An Agile Approach to Life

Friday, January 29, 2016

Picture of Max Spear.

Written by Max Spear (BMath ‘2011)

A decade ago when I applied to University, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. All I knew was that I loved to learn, discover new things, and solve problems that mattered to the world – but when it came down to what “career” I wanted to have, I was open to suggestions. Most of my close friends at the time shared the same ambition – do great things, without being sure what exactly those things were.

That’s what drew me to the Double Degree program, studying both Math at Waterloo and Business at Wilfrid Laurier. The deliberately broad program allowed me to keep options open and explore new paths based on whatever interested me at the time.

Looking back 10 years later, this choice to stay flexible with my education and allow myself to focus on what I was passionate about in the moment was the best decision I have ever made. I would much rather develop an extremely versatile skill set that can be applied in many places instead of pursuing a specialized and predictable career path. I have maintained this principle in every professional decision I have made to date.

This outlook on the world brought me to two places – start-ups and management consulting. I launched my first start-up while in Waterloo’s VeloCity entrepreneurship accelerator, alongside my co-founder Andrew Cross. Goosechase was the classic example of a fun-idea-turned-real-business. Andrew and I both wanted a better way to organize & host amazing photo scavenger hunts, so we launched Goosechase as the first-ever mobile scavenger hunt platform. The company grew and started to stabilize which both afforded us the opportunity to think about what’s next.

When I started at McKinsey as a management consultant in 2010, I did so with one mission – work on high-impact problems with inspiring people anywhere in the world. Given my background in stats and business, I knew I wanted to be at the intersection of Big Data and business management. With this, I could help organizations collect and learn from massive amounts of customer data to inform strategy, marketing, and product design. My cross-disciplinary education at Waterloo uniquely prepared me for this.

McKinsey set me up well for my next opportunity, returning back to start-ups. I spent time establishing the sports & entertainment vertical for Canopy Labs, signing up clients in the NFL, NHL, NBA, and more helping these use their customer data to better predict behaviour and new products, services, and content recommendations.

My current role is with Indigo, the Canadian retailer based in Toronto. At Indigo, I both manage the corporate strategy team and run digital innovation projects. The most exciting aspect of this role is ideating and leading new start-up opportunities within the company, often involving Big Data applications and new digital customer experiences. This unique approach to “intrapreneurship” is a careful balance but one that I believe can be extremely effective if executed correctly.

My experience at Waterloo has been instrumental in not only launching my career, but also my growth as a person. I continue to stay true to my principle of remaining agile and working on high-impact problems that make me excited to get out of bed each and every morning.