As head of Toronto digital creative agency launch*pad, Evan Hadfield has built a name for himself from the ground up. The mastermind behind Colonel Chris Hadfield’s “Space Oddity” YouTube sensation, as well as dozens of other videos by the famed astronaut, Evan knows what it takes to thrive in the internet era. In his talks, he draws upon his experience to explain that when it comes to digital strategy, not every line needs to be straight, and that rigidity can be the greatest barrier to success. Evan was profiled in Notable today, drawing their attention as a young entrepreneur who is making waves in Toronto and beyond:
I try to keep myself busy, so I end up doing a little bit of everything. I develop digital strategy, create campaigns and then work them through the whole lifecycle. Currently, I’m producing a 10-episode animated series, a documentary, a number of music videos, and a live-action science event.
Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
The company is a collaboration of two like minds. My partner, Alex Shifrin, and I have come to similar conclusions through somewhat different paths. Having managed Saatchi&Saatchi from Moscow for years, and having senior roles in a number of startup agencies beforehand, Alex has an endless background of industry experience. On the other hand, I’ve focused more on experiential learning, and have been working around the world in a number of different fields, getting to know the retail industry in China, sports journalism in Latvia, high-end tourism in Germany and Hawaii, and more recently, astronauts in Ontario.
We came together because we have a very similar view of the Canadian identity, and how we can work with companies to make our position stronger, and more positive, on the international stage. As Canadians who’ve spent their lives abroad, we feel we have a unique understanding of what it means to be Canadian on the world stage. Having witnessed the drastic changes to Russia over the last few years, it has never been more evident how an international reputation is both crafted by, and supported through, the good practices of a country on the world stage. In the internet era, a company with two employees can impact the world. In my eyes, that’s a very cool thing to be a part of.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
The best and most challenging part of my day are the same. Creative work, no matter how many times you do it, never really gets less intimidating at the outset. It is hard to make something more beautiful than a blank canvas. That challenge, and fear, is what makes me love my job. I feel privileged to be in a situation where I don’t just get to express my ideas, but also have the means to follow up on them.
What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
I think anyone who is openly talking about their work/life balance is having trouble with their work/life balance.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I see the next five years of simply adding more production to what we’ve already built. My goal is to produce a variety of interesting, positive, small and large-scale media: animated series, documentaries, and ads that don’t suck.
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
The major challenge I had with my career is that varied experiences look terrible on a resume. Most companies have a de facto principle that if you don’t have years invested into their exact company’s structure, you won’t make a good employee. For some reason, this doesn’t apply to upper levels of the company. I believe that this is worsened by the automated systems now becoming ubiquitous for resume collection. I overcame it by starting my own business, which I would say was a bit more like side-stepping the issue.
What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
Success to me is feeling like I’ve made a difference. The first time I realized that my work could actually change things, and matter to people beyond my social group, it opened my eyes to how enjoyable work could actually be.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Positive: Producing and releasing the video for Space Oddity, recorded by my father in space. It brought so much positivity that it would be hard to ever top. Negative: Bombing on a national CBC news show due to a communication issue. That one still stings.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
If you want something, go get it. It might take more than an afternoon, though.
Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
Marinella. They have an incredible house sauce, and some of the best seafood pasta I’ve ever had. I’m actually really pleased that you’ve given me a chance to rave about it.
When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
I like to travel. I’ve been through around 75 countries at one point or another, and end up spending basically all my free time and money on it.
Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
I prefer to travel for extended periods, moving to a central location, finding work, and then making short trips during off-work times. For example, living in Hong Kong allowed me to cheaply see Southeast Asia, China, and the rest of East Asia during limited vacations. In terms of specific favourite place, I’d say that Northern Slovenia is probably one of the world’s best-kept secrets.
If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
The theme from Shaft. I’d have to change my name, though.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
Honestly? Likely washing dishes in some small town in Australia. I’ve never been.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
Yes, I support a number of charities. In my work with my father, we have found ways to support dozens of charities through events, auctionable items, or linking them with books and albums. Our largest support has gone towards the Michael J. Fox foundation, the Red Cross, and the Coalition for Music Education.
What to you is notable?
An idea that is more than the sum of its parts.
BlackBerry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
BlackBerry, for reasons I’m still unclear on.