The Cannabis Career Diaries

What’s it really like to work in the cannabis industry? Katrina Ingram, COO for Cannabis At Work, shares her own journey into the cannabis sector with  a “no holds barred” account of the excitement, the challenges, the frustrations and the joys of this crazy industry.

My future’s in…cannabis?

If you told me a year ago that I’d be working in the cannabis industry, I probably would have asked you “what have you been smoking?”. Yet, here I am as Chief Operating Officer for Cannabis At Work.

For a long time, I called the world of community radio broadcasting home. I loved radio but running a legacy media organization has its challenges. It’s an industry under massive disruption.  After 10 years, it was time for me to leave and try new things. I thought for sure that my future was back in the software and technology world – a space I’d inhabited before my radio days. I’d been part of the first dot com boom and I missed that energy. I was looking for an industry and a company that was going places.

I was doing some consulting work at a technology incubator while looking for my next opportunity. I’d been asking around for leads in the tech sector and during a completely random conversation, a colleague said to me – “you should check out the cannabis space. It’s really on an upswing.” Cannabis? I’d never even considered it, but that’s how it started.  With that one “off the cuff” recommendation, I found myself at the Cannabis and Hemp Expo at the Edmonton Expo Centre in April 2018. It was an eye-opening experience.

I’m not sure it’s possible to think about cannabis without bringing your own personal baggage into the mix. I certainly had my perceptions of the cannabis industry and the type of people who it might attract. It was mostly informed by the typical “stoner” images of my youth embodied in the character of Sean Penn’s Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Yet, what I saw at this show really challenged my assumptions. Sure, there were some of the trappings of the typical stoner culture, but it was juxtaposed with a LOT of business people. There were consultants, advertising executives, chemists, lawyers, health professionals. One panel in particular talked about how the industry itself was evolving and attracting more professionals and was actively shedding its stoner image. This was an industry with a lot of opportunity. This one trade show challenged my assumptions of what the industry was all about and who was part of it. I started reading, listening to podcasts and learning more about the history of cannabis, the business of cannabis and the growth projections for this industry. The more I learned, the more convinced I became that the cannabis industry was the place to be. Cannabis is the new tech.

Once the universe knows you are ready to make a change, doors start to open. I mentioned to a friend that I was thinking about a career in cannabis. The next thing I know, I’m meeting Alison McMahon, CEO of Cannabis At Work. Right away, I knew I wanted to work for her. Smart, driven and super talented, she was an early adopter in the cannabis industry. Alison made it VERY clear to me that this industry was incredibly fast paced. She made a point of mentioning it more than once. I remember thinking – I’ve worked in a start-up during the dot com boom. I know busy. How crazy can it be? I was about to find out.

More to come in part two of the Cannabis Career Diaries, in next month’s CAW newsletter.

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