James Lappin has lived a very adventurous life. Lappin grew up in Newmarket, ON, and works with the Royal Bank of Canada in technology and operations, and has recently joined the strategy and transformation team back in June.
Growing up, Lappin never even had the thought of working in a bank and spent a lot of his childhood and teenage years playing hockey consistently.
His first job ever was working at a car detailer and then he moved onto landscaping which he did for about five years. During that time, Lippin was still in high school pursuing hockey as an occupation and realized, as he got older that hockey might not work out.
“I didn’t really know what to do. I was doing all this landscaping type of thing, and I actually went to boarding school in high school, playing hockey. So my next-door neighbour in boarding school was Spanish,” said Lippin.
He became close with him, and he happened to be a hockey player as well. One day he asked what the team was like in Spain, and was told there was a professional league there and half-jokingly asked how to try out.
Lippin was put in touch with a coach of a team within the same week, and a month later he flew to Spain, tried out, made the team, and didn’t end up leaving.
“I ended up staying in Spain for two years. So this was right after I graduated high school. So I was 18. I didn’t know anything about Spanish. I knew no French, either. So I really had no idea what I was getting myself into,” said Lippin.
He says it was a bit of a wake up call moving to Spain, but took everything one week at a time. He ended up going to school there and enrolling in Spanish classes, learning how to speak it within a year.
Lippin played two seasons of hockey in Spain and says it was ‘the time of his life’ and his schedule was essentially wake up, go to practice, go to the gym and after that, just chill and enjoy the beach for the rest of the day.
It wasn’t until the end of the second year he started thinking about what he was going to do.
“I was sort of like, “Well, crap, what am I going to do? I can’t live in Spain my whole life and just play hockey and live on the beach.” That’s not really what my parents had thought I was going to do,” said Lippin.
So before he left school, he applied to a few universities and was accepted into Queen’s University. So he left to go there, and after a few years decided he needed some more work experience.
He worked for an interior design startup for a couple years, then went back to landscaping for a bit because he needed the money.
“I sort of promoted myself within the landscaping. I did a lot more of design work, tried to sort of differentiate myself there, and also what I did at this point was start sort of a side business, pursuing my design and art passions through fashion,” said Lippin.
So Lippin started a side business, which continues to this day, where he collects vintage fashion items and takes photos for fashion editorials.
While pursuing the landscaping and side business, he was also actively applying to every job that he could that related to design, tech, and a creative direction.
Lippin started working with a man from his hometown who started a non-profit called Arts Help, which brings the creative community together and helps people who are artists, graphic designers, and musicians.
Then one day he got a call from RBC, which led him to multiple interviews and eventually was offered the job, which is where he is now.
“I get to learn all about different technologies, a little bit of building formulas and programming within applications. Then I also get to utilize my design skills and work on interesting events that the bank has and pretty much just build promotional materials. It’s a blast. I’m loving it so far,” said Lippin.
Even though Lippin has had an incredible journey, one of the obstacles for him was some of the self-doubt he had.
As a hockey player and someone who was making money playing the game, he had to live with the truth that you can’t be an athlete forever and says it was scary for him.
“One day, I remember I woke up, and I’m like, “I’m not going to be able to do this forever.” That was my biggest obstacle, was the self-doubt of ‘What am I going to do? Am I just going to be working a minimum wage job, paycheck to paycheck?’”
But he thanks his mom for being an inspiration for him — she managed to up skill herself from a secretary to an engineer, all while raising her family, taking care of the house, and cooking every night.
He thought if she could do all that, why wouldn’t he be able to do what he wants?
“The self-doubt of not thinking you’re good enough, just because I hadn’t done anything before. It’s really weird, why I would ever think that, because it’s a double-edged sword of “I haven’t done anything. Who’s to say I can’t be really good at it?’”
And if there’s anything he could tell students thinking of leaving their community for greater things, if that’s what you want to do then go for it.
“I truthfully think if you have the opportunity to pursue your passion outside of your home at a young age, I would say there’s no reason that you shouldn’t absolutely just go for it.”
Special thanks to Jasmine Kabatay for authoring this blog post.
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