Born and bred in Calgary, Shawn Freeman is an entrepreneur, personable geek and the founder of IT services company TWT Group Inc. After completing a degree in computer science at the University of Calgary, Shawn worked in IT for several big companies before leaping off the corporate ladder in 2009 to start his own shop. He founded TWT Group with the goal of making IT easy instead of infuriating. A fiend for travel, Shawn hits the road often, parking his laptop on the beach in Mexico and on the patio in Palm Springs. He generously lends his IT skills to several Calgary non-profit organizations, including Youth Central in the Kahanoff Conference Centre. Intent on supporting bright young minds in tech in Calgary and Alberta, Shawn also runs Young Professionals in Technology, a group that provides networking and mentorship opportunities.
Shawn: For me, it means creating solutions that continue providing value over time and changing those solutions when we realize they are no longer adding value. You’ve got to evolve and build things that will have a positive impact on generations to follow.
Shawn: Yes. I’ve had two. My dad, who helped me follow my passions and convinced me to start TWT Group, and continues to advise me and encourage me. A previous boss, a CFO at an Oil & Gas company really mentored me on the business side of technology as well as valuable skills on building a company.
Shawn: I think success is the ability to do what you’re passionate about and to the live the life you want to live.
Shawn: Short. Effective. Unconventional.
Shawn: I would say to look into technology to see how they could use it to make a difference in the energy industry. Look at your specialty and see how it relates to energy. I’d also recommend working with a small company because you learn more, have more freedom to do new things and are given more responsibility.
Shawn: I hit a milestone in my career just as it was getting started. I was in a serious car accident in 2007 when I was still a student. I was very close to being paralyzed, and had to undergo five surgeries and three years of physiotherapy and rehabilitation. The accident helped me realize how little time we have and how important it is that I follow my dreams to run my own business. My perspective changed. I knew that my life could change in an instant, so I had better be doing something that I loved.
Shawn: I was really challenged by the notion of the corporate ladder and the pressure to climb it. I found that people valued irrelevant experience over execution. I’ve worked hard to create an environment that values skills over credentials.
Shawn: Technology is my career. Some could argue it is everyone’s career — or it will be soon.
Shawn: Our company will be growing more and more. I’ll be reaching to more business leaders for advice. I’ll be working more on my business, and delegating the tasks in my business to employees.
Shawn: Being from Calgary, you don’t really have a choice but to be involved in the energy industry, so I found a way to take my passion, which is tech, and find my place.
Shawn: There’s a lot of room for growth, especially when you bring tech into the equation. The industry has an aging population of experts in oil and gas who are awesome at what they do, and soon they’ll be retiring. This exodus will create room for new ideas and new technologies.
Shawn: George Fink, the CEO of Bonterra Energy. He’s been very, very successful but he hasn’t lost track of the people who helped him get there. He runs a $2-billion company that has only about 55 staff. His receptionist, who later worked as his executive assistant and office manager, retired after 40 years of working at Bonterra. It was the only job she held during her working years. Fink took care of his people.
Shawn: Energy means keeping my phone charged all day while I go to meetings, assist clients and travel. Energy, really, is what keeps our economy and everything we do going.
Shawn: iMessage and TripIt. Anything that allows me to stay in touch with my clients and contractors when I’m on the road.
Shawn: They’re going to introduce a different perspective and they’ll replace old systems with new technology-driven systems. They’ll also introduce a different working environment, one that doesn’t favour the 9 to 5 style of the past.
Shawn: Tools like LinkedIn enable you to contact anybody. You can add Bill Gates and he may accept your request. If you have value to add in this space, you’ll get noticed more easily, which will force people to start adding value on social media. Creating great content raises your profile as a thought leader. Quality stuff rises to the top.
Shawn: LinkedIn and Instagram.
Shawn: Yes. I create content for my blog and push it out via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Shawn: I think it helps the smaller companies get noticed. When we were looking for a new employee, we blogged about our paid, paid vacation policy. At the end of the day, I think more informal methods like social recruiting will replace recruiting firms.
Shawn: Because it’s my passion. The fact that what I do and what I love are the same thing is not an accident. You have to work hard to provide value. As a tech person, I get to learn all about business and energy, and work with clients to make sure their IT systems are making them leaders in their industry.
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