Valerie Song, CEO, AVA Technologies Inc.
What motivates you in your career?
What excites me the most about work is how different it is every day. We set our own tasks and deadlines. We drive our own results. We plan for our own campaigns. Most importantly, we embrace failure. Failure is a way to move forward and seek success, unlike the mentality many big corporations have where failure is not an option. Failure is a slap on the back of your hand.
I find it rewarding to learn, grow, fail fast, and fail forward. It challenges me every day, but that way I can improve so much more.
Describe what you do at work.
At AVA, we have an extremely complex product that requires multi-disciplinary thinking. We use all aspects of STEM to develop our AVA Byte smart gardens. We use plant science to create our plant pods, technology for our machine learning software, engineering to create the electronics in the product, and maths to determine draft angles and material reduction in manufacturing a product.
We use 3D printing to prototype our gardens, and even robot arms that we want to train to plant, water, and harvest our greens.
STEM learning is really about training your mind to think critically. Running a start-up, every day is like putting out fires – what is the biggest issue that we need to solve now? What solutions could there be, and which one is the best? How can we work with the team to solve it together?
How does your job affect people’s lives?
As a woman and minority in technology, I strive for gender and ethnic balance in our teams. We call our team the AVA Family – we care about everyone’s voices being heard, that people are not boxed by their job titles, and that they can learn a lot. That is the most fulfilling part – seeing us grow as a family.
I quit my corporate job to do something I cared about – sustainability for future generations. We know what the future of food could look like if nobody takes action, and decided that we would do something about it.
The movement to grow more food, closer to home, using no pesticides, will only continue to grow!
Describe your career path to this career.
I always had an idea that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but graduating from business school I was enticed by the idea of getting paid a good salary right out of school.
So, throughout my 4 years at university, I worked hard to get a double option and to intern every summer. I worked selling laptops for Microsoft Canada, conducting market research at Procter & Gamble, launching new cereals at Nature’s Path Organic Food, and even selling beer to restaurants.
I was so unhappy with working at a company that didn’t practice their values. That wasn’t diverse. That didn’t embrace failures. I eventually quit my job to pursue my passion in entrepreneurship.
What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?
Following your dreams isn’t a cliché, it’s a necessity. Do what you love, love what you do.
What activities do you like to do outside of work?
I love volleyball, zombie movies, cooking, and exploring. I volunteer as a start-up coach for the JDC West competition for both teams at BCIT & UBC!
I was born/grew up in: Taipei, Taiwan. I grew up in Coquitlam, BC.
I now live in: Vancouver, BC, Canada!