Day 175 - Scott

Day 175 - Scott (1st person I approached)
June 24, 2014 - Scott was sitting at a table having a coffee. He had a computer, notebook and phone all within reach. It looked like a mobile office. When I asked Scott if he’d chat with me, he looked online for The Stranger Project 2014 Facebook page, and agreed to chat.


Scott was born in Barrie, Ontario, the youngest of three children.

“My father was in the military so we moved around a bit, but always within the province of Ontario. My parents realized at an early age that I didn’t handle moving very well. I’ve always been a creature of habit I guess. My Dad actually turned down advancement in order to avoid another relocation. They were always supportive,” said Scott. The family lived on base at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Borden, or “Camp Borden” as it's known.

“Everything was contained on the base. I went to school there with other military kids. We had a movie theatre, shops and facilities, all behind the fence of the base. The most amazing thing was the equipment we had to play on, including a military tank that we could get inside,” said Scott.

“The housing was according to rank, so as my father got promoted, sometimes we would move a block away from where we were living. It was still on base, but the next house would be bigger than the previous one, relative to rank. I was still going to the same base school, so those moves were easy to handle. I didn’t have to make new friends and adjust all over again.” The family relocated to CFB Downsview, a suburban base in the Toronto area.

“We lived on base but I went to an off-base school. I definitely noticed a broader more diverse range of kids in school there. I think as I was getting older, dealing with puberty and finding out who I am, I spent a lot of time comparing myself to others. I had made a lot of friends and they all seemed to be more successful than I felt. I played the piano, but I wasn’t a sports team captain. I was very much an observer,” said Scott. The family moved again, this time to the Richmond Hill area, still considered a part of the Greater Toronto area.


When Scott was an infant, his parents bought some property that was largely inaccessible by any means other than boat.

“They took us the first year and we camped in a tent. We went back every year for the first sixteen years of my life. My mother's brother and her sister each owned property on the same lake as well. I helped my father build our cabin which became our summer home. It didn’t have any electricity or running water. My father and I built the other cabins and they had all the modern conveniences, but not ours. I learned a very good life lesson in those early summers of my childhood. A work-hard ethic that has stayed with me. It meant being the first one up in the morning, get the fire going and make the coffee. Get to work on things that needed to be done. I’ve always been a hard worker and I attribute it to those summers with my father,” said Scott.


Scott moved to London, Ontario to attend Western University (University of Western Ontario).

“I went to study business, psychology and a bit of music. In my final year of studying for my bachelor’s degree, I switched direction a bit. I realized that I really liked the psychology. So in my fourth year I moved away from the business and creative side of study, and went into Clinical Psychology.” Scott says.

"It's a challenging field and that made for an intense final year at Western University. I wanted to push forward and decided that getting a Masters degree wouldn’t be enough for me. Sure it can open doors, but I figured a Doctorate would open more doors. I did some research and applied to three Universities that had strong programs. I wrote to one of the Professors that I admired at UBC (University of British Columbia). I said that I was interested in having her as my mentor and guide. The selection process is tight with over 250 applicants applying for 12 places in the program. They looked at my results from Western. Even though I had only done the one year in Clinical Psychology, they were impressed, and I got accepted into the program!” said Scott.


"My parents came to Vancouver with me to help me get settled in to my apartment in Kitsilano. I remember that moment of saying goodbye to my parents when they were heading back to Ontario. I was the first family member to move out of province. It was a significant moment in my life. I had to make all my own decisions. I had come out to my family a couple of years earlier, but now I was socializing and making friends with other people who were gay. I felt liberated,” said Scott. Throughout his years in UBC, Scott studied hard, worked a couple of jobs and travelled in the summer months.

“I had some great opportunities with regard to working and gaining experience. I also travelled North Africa extensively, Mexico, Egypt, India, Western Europe, Thailand, Vietnam. It was that work hard ethic from my childhood that drove me. I worked hard in school, and worked hard outside of school to be able to travel during the summers,” he said.


