This week’s “Afternoon T” features one of the most interesting people in the TTT office: Project Manager Nick Wilkinson.
Sometimes you talk to someone with such an interesting life story, it makes you reflect on your own and question how much you’ve achieved in life. Nick is one of these people. And the thing is, you’d never know about his numerous achievements unless you had the chance to sit down with him and ask him about them. The guy has no ego! His impressive background aside, he is one of the most down-to-earth, most level-headed souls you’ll ever meet.
Without further ado, let’s learn about Nick.
Position: Project Manager
Favourite Game: The card game: Coup
Fun Fact: Afraid of heights. Didn’t mesh too well with growing up wanting to be an astronaut.
Last Movie Watched: Blade Runner 2049
Favourite Food: Japanese food and bubble tea
Tell us about yourself. What’s your story/background?
“My dream growing up was to become an astronaut, and I never really grew out of it. In high school, I was fortunate enough to initiate a work experience placement at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, where I lived and worked with Chris Hadfield (the first Canadian to walk in space and ex-commander of the International Space Station).”
“After that, I became certain that I wanted to work in the space industry, so I combined that with my interest in building things and decided to study engineering in university. As I was finishing my master’s degree at UBC, working on an autonomous robotic drill intended for mining and exploration on other planets, an opportunity came up for managing a research station in the Canadian Arctic.
Funded by NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, the site was located between Baffin and Ellesmere Islands, close to an impact crater where the terrain is very similar to what you’d find on Mars and the moon. The space agencies, universities, the military, and industry did a lot of different kinds of research there — space suit testing, geological field work, telemedicine — as they were figuring out how to explore challenging, remote environments. I spent the next three years managing the site, handling its logistics and developing software to manage field operations.”
“From there, I moved on to a similar initiative called the Pavilion Lake Research Project, located in BC’s interior between Lillooet and Cache Creek. Our mission there was to study microbialites (rare rock structures that existed in early Earth’s history billions of years ago) in order to gather the tools and knowledge to help us pinpoint and identify signs of life on Mars. I was a member of the scuba diving operations team and implemented a “citizen science” program where people from around the world could contribute to the science being done at the site over the web.”
After 3 years of this and some time spent doing independent consulting for the Canadian space program, I traded in my adventuring life for something a little more stable — I got a project management job at a tech company that develops software for archivists working at universities and NGOs like MIT, the UN, and the National Library of Sweden.”
How did you end up at TTT? First Impressions?
“As time went on, work culture and variety became more and more important to me. I wanted a role where I could lean on my background in software, logistics, management, and facilitation to help clients work through their unique business challenges. The agency model is a great place for that. So before I knew it, I found myself at TTT.”
“First impressions? Everyone here was so supportive, open, and fair right from the start. And fun!”
“Day-to-day, the feedback I receive (and am encouraged to give) is always very honest and very constructive. There’s a real collective sense of mutual support and wanting to improve as a team, constantly. In the past, I’ve worked in environments where bosses try to motivate you through intimidation, or they’re way too focussed on being “nice” rather than honest. Personally, I’ve found neither of those approaches work very well in the long-run. Here, problems are faced head-on in a way that’s healthy and helps people grow. It’s empowering.”
What are some interesting things about yourself?
“I studied piano when I was younger and I used to have a jazz trio in highschool in Mission, where I grew up. At one point we came in 2nd place in a talent show, which felt disappointing at the time. But the person who came in 1st? The one and only Carly Rae Jepsen. You know — Call Me Maybe.”
What’s your most memorable moment working at TTT?
“This isn’t a specific moment, but I like how our weekly stand ups have turned into confessionals where people tell the most personal (and crazy) stories. It’s a testament to how open and comfortable we are with each other.”
What is your secret super power? (something you’re very good at, that not everyone knows)
“It sounds weird, but — being quiet. You learn more about a situation or a person by being quiet and listening than you do by talking. Being quiet and paying attention is the key to understanding other people’s point of view.”
What do you enjoy working on the most?
“The agency culture and the variety of work at TTT really appeals to me. I also like the challenge that comes with working with businesses. There’s a very clear path to helping clients, and a clear benefit for everyone who touches the software. Facilitating discovery sessions is also satisfying because you get to help clients streamline and simplify their thinking about very real and sometimes very complex business problems.”
What do you like to do in your free time?
“Spending time with family — Netflix, board games, going for walks. We just discovered a secret bubble tea place near UBC (it’s hidden inside of a restaurant) on one of our walks through Pacific Spirit Park. We’re pretty excited about it.”
Who do you look up to? (Who is your hero?) Why?
“She’s so strong — she raised me on her own. Her determination and belief in me is what’s behind so much of what I’ve been able to accomplish in life.”