By Dr. Doug Norris, Senior Vice President and Chief Demographer, Environics Analytics
The first results from the new 2011 National Household Survey, which replaced the Census long form, were just released. The new data underscore the increasing cultural diversity of Canada along two main dimensions: the growing Aboriginal population and the impact of immigration over the years.
Canada is widely known as a country of immigrants, and it has welcomed over 17 million immigrants since confederation. In 2011, there were 6.8 million people who were foreign born in Canada, accounting for 20.6% the total population. This is an increase from 19.8% in 2001 and means that Canada’s immigrant population is now at its highest level in 80 years. Canada already has the highest concentration of foreign born among G-8 countries (the U.S. has a foreign-born population of 13%). Around the world, Australia has a higher concentration of foreign born, at close to 27% of its population.
In 2011, there were 6.8 million people who were foreign born in Canada, accounting for 20.6% the total population.
Of course, some immigrants have been in Canada for many years while others are new arrivals. The NHS reported 1.2 million had arrived during the 2006-2011 period. In addition, there were 356,000 temporary or non-permanent residents in Canada at the time the NHS was conducted. The vast majority of immigrants who were eligible (85.6%) have claimed their Canadian citizenship.
However, immigrant settlement patterns are changing. In recent decades, most immigrants settled in Canada’s largest urban areas, and it is therefore no surprise that Toronto (46%) and Vancouver (40%) still contain the highest concentration of immigrants. Next is Calgary, at 26%, and many other urban areas now have concentrations of 10% to 25%. Although the majority of recent immigrants settle in the Toronto or Vancouver CMAs (census metropolitan areas), settlement patterns have begun to spread out. The NHS data show large increases in immigration to places like Saskatoon, Regina and Winnipeg. Many smaller places also showed large increases in immigration. Although smaller in terms of the numbers of immigrants, these influxes result in significant population increases in these areas.
Over the past 50 years, there has been a dramatic shift in the source countries of immigrants to Canada. Prior to 1961, close to 90% of immigrants came from Europe. In the recent 2006-2011 period, fewer than 15% arrived from Europe. In contrast, 57% came from Asia and the Middle East, 12.5% from Africa, and 12.3% from the Caribbean, Central and South America. In 2011, China, India and the United Kingdom were the top source countries, with each accounting for about 540,000 immigrants, and the Philippines was next with 454,000 immigrants. However, from 2006 to 2011 the Philippines was the top country for immigrants, more than doubling Canada’s Filipino population over the 2001-2006 period.
Changes in Canada’s religious make-up are also revealed in the NHS data. In 2011, 67% of the total population reported affiliation with a Christian denomination, down from 77% in 2001, the last time Statistics Canada collected religious data. In contrast, 24% reported no religious affiliation—up from 16% in 2001. The impact of recent immigration was reflected in the growing population reporting a non-Christian religion, accounting for close to 10% of the total population. Slightly over one million identified themselves as Muslim—3.2% of the population. Significant numbers of Canadians reported other larger, non-Christian religious affiliations, including Hindu (498,000), Sikh (455,000), Buddhist (367,000) and Jewish (330,000).
Visible Minority Population
The visible minority population is growing and changing. In 2011, 6.3 million, or close to one in five persons (19.1%), identified themselves as a member of one of ten main groups: South Asian, Chinese, Black, Filipino, Latin American, Arab, Southeast Asian, West Asian, Korean and Japanese. This was up from 16.2% in 2006. The largest visible minority groups were South Asian (1.6 million) and Chinese (1.3 million), followed by Blacks (946,000) and Filipinos (619,000). Reflecting immigration trends, most of the visible minority population lives in large urban areas: Toronto (47%), Vancouver (45%), Calgary (28%), Edmonton (22%) and Montreal (20%). In fact, in a number of large suburban municipalities around Toronto and Vancouver, the visible minority population is now a majority: Markham (72.3%), Richmond B.C. (70.4%) and Brampton (66.4%). Nearly three in ten of the total visible minority population were born in Canada, with higher percentages at younger ages.
The NHS reported there were 1.4 million Aboriginal people (4.3% of total population), including First Nations, Metis and Inuit people. This figure represents an increase of about 20% compared to a growth of just over 5% for the non-Aboriginal population, but as in past censuses, in part this reflects more people reporting their Aboriginal identity for the first time. Overall, 852,000 identified themselves as a First Nations person, 452,000 as Metis and 59,000 as Inuit. Nearly half of First Nations people with registered Indian status enumerated in the NHS (638,000) live on a reserve. The Aboriginal population is younger than average, with 28% of the population under the age of 15 compared to 16.5% of the non-Aboriginal population.
