To a person on the street, computer coding workshop might not sound like the sexiest or exciting of atmospheres, it’s true. Jason Field wants to turn that notion on its head.
The campuses at BrainStation, Field’s digital academy, are far from the dark basements or sterile labs of tech-training past – they’re sprawling and spacious with vast windows that bathe exposed brick walls in sunlight. The space a reflection of Field himself, who is not your clichéd computer geek.
Field’s path has been far from linear. After doing time earning a degree in business management, he took off on a trip around the globe and returned ready to take on the world of technical apparel. While working for lululemon in Toronto and seeing the power of e-commerce, he realized the true power of the digital realm, as well as how much he had to learn about it.
“It was really eye-opening for me,” he recalls. “Clearly, that was where the world was going.”
Field sprang into action, rallying a group of like-minded friends and began teaching themselves the basics of web development. None of the group wanted to go back and take a four-year Computer Sciences degree, so they started setting up workshops.
“It was somewhat selfish in the respect that we were going to find people that we wanted to learn from to come and teach in these minimal spaces – and hopefully we’d get some people out.”
The initial concept was a simple meet-up (“We had no marketing budget or business in mind per se – we bought a portable projector,” Field laughs) but after a few events, he began to realize there was a desire for what they were doing.
“We saw that there were so many people like us that were non-technical – whether they had a background in commerce, or social sciences, or art – they were looking to acquire digital skills because their industry was starting to be transformed.”
Five years later, BrainStation campuses digitally empowered 20 thousand Canadians in 2016 alone. The formula is a unique combination of part- and full-time courses that enable students to learn on their own time and apply new skills in hands-on group settings that Field likens to apprenticeships. The BrainStation team isn’t planning on slowing down any time soon: with four campuses around the globe (Vancouver, Toronto, New York and Costa Rica) and plans for many more, they’ve set a goal to empower one million people by the year 2025 – a plan that every team member includes in their email sign-off as a constant reminder.
“It’s been a crazy ride to have gone from a portable projector to 20,000 square-foot campuses in Toronto and Vancouver,” Field says. “Keeping up with that as a leader is not a hurdle that I overcame in the first year, second year, third year – I’m constantly checking in to make sure that personally, I’m growing every step of the way.”
Meet Jason Field.
“I think passion for learning attracts other obsessive learners – individuals that have this insatiable appetite to evolve and grow.””
“As an entrepreneur in the early stages of a start-up, it's very, very important to find that distance for yourself mentally – I used to sit on the streetcar and completely zone out.”
“Every time I go to a new campus or interact with our students I experience this resurgence of energy.”
“We need lawyers to be thinking about digital; we need doctors, marketers and electricians to be contributing ideas.”