Meet the team – Brendan Sweeney
This Trillium Network member holds a PhD in Geography from Queen’s, appreciates music that reflects ‘the place and time’ from where it emerged, and loves to play and coach lacrosse.
Brendan joined the Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing in September, 2019 as managing director. He is the second longest tenured employee. Prior to his appointment with the Trillium Network, Brendan served as the project manager and research director of the Automotive Policy Research Centre (APRC) at McMaster University, where he also taught in the DeGroote School of Business and the School of Labour Studies. His goal for the year is to hone the Trillium Network’s expertise as a thought leader, providing valuable insight to manufacturing partners and stakeholders throughout the province of Ontario.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
There are many. Show up, be accessible, present and available to all of your colleagues and partners. Don’t be shy. Engage yourself, meet people, be well read and don’t apologize for your goals and ambitions. Pursue mentors and be persistently polite and respectful in your request for their knowledge and advice and they will be happy to help you.
What have the highlights and challenges been so far working with the Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing?
There have been a number of highlights so far. One of the biggest highlights has certainly been our role, however small, in supporting the growth of electric vehicle manufacturing in Ontario. Our report on gender diversity in manufacturing helped showcase and give credit to industry leaders like Honda, Sanofi, and Muskoka Brewery. Our work to identify PPE manufacturers helped ensure that Ontarians could access high-quality locally-made medical supplies during the pandemic.
There have been some challenges too. I was just getting settled in at Western when the pandemic happened. Like a lot of people, we spent a lot of time scrambling in April and May of 2020. But we have a great team, a great board, and a great funder who all provided the support necessary to keep moving forward. In hindsight, the challenges associated with the pandemic taught us to be even more flexible and innovative, and we have emerged stronger and more focused than ever before.
What do you want to accomplish in the next year for Trillium?
My goal this year is to help our partners, whether we provide them insight that we’ve gleaned from our own analysis or with information and advice for a specific situation. I want Trillium to serve its stakeholders in a friendly and responsive way – and without an invoice.
What trends do you see emerging in manufacturing right now?
Manufacturers are having a harder and harder time finding employees. Despite these challenges, I am excited to see what changes manufacturers make in order to attract and engage new employees and how they promote themselves to appeal to a more diverse audience.
What advice can you offer to someone who wants a career in manufacturing?
Don’t go into it blindly. Do your homework so that you understand the occupation, industry and employer. Know yourself as well and what makes a good fit for you. A career in aerospace and a career in winemaking are both manufacturing. Recognize the diversity and decide based on your opportunities and interests.
How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?
I suppose at a very base level not being broke, paying the bills. On a professional level, I believe that I, and the Trillium Network team, are successful if our stakeholders can say that we helped them problem-solve through our research and thought leadership.
What is your favourite hobby?
My favourite hobby is lacrosse – playing and coaching. I played for years and then made the transition to coaching. I’ve found a great deal of fulfillment from developing relationships with young men and women and teaching them to be responsible, accountable members of a team and to work hard to achieve their goals. It’s invaluable for them to learn these things early so it becomes ingrained behaviour for them as they grow into adults who genuinely contribute to society.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Some of the best advice I’ve been given is to “stop telling people how hard you work” and to let your achievements speak for themselves. Our society promotes hustling – and us boasting about it–but when you produce a quality final product then the process, and in turn your efforts, will be obvious and indisputable.
Hometown: I was born in Hamilton, spent most of my formative years in the east end of Toronto and now live in Dundas near my birthplace, so I’ve come full circle.
Last book you read: I’m currently reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. This book argues that those with introverted preferences are too often undervalued in our very loud society and introduces the reader to the success and quiet power of those who prefer listening to speaking and abhor self-promotion. I come from a family of extroverts and from a community where succeeding meant speaking up for yourself and I’m interested in better understanding the more reserved and observant among us.
Favourite band/song: As an economic geographer, I tend to appreciate music that reflects ‘the place and time’ from where it emerged. For example, grunge music from Seattle would have been different if Alice in Chains and Nirvana and Soundgarden had grown up in Miami. Same as house music from Chicago, desert rock from California, and Houston hip-hop all reflect the scenes where the place and time are baked right into the music. The way music is produced and consumed has changed, so harkening back to those days and that music makes it to the top of my playlist.
Coffee or tea? Coffee
Dogs or cats? Both. But I have more dogs.
Pizza or sushi? Pizza
Summer or winter? Summer
Ninjas or pirates? Pirates, they have better hair.