The Path From Co-op To CEO Interview with Jonathan Brun, CEO Nimonik

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“Once you get onto a track in a career, it influences you for the rest of your life.”

Role modelling after his father who worked in the civil engineering space, Jonathan Brun, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Nimonik, was on track to a career in civil engineering when a presentation from McGill University unexpectedly changed his mind.

“The Metallurgical Engineering program from McGill University did a presentation about their co-op program in my Cégep de l’Outaouais class,” says Jonathan. “This co-op program, which was different from the other programs at the time, really attracted me to metallurgical engineering. Otherwise, I would have ended up in mechanical, civil or computer engineering.”

While Jonathan didn’t know anyone else who had worked in metallurgical engineering, he knew that the ability to travel and work abroad, and earn money, was an opportunity he didn’t want to miss.

Through the co-op program, Jonathan travelled extensively through Canada, Europe, and Asia. In 2006, Jonathan was on a work placement for a US steel supplier in China when another unexpected event would change his career path again.

“I visited a lot of different parts of China; industrial cities that were heavily polluted,” says Jonathan. “After reading a lot about sustainability, carbon credits, and the different efforts to make the economy more sustainable, I decided to switch my career from engineering to the environmental and sustainability field.”

Choosing a Different Path

With the support of an ECO Canada grant, Jonathan’s first full-time position was with the Montreal-based consulting firm, EEM, as an environmental consultant. In 2006, EEM was in the early stages of developing a product called Nimonik. Nimonik was a database of all the environmental regulations in Canada aimed at helping companies understand how these regulations worked and how to comply with them.

However, Jonathan wasn’t destined to remain in the consulting world, and at 26 years old, he would make the jump from consultant to CEO, establishing Nimonik as a separate company with the support of EEM.

Since 2008, Jonathan has found his stride in Nimonik, growing the company to help businesses understand and manage their environmental, health, safety, and quality legal requirements in over 65 countries and 125 jurisdictions, all through a simple web-based application on a smartphone or tablet.

“We’re building products that really help businesses and governments stay in compliance with their requirements, environmental [standards] and other interests,” says Jonathan. “I really enjoy the challenge of building a product, bringing together people, setting objectives and targets, and trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.”

Learning the Hard Way

Jonathan reflects that there were many things he had to figure out the hard way; how to grow a product without overcomplicating it, how to ask for investor funds and deal with being denied, and how to hire and put people in the right positions.

“I made the mistake I think a lot of young people make,” says Jonathan. “I thought I knew a lot more than I did and didn’t recognize all the things I didn’t know; fundamental business principles around strategy, marketing, and customers.”

Jonathan received a lot of support from mentors along the way, including the EEM leadership team. However, it was only within the last three years that he decided to hire a coach to help him with the business, something he wished he would have done sooner.

“I think that is critical for anybody who’s thinking of starting their own businesses to get a coach who has the right experience and knowledge because it adds tremendous value,” says Jonathan. “I’ve read a lot of books about management, but having a person to speak to who gives you the time and energy to help, has definitely helped me and the business.”

An Optimistic Outlook

The potential of Nimonik and the growing technologies in the environmental sector, such as renewable energy and transportation, and artificial intelligence, is promising, says Jonathan. While Canadian companies are able to leverage technology to automate production and systems to reduce the risk of non-compliance, Jonathan remarks that the full embrace of an operational disciplined culture is lagging.

Other countries, like Japan and Germany, have fully embraced a culture of operational excellence that recognizes being environmentally responsible and compliant is good business, not the cost of doing business.

“I’m very optimistic we will transfer both energy production and transport to renewables, which won’t solve all of our environmental problems, but it will solve a lot,” says Jonathan. “But, I wish Canada were doing more.”

While slow, change is happening across the country, partly influenced by the newer generation of professionals with support through ECO Canada funding and education.

“I think what ECO Canada does in terms of the grants and subsidies for new hires is very good for the country and for the general movement towards a more sustainable economy,” says Jonathan.

Advice For Causing Effective Change

All of Jonathan’s roles are joined together by a desire to affect change. Outside of Nimonik, he has extensive experience in the non-profit space, co-founding a number of organizations supporting affordable housing, basic income, and government transparency, and peace and justice in the Middle East.

Jonathan stresses that for anyone wanting to create change in their space, to research the reality of the current situation, environmental or otherwise. He knows from his work in the non-profit space that it’s easy to slip into imagining what a situation could be instead of what it actually is.

A significant part of affecting change is also about finding the right cultural fit.

“Don’t join a company if you don’t agree with their culture or you don’t see yourself fitting in,” “says Jonathan. “Try and find a company where you feel a strong alignment values wise, and where you can do some interesting work, and then contribute as much as you can.”

The Future of Nimonik

Nimonik continues to grow as it acquires new companies and adapts to changing regulations. He’s proud of the culture they’ve built as a company so far but feels that there is much more to contribute.

“I’m very happy and proud of the work environment we’ve created, the customers we’ve served, the jobs and opportunities we’ve given to different people over the years,” says Jonathan. “What the company does is so important, but I still consider we’re at the very beginning of something.”

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