The NHS was carried out on a voluntary basis and had an overall response rate of 69%. However, response rates varied and were much lower in many census subdivisions representing small towns and villages. In addition, some commentators are worried about selective non-response rates, which may be lower for certain population groups. This differential response can lead to biases in the data, making comparisons over time particularly problematic.
However, it is thought that bias is likely not a major issue for the high-level data reported here, and the comparisons with the 2006 Census are thought to be reasonably accurate. The implications of low and differential response rates will be much more problematic at small geographic levels (such as census tracts and dissemination areas) that are the building blocks for defining trade or service areas. And Statistics Canada has not yet released any information about data quality at these smaller geographic levels. As Jan Kestle, President of Environics Analytics put it, “At first look, I would say that what was released is useful. What I am more concerned about is what wasn’t released. No data were included for small geographic areas, and it is this data that our users rely on.”
For EA customers and the general public, Dr. Norris will host an hour-long webinar on the new data on Tuesday, May 21, at 2:00 PM EDT. Please register here. For more insights and commentary on the latest Census findings, read his blog here. A Q&A with Jan Kestle on the data quality of the NHS can be foundhere.
“Fusing Old Country Traditions and New Century Skills”
Three times a week, Andrew Komaromy dons dancing shoes, a peasant shirt, floral vest and grey fedora and becomes “Bandi,” leader of the Hungarian folk dance group Kodaly Ensemble. For about three hours a night, the Environics Analytics software developer steps into a world of whirling circle dances—some dating to the Middle Ages—with fellow performers who range in age from 6 to 60. After joining the 75-person troop in 2000, Andrew now serves as its president and teaches the traditional dances to performers from Hungary, Canada, Poland, Slovakia and points east.
“I started because I wanted to get in touch with my roots,” says Andrew, whose father and grandparents were born in Hungary. “My parents met through the dance group in the 1970s, so I feel that I owe my existence to it. But I also joined because it was a way to be part of a community and I find the dancing exhilarating. After I started, it almost became a calling.”
But Andrew shows no signs of quitting his day job. He’s quick to tell you that he enjoys being a recent addition to the ENVISION support team, responsible for adding new functionality and resolving technical issues involving the micromarketing platform. For future versions of ENVISION, he hopes to build and enhance the company’s application software, to include the design of visualization tools to analyze data. “The favourite part of my job is getting to apply the skills I learned at Ryerson University to the real world,” he says. “My job involves constant problem-solving, so when I do solve a problem, it means instant gratification.”
And Andrew has gained a reputation as a problem-solver extraordinaire. Last month, colleagues chose him to represent the company in the Alteryx Grand Prix—a competition pitting software developers in a series of programming challenges. The contest took place at Alteryx’s annual conference, this year held at the Phoenix Sheraton inside a raucous ballroom filled with blaring music and hundreds of cheering spectators. Andrew found himself startled by the chaos, even after being prepped by other EA developers who had previously stepped up the challenge. “We were going over strategies up to the last minute, trying to guess what they’d ask,” he recalls. “With everyone screaming from the bleachers, I was a nervous wreck.”
Though he had less than a year’s worth of experience working with Alteryx, Andrew finished a respectable fourth place. “He did us proud, holding his own against competitors with many more years’ experience,” says Gary Wood, EA’s Vice President of Software Development. “Andrew is the sort of guy who will jump in feet first, without knowing what, exactly, he’s getting into. But it works.” Andrew is already planning a rematch at the 2014 event. “Next year, I’ll prepare by having people in the office shout at me for a few hours while I use Alteryx,” he jokes.
“GIS allowed me to use my technical and geographic skills right away,” he says, “and I still ended up a developer like my dad.”
Andrew has always been something of a GIS fanatic since his days in high school when he discovered twin interests in geography and computers. Born in Toronto, he was raised both in North York and Concord, California, the result of his parents divorcing when he was 2 years old. Most of the time he lived in Canada with his father, a computer scientist; for vacations, he headed south to stay with his mother, an administrative assistant. Entering Ryerson University, Andrew originally planned to follow in his father’s footsteps. But he found the computer courses too theoretical, and instead turned to the more applications-focused program in geographic information systems. “GIS allowed me to use my technical and geographic skills right away,” he says, “and I still ended up a developer like my dad.”
