The three most important tools I work with... right now are my laptop/mobile (for obvious reasons), my SodaStream (because I can’t live without sparkling water), and the stove (to make and heat the chai that fuels me). Speaking of which, shout out to Lori at ETG Coffee and Bakery in Seattle for gifting me the recipe when I moved! I wish I could say my most important tool was something far more exciting like a welding rig, drill press, or angle grinder, but that’d be lying.
When I’m not working, I enjoy... relaxing with a good book or being outdoors in nature. I also love grabbing tea, drinks, and/or food with friends, but that hasn’t happened much recently (due to moving to a new country at the same time pandemic-restrictions went into effect).
The biggest misconception people seem to have about my community... My family moved around a lot in the US after I was born, but I graduated high school in San Antonio and attended university in Austin so consider myself a Texan. Lots of people think everyone in Texas has a horse. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I’ve ridden horses before, but not often and never in Texas.
I define innovation as... moving forward when it seems impossible. I’m so impressed when people keep finding new ways to iterate their solutions — chipping away at a problem bit by bit, making incremental improvements using whatever’s at hand, and trying things out from different perspectives. Sometimes there are magical revolutionary leaps forward, but more often than not innovation is a messy and somewhat tedious evolutionary process.
I wish I could learn... everything. Well... okay... not literally everything, because my head would probably explode, but there are so many things I want to know or be able to do. I wish I could learn to sing so that I wouldn’t shatter eardrums. I wish I could learn one of the martial arts and get in the best shape of my life. I wish I could learn how to fly a helicopter, or better yet learn how to be an astronaut (even if I’m never allowed off the planet). I wish I could learn to sew fashionably bespoke clothing for myself. I wish I could learn...
The best thing I’ve read or seen in the past year... Oooh, this is a tough one. In an average year, I read and watch a lot of things. This past year, which included the end of my sabbatical and the start of a global pandemic, my media consumption was much higher than usual. The first book that popped into my head though was The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu. I read his trilogy about a year ago — they were incredible books, and it was fascinating to experience that world from a Chinese perspective.
A tv series or movie with a perfect ending... was Halt and Catch Fire. I hate spoilers, so I’m not going to say why. I loved the series, and its ending. It’s one of only a handful of shows I believe ended well. Why are good endings so rare?
When I want to feel creative, I stream... KEXP, a listener-supported radio station in Seattle Washington. Their DJs play an incredibly wide array of great music spanning “all eras, styles, and cultures” (plus it’s commercial-free). Listening to new music not only helps me be more creative, but it also honors a promise I made to myself when I was a teenager.
The most incredible friend or family member in my life... was my maternal grandmother. Grammy was my most favorite person in the whole wide universe for many reasons, but in particular for how she comforted me as a child during the moment I understood my adoption meant she and I weren’t blood-related. She taught me that love is thicker than blood.
My first celebrity crushes... were Michael Hutchence and Prince in the mid-1980s. I can’t remember who came first, though I’m sure my brother would know (he seems to remember everything from our childhood). I thought my first crush was on Ethan Hawke, but I just read on Wikipedia that Dead Poets Society was released in 1989 so had to change my answer since I was obsessively listening to tapes on my precious Sony Walkman and watching as much MTV as possible way before then.
My fictional heroes are... Thursday Next (an incredibly clever woman who has the ability to jump in and out of books), Breq/One Esk (who learns to navigate and engage with the world as a badass fraction of what she once was), and Binti (a brilliant and talented woman who overcomes fear and tragedy to negotiate interstellar peace).
I earned my first “dollar”... selling lemonade or babysitting in my neighborhood when I was a kid, but I earned my first salary working the drive-through at a fast-food restaurant chain when I was 15. I put myself through university by working a variety of service-industry jobs (almost always more than one at the same time). The skills I learned then still serve me well today.
The quality I most appreciate in my colleagues... is directness. If you have an opinion, please share it. If you have a question, please ask it. If you have any feedback or concerns, let’s talk about it. I love chatting, brainstorming, playing devils- and angels-advocate, and talking things out with colleagues.
The skills most needed to thrive as an innovator... are curiosity, creativity, and persistence.
The most challenging obstacle I’ve overcome in my life so far... was learning to talk about my feelings. That’s not to say I now always do it well — discussing a sensitive topic with a loved one is frequently still nerve-racking — but I’m proud to say I no longer avoid or shy away from emotionally-charged conversations (which, as you can imagine, has not only helped me with my personal relationships but also with my professional ones).
Everyone should try... drift diving ...at least once in their life. I imagine it’s the closest sensation to flying we humans can have. If you’re properly-weighted and neutrally-buoyant, you’ll effortlessly soar through a magical undersea world surrounded by all sorts of colorful corals and fish. With the merest dip of a fin, you’ll gently swoop one way or the other. And, if everything’s passing by too quickly, all you have to do is duck behind the next coral outcropping to hide from the current. It’s glorious!
My perfect day would begin and end with... staring out at an amazing view of some sort. I’ve lived in a lot of places, so that hasn’t always been possible. I’m thrilled to say I landed in a good spot in Vancouver. I don’t know how one could have a better city view than of Science World, False Creek, Rogers Arena, and Downtown.
My last moment of bliss... was sailing from Vancouver to Sidney this summer while helping a couple friends (both bubblemates) deliver a boat to Vancouver Island. It was my first sail in Canada and my first trip through the Gulf Islands. I love the feeling of being on a well-trimmed sailboat, listening to the waves hit the side of the boat, and seeing the occasional sea creature. British Columbia is such a gorgeous place! I’m looking forward to exploring more of it as pandemic-related restrictions are lifted.
The food I absolutely love... is breakfast tacos (specifically potato, egg, sausage, and cheese on a flour tortilla with lots of super-spicy salsa). Oh, how I miss breakfast tacos! I wish someone would open a franchise of one of my favorite Austin restaurants in Vancouver. If only there was a Juan in a Million, Cisco’s, or Tacodeli here — I’d eat breakfast tacos every single day. Really. That’s what I did when I lived in Austin. =)
My most treasured possession... is an old rusted railroad spike. I used to be a member of a team that explored water-filled caves in Mexico. My very first trip in the late-1990s was to El Nacimiento del Rio Mante. The tiny waterfall blocking the entrance of the cave was formed many many years ago when the train tracks above were blown up and collapsed the ceiling (the rumor I heard was that it was done by Pancho Villa, but who knows). I found the spike while doing a safety stop after my first wild cave dive.
Want to learn more? Check out About Us and Smith Assembly's Origin Story.