The Pixilated Podcast

Connie Cay-Santos | CAY VII | Engamio | Pixilated Podcast Season 2

December 17, 2021 Patrick Rife | Connie Cay-Santos Season 2 Episode 1
The Pixilated Podcast
Connie Cay-Santos | CAY VII | Engamio | Pixilated Podcast Season 2
Show Notes Transcript

Connie Cay-Santos is a creative entrepreneur who launched CAY VII in 2019 as an outlet to expand her experience portfolio through contracted special projects with clients. 

As the Chief Experience Strategist at CAY VII, she leads with a strategic, operational, technical, and client-centric mindset that strives to inspire connections by designing meaningful experiences and being a creative problem solver while meeting key stakeholder success metrics. 

Her confidence comes from 14 years of corporate strategic operations experience at Hudson's Bay Company, her recent role as Vice President of Special Projects at Nextech AR Solutions, and currently serving  as Head of Strategic Partnerships at Engamio and with the MPI Toronto Chapter as Director of Strategic Partnerships.

You can follow Connie or get in touch at:

Website:
www.cayvii.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/connie-cay-santos/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cayviievents/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cayviievents

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cayviievents


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Patrick Rife:

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Pixilated podcast. I am Patrick from Pixilated and I want to welcome you back for another episode in our interview series. For those of you who are new to the podcast welcome for those of you who have been following along and subscribing over the years, excited to bring you another awesome and interesting guests on our interview series. If you are new, I would totally encourage going and checking some of the interviews from season one, there are some really great guests with some really great information that no doubt is evergreen, and you'll continue to find very valuable. But that being said, today we're going to be talking with Connie K. Santos. Connie and I have met recently through our renewed work with the Toronto chapter of MPI, anyone who is a listener to our podcasts knows how, with the Esteem with which we hold the MPI community so that won't be anything new. However, another happy accident of our of our you know, working with them is that I got to meet Connie and I invited her to be a guest today and let me kind of, you know, ask her some questions and learn a little bit more about Toronto and her professional aspirations and company. So, you know all that being said, Connie, welcome to the Pixilated podcast.

Connie Cay-Santos:

Thank you so much for having me, Patrick, super excited to talk with you and share and answer any questions that you have as well. So thanks for the invite for being here.

Patrick Rife:

Yeah, most definitely, most definitely. So I have some, some more focused questions that we'll get into here momentarily. Some are abstract, and if they that they sound oblique, that's, you know, partially my brain partially intentional, but be creative in how you approach them. But before we get into that, why don't you just give, you know, like, Give everybody a bit of a snapshot about kind of who you are. And you know, like, where you come from and what you're working on?

Connie Cay-Santos:

For sure. So I'm, if I can start I like to say and tell people that I'm a creative entrepreneur, I have my own business called K seven or K seven events and services. I'm also currently very much involved with MPI Toronto chapter. I'm currently their director of CG partnership. And that's how we met Patrick. And yeah, I That's me, in a nutshell, very short. But background wise, I've 14 years of corporate experience at Hudson's Bay Company as well, and lots of experience with event planning in the past with them as well as independently.

Patrick Rife:

Awesome, awesome. So we'll get into I've got some, some particular questions that I think will be fun to pull apart your professional journey as we go along. But I thought it would be kind of fun. When I like looked at your like, when I looked at your LinkedIn, right, in our professional dealings, as we were kind of talking about Pixilated and pixie were partnering with the Toronto chapter a little bit, you know, in a little bit, you know, more formal capacity. It something that kind of kept coming to me was just this idea of your professionalism was great, right? Like it was, it was easy going. And I think that in our professional, you do this, right? You're an entrepreneur, you own your company, you have clients that it's like, running through the clouds with them, right? Like, they're not fighting you, you're complementing one another, you're like, if they can all be like this, I would just be doing this thing, but they're not all like that. Right? So at any rate, I just got me thinking about, about career and and the way that you know, I don't want to say millennials, but people that are in the professional race right now, how it has changed, right? So forever, we've been talking about how like your parents, right? went and worked somewhere for 30 years, and that's never gonna happen again. So that's kind of assumed at this point. But I feel like what hasn't happened a lot is just kind of, since that's been established for 15 years, how people are doing it, right, like you're doing it like we're all we're all doing it. So I thought like a fun, like off the cuff jump off question would be how do you think about career at this point, right? Because clearly, you have your own thing, and you are bringing it along. But also you're taking projects and you're working with other people and those together are creating, you know, your professional legacy. So how are you thinking about that?

