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The next step

Thursday, October 29, 2020

“I wasn’t necessarily entrepreneurial in my time at Waterloo, but I was always very inventive,” remembered Jeff Shiner (BMath ’92), the CEO of a growing Toronto-based startup. “All I knew was that I wanted to create new computer programs.”

As Shiner came of age with the personal computer, he taught himself programming languages. “I remember getting my first Commodore 64 when I was 12 or 13 years old,” he says. “I geeked out at everything related to the computer. When it came time to decide on a university, Waterloo Math’s computer science program was the only one on my radar.”

Jeff ShinerThrough completing several co-op terms at IBM, Shiner learned that he enjoyed programming for the purpose of solving a problem, not just for the fun of it. “By far, the most rewarding aspect of my time at Waterloo was the co-op program,” he affirmed. “In addition to a world-class education in computer programming, I had the opportunity to work at a company that was making a difference in my field.”

Shiner spent 10 years at IBM after graduation, leaving briefly to work for a startup before returning to grow IBM’s e-commerce division in 1998. “It was a tremendously exciting time to work in e-commerce,” he remembered. “The world was changing very quickly. I had the opportunity to invent, solve problems and watch the technology grow in leaps and bounds as more businesses looked for e-commerce solutions to reach customers.”

While Shiner built a rewarding career at IBM, he began looking elsewhere for opportunities to work more closely with customers. After a stint at a smaller digital marketing agency with a large e-commerce arm, he rose through the ranks to lead a team of 400 people. “I always dreamed of becoming a leader, and I got my chance,” he said.

In the meantime, Shiner’s former coworker from IBM, Dave Teare, had teamed up with a friend named Roustem Karimov to found 1Password, a startup that created a secure password manager. With Shiner’s background in technology and business management, he was their first pick to lead the company’s day-to-day operations beginning in 2012. “In a time of growing security and privacy concerns, we have the chance to provide an app that keeps people’s information both secure and accessible,” he shared. “That mission drives us every day.”

Shiner’s son, Austin, is following in his footsteps in the Faculty of Mathematics at Waterloo. “Our fields of interest are different, but the quality of education is the same,” Shiner recognized. The best advice Shiner can give to Austin and his peers is to look at the people who have the role they would like to have next and learn from them. “You might not operate in the same way, but if a person’s role excites you, take the first step on the path to get there,” he recommended. “I started from my co-op at Waterloo and just kept doing that until I became a CEO. Looking back, Waterloo was the right place to take that next step.”

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