"To design human.
We must understand human.
To do, we must be."
ENTP - Extroversion, Intuition, Thinking, Perception.
I break things: walls, moulds, cycles, rules, boundaries, normalcy, "best" practices and assumptions.
I have never shied away from rocky and uphill battles.
In fact, smooth, safe and steady routes have always been foreign to me.
I'm good at makings things happen, problem solving, whipping projects, processes and teams in to shape, strategic planning, spotting business opportunities, connecting the dots and building relationships.
I am often brought in to organizations to identify problems and formulate and implement communications, technology and design-based solutions. More often than not, I will shi(f)t disturb.
I'm in it to help people design better and smarter things with purpose, a strong regard for human centricity and meaningful innovation.
Design thinking, constant learning and multidisciplinary approaches to solving problems are very important to me.
I'm passionate about, contribute to and am immersed in a world of startups, education, design, technology, leadership, digital communications, innovation and strong communities.
On a quest to help others build more human.
I'm a foodie. My favourite way to learn about different cultures is through food - both eating and cooking. But I could live off of fresh coconuts, avocados, sushi and cheese. You know - if I were forced to.
Dog mother. God mother.
I think nature, science, art and humanity are incredibly sexy.
I like adventures and getting lost.
I have a fascination with the oceanic life and galaxies.
While I've yet to develop a real interest in fictional stories, I like science fiction. And it's because it's probable science fact.
Dance is my meditation and sweat out.
Robots are cool. So are sharks.
On a quest to help others be more human.
Most importantly, I love life.
It's incredibly poetic.
Either wait until the rest of the world wakes up - or lead the shift.
Shi(f)t disturber. RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards and TedXTalk Toronto nominee. Sought after speaker, advisor and educator - more importantly; a DO-er. A pro at identifying and connecting dots that others don't see. Marketer. Critical thinker. Strategist. Obsessed with tech, purposeful design and innovation.
Taking a break from teaching at the post-secondary level to work in education design.
Moving healthcare innovation through communications X tech.
Ladies Learning Code
2016 - Present
Director, Youth Programming
Building our future by equipping people with problem solving skills through S.T.E.A.M. education. Leading programming and education design for kids and youth ages 6 to 17 years old to help future generations grow beyond consumers of technology - but become creators of a better future through technology.
2015 - Present
Tech Spark is a Youth Coding Initiative under the DRIVEN Accelerator Group Inc. umbrella. DRIVEN is a non-profit social enterprise created to improve the socio-economic status of youth, women, people of colour and newcomers through innovative technology based programming. The organization was formed in 2012 and developed by a group of nonprofit and corporate professionals who shared the belief that marginalized individuals deserve the opportunity to create successful businesses and careers in digital technology.
WHAT I DO
Marketing. Strategic Partnerships. Growth. Process design.
ADVISORY, EDUCATION, CONSULTING
"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."
"Carolyn's interactive approach to teaching others makes her effective at not only conveying core points but translating them into personally applicable information and tools in our respective disciplines."
Carolyn has been able to successfully educate and advise CEOs, Senior Level Managers, Software Developers, Recruiters, Agile Coaches, Sales people and Marketers. Topics have included:
MARKETING STRATEGY & EXECUTION
"I would describe Carolyn as having just a perfect blend of strategic and implementation skills"
BUSINESS STRATEGY & OPERATIONS
"Carolyn is thoughtful, empathetic, focused and always knows how to plan and execute the next move"
LEADING INTERNAL GROWTH & PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
"During projects Carolyn struck balance between setting a high bar and being the support 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.”
CLIENT SERVICE MANAGEMENT
"Carolyn listens, shows empathy, and really tries to help her partners and clients as much as possible achieve their objectives and goals."
THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY AND USER-CENTRIC DESIGN
UNCOVERING AND TACKLING PROBLEMS TOGETHER
Often solutions to problems are approached in a fragmented and silo-ed manner. The lack of conversation and collaboration often results in surface level solutions to off-target problems. My need to get down to the root of problems and constant tendency to connect the dots led me towards co-creating and co-managing XConnect. XConnect was an open multimedia content platform that housed conversations around the role and impact of technology and interactive media on various industries with customer insights, needs and experiences at the forefront. My role involved developing series and content themes, designing online and offline experiences, sourcing and connecting with industry innovators and leaders, producing content, event management, partnership management, sales strategies and building and growing communities.
