Career QnA

Read about the career choices our mentors have made to become established biotech professionals. Each month, a new mentor will share their career journeys and advice for those wishing to follow in their footsteps.

Darren Frew

Jessica Zhang - Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Darren Frew was born and raised in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.  He earned a B.Sc. in Geology from the University of Calgary in 1982 and enjoyed a 10-year career as an Exploration Geologist, working extensively throughout Canada in the Mining and Petroleum sectors. Darren began offering program & project management plus network development in the high-tech sector in Vancouver in 1992 when he became a Programs Coordinator with the Science Council of BC (now the BC Innovation Council).  After seven years at SCBC, he joined the National Research Council's Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) and provided the same range of services, as an Industrial Technology Advisor.  In 2003, he joined the YMCA's New Ventures self-employment program as an instructor and advisor, a term which lasted four years.  He was subsequently appointed to the following positions: Executive Director of the BC Nanotechnology Alliance in 2007, Businesss Development Officer for the Canadian Institute for Photonic Innovations in 2009 and Director of Planning and Comunications with the BC Bioenergy Network, also in 2009. 

Only the BC Bioenergy Network is still active.  In all of these postings he was responsible for business development and management as well as network-building.

Darren is an active volunteer.  He has worked in a variety of mentorship roles with BCIC New Ventures since it began in 2001.  He is also presently mentoring three MBA students from both UBC and SFU, as well as several amazing undergraduate students.  Also, Darren is very active with Toastmasters International in BC: a Member of eight Clubs, President of two and he serves in two positions at a provincial level.

How did you get involved with the BC Bioenergy Network?  

They approached me.  In the summer of 2009, BCBN was looking for one more person to join their team.  A BCBN Board member, who was also a close colleague, put me in touch with the BCBN Executive Director.
What do you enjoy the most about this job? 

Two things: 1. the opportunity to meet so many people 2. the chance to learn a lot about an important and emerging sector.

Describe a typical day at work.  

Is there such a thing?  ;-)  But seriously, a typical day  will involve working on one or two ongoing projects involving communications (writing documents pertaining to a BCBN investment, letters and supporting documents to prospective co-funders, etc.) I will often communicate with 4 or 5 people who are interested in some aspect of BCBN or bioenergy in general.  As well, I am responsible for updating the BCBN website, something I try to do daily.

Describe some of the biggest challenges that you faced at the BC Bioenergy Network, and how you overcame them.  

I had two big challenges when I started with BCBN: 1. I knew very little about bioenergy and 2. I had no contacts in my personal or professional networks who were in the bioenergy sector.  Addressing the first challenge has been an ongoing process; "You learn something new everyday" has been a good policy to follow.  As for the second challenge, I attend a lot of networking events on behalf of BCBN and in general.

What attracted you to this profession and what is your inspiration?  

I am attracted to the field of bioenergy for several important reasons.  This is an active sector, one that is growing for all the right reasons, ie. bioenergy generates economic, environmental and social benefits.  Many of the projects we see are in response to energy challenges at a local, community level; it is quite inspiring to see what a dedicated group of community members can do.

Any tips or resources you would like to share with students who may be interested in following your footsteps?  

Certainly.  As you can see by my bio, my career path has been anything but planned and direct.  These days, the concept of 'career planning' is something of an oxymoron. Therefore, it's important for people to be open to new ideas and new challenges at every stage of their career.  Students can do two important things to help kick-start their career: 1. build a big network of friends, colleagues and contacts and make good use of that network.  2. Volunteer; so many different organizations need volunteer help (SBN, for instance ;-).  Each volunteer opportunity also contributes to career development.  Also, even at the early stage of a person's career, it's important for them to emphasize what they can do for a prospective person or organiztion if they are brought on as an employee or a volunteer.  A person's CV should indicate what they do well, enjoy doing and are proud of doing, instead of a chronological list of workplaces and job titles.

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