Connie Cay-Santos:

It's funny, because I think if you were to Google what career means and Google it's a it's an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person's life and with opportunities in progress. And like you just mentioned when you're asking the question, careers in the past, like for my parents, or for others, it's not millennials. It's a company that you stay with for a long time. It's changed dramatic. Luckily, I've been fortunate when I finished university, I went right into Hudson's Bay for 14 years. And I've been very lucky that it wasn't just one job for 14 years as many diverse, different roles. But now, especially with COVID time, I'm finding a lot of people jumping, I call them hoppers and hoppers are great, because when I define career, in my perspective, it's about an experience journey. It's about how do I grow? What was my professional development? And how did I make an impact in every experience, whether it's a project or working with a client in my entrepreneurial ventures? Or is it joining another company and helping them establish whatever it is that that role responsibles ability is going to be? So I think careers really defined differently for every individual. And it goes back to what's their personal goals that they need to look at first?

Patrick Rife:

Question? No, it really does. And it presents the question, like, if I may, around, establishing what that autonomy looks like, in less than a sense of like, the, the physical way that it manifests there, but that autonomy of mindset, right? Being able to think about being and I'll use a little bit crude language to describe this not crude and offensive, but crude and broad. But like this concept of

Connie Cay-Santos:

there's a robot going, I'm going to stop it.

Patrick Rife:

Love it so good. This one's for the robots, folks. That's hilarious. That's great. That was awesome. That was really good.

Connie Cay-Santos:

Is the iRobot. Ready to clean the floor?

Patrick Rife:

Get into it. Right? Get into it? Yeah. So I say that less about, you know, like, you know, what is your contract, say and more about the mindset, right? Because they're different. They're very, very different, because of where they've come from. But it doesn't mean it needs to stay that way. But it but it also regards a lot of emotional intelligence, in terms of maturing, how you think about navigating that space? And, you know, like, who, like who's in control? Almost in a sense?

Connie Cay-Santos:

For sure, and I apologize, that distraction? So what was the actual question for that

Patrick Rife:

one? Oh, no, it's okay. We were just kind of riffing on the idea of, of, you know, you know, like, in the sense of career, right, and being an entrepreneur, but also working for projects for people and where that lot where the, the demarcation line is in terms of like, you know, are you a consultant? Or are you working inside and how you continue to nurture both of those interests? Right, your professional career has been comprised of both of those things, and kind of just balancing it out? I think. So tell me a little bit about, I'd love to kind of get a sense for, for Hudson Bay Company, because you clearly spent a lot of time there. But it seems like growing out of that was a big, it looks like it was a big moment, like it was probably a growth moment for you. And, and so, and I and you know, forgive me for not not being extremely informed about what Hudson Bay Company even is. But it would be great to get a sense of that, and how you kind of grew through there, and then ultimately grew grew out of there.

Connie Cay-Santos:

