11 Questions with Leslie Warren

Cybera is running a series of blog posts that showcase Alberta's innovative technology and research community. Over the course of 11 months, we are asking 11 people 11 questions related to technology and research in Alberta.

Leslie Warren smallThis month's 11 Questions interview is with Leslie Warren, the Economic Development Officer at the Vulcan Business Development Society. Warren has helped spearhead the Vulcan Innovation Project, which aims to turn Vulcan into a rural digital community.

1. What brought you to Vulcan…and what's kept you there?

Marriage '€” I grew up in Calgary, received my degree at the University of Alberta, and married a farmer from Champion, a town south of Vulcan. It's been a great place to work and raise a family, and I really enjoy the possibilities and opportunities that exist working with the Vulcan Business Development Society.

2. What three words would you use to describe Alberta's tech sector?

Exciting. Changing. Inevitable

3. What would you say is the greatest challenge of working in the technology sector in Alberta?

The disparity between rural and urban communities is a significant challenge; and consistent broadband and cell service to all residents and businesses continues to be an issue. Connections to the SuperNet exist, but the cost is a hindrance for commercial use. However, we must keep moving forward to make the best of what we have and continue to take advantage of the opportunities afforded to us.  

4. Following on that, what would you say is the greatest benefit of working in the tech sector in Alberta?

Rural communities can gain from technology development, as people can work from their acreage, a cabin by the lake, or from their home and maintain the small town lifestyle they enjoy. Technology is assisting the agricultural community in many ways. An example of this is the reduction of input costs through GPS use, and offering instant information in relation to markets. Technology and innovation in its most pure form has existed in the agriculture industry since its the very beginning. We don't work specifically in the tech sector, but are continuing to develop opportunities in the community for technology-related projects. Our project, the Vulcan Innovation Project (VIP): Sustaining Rural Development Through Technology, has enabled wireless service on Vulcan's main street, the development of technology applications for business and historical resources, website development, regional community communication, education opportunities through videoconferencing, and developing culture of use. Also, the advancement of alternative energy technology offers business opportunities to rural communities as well. For example, wind energy is being developed at the south end of Vulcan County (Blackspring Ridge), and the potential for a solar development and a waste-to-energy facility in Southern Alberta is being investigated.

5. How do you stay connected and tapped into Alberta's tech sector?

The VIP promotes its activities through our Facebook page and through websites. We are currently revamping our website for community, business and site selector use. Young entrepreneurs in the community, such as the people behind BCCHardware and Canadian Sustainability and Water Solutions, also help us to stay connected. There is also a yearly LAN party held in Vulcan for gaming enthusiasts. Through the VIP, we have been able to hire a Community Technology Assistant who assists our organization, other community organizations and businesses with making technology choices. We also have a partnership with Digital Alberta and participate in some of their events, in addition to receiving some input from Cybera.

6. Who inspires you and why?

Positive people '€” those who believe that anything is possible and work hard to achieve it.

7. What book are you currently reading and what do you think of it?

Secret Daughter, by Shilpi Somaya Gowda '€” I would recommend it, because it's a great story and a good read, not involving business documents!

8. What do you think of when you hear the word "cyberinfrastructure"?

Cloud computing, which will enable rural communities to have the same technological advantages as larger cities for business growth without the cost of fiber-optic cable installation.

9. In your opinion, what are the most exciting technologies out there right now?

Communication tools like social media.

10. Are there any other fields you're not currently involved in that you would like to see yourself / your company working with?

Business incubation.

11.What advice would you give to someone just starting out as an entrepreneur?

Make sure you have a good business plan.