To design human
    We must understand human

    To do, we must be





    ENTP - Extroversion, Intuition, Thinking, Perception.

    Sometimes, I break things (walls, moulds, cycles, rules, egos, social constructs, "best" practices/standards and assumptions) to uncover deeply rooted and buried problems and then design and build effective and meaningful solutions.
    I love adventures, indulging in my curiosity, the unknown - such is life.



    I'm good at makings things happen, problem solving, whipping projects and teams in to shape, strategic planning, connecting the dots and building relationships that others do not see.


    I help people design better and smarter things with purpose, a strong regard for human centricity and meaningful innovation. I'm in it to design for humanity to operate at optimal levels which will result in a better future.


    Design thinking, technology, human-centric design and methodical and multidisciplinary approaches to solving problems have been my constant when I've caused the biggest shifts.


    I am passionate about and contribute to a world of education, design, technology, innovation, strong communities and knowing our power/what we are capable of.



    I'm a foodie. My favourite way to learn about different cultures is through food - both eating and cooking.


    I'm a dog mother to a loving rescue from Greece and a god mother to my friend's daughter.


    I enjoy science fiction because in my reality (and in yours), it's very probable science fact.


    Dance is my meditation and sweat out. It also helped saved my life.


    I love swimming around the intersection of nature, science, art and humanity. I have a fascination with design, technology, oceanic life and galaxies. It reveals a lot about ourselves.

    On a quest to shape (y)our future...
    by designing and building with human-centricity

    by uncovering and framing human problems
    by being human








    Shi(f)t disturber. Technologist. Building (y)our future with Education Design + STEAM + Human Consciousness and Potential.


    After starting, running and growing companies, working at and with large corporations, teaching at the post-secondary level, hiring and working with folks with "outstanding" (on-paper) educational credentials and professional experiences, I identified a great deal of holes and gaps. It was in the way humans solve problems and use tools/resources (such as technology, information and one-another) to do so. I learned that the issues that exist are largely systemic. And, so I've decided to challenge, shake up and be part of re-designing some of the social constructs and learning experiences we encounter starting at an early age (in fact, even before we are born) that stunt our growth and ability to shape our future in meaningful, progressive and sustainable ways.

    Ladies Learning Code  

    Director, Youth Programming

    Carolyn boldly and fearlessly lives and spreads the message that we can shape whatever reality and experience we can dream of. At Ladies Learning Code, it's through the power of human capability meets education design meets technology.


    She and her team wants us all to grow beyond being consumers (of technology) - in to creators of a better future (with technology as a mighty problem solving tool).


    Carolyn oversees programming and education design for kids and youth ages 6 to 17 years old across Canada through Kids Learning Code, Girls Learning Code, Teens Learning Code and Teachers Learning Code. With the Canada Learning Code vision in mind, Carolyn is working on designing and growing accessible and inclusive technical education experiences for all Canadians from coast to coast.




    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. 




    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. 




    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

  • NationalPost.com


    What some of my past colleagues have to say

    Nitika Wahi

    Account Director, 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!

    Tony Scala 

    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 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 as I’d guess that her clients are having the same great experience that I enjoyed with her.

    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 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.

    Rachel McConnell 

    Retail Partnerships Manager


    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

    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.

    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 T.

    Founder, Roxi

    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.

    Dustin Starchuk

    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

    Lutfiyya Dhalla

    Marketing & Product, The Beanstalk Factory

    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. 

    Adrian Johnson

    UI Interaction Designer, Investors Group

    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.

    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

    - @emilylwestover 


    @CarolynVan is a vehicle for each of us to embrace our vulnerability. Keep driving.#inspired #DYPB15

    - @blakefly


    Can't help but tear up a little bit hearing @CarolynVan at #DYPB15. This woman is a#badass!!!!

    - @celinet19


    @CarolynVan. Unapologetically raw. Gorgeous. Brave. Just some of the words I hv to describe u & ur talk. Thx u for sharing ur story. #DYPB
    - @sexyfoodtherapy


    The world needs you to be YOU! Powerful talk from @CarolynVan #DYPB15

    - ChivonJohn

  • Either wait until the world wakes up

    or lead the shift.


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