Cybera is running a series of blog posts that showcase Alberta's innovative technology and research community. Over the course of 11 months, we are asking 11 people 11 questions related to technology and research in Alberta.
This month's 11 Questions interview is with Matthew Dance, who has worked as a Senior Project Manager with the Clean Air Strategic Alliance and as an independent environmental policy consultant, prior to beginning his Master of Arts degree at the University of Alberta.
1. What brought you to Edmonton and what's kept you here?
I moved to Edmonton in 1996 after graduating from Queen's University to work at the University of Alberta. I stayed because I was fortunate enough to have some very interesting projects to work on and some extraordinary learning opportunities.
2. What three words would you use to describe Alberta's tech sector?
Vibrant. Engaged. Supportive.
3. What would you say is the greatest challenge of working in the tech sector in Alberta?
Connecting the silos. I feel that researches and developers have a lot to learn from each other within the Edmonton context. Many researchers have and use interesting data, and they want to get that data to an audience larger than academia. Unfortunately, many of these researchers are not familiar with the tools (ex. how to build a Google Maps Mash-up) to build online interactive applications that would broadcast their data and findings to a larger audience and engage other researchers or citizens. Developers are always looking for cool data to build applications with. It seems like there may be a natural fit between these two groups of people.
4. Following on that, what would you say is the greatest benefit of working in the tech sector in Alberta?
It is resplendent with opportunities and a culture of success.
5. How do you stay connected and tapped into Edmonton's tech sector?
Poorly: Twitter, email, and coffee dates.
6. Who inspires you and why?
I am inspired by the Edmonton entrepreneurial and tech scene. While I am not really engaged (yet!) in that space, I really feel there is a supportive and mentoring environment developing in Edmonton that sees the success of any individual as a shared success within the entire community. That is very cool, and the correct culture to foster.
7. What book are you currently reading and what do you think of it?
I am currently reading the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. This is an important book, because it illustrates two important lessons: (1) The value of passion and vision when setting the course for a business, a career, or a life Ã³ being fully engaged in the smallest details while maintaining a vision can set your company or research apart. (2) It is important to be graceful, compassionate and understanding while striving for excellence in a product or research process. Excellence is wasted if you step on people to achieve it.
8. What do you think of when you hear the word "cyberinfrastructure"?
It is all about data and sharing that data within a larger community.
9. In your opinion, what are the most exciting technologies out there right now?
Technology is only as powerful as the people it empowers. I think the best technologies allow people to interact and communicate in ways that were not possible in the past. The most profound of these technologies currently in use can be best demonstrated through the open government and open data movements. Technologies that support two-way communication between governments and citizens, and that allow space for crowd-sourced data to be combined with "authorized" data sources, are the most interesting and exciting.
10. Are there any other fields you're not currently involved in that you would like to work with?
I am deeply interested in environmental sensors. While I am learning how to implement these sensors within the domain of ambient air quality monitoring, I would love to better understand the fundamental sensor technologies and work to make them smaller and more sensitive.
11. What advice would you give to someone just starting out as an entrepreneur?