But what kind of challenge was I really looking for?
Spending 6 years in a large management consultancy, this time taught me a lot about corporate business, personal responsibility, stakeholder management and the importance of following your passion. Within such a large organisation there is always a kindred spirit or a VP willing to sponsor a crazy, out of the box project…as long as it is sellable to a client afterwards. I appreciated when my creativity was given space but often felt stuck ‘in a box’ when my interests or passions were not immediately monetizable or quantifiable.
I wanted to build something- build a team, build a culture, build a product that makes a difference.
But I truly did not know how and where to start. I thought about building my own business and my friends often hear me say ‘my $1million dollar idea is…’ but I struggled to narrow things down. So I thought back to my career where I felt the most happy, challenged, successful and that was usually during innovation portfolio programs or working directly with startups during multi day facilitated workshops.
Surely there isn’t an organisation that builds businesses, has the immense variety my not so mildly ADHD brain craves, or an organisation with space and opportunity to challenge myself, make mistakes, and grow. Enter stage left, Benji Fisher calls me out of the blue, “Hey Jackie, you are Canadian right? Ever fancy moving back?”
Fast forward a year, the tail end of the pandemic and many lovely conversations later (where I often remarked to my partner “I don’t know if it’s a real job? It feels like we are just talking, not that I am being interviewed?!” And I am on a 36-hour flight from Singapore to Toronto via a 10-hour layover in the UAE.
I was really excited to join a smaller organisation (100 people in total) from my nearly 7k consultant team, but also nervous that the buck well and truly stopped with me. MOHARA had been operating in North America for some time with American based clients but no one had set up a satellite office in Toronto or Canada. I was instantly thankful for our Mexican team being on a similar time zone for all my silly questions and getting the chance to meet our amazing Bangkok team in person prior to my flight (shout out to BKK peeps!).
However, being the first to set up a new hub can get lonely post lunch time, when Asia and Europe are enjoying their evenings or sleeping.
I think this actually forced me to more consciously seek out connection and introductions within the team. I made an effort to meet at least 5-8 new people in the organisation every week and ask them who else I should speak with? What would they expect of me as a Product Owner and Partner?
Outside of MOHARA my professional network was largely Europe and Asia based. Although I was born in Toronto, I left just after university and my last job was as a waitress in the GTA, not exactly a technological hub. So what next? I used some of my carefully honed consulting skills and started googling ‘tech Toronto’ and talking to every person I met about what MOHARA does and how I was trying to set up the office here.
The more I physically inserted myself into the tech ecosystem, the more traction I got.
Speaking to old friends from high school, friends of family members and attending all events in Toronto with the word ‘tech’, ‘entrepreneur’, or ‘start up’ really helped me to get a sense of not only the landscape in Toronto but also how business works here. People I met were generous with their network and time, even willing to meet after only a few short LinkedIn exchanges.
After a few short weeks, with help from my global MOHARA team making numerous introductions I felt part of the Toronto network and opened our office at Richmond and Duncan, just south of super trendy Queen Street West.
Over the last 6 months I have attended over 30 events, spoken with 50+ founders, watched hundreds of pitches, attended the Collision conference with thousands of attendees and spoken to more new people in a short few months than the last 10 years of my life.