Andrew went right from his undergraduate degree in geographic analysis to Ryerson’s master’s program in spatial analysis, earning an MSA in 2011. With his background in information systems, Andrew landed work as a research assistant with department chair Dr. Claus Rinner and the Ryerson School of Journalism, then became a web application developer for DataAppeal and a geo-spatial analysis associate at Bell PMP. He first heard about EA while taking a geodemographics course with Tony Hernandez, a Ryerson professor and director of the Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity. To grade the final project on building a clustering system for Toronto, Hernandez brought in Danny Heuman, EA’s Vice President of Custom Research. Andrew found himself drawn to the challenges of market analytics and customer insights.
“I like the idea of getting a bird’s eye view of what’s going on in a city or market,” Andrew explains. “I’d played a lot of Sim City when I was younger, and I saw a lot of similarities between the game and GIS applications. There’s so much you can learn from analyzing data and bringing it to life through spatial analysis and demographics.”
In the year since joining EA, Andrew has also known the joy and occasional terror of bringing new applications to life as a software developer. His work on the latest edition of ENVISION, version 2.6, involved long workdays to make the March 28th deadline; the update was completed just that morning. “It kept us on the edge of our seat,” he admits. “It was a challenge to get it done and make sure everything worked.” When asked about the secret to being a good developer, Andrew shrugs. “You have to have an interest and a passion in programming,” he says, “and not everyone has that. I find it very rewarding.”
Andrew also enjoys the cultural insights he’s gained since deciding to reconnect with his Hungarian roots as a teenager; today, he’s practically a poster boy for the Environics Social Value Cultural Fusion. While he traces many of his father’s ancestors to the Old Country, his mother’s side were born in Canada. “I describe myself as Generation 2.357,” he laughs. In his spare time, he also serves as youth and sport director for the Hungarian Canadian Cultural Centre. While vacationing in Hungary in 2008, he was attending a heritage festival in the village of Pátka when he struck up a conversation with a young woman, Bia Kozempel, also a fan of traditional culture. They kept talking—“all weekend, in broken Hungarian,” he recalls—and began a trans-Atlantic romance.
Today “Bandi” and Bia share an apartment in the Willowdale section of Toronto, a Newcomers Rising neighbourhood home to many recent immigrants according to the PRIZM segmentation system. “I probably fit the profile,” he says, “because I like bars, social media and soccer.” Then again, Newcomers Rising may not capture their more distinctive lifestyle choices. For instance, their apartment is filled with oversized paintings of Hungarian Husszars, the light cavalry soldiers from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. And the food simmering on the stove may be a goulash or a dish Andrew saw on one of his favourite Food Network shows, like “Eat Street” or “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”
But it’s the couple’s bedroom closet—filled with military riding boots, black felt britches and peasant shirts with puffy sleeves—that suggests theirs is not a typical Newcomers Rising household. “Just don’t get me started on the girls’s costumes,” says Andrew. And if that doesn’t distinguish them from their neighbours, just listen to Andrew’s mobile phone ringtone: a rousing Hungarian folk song.
–Michael J. Weiss
by Uschi Erne
When I think about sports fans, I tend to think about individuals who are complete fanatics. You know the type: they wear oversized jerseys to work, paint their faces on game day and use any excuse to wear hotdog hats. They’re the ones who swing from subway bars, jump down flights of stairs and wreak havoc after a win…or a loss. They’re your second cousin, the friend-of-a-friend, the forever-bachelor uncle who never stopped drinking frat-boy beer. For the most part, they are the ones you don’t necessarily want to watch a game with.
Did I forget to mention I am a sports fan? I like to believe that I am far more sophisticated than the fanatic-type, but maybe not. When I was asked to write a blog post, my first impulse was somehow incorporate sports into it. In fact, many of the projects I work on as a Client Advocate at Environics Analytics consist of identifying the best customer, the “sweet spot” of a business. Using PRIZM, EA’s segmentation system that assigns Canadians to one of 66 lifestyle types, I decided to try and identify Canada’s top sports fans—if only to find more fans like me.
