Legendary Lefty: Caryl

Welcome to ‘Legendary Lefty’ — our series of interviews with our amazing team members that tells their stories.

Today, I sat down with Caryl Longden, our Operations Director, to learn about her journey to Canada, how snowboarding was a driving force, and how she became a Lefty.

Amber: What excited you about moving to Canada?

Caryl: To give you a bit of a background story, in the UK I was an IT manager at the Tamworth SnowDome, which is a ski hill with artificial snow. As part of working there we, my now husband Paul and I, got free snowboarding lessons. We both fell in love with snowboarding and decided our honeymoon would be spent on the mountain somewhere. It just so happened that Banff, Alberta, really caught our eye.

We stayed at the Banff Springs and went snowboarding every day of our honeymoon! It was fantastic. One day on the bus back from Lake Louise, Paul turned to me and said, “I could easily live here”. I instantly agreed. We loved the Canadian culture and we felt at home here..

So when we got back to England, we started the paperwork to immigrate. It took us three years to get it all done. There were a lot of sleepless nights not knowing where our lives were actually going. That uncertainty was quite difficult to deal with… It was a lot of hard work. It is one of those things that if you really want to immigrate you have to be dedicated and put an awful lot of time and energy into it. In our case we were lucky enough that it paid off.

Amber: So when you first moved to Canada, did you go to Calgary as you had visited it before?

Caryl: We didn’t want to move to Calgary itself. I wasn’t a big fan and felt I didn’t fit in. So we came out further west. We were actually looking at Victoria but it seemed a bit too quiet. So we came to look at Vancouver and went snowboarding up in Whistler for the first time, that was when we decided that Vancouver was really for us. Just being such a multicultural city, we felt like we fit in here. That is why we chose Vancouver.

Also it is the grass! The grass is a real attraction! I lived in Kansas and they have such extreme weather that the grass is really brittle and hard. So when you lay on the grass, somewhere that has extremes in weather, the grass leaves little dots on your back. Looking at the green grass on the west coast you can tell that it is a temperate climate and that is what we wanted. We didn’t want those extreme climate swings.

Amber: I can see why you would fall in love with it. Did you already have a job lined up when you arrived in Vancouver then?

Caryl: When we got here neither of us had a job. We were having a fantastic time for the first six months being on holiday and going to Whistler and snowboarding.

It was also in that first sort of six months that we found out that Vancouver is a lot about who you know and not what you know when you are looking at getting a job. We found that a very small percentage of people actually got their jobs from applying through advertisements.

The first job I got was through meeting the founder of the company at a coffee shop. Another Brit, he recognized my accent and we ended up having coffee. He offered me a job knowing that I was a Project Manager in IT.

I went to work for them pro-bono to start with. They were in start-up mode so they couldn’t afford me.. there you go! [laughs] So to get my feet wet in the industry in Vancouver, I went to work for them and learn their systems till I got to a position where I could charge for my consultancy to their clients. After three months, that was when I started getting paid. I got a full-time job with them and from there I went to work with one of their clients.

Amber: When did you first meet Chris (Left CEO and Co-Founder)?

Caryl: As part of the process for looking for work, Paul and I were doing a lot of informational interviews. Paul played soccer with one of Chris’s former co-workers. Paul put me in touch with this soccer player, who put me in touch with Chris. That is how my Left connection started.

Chris and I, and his family, have been friends for many years now. We always said that we would love to work together. It wasn’t til Chris and John started Left and things started picking up that they felt that they needed a Project Manager. That is when Chris approached me to come aboard. That was three years ago and no regrets.

Amber: Other than knowing Chris, was there anything that you saw within Left that made you want to work for the company?

Caryl: There were two things. Firstly it was a company with a lot of potential. There were a lot of smart people here already. I saw the potential in the thinking behind the product so I knew that Left would do well and go far.

The second thing is, it is always good to have a decent boss. I knew that Chris would be. I think there is a huge percentage of people who actually leave their jobs because they do not have good bosses. To actually have a boss that you know is good, that is another thing that won me over.

Also it is 20 minutes from my door to this door! [laughing]

Amber: I was going to ask, when you first moved to BC were you living in downtown Vancouver, what brought you to suburbs?

Caryl: Yes, we lived downtown which was a fabulous location for when we first arrived. We could walk around the sea wall, were close to the mountains and we didn’t need a car. It turned out that every job I had though took me out of Vancouver.

We didn’t move out to the burbs till I was pregnant with our first child. We wanted to buy a house which was a larger and more affordable than what we could have got downtown. Also the infrastructure is a lot better out here for childcare, schools… space! All of those things you need when you have kids.

Amber: Since joining Left, what have been the opportunities for growth within the company and do you feel that you are constantly learning?

Caryl: I started out as the Project Manager, and was promoted into the role of COO for Left Travel. The role was very different than I had done before, thankfully Project Management skills are useful no matter what the role that you are in. Working on the Left Travel side, I really enjoyed working directly with our partners and coming up with new ideas for them. I love the travel space, it is something that I am passionate about.

Amber: It brought you here!

Caryl: Yes! Exactly!

This past year I moved into helping lead operations for the RightMesh project. Now I am getting to work with a lot of new technologies which is very stimulating. We are on the bleeding edge of technology because we are basically inventing the technology.

I don’t think I have ever worked with a team with such a deep level of development. Most of the developers that I have worked with before have built on existing platforms and tools, like Android and iOS development. What we are doing is inventing, which is something completely different to me. There is always a lot to learn.

Amber: Left is a values driven company. Out of our 10 core values which ones do you identify the most with?

Caryl: Take responsibility is the big one for me. It is something I do everyday… I pick things up and I run with them. I expect that from my team members as well. I expect them to complete their action items and execute on assigned tasks… that is probably why I like Operations. [laughs] Take responsibility is the most prominent one in my job role.

On a personal level, I would say family is important. Having a busy family life and being able to balance that with work as well is important to me. Working at Left has allowed me to not miss the big moments by being able to volunteer at my kids’ school and have a flexible working schedule. I’ve helped out on field trips, hot lunch days and track meets. Being able to take my computer home and then go do the activities with the kids, and being able to make the time up that I miss is really important to me as well.

Stay in Touch

To stay up to date with Left, please join our social channels: