Quantic Trailblazer: Chief Academic Officer and Pedago Co-Founder Alexie Harper

Chief Academic Officer and Pedago (Quantic’s parent company) Co-Founder, Alexie Harper, is a trailblazer in the digital education space. Before Quantic, she was previously the director of R&D and a senior researcher at Rosetta Stone. She was also a travel writer and editor for Let’s Go Inc. after earning an M.A. in Irish and Irish-American Studies from NYU and an A.B. in English Literature and Language from Harvard University. 

Finding creative solutions to difficult problems has always inspired Alexie to become the industry leader that she is today. “I’ve always enjoyed creating something new,” says Alexie. “From my school days in Odyssey of the Mind, through my time creating educational software at Rosetta Stone, to now, I’m at my happiest when I can tackle a difficult problem by brainstorming creative solutions, and then do the hard work of testing and implementing those solutions. I don’t mind when those experiments don’t work out; I find it invigorating to keep trying to improve whatever it is I’m working on, and there’s ample opportunity to do that!” 

Creating solutions to unsolved problems, like making the digital learning experience even better than traditional classroom learning, is at the heart of Quantic and Pedago’s strategy. “Rather than virtualize the typical classroom experience, I’m more interested in what is required to reinvent the core mechanisms that drive student learning, particularly for the adult student, and to do so in a way that’s more effective and more engaging than what you would encounter in person,” explains Alexie. “I feel like Pedago has made great strides in this arena, and there is so much more that we would like to try to create a flexible learning environment that accommodates learners around the globe.” 

But in order to find great solutions and success, one must go through some hiccups and growing pains. Even failure itself is a constant motivation for the Co-Founder. Throughout her career, Alexie realized the power of resilience and courage. “I haven’t always succeeded,” notes Alexie. “Along the way, I’ve had a lot of failures and setbacks, as most entrepreneurs have, and it can be crushing in the moment. I’ve tried to respond with resilience and have refused to give up, and I think that’s why I’m still doing this!” 

Courage and resilience are often qualities that are associated with a trailblazer or maverick in an entrepreneurial field. However, a big key to success that Alexie stands by is support. “It’s extremely difficult to succeed without the help and support of others,” says Alexie. “I’m very grateful for the mentors and colleagues of all genders who have provided advice and support throughout my career, particularly when I was first starting out. I believe it’s important to cultivate connections with others, share advice, and support one another in whatever field or endeavor you choose.” 

Alexie’s advice for the next generation of trailblazers? Have conviction in your own ideas and don’t be afraid to take a few risks along the way. “Try lots of things and find what you love,” says Alexie. “You’ll always be more motivated to work at something that you find interesting, meaningful, and important. Don’t be overly influenced by career advice that others might give you, as only you can decide what field, industry, or discipline is right for you. And take risks; life is more interesting when you jump in feet first.”

Quantic Trailblazers: Iditarod Musher Paige Drobny

Executive MBA Student, Paige Drobny, was born with a love of animals. Her parents couldn’t keep the frogs and crickets and small animals out of the house. She got her first pet, a cat, at the age of three and there were a slew of house pets and barn animals that came after that. Fast forward to 2021, and she is now competing in her seventh Iditarod with a team of incredible sled dogs. 

“I never heard of the Iditarod when I was a kid,” says Paige. “I never dreamt about going up north. It never occurred to me that I wanted to race and I never thought I would be doing this, but I was always drawn to the outdoors.”

Paige’s love and respect for the outdoors has only grown stronger since she moved to Alaska in 2001. She loves the wilderness and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Since the state has eight to nine months of winter each year, residents need to find ways to keep active in the snowy season. That’s when Paige first discovered dog sledding. 

“Fairbanks is unique because many people have small recreational kennels,” says Paige. “Most people I know have dog sleds. It’s a way for people to get around and get out.” The first time Paige contemplated getting on a sled is when her husband and business partner, Cody Straith, made her one for Christmas.

“I gave it to her for Christmas and said ‘maybe we can get some more dogs,’” says Cody. “I went to visit my family a week before the holiday and when I came back she had already gotten three more dogs. Then we could officially use the sled.” 