Industries covered included Education (see video recap), Finance, Healthcare, Film, Gaming, Fashion and Sports.
FOSTERING YOUNG DESIGN THINKERS
PARTICIPATORY GAME PLAY AND DESIGN AS AN EDUCATION TOOL
Prototyping game design workshop for girls ages 8 to 13 years old for Girls Learning Code at Mozilla Toronto.
Games that are designed for children come equipped with their own set of rules, challenges, characters and stories – in which the children are supposed to comply and abide by. While I believe that constraints can be great design allies, a result of the design decisions we see in children’s games and toys discourages young people to create their own experiences. This in turn deprives them from developing skills that will enable them to be creative and innovative. These beliefs combined with my deep interest in helping people to develop creative, critical thinking and problem-solving skills led me to co-creating this design workshop for kids.
GROWING A COMMUNITY OF SMARTER INVENTORS & ENTREPRENEURS
HOLD THE BUILD. FOCUS ON THE IDEA
As technology and the web have become more accessible over the years, people have been mobilized with the tools, information and inspiration to invent. Many jump towards building without sufficiently understanding the needs of the market. And others do so, but only at the initial ideation phase overlooking the fact that there are many factors that constantly change, including customer needs. There is a difference between what we are capable of creating – and what there is a need in the market for. Building with lack of regard of the later results in disjointed solutions and unmet needs to problems that still remain to exist.
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. In 2011, I was approached to join the founding team of Lean Startup Machine Canada at a moment when the first debut event in Toronto was about to be cancelled due to low registration and inadequate community support and monetary resources.
After I joined the team, I identified key problem areas and implemented community building, strategic partnerships and communication strategies. It resulted in a program that grew from being on the brink of being cancelled to being the biggest and most successful lean startup machine conference globally.
Book me to keynote, teach or interview. These companies have.
Technology segments with Carolyn Van on CTV News
Technology segments with Carolyn Van on CTV News
What some of my past colleagues and employees have to say
Vice President of Marketing & Client Services, Drake International
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 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 as I’d guess that her clients are having the same great experience that I enjoyed with her.
Special Projects, Sampler
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 push projects forward, drive results and empower her team. She is a great mentor and one of the best leaders I’ve worked with. I would recommend Carolyn in a heartbeat!
Founder, City Sqoop
Simply put, Carolyn is great. While taking part in the Driven 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.
Agile Coach, LeanIntuit
When we were planning the first Lean Startup Machine Conference in Toronto 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, 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.
Across the interwebs
In 140 characters or less
This is probably the most impactful presentation slide I have seen/will ever see.#DYPB15 @CarolynVan thank you! @CarolynVan is an absolute BOSS! Radiating strength, beauty, positivity and perseverance.#Inspired #DYPB15
@CarolynVan. Unapologetically raw. Gorgeous. Brave. Just some of the words I hv to describe u & ur talk. Thx u for sharing ur story. #DYPB
The world needs you to be YOU! Powerful talk from @CarolynVan #DYPB15
Public Relations Professional
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
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.
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
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!
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. As a board member at Driven Accelerator group, Carolyn acts as a mentor to a group of emerging startups. 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 lead, 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.
Business Development Manager/Director of Client Services, Parade! Multimedia Brand Experiences
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. I have had the pleasure working with Carolyn on her XConnect technology projects as well as with her other co-founding company thirdocean and have enjoyed every minute of it. Carolyn listens, shows empathy, and really tries to help her partners and clients as much as possible achieve their objectives and goals. For that quality, I am extremely grateful
Digital Marketing and Communications, Rose Reisman Catering
Carolyn is the ultimate social media SHARK, and should be your #1 go to person on all things social media.
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 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.
Co-founder, Operations, Marketing at What Im Wear.In
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.
Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards - presented by Royal Bank of Canada
2013 and 2014 Nominee
The purpose of the award is to provide national recognition to Canada's women entrepreneurs, whose successful businesses and achievements contribute so much to the Canadian and global economies as well as to their communities.