For sure. So I would say just a little recap on Hudson's Bay Company, it's Canadians, oldest retailer. It's very traditional, but a great Corporation as well, 14 years there. I think from a retail perspective, it's been quite interesting. And I think when you think about joining corporations or large company like that, your role is you don't have as much autonomy. I think in deciding what you want to do. There's always a set agenda, there's a set roles and responsibilities that you're supposed to execute. I've been very fortunate that every time there was a new project or a new opportunity, I was able to raise my hand and have that opportunity be part of that. That project to lead or to be part of it and to run with it. And I think at the end of the day, the 14 years, it was a big moment. I was coming towards my milestone birthday to say what have I accomplished in my last 14 years. I graduated from arson University as a fashion designer. I joined Hudson's Bay in their total brand management team. So I could learn about global sourcing about how would I design a collection one day of my own, and be in a retail store. So that was the backstory of why I joined Hudson's Bay. And the funny thing behind all of that in total brand management was my creativity, I think lacked where you're just you know, your product development managers are out there, doing the research and bringing some samples and you're literally I was doing the technical illustrations for it and helping the fitting the quality control, but there wasn't about it wasn't the same creativity for me. So at that point, I raised my hand and I was lucky enough that the company such as Hudson's Bay They had this really awesome program called Future executive training. And it was a select set of individuals that was, you know, allowed to participate. That's a year long training, you are allowed to basically go into different operations and different banners to really learn immersively of how do you run a business? How do you run a retail store? How do you train people? How do you make brands that are interested in having their product into your store, it's all of that collaboration to liaison, that trust that you build from a print store ship perspective as well. But at the end of the day, like, there's a lot of learning curves up and down, but all of them were very good in terms of the growth. And when I reached, I'm going to say my birth. This is sensitive part, but not really sensitive. When I reached that certain milestone, I had to ask myself, What did I get out of it? What do I want from it now. And I think throughout all of that experience, one thing that really caught me reminded me was like, I really love the people side, I really love the store operations where I was in the stores, I was executing special events with them. And I saw that spark in the associates where they felt like they were invested that they were supported. But more importantly, as well, you also saw that spark from the clients, from the customers that was buying that product, like, wow, you just did a fashion show you did a private fitting room experience for me. I'm so grateful. And when you have those moments, it just makes you go, this was all worth it. You didn't sleep the night before you made sure product was in the stores. It was merchandised properly and whatnot. But I think every experience that I've had at Hudson's Bay always led to the people side, that spark that just really said, Wow, this was worth it. So finally, I'm like, Okay, I think it's time. Towards the end of my career at Hudson's Bay, I, to be honest, I was a bit burnt out, there was a moment where 2016, they had to basically reorganize 2000 people was let go. At that time, there was five event management roles that managed different experiences, that got all dumped into me. So one person managing all of these, it was overstretched. And that's when I kind of said, hey, my health wasn't doing well. And I that spark in wanting to do what I want to do, it's like, my inner voice is like, my body's really tired, like, but you have to do it, these associates and these customers, they really enjoy these experiences and like, okay, but it got to the point where I had to say, no, it's enough. And luckily, the company was amazing. We were able to negotiate a package at the end. And I left on a very good term. And that's when I really decided like, I need to take time for myself to really find out what was it that I want to do? How am I going to do this? So as soon as I left, it took a little break, and then just reevaluate what I want to do. And it goes back to that answer of the people. Why am I doing it? What makes me happy. So the event industry is really where it started, in terms of that spark. And then within the first six months, I looked into what do I do to build credibility into this industry that, you know, when I was at Hudson's Bay, I was considered a corporate planner. Now, I don't have Hudson's Bay as my background, I'm an independent, trying to find projects, helping to whatever that's event related. And that's actually how I also discovered MPI, it's finding that industry a that community of support in that network, that aid builds you up supports you, and you shoot those opportunities to explore even further. So long, long answer short, it was all about the people and just knowing where your limits are.

Patrick Rife:

That's like such a wonderful story that you just told there. So you know, like later later down the list, like I definitely have. And I think that some of them will still be worth questioning, but they're like, they hit on a lot of that. And it's such a nice, organic story, to have have been able to. We talked a little bit about emotional intelligence before. But I think it really, it really speaks to that in a broad way to not only have the courage to take a step back, you know, for yourself, in the moment and for yourself in the long run and be able to differentiate the difference between those two and serve them both. Is is awesome. It's commendable for for sure. But then to also be able to hone in on what those things were, that were were really, you know, bringing you joy in in that role and to follow it and I love the I love how you said you know, I took a step back and I assessed what it would be to build credibility. In this new space and under this new guys, and I just, you know, like hats off for that presence of mind. Like, that's just so awesome, right? Because I think it got it touches back with like that first question of like, what this career mean? Because we, like your accumulated skills are transitional, right, but also they're not transitional, right like there's, you know, like Yes. Have you been in the dugout like Yes. Have you turned the wrenches like Yes. Like, did you turn the wrenches on a boat? And this is a train also? Yes. And there's there tends to be, there's a weirdness between those two, right, because it's hard to spend 15 years working under one guys, and to have the humility to say like, if I really want to do this pivot, if I really want to change if I really want to read attack, there are some concessions that I need to make up front, right. And, and the ego is the hardest thing conceived, right. Like, that's a very challenging thing, Connie. So I really, I have a lot of respect for the wholesome kind of point of view that you bring to it. Because, you know, like, personally, like, I don't mind digging, like having a shovel and having to be the person to dig a hole. Like I like that like that. It resonates with me the idea of getting in and doing the lowest job on the ladder well, to kind of earn your chops. And I think that that's missing a lot. I think that that's missing a lot. But if it weren't, you know, I we also like joked about, like great customers that are like doing everything right, and they're easy to work with. But I think that with that sensibility, if more of us had approached, I mean, whether it's a new career change, or whether it's every opportunity with that healthful point of view that you kind of brought to the table, right? Like, it would be a more verdant business world, right? Like if everyone showed up looking for the triple win, right? Okay, like, yes, I want to win, because I'm here and I'm here on behalf of my business, but like, can I make you win? And is there some other person here interstitially, that we can also have win, because when all three of us are doing that, then this is a recipe for success, right? This is a recipe for longevity work versus when they're coming in and like somebody gets the best deal and somebody doesn't get the best deal. Right? Like that's, you know,

