Humans of Tech - Isabel Freire
Isabel Freire is a Toronto-based product management expert, industry analyst, and digital transformation consultant. She's cultivated a global perspective working with innovators overseas and domestically and she's excited to help companies expand.
Read more about her perspective here!
1. Who are you?
I’m a cross-pollinated Waterloo-Torontonian. I have traits that mix the best of both - Waterloo’s culture of innovation and hustle combined with Toronto’s metropolitan exposure to global competitiveness.
I’ve always been a tech advocate in the sense that I love innovation and all things new. I also look outward and am internationally focused, which has been a big part of my career.
I’m a risk-taker. During the recession in the 90s, I decided to take my EU passport and move to the UK with no job and no contacts, and I ended up creating a career for myself in international strategy consulting. I then moved into the client-side of tech because I wanted to start doing, rather than just advising. So, my first role in product management was with Motorola EMEA; among other things, I ended up launching the first smartphone with video capabilities into the EMEA marketplace – back when people couldn’t understand why we would ever want video on a phone. I loved that type of challenge.
2. What's your major internal motivation for doing what you do?
I enjoy being able to create and articulate amazing products and solutions for customers and clients. Often, people think you have to be either Big Picture or focused only on execution but I think that there is a need for balance between the two. You can think Big Picture but also have the ability to put something great out there. I’ve tried to bring those qualities together, having both consulting and product management backgrounds. I was also recently an industry analyst, honing my capabilities as a tech expert and evangelist. As a result, I’ve had a really well-rounded career.
Canada has so much potential but there’s been much discussion about Canada being a couple of years behind when it comes to tech. That concerns me. There are so many smart people and idea-rich companies here. I’d love to see Canadians take more risks. Initiatives like Communitech’s Beyond Borders Outpost are a great start… the power of business helping business, enabling them to take those risks that they might not have considered otherwise. Canada’s potential is a big motivation for me to help companies scale out into global markets, and not just scale up.
3. How do you maintain energy/recharge outside of work?
I try to find balance - I run but I also do yoga. My kids are both in sports, which means a lot of my free time is acting as a chauffeur/bench-warmer/head cheerleader. I don’t begrudge that time though – I’ve been told I’ll miss it when they head out to university.
I like to joke that as a child of immigrants, taking ‘strange’ food to school when all the other kids had PBJ sandwiches likely made me a foodie before it was hip. l have memberships with the ROM and the AGO. I go to the ballet sometimes. I believe tech and arts can and should go hand in hand.