The Unlikely Innovators
By Mike Commito
Mike Commito is the Director of Applied Research at Cambrian College and Steve Gravel is the Manager of the Centre for Smart Mining, Cambrian's Technology Access Centre.
The Unlikely InnovatorsNov 21, 2023
Jennifer Taback on communicating through visual storytelling
On this month’s episode, Mike and Steve sat down with Jennifer Taback, Partner & Thought Leader at Design de Plume. Jennifer talked about her unlikely journey into graphic design, starting her own business, how she brings her unique perspective as an Indigenous woman into design, and the role that visual storytelling can play in truth and reconciliation in Canada.
Julie Zulich on her passion for business
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve were on location at TESC to chat with Julie Zulich, the company’s President & CEO. Julie talked about her entrepreneurial journey from opening up a coffee shop franchise to joining and leading her family’s construction business. She also explained the importance of planning for growth and expansion, while also being strategic in selecting what projects TESC takes on. Julie also talked about the importance of making skilled trades more inclusive and diverse through initiatives like LeadHER Trades and Cambrian College’s Jill of All Trades, where she will be part of a Women in Trades panel on Wednesday.
Nadia Mykytczuk returns to the Unlikely Innovators
The Unlikely Innovators are back! For the third season, Mike and Steve kicked things with Dr. Nadia Mykytczuk, their first repeat guest. Nadia talked about her early love of science, being a role model to young women in STEM, her new Industrial Research Chair in Biomining in partnership with Cambrian, and her plans for the future Centre for Mine Waste Biotechnology.
Jamie Dewar on making memories on the water
The Unlikely Innovators commemorates its 100th episode on a boat! For this week’s episode, Mike and Steve chatted with Legend Boats co-CEO Jamie Dewar on a pontoon boat in their showroom in Whitefish. Jamie talked about how the company has evolved over the years and how innovation undergirds everything that Legend does. As people start heading out onto lakes to make memories on the water, the podcast is going on summer vacation and will be back in September 2023. Thanks for listening!
Mark Masotti on changing concrete with bio-graphene
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Mark Masotti, President & CEO of AlterBiota. Mark covered his journey from civil construction to chemical engineering to establishing a bio-graphene company. He talked about the benefits of using bio graphene in concrete mixtures from increasing building strength to helping to combat climate change.
Brit Ho on going from hospitality to tech
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve were joined by Brit Ho, a Project Manager at Hootsuite. Brit talked about her journey from hospitality to tech, her work at Hootsuite, what AI means for the tech industry, and her passion for boxing.
Chloé Arsenault on wearing tiaras and hard hats
On this week's episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Chloé Arsenault, a recent graduate of College Boreal's civil and mining engineering technician program. Chloe talked about what drew her to skilled trades and how she uses her pageantry platforms "Tiaras and Trades" to inspire girls and women to consider a career in the skilled trades.
Dawn Larsen on digital mining solutions
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Dawn Larsen, Digital Solutions Manager for Epiroc Canada. Dawn shared her journey from software to business, as well as her transition to the mining sector. She also talked about digital transformation in the sector and the solutions Epiroc has brought to market to improve productivity, utilization, and safety.
Trent Mell on building a battery materials hub
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Trent Mell, founder and CEO of Electra Battery Materials Corporation. Trent talked about Electra’s mission to create the only fully integrated, localized, and environmentally sustainable battery materials park in North America and what that would mean for Canada’s position as a leader in the global critical minerals sector. Trent also talked about his journey from law to mining and even gave the guys a history lesson about Cobalt, Ontario.
Jeremy Hansen on leading humanity back to the Moon
On this week's episode, Mike and Steve welcomed their second astronaut to the show, Colonel Jeremy Hansen. He talked about his unlikely journey becoming a fighter pilot and his even unlikelier journey becoming an astronaut. Colonel Hansen also explained the qualities he looks for in an astronaut and what his forthcoming Artemis II mission to the Moon means for humanity. And, since it's almost summer blockbuster season, Colonel Hansen reflected on last year's smash hit, Top Gun: Maverick, and how it stacks up for him as a fighter pilot.
Lee Elias on making a career of hockey
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Lee Elias, founder and CEO of Hockey Wraparound and Game Seven Group. Lee talked about his playing days, coaching, and discovering a need in the road hockey market that led to the invention of Hockey Wraparound. Lee also talked about his other venture, Game Seven Group, which helps individuals and teams unlock the Game 7 mentality for business and sports.
Laura O’Blenis on building innovation ecosystems
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Laura O’Blenis, President and CEO of Stiletto. Laura talked about her journey from business to helping to build innovation ecosystems through her work at Stiletto. She also talked about research parks and the value they provide to communities, the state of the startup landscape in Canada, and the country's commercialization track record.
Trang Tran-Valade on her unlikely journey in mining
On this week's episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Trang Tran-Valade, Regional Sector Lead of Mining, Minerals, and Metals, Canada for Stantec. Trang talked about her unlikely journey into mining, her experience with mining technologies, her continued efforts to make mining more diverse, and what you can expect at this year's CIM Convention in Montreal.