Identifying Sports Fans
To begin my search, I concentrated on three popular North American sports at the professional level: Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL). Each of these organizations draws a large fan base and consists of teams in both Canada and the United States. I selected English Canada as the study area because, based on past experience, Quebec households show different characteristics when it comes to behaviour, values and sports preferences. I also used a simple approach to measure sports fanaticism, relying on three variables from the Print Measurement Bureau (PMB) PRIZMC2Link:
- Watch Regular Season MLB
- Watch Regular Season NBA
- Watch Regular Season NHL
While PMB includes survey questions about attending professional sporting events, the general trend skews toward urban clusters whose members typically live closer to stadiums and arenas and therefore can more conveniently go to games. Sports Fan clusters were selected if they watched any professional sport at more than 10% above the English Canadian average.
Of course, some clusters watch more than one sport – like Cluster 22 Blue-Collar Comfort, an upper-middle class, middle-aged, exurban cluster made up of larger families. In order to find the sweet spot of fans for each sport, however, I removed those clusters that cheer for multiple sports. That left the following
clusters of serious fans for each sport:
By looking at the PRIZM icons assigned to each sport’s target segments, you quickly see similar clusters grouped together. The clusters of baseball fans, for instance, tend to be exurban families and town matures; basketball fans are found in segments filled with urban singles and families, as well as suburban families; and hockey fans are mostly suburban families and mature couples.
To gain a better understanding of these fan segments, I used a dataset called DemoStats (formerly known as Demographics Estimates and Projections) to identify their demographic makeup. The following insights come from weighted demographic profiles, based on the neighbourhoods classified as our fan clusters, so keep in mind that not each and every fan of a particular sport will fall within the same criteria.
In addition to painting a demographic picture of the different types of sports fans, I wanted to get at the root of their motivations and attitudes. Am I really so different attitudinally from other baseball fans? At Environics Analytics, we use a product jointly produced with Environics Research called Social Values PRIZMC2Link, a survey-based database that reveals core beliefs and behaviours, which are later grouped into trends. These trends can help marketers develop the best creative to capture a target market’s attention.
We have already seen that the demographic characteristics of our sports fans are quite varied, and it is no different when we identify some of each group’s top Social Values:
As we can see, where one fan segment ranks high for a particular Social Value, another may be low. Baseball fans tend to be proud and protective of their families, preferring smaller Canadian businesses and making their purchase decisions based on utility. Basketball fans, by contrast, lead more stressed-out lives, likely have lots of responsibilities to fulfill and want to be respected by their peers. Hockey fans like to enrich their lives by learning about other cultures and taking part in large events.
Finding Sports Fans
Finally, I wanted to find the cities and towns (with at least 10,000 households) that had the largest proportions of our Sports Fans target segments:
Bringing it Home
While there are many stereotypical ideas of sports fans, taking this data-based approach to understanding them can really opens some eyes—especially among sports marketers. Baseball fans are typically older in age, live in exurban and town communities, and prefer a quieter lifestyle. They show a preference for small business and, while Home Hardware may not be considered a small business to some, it makes sense that the company has been a longstanding advertiser of the Toronto Blue Jays. Something important to note, however, is that the baseball fans segment scores very low for the Attraction to Crowds value, which may explain why some exurbanites are reluctant to attend a baseball game in a big city.
Basketball fans, who tend to live in urban communities that consist of high proportions of recent immigrants, may be a marketer’s dream. These singles, couples, and families love to tell their friends about favourite products, and they’re always looking for new experiences. Although they appear to be always on the move, they will go online or use their phone to check basketball scores when they are unable to sit down and watch a full game.
Hockey fans still represent the traditional Canadian lifestyle, as some perceive it. Not only do they live outside urban centres, they typically score near the average on most Social Values. In general, these suburban families have embraced diversity in their neighbourhoods and use it as a way to enrich their own lives. Unlike baseball fans, however, they are not the type to shy away from crowds, which makes them a great audience for hockey games. NHL marketers: take notice.
One personal take-away from this brief analysis is that I can certainly identify with some of the characteristics of the baseball fans’ target group, despite the fact that I live in a cluster that roots for hockey and basketball. While my demographic is atypical of the baseball fans segment, I share some of the values of my fellow bleacher bums. Next to baseball, for instance, family and friends come first to me.
So the next time your crazy sports fan friend invites you to a game, just say yes. Sure, you might end up bolting for a seat in a different section, far away from their bullhorn and body paint. But at least you’ll meet some other likeminded people who share your passion for a certain knuckleball-throwing pitcher—or at least your fondness for small DIY businesses.
A Client Advocate in the finance, insurance, travel and telecommunications practice, Uschi Erne helps transform EA research and analysis into successful marketing programs for customers. Besides possessing a master’s degree in spatial analysis from Ryerson University, she is a collector of baseball memorabilia and last year sold a rookie baseball card of Washington Nationals’ centre fielder Bryce Harper for $500.
