Meet the people behind the name. KAST (Kootenay Association for Science & Technology) has four full-time employees and one part-time employee (and some pretty amazing contractors) who all work extremely hard to support our region’s technology and science sector.
As a non-profit organization, it’s not surprising we all wear many hats within the organization and all share the same passion for supporting tech entrepreneurs, startups and businesses in a variety of ways.
Introducing the KAST team:
Sean Smillie, Executive Director
Sean Smillie joined the KAST team as our fearless leader in September 2020. It’s a good thing he came on board as he has A LOT to contribute. Sean understands the needs of the Kootenays well. He was born in Scotland but immigrated to Rossland as a kid. He still calls this magical place home. At the heart of it all, he only wants what’s best for the region.
“I enjoy the people and organizations I get to collaborate with throughout the Kootenays,” said Sean. “Our communities are bursting with potential and my role allows me to connect people, support their ideas, and affect big change.Working in the Kootenays also means lots of time to ski and snowboard, plus KAST is extremely dog friendly.”
The whole KAST team is already in love with Sean’s husky, Bandit (you may have seen her recently as she’s our Kootenay Pitch Competition mascot). As the Executive Director of KAST, Sean is responsible for building strong relationships with funders, economic development partners, the entrepreneurial community, and other stakeholders.
To read more about Sean and how he spent two decades in the roles of game designer, executive producer, and creative director for some of the biggest companies in the world…click here.
Kailyn Skuban, Director of Operations & Programs
Kailyn is our amazing Director of Operations & Programs at KAST! She not only lights up our days with jokes and party parrot emojis, she’s responsible for executing all of our projects and programs, nurturing relationships with community partners, building connections in the tech community, and providing oversight for daily operations.
“Building a successful business is not easy! I’m inspired most by the grit and determination of our local entrepreneurs to build, grow and scale their companies in a rural region where access to resources are not as readily available as they are in urban centres. That’s what I love about working at KAST, helping entrepreneurs get connected to local support programs and seeing them thrive.”
To Kailyn, technology is most impactful when it brings people together. Her role at KAST is to do just that, bring the tech community together to collaborate and grow the local ecosystem.
Find out more about Kailyn and how she was accepted as a qualified candidate for the Canadian Space Agency’s 2016 astronaut recruitment campaign (yep, that’s right!) by clicking here.
Karen Kornelsen, Manager of Marketing, Communications and Nelson Innovation Centre
Karen started out as a contractor for KAST through her own digital marketing business in 2019 but the adoption process began soon after and very quickly she officially became a full-time member of the KAST family.
Karen wears a lot of different hats at KAST and we constantly have to tell her to stop working so hard. She manages all marketing, communications, memberships, social media and events for the organization, AND runs the Nelson Innovation Centre and all of its operations, programming and events.
“At the core of everything I do is my passion for elevating and empowering the incredible tech and knowledge workers, entrepreneurs, startups and businesses in the Kootenays,” she said. “Everything we do at KAST is aimed at supporting our tech community. It’s fulfilling work and I wake up in the morning feeling grateful I get to do what I love every day.”
Karen starts work at 5:30am every day (to the horror of the rest of the staff), but she also knows how to play hard. She moved to the Kootenays in 2011 for a reason…the lifestyle. So it’s not surprising she spends all her time outside of work rock climbing, kayaking, cycling and simply being in nature.
Find out more about Karen by clicking here.
Laura Vaché, Community Engagement Coordinator
Laura started out at KAST in 2019 at our MIDAS Lab in Trail. As the community engagement coordinator, she worked hard to keep that incredible place running, tours going, members engaged and so much more. She loved it there as she’s super passionate about making tools (3D printers, laser cutters, etc.), community spaces and education accessible for everyone, of all ages and all backgrounds. When MIDAS Lab transitioned over to Selkirk College’s Selkirk Technology Access Centre earlier this year, KAST knew we had to find a new and improved role for her because who are we kidding? She’s an incredible asset to the organization!
Laura loves working at KAST because she has the possibility to work on a lot of different projects. This “all-do” mentality is important to her as she values versatility, especially in a small team. As Laura’s main interests are education and accessibility, she works this angle in a lot of initiatives, especially GLOWS (KAST’s youth program), on which she works closely with Tanya Malcolm.
“There is so much talent in the Kootenays,” said Laura. “‘I love giving children, youth and adults the chance to be empowered and invite others to learn about what they’re accomplishing. Everyone deserves access to help, mentorship, resources and connections to grow. If I can help people through my job, that’s what it’s all about.”
Besides GLOWS, Laura is also in charge of developing and maintaining KAST databases, working for Nelson Innovation Centre and coordinating marketing and communications for KAST. She also loves needle felting prizes for her CRM quizzes (they are highly coveted around the office).
Find out more about Laura by clicking here.
Tanya Malcolm, GLOWS Program Manager
Tanya, based out of Fernie, BC, is our part-time GLOWS Program Manager aka Youth Programming Superhero. Being a mother herself, she is super passionate about providing learning opportunities to younger generations.
“Giving youth in our region opportunities to pursue STEAM-focused activities and events is so much fun,” said Tanya. “Once I began to understand how STEAM is impacting the future and all the career possibilities within it, my passion to serve the kids in our region was fuelled.”
Tanya loves working at KAST because it means she’s always learning. “I’m surrounded by really bright people on my team and within the Tech & Knowledge workers community too,” she said. “That means I’m motivated to stay up to date with technology trends and I can always count on them to engage in thoughtful, inspiring and challenging conversations.”
To Tanya, GLOWS is a symbol for opportunity. She loves when she sees the work we do inspire kids, and if kids continue to be inspired by STEAM – it means we’re contributing to the growth of the talent pool which also impacts the tech ecosystem we’re trying to elevate at KAST.
Tanya is also skilled in organizational management, shared space start-up & operations, fundraising, digital marketing, public speaking and grant writing. We’re so lucky to have her. Click here to read more!