Humans of Tech - Emily Lonetto
What is your story?
It’s actually pretty random. I started off in high school as one of those super annoying type A kids that won’t take No as an answer… (thanks Dad)....I thought for sure I was going to be a rock star and had a band - we did some (light) touring - but overall we weren’t thrilled by the experience. We struggled with booking agents and were often thrown in with other bands that were a completely different genre and audience - and we weren’t alone. It was then, I decided to set up a show of my own. Using the connections I made while playing, a clipboard, and the tenacity only a sixteen year old could have - I started to call venues, book meetings, and put together a booking agency of my own. Throughout high school, I put on shows all around Toronto focused on creating more cohesive experiences - like booking bands with similar genres, giving bands more time to play - and creating better shows.
After my quick love affair with music, I went to Western University for Media, Information, and Technoculture along with Ivey Business School program where my inability to take No served me well. One of the major projects all Ivey students have to participate in is the Feasibility Project. We were explicitly told not to try building a tech company or an app, so naturally, I tried building a tech company and an app. We ended up doing really well and eventually went to New York City to pitch it to investors. After that, I was hooked.
What is your greatest internal motivator?
Other than being a work masochist? I’d say being an avid learner. My ultimate goal is to continue being able to teach new growth practices to more people. Growth is so important - not only for startups, but for business in general. More importantly, it’s still new enough that the people who do it today can still help define it. The drive to continuously learn and share the knowledge is something I believe in strongly. I was fortunate enough to have some really amazing mentors throughout my career and it’s through their knowledge and openness that I’ve been able to develop my skills so far - naturally I need to give back. That’s why I try to dedicate a ton of my free time to planning events for people interested in growth through Growth Hacking Toronto and GrowthTO, and never turn down an opportunity to lead workshops/keynotes or participate in growth conversations.
What are you most proud of professionally?
For one, I’m just starting out! So there’s so many more things for me to go out and try to achieve. However, I think my biggest professional win so far has been being able to go back to my alma mater, Western, and inspire students to think about tech.. I hate how many people assume you need to ‘code’ to make a difference in tech. Tech is amazing because of its wide perspectives and drive to solve meaningful problems, and that comes from a diverse group of people working together - and that includes non-technical people as well! I really want to empower people who don’t identify themselves as being technical and believe themselves unable to make a difference in tech. It takes all kinds to make a tech company work and I love that I get to encourage people to embrace their love of tech while using their own strengths. I regularly challenge people to embrace being a Swiss Army Knife - someone that has a ton of tools, that’s adaptable, but also knows how to own their one main skill/tool. People don’t need to feel like they're the experts at everything, but they have to be curious enough to understand how to ask the right questions and figure out where they can help.
Working in the tech industry can be very demanding, what do you do outside work to maintain energy?
I like to stay busy. I really do suffer from StartUp Syndrome where work is life but I’m making a concentrated effort to schedule in down time. I will literally schedule in time to relax in my calendar. I organize Fam Nights to make sure I spent quality time with my friends and I’m getting back into playing guitar.
Another thing I do is try to explore through coffee. I know that sounds bizarre, but bare with me. When I first moved to Toronto, I found it difficult to motivate myself to explore the city and discover new pockets outside of my home base. So I decided to challenge myself to walk around, pop in a podcast, and try 100 new coffee shops around the city. Naturally, this turned into quite the challenge - and has now turned into a passion project of mine called Coffee Maps. So far, I’ve got about 400 and something listings and I’m logging places based on their bean types, ambiance, etc. and turning it into an interactive map for coffee ‘addicts’ like myself! Not only has this seriously upped my coffee knowledge over the years, but It gives me a reason to keep my coding skills fresh!
What’s the most exciting aspect of the Toronto tech ecosystem, in your opinion?
This is going to sound cliche but honestly how many badassses there are in Toronto. There is no shortage of people doing unreal things in the city. Every single time that I go out to an event, I’m pleasantly surprised by how many cool side projects, ideas, and people there are in the city - things I never would have known at the surface level.
And there’s a great collaborative nature to the Toronto tech ecosystem. There’s this spark that’s undeniable. Toronto is uniquely diverse and is hungry to make its mark in the tech world - and that’s exhilarating. We have something special here in the city, and you can tell that people actually want to help each other succeed.