“We actually talked about dog sledding in retirement,” laughs Paige. “We thought it would be a way to stay active when we were older. I always wanted a ton of dogs. We attached them to the sled and off we went. I was hooked from the get go.”

Since that first moment of jumping on a sled, Paige has become an extremely accomplished musher. Besides this being her seventh Iditarod competition, she is also a five time Yukon Quest and Copper Basin Musher.

“I knew Paige was a driven athlete back in 2010,” explains Cody. “She had just finished her first 300-mile race. She got to the finish line and just wanted to keep going. She was just having a great time and wanted to continue.” 

Paige’s ambition is apparent both on and off the sled. She is the owner and operator of Spearfish Research, where she is a biological consultant, and her and Cody run a successful kennel, dubbed Squid Acres, an homage to Paige’s work consulting for fisheries. The couple purchased a lodge off the Denali Highway (one of the most remote and scenic highways in the world), and are expanding their business into a high-end tourism retreat where people can learn about sled dogs and the Alaskan environment. “We’re on thousands of acres of wilderness. We can show people the real Alaska,” says Paige. 

To get her new venture off the ground, she needed to equip herself with a strong foundation of business development and operations. She needed an MBA education, but needed a program that would be flexible enough to accommodate her chaotic schedule. That’s when Quantic came into the picture: “I wouldn’t be doing an MBA if it wasn’t for Quantic. I love Alaska and I have 50 sled dogs that I can’t leave. Being able to stay home and take care of my dogs, and run my other businesses, wouldn’t be possible without the mobile platform.”

Both Cody and Paige have a background in science. Since joining Quantic in October 2020, the courses have already helped Paige with the accounting side of her new business, and she’s looking forward to learning more about marketing. Always eager for a new challenge, Paige admits, “I’m really excited for the marketing course. It’s not my skill set at all. Business Law, too, I’m excited to learn about the proper way to expand in this new industry.” 

Being a newcomer to the tourism industry doesn’t faze Paige, in fact, she says it excites her. And if mushing has taught her anything, it’s that no challenge or obstacle is insurmountable. “Running dogs can be chaotic. There are new obstacles all the time. You need to be calm, cool, and collected. You can’t dwell on the missed corners and wrong turns, you have to learn your lessons and apply them the next day. The business world is the same. You learn from your mistakes and succeed.” 

It’s safe to say the dogs instill a sense of positivity in Paige’s racing and, in general, influence her optimistic outlook on life. “Living with dogs is just one giant lesson. I learn something from them every day. They’re happy, they live in the moment, and every day is exciting, and offers new opportunities. When you hang out with a bunch of dogs, you can’t have a bad day.”

The 2021 Iditarod kicks off tomorrow morning, Sunday, March 7. This year’s multi-day sled dog race across Alaska has some major changes planned, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but as always, Paige is ready to roll with the punches. Participants in this year’s 860-mile course will instead race in a loop that begins outside of Anchorage and eliminates many of the stops traditionally required in previous Iditarod races. The teams will travel from Deshka Landing to Flat and then loop back around and return the same way they came, rather than continuing northwest toward Nome.


The Quantic community is excited to cheer on Paige and with her positive attitude and determination, we know she is going to be the leader of the pack. Be sure to follow Paige’s race journey on our social channels. We’ll be tracking her progress and hearing from her throughout the course!

Expert Advice: Tips to Turn Your Dream into a Business

Quantic Alum, Dr. Lisa Bélanger is a keynote speaker, author and behavior change expert. She teaches professionals about healthy habits, mindfulness, productivity. Besides her accomplishments of running the Paris marathon, climbing Kilimanjaro, and being the mom of two wonderful children, she is also the founder of ConsciousWorks, an industry-leading consulting firm that integrates proactive mental health and performance strategies by applying cutting-edge science to strategically improve behaviors, engage leadership influence, and shift cultures. 

What ultimately inspired her to take the leap and launch her company and what advice does she have for new business founders? Dr. Bélanger gives us her top tips to create a successful startup. 

What inspired you to create ConsciousWorks? 

While I was consulting and researching corporate wellness, I realized that most programs lacked strategy, behaviour change support, and well-defined metrics of success. For the most part, there is little to no science behind how we work. There was an opportunity to leverage science to the mainstream to unveil ways to work better. I knew the potential that lives within a company to not only impact personal behaviors, but also leverage social support through a well-designed program, and create long term, sustainable change. 

