The journey over the last 14 years has been anything but a straight line to starting Take Some Risk and growing a team. After high school I went to college to study public relations as the industry and job opportunities sounded cool and I could barely afford to go to University. College was “affordable” even if I had to work full-time and still use student loans to cover some of my bills. Plus in the summer I worked 2 full-time jobs for 2 of my 3 years in Toronto. It wasn’t easy and yet I made it through. The big lesson from those days was being organized and keeping things as simple as I could. I have always been a super organized person but college took it to another level because my job was at night and I had classes in the day. I had to get sleep when I could and just make it to the weekend when I could sleep a bit more and run errands. Though admittedly some people didn’t show up for their shift at work and I always got called first as I never said no to working overtime.
Networking Is The Greatest Thing You Can Do For Your Life and Your Career
After doing an internship with a video game company in Toronto, I was offered a full-time job which I accepted! They sent me to E3 as they saw me work hard during my internship. I lost my job 13 months later and learned that you cannot escape politics in an organization no matter how good you are at your job or nice you are to the team and your press contacts. Moments like these are ingrained in me because I never want to go back to an environment that is political or have that type of environment in my agency. It’s not healthy, leads to gossip, backstabbing, and people not working at their full potential.
I freelanced for 18 months afterwards. I then got a job at an HR and branding agency in Toronto, through a contact I made at the video game company. I worked that job for 2 years until the agency went under. I went back to freelancing and working for myself in 2009. This was during the rise of Twitter and as I networked and made connections across Toronto, I found myself with more work than I could handle some months and dry spells for others, but I was happy and was doing things on my own terms. Then 2011 hit and after dating a guy for a few months…I got dumped and it hit me hard.
Always Be Grateful For What You Have In Life. Don’t Focus On What You Don’t Have.
At the time I didn’t realize it but I was depressed because I really liked the guy. After a rough month during May, I woke up one day and I realized all that was truly important to me. I flipped a switch and really started to focus on the things I had in my life, including that I lived in Toronto, had my health and I had made it 2 years on my own freelancing. I asked myself what things I would love to do that I always said I would do one day and haven’t done. 2011 was the year I put on a strategy conference in Toronto and invited some people down from the USA to speak. At the end of summer, I moved to Australia for 7 months and worked for Telstra on contract.
If It Scares You, You Should Probably Take The Calculated Risk and Give It A Go.
Moving to Australia was crazy as I didn’t know anyone in the country beyond a friend’s friend. My plane was to Sydney and my idea was to get a job in the city. I landed in Sydney and 3 weeks later I started at Telstra in Melbourne. Telstra offered me a 3 month contract in Melbourne and I figured why not go? Worst case I could come back to Sydney if I hated it. However, I fell in love with Melbourne and what should have been 3 months, turned into the best 7 months I could ask for. To get to my first day on the job meant some work on my part. I got what I thought was a random call at 3pm on a Monday while in Sydney. I answered the phone and was asked if I could start the next day at 8am. In a split second I said yes and walked quickly back to my hostel room. As I packed all my bags, I asked the hostel staff to switch my room credit to the Melbourne YHA. Luckily the hostel staff had gotten to know me during those 3 weeks and went the extra mile to help me make my flight. I booked the last seat on a 11pm flight to Melbourne. I landed at 1am and by the time I got to bed it was close to 3am. Four hours later I was trying to figure out a city I had only seen hours earlier in the dead of night.
Be Nice To Everyone. We Are Not Our Jobs. Be Nice To Everyone.
After working in Melbourne and keeping a few of my freelance clients in Canada, I came back to Toronto in 2012 and found it hard to get work unless I was willing to commute to the suburbs (I was not willing to do that). After a few months of freelancing and not finding anything full-time, I did the only logical thing I could. I went to live in London, UK for 2 years. I had been to London before in 2010 and I didn’t like the city based on that experience, however, I picked London as it was the centre of advertising and I could easily get a visa being Canadian. You know what happened after 3 months? I fell in love with London; the energy, the opportunities and all the options it could provide a young person looking to take their career to another level. I even convinced a good friend to move over and she still lives in London to this day. During my time in London, I worked for ASOS, Ogilvy, NSPCC, Jack Wills, and Grant Thornton. Plus I got to travel to 12 new European countries and even head down to the African continent to visit Morocco. If you get the chance, go visit Morocco and eat some fried bread and orange juice. Some of the best I have had in the world. When I left London, as I couldn’t get my visa extended, so I went traveling in Asia for 10 weeks, visiting 12 countries and 20 cities across the continent. I had never been to Asia before but how many times in your life are you going to be jobless and with money in the bank?
Save Money When You Can. After Time, Money Is Your Most Valuable Asset.
Asia changed me. The culture, people and food is beyond anything I had expected or read about growing up. Not speaking any of the local languages made me work twice as hard at my non-verbal communication to order food and get around. Even understanding that the transit map in Tokyo’s central train station was for the whole country of Japan and not just the city took time. In Bangkok I tried to order fried fish and a peanut salad from this older woman’s food cart and I failed at communicating. I was saved by a person on their lunch break who saw me struggling and offered to translate for me. I later learned that most people order the fried fish or the peanut salad but rarely both for lunch. The older women gave me a seat from her food cart afterwards and through smiles and nods, I told her, her food was amazing (IT WAS AMAZING). Over those 10 weeks I faced an earthquake in Japan, torrential downpour in Singapore and a tornado warning in the Philippines that put the country on high alert. I luckily got the last plane out of the Philippines and back to Canada before the tornado hit. This trip through Asia sharpened my decision making skills and thinking faster on my feet.
Trust Your Gut. You Just Have To Believe In Yourself First.
After my trip to Asia, I worked for a friend’s agency back in Toronto and did 2 years at a tech company in Vancouver. In January 2017 I quit my job and started Take Some Risk with one client and a strong belief in the kind of company I wanted to grow and come to work at each day. All the lessons above and just my journey to writing this wasn’t easy and there are things I left out as I could have made this story twice as long. I’ll leave you with one parting piece of advice I take personally and give to all my friends:
Sometimes You Have To Do Things You Don’t Want To Do, To Get To Where You Want To Go.
Ask me some time what that means and how it came up time and time again over the last 14 years. Just make sure you have a couple hours.
Duane has been called an international man of mystery and digital nomad by friends. He has lived in 5 cities across 3 continents and visited 40 countries around the world. He uses his curiosity for people and love for people watching to run better marketing campaigns for clients.
After leaving Toronto, Canada in 2011 to gain an international view of the world. He has worked for Telsta in Australia and brands including ASOS, Mopp (bought Sept. 2014), NSPCC, Jack Wills and Grant Thornton while in London, UK. He now lives in Vancouver, Canada helping brands grow through data, CRO and marketing.