Tech Bosses: Creativity in Tech

Michael Farquhar, Managing Director of Intergalactic Agency

In October, Vancouver’s first ever Doors Open to Technology brought 200 high school students into five of the top tech companies in the city—Microsoft, Telus, SAP, Intergalactic and ACL. The purpose: to provide a peek into the current state of the tech industry and its opportunities. We swooped in to pull some of the city’s biggest tech bosses aside for a chat on the industry.

A brilliant mind is not something you want to let go to waste.

And as Michael Farquhar, Managing Director of Intergalactic Agency stands testimony to, sometimes that means applying your intelligence in a highly creative environment.

While technology may not be the first thought when using the word ‘creativity’, it certainly made the difference for Michael, who left a 7-year career in banking for the tech industry and now holds the reins at one of Vancouver’s most innovative and award-winning digital agencies.

We pulled him aside during a tour through the eclectic offices to hear his thoughts on technology’s creative side with our True Calling audience.


How did you have your eyes opened to the wonders of technology initially?

I was actually 12 and our school got a Commodore 64. One friend and I were selected to learn more about them and we took the manuals home, memorized them over the course of the weekend, and that was it—I was hooked on programming because I could make it do something.

I’d always loved lego. I loved anything where I could construct things and figure out and problem solve, and so for me that was the hook.

Do you remember what the first thing was that you made?

I do, actually. I made this little program called ‘Phrase Days’. It was on proper language and usage, like verb and verb conjugation. I created a little database for it, and students had to select the right word and conjugation to go into a complete sentence.

How old were you when you made that?


(laughs in surprise) So I’m guessing you were a straight A student.

Largely… yeah. There were some years where I was straight As, and the rest Bs and As.

Is there any advice you would tell your high school-aged self now, being older and wiser?

If anything, I would say I would’ve gotten into this sooner. While I started when I was 12, I went to university and studied sciences, and then while I was doing that I ended up working at a bank. And I have a lot of respect for the banking industry. But I find so much more fulfillment out of the kind of work I’m doing now because of the creativity side. So if I could do anything I would tell myself to hurry up and get into the tech side.

What exactly does Intergalactic do, and how does creativity come into that?

What Intergalactic represents to me is this incredible creative collaboration that looks at technology and enables these amazing experiences. We’ve got a really talented team of people. They’re all very passionate about what they do. And they come together and we create this sort of nucleus, this family, and together we can create things that are mobile, we can create things for web, we can create large-scale amazing interactive experiences. Again it’s almost a vehicle for realizing your imagination.

And that’s not just our imagination, that’s also for businesses. Sometimes they have specific needs or problems that they want solved and that’s where Intergalactic can come in because we sit down with them and we say ‘we’re not just doing technology for technology’s sake, we’re actually trying to solve a problem’. And earlier today I talked about how that’s for me the definition of innovation, it’s creativity with a purpose, and that’s what Intergalactic is about.

Do you have any advice on where to start for people wanting to get into this industry?

I would say definitely learn a programming language—although, it’s not the only avenue into technology. I have an artistic director who came from art school. I have people who have gone through engineering, I have other people who have gone through finance degrees—there are many avenues in.

It’s really about ‘do you like your imagination’ and thinking about things that can be possible, then expressing that to somebody. Put together a portfolio and show people. I almost value a portfolio more than I value a CV or resume, because that gives me an indication of what you’re thinking and what you’re capable of.

For kids and young adults who are embarking on this path of figuring out what to do with their life, what kind of calming words can you give them?

When you’re trying to figure out the rest of your life, you’re never gonna be able to do it. Unless you have an absolute passion for something (I have a cousin who’s a doctor, he knew he always wanted to be that) don’t pressure yourself. Pick something that keeps you interested and find out what those things are that drive you.

So if you’re a problem solver, pick something where you’re going to be solving problems everyday. I just happen to know that technology gives me these opportunities.

In your own words, finish the sentence “Technology is…” 

Technology is a tool that’s not revolutionary. It really is about an extension of the tools that have come before and how we’re using them to solve new problems. It’s not a panacea, it doesn’t solve all problems. It’s only as smart as the people who are using it. But it sure can enable a lot of fantastic and creative thoughts and processes.

And I find that incredibly encouraging because that now gives us the opportunity to solve problems in new ways, and that’s something that I think we’re constantly facing: greater population, all sorts of myriad problems around the world, and I think technology is a great tool to help us solve them.


Interview by Carly Walde

Michael Farquhar, Managing Director of Intergalactic Agency