Your company’s core values are important for your mission. How did you build these and how can someone determine their own for their startup or new business?

Our core values were determined a few months after the business started, and it was an activity with the whole team. For our team, we were very aligned in terms of individual values and where we saw the company. The company values can really be what you want to be known for, and would be represented in potential employees and future partners. 

What advice would you give to someone just starting to draft a business plan? 

Be ready to pivot! My business plan was finished just weeks before the pandemic and then we went into a complete shutdown. The plan was placed directly in the garbage and re-imagined. In the past year we had to respond to the changing world and try to plan through the uncertainty. An agile business plan became a requirement.

What resources did you need to launch your business?

My primary and more important resources are the incredible team I work with and a solid wifi connection. 

Where did you find it most important to invest your time and energy? 

In relationships: with my team, with partners and with clients. I believe this is always a large part of business, but during the pandemic it has involved creativity and a conscious effort to collaborate remotely. 

What advice would you give to someone for setting their future company goals? 

Connect your goals to your purpose. Know how they intersect with the big picture, then, create a system to achieve them. Move towards that goal every single day. Even if it is just 1% – after a year you are 365% closer. Your goals are as strong as the systems you create. 

What mental health advice would you give to someone dealing with the stresses of setting up a new business? 

In a new company there is always something on fire, deadlines, and inevitable pressure. There are more ups and downs than you can imagine – so create a system to rest every single day! Rest is not a reward for when the work is done, it is a strategic behavior for longevity. 

Also, get a mentor! Someone further along in the entrepreneurship process. I realized quickly, that entrepreneurs are often the only people who ‘get it’ and are great sources of connection. They can provide support for both the emotional and tangible starts to a budding business.  

Want to hear more proactive mental health techniques to become your best self and reach your highest potential? We recently worked with Dr. Bélanger to launch a podcast called The Science of Work, which examines top business leaders’ advice, research, and current trends that are shaping today’s workforce. Tune in to learn more!

Inspiring the Next Generation of Future Business Leaders

Since 1996, ​Virtual Enterprises International​ (VE) has transformed the lives of more than 165,000 teens through a robust in-school program empowering students to test drive potential careers and develop professional, leadership, functional, and technical skills and competencies. VE’s mission is to ensure all young people have the opportunity to learn and succeed, regardless of their zip code. This vision is put into practice by equipping students with real life business skills that help them lead financially secure, successful lives. ​When Executive MBA Student, Anthony DeBellis, introduced us to VE, we immediately knew that we needed to get involved to help inspire future leaders. ​Now, more than ​20 ​Quantic ​students and alumni will be judges for VE’s national student business competitions.

VE programs guide youth to be adaptable, collaborative and self-directed. The company partners with schools, districts, and businesses across the United States to create educational pathways that align career education and work-based learning, with academic standards-based education. Guided by an industry-driven, educational framework, students launch and manage the growth of a company in a digital, international economy of more than 7,000 student-run businesses in 40+ countries. Through this, students learn how strong skills and a positive mindset can launch them into a successful future.

​Anthony DeBellis, a product management professional at Mastercard, has been involved with Virtual Enterprises for five years and believes its mentorship for young students is invaluable. “Looking back, my favorite memory was working with the students at Manhattan’s Business of Sports School. I was part of a volunteer team that visited the school a few times a month to work with students on their VE business. We would advise them, help them solve problems and share our experiences. When you start working with VE students at any level there are two things I always come back to: first, the students are inspiring, creative and have boundless potential. Second, the experience is rewarding and energizing.”

Anthony believes every high school student in the U.S. should have the opportunity to be part of an immersive VE classroom experience. He is continuing to help them grow by joining their NYC Advisory Board. “When I originally became involved with VE, I was working in banking and managing partnerships focused on bringing financial literacy to students through my organization. We were introduced to VE’s founder, Iris Blanc, at a Nasdaq Bell Ringing ceremony and immediately became enthralled with their vision. All these years later, I’m thrilled to still be engaged with the VE team.”