Connie Cay-Santos:

yeah, you're right. And I think going back to helping everybody and it's, it's that community experience, right. So jumping back to me leaving and finding trying to find my ground again, it's a lot of like, I am nobody, no one knows me, I don't have this company like backing me up anymore. Because I don't have a huge amount of events. Starting I think ground level. But I think regardless, going back to reflecting on the experience of Hudson's Bay, the people and the relationships you build along the way. So I would say that one of my goals at K seven, it's not just to do things alone, not just to represent myself as K seven, but to also build a community of partners that I can work with. So when you're working with me or other event planners, I'm working with them as well. And I might, it may not be my business theme if I'm working with them, because it's their approach it but I'm here along the way, the one thing that I learned the most in this past three years and this journey is we are more open to collaboration, we're more open to helping each other. I have to say the first six months is like I'm trying to like reach out to people and asking for like supplier, people that work with me that knows me. So hey, can you do an introduction for to someone that's out there that's doing it really well? Can I interview them? Can I learn their best practices, get some tips? It was tough. There was some Sometimes there was no responses. And the ones that did response, like, I'm so sorry, I owe you a glass of wine, let's do this. But then they end up being so busy again. It never happens. So I think if anything in the last 18 months with COVID. Everyone has time now, our heads a little bit more time to kind of pause and think about what did I do? Why are we hiding so many of our secret gems that make us truly unique? Why can we open that up and be more collaborative, have that partnership have that community and especially with corporations, I find, unfortunately, Operation wise the people headcount is the first thing that they cut, but that is the most valuable asset that they don't understand. If you don't keep it and you're ready to open up again. Guess what that person has left and found a different company that valued them. And I think that's a part of our problem we have with the tourism industry is our clients are ready to open their events. They're ready to plan again. But there are people their staff is not on board yet. What happened there because they forgot that you need to nourish you need to make sure that people are treated well and taking care of so when you're ready To turn the switch back on. They're also right behind you doing it with you. Yeah. So huge opportunity there.

Patrick Rife:

Yeah, yeah. So, gosh, this is like such a good I really want to, like follow this, this this thread, but also there are some questions I want to absolutely make sure that we get to. So I'm gonna, I'm gonna push ahead. But such a thoughtful answer. So thank you for that. So I am that kind of which which direction I'm going to go here. So I love to use you belong to MPI, we've established that right. But you are also in a in a leadership role inside of MPI. And I think what I'd really like to touch on is not that you are an MPI member, I'd like to hear about why your why for stepping forward in the organization and not just being a member, but being a member that is, you know, all members are stakeholders, but a stakeholder that's willing to put their time on the line, you know, from an organization perspective, from a Help Help. Help that, you know, Chapter of the Association growth perspective, tell me a little bit about that.

