Building Computers and Relationships: Trevor Hurst Explores Professional and Cultural Networking
“I've been in the IT industry since as long as I can remember,” Trevor Hurst explains, reflecting on a career that has given him the opportunity to open doors and Windows for other Indigenous people who want to go into technology. Raised by his Métis mother in Winnipeg and Calgary, he now lives in Victoria, British Columbia, working for the BC provincial government as a chief technology officer for the social sector. His roots are from treaty one territory, just west of Winnipeg, but he moved to Victoria for work and personal reasons, too. He wanted to explore his heritage and raise his daughters in an Indigenous-friendly community (and he also loves the weather!)
His professional role involves running all of the computer systems for the province’s social services system, like employment assistance, Disability Assistance, children and youth in care, children with special support needs, and other related systems. His team of 100 employees and contractors make sure the digital channels people use to apply for social services are well designed and supported.
Hurst became interested in technology at 14 years old, playing video games at a friend's house. His mother bought him his first one, a Tandy 1000, which he later upgraded to a more modern Intel based computer. His interest took off from there. He built computers for family, friends and later, London Drugs, before transitioning to the corporate world as part of Calgary’s oil and gas industry.
He went as far as he could as an IT executive in his field and was feeling the clash of culture in his hometown, so he moved to Victoria. Over 13 years later, he worked his way up to a senior position in the provincial government. It’s not the path he thought he would take, given he always had an interest in medicine and hoped to become a doctor. He didn’t make it into medical school and pivoted to work in computers. He found it was lucrative and his career blossomed.
He’s always held onto that love of medicine, and reflected on his experience as a medical school applicant who did not self-identify as Indigenous, unaware at the time of his heritage. He only learned later, at a family wedding, where his family came from. His grandmother attended a Catholic run convent and she made the decision to raise her children without their culture because of discrimination and racism. His discovery started him on a 30 year journey of learning.
Over the course of his career, Hurst has mentored Indigenous interns, sharing his experience and learning from their cultures. He wants to create impact in his life so he can contribute to the people he meets flourishing instead of experiencing marginalization and challenges. In his new community and work life, staff are encouraged to have indigenous culture oriented goals, there are territorial acknowledgments at every meeting and he’s working with an Indigenous-only resource company where Indigenous software testing interns are being trained to work as software testers. The collaboration is in partnership with Métis Nation BC, and the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations in Victoria.
To encourage Indigenous youth he says, “Having a world education, especially today with globalization and how it works, being able to travel is definitely a privilege and if you have the ability to do so, you definitely should, because it opens up your eyes. I think it teaches you how you can live in your own way, by understanding how the rest of the world works. But at the same time, I would also say, don't stray too far from home, because you do have roots… remember where your roots are. Always make sure that you come home and that you pass on the teachings and the learnings and the language of your ancestors to be able to really find your place in the world.”
As for his place in the world, Hurst keeps busy spending time with his girls. He sails with his wife in the coastal waters which are his happy place. “If I can see water, even when I'm stressed or anxious, it has a calming effect on me, so we spend as much time on the water as possible,” he smiles. He works as a university instructor at Royal Roads University and is a certified black belt in martial arts, teaching practical self defense at his local studio. He also likes to work in his garage, doing some carving using modern computer tools.
Reflecting on the past couple years, between COVID, wildfires and global conflicts, Hurst encourages people to participate in each other's healing journeys along the way. “I think if everybody took 2% of their time, and did the sort of thing that we're doing here, I think we'd all be much better for it. I just wanted to put a call to action out for anybody that was thinking of doing an interview like this to be able to spread some awareness, and then go from there,” he shares.
After being in the IT industry for as long as he can remember, and on a path of reconnecting with his heritage, Trevor Hurst is opening doors and Windows to bring more Indigenous people into the roles they want to explore. Connecting and transferring knowledge, while teaching about technology and data, Hurst is creating things as timeless as relationships using modern tools, just like he does with his carvings. In a beautiful seaside community, he’s found his happy place and he’s helping others find theirs too.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
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Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.