Paul Lefebvre on Sudbury's bright future
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve spoke with Paul Lefebvre, Mayor of the City of Greater Sudbury. From his office at Tom Davies Square, Mayor Lefebvre talked about his journey into politics, what makes Sudbury an ideal place for innovation, how the community can take advantage of the critical minerals opportunity, and his upcoming state of the city address. Mayor Lefebvre also talked about what he does in his spare time and who he will be cheering for in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Brian Kingston on the future of Canada’s EV supply chain
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Brian Kingston, President and CEO of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association. Brian talked about his journey before he joined the CVMA, the Inflation Reduction Act and its implications for Canada, and consumer adoption incentives and the need for more EV charging infrastructure. Brian also talked about the changing skills profile needed to work in the EV supply chain sector.
Shouyi Ma on changing life trajectories
Dan Breznitz on innovation lessons from around the world
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Dan Breznitz, Co-Director of the Innovation Policy Lab and Munk Chair of Innovation Studies at the University of Toronto for a chat at Cambrian. Dan talked about why Canada should look beyond the Silicon Valley approach, what the Canada Innovation Corporation means for businesses looking to develop new technologies in our country, and some of the lessons from his latest book, Innovation in Real Places. Dan also shared some of his impressions of Sudbury in a recent visit to the community.
Daryl Adams on going from the front lines to the front office
Brent Neilly on power tool innovation
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Brent Neilly, Director of Product Marketing for Milwaukee Tool Canada. Brent talked about his unlikely journey to working at Milwaukee, some of the company’s early innovations, and how Milwaukee has learned from product launches that missed the mark. Brent also talked about one of Milwaukee’s most famous and loyal customers.
Kevin Oulds on making wills accessible
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Kevin Oulds, co-founder and Head of Research & Innovation at Willful. Kevin talked about the impetus behind Willful, pitching on Dragon’s Den, the state of digital legal innovation in Canada, and what’s next for Willful.
Mike Campigotto on blending art and science in mining
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Mike Campigotto, President of SafeSight Exploration. Mike reflected on his journey from studying computer science at the University of Waterloo to how he was lured into the mining industry later in his career. Mike also talked about the challenges of designing tech for an environment as harsh as mining and how SafeSight’s development is not all that dissimilar from the film The Martian. If you’re at PDAC this week, you can find SafeSight at booth 7504N.
Shane Prodan on the business of distilling
Jodi Cooley on science underground
Jenn Harper on the importance of representation
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Jenn Harper, founder and CEO of Cheekbone Beauty. Jenn talked about what inspired her to start Cheekbone Beauty, its mission and vision, the ins and outs of the cosmetics industry, the importance of representation for Indigenous girls and women, and the company’s charitable goals.
Frank Stronach on going from machinist to magnate
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Frank Stronach, founder and honourary chairman of Magna International, and now chairman of Stronach International. Mr. Stronach shared his story from his early beginnings to building a company that now spans five continents and 28 countries. He also talked about how is management philosophy, fair enterprise, led to incredible business results at Magna. Mike and Steve were particularly delighted by the discussion they had with Mr. Stronach about the future of post-secondary education and applied learning in Canada.
Adam Maxwell on future-proofing our favourite foods
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Adam Maxwell, CEO of Voyage Foods. Adam talked about his journey from falling in love with food at an early age to studying food science and eventually co-founding Voyage Foods. At Voyage Foods, Adam leads a talented team of food scientists and CPG experts looking to revolutionize the food industry and secure the future of our favourite foods. He talked about some of the current products at Voyage Foods, such as the peanut-free spread, and where they hope to go in the future.
Cem Kansu on democratizing language learning with Duolingo
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Cem Kansu, Vice President of Product at Duolingo. Cem talked about his career path, growing Duolingo’s monetization strategy, the human impacts the app has had, and what’s next for Duolingo.
Jamie Oakenfold on supporting women through fitness
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Jamie Oakenfold, owner of Oakenfold Strength & Athletics. Jamie talked about her fitness journey, starting her own business which focuses on pre and postnatal fitness, what it meant to win a Northern Ontario Business Award as Entrepreneur of the Year, and how she hopes to grow her business to help more women, particularly Indigenous women, across the north. Since Jamie resides in Thunder Bay, the guys also took some time to wax poetic about the community.
Guy Kawasaki on evangelism and Remarkable People
The Unlikely Innovators Holiday Rewind
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve reflect on the past year and share some of their favourite holiday treats before rebroadcasting their interview with Colonel Chris Hadfield, the most popular episode of 2022. The Unlikely Innovators will be back with fresh content on January 10, 2023. Happy New Year!
Mark Sherry on connecting shoppers with local retailers
On this week's episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Mark Sherry, CEO of One Red Maple. Mark talked about his career as an entrepreneur, operating businesses in a variety of sectors from food services to mining technology and now e-commerce. Mark told the guys about his latest venture, One Red Maple, the retail Robin Hood app that helps consumers find and purchase virtually any product from locally-owned stores nearby. They also chatted about their favourite holiday tunes to get into the Christmas spirit.