Connie Cay-Santos:

I would say my membership started back when I first went to my first hosted buyer event, it was hosted in Toronto, it was the World Education, Congress that MPI organized. I think from that experience, it opened my eyes up to say, Wow, this association is amazing. If they were able to execute that calibogue of education, connection, networking, and just the experiences itself. With all the events throughout that week, I was just blown away. So that's when I actually signed up to be a member. What made me be a volunteer was shortly after not too long, I was invited to attend a VIP focus group, a VP focus group, where they had new members be interviewed with the selection of a couple other members to say, Why join just like the question that you you're asking, why contribute? And I'm asking myself, yeah, why did I just pay this organization? $300? Or whatever that amount is for the membership at that time? What do I want to get out of it? And what I learned from that focus ribbon and those conversations with other new members was, if you're just paying membership, and not participating in actively being involved, whether it's in a leadership role or a volunteer role, it's not going to give you the mile that you want to run. So for me, I think getting involved volunteering to grow without the fear of failing, I think MPI gives you that environment because you're volunteering. That was amazing. And then, you know, it was a couple months of volunteering in the Marketing Committee. And then lo and behold, the VP group said, Connie, I think you're doing amazing, you can do so much more. Why don't you apply to be a chair? I'm like, Are you sure? I don't think so. I'm so new in this, like, to me and my mindset because I just left Hudson's Bay, like, I'm just learning, I just wouldn't want volunteers. What's happening? You want me to be a leader in this organization? And just fresh little fish? It's like, No, you can do it. So I applied, went through the whole interview process. I got it. And that was the year COVID. happen. March. It was crazy. Because funny enough that the first six months I got I volunteered, I was also nominated for an award. I'm like, Are you sure like you need someone that has at least two years of experience to get this award or, or whatever it is. And I was nominated to be the new members of the year because I was so passionate about giving back. And like, like I said, you get what you give, to be nominated was amazing. And then to apply and get the chair what was even amazing. And when COVID happened my sole focus at that time, because all my projects, all my clients, they postponed and ended up canceling. I have a lot of time. I'm going to help people that's going through this transition because a lot of people got furloughed. Unfortunately, the industry was greatly impacted with that red alert, you see everywhere in the news. But that was the year where MPI Marketing Committee, we hashtag Team Awesome. And that was the year I think it was most fulfilling as well in terms of being a leader in an organization where you're just trying to support and help the community of other event professionals that's trying to find hope that was trying to find a connection. And what we do as event professionals is that it's building connections through experiences, making them lasting memories. Right. So yeah, I think from a leadership perspective, being at MPI, and being one of the directors of strategic partnership at the moment, is very rewarding. And I would never say no to it. If I if they were even asked me like No, no question of like, why we all just apply and integrate.

Patrick Rife:

That's great. That's great. I mean, but it's so true. It's like the world is what you make of it and that is You know that I know that that's, you know, in a dodge or whatever, but it's, it's incredibly true. They're the passiveness of the world. You know, it's a placebo for, for actual really moving the needle, and unless you're willing to get out there and actively work it, and I agree with you, like, you know, as human beings, it's hard to like, if you're given the choice, like, do you want to do this again? Or do you want to go home and watch like, Ozark? Right? Like order pizza or whatever, like, we like, we know what we want to, like, choose, like, as we get older, like, we know what we want to choose, we get more tired. But in a sense, right, like we were talking about, like creating the triple win, right? There's also creating that set of circumstances that just builds it into your life, right? So you just, it's not really an option, right? It's just there, and it's something that you're doing. And you're holding yourself responsible to not be able to cancel the date, because you know, that as soon as you like, as soon as he gets after the gym, nobody's ever pissed that they went to the gym, right? It's just like, it's like hard. Well, that's true with anything, right? Like anything that you really thought about, you know, that it's additive in a positive way for your life. Like, just because you know, that also doesn't mean it's easier to overcome the thing that makes that thing not, you know, like sitting around eating ice cream all day long. So I think that it's cool to recognize that again, self awareness in droves coming over there, Connie. So, that being said, then like, like, and we in COVID arrives, I would be remiss to not hear a little bit about your time at nextech AR I can only imagine that it was extremely fascinating. I mean, the time that you were there was directly in the scrum of the whole thing. You know, sidebar pixilated had had had some chats with, with with Max tech in like, January 2020, I guess was when we were like kind of chatting with them a little bit. And I know that you guys were going through an extreme growth in and kind of roll and trying to roll out technology that that would compete. And that would be groundbreaking. And there was some like, an exciting time nonetheless. And you worked right, seemingly working in the center of that storm. So tell me about that. How did how did they How did it end up coming to you? And what was that experience like for you?

