Unorthodox Professional Development

Hyper Island | BCBusiness

We’ve all caught whispers of them: those exclusive, under-the-radar summits from which business leaders return wide-eyed and ready to change their company’s culture

So we scoured B.C. for five professional development opportunities where industry influencers get schooled.


Hyper Island

December 4-6

Not many conferences require strict confidentiality about fellow participants. Fewer still then proceed to ask attendees to write out insecurities and paranoia about their professional life—psychotherapy style—all before lunch.

But Hyper Island is configured for advertising and marketing professionals and, given the industry’s annihilation over the past five years, extreme, invasive measures are welcome anathema to hyperbolic breakfast series, keynotes and professional development as usual.

Even if, in Hyper Island’s case, intervention costs $4,000 and requires three days off from a crammed, over-scheduled life.

“Hyper Island is learning by doing,” says Jordan Eshpeter from Vancouver-based web agency Domain7 Solutions Inc., who attended the conference’s “Master Class” program in Manhattan last year. “It is experiential—almost physical. The Master Class begins with beautiful moments of confession and vulnerability. This sets the stage for a highly creative and playful dynamic,” he says.

Attendees laud the Swedish-based education events company’s sweet spot between high-level vision and in-the-trenches execution—acting on conceptual, real-world presentations with what Eshpeter calls “brainstorming, problem-solving, presentations, paper-napkin prototyping and times of reflection that are directly relevant to your real-world business challenges.”

According to the company’s slick literature, the Master Class is designed to increase comprehension of the way digital and scientific advances are changing societal and then consumer behaviour. The mind-blower, say many graduates, is finding how your organization needs to adapt to stay creative and competitive.

“The challenge these days is not adopting new technologies or innovating towards new ones,” says Eshpeter. “The challenge is shifting habits, cultures, processes, org charts and mindsets towards agility. The speed that new technologies come to market, upset industries and change human behaviour is unprecedented.”

But come next month, B.C. marketing executives like Vancouver-based Lululemon vice-president of digital and brand strategy Nancy Richardson, who brought her three-person leadership team to New York (Hyper Island’s North American base), will have the opportunity to study positive disruption closer to home.

That’s because, from December 4 to 6, Hyper Island is making its Canadian debut at the Museum of Vancouver, coaxed to the West Coast by Eshpeter and Richard Sandor from Eustress Marketing Coaching.

New York-based Jaclyn Ciamillo, global partnership director at Hyper Island, says bringing the education program to Vancouver has been on the radar for some time, citing the city’s adoption of a municipal digital plan, as well as the hiring of a chief digital officer as proof that there’s a natural fit. “Vancouver’s forward-thinking leaders implemented a digital strategy that shows a profound understanding of transformative technology and its effect on business, science, lifestyle and more,” she says.
—Tom Gierasimczuk

Hyper Island Takeaways

From Jordan Eshpeter, the man who brought it to Vancouver

You’re either disrupting your industry or protecting a problem.
“Everyone in the room came from successful companies with profitable business units. However, few companies are spending on innovation—working on a product that, if introduced by a competitor, would put them out of business. Disruption comes from the bottom-up because change is so difficult for major players.” 

Make it wildly useful or wildly entertaining.
“It’s no secret that classic interruptive advertising has fallen out of favour and companies clamour to produce high-grade, multi-channel content for their customers on the off chance it gets shared or goes viral. Now more than ever, it just plain ol’ must be amazing.”

Live in constant beta.
“No idea, company or campaign (or website for that matter) is ever complete. A major part of the digital paradigm shift is that pixel-perfect designs must become adaptable and fluid. The ‘big idea’ is now replaced by many small, agile ideas that only become ‘big’ once they’re out in the wild. Seth Godin says to ‘ship often, ship constantly.’ Digital allows us to ship our ideas then iterate—to live in constant beta.” 

Chief Executives

Secret CEO Summit

Where B.C.’s top dogs rub shoulders

It can be lonely at the top. While everyone turns to the CEO for answers, when the top dog wants advice or feedback there’s often nowhere to turn.

Enter the CEO Summit: a members-only annual retreat for a select group of B.C.’s top executives. It’s the culmination of a year-long series of confidential get-togethers arranged by the Centre for CEO Leadership at UBC’s Sauder School of Business.

The group of between 20 to 30 CEOs meets about seven times a year for either breakfast or dinner. Each event begins with a 20- to 30-minute presentation on a topic that’s particularly timely for B.C.’s business leaders, followed by discussion facilitated by Sauder faculty.

The final get-together is a two-day series of presentations and discussions at a downtown Vancouver location, usually in early December.

It’s an exclusive club: CEOs of companies worth less than $250 million need not apply.
—David Jordan


ICSC Next Generation

Various dates
Various B.C. locations

Every sector in B.C. is like a distinct community, and the more meaningful connections you forge in that group, the better off your career will be for it. That sentiment is especially true for the province’s retail sector.

