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Day in the Life: Steve – Managing Partner & Founder, Qooluun Ventures

No one really knows what the future holds. But some people understand what it could bring.

Steve is one of them.

He believes a knowledge economy will transform the future of Indigenous people in British Columbia’s interior. Steve is the managing partner and founder of Qooluun Ventures Inc. in Terrace, British Columbia. The company’s experience includes First Nations’ governance, fiscal management, government and industry relations, treaty negotiations and environmental management. He is also a former chief councillor of the Haisla Nation and signed the first liquefied natural gas agreement in British Columbia in 2005.

“A knowledge economy,” he explains, “is monetizing ideas and lifelong learning.” Indigenous Peoples can gain a competitive advantage with access to post-secondary funding and support from organizations such as Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy (ASETS) and Work BC Programs.

Not just a typical day

Steve has spent his career working to secure better lives and opportunities for the Haisla and other nations. An eMBA graduate from the Beedie School of Management at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, he’s completed several complex impact benefit agreements in energy, forestry, environment, export trade and fisheries. One was for the Pacific Trails Pipeline’s right-of-way between Summit Lake and Kitimat.

These agreements look at how developments affect Indigenous people and strive to offset negative effects. The agreements also provide ways for Indigenous communities to be part of and benefit from economic development.

Early in his career, the more work Steve did in this area, the more he sought different possibilities for First Nations people.

“I started looking at opportunities that would lead to good paying and sustainable jobs,” he says. “It’s a different way of looking at economic development.”

Like the future, you can’t predict exactly what a “new economy” will look like. You can, however, create a foundation and develop objectives that will reveal a framework for sustainable solutions. As each objective is reached the lessons learned release structure that can shape the future. Together, these are called proximate objectives.

A proximate objective is setting out to accomplish a bold vision without quite knowing how to get there.

Steve explains an often-cited example is: when U.S. President John F. Kennedy declared in the 1960s America would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. He pledged the nation would harness vast resources to build on their knowledge and experience and apply them to unmanned space flight and eventually landing on the moon.

To ultimately achieve the vision, you have to meet a series of smaller objectives, which allow you to see where you are and how to go where the next steps logically take you.

Environmental sustainability is in our culture, but our people need more exposure to its science and training to blend with our traditional knowledge.

Steve, eMBA graduate from the Beedie School of Management at Simon Fraser University

A common goal

Steve’s first step to achieving his vision was to capture greater environmental stewardship of Indigenous People’s land resources.

“We said we would train people to become enviro-scientists and monitors,” he says. The idea was to create interventions to help people overcome their challenges and create their own successes.

Progress has continued, slowly. “I’ve been pushing at this for 10 years,” he says. “Environmental sustainability is in our culture, but our people need more exposure to its science and training to blend with our traditional knowledge.”

He adds: “I believe that the best potential is to work with the oil and gas industry because they have the resources and the incentive to address environmental sustainability.”

My uncle told me we have a responsibility to help oil and gas companies do ‘it right.’ That means the future has to provide Indigenous people a ‘share and a say’ into what kind of development happens.

Steve, eMBA graduate from the Beedie School of Management at Simon Fraser University

A vision for the future

Many projects in the past have seen mostly entry-level jobs go to First Nations people, Steve says. When the projects wrap up the jobs evaporate. He wants to change how Indigenous people and the oil and gas industry work together. His vision: to give First Nations people and companies opportunities to participate in project bids and contracts. As well, oil and gas companies and First Nations need to get to know one another better.

“My uncle told me we have a responsibility to help oil and gas companies do ‘it right.’ That means the future has to provide Indigenous people a ‘share and a say’ into what kind of development happens,” Steve says. He emphasizes this is important in Canada’s efforts for truth and reconciliation.

“We know where we want to end up, but we don’t know exactly how we will get there. If we follow the late president Kennedy’s logic, and we put our vast resources to work, we can take ‘one giant leap for mankind’ together, Steve adds.

Company

Qooluun Ventures

Location

Terrace, British Columbia

Salary

$54,000 to $106,000

Education

eMBA graduate from the Beedie School of Management at Simon Fraser University

Salary, education and advancement may vary from company to company.

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