Students participating in the program are offered summits which are fully-interactive experiences that integrate a trade show atmosphere, workshops, special presentations, and networking opportunities. They offer many ways for students to develop and apply a full range of key career competencies, as well as interact with other VE students, educational leaders, community representatives, and real-world professionals.

Virtual Enterprises’ digital classrooms and Quantic’s pedagogy style both cater to a nontraditional entrepreneurial spirit. Anthony knows this is the perfect union, with the concept of modern education in mind. “I had long wanted to earn an MBA, however there is so much friction around traditional programs, in terms of logistics and costs. A former colleague of mine posted his Quantic degree on LinkedIn. I reached out to him to ask about his experience, and his feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Needless to say, I applied a week later and haven’t looked back.”

VE is a fantastic opportunity for Quantic students to give back to their community and impart valuable lessons to budding business leaders. We are thrilled to see so many of our students volunteer with Virtual Enterprises — we know they will be wonderful mentors to help inspire the next generation of trailblazers! If you or someone you know might be interested in volunteering, send an email to apena@veinternational.org.

Student Spotlight: Dr. Michael Lao Gives the Gift of Sight

Dr. Michael Lao has made it his mission to help the blind see. On an average day, he and his team perform more than 1,000 cataract surgeries in churches and schools. Not only does he travel around the Philippines to serve patients, but he doesn’t charge them a single cent. 

His passion to become a missionary developed when the devastating 2011 Japan tsunami flooded more than 200 miles of coastal land. “I was there during the tsunami, so I saw what it did,” says Michael. “I had a fellowship in Japan and saw how many people suffered. By experiencing this, I knew that a materialistic lifestyle was not for me. Life has to be about something bigger. Anything can be taken away from you at any given time. After that, I decided to become a missionary.” 

Michael began going from town to town, helping anyone with medical issues. He soon realized he would have to make this a sustainable effort. “Once I reached the age of 40, I told myself that I would completely stop charging patients. I started doing a lot of surgeries for free and needed to know how to make this a sustainable process. No one would ever have to pay and I could still cover all the expenses of surgery.” 

Everything fell into place when Michael’s patient, an 80-year-old farmer, insisted on giving him raw coffee as payment. “I like serving farmers and teachers because they’re the ones that are very underserved. They started giving me things like chickens, fruit, and vegetables. This one woman was going to go blind and had been turned away by three hospitals because she couldn’t afford it. I ended up saving her vision and she gave me raw coffee from her incredible farm in the mountains.”

At first, Michael wasn’t sure what to do with the raw coffee. “The funny thing is, I was a tea drinker and didn’t know anything about blends,” jokes Lao. He ended up bringing it to one of the best roasters in Japan and asked if he could please roast it for him. The roaster tried it and said it was the best coffee he had ever tasted. “I went back to that patient and she said she had more coffee. She had been picking it by herself in the mountains for years. She said she had neighbors that also harvested coffee and needed help with their sight. I started taking care of them and realized they were getting paid very low for their coffee. I said I would pay them double and they would be my patients for free. That’s how the coffee business became my thing.” 

Michael began selling the coffee in Tokyo and the funds drastically increased the amount of surgeries he could perform. “We ended up going to another area in the Philippines to serve those people. My patients took me to a cacao farm and my wife said, ‘Why don’t we try this, too.’ So, I started trading cacao in the same model. I had to study coffee like I was studying chemistry. I had to study chocolate fermentation of cacao like I was studying pharmacology. Of course it’s scary because you have to learn everything from scratch. The thing about being a missionary is that you’re not so scared to make mistakes. That’s life. You have to have the same mentality for business. You have to have the resilience and the grit to move on.” 

The resilience of Michael’s medical efforts to help patients has now turned into a work of art. Within two to three hours, he and his team clean and set up makeshift clinics in churches and schools. They can see more than 1,000 patients per day. “One cataract surgery would probably cost them 1,000 dollars. We do it for free. These people can’t afford these surgeries in our healthcare system. That’s unacceptable to me. So, we go to the people.” 

Michael is changing thousands of lives every day and has seen the miracle of receiving sight. “You do what you have to do to help people and every time you do, it’s a miracle. I couldn’t believe that people would crawl just to get to me. They cannot see. They have to crawl. So, I wash people’s feet and their hands. After the surgery, you start to see the miracle take over. They can be independent now and they start to cry. I always joke, ‘Please don’t cry because you still have sutures on.’” 

