Meet Alex, Ourboro’s Chief Product Officer.
If you imagine a Venn diagram of the triple bottom line – people, planet, and profit- you can place Alex directly in its center.
Leadership roles at various non-profits, a Masters in Environmental Science, and a solid finance background have rounded out how Alex sees the world, and the incomparable skill set she brings to the Ourboro team.
How long have you been with Ourboro?
I’ve been with Ourboro since the beginning, in February 2019. Norm, our Co-Founder, and I had a long history of working together and he approached me in those early days to help operationalize the idea and bring it to market.
I was actually 5 months pregnant at the time! After maternity leave, I came back to the company in the midst of COVID when everyone was working from home full time. When COVID hit, it quickly became clear that this could be a real make-it-or-break-it moment for companies. It illuminated an organization’s true colours and, for Ourboro, it showed how strongly we live and breathe our corporate values. Ultimately, I’m incredibly proud of how our team navigated the last few years.
As the Chief Product Officer, what does your day-to-day look like?
There is never a dull moment.
As our head of product, I oversee everything that touches our end-user. This includes: marketing, customer experience, product and technology development, and strategic partnerships.
Each day is a mix of these elements. That can include providing feedback on a communication strategy, troubleshooting unique homebuyer situations, or collaborating with service providers or other departments.
One of my favourite things is when the whole product team comes together in solving a particularly complex problem. Working on such an end-user focused product is a lot like planning an extensive scavenger hunt, working through the logistics of where people go, what they see, and how to give them the best experience. My husband overheard a particularly lively product design meeting one time and told me “It sounds like you’re planning a party.” Having a sense of humor and thoroughly enjoying the team makes a big difference.
How did you get started in social impact and product?
I started my career in finance and accounting and spent several years at a Bay Street firm in audit and transaction advisory services.
At that time, few believed it was possible to combine social good with profit. This was in the early 2000s when social entrepreneurship wasn’t really a “thing” yet and people viewed impact and business as being separate, rather than as forces that could strengthen each other.
I eventually found a home at the MaRS Discovery District, which had a growing footprint in social innovation and entrepreneurship in Ontario. That’s actually where I met Norm, our late Co-Founder and CEO. I eventually joined Norm at his company, Purpose Capital, which introduced me to all sorts of social impact models.
The analytical and process-driven skill set from my finance background, when combined with my natural curiosity of the human experience, naturally merged into product development. The product allows me to use the detail-oriented, logistical, side of my brain and package it with empathy and thoughtfulness for the outcomes we want to create for the users of our product.
What brought you to Ourboro?
When I was at Purpose Capital, Norm and I worked together on several affordable housing projects, so I was familiar with this vision of using real estate as a means to democratize wealth accumulation.
After Purpose Capital, I had a few more roles under my belt when Norm approached me with what would become Ourboro. I knew it would be the right combination of my finance background and passion for social good.
Where could we usually find you when you’re not working?
If I’m not working I’m probably foraging in the forest with my kids or painting in my studio.
I am very much an environmentalist and completed a Masters in Environmental Science a couple of years ago, mostly for fun. I also channel that passion into my paintings of ancient glaciers.
What book is on your bedside table right now?
Right now I’m reading How to Be a Good Creature written by explorer Sy Montgomery, a memoir told through the author’s encounters with 13 animals. It’s probably sitting next to The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, one of my kids’ favourites.
What’s something that people often find surprising about you?
Honestly, the one most consistent thing people are often surprised by is that I’m actually an Asian woman. When I’m introduced to people over email, for example, and they see my name, they often expect a different person and I’ve gotten “Mr. Kjorven” more times than I can count.
Without getting too deep into the patriarchal issues of our time, I’ve since learned to navigate through whatever presumptions people may have of me. Whether that’s being an immigrant, a woman, or just the fact that I always look young for my age, I know everyone is on their own sort of journey toward finding security in who they are.
What’s your favourite neighbourhood in Toronto or the GTA?
My favourite neighbourhood in the GTA has to be my own neighbourhood in Milton. We’re in a mature neighbourhood with a forest behind our house. The occasional commute is a low price to pay to be in the community that I am.