Connie Cay-Santos:

For sure. So, you know, next Tech is actually COVID story as well, in terms of my experience, and I would have to say I also in addition to volunteering at MPI because we had an extra little bit of free time with projects being postponed and canceled. I was also volunteering with tourism Burnaby. And at the same time, my pivot moment was like, how do I make myself more relevant as well, during this time of uncertainty and with live events not happening? How do I make myself feel a confident that I can do virtual events, but be have the backing and technical learnings to do it? So I, at the same time took a course called virtual events, meeting management by EMI events, Institute Leadership Institute, graduated from or graduated, got my certificate after six weeks and soon after that, because I also volunteered for tourism Burnaby social hours, I was doing their virtual social hours every week to helping the community connect and really just talk about their impact. How do we help each other? How do we give them hope? How do we find new ways to connect different businesses to do things differently. But at the end of getting the certificate, they were looking to host their first virtual conference. They didn't know how. And I'm like, by the way, I just got my certificate I can help you. And that was actually the introduction of my first virtual event that I hosted for are created and managed for the company. That was really exciting. But beyond that, the introduction to next Tech was actually the virtual social hours that I did for tourism Burnaby as a community investment and one of their attendees that kept coming back recognized me and she had an opportunity to join nextech And she asked me to colony you're in the space right now I know you just did to burn tourism Burnaby is virtual our you did the socials, you did their stakeholder conference and you have the VMM Can I pick your brain? I'm like, absolutely whatever I can do to help. And through that conversation. I think there is a mutual cooperation and respect for each other as female entrepreneurs. And what she was getting into I didn't know it was next Tech. I'm like, you know, wherever you're going, I want to follow you. Bring me along. So once in about two weeks after that conversation, I found out it was with nextech I found out about the project that she was tasked to do and I'm like, Okay, I'm going to tell you something. There's gonna be three things I'm going to be able to do for you. If you bring me along. A long story short, I negotiated my way in high couple of interviews between her Pete Masten, who you met back in January 2020. And also the president Paul Duffy, at that time, and I basically joined Vivian Chan's team at that point, to be the Director of channel marketing and also event strategy. And my three things I was going to do for her is one, I'm going to help her recruit the right talents from our community and vet professionals to kind of be on board to help build confidence for our event industry to say, you know, while we're still in this COVID space of social distancing, don't be afraid of technology. Don't be afraid to look at an exploring what's possible in terms of connecting and building your stories. And just having that conversation with your stakeholders through virtual in as interim for now, it could be hybrid later when it's ready, like now, that was one thing I was going to do the recruitment part, the second thing I was going to do for her was build a strategy on how are we going to build confidence in a certification program to onboard partners, channel partners that can understand our technology and bring it out there and share it and use it to deliver their new way of connection through augmented reality and through our virtual platforms. That was my second task. And the third one was really to sponsorship events, like evaluating what events are out there, that next Tech can participate in, that will give us a voice and a place to really connect with the event professionals. So we did that. And one of the events that we participated in as sponsors was the txi talk event, which we had a really great experience with back in November. And I participated on my own this year, just couple of weeks ago. So those were the top three things that I did. And I think the first 60 days of working with there and the rapid growth, we were the first 100 people before it went to 300 people, I got promoted to be special projects, VP, and at that time, it was Wow. It was crazy. It was a whirlwind growth. And I think if anything, what continues to help me glow is my passion for people. So those three things that I did was recruiting, bringing the right talents to give them the chance to try something different. That helped. But part of that 60 days, I also shadowed Pete masters team at that time, the delivery process, how do we make sure that what we sell, we can deliver, or we can deliver a project manage to what the client was expecting. And through that we developed and updated the playbook. So it was more seamless, more transparent. And it was a better experience. Because there were some opportunities at that time. When I got offered the VPS special projects, I'm like, you share, am I the right person, like there's sometimes that self doubt, you just have to get over my you saw something in me, I'm gonna glow and continue to do it. And I was very fortunate that I took it on. And one of the bigger projects that ended up happening in February was called Project Phoenix. And Project Phoenix was when we took 23 UX UI designers, product managers, and engineers and developers to build on top of a platform that we acquired back in December, to revamp a new experience. And it's called live live acts. I don't know if they've rebranded since I left. But that was I think, very profound for me. For a I'm not technical, I don't have a technical background to joined a technology company that was so advanced in terms of their immersiveness It was super exciting. Yeah, I'm rambling on, I just I think at the end of the day, the next Tech experience, I I'm, I still have a smile, because the people there working worked really hard. They were passionate about helping clients execute events where it wasn't possible in their in person experiences. And the technology that they were able to build, adding augmented reality just adds a different level of immersiveness. So those were a lot of wow moments for me.

