Darrin Nowakowski, president, Star Circle Security
Education: honours B.A. (history) from York University and two years of computer science, specializing in software engineering at U of T.starcircle.ca
I'm an I.T. security architect, working freelance for all kinds of clients in the public and private sector. Think about large complex computer systems. An architect figures out how it's all going to work together, how data is going to be structured so it's usable and findable. It's a cross between design and engineering.
I couldn't do what I do now without an engineering background, but I also wouldn't be successful without an arts background. Half my job is the engineering part and the other half reading, writing, presenting information. The stereotype that engineers don't have presentation skills is not terribly far from the truth. Exercising both sides of my brain is absolutely essential.
Getting out of school, I didn't just want to be a programmer who sits in the corner and writes code or a systems administrator. I've always believed I have good ideas about how to solve big problems.
A school like the University of Toronto can patch you into actual companies. At U of T, I participated in a design contest, was sponsored by Apple, in the computer science area. My team won, and it. At the time, the mid-90s, Apple was one of the top two computer companies in the world - Microsoft was a bit player. There were only a handful of top-tier companies, and they were in California. The fact that I'd done well at U of T and won that design contest gave me the chance to go to California and work. That started off my career.
I am one of the architects who figured out how to measure wait times in the health care system. The positive outcome from gathering that information is that you can use it to improve people's situations.
By figuring this out, analyzing it and cooperating across a number of organizations, you can develop a reduction strategy and figure out how to find available services. It's just a matter of look-ups and scheduling, but those tools didn't exist a couple of years ago. It was literally impossible for a doctor to say, "Okay, I found you a spot; you can drive to Burlington and get an MRI in two days. But it's happening now. Just putting that information in doctors' hands is very empowering. It's causing real change in a positive way.
I'm an education junkie. Most recently I've graduated from George Brown's wine program. It's somewhat unrelated, but technically, I could work in that industry if I wanted to: a lot of people who are passionate about wines can never find what they want.