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GEEK OF THE WEEK: JASON DUNKEL

by Jack DePoe | Jul 21, 2014
jason-dunkel

Globetrotting Geek

At just 27 years old, Jason Dunkel has already visited more than 25 countries and plans to tour many more. But that’s not the only reason the term “globetrotter” comes to mind when describing this sales consultant who specializes in the Finance, Insurance, Telecommunications and Travel (FITT) practice. Like the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, Jason is amazingly dexterous when it comes to handling the object of his game: the raft of data that is the source of customer insights.

In many ways, Jason still brings to mind the fresh-faced summer student who showed up for his interview at the old Environics Analytics (EA) offices at 365 Bloor Street East back in 2007. Seven years later he’s an EA veteran, but he still carries hints of the youthful eagerness and brash, university student cockiness. And whether he’s finding new ways to help the travel industry use data-driven insights, touring new locales, picking out a tune on his guitar or playing goalie at the local ice rink, Jason retains the curiosity and energy that are the marks of a lifelong learner.

“I think it’s safe to say that I like to keep active,” he says modestly. “I am always looking to learn new things.”

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Travel is one of Jason’s favourite pursuits and he hits the road as often as he can.  Indeed, before joining EA, he’d just returned from spending a semester abroad in Strasbourg, France (he is fluent in French). As a student abroad, he visited locales in Italy, Germany, the Scandinavian countries and Iceland. But he’s also been to such far-flung destinations as Hawaii, China and Costa Rica. And while he makes regular trips to Florida with family, he tries to avoid his own beaten paths.

“I rarely visit the same destination twice,” he explains. “There’s so much out there to discover that I’m always excited to try a new place on my next trip. The only place I’ve been that I’d probably go back to see again is Hawaii, mainly because the different islands have different activities to offer.”

When pressed for his favourite destination, Jason refuses to commit to just one. “The Great Wall of China was amazing. I was blown away by that,” he says. “Then again, being in Rome and seeing the bustle of the big city along with the history in the old buildings was also an amazing experience. Everything there has extreme historical significance.”

Even his career with EA has the air of a travelogue, with notable excursions along the way. “I started out as a summer student—not even an intern—and I was amazed by the fact that you could use statistics and data to power marketing,” he recalls. “Of course, now they teach evidence-based business decision-making at my old program at Queens University. But it wasn’t a very popular concept when I was going to school.”

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After graduating from Queens University’s School of Business with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, Jason started working at EA as a programmer before becoming product manager for EA’s flagship micromarketing tool, ENVISION. His work redesigning the ENVISION interface, which included making the program more user-friendly and visually appealing, lead to his coworkers voting him the 2010 Employee of the Year—a coveted honour at EA. Then, true to form, he took on a new challenge and moved to the FITT sales team, where he describes his role as “being the face of the company” as seen by clients and prospects, with the goal of helping them better understand their customers.

It’s a role that suits Jason well. “I like talking to people,” he says. “And I always enjoy being part of the action that comes with a job in sales.”

Indeed, action is a regular part of Jason’s life, as he participates in a number of sports and has even tried his hand at driving an Indy-style car at the Mario Andretti Speedway in Las Vegas. That rare experience took place in 2011 when Jason competed in the Alteryx Grand Prix, a programming competition held at Alteryx’s annual conference. In a raucous auditorium where he competed against more than a dozen industry experts and their screaming fans, Jason came in first in a series of geographic business problem solving challenges. The victory earned him a trip to Las Vegas, $500 in spending money and the other-worldly joyride behind the wheel of a race car. (Read Jason’s account of the experience here). 

Although he enjoys golf, tennis and snowboarding, Jason’s his first sporting love is hockey; he’s donned the mask and pads of a goalie for 21 years. “I like the analytical aspect of being in net, as you really see the game in a different way than the rest of the players. Plus,” he chuckles, ”being the goalie means it’s always easy to get ice time and a ride to the game.”

