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GEEK OF THE WEEK: MAURICIO VASQUEZ

by Jack DePoe | Jul 26, 2013

“The Gentle Geek Giant“

Mauricio Vasquez always strives to make a good first impression. As the Fulfillment and Client Services Coordinator at Environics Analytics, Mauricio provides new clients with their first shipments of data and user accounts in ENVISION. And because those data and software products arrive digitally, clients never realize that the person delivering the goods is brawny rugby player and former amateur boxer. While it may seem that Mauricio has nothing in common with EA’s famous bow-tied Geek, that first impression isn’t entirely accurate.

“People may look at me and think I’m a big tough guy,” says the soft-spoken Mauricio. “But I’m really a big softie.”

Getting to know Mauricio reveals an unusual mix of cerebral agility, physical toughness and emotional insight. In his first job out of high school, he worked as a chaperone at a Toronto private school—a cross between a security guard and a mentor for the children. Given that he was close in age to the older students, he found he could relate to them but still have the authority to maintain order when necessary. “I enjoyed working with students who were younger than me,” he recalls. “It can be very fulfilling.”

rugby-action
Mauricio in action on the rugby pitch.

Mauricio first became fascinated by the application of geographic principles during a high school field trip to the GIS labs at Ryerson University. After saving money for his post-secondary education, Mauricio enrolled in the geographic analysis program at Ryerson. As an undergraduate, he gained experience applying geography to the business world using trade area analysis, demographic data and mapping. He likens geography to a sort of “jack-of-all-trades” solution to business challenges, and he says that uncovering and applying insights are in Mauricio’s words, “right up my alley.” He discovered while in school that he has an uncanny knack for finding the data nuggets that are especially interesting. He recalls one of the highlights of his Ryerson education was a presentation on market segmentation by Dr. Tony Lea, EA’s Senior Vice President and Chief Methodologist, which further inspired Mauricio to work in the field.

“I remember Dr. Lea running examples in SPSS, and we were all sitting there just trying to keep up,” Mauricio laughs. “It was a really great experience.”

On graduation, Mauricio included EA in the list of companies where he wanted to send a job application. But he kept working construction and odd jobs to make ends meet until he received a call from EA. “I remember coming into the tenth floor offices for my interview and realizing that I had done some construction work on the eleventh floor,” Mauricio recalls. In 2012, he was hired as a Client Advocate in the packaged goods, automotive, public sector and not-for-profit practice, where he spent six months before moving to the data fulfillment challenges of the product management and client services team.

Born in El Salvador, Mauricio and his family moved to Canada in 1990 to escape the violence of that Central American country. He spent most of his younger years in Amesbury, a working-class neighbourhood in Toronto. He was raised by a single mother who worked as a seamstress—occasionally using Mauricio “to try things on” while creating prom and wedding dresses—and tried to create a better life for her two sons. Mauricio has a younger brother who was born in Canada and is currently studying journalism at York University.

“I wouldn’t necessarily call it the ‘Canadian Dream,’” he says. “But my life did experience a dramatic change after coming from humble beginnings and having the opportunity to grow up here. Going to a university and moving on to a job in my field is something that could only have happened here.”

“My knees are not what they used to be and these young guys coming out of university are twice as big and twice as strong as me”—he pauses for a second—“but only half as good looking.”

Growing up in Toronto also allowed Mauricio to follow a dream of another kind. After discovering rugby in high school, Mauricio began playing for the Toronto Scottish Rugby Football Club (http://www.torontoscottish.ca/) at the tender age of 17 and he’s been playing ever since. His love for the game is evident in the warm way he speaks about playing a sport that demands so much of its participants. The club plays at the highest level of amateur competition in Ontario, with a season running from April until October, and only a few brief breaks for rest.

Indeed, on a typical weekend, Mauricio will catch a bus with his team early Saturday morning, en route to a match somewhere in Southern Ontario—towns like Waterloo, Stony Creek or Ottawa. They’ll play a hard-fought game over 80 minutes, and then return to the bus for the ride home. Mauricio plays the Number 8 position on his team, which means he’s usually in the bruising scrums in the centre of the field, fighting for position with other heavyweight players. By the time he gets home, it is usually late in the evening and Mauricio’s Saturday nights are often spent with an icepack on each knee and a relatively early bedtime. Sundays are dedicated to recuperating from the pounding on the pitch in his basement apartment in East York, a Cluttered Nest community according to the PRIZMC2 segmentation system. Mauricio maintains that he’s atypical of his cluster neighbours—mostly older couples whose children have grown up and left home.

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Mauricio takes a breather after putting in some "hard yards" on the field.

“My street is undergoing change as older families move out and young families move into the renovated post-war homes,” he says. “On the weekend, they load up their cars with coolers and cats and head out of the city to their cottages. Meanwhile, my girlfriend and I pack for rugby games, ride our bikes to the waterfront or visit Toronto’s trendy restaurants. We like to walk through museums or hit Toronto’s urban trails.”

Rugby is still a big part of his life, but to Mauricio it is more than simply a tough-guy sport: It’s also brought him friends, jobs and even a lead to the apartment where he’s lived for three years. He continues to attend the team practices twice a week, though he admits that the gruelling schedule is beginning to catch up with him. “My knees are not what they used to be and these young guys coming out of university are twice as big and twice as strong as me”—he pauses for a second—“but only half as good looking.”


boxing


While his first-team career may be winding down, Mauricio looks forward to playing at a more relaxed pace, which will allow him to share his experience in the game with younger players in the club. He also enjoys the sense of community around the club, which includes many social and charitable events in its yearly calendar. One such event saw Mauricio try his hand at boxing; he was pitted in a ring against a fellow rugby player at a charity fundraiser. The six-month training regimen leading up to the event was challenging and the atmosphere of the event a lot of fun. But once in the ring, he found himself overwhelmed by the bright lights and noise of a thousand spectators.

“It was a real boxing match with a referee and everything,” he recalls. “But it didn’t quite go as well as I’d hoped.”

While he ended his brief, amateur career with a somewhat disappointing record of 0-3, he feels that he went out a winner simply by having the opportunity to give back to the community through the charity event. “I’ve always believed that you should work hard and enjoy what you do,” he says. “And if you keep your head clear and put in the hard yards, it will all pay off in the end.”

And pay off it has. His knees may be sore and his pride slightly bruised, but from the first impression to the last, it’s clear that Mauricio always has his head in the game.

–Jack DePoe

Looking to learn a bit more about rugby? Mauricio recommends checking out the following video and links:

• Rugby beginners guide: http://www.irbrugbyready.com/pdfs/beginners_guide_en.pdf
• Toronto Scottish website: http://www.torontoscottish.ca/