High school and the college years are crossroads in our lives. It’s the time we take measure of our talents and aspirations to begin career goals and life’s journey. Along the path of life, we may deviate from one avenue to head onto another, but no matter what the road we choose, an excellent education is a must for our creative and financial futures.
The experience of Matthew Heisie, a twenty-two year old Canadian systems engineer is a case in point. Heisie grew up in Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada, a small town with a population of 5,565 and 50 miles from the Montana border. Where high schools in Los Angeles typically graduate hundreds of students, Heisie was one of 65.
As a child, Matt loved building, designing, testing, and tinkering. He says, “My high school teachers understood the direction I was headed and guided me into engineering. So when I was in college, I experimented in a few fields of engineering and worked in a number of areas.”
Heisie studied Engineering Science at the University of Toronto specializing in Aerospace or Biomedical engineering. During his first summer internship he was a research assistant on a project analyzing fMRI data for MS-related vision loss. He says, “From that experience I knew research and academia weren’t my goal.” Since he enjoyed the fast paced private sector more, he began working in different engineering roles at private companies. Consequently, he worked as a computer systems technician, audited engineering projects, and worked in project manager for an oil and gas firm.
After finishing two years of study in Toronto, Heisie was selected for a foreign exchange program at the University of Sydney in Australia. There the budding engineer pitched a deal to BlueChilli, a venture capital firm partnering to build, grow, and invest in new tech startup businesses. They loved his idea, and StarPower was born.
StarPower, based is Calgary but opening operations in Santa Monica, California in October, 2015 is a celebrity social media website that lets stars manage all their social media in one place. They also offer premium content for paying fans. Heisie says, “This creates a VIP fan club for a star where they can offer tickets, giveaways, exclusive news, pictures, videos, and one-on-one meet-ups.” Fans get points for sharing, interacting, and getting recognized, which gets them more perks with the celebrity.
Like his high school teachers years earlier, a college professor helped Heisie find his path. Heisie says, “My engineering design professor encouraged me to drop out of my academic, research focused stream and instead work on creative, design based projects to find my fit, knowing I’d return to finish my degree.” After Heisie returned to the University of Toronto to complete his degree in engineering, he knew exactly what he wanted.
During his year off to determine the field of engineering he’d pursue, Heisie met management consultant, Terri Hitchcock. Heisie says, “I was in a training session teaching project managers about a tool I built.” Hitchcock was impressed with his work and brought him into a few startups she was running or had plans to build. One of her lines of business was a movie production.
Heisie says, “With Terri as the business person and me as the tech guy we devised a business model for improving social media for celebrities—StarPower.” Hitchcock was the one who inspired the BlueChilli deal.
The key to anyone’s success is to identify his or her passion, steer onto a path to develop skills for that passion, and open one’s heart and mind to the people we meet along the way who’ll steer us in the right direction.
Matthew Heisie listened to his high school teachers, followed the path in college, and was encouraged to take time away from university life to find his niche in engineering. Heisie says, “If I hadn’t been encouraged to stake a year off from college, I never would have met Terri, and may not have gotten into the start-up world.”
Perhaps, but that’s the beauty of life. The key is to be prepared and have the tools that will bring you success. Listening to wise mentors, completing high school and going to college will pave life’s path to success.