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Connector Spotlight: Joel Zien



February 4, 2022

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

One picture of Joel being serious, and another picture of Joel being silly with a figurine of the Joke on his shoulder.

From 4-star kitchens to boardroom pitches; Joel Zien doesn’t just enjoy the heat – it’s where he does his best work. Better still, he’s experienced the career-defining moments to prove it. And as Managing Director of Growth and Client Experience, he’s on a mission to clear the path for clients and Connectors alike to achieve theirs. 

Tell us a bit about the projects you’re working on.

Every week; every day is a bit different for me, and that’s exactly how I like it. Don’t get me wrong; structure and process to progress forward are essential, but I’m afforded a lot of creativity, autonomy, and opportunity to strategize. Leading Client Experience and Growth is a dynamic role, with new asks and challenges every day. 

Right now I’m focused on achieving our ambitious revenue target by winning the right projects with the right partners that will give Connectors the chance to make real product and client impact. In my six years here I’ve learned that when we chase ambitious projects the revenue follows. I still pinch myself thinking of the incredible products we get to work on. 

Even though my day-to-day changes, what’s unchanged is my gratitude for my team. I’m supported by a team of super-smart and ambitious talent that I get the pleasure of working with and learning from every day. I choose to allocate a large amount of my time working with each of them to help creatively solve complex challenges, problems, and issues, but more importantly, propel them forward to success. 

Where did you work prior to Connected?

The aspiration was chef and restauranteur. I worked and was trained at some of Canada’s top restaurants, with my last stop being a Chef de Partie (a chef in charge of a particular area of production in a restaurant) at Canoe in Toronto. 

From there, I was fortunate to find my way to Xtreme Labs as a legal administrative assistant. The rest, as they say, is history. And while I don’t know where my career will take me, the skills, discipline, and lessons that I learned in the kitchen will stay with me forever. They have been huge contributors to many of my achievements today. 

Side note, I may or may not try to engage my team in some fun virtual cooking challenges every now and then in an attempt to show off my culinary skills. And I also may or may not still be bitter about losing the annual CXG Grilled Cheese competition, but I am certain if the judges could’ve tasted my grilled cheese I would have been victorious…(obviously) 

What achievement are you most proud of in your career to date?

Building relationships and partnerships with some incredible individuals at some of the biggest brands there are. But more than that is the pride of knowing that this allows the people around me to do some of the best work of their careers. 

I’m really proud of Ford X, which ultimately resulted in their recent announcement forming a new LLC/JV with ADT called Canopy (read more about it here). I worked closely with Ford Leadership and the Connected team to define and build our engagement plan and partnership model which turned into an exhilarating 2+ year journey ultimately resulting in the creation of breakthrough technology in vehicle security and the successful launch of a new organization for our partners at Ford. 

Seeing our clients succeed both in their product vision and in their careers from partnering with us compounded by seeing our Connectors get the chance to work on career-defining products will be a moment I will look back and remember forever. These are moments I chase, and why I work so hard with my teams to do what we do. It’s a beautiful example of how client impact, product impact, and Connector impact can work harmoniously together. 

Do you have a mantra you live by?

“This too shall pass”

What do you love to do outside of work?

Food. I thought the chef thing would have been a giveaway.  But ya, there are few pleasures like cooking an extravagant meal. My wife, Ally, feels very lucky, not knowing I’m just trying to keep her fooled that I’m not half bad (fun fact: I met my wife at Xtreme Labs!). It’s not just cooking, we love dining at restaurants and trying new spots in the city! My go-to for takeout in Toronto is Gushi, and any time I’m visiting family in Vancouver it’s Giardino’s. I’m lucky that our remote-first culture means I don’t have to choose where I spend my time. 

And if I’m not cooking a meal or eating at a restaurant, then I’m going on an aimless drive with my wife and dog, Cozy.

If you were stuck on a deserted island, what album, movie, and book would you take with you?

Album: All Eyes on Me – 2pac

Movie: Goodfellas 

Book: The Night Circus 

Describe yourself in three words.

Confident, Loud, Hungry.

And finally, what is your favourite product and why?

I never leave home without my Apple AirPods. They make it easier to fill the silence of my life. Plus, my podcast listening has gone up 100% since owning AirPods. Despite what my team or wife might say, I’m convinced it means I’m getting smarter… I think? I hope? 

Anyways, if you get the chance, check out the All-In Podcast or the Lex Fridman Podcast; both are good to fill those awkward silences we all hate.

Three pictures of Joel with his dog, the first making a silly ace, the second hanging on a patio, and the last outside.

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