After getting his Doctorate, Scott got a job right out of graduate school.

“I was working as a Clinical Psychologist at Vancouver General Hospital, working with adolescents. The work was in Cognitive Therapy and Neuropsychology. I did evaluations of patients who had epileptic seizures and weren’t responsive to medications. We evaluated the patients potential for surgery to minimize the seizures through temporal lobe resection. Essentially disconnecting the part of the brain that controlled the seizures. I would then follow their progress and the resulting outcomes of surgery. It was fascinating work,” said Scott. 


One day Scott went out for lunch with someone he had roomed with in University.

“My friend was working for a large telecommunications company. He mentioned that there was a position that he thought I might be interested in with his company. I didn't want a desk job in the corporate world. However this sounded like it had potential. The company were looking to hire a psychologist as an in-house support for their employees. So I applied for the position, and then left for a vacation in Egypt,” he said.


When Scott returned, he was invited for an interview.

“They handed me a newspaper article and asked me to read it. It was an article about computer software that was being developed in California. This software would essentially make healthcare resources directly available to employees. They asked me what I thought of this concept. I was fascinated. Advances, progress and development in the world of psychology, happen at a snail's pace. This was new and innovative. I told them I found it exciting. I was the first interviewee who thought so, and got the job,” said Scott. Part of his learning for this new role was to go to California for several weeks each year, and work directly with the software developer.

“His name is Dr Roger Gould, a leading authority in adult psychological development. I had admired his work for years and now I was working with him!” Dr Gould pioneered the use of computer-assisted and web-based therapy. (*Fact Check - see link below.) Scott wrote handbooks for Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), which were gaining in popularity.

“The handbooks really took off. An international supply company purchased them, and distribution and sales went worldwide." 


Seven years later, Scott was having lunch with his friend who had recommended the telecommunications role.

“His office was down the hall from a very well known company, Wilson Banwell. They made their mark contracting 2500 psychologists to companies worldwide, to support their internal EA Programs. My friend stopped into this office and introduced me to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) whose name was Robert. This man said that while we hadn’t met before he knew who I was! I couldn’t believe it. He invited me to stop by and meet with him after our lunch. Of course I went back after lunch. Robert invited me to follow him downstairs to another floor. He had rented a large office and was about to embark on another venture. He was launching digitally formatted EA Programs. He asked me what it would take to have me leave my current job and work for him. I told him he only needed to ask,” Scott said. For the next ten years Scott worked closely with Robert.

"I was able to establish what and how I wanted to work. I didn’t want to have to go into an office, I wanted shares and I wanted to be a part of the decision making process. Robert said yes to everything. I became the ‘go to’ guy for the company as a resource for all the programs, the content, the look and feel of the brand. I learned graphic design and revamped all the collateral materials. I also learned how to build websites. It really became more like a hobby than work,” said Scott.


About eighteen months ago, the company was sold. Scott has continued working for the new owners.

“I haven’t even met my new boss because they’re based in Ontario. There’s been a certain amount of change because I feel like I have to prove myself to the new bosses. But I’m still not going into an office. I’m actually sitting here working right now (or he was before I started to chat with Scott). The changes have introduced more structure in my role, which is okay, as long as I get to continue working online. I’m not moving anywhere,” said Scott. 

Since being in Vancouver, Scott has had two long term relationships. His first relationship lasted for eight years.

“After that ended, I was in a step class at a gym that I hadn't been to before. there was a man in the same class who caught my attention. We chatted a bit and there was this instant connection. i knew I had to get to know him. We both left the gym and I got into my car. I drove past him on the street and pulled over and went across the street to where he was. I told him that he’d probably think this was weird, but I gave him my business card and asked him to call me if he wanted to go for coffee. I got in my car, which was a green Mazda Miata and drove away. He called and we met for coffee. He’s a physician. He told he called me because the Miata was his favourite car. We’ve been together ever since. Eighteen years.” #notastranger

*Fact Check -