Sheri Tingey on her passion for packrafts
On this week's episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Sheri Tingey, founder and lead designer for Alpacka Raft. Sheri talked about how she got her start in the outdoor industry by making custom ski clothing. After changing the fashion of ski wear, Sheri went from the slopes to the water, making garments for rafting and then eventually designing and building her own boats. And, with ski season around the corner, Sheri also shared her favourite après-ski beverage.
Peter Cowan on leading Ontario's IP strategy
Raed Kadri on how Ontario is driving the future of mobility
Kate Withers Hess on the future of decentralized computing
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Kate Withers Hess, Co-founder and Director of Partnerships at Functionland. Kate talked about her journey from studying plant physiology to working with technology companies and founding her own tech start-up. She also gave the guys an introduction to decentralized computing and storage and even taught them some Web3 terms.
Ashley Kirwan on building a successful geoscience company
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Ashley Kirwan, President and CEO of Orix Geoscience. Ashley talked about her journey into geology, co-founding a company, her approach to selecting clients, and how Orix continues to place a premium on developing a positive workplace culture.
Gordon McCauley on building a bioinnovation sector from sea to sea
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve chatted with Gordon McCauley, President and CEO of adMare BioInnovations. Gordon talked about his journey from studying political science to working in life science, the current state of the biotech and bioinnovation in Canada, and if our country has what it takes to be a global leader in life sciences.
Brittlestar on the keys to creating viral content
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve chatted with Stewart Reynolds, but you might know him better as Brittlestar. Stewart talked about his early career, his meteoric rise on social media, the keys to making a viral video, and his creative process for creating online content. Stewart, who is also known as the Internet’s favourite dad, even shared some parenting advice.
Emily Zarka on a career as a monster expert
Tom Pederson on selling the best off-ice hockey puck
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Tom Pederson, former NHL player and owner of Green Biscuit. Tom talked about his NHL career, life after hockey, and founding and scaling a business. Tom also talked about the time Wayne Gretzky wanted to kill him.
Cate Murray on the power of stem cells and regenerative medicine
Medha Parlikar on the potential of blockchain
Dave Salmoni on creating a career with animals
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Dave Salmoni, famed animal trainer, entertainer, and television producer. Dave talked about his journey from studying zoology to being in front of the camera, surviving animal attacks, navigating the late night TV circuit, and pursuing your passion.
Manjit Minhas on becoming a beer baroness and Dragon
On this week's episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Manjit Minhas, co-founder and co-owner of the Minhas Brewery, Distillery, and Winery. Manjit talked about how she got into the brewing and distilling world from engineering, her journey onto CBC's Dragon's Den, and the key to a successful pitch.
Christyn Cianfarani on Canada’s defence and security industries
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Christyn Cianfarani, President and CEO of the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI). Christyn talked about her career path, how CADSI and its annual event, CANSEC, has evolved under her watch, and how she continues to blaze a trail for women in the sector.
Ashley Larose on the past, present, and future of Science North
The second season of The Unlikely Innovators starts now! On this episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Ashley Larose, CEO of Science North, Northern Ontario's original science centre. Ashley talked about visiting Science North as a kid, how she got her start in the organization as a "Bluecoat," and what the future holds for the popular science centre. After reminiscing about some of their favourite exhibits, Ashley, a skilled mixologist and pizza connoisseur, shared some tips with the guys on how to make a mean cocktail and the perfect slice.
Emily Calandrelli on the wonder of science
On this week’s episode, hosts Mike and Steve welcomed Emily Calandrelli, host and co-executive producer of the hit Netflix show Emily’s Wonder Lab. Emily spoke about the importance of science communication, transitioning to TV work, Emily’s Wonder Lab, working with Bill Nye, and her forthcoming science experiment book. Emily also talked about the prospect of space mining and the work she is currently doing to help change how TSA treats the parents of young kids when travelling.
Eric Blondeel on evaluating and insuring surgical procedures
Gurdeep Pandher on spreading joy through Bhangra dancing
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Gurdeep Pandher, who is known for spreading joy with his Bhangra dance videos from the Yukon. Gurdeep talked about growing up in a Punjab farming village, the origins of Bhangra dancing, how he sees his videos as more of a social service than entertainment, and how he overcomes technological challenges to connect with the world from his off-grid cabin in the Yukon wilderness.
Monique Golden on how XPRIZE is rapidly reskilling the workforce
On this week’s episode, Mike and Steve welcomed Dr. Monique Golden, Technical Lead for XPRIZE’s Rapid Reskilling Prize, a 30-month competition that aims to rapidly train 25,000 American workers to learn new skills via novel training solutions to obtain living wage jobs in growing industries. Monique talked about the ambitious goals of that competition and how XPRIZE uses large-scale global incentive competitions to crowdsource solutions to the world’s grand challenges. Monique also talked about her PhD research which focused on Black women and perfectionism and her ongoing efforts to close the gender gap in STEM.