Renaissance Man: Toronto Tech Event

We all know that person who seems to have a few more hours in the day than the rest of us – always working on some cool project, honing a new skill, thriving at work, or maybe all three at once. At a recent Toronto tech event, we met Darrin Henein, aka a modern day Renaissance Man.

Darrin sat down with RED co-founder Mandy Gilbert to talk about his career, side projects, and endless curiosity that keeps him learning to this day.

toronto tech event

After working for Poler and Mozilla, Darrin is now the Lead Product Designer at Shopify. He created the video game Lastronaut, with Stephan LerouxHere are just some of our biggest takeaways…

Lesson 1: Not knowing the answer isn’t a problem – just admit it!

Up until he started working at Poler, everything Darrin knew about design had been completely self-taught. Suddenly surrounded by a group of smart developers, he knew he had to take advantage of their experience.

“Somebody would ask me to do something, and if I didn’t know I would just say, ‘Hey, I don’t know what that is, can you show me?’. People really appreciated that, because so many people are afraid to admit what they don’t know.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by our own Mandy Gilbert: “You cut yourself off from so much experience if you don’t ask questions to those around you who have different skills to offer.”

When it comes to working through problems, Darrin has some savvy advice; “When you’re stuck, take 15 minutes. Try to figure it out yourself, and if you aren’t getting anywhere — ask.”

Lesson 2 from Toronto tech event: Learn through doing.

Like many kids, Darrin was a huge fan of video games. Fascinated by the creative side of games, he dreamt of the kinds of games he’d love to create. It wasn’t until years later, as Darrin started the learn Javascript and other development tools, that these dreams began to take shape.

“I started to think that maybe I could make a game. I would set goals for myself, thinking ‘ok, what’s the next little thing I need to learn?’ I’d focus on that and just take it step-by-step.”

Jumping in at the deep end of a project might seem daunting to some, but setting yourself ambitious, yet achievable, goals and learning as you go is a great way to see the benefits of each new skill and use momentum to propel yourself to your final goal.

toronto tech event

Lesson 3: Always look for new angles to solve problems.

Creative fatigue is the bane of any professional, and it can be a major obstacle  to overcome. To avoid stagnation, Darrin offered two pieces of advice.

“I’m a big believer in what Einstein said about thinking in the shower. Try to take a step back and find a different way to approach a problem.” Often, finding yourself in a rut can be a great way to spur new learning, “Learn a new tool, find a new angle to get to the same end.”

“In my career, I find jobs exist on a curve. At the start things are really challenging and you’re learning all the time. A little later on, you sort of settle into a level of comfort. I’m still young-ish, so I want to try and take chances.”

When you hit a wall, whether on a project or in your career, take a step back and pursue find a new way to approach things, and don’t be afraid to take on a new challenge.

Lesson 4: There’s always something new to conquer.

With a senior position at a desirable company, a successful video game and a family at home, would it be reasonable to think Darrin had reached a kind of “final” stage in his career? Not quite.

“I don’t there is an end to the career path,” he told our audience, “there are always new things to learn, new programs, new spaces to apply your skills to popping up all the time.”

His most recent challenge has to become a leader to others. “I reached a point where I realized that individual roles are capped. So much more can be done if I enable others around me than if I just go away and try to do all the work myself.”

Despite his leadership role, Darrin is reticent to make it seem that he has all the answers, “I wouldn’t want to lead anyone astray,” he told us after, “I’m still learning things myself.”

To learn more about Darrin and his work, check out his website. Don’t miss out on any more of RED Academy’s awesome Toronto tech events — check out what we have coming up!

Dan Ophaug
Dan Ophaug

Dan Ophaug is a copy and content writer currently based in Toronto, Ontario. Born and raised in the UK, Dan has also spent time living in Montreal and New Brunswick. With a background in both journalism and film studies, he decided his real passion was in writing, and has since worked with everyone from arts publications to tech startups to produce creative content.

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Vancouver 778 379 7175

Toronto 647 793 2333

Vancouver 778 379 7175

Toronto 647 793 2333


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