Weekend Warrior: How comms director Natalie Korenic stickhandles her personal and professional goals

Natalie Korenic keeps her stick on the ice as a hockey player and coach and her fingers on the pulse of biotech with Aspect Biosystems

Natalie Korenic has been playing ice hockey since she was five years old, but, throughout all those years, she never had a female head coach to look up to. “It was mostly dads,” says the communications director of Vancouver-based Aspect Biosystems, who, when she was growing up, saw her own parents serve on the board of the Richmond Ravens Female Hockey Association. “Not to take anything away from them, but it’s different when you see someone on the bench who is more like you.”

The sport has evolved over the years—when Korenic started playing, there were only around six girls her age playing for the Ravens, and “now you go out and you see the rink full of little five-year-olds skating around.” That change is partly due to the Olympics, she guesses: “The year I started playing [1998] was actually the first year that women’s hockey was in the Olympics, so I think that had a big influence on people joining.”

The establishment of the Professional Women’s Hockey League in 2023 marks another turning point for women in the sport. “When I played, it was like, maybe you’ll make college hockey and then you’ll be done by 22. Whereas on the men’s side, you’re only getting started at 22,” says Korenic. “The introduction of the professional league has proven that if you give women a venue to play in and you give them good broadcasting and you make everything around it really solid, the fans come. They’ve been selling out stadiums consistently.”

It’s exciting to see more women on ice, but coaching has lagged in comparison. For Korenic, the decision to coach with the organization she grew up playing in came naturally—and early. Over the last 18 years, she has trained almost every age group in the Ravens system (which ranges from 5 to 20). She was named BFL Canada Female Coach of the Year by Hockey Canada in 2020 and currently works with the U15 A1 team (ages 13 to 14). She just wishes more women would do the same.

“I was at a coaching clinic a few years ago,” she recalls, “and there were maybe three girls in the whole clinic. One girl called out to me, and it turned out that it was someone I coached around 10 years ago. She was like, ‘I started coaching because of you.’ And for me, that’s a bigger accomplishment than winning provincials.”

A team Korenic coached did win provincials years ago, and she herself qualified five times while playing for the Ravens. [EDIT: The U15 A1 team she currently coaches won the BC Provincial Championships in Castlegar in late March. “This is the goal that teams work towards all season so it was incredibly exciting to win,” says Korenic.] Now on defence with the South Coast Women’s Ho­ckey League, playing games are a balancing act for Korenic, given her role at the local biotech company.

Aspect Biosystems develops tissue therapeutics to replace, repair or supplement damaged functions in the body. “For example, someone who has type 1 diabetes, they don’t need a whole new pancreas—it’s just a function of their pancreas that isn’t working. So the goal of these tissues is that you’d be able to implant them and effectively restore that missing function,” Korenic explains.

She joined the company the same year she completed a bachelor’s degree in commerce from UBC (2015). She also holds an MSc in strategic marketing from U.K.-based Imperial College Business School, and as the person overseeing internal and external communications at Aspect, Korenic gets to live her childhood dream of making a difference in the world of science. Last year, she helped facilitate a partnership with multinational pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk on a $2.6-billion project targeting diabetes and obesity.

At the end of the day,  Korenic isn’t that different on and off the ice: communication skills are equally important in both cases, and Aspect is nothing short of a sports team in her eyes. “Not everyone is a goal scorer… but everyone is really good at something and it’s important for you to know what your role is and perform it really, really well.”

Warrior Spotlight

Natalie Korenic is the communications director for Vancouver-based Aspect Biosystems, a 3D-bioprinting company that crafts tissue therapeutics to help treat diseases. Its team has grown from six in 2015 to 90 in 2024, and founder Tamer Mohamed was named a BCBusiness 30 Under 30 winner in 2018 and an EY Entrepreneur of the Year in 2023 based on the headway his company is making in the health-tech sector.