Chris Neary rocketed up the advertising corporate ladder in England. In Canada, he became the youngest person in Telus's history to hold a directorship. He became the telecommunications company's director of marketing communications in 2004.
Then he got busted attempting to smuggle a backpack of marijuana across the border and was sentenced to eight months in an American federal prison. Now president of his own advertising company, the 36-year-old will share the lessons he's learned at the fourth annual Interesting Vancouver conference, Oct. 14.
"The learning here isn't 'Don't transport drugs over an international border,' because everybody knows that anyway, apart from this idiot," Neary said. "It's more to do with figuring out at what point in your life you're making bad decisions, figuring out at what point in your life you're being supported by the right people, figuring out in your life when something bad is happening. Does it always have a bad outcome?"
Neary is one of eight Vancouverites who will speak at the event that emphasizes private passions over professional accomplishments.
Glenne Campbell will talk about building her own aircraft, Dave Shea will pour forth his passion for beer and Todd Sieling will discuss the urban myths about shoes dangling from power lines.
Sieling has contemplated "shoeffiti" for more than a decade, even contributing to a 2010 Australian short documentary on the subject. "They're kind of haunting," he said. "I call them urban koans. It's a Japanese Zen riddle that's designed to induce a blank state of mind, like what is the sound of one hand clapping. Well there's no answer to it, but it puts your mind into a state where you're more receptive to the world around you, and I think that the shoes are kind of like that."
Most believe the shoes mark drug-dealing sites. "I don't think it holds any water," Sieling said.
He'll discuss prevalent hypotheses and offer his own theory at Interesting Vancouver, where each presenter speaks for 10 minutes.
Advertising account manager Russell Davies started Interesting conferences in England in 2007. "It was about short talks, lowcost, one day, stuff that was just interesting-not professionally useful," states his blog. "In 2007 that was quite a relatively new idea."
Marketer Brett Macfarlane launched the Vancouver chapter in 2008 and his colleagues, including Mark Busse, have kept the event going. "There's too many of these," said Busse, referring to TED, TEDx and PechaKucha. "People often come off as look at me, aren't I great, this is what I do, aren't I very clever."
Busse, the co-founder and design director of Industrial Brand, a brand strategy and communication design firm, says Interesting Vancouver is more grassroots. "We're feeding people's appetite for connecting and finding each other and building community through non-traditional ways," he said.
Event-goers can commune over hors d'oeuvres, Victoria's Driftwood beer and embark on a scavenger hunt through the historical exhibits in the Museum of Vancouver to win an iPad 2.
Busse is pleased Interesting Vancouver will happen at the museum this year. "They're all about what's cool in Vancouver these days. and what's contemporary."
For more information, see interestingvancouver.com