Patrick Rife:

Yeah, no, I don't think you're rambling on at all. That was I mean, it that I imagined that you could go on forever. I mean, we're talking about you know, like, next Tech is a significant sized company that birthed a very significant piece of technology inside of a very significant piece of time, in like a pressure cooker moment for that whole thing. Like it's, it really shouldn't be understated. What would transpire there, and I'm sure that we could, you know, we could probably do a series of podcasts that unpacked all of those kinds of moments, because I can't imagine what that was like it. It must have been pretty amazing. So

Connie Cay-Santos:

it was it was, yeah, it was 30 days of everybody. 23 people Project Phoenix, you're not allowed to do anything else. So we were well protected. And that project really allowed a lot of really design led development, great conversations. And I think the best part of I couldn't say anything else about that experience was DLL me being the event professional, I met with my past experience about connecting with people, they allow me to cold lead that project. And everything that I'm just super proud of what we were able to deliver in such a short timeframe to say, hey, we had this product, now we have an even better product, because we listen from the voice of a event professional, who was afraid of what happened, and what is happening and how we can move things forward. So it was a brilliant experience, for sure.

Patrick Rife:

That's amazing. Congratulations. Thank you. So I know we're starting to run a little long hair. But I've got a few more questions. And I'm kind of like not not willing to totally give on them. So I want to definitely make sure to like, like, tell me a little bit about case seven, and what the, you know, like, so you know, what, what the plan is, with the strategy, it's, it's been informed by so much. So I would love to kind of hear like what you have in mind for it.

Connie Cay-Santos:

Yeah, so I would say K seven. I'll start with what it means case. So my last name is K. Seven is the seventh child in my family. And I think the symbol itself, the to Phoenix is, my given Chinese name is Phoenix. So really, K seven represents who I am, and what I want to be. And what I want to be is continued to spark. And that spark is about connecting people connect connecting experiences that makes them lasting impressions. So if anything, that's kind of like the vision of what case seven is, and one of my bigger focuses in terms of my five year roadmap and plan is build a community. i My biggest learning through next Tech and through my journey of being independent is don't lose my creativity, that's really important to me, because if I don't have that, I am not going to shine as much. But part of that is that community of people, if we can have a network that I want to build and collaborate, and really just not just stay with one type of product, one type of experience and one type of focus, expand that expand it through partnerships and community. So que seven is a entrepreneurial company that is willing and ready to work on any type of event experiences. But the most important thing that we'll ask our client is, why are you doing this? And if their answer is not to have anything to do with a human strategy, then we're going to insert a human strategy as part of it. Because that human connection is so important. Regardless, if it's a brand launch, a product launch, someone has to consume it, someone has to experience it, someone's paying for it. So I think it's really important for any business strategy when they're planning events or experiences, that there's a human element to it. So that's what case seven is going to bring to the table.

Patrick Rife:

Awesome. I have a I have a Phoenix tattoo on my arm.

Connie Cay-Santos:

I have what am I back?

Patrick Rife:

So Okay. Wonderful answer. Tell me. Right? Design student at Ryerson, what does she think about? Connie 2021.

Connie Cay-Santos:

Design student back then it's like, what

Patrick Rife:

are you in your role? Right, like what

Connie Cay-Santos:

I think the designer me back then would be say, Wow, that's possible. And I think if I reflect back, because I did do some Tom, I was a guest lecturer at a Concordia University Marketing session. And one lesson I would share or don't be stuck in a box is my thing I would say. I would say that to recruiters as well, what you study does not define who you are today. And it does not stop your road to exploring other opportunities. I started with fashion design. But I've also have retail operations background. And I also have these whole bunch of operations and strategies that I can work with. And the most important part was, I was a super shy kid, even going into design. I'm like, I like fashion design, but I don't like talking to people, I'm very much of an introvert. But I also am not afraid to talk anymore. I'm not afraid to share and just be vulnerable. But be be okay to be on the spotlight as well and be proud of those moments that I'm being shining that I'm shining on. So, designer 20 Like designer back then, can look at this colony now and be proud to say there's no limitations. Just go for it.

