VanAerial

It’ll Be An Adventure, lululemon.

Right, off the start, big news. I’ve taken a position as a 3D print specialist in R&D at lululemon.

To tell the truth, while contemplating how to set the tone of this post, I wasn’t quite sure how. Three sayings kept coming to mind; each a part of a larger, ever-growing list I keep tucked away on the notepad in my phone.

"You never know what you can do, you never know what you can contribute, unless you take the chances and accept the opportunities."

This is the main reason I took the job in the first place. The move represents not only a huge opportunity for myself, but one for the future of Vector Finesse as well. Which brings me to my first point: This doesn’t mean VF is done.

Too much time and energy has been put in to getting the company to this point to just drop everything and leave it. As a maker, if something doesn’t exist, you find a way to build it yourself, and VF was my chance and opportunity to build my own 3D printing job.

Few people outside my parents saw the hundred hour weeks spent in the basement during the pre-launch year getting a name picked, developing the first website and all of it’s content, the social media, building and upgrading printers, researching new ones, attending 20+ seminars and workshops through Youth Mean Business at Community Futures and the VAP program with ICS, and doing all of the admin work to get everything registered and up and running. I still remember the first few projects that I took on. I remember working until 6 or 7 am watching a print job making sure the original magnetic joints on the printer stayed together so I could get all of the pieces finished, then grabbing some sleep before vapour smoothing the parts for a client the next day. Pretty sure my friends thought I fell off the face of the earth for the most part at that time.

That brings us to the contributions from taking said opportunities. My entire goal here in Prince George was to make 3D printing accessible, and I’m far from done with that, which is a big reason VF must stay alive. It’s getting to a point where people can see the empowerment a problem solving tool like this has, and that’s a great thing. People are beginning to see that nothing is obsolete anymore, we’ve produced replacement parts for out of production equipment that would have been thousands of dollars to replace. We’ve been able to create insanely customized personal gifts that carry for more meaning than something just bought at a store. We’ve had the privilege of working on projects to make small rural communities early adopters of 3D technology and so much more. That’s just the beginning, and it’s going to continue.

"Change is uncomfortable, fluidity is uncomfortable, the unknown is uncomfortable. No one gets anywhere by staying in their comfort zone."

One thing I truly believe is that when people embrace being uncomfortable their achievement level is absolutely staggering. I feel getting out of your comfort zone, your bubble, the status quo, whatever you might call it, is necessary to find any form of progression personal or otherwise. Which is why now’s a better time than ever to get out of my comfort zone, my bubble, the status quo, whatever it is that surrounds my work and my business. I had been mentioning it to friends, and plans were in the works to make a move by September, but this chance arose and kicked everything into high gear. I’m excited for the challenges that lie ahead, getting utterly outside of my comfort zone, and taking an adventure into some new territory.

"If you’re passionate, and driven and focused in what you do…if you’re really f***ing good at it; people will take notice."Dave Grohl

I had my nose buried in projects, and I didn’t even know there were any available 3D printing jobs in Canada, let alone BC. I’d toyed with the idea of going abroad to work with a company in the Netherlands, but that was off the table when I received a message via LinkedIn from a recruiter for lululemon. I decided to reply and see where it went, not expecting it to come nearly this far, and I guess that’s where the above saying ties in. Anyone that knows me, or has heard me speak about 3D technology knows I’m very passionate about these tools and pushing the limits of what people think can be done with them.

It started five years ago in my second semester at Selkirk College when a project called for designing something to make with the 3D printer. Immediately I saw the impact this little machine could have on my life as a tool to help me creative problem solve. I based my final capstone project on pushing the limits of what people think a desktop 3D printer can do, and haven’t really stopped since then. I started producing "Will It Print Wednesday" nearly two years ago to ensure I got to do at least one personal project per month, and that paired with three years running Vector Finesse with a "yea, we can probably do that" attitude has honed my skills to a point where people have started to take notice.

Now, it’s not just me either, VF has started to get a name for itself as the problem solvers. We’re starting to see a bit of the fruits of our labours in the form of new clients seeking us out. Another reason for taking the position at lululemon: it’s another step on that path of progress, there will be new challenges I’d never encounter, experiences I’d never have, and mistakes I’d never make if I stayed here. Both myself and VF are far from done on the professional development front, we’re still hungry, we’re still getting better, and maybe more people will start to take notice.

How will VF stay active in Prince George?

I’ve enlisted the help of a fellow 3D printing enthusiast and recent graduate from Mechanical Engineering at UBCO, Morgan Andreychuk, to be the satellite operator of VF in Prince George.Morgan's headshot I’ll still be answering the emails, designing most of the pieces, and overseeing everything remotely, but Morgan will be equipped to print and deliver local orders outside of his current day job. Any FDM work originating from Prince George, whether it be through email inquires to me, or the VF Prince George 3D Hubs page, it will all be printed and delivered in Prince George by him. That means no worries for any of our current clients who have recurring needs, or new clients who want to utilize the speed benefits of getting prints done locally.

Shout-outs and thank yous.

First off, my family. I can’t thank my parents enough for believing in me and letting me take over their basement while I worked insane hours putting something together even though I didn’t really know what I was doing. To my older brother Paul for seeing the value in what I’m trying to accomplish and helping explain that to Mom and Dad. To my sister Sarah and brother-in-law Ryan, thanks for being my wedding cake topper promo models.

To StartUp PG, thanks for connecting me to the small business community in Prince George, the connections were invaluable and hanging out with other entrepreneurs helps keep me sane.

To Jason Hamborg at 6ixSigma, thanks for pointing me towards Community Futures and YMB, VF wouldn’t have gotten this far so quickly without that program.

To all my co-workers at THINC. the OG’s (Glenn, Jason, Dan, and Dan from 6ixSigma, Elisha, and Lakeysha from DUC), and the new additions (Shawn and Sara from Volcanic Gaming, Rob from SwirlyBird, Miranda from DUC, and Andrew), you made work not feel so much like work.

To Graham and Tom at Community Futures Stuart-Nechako for being champions of my cause and connecting me to the smaller communities to the west.

To the Two Rivers Gallery and MakerLab for trusting some random dude off the street who said he knew a thing or two about 3D printers and laser cutters.

To Jason Taylor at Selkirk College for introducing me to desktop fabrication tools, trusting me to fumble my way through learning them, and sharing his mantra of “learn just enough to make almost anything”.

To every customer and client we’ve had so far, for trusting us to execute on projects.

And finally all of my friends whom I did and didn’t get to spend much time with for putting up with my insane aspirations, schedule, and constant babble about 3D printers.

Thanks, and apologies to anyone I missed; traumatic brain injuries do things to your memory.

John Makowsky – Owner, Vector Finesse

You can keep up with VF’s adventures by following us on social media.

(Feature photo credit: Vancouver via photopin (license))

Comments 2

  1. Kay Robinson

    Hello, thank you for sharing your journey, it re-ignited the passion I once found in this job as the community voice mail coordinator, you had made some cell phone shaped plaques for us, I feel so proud of you and I don’t even know you. All your hard work has paid off. Reading you blog, has giving me the courage to on with my dream, and for that, I thank you

    Kay Robinson

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