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Austin Nairn

Forty under 40 winner 2018; Executive director, World Trade Centre Vancouver; Age 37
Photo credit: Rob Kruyt

Reading multiple books at once always puts readers at risk of getting halfway through the page count before a more gripping tale grabs their attention.

Austin Nairn doesn’t see it that way.

“I’ve got a few that I go back to pretty regularly,” said the executive director of the World Trade Centers’ (WTC) Vancouver franchise, who’s currently in the midst of billionaire Ray Dalio’s Principles: Life and Work.

“When I’m reading a book I usually mark it up pretty well with sticky notes and pen and whatnot, so I’ll go back and revisit. Some lessons I need to learn more than once.”

One of those lessons for Nairn, who rose quickly through the ranks of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade (GVBOT) to lead the local revival of the WTC brand, might have to do with personal safety during world travels.

While backpacking across South America and mixing in volunteer work along the way, the 37-year-old biked the most dangerous road in La Paz, Bolivia, where fatalities are common.

“It’s pretty sketchy but I was able to come out alive,” he said. “I’m not afraid to challenge myself – within reason.”

Among those challenges was taking the lead to help establish We for She, which has grown into one of Canada’s largest leadership diversity conferences.

The annual event aims to provide young women confidence, mentorship and exposure to ideas to help them be successful. To date, it’s engaged more than 4,000 leaders and youths.

He also doubled the size of the GVBOT’s young professionals program from 300 to 600 members, and helped boost its mentorship program from 70 students to 125 students annually.

The latter program now boasts 2,000 students to date.

By the time the GVBOT endeavoured to relaunch the WTC franchise in Vancouver, Nairn had been with the business association for about a decade and had become the youngest director at the GVBOT.

“We’ve basically exceeded all of our goals [for WTC Vancouver] through the first year,” Nairn said. “It’s just about keeping our ear to the ground and finding out what obstacles businesses are facing.”

Birthplace: North Vancouver – although roots are in Scotland, England and Rhodesia/Zimbabwe

Where you live now: North Vancouver – still trying to beat the “Grind”

Highest level of education: Master of business administration from Queen’s University

Currently reading: Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio; Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss; One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak

Currently listening to: Nina Cried Power EP by Hozier; Hamilton soundtrack by Lin-Manuel Miranda; For Those About to Rock by AC/DC

When you were a kid, what you wanted to be when you grew up: A professional tennis player – and six feet six. Unfortunately, genetics were not on my side

Profession you would most like to try: A college or university professor;  I am energized by inspiring young minds

Toughest business or professional decision: Pursuing a career based on my passion rather than my immediate earning potential

Advice you would give the younger you: The goal of achieving is not to be happy. The goal is to happily achieve – Tony Robbins

What’s left to do: Continue to challenge myself and support others to do the same

Join us to celebrate the 2018 Forty under under 40 Awards January 24, 2019, at the Vancouver Convention Centre. For tickets and event info visit