Jason Field – Accidental Entrepreneur
It was just five years ago that the 27-year-old was trying to learn the basics of web development so he could advance his career at athletic apparel brand, lululemon. “I wanted to get into e-commerce specifically, because I saw that as an amazing space to be in — and still do,” he says.
While opening lululemon stores in Australia and New Zealand, Jason saw how technology was changing the way people interacted with retail brands. When he returned home to Toronto, however, he was stuck: he couldn’t find any institutions that taught the digital skills he wanted to develop, and going back to university to complete a four-year computer science degree wasn’t an option.
“Literally the solution I was looking for didn’t exist,” Jason recalls. “Which is the juiciest opportunity of all.”
Jason took matters into his own hands, and did what all resourceful entrepreneurs do: he created a solution for himself.
“It was my mission to enhance my digital skills on top of my business management and finance background, because I saw that was where all the meaty, problems were going to be in the future,” he says. “I wanted to be a part of solving those.”
Jason co-founded BrainStation in 2012, along with Duncan McCall and Apoorv Gupta. What started out as a few friends hosting makeshift tech workshops in a co-working space above a Toronto music club (the Hoxton, if you were wondering), BrainStation has grown into a world-renowned digital learning centre that offers full-time and part-time courses in subjects like iOS development, digital marketing, and user experience design. Today, BrainStation has educated more than 30,000 students, and has opened up offices in Vancouver, New York, and San José in Costa Rica.
Like Jason, who studied finance at the University of Western Ontario, BrainStation is for people who don’t necessarily come from a tech background, but understand the importance of having a digital skillset in the modern job market. It’s estimated that by 2020, Canada’s economy will create at least 218,000 jobs in the tech industry, but as of 2015, only 6 per cent of Canadian students graduated from IT programs (ITCT).
“Now, and into the future, we won’t have enough STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] grads to actually fill the job positions or opportunities,” Jason says. “We need to demystify technology for people in order for them to fill these slots.”
Helping people succeed in the tech industry has kept Jason busy, and he’s constantly travelling between BrainStation’s Toronto and Vancouver offices. Whether he’s meeting with industry leaders or dropping in on workshops, Jason makes sure he’s ready for any — and every — occasion.
“I typically pack a blazer and wrinkle-free dress shirts, which are key when I’m on the go,” he says. “Comfort is important and I like coming off as presentable.”
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important to Jason, too, so his style often reflects his love for physical activity. In Toronto, he bikes from his Leslieville home to BrainStation’s King Street and Spadina Avenue headquarters eight months of the year, and spends his downtime running and doing yoga. “When I am going back and forth on a bike, I’ll wear fitness apparel or bike-appropriate jeans with a pair of Blundstones or loafers with dress socks,” he says. “Finding that kind of form and function makes sense, and I like not having to completely change my getup when I get to work.”
If Jason’s learned anything through starting BrainStation, it’s that success and progression isn’t linear; it’s all over the map. “To reach your true potential, you need to be willing to go down from time to time to reach those really high points,” he says. “We had some serious low times, in terms of not being able to afford rent or groceries, and now we’ve reached a high point that we never would have been able to reach had we not risked a whole lot along the way.”