The Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science & Technology (BEST) at the Lassonde School of Engineering hosted the eighth annual Mercier Seminar Oct. 27. The event featured a keynote presentation by James Temerty, who is the founder of Northland Power, a philanthropist and business executive. It was offered over Zoom.
“Be Bold, Dream, Begin” are the keywords that Temerty lives by as an entrepreneur. At an early age, Temerty told the Mercier Seminar audience that he always sought to do things differently and was very active in extra-curricular activities in his school, including initiating and leading different clubs.
During his post-secondary education at Concordia University in Montreal, Temerty and his friends decided to hold an event that would employ more than 40 students. Initiating, planning and holding the event served to kickstart his lifelong passion for entrepreneurship. After graduation, Temerty worked for more than 15 years with IBM. He spoke to the audience about his many roles with the company and his enduring focus on providing unique solutions to situations he encountered during a multifaceted career in sales, product planning and management.
After leaving IBM, Temerty began work on a computer storefront known as Computerland with a salesman he used to manage. They scaled the business from one to 30 storefronts. He told the Mercier Seminar audience that the ambition and drive established at a young age were what drove him to scale his business so dramatically. He spoke about the importance of overcoming hardships and obstacles, without which, he said, he wouldn’t have been able to execute the business in a way that would lead to such success.
After six years building Computerland, Temerty received a phone call that would soon determine the creation of one of Canada’s first environmentally conscious power plants – Northland Power. The company was innovative in that it made use of wood wastes and residue to create steam and make electricity. As an entrepreneur, Temerty spoke frankly about his lack of prior knowledge in the field of power generation and the importance of the nature of entrepreneurs to naturally learn and adapt in different fields. He said he was able to transition into different aspects of the market because of his ability to craft solutions that are completely unique to a problem. He discussed the many obstacles and his approach to devising specific paths to develop innovative solutions that benefitted Northland Power.
Following his talk, Temerty participated in a Q-and-A session with the Mercier Seminar audience. When Lassonde Professor Andrew Maxwell, the Bergeron Chair In Technology Entrepreneurship and director of BEST, asked Temerty what advice he would give to students about how to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, and how he made best use of the lessons he learned over the course of his career. Temerty responded frankly and with passion. “It is important to realize that there is more to life than just your career, your job and the money that you make, you need to be able to put your head on a pillow and feel good about yourself, that takes executing across a lot of things,” he said.
“You also need to feel good about how to participate in society starting with your family, your community and your country. You should find room in your life to volunteer, to do things, to help other people. You should build other skills such as soft skills and emotional quotient, develop natural curiosity about things and about people,” he added. “You need to be active, open and take leadership role in extracurricular activities at school and make connections with organizations with the culture of excellence and be creative in that culture, then things will open up. Don’t jump into just launching your business, get all the equipment, get the skills that you need first.”
The eighth Mercier Seminar 2020 sold out quickly with 250 audience members. Participating in the seminar were York President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton, students from across the University, professors, staff and founders from the startup community.
The recorded video of Temerty’s Mercier Seminar can be found at: https://vimeo.com/473185562.
With files from Maedeh Sedaghat, program officer, Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science and Technology (BEST), Lassonde School of Engineering