Day 129 - Dean

Day 129 - Dean (5th person I approached)
May 09, 2014 - Dean kept walking when I was explaining what it was I wanted to talk to him about.

“Sure, I’ll talk with you. I’m on a break from work and going to go sit in the sunshine,” he said. So we found a bench in the sun and chatted. Dean was born and raised in Sarnia, Ontario. He is the youngest of three children with an older brother and sister. 


“It’s interesting that you ask about my siblings. I didn’t go to the same high school as they did. At our house, we always all sat down to dinner together. If dinner wasn’t on the table at 5 o’clock, then something was wrong. It was from their conversations about what they did at school that I wanted to go to a different school. It seemed like their focus every day was all about the social aspect. I didn’t know how they could be learning from that. I mean, I know that most teenagers concern is with friends and the social aspect, but it seemed that that’s all they talked about. I was interested in doing the best I could. I told my parents I wanted to go to a different high school,” said Dean.


There was one particular teacher in high school that had an impact on Dean’s future.

“He was from England, and his name, no joke, was Les Pay. I liked him because he would call people out on things. If someone in class was being a dink, he’d tell them

“You’re being a dink.” I respected him for that. He taught commercial arts, that was one of my vocational classes. I had taken art in school. That was kind of a joke back then, but this class, I realized I could earn a living drawing things. Les Pay was the teacher who ignited that spark, or idea,” Dean said. We spoke about the difference when a student is engaged and passionate about the subject they're being taught.

“I liked the class, and that made it easier to learn. Some elements of it were hard and that made it more like work to learn, but for the most part, it came easily to me,” he said.


Dean moved to London, Ontario after graduating, to go to college.

“I studied Industrial Design. Again I had one teacher there that I learned a great deal from. He was from Romania (at a time when it was becoming the most Stalinist police state in the Eastern bloc). In his childhood youth were assigned training for careers. From a very early age it was determined what his path would be. He managed to flee to Iran where he spent four years in the military before being able to head west. And he ended up teaching industrial design at a college in London, Ontario,” said  Dean. I said that I thought design would be a hard thing to assign to someone without knowing if they had the aptitude for it. Application can be taught, but if the creative side was missing it would be just process.

“It was his life. Even when we went home for break and holidays, he would be off to Japan to work on a computer design or some other big project.” 


After completing the three year diploma program in London, Dean headed to Toronto in search of work.

“It was during the recession and nobody was doing any R&D (research and development). There wasn’t much going for a product designer. I went back to Sarnia to figure out what I was going to do. A friend of mine told me he was driving out to the west coast, and I said if he had room in the car to let me know,”said Dean. “The next day he called and said ‘I’ve got room for one person and a backpack.’ I had relatives from both sides of the family in Vancouver, so I hitched a ride and moved to Vancouver!”


When Dean got to Vancouver, he started volunteering at a local community centre. It was there he met a woman involved in Social Planning at Vancouver City Hall.

“She put me in contact with someone at City Hall, and I ended up in a nine month program through the City. Part of the funding came from the Federal government. It was a resource for development instead of being on EI (Employment Insurance) or welfare. It was job training and skills, as well as I think I had three placements in different departments at City Hall,” said Dean. That lead to his getting a permanent job with the City of Vancouver.

“I’ve been involved in many projects over the years. I don’t think I’ve done my greatest work yet,” he said, laughing. 


Dean is currently working on a project related to the city’s view corridors. Vancouver has 27 protected view corridors, established to protect the view of the North Shore mountains, the Downtown skyline, and the surrounding water.

“I’ve worked for the city all these years. I have a house and a cabin and a good life. It’s funny to think that it all started with that backpack in the car that I hitched a ride in.” #notastranger