David Washer is fascinated by the power of data. The UBC Master of Business Administration (MBA) alum is an expert at mining, sorting and synthesizing facts and numbers to reveal answers about a complex world. It’s a passion he gets to practice every day as the Director of Data Operations for Vancouver-based tech company, Klue.
Uncovering clues to help clients win in the marketplace
Washer leverages his business education to make waves in the competitive intelligence space. By collecting and analyzing critical information on companies, customers and various market factors, he and his team help businesses improve their organizational performance.
“Competitive intelligence can support every industry and every business application,” says Washer. “Whether it’s deciding which markets to enter or how to support your sales team or what’s the next big thing, competitive intelligence helps everyone make better business decisions.”
Education as a catalyst for change
Washer credits the MBA program at the UBC Sauder School of Business with giving him the skills to break out of his comfort zone and explore a different career path. Born and raised in Scarborough, Ontario, he studied economics at Sir Wilfred Laurier University and then entered the Bank of Montreal’s Anti-Money Laundering division. After six years of leading teams and gaining valuable operations experience in Toronto, he was ready for a change. To achieve what he had in mind, he needed to go back to school.
“I wanted to live somewhere where I had more outdoor activities nearby, and what I liked about the UBC MBA program was its strong focus on entrepreneurship and innovation.”
Washer moved to Vancouver and began the full-time MBA program in 2015. From the first day of class, he says he was inspired by the spirit of cooperation within his cohort.
“There were 100 of us and there was just so much collaboration,” recalls Washer. “There was a core message throughout the program, which was sustainability and how to become an ethical leader and a good person.”
My cohort was pretty exceptional in terms of everyone’s desire and willingness to collaborate and support one another. They were good people trying to do the right thing in business.
The right place at the right time
Amidst a jam-packed curriculum, there was an entrepreneurship course that was particularly impactful. It was taught by Paul Cubbon, Assistant Dean, Innovation at UBC Sauder. Cubbon is also the Leader of Creative Destruction Lab – Vancouver, an incubator program for massively scalable, seed-stage ventures.
“It was such a thrilling class,” recalls Washer. “We were modeling and evaluating start-ups to see which had the highest potential based on value proposition, leadership team and market size. When I think about the work that I do today, I basically apply the learnings from Paul’s class to any new initiatives I can think of.”
Through his MBA, Washer also met entrepreneurs leading some of Vancouver’s most exciting tech start-ups. One such leader was Jason Smith, a UBC Sauder graduate and Co-founder of Klue. Impressed by what Smith and his small team were trying to achieve in competitive and market intelligence, Washer decided this was a company where he could apply his talents. Upon graduation in 2017, he accepted a role as a Customer Success Manager at Klue. As the company grew, he became the Insights Lead, then the Data Governance Manager, and today he leads the company’s Data Operations.
Looking back, he can’t help but feel that serendipity had a hand in things. Not only did his move to the West Coast result in a new career in Vancouver’s high-energy tech sector, but he also met his future wife, Julie Hommik, a fellow MBA student.
“We have some great friends from our MBA days,” says Washer. “Everyone went off in different directions, so my network is far and wide. I can reach out to them and say: ‘Hey I’m running into this problem at work. Have you ever seen it before?’ And they’ll share their insights and advice.”
On ethical leadership
These days, Washer is working intensively to support Klue’s explosive growth. The company has raised $81 million in capital funding and supports more than 100,000 users. As the leader of a growing team, Washer continues to leverage his business education, including the responsibility of ethical leadership.
“For me, being an ethical business leader means being honest and transparent and coming from a place of caring. I learned that in the MBA program and am most comfortable with that leadership approach.”
He’s also dedicated to fostering a culture of continuous learning. “I love the idea of the learning organization. How do I create an environment for my team to keep learning and growing and pushing in the direction that interests them most? I like to take a partnership or co-learning approach.”
It’s never too late to explore the ‘what if’
It’s been five years since Washer graduated from UBC Sauder and joined Vancouver’s tech community. As a business leader breaking new ground in competitive enablement, every day offers a new set of surprises. He tackles each challenge with his sharp business acumen and, on occasion, a little help from his friends.
“I came out of the MBA program with a smarter business mind. It gave me a fast track to entrepreneurship. By learning about different businesses and their strategies, I gained a clear picture of what I wanted to do next in my career.”