I’ve been employed at Porter Airlines since October 2008, as the Manager of Product Development. It has been a great experience at a small, rapidly growing company. My first task was to build a team of 4 developers, manage contractors, complete an overhaul of our website, and deliver a couple integration projects – all on time and under budget, and all within less than 5 months!!
UPDATE: May, 2010 – I’m now about 18 months in at Porter, and we’re still going strong. The team is up to 9 people, we’re mostly through our website re-architecture and revamp, and we’re continuing to grow. Oh, and we filed for an IPO!! It’s going to be an exciting second half of 2010!
HealthSpoke is my first startup. I developed an innovative, web-based practice management tool for allied health clinics to allow them to interact with their clients online. It’s been quite a ride, and the business is still growing slowly.
I completed my Master’s degree in the MBET program at the University of Waterloo. I entered this program with the goal of gaining the skills required to start my own business. As an alternative to traditional MBA programs, the MBET has been an excellent experience. Academically, I have learned a tremendous amount, and more importantly, have grown tremendously and learned a lot about myself.
My time in MBET really helped me to focus my goals and recognize what I want out of life. I know that I want to start a business when I am finished. I see what I am passionate about. I have more of a vision and a plan, and much of that has come during my time in MBET. It was a great program and helped take my career to a new level.
I was employed at ATS Automation Tooling Systems Inc. for approximately six years. I started there as a co-op student in the summer of 2000, where I was immediately given the task of building an FTP client from scratch. I was a little overwhelmed, but produced a pretty good little tool in about three months. As far as I know, there are people still using my tool there today!!
During my time at ATS, I learned a lot about what it takes to develop software. I saw the good and the bad, and from the time I started full-time in 2002 until 2005, I was able to try a lot of new things and develop my programming skills. I focused a lot on the development process – looking at ways to schedule and track projects, automated testing, and code maintenance. I discovered eXtreme Programming (XP), which embodies a number of first-class software development principles. I discovered Joel on Software, which has been a huge influence on my approach to building software and a software company.
In early 2005, looking for a new challenge, I moved from the position of Control Systems Developer to Sales and Applications Engineer. Responsible for technical sales and quoting of a number of products, I was exposed to a whole new world of business. I enjoyed getting a look at the bigger picture, and pushed to improve processes in our department. I had an interesting and challenging position, and with the wide range of responsibilities, I learned a lot during my time in this position. In the summer of 2006, I finally decided it was time to move on, and enrolled in the MBET program.
From 1997 through to 2002, I completed my undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering at the University of Waterloo, with an Option in Mechatronics. Not being sure where my career was headed, I chose the Mechatronics option to give me some variety and a change of pace. I took courses on mechanical design, electrical motors, and artificial intelligence – some very cool stuff. We even tried to build a robotic vacuum system for our 4th year project. I think these guys did it a little better though. 🙂
During my undergraduate days, I built a number of long-lasting friendships. Many of my closest friends are part of a large group from West-A (our residence) in 1997 who are still in regular contact. I also have a number of other close friends from the varisty football team. These friendships are more valuable than anything I was taught in the classroom.
I believe that part of what makes me unique is my ability to do a lot of things well. So a discussion of my career would not be complete without talking about my athletic achievements. It started as a youngster, playing hockey on the rink my dad built for us in our backyard. At a young age, I developed a passion for sports, and that has continued through to today.
Growing up, I played hockey competitively. In high school, I tried out for the football team in Grade 9. When I was cut (after one practice), I turned to volleyball and basketball, while also playing hockey with the city. My evenings used to consist of walking from basketball practice across the street to the hockey rink for my next game. Around the age of 15, I started to develop, and won the Most Improved Player award in both volleyball and basketball. At 16, I was playing underage with the senior basketball team. At 17, in Grade 12, I gave football another try, and this time, made the team, and was immediately a starter. I was also a captain of the basketball team, and as a great surprise to end the year, I received the Athlete of the Year, no small feat in a school of over 2000 students. At 6′ 2″ and 140 lbs, I was not the biggest or the strongest, but I will never forget the words of my high-school football coach as he announced me as the winner: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.
When I came to Waterloo, I could not imagine giving up sports. Despite my small size, I was invited to try out for UW’s Varsity Football team. The first year was a struggle – I didn’t dress for a single game, but still showed up and worked hard every practice. I worked even harder in the off-season, and all my efforts were rewarded halfway through my second year. Our starting receiver was injured, and despite the fact that I had never dressed for a game, when asked who he thought should take his place, he responded “Dan”. I will never forget my first catch in the first game I played in, or my first touchdown two games later. I dressed every game after that, and had a successful career. Given the fact that I was undersized and not the most explosive, I am most proud of the fact that I am one of only 7 players from my rookie year in 1997 who stuck with the team for five years.
In 2004, I had been out of football for a few years, and decided I needed a new challenge. I missed the competitiveness and challenge of the high-intensity training. Inspired by my friend Blair, I decided to run a half-marathon. In a warm-up 15km race (my first time at that distance), I won my age group, and my running career was off to a fine start. I nearly died in the first half-marathon in Niagara Falls, but still finished in the top 100, in a time of 1 hour and 31 minutes. In 2005, I thought I would give a triathlon a go, and was immediately hooked. In 2006, my first full summer of racing, I saw huge improvements, and am looking forward to an Ironman in 2008! For all the details, check out Dan’s Triathlon Journal.
As you can tell, sports has been a huge part of my life. I firmly believe that sports has tremendous benefits for one’s confidence and character. This quote has been taped on my wall for the past 10 years:
“The duration of an athletic contest is only a few minutes, while the training for it may take many weeks of ardous work and continuous exercise of self-effort. The real value of sport is not the actual game played in the limelight of applause, but the hours of dogged determination and self discipline carried out alone, imposed and supervised by an exacting conscience. The applause soon dies away, the prize is left behind, but the character you build up, is yours forever.” — Anonymous