In order to impact the greatest number of people, he knew he would need as much business knowledge as possible. “I have to split my personality in two. I have a schedule when I am the CEO of a company and for the rest of the week, I am a missionary. You really have to have a strong mind to separate both aspects because one is about making money to sustain your efforts. These are hundreds of thousands of people that need our help. My company has 20 people, but it’s not about that. It’s about the people you impact; The farmers, the teachers, the fisherman. If I can’t fight for them, who will?” 

Michael realized that Quantic would be the perfect option to gain this business knowledge and pursue his Executive MBA. “Quantic gave me my shot and taught me a lot of things on the business side. Quantic is a multiplier. Whatever I learned from Quantic, I can multiply and serve more people and encourage other people to do the same.” 

Now, in his free time, Michael continues to expand his missionary work. He is helping to bring doctors together and develop solar power and fresh water innovations for communities. “We’re harvesting clean water, producing vegetables, and using the same free surgery method. I keep telling them that they will find the courage to move forward because they are directly seeing the stakeholders, which are the patients. Once you see them, you get enough courage to do anything to help.”

Five Questions for Free the PhD Founder, Vay Cao

Quantic Alum, Vay Cao, PhD, founded Free the PhD, a career development and advocacy platform for PhDs who want to learn more about the world outside of academia and kickstart an exciting career. You can check out their programs, talk to their advisors, and access their resources year-round.  Vay spoke with us about the initial inspiration and future goals for the program.

What inspired you to create Free the PhD? 

More PhD graduates are produced than there are traditional full-time faculty positions. This is a trend that has been happening for decades. The simultaneous shrinking of the academic faculty pool, especially in current times, has exacerbated an already stressful professional reality for many academics. Many who complete a PhD degree are not sure what they can do professionally afterwards. I was in this camp: not interested in continuing in academia, but not sure what else I could do.  After I made my own career transition, I was inspired to create Free the PhD because I didn’t want that experience to go to waste. 

How did you launch the platform?

It started off as a typical resume-editing service, but has evolved over the years into a platform where academics can do the important work of learning to shift their mindsets from that of only an academic, to a versatile professional. Free the PhD today is a supportive digital community. It’s a set of empathetic, practical online courses to assist academics in the career transition that’s right for them. There is personalized career guidance, provided by fellow PhDs. We teach PhDs how to free themselves from their own mental limitations and become independent job seekers, including guiding them on how to edit their own job applications and do their own interview preparation.

How would you like to see it expand in the future? 

The pool of PhD talent has so much to offer all sectors of society. I would love to continue reaching more PhDs interested in exploring and pursuing diverse career paths. Alongside our own career coaching, we have been doing workshops with different institutions and are piloting a joint career course with a UC university, which I hope might expand into other institutions that would like to work together to serve their trainees.

Why did you want to pursue your MBA? 

When I first began working outside of academia, I had no prior formal “work experience.” Joining a start-up out of grad school meant I was learning as I went every single day, trying new things and loving the experience. I realized I really wanted a comprehensive understanding of business, rather than this patchwork of information to make me a more effective and efficient professional. I enjoyed being in the business world, and wanted to ensure I was empowered to both deliver results and accelerate my career. 

What did you like about Quantic’s pedagogy method?

What I wanted from an MBA was to get the needed information in a streamlined, time-efficient, affordable, curated manner, all from a trusted source. Knowing that the people behind Quantic are proven in online education, and checking out the freely available Business Foundations courses on their app, helped convince me that this was exactly what I needed! Now that the Quantic MBA is officially accredited, I am even more convinced that I made the right decision in choosing Quantic.  

I have leveraged a lot of the business knowledge and frameworks from my Quantic MBA experience, both in my day job and constantly improving Free the PhD. Knowing that I have the fundamental knowledge needed to go out and make an impact in the world has provided me with the confidence that every professional and entrepreneur needs to succeed! 

Active Learning: Giving Students A Leading Role in Digital Learning

The question of whether EdTech is effective is in fact, not a question about technology at all. Nor is it a question of learning design. Rather, the question ought to be rooted in outcomes: Are students learning the material and able to apply what they learn? Are they acquiring new skills as a result of the courses? 