Patrick Rife:

That's awesome. Yeah, it's awesome. I really, I mean that that resonates tremendously, you know, like I I spent my whole life making music and making art. And even when I started this company, you know, like I thought I was buying myself a couple years to get that sorted out so I could work on making music or art professionally and the way that I've always approached. So, you know, like, what I didn't realize is that, you know, like, inherently, if you're a musician, or an artist, you're entrepreneurial. It's just there was a long time when that was a dirty word to, to commingle those two together, which was a shame, but that is what it was. But all through Pixilated I have always embraced. I've embraced it as, as the as the next set of paintings I was working on, or the next set of music that I was working on, I've always just kind of kept the same mentality in how I approached working on it. And, and I, and I continue to carry through, like all the lessons that I've learned, right, and it's my very unique palette that no one else has it right, no one else has comics palette of experiences that you rely on to be able to like create your work, like moving forward, right, whether it's your fashion design thinking, or whether it's your experience, you know, handling agile development and methodology inside of like a scrum, right? Like, they're all there, and they're all contributing these very unique elements to themselves. And you're right, like, don't be afraid, like, don't be afraid to come in with the tools that you've collected over your time and figure out how they're applicable. And I think that you know, like, that's what, that's why your inflection in, in, in, in next Tech was so significant. That's why your inflection point at MPI was so significant, because you were willing to leave your ego at the door and come as who you were, but then also to tap into the 15 years of resources and thinking and experience and look and take those and apply them right when you're, when you're flexible, and you're fresh, and you've got that ability to be versatile. And dig into it. Your tool bag has never been applied in that industry, and certainly not with your thinking behind it. And those are your magic weapons, like it's always compounding of your experiences and what you can do with the next, you know, like, ostensibly, it's why we should never run out of paint. Because if we're open enough to think about how we might re approach with our assets leading the way, you know, like that, anyway, whatever.

Connie Cay-Santos:

And as you were talking, I'm thinking about Mary Poppins bag. And if you know the story, she opens it up, and you never know what's inside that Charles, don't judge people's bags, and what tools are in there. But I would also add that what we learned along the way doesn't define who we are and what we can be in the future. And if there's roadblocks, there's so much training and development and courses that you can take to cross that list off to say, You know what, you you're looking for this as a criteria. Don't worry it give me two weeks, or whatever that time is, I will acquire it to build the credibility that you need me to have as a credential. So I think there's no limit as long as you're willing to work it and get it and understand what the requirements are.

Patrick Rife:

Awesome. Connie, this chat could go on forever. So excited to know you really, really glad to be connected. I got some wrap up questions that are meant to be fun and light. So don't think too hard about them. So five years,

Connie Cay-Santos:

what five years, an awesome community of event professionals working together. That's my goal.

Patrick Rife:

Love it. One book you'd recommend.

Connie Cay-Santos:

Start with Why Simon Sinek

Patrick Rife:

Good one, good one. Okay. Last question. single greatest thing about Toronto.

Connie Cay-Santos:

diversity, diversity, great people that fit the culture.

Patrick Rife:

I'll take it. I'll take it. Connie, thank you so, so much for your time today. I know that all of our listeners are going to love this. It's going to be a really good one. It's going to be a really good one. We'll we'll make sure we'll send it around to the MPI Toronto chapter as well. They, in my past experience when we do an interview with someone from a specific chapter and send it out like it ends up being our most actually, Melanie Madhu is she works for Price Waterhouse Cooper. And she's she's a member of I don't think she's in Toronto, I think that she's in maybe Montreal, but whatever. We highlight her at one point and it was extremely successful. So like the the people are gonna love this. You had so much incredible wisdom to share. So thank you for being so generous with your time. And, you know, let us know if we can ever help in the future.

Connie Cay-Santos:

Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me again, Patrick. It's been a pleasure talking to you and the audience.

Patrick Rife:

Definitely. Alright guys. So that's it another great interview. Check out the links in you know if you're listening to this on a podcast or if you are watching this video through one of the video channels or links below so you can go and find counting and figure out how to follow along with K seven. And also check out some things about Pixilated some fun links in there. But otherwise, until the next time, stay safe, keep having fun, and we will see you soon. Alright, peace