address is the state of our global food supply chain - specifically, the challenges we are facing as a result of climate change.


    As a co-conspirator and ED of the Ontario DIG Community Lab + Innovation Hub, Carolyn draws from her entrepreneurial experience with strategic partnerships, community building, education, creative program design and leadership to co-spearhead the development and operations of the Lab and Hub - with plans to scale in global markets.


    Here is her first blog post/announcement on the project.


    Canada Learning Code

    Director, Program Design

    Carolyn led the design team at Canada Learning Code (CLC) to design curriculum and educational experiences for learners across Canada through Ladies Learning Code, Kids Learning Code, Girls Learning Code, Teens Learning Code and Teachers Learning Code.

    For her, this was a way of bringing critical skills to more people and to help ensure the missing data, insights, perspectives and voices that shape technology were no longer being excluded in how we design our futures.

    She and her team designed Computer Science (CS) education that was accessible, engaging, hands-on, collaborative, creative and project-based that was delivered by community leaders and K-12 teachers across Canada.


    Achievements include:

    • Building and implementing organization-wide objectives, key strategies and core operations as part of the Senior Leadership Team
    • Hiring, managing and building leadership in HQ team members
    • Positioning CLC with Global Issues. These include our declining bee population, food and water security, mental health, physical literacy, environmental stewardship, entrepreneurship - and others based on United Nations Global Sustainable Development Goals
    • The development of a Learning Objectives Framework  to ensure CLC's programs are intentionally designed to develop Cognitive Abilities, CS Knowledge, Skills Application and shift perspectives & attitudes on the role of technology 
    • In partnership with Boys & Girls Club of Canada and Corus Entertainment, leading the design, development and implementation of federally funded national program, Kid Tech Nation. 
    • Developing and launching Teens Learning Code and Teachers Learning Code to bring CS to  highschool students and K-12 teachers across Canada  
    • The addition of new areas of knowledge, skills and competencies to the curricula including: Virtual Reality; User Personas; Design ThinkingProblem Finding, Problem Framing and Mapping; and Lean Methodology
    • Bringing a lens of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion in to the organization through building capacity and leadership in her team with this in mind and playing a role in facilitating and bringing educational experiences in to the organization
    • Introducing product design principles, methodologies and processes to the CLC team 



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


    Boys & Girls Club of Canada staff members with little to no-technical skills were equipped with the tools, resources and ability to introduce learning to code to the youth in their communities in a relevant, meaningful, accessible, engaging, beginner-friendly way as tools of creation, empowerment and access to personal and economic fulfillment.


    The widely successful program was renewed by the Government of Canada in 2019.




    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 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.


    I found hackathons to be problematic,
    so I designed one that I could get behind.


    An introductory experience for teenagers that didn't suck, smashed myths in tech, set standards and teaches them foundational problem solving skills - as they pursue a future in tech.




    As technology has become increasingly accessible, we are mobilized with the tools, information and support systems to build. What this can result in is solutioning without sufficiently understanding the problem at hand.


    Lean Startup Machine is an internationally renowned 3-day, hands-on workshop that is designed to teach participants lean methodology by taking participants through the ideation process while investing in customer development.


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

  • Media & Speaking

    Keynotes. Panel discussions. Interviews.
    Book me to share stories, experiences, ideas and life advice that you might or might not want to take.


    The Globe & Mail | Financial Post | CTV News Tech Tuesday - consecutive segments | Historica Canada | Global Entrepreneurship Week | Women In Leadership | Mobile User Experience Group | Lean Startup Machine | ING Direct | The Toronto Star | University of Toronto | Canada Business Review | National Post | Pod Camp | York University | Ryerson University | Start Something Big | Social HR Camp | Toronto Product Management Association | George Brown College | Social Media Week | Media Planet | Talent Egg | Sage Canada | The Canadian Institute | Junior Achievement - National | Ontario Library Association | The Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto | Intelligent Automation Canada



  • References

    Nitika Wahi

    Director of Strategic Partnerships at Sampler

    Directly reported in to me

    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 direct report

    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 digital marketing 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

    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

    Technical Account Manager, Google


    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

    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

    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
    Directly reported in to me

    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
    Directly reported in to me

    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
    Directly reported in to me


    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

    CrowdLinker Inc. has had a pleasure of working with Carolyn as a mentor in the Driven Accelerator program.


    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 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

    Nataleigh Ballantyne 

    Youth Engagement Manager, Junior Achievement of Canada

    Carolyn hosted a workshop for over 120 international student delegates at our August leadership forum. She provided them industry expertise on validating ideas and knowing if your product is ready for the market.


    She used real life examples, engaged the students and had them leave feeling confident in applying their skills to a business challenge.


    Carolyn is professional, fun and approachable. We'd love to have her back!

    Jeff Tchadjeu, PMC

    Director Of Operations at August Digital Inc.

    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.

    Adrian Johnson

    Head Product Designer at Ascended Matrix Inc​


    Carolyn is an asset to any organization. Her in depth knowledge of her field 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​
    Directly reported in to me

    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.

    Patrick O’Hara

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

    Former student in a 2016 prototype test for Teachers Learning Code Workshops 

    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. 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.

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  • The stunning photo at the top of my page is by Fabian Oefner.
    Can you guess what it is?
    Please give him some love.

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