In Chicago, in 2001, three members of the International Council of Shopping Centers launched a reception, dubbed Next Generation, as a way of offering networking, continuing education and mentorship to professionals in the retail sector. After interest for the first event grew, the reception launched into a full program in 2003, and today more than 75 Next Generation committees span North and South America, Europe and Asia.

Next Generation B.C. chair Jana Kalynych credits the program with giving her a jump-start in B.C.’s retail real-estate sector. “A lot of people in the industry come from either family or connections,” says Kalynych, adding that Next Generation “definitely gives you an edge.”

The program unfolds over three intimate events throughout the year, plus the Whistler ICSC Conference, a large, three-day event that features big-name speakers and attracts what feels like B.C.’s entire retail sector.

The three smaller events provide more one-on-one opportunities and are broken into two educational seminars—which are always preceded and followed by cocktails and networking—plus one networking-only event.

The events help budding professionals stay relevant and keyed into the crucial conversations happening in the retail sector by aligning topics with current industry trends. “We try to do something with more of a local nature,” says Kalynych, adding that previous topics have included retail on Robson Street, open-air centres and retail development on First Nation lands. “We have people who have been in the industry for quite some time, and they still like to come and listen to the topics.”

Next up for the program, Kalynych says, is that the committee wants to boost the mentorship element, and has been entertaining the idea of a speed-dating-like mentor event.
—Kristen Hilderman

Real Estate

Certified Negotiation Expert Program

Various dates
Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna

While most advanced business degrees include at least some coaching in negotiation tactics, few professions require more hard-nosed bargaining than real estate, a vocation for which the traditional training doesn’t even touch on the art of getting a good deal.

Enter the Certified Negotiation Expert (CNE) designation, a negotiation-training program tailored to situations faced by real estate professionals. A product of the U.S.-based Real Estate Negotiation Institute, the course was adapted for Canadians earlier this year by Toronto real estate mogul and negotiation coach Suze Cumming. The two-day intensive course uses role-play and case studies to teach the art of persuasion and principles of competitive and collaborative bargaining, and to inform the identification of your own and others’ negotiation style.

While real estate newbies are welcome, most attendees are already top performers looking to sharpen their skills.

It’s not just about negotiating the sale price of a property, but also negotiating with your own client—from persuading buyers to make competitive offers in multiple-bid situations to negotiating your own commission, says Dianne Beaman, a Toronto broker and one of the first Canadian CNE graduates. “I’ve always been pretty good at negotiating the commission, but now I get [the full rate] 100 per cent of the time,” says Beaman.

“Real estate is often a second or third career, so people often already know how to negotiate—but real estate negotiation is a whole other game.”

Cumming expects the Certified Negotiation Expert course to come to B.C. this fall.
–Tiffany Sloan


Vancouver Startup Weekend

Various dates

Can a group of enlightened entrepreneurs build an entire company from scratch in fewer than 54 hours? That’s exactly what the attendees of Startup Weekend try to accomplish. The breakneck event is the tech world’s fast-paced answer to professional development for startup entrepreneurs—except they condense the entire startup ramp-up process into a single weekend.

Startup Weekend, a conference that sponsors events in more than 300 cities around the world, brings together entrepreneurs looking for a creative jumpstart. Founders and founder wannabes can pitch their startup ideas and experience the ups and downs of building an entire company concept in just 54 hours.

Dozens of entrepreneurs are split into groups, which then collaborate in order to develop a product or service that can be scaled up into a viable startup business.

That’s one of the event’s major benefits for professionals looking for an introduction to startups, according to Jacob Kojfman, legal counsel for hyperWALLET Systems Inc. and member of Vancouver Startup Weekend’s organizing committee.

“One of the advantages is that Startup Weekend is a crash course in building a company,” Kojfman says. “In a 54-hour period, you go from nothing to something.”

And while the product or service each group conceptualizes and builds is a major takeaway, some of the lessons learned from the experience are more transferable. Kojfman says most attendees benefit from learning how to work within their team. He points out that even in a startup situation, there are usually two or more founders.

Throughout the weekend, seasoned mentors from the startup world shepherd the entrepreneurs through the process of conceptualizing their ideas. Those connections are also integral because “those mentors have made the same mistakes” as many new entrepreneurs, he says. And the opportunity to interact and ask questions of serial entrepreneurs and successful startup founders can help newbies not repeat their mistakes.

The Startup Weekend umbrella boasts more than 10,000 “graduates” across the globe, and the Vancouver branch is slowly growing as well. Startup Weekend Vancouver began hosting events back in 2010 and will generally sponsor several conferences throughout the year.
—Lindsey Peacock