“A Good Girl Gone Better”
In just five years with Environics Analytics, Emily Anderson has racked up some impressive firsts: In 2009, the staff voted her the company’s first Employee of the Year. Last year, the finance, insurance, telecommunications and travel (FITT) practice named her its first Director of Client Advocates. And just last month, she became the first EA blogger to have a post picked up by the Globe and Mail for a splashy, two-page spread based on her witty analysis of the geography behind the winter blues.
But if you think those achievements have gone to her head, you probably don’t know Emily. When EA president Jan Kestle announced her the year’s top employee at the 2009 User Conference, Emily immediately thanked her team for their great work. “I was just blown away by the award because I have such incredible respect for everyone here,” says Emily. “To learn that enough of the company thinks that highly of me is truly humbling.”
To hear her colleagues, that modesty is part of Emily’s appeal. Since joining EA, she has gained a reputation for long hours, thoughtful analysis, sharp writing and dogged research. She’s been known to spend time on weekends visiting her clients’ retail locations better understand their operations. Once when EA’s data suggested one location should have experienced higher sales than were reported, she camped out at the site to figure out what was behind the numbers. “Emily concluded that the sales staff was distracted by phone calls and the storefront unattractive, but our model didn’t take these things into account,” says Catherine Pearson, vice president and FITT practice leader. “But that’s typical of Emily, who’s so passionate about her clients. When researching a project, she will not leave any stones unturned.”
A fan of the Nancy Drew children’s mystery novels, Emily compares her role to a detective, seeking the truth behind the spreadsheets. “Our job is to find patterns in data,” she explains, “to determine what types of customers are buying a company’s products and services. We want to see how these customers act when they’re buying and what they look like the rest of their time—what kind of sports they pursue, what magazines titles they’re reading. We want to help our clients learn who their customers are and what they can do to better connect to them.”
“My husband jokes that we’re really ‘Rooms with a View of Urbane Villagers .’”
Emily’s curiosity undoubtedly stems from her upbringing, which found her hopscotching the U.S.-Canada border. Born near Chicago, Emily was raised in a middle-class suburb in Connecticut, her father moving up the executive ranks of General Reinsurance, her mother becoming an Anglican priest. “I had to be a model of morality,” she says of her youth. “There’s a phenomenon called ‘PK’, which stands for ‘Preacher’s Kid’, where the children of clergy are held to high expectations in childhood before rebelling later in life.” Emily attended a public school until the third grade, a Christian fundamentalist school until the eighth grade and an all-girls Catholic high school. “I spent so much of my formative years around people from different walks of life that it gave me a real curiosity about what makes them tick,” she says. “I’m still trying to understand the world better.”
Eventually, Emily did rebel when she entered the University of Toronto—though her idea of rebellion was to study sociology. “My parents were pretty disappointed,” she laughs. She ultimately earned an honours bachelor’s degree in economic geography from the UofT and a master’s degree in Spatial Analysis from Ryerson University. Her master’s thesis focused on how to attract consumers to Toronto’s Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area. “I actually developed a market segmentation system for them using geodemographics and some of their existing market research,” she recalls. “It wasn’t very sophisticated but it still provided some good guidance.”
Between her undergraduate and graduate studies, Emily worked for a year as a marketing research intern at Nissan Canada, gaining extensive experience in geodemographic segmentation, trade area analysis, GIS and retail sales performance. “It was a pretty cool job. I got to drive all the cars,” she says. “But I also learned that I wanted to get better at applying geography to marketing. I saw a real need for that and it got me back into school.”
In 2007, Emily took the advice of a Ryerson professor and applied for work at EA as an analyst, a position that evolved into client advocate and, eventually, her promotion to director of FITT’s client advocates. She’s proud of being the 17th employee of the company—the company has since tripled in size—but is even prouder of her appointment as a director. “It meant that the practice teams were growing and we needed to add that next level of management,” she says. “It meant that the company was thriving.”
These days, Emily leads a trio of client advocates who help customers realize the most value from their relationship with EA—whether that involves strategic guidance, ENVISION training or project work. “I see myself as a facilitator,” she explains. “I do a lot of quality control and a lot of coaching on how to do the job in a way that keeps our clients satisfied and the team feeling good about their work.” She describes her management style as client-centric, urging her team members to always place their clients’ needs first. “I often ask, ‘How will our clients use this information?’” she says. “Our deliverables must always be developed with the users and applications in mind.”