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After graduating from Queens University’s School of Business with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, Jason started working at EA as a programmer before becoming product manager for EA’s flagship micromarketing tool, ENVISION. His work redesigning the ENVISION interface, which included making the program more user-friendly and visually appealing, lead to his coworkers voting him the 2010 Employee of the Year—a coveted honour at EA. Then, true to form, he took on a new challenge and moved to the FITT sales team, where he describes his role as “being the face of the company” as seen by clients and prospects, with the goal of helping them better understand their customers.

It’s a role that suits Jason well. “I like talking to people,” he says. “And I always enjoy being part of the action that comes with a job in sales.”

Indeed, action is a regular part of Jason’s life, as he participates in a number of sports and has even tried his hand at driving an Indy-style car at the Mario Andretti Speedway in Las Vegas. That rare experience took place in 2011 when Jason competed in the Alteryx Grand Prix, a programming competition held at Alteryx’s annual conference. In a raucous auditorium where he competed against more than a dozen industry experts and their screaming fans, Jason came in first in a series of geographic business problem solving challenges. The victory earned him a trip to Las Vegas, $500 in spending money and the other-worldly joyride behind the wheel of a race car. (Read Jason’s account of the experience here). 

Although he enjoys golf, tennis and snowboarding, Jason’s his first sporting love is hockey; he’s donned the mask and pads of a goalie for 21 years. “I like the analytical aspect of being in net, as you really see the game in a different way than the rest of the players. Plus,” he chuckles, ”being the goalie means it’s always easy to get ice time and a ride to the game.”

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In his free time, Jason and his girlfriend, who recently celebrated their first year together, enjoy the trendy King Street West neighbourhood in Toronto where they live (classified a Young Digerati neighbourhood in PRIZM). They like to watch sports, meet friends at a local watering hole or hit the gym. And his eclectic leisure activities don’t stop there: he’s also an accomplished musician, having played in band through high school and university.  

Not surprisingly, his musical skills are just as varied as his other talents. ”I played piano first, but I didn’t advance as far as I might have because I also picked up guitar and drums. Those instruments allow you to play songs you actually enjoy; while piano can be a bit boring, We had a band in high school and university called ‘No One’s Fault’ and we played local venues,” he recalls. “I was the lead singer and played guitar. It was fun and I miss it sometimes. Maybe I’ll start it up again someday.”

Jason’s musical talents came in handy during one particularly memorable occasion. “We were at a family wedding and went back to my sister’s place afterward to celebrate,” he recalls. “But the electricity went out and we were stuck with no music and no lights. We lit some candles and I got out a guitar and started playing and singing and we had a great time.”

So whether you’re setting up a winning team, putting together a band, searching for advice on interesting travel destinations or looking to solve a business problem, it’s always a safe play to have Jason on your side. Maybe the Harlem Globetrotters could use a swingman.


--Jack DePoe


Jason’s Introduction to Table Top Games

Settlers of Catan – The goal is to acquire and trade for resources with your opponents, and then use those resources to build the most objects. It’s always fun making deals with someone you’re competing against.

Word on the Street – In this word game, you’re working against the clock to come up with the best word to match a specific description—but the catch is your opponents are allowed to say anything to distract you. It’s good for parties because it can be played in two teams.

King of Tokyo – This game can seem a little childish at first glance because every player controls a monster, but when you play it, you quickly realize that there is a very deep strategy game here. It’s a little bit like Yahtzee, only rather than scoring full houses and straights, you are trying to beat down all your friends’ monsters. 

Love Letter –A quick, easy-to-learn game, its theme has something to do with sending a love letter to a princess, although that’s not essential to the game. All you need to know is it’s a great little strategy game.

Hanabi –This cooperative game asks players to put on the best fireworks display as a team. We usually save this one for times when my friends are getting on one another’s nerves and we need something to calm each other down.