Tech expert makes sense of the digital world
Marc Saltzman (BSc, 1993) didn’t go to journalism school, nor did he study computer science or technology at U of T Scarborough. But that hasn’t stopped the Psychology graduate from earning a worldwide reputation as a technology guru.
Saltzman has parlayed an early love of digital media into a freelance career that includes 16 books, a syndicated column with the largest American newspaper group, regular contributions to more than 40 prominent North American publications, and numerous appearances on CTV and on CNN as well as on the big screen during pre-movie features.
His areas of expertise as a commentator and consultant include consumer electronics, video games, computers and Internet trends.
“I found that I had a knack for explaining this technology in plain language,” says Saltzman. “So maybe not having formal training or not growing up as a geek helped me out in the end.”
He credits his U of T Scarborough studies for developing strong critical thinking and writing skills. Even more important, he applies his psychology background in his work, trying to lure the reader or viewer into staying longer.
“The stickiness of my articles or videos is very important to me,” he says. “I don’t want to lose them half way through. So the words I use, the tone of the words, the pacing—those are all things I have learned from psychology to keep the person engaged.
“That’s something that I either learned or sharpened at U of T Scarborough.”
Saltzman says his lack of formal training in both journalism and technology has been a challenge, forcing him to learn quickly on the job.
Self-employment can also be intimidating. “You’re basically trading stability for opportunity, but my personality is very much into that,” says Saltzman. “I’d much rather take a chance and not have that secure feeling, rather than be paid the same rate, week in and week out, and have the same job.
“I consider myself very fortunate.”
Always the entrepreneur, Luki Danu (BSc, 2002) has turned a passion into a business. He helps others reach their career potential through his new company, FOCUSinspired.
Danu was a successful management consultant for more than 12 years after graduating with a Co-op degree in Computer Science. In 2015, with a second child on the way, he began to question his career path.
Danu had recruited UTSC students for jobs at firms where he worked. This opened his eyes to the world of career coaching and mentoring.
“I now call myself a ‘career catalyst,’ having created a Career Guidance System that helps others find focus and be inspired to reach their career potential,” says Danu. His secret? “Sharing ‘SIWIKE—Stuff I Wish I Knew Earlier.’ And there are books, apps, corporate offerings, and placement services on the future roadmap,” he adds.
Danu credits UTSC for providing the foundational knowledge he needed to start his career, and also for the recruitment experiences that exposed him to the value of mentoring and coaching.
“I continue to be open to opportunities for adding more value to UTSC, and to elevate its reputation on the Canadian and world stage,” he says.
Shalane Katugampola’s embrace of the digital world has led her to a dream job at Amazon.
Katugampola (BA, 2007) earned a degree in Economics for Management Studies and International Development Studies, then returned to U of T in 2009 to complete a certificate in
e-commerce and web marketing.
Since graduating, she has worked at some of Canada’s top media companies—including the Toronto Star and the CBC—where she embraced the digital world.
She was recruited by Amazon in 2015 and now leads Online Experience for Amazon Locker at its Seattle headquarters. Amazon Locker is an online service that lets customers pick up a package at a time and location that’s convenient.
Katugampola, who is a guest lecturer in digital technology at U of T, says her diverse education at U of T Scarborough gave her the tools she needs to tackle the business challenges she faces at Amazon.
“At Amazon, we have a saying that ‘every day is Day One,’ meaning that you’ll never know everything there is to know, especially in the technology industry, which changes so quickly,” she says. “I’m constantly pushed outside of my comfort zone and tasked with solving unique and complex problems unlike ones before.
“I rise up to this challenge knowing that I have the right set of tools to succeed, and find myself learning and growing in so many valuable ways every day.”
For Dennis Liu (BSc, 1998) graduating from U of T Scarborough was just the starting point of a whole new relationship with the University.
Liu, who earned his degree in Neuroscience, is now an avid volunteer with UTSC’s Department of Athletics & Recreation. He is also an executive member of the new Athletics Alumni Association. “With all Athletics & Recreation means to me, I have been compelled to give back to the University, and the department,” he says.
Liu, a practising chiropractor, has also been a faculty member at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College for 11 years, teaching and conducting research in the neuroscience program. His research aims to find procedures that demonstrate the effectiveness of chiropractic treatment on the peripheral nervous system.
Liu remains a frequent visitor to UTSC’s athletics facilities and has noticed a few changes over the years.
“What was once a small gym, where you could be sure to run into friends, is now a world-class athletics facility,” he says. “There are still a lot of familiar faces. But now the facility brings me back, because I can add swimming and running to my workout.”
Combining scientific expertise with business acumen, Dr. Duane Mendis (BSc, 1990) is providing a made-in-Canada solution for managing the explosive growth of genomic technologies and the associated tsunami of data.
He launched D-MARK Biosciences in 2008, offering leading-edge products and services—including, automation, informatics, storage and security—to scientists in the genomics sector of life sciences.
“Genomics is the fastest growing technology on the planet, growing approximately twice as fast as the microchip industry,” he says. “Our customers are every major genomics lab in Canada, every molecular diagnostic lab in Canada, and the vast majority of sites performing any type of genetic analysis.”
Duane graduated with a degree in Cell and Molecular Biology in 1990. He completed a PhD at U of T in 1996, then spent some time in academia and at a private company before starting up D-MARK.
He says his “biggest gift” from UTSC was meeting his wife while in first-year biology. He’s also grateful for an intimate and diverse learning environment that cultivated a balanced perspective to life that has carried over to this day.
“I think that when you are at the St. George campus, you are surrounded by people who have similar sub-specialties as you, and you are influenced by others that have the same narrow focus,” he says. “UTSC allowed me to specialize, but at the same time allowed me to experience a broad set of interests.”
In business, you need to spot disruptive events to your industry, he says. “That disruptive technology often comes from outside your peer group. The ability to see how other perspectives could influence the industry I work in is directly correlated to how UTSC embraces the diversity of experiences to carve out a unique path.”