The failure of digital learning to deliver on this promise, as I wrote about in a recent op-ed, is not about how we’ve yet to bear witness to virtual reality or some equally “futuristic” tech, as viable tools for remote learning. The point is that overwhelmingly, technology has thus far failed to deliver effective teaching practices to students learning remotely. The majority of online learning is being transmitted via the video professor lecture, and the lecture, in the classroom or online, has proven to be a less effective method of teaching. It’s the equivalent of watching TV, putting the professor in the spotlight while a passive audience, the students, sit back and soak in the broadcast. 

Active Learning on the other hand, is a method of teaching that gives the student a leading role. They are participatory actors, driving their learning forward, while the instructor provides feedback that individualizes the learning experience. This is Quantic’s method. Our platform prompts students to engage every 8 seconds and provides instant feedback based on their interactions. Only once they’ve mastered a skill do they move on to the next topic; they learn by doing. In this scenario, the student is the star and the outcome of their experience — whether they truly learned the material or not — is the key metric of efficacy. Investments in learning science alone won’t translate to better outcomes for students. Advancements in online learning must come from a two-pronged approach: using the right tech with the best pedagogy and only when the student succeeds should we deem it a success. 

Here’s more on how our process works:

To be clear, Active Learning is not new. Maria Montessori pioneered it within early childhood education, Berlitz with immersion language learning, and Suzuki within violin study. What is new is using this pedagogy in online learning in a way that’s effective and efficient (it’s also pretty fun, too).

Student Spotlight: A Deeper Meaning to Architectural Design

How would you define architecture? Steve Kredell, Principal Architect at McLeod Kredell Architects, has always believed that architecture is more than a simple building to shelter and protect its inhabitants. His innovative, sustainable and clean-lined designs have won countless awards. This year, he received global recognition when MKA was selected by Architectural Record as one of the top ten worldwide Design Vanguard firms.

Kredell’s passion for architecture started at a young age. His childhood walks with his father ignited his inspiration to look at the world differently. “He used to go out of his way to take me to look at what seemed to be very ordinary things,” says Kredell. “For instance, we looked at a lot of bridges when I was a kid. Through his eyes, I realized that there’s nothing “ordinary” or mundane about any human-made intervention. Those bridges weren’t just ways to get from one side to the other. They were beautiful in their own right, but, more importantly, they also enabled us to see the river, where we were going, and where we were coming from in a different way.  I believe this is what can be wonderful about buildings. They can help us see the environment and the world in a different way.” 

Photo courtesy McLeod Kredell Architects

This passion continued to grow and Kredell began collaborating with John McLeod, in the mid-90s, after meeting in graduate architecture school at Virginia Tech. The two created McLeod Kredell Architects, which is now built around the practice, teaching and community engagement of architecture. They believe, “Architecture grows out of its particular place and time–yet at its best it also transcends those limits. In the end, architecture should be inspiring–for the client, the architect, the builder, the passerby.”

This belief especially rings true now that the majority of people are spending more time at home than ever before. “We all need to ask more from our buildings – especially given the amount of time we spend indoors by ourselves now,” says Kredell. “We need to look at how buildings can be regenerative and how they can contribute to not just serving a need to house and protect us, but as part of a global environmental solution. But, we cannot lose sight of the fact that our buildings aren’t merely machines.  As our lives become dominated by screens and images, architecture has to continue to serve as a means to be connected to the natural world.” 

Connecting to the natural world has been a big initiative for MKA. The two architects bring a team of Middlebury College students to Penobscot Bay, Maine, for a weeklong design-build class each summer that results in such useful community projects like composting stations. It also has an ongoing partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Addison County and Middlebury College, where McLeod teaches, to design and build houses in the county for those in need.

“We believe that anyone and anywhere deserves design,” says Kredell. “We believe in spreading the wealth of architecture through teaching, working with private clients, partnering with communities, and building alongside students and volunteers. Good design should be for everyone. That’s a trend that I sincerely believe has to continue.” 