While Emily describes herself as a workaholic, she says she’s fortunate that her husband shares that quality. Two years ago, she married John Taranu—also an immigrant, although from Romania—whom she met in a UofT class on GIS project management. “We hit it off while working on a project schedule Gantt chart,” she remembers.
Today the couple lives in an apartment in Deer Park, a mid-town Toronto neighbourhood that PRIZMC2 classifies as Rooms with a View (young, ethnic singles in urban high rises). The segment is often described as transient and downscale—rung 44 on the 66-segment PRIZM lifestyle ladder—but Emily thinks her neighbourhood may itself be in transition. “The way things are with the real estate market in the city, we’re seeing more people with higher incomes putting down roots in our area,” she says. “But on a WealthScapes map, my area is still a sliver of non-money red in a sea of wealthy green households. My husband jokes that we’re really ‘Rooms with a View of Urbane Villagers .’”
Despite their long days, she and John still make time to enjoy the city. They have seats at the opera, go to art galleries and recently started taking salsa dance lessons. “I’m always trying to lead,” she says apologetically. One way they’re different from their segment peers is their love of nature and the outdoors, hiking city trails and frequenting the Brickworks farmer’s market every Saturday. And she and John like to travel, not just to the usual European hotspots but to off-the-path towns and parks in North America—their dusty road bikes strapped to the back of their used Ford Fusion.
“We like to meet new people from all walks of life,” Emily says. “My work feeds this curiosity.”
But when her personal life and work collide, Emily tries hard to hold the line. When news broke that her blog on the winter blues was going to be picked up by the Globe and Mail, she and John were just about to depart for their own winter getaway hiking the dense mangrove forests and swamp of the Florida Everglades. “I refused to do any interviews while we were on vacation,” she says. But sixteen hours before catching a plane, Emily conducted one interview with CBC Radio. And on the day she returned, she was back at her desk answering questions from a CTV reporter in Calgary over Skype.
“I’m no saint,” says the Preacher’s Kid. “My workdays are so full that I consider vacation time sacred. Otherwise, I’d go insane, which wouldn’t be good for business.” Which just means that even when she’s vacationing, she’s still thinking about what’s best for the company—precisely what you’d expect from EA’s first Employee of the Year.
–Michael J. Weiss
“Mapping Out a Better World”
In every life, there are turning points. Hugh Hibbert remembers the moment that changed his career trajectory as if it were yesterday. It was the fall of 2004, and Hugh was taking his first undergraduate course in Geographic Information Systems at the University of Toronto in Scarborough. Handheld mobile devices were still in their infancy, but Hugh’s professor was extolling the power of GIS: soon, he said, businesses would be able to send promotional messages to phone-carrying consumers just as they walked near a store.
“Dollar signs went off in my head,” Hugh recalls. “For the first time, I realized you could apply geography to the marketplace at a very granular level. Suddenly, I needed to find out everything I could about this GIS stuff.”
With the encouragement of his program supervisor, Professor John Miron—father of EA Senior Research Associate Peter Miron—Hugh entered a master’s program in spatial analysis at Ryerson University. That eventually led to an internship at Environics Analytics and, in the fall of 2008, a full-time position. Today, as a Client Advocate in EA’s packaged goods, automotive, public sector and not-for-profit practice, Hugh helps clients turn customer data into geographic intelligence for effective marketing programs.
It’s a job he dearly loves. “I like looking at the data and pulling out nuggets of information that are meaningful to the client,” Hugh says. “It may tell them something they didn’t know or validate what they were thinking with real numbers. But when you can make sense of the numbers, it’s a really cool feeling.”
To be sure, Hugh always had an interest in geography. As a youngster growing up in culturally diverse Thornhill in Markham, he remembers neighbours from Syria, Italy, Korea and Spain. “When I started in public school, a lot of kids spoke English with different accents,” he recalls. “I would go through the encyclopedia to learn about the different cultures present at the school.”
Hugh’s own family fit well in the multicultural community. The product of Jamaican-born parents—his late father owned a heating and cooling business, his mother was a banker turned homemaker—Hugh grew up in a middle-class home and went on to attend the private Bayview Glen School, where he became aware of the gulf between his comfortable home life and the unfair stereotyping that Caribbean-Canadians often faced. “When I was in my neighbourhood, I was treated like the uncrowned prince of Thornhill,” he recalls. “But when I would leave there, people looked at me differently. They’d judge me, to quote Martin Luther King, ‘by the colour of my skin and not the content of my character.’ And I didn’t like being shoved into a box that I didn’t feel belonged in.”
That attitude led to another turning point. At UTSC, Hugh majored in sociology and urban studies because, as he explains, “I thought it would give me a better understanding of issues that aren’t always brought to the forefront—like gender, race and income.” At Ryerson, he wrote his master’s thesis on the settlement patterns of Caribbean groups in Canada, exploring “why certain populations act a certain way.”
“I really want to set an example for young people to be respectful, loving, patient, kind and not judgmental.”
But Hugh wasn’t content to merely study the issues facing the Caribbean-Canadian community.
He began working for the Toronto Parks and Recreation Department, running after-school sports and living skills programs for at-risk youngsters. “We wanted to give kids a place to go to where they wouldn’t get into trouble,” he recalls. At the Thornhill Presbyterian Church, he teaches Sunday school and mentors a youth group that conducts clothing drives and serves meals to the homeless.
“I really want to set an example for young people to be respectful, loving, patient, kind and not judgmental,” Hugh explains. “And I see giving back to the community as a civic duty. Many of us have so much and others have so little. It’s important to look after people who can’t look after themselves.”
As a Client Advocate, Hugh looks after clients, helping them gain insight into their customers and markets. But one thing hasn’t changed since he arrived at EA: his fondness for making maps. “I am first and foremost a geographer,” he says, “and making maps is a very personal experience. You not only display customer data, you also put your personal signature on it with colours and fonts and the way you lay out the maps. For me, there’s a real feeling of accomplishment and pride when you finish a good map.” He also appreciates the art of antique maps, and he’s collected several of Toronto. “I like the old maps that show angels blowing the wind in one or direction and have amazing colours and calligraphy,” he says.
But maps aren’t his only obsession. Hugh was a star midfielder on an intercollegiate soccer team; he was even inducted into the Soccer Hall of Fame at UTSC. “I still play. I still love it,” he says, noting he especially enjoys coaching a youth team.
Hugh loves watching the pros play too. In 2010, he and a friend flew to South Africa to watch the World Cup, where they saw eight matches in four cities during the three week-long trip. The trip highlight: watching a game from the beach in Durban along the Indian Ocean. The low point: Getting caught between fans at the Mexico versus Argentina match. “The whole game was filled with taunting from both sides, and every now and then I’d see bottles flying over my head,” he recalls. “Soon, people were jumping over chairs to fight with each other.” Hugh quietly left his seat before the police arrived. “It was one of the greatest trips ever,” he says today.
Back in Toronto, Hugh leads a quieter life with his mother in the family home in Thornhill, where his neighbourhood is classified Asian Affluence by PRIZMC2 and Cosmopolitan Elite by Delta—both lifestyles near the top of the socioeconomic ladder. But he observes his lifestyle is not quite like that of his wealthy neighbours, as described by the PRIZM system. “Yes, we have a lot of education and like the arts and technology,” he says. “But we don’t have a second home, we don’t play golf and we don’t have a Jaguar. We’re more of a Ford family.”
These days, Hugh shares much of his leisure time with his girlfriend, Jenna Would, a psycho-educational consultant. Together, they like to cook, watch movies, go skating and take walks— “low-key, fun activities to enjoy each other’s company,” says Hugh. Having discovered a common interest in helping the disadvantaged, it’s probably no surprise that they also volunteer together at an area homeless shelter.
It could be said that Hugh’s life work is a celebration of the many cultures and concerns that also led to a rewarding career. During holidays, he shares with the office his mother’s traditional Jamaican baked good such as black cake, filled with raisins, cloves and dark rum, and bun, which is similar to a hot cross bun. A colleague from Belarus is especially fond of the Jamaican bun because it reminds him of a delicacy from his homeland. “He has a relationship with my mother through this cake,” Hugh chuckles. “Who’d think that Jamaica and Belarus have anything in common?
“But that’s the beauty about living in Canada,” Hugh continues. “It shows you how small the world is.”
–Michael J. Weiss
It’s all Geek to him.
Lefty Papachristoforou likes to do things his way. This week, he’s celebrating his thirtieth birthday and, in keeping with a longstanding tradition, he has come up with a way to make this the quirkiest and most original celebration yet. For years, EA’s Product Manager has been putting on an elaborate party in conjunction with his best friend from the University of Western Ontario who shares the same birthday. Now that the big three-oh is here, Lefty has something big in mind.
“We never just send out invitations and throw a party,” he says. “It’s always got to be something original. This year, we’ve tried to crank it up another notch.”
That could be a tall order for a pair who’ve already pulled off some memorable events, like the time they sent out invitations to their bogus wedding. Their parties have ranged from off the wall to downright bizarre, but, as Lefty asserts, they are always a blast, and typically stretch over at least a week with different events. While he declined to say what this year’s party will entail (so as not to spoil the fun for friends), he guarantees a good time for all attendees. Even his contribution at last year’s company holiday gift exchange was typical Lefty: his gift card was an autographed portrait of…Lefty—prompting much laughter from colleagues.
“I like to think outside the box a little bit.”
A quirky mind that has the ability to develop new ideas and look at issues in a different way serves Lefty well. Since joining Environics Analytics as Product Manager in 2012, Lefty has been called upon to find creative applications and new ways to use the ever-increasing suite of analytical tools available to EA’s clients.
“I like to think outside the box a little bit,” he states. “If I can come up with a new perspective or a different way of doing things, it can help us innovate as a company and move forward. In turn, that allows us to find new ways to help our clients with their business challenges.”
Lefty possesses both an entrepreneurial and analytical background, having worked previously as the content manager at ProductWiki, a web-based product information resource, and as an analyst at Union Gas Limited, where he researched new technologies and developed energy conservation programs. He earned an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. In the summer of 2012, as he looked for the next step in his career, Lefty met EA president Jan Kestle through a mutual friend. When Lefty revealed during an interview that he was a “numbers guy” who had taken calculus as an elective during his business course, the fit seemed perfect and he was soon hired. His affinity for numbers has stood him in good stead while learning the data analytics business. “I had no idea that this sort of business existed,” he recalls. “The ability to use numbers and statistics to make data-based marketing decisions is something I found fascinating.”
And being a numbers guy has also supported the other big love in Lefty’s life: sports. He’s an unabashed fan of the statistical aspect of sports like baseball and football, as well as the mental challenge of golf. “I really like to be active and outside,” says Lefty. “I love all sports, and especially watching baseball, but golf is my favourite to play.”
As a high school student, Lefty played on the school golf team and he continues playing to this day, at least once a week when the weather permits. An avid gym rat, he trains on weights and cardio equipment a minimum of three times weekly, and his winter weekends are often devoted to ski trips, both on local hills and further afield to Quebec, the U.S. and B.C. On weeknights, Lefty typically relaxes in front of the TV in his apartment at CityPlace in downtown Toronto. The neighbourhood, classified as Young Digerati in the PRIZM system, seems to be true to its designation, according to Lefty, with its concentration of young professionals and couples with children. And despite the convenience of being close to the Rogers Centre, where Lefty regularly takes in a pro game, he does find the neighbourhood somewhat lacking in amenities. “You do feel a little bit separated from the action,” he says. “You have to travel a few blocks before you can get to a restaurant or shop.”
Still, walking a few blocks is hardly a deterrent for Lefty, who is quite the traveller. “Next to sports, I’d say my second favourite thing to do is travel,” he says. “And if I can combine them, all the better.” In the past few years, Lefty has attended both the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the Summer Games in London, England. His travels have taken him to ten U.S. Cities to check out baseball games and some of the historic stadiums, including several that no longer exist. When asked about his all-time favourite place to visit, he offers another typically unexpected response: Edinburgh [Scotland].
“It’s such a cool place with all the old buildings and the medieval atmosphere,” he says. “I like all the old castles.”
But his favourite sports-related excursion occurred while attending the Vancouver Olympics, where he felt nearly overwhelmed by the combination of the event and the national pride—not unexpected for the product of two very diverse cultures. His father hails from Cyprus, while his mother came from Hong Kong, both immigrants to Canada who raised their family in Waterloo. For Lefty, the combination of learning Greek and Cantonese was a challenge, though he says he still retains enough of both languages to get by in a street conversation. “It was tough because the two languages are so different,” he admits. “But having my maternal grandparents next door, I ended up retaining more Chinese.”
Alternating between diverse cultures in school and at home helped Lefty gain a unique perspective. Whether he’s taking on a new product challenge or devising a wacky way to celebrate a birthday, you can bet he’ll meet the challenge in his inimitable style. Just don’t take the party invitation too seriously.