Chief Development Officer and team take SciMar to exciting heights
Fifteen years ago, John West was driving with his uncle near Bridal Falls, just east of Vancouver, British Columbia, when he saw a paraglider flying overhead. Eyes wide, West and Uncle Bruce darted through a maze of country roads, heads sticking out of the car windows, trying to navigate to where the flyer was looking to land.
West and his uncle arrived just in time to ask the glider “a million questions” about paragliding. West was wowed and intrigued, but never imagined he himself would ever run off the side of a cliff and float 7,200 feet above the ground.
Well, things change.
Today, West is the guy in the sky approached by enthusiastic onlookers with a million questions about the activity, and he can answer just about every question about fear, preparation, risk, and solutions. Not just about paragliding, but about business.
“I started paragliding as we were developing SciMar, and I don’t think I would have taken up the hobby if it wasn’t for my work,” says the company’s Chief Development Officer since 2015. “I’m actually terrified of heights! The thought of flying came with a lot of fear and anxiety, but that’s what I was feeling in those earlier days at SciMar when we were finding investors, designing our product pipeline, and envisioning the Wellness Transformation Network. That was all scary, too. So, my hobby couldn’t be pickleball; I needed something that would surpass the level of fear I was feeling at work. The exhilaration of working at SciMar is a 10 out of 10. I needed something that was an 11.”
The fact that West’s hobby involves launching himself off mountains shouldn’t lead one to believe he’s reckless. Quite the opposite, in fact. Paragliding involves keen preparation, impeccable timing, considering a variety of routes and destinations, removing risks, and deeply understanding the changing weather conditions that could affect your flight at a given moment. It’s about seeing the big issues and designing solutions to address them. It’s the same careful but ambitious approach that he’s always brought to his work.
“I’ve worked as a consultant, an employee, and as an entrepreneur and have always functioned as a solution architect,” says West. “There is a significant parallel between flying and my work at SciMar. It’s all about preparation, good process, embracing what works, and looking far ahead to be prepared before you launch, because after that moment you are fully committed to a dynamic situation that cannot be paused or slowed until you land it safely.”
After university, West moved to California to study and earned an industry certification from Microsoft as an Enterprise Solution Architect. West joined a mail order computer company as the second employee in a new department called “e-commerce”. A year later that website was selling over US$1 billion.
“It was a crazy time from 1998 to 2000. Our small team of engineers, lawyers, and investment bankers spun off three companies and publicly listed each on the Nasdaq. After that experience, I was hooked on the start-up lifestyle, the big goals, and tight deadlines. It was so exhilarating!,” he says. “By early 2000, I sold my stock options and started my own software company on my 25th birthday. That company grew steadily for five years making bespoke software for logistics and warehousing companies—something we call Enterprise Resource Planning today. Back then we had to build it all from scratch. It was tedious work, but the insights gained into business, both theirs and my own, stuck with me forever.” After five years, West sold his company and relocated to Vancouver.
By 2010, West’s big-picture, data-driven approach to solving problems and delivering valuable solutions catapulted him into a senior management position at IBM, overseeing the work of 200 consultants in the Canadian Business Unit serving large clients. It was at IBM where he fine-tuned his approaches to—and philosophies about—systems, business, and value creation.
“I have never believed in going after the low-hanging fruit first. Going for quick wins is what you do when you don’t have a plan,” he says. “I believe that to be successful and to be innovative in a meaningful way, you need to solve big problems with big solutions. And you need to always look three months, six months, 12 months out, removing risks and boulders along the way. Find what works and then replicate it, leveraging the best talent available; what doesn’t work, you set aside.”
As SciMar’s solution architect, his work is multi-faceted. He leads the company’s product development and marketing efforts, and he is actively involved with CEO Mick Lautt in attracting investors and planning the launch of the Wellness Transformation Network outreach and clinical trial initiative. With the conclusive identification of hepatic insulin-sensitizing substance (the HISS hormone) in human blood in the company’s near future, West, Lautt, and the entire team are set to soar to new heights.
“There comes a time in your career when you want to be doing something that has real impact and real significance for people,” says West. “I like working with others to solve big problems, and the global scourge of type 2 diabetes is a very big problem. I’ve learned that you can’t simply dream of success without execution, because nothing happens. But you also can’t execute without a big vision, because value and potential will be missed. And a big vision is what you need to attract supporters, inspire your team, and transform the world. SciMar is the union of a powerful dream and solid execution. This is where I need to be.”