It was this passion for volunteering that actually led Kredell to pursue his MBA with Quantic. “My business partner and I started a non-profit program that brought community based designs to places and projects that typically wouldn’t have access to design. This opened my eyes to help me understand that we weren’t being as creative with the “design” of this new venture because we didn’t have an understanding of the nuances of a new business. I believed that Quantic’s MBA would allow me to be more creative and, really, to have a new experience and more well-rounded world view.”

As the world continues to change, so does the future and importance of architectural design. “We need to realize that architecture at its best allows us to touch the world in so many different ways. Just like those original bridges, architecture allows us to understand our world and nature in a more meaningful way. I think that’s more important than ever.” 

The Quantic community has no doubt that McLeod Kredell Architects will continue to push architectural boundaries and their designs will continue to inspire others to look at the world in a different light.

Blankets: Not Just for Snuggling

When we think of blankets, we often think of cozy nights and hot chocolate. But what if they had the power to change the course of healthcare technology, especially during the coronavirus pandemic? Executive MBA student, Olivia Lin, had this exact same thought. She wanted to combine her strong tech background and desire to create textiles with a purpose. Olivia and fellow EMBA student, Edward Shim, soon launched their start-up, Studio 1 Labs, specializing in cutting-edge textile technology. 

Their first product? A “smart” bed sheet that can be used in hospitals to monitor patients’ vitals. This has been crucial during the COVID-19 crisis because it continuously monitors for respiratory distress. The bed sheet detects respiratory patterns and transmits the data to a computer terminal for healthcare workers. With advanced data accuracy and analytics, this technology can also predict the onset of health decline and emergencies like apnea, heart attack and stroke.

Olivia is originally from Taipei, Taiwan and grew up in Canada. She studied psychology at the University of Toronto, and earned a Master’s and later a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from the University of Waterloo. While studying psychology, Olivia was drawn to subject matter known as Human Factors, a field focused on the application of psychology in society.

When asked how and why she made the transition from psychology to starting a textile tech company, Olivia laughed — the transition even surprised her. She had a friend who worked in textile technology and saw how she combined fabric, art, and modern technology to create clothing with a purpose. This sparked Olivia’s interest and curiosity and she asked for her friend’s help in learning how to sew fabrics infused with tech. 

While completing her Ph.D., Olivia met Edward, and her hobby soon turned into a business idea as the two began researching the commercialization of fabric sensor technology. They had identified a growing trend in healthcare of using everyday objects as tools for monitoring vitals and felt that textiles might just be the perfect canvas for such a device. This kind of application had particular relevance to Edward, who, when serving in the military, sustained an injury which left him experiencing respiratory issues. He was well aware of the processes in place for patients to have their breathing monitored and knew there had to be a better way. Both he and Olivia saw a need for improvement in this space and after enlisting the help of a few more colleagues, Studio 1 Labs was born.

“There was a lot of exploration and experimentation and finally we found an application that really works,” said Olivia.

Studio 1 Labs’ fabric sensor bed sheets are a glimpse at the future of health technology. These sensors monitor a patient’s respiration pattern, location, movement, and prolonged pressure. The patient does little more than lie in bed and his or her vitals are measured and reported. This is especially important for elderly patients, who are less able to adjust their lives for doctors to gather the data they need to make an informed diagnosis and treatment plan.

Beyond product development, Olivia had also recognized the need to increase her knowledge of business and strategy. This is when she decided to pursue an Executive MBA. With Studio 1 Labs having locations in both Canada and Taiwan, Olivia was constantly traveling and Quantic’s mobile-first design enabled her to learn no matter where she was. 

“Being an entrepreneur, I felt like I had gaps in my knowledge and I couldn’t keep pace in conversations with executives and potential partners to the degree I needed to. I wanted more of the knowledge that would enable me to carry on and lead these conversations.” said Olivia.

Olivia’s impressive efforts in creating this business have not gone unrecognized. She was featured by Girls in Tech Taiwan 40 Under 40 and Studio 1 Labs won the Markham Board of Trade Aspire Startup Award in 2018. Outside of being the Executive Director of Studio 1 Labs, Olivia was a mentor for the City of Waterloo’s initiative, Girls in STEAM, a program that promoted tech and other STEAM careers to local girls to spark their interest at a young age. Olivia now lives in Taiwan, as she continues her rewarding (and challenging) entrepreneurial journey and helps to continue to #